At a time when a trilogy about sadomasochism is all the rage (Fifty Shades of Grey), surely there’s a little room somewhere in our culture for love, marriage, and babies? And, more importantly, room for asking whether there might be sociological advantages to this approach?
“Yes, Regnerus is socially conservative,” wrote Slate’sWill Saletan — who is not. “But he’s reflective, open-minded, and reality-based. The two exhibits cited in the indictment of him are a Slate piece against promiscuity and a Christianity Today piece promoting early marriage. But if you read the articles, you’ll find that his case for early marriage focuses on the implausibility of prolonged abstinence. His case against promiscuity is grounded in a critique of the power imbalance between men and women. He’s a more complicated guy than his critics let on.”
In a new book on the impact of the contraceptive pill, Adam and Eve after the Pill, Mary Eberstadt exposes this kind of conversation-killing as being akin to the behavior of Westerners who denied the soul-crushing nature of Communism during the Cold War. She posits: “When people look back on this or any other momentous debate decades or centuries from now, one of the first things they will want to know is whose corner reason and empiricism and logic were in. That would be the corner of those willing to believe the truth — secured by the research of the scholars whose work testifies to it, whether the rest of the world wants to hear it or not.”
If we take a deep breath, and read between the lines of some of the most heated rhetoric accusing Catholics or Republicans or a social scientist in Texas of waging a “war on women” or favoring some other kind of supposedly hurtful or hateful cause, these are the questions we should be asking: Do we tolerate the raising, in the public square, of questions about the effects of our sexual choices, and even about the purpose of sex? Do we care enough about the welfare of children to have a robust scientific, cultural, moral, political debate?
“Social-science inquiry has standards, and so should social-science discourse; Regnerus met the former and deserves the latter,” Marshall observes. “We should be having a substantive conversation on the future of children. Instead, once again, the issue seems to be more about adults’ desires than children’s needs.”
In a recent interview, Elton John talked about the son — born of a surrogate mother in California and conceived with a “donor” egg — that he has with his longtime male partner. “It’s going to be heartbreaking for him to grow up and realize he hasn’t got a mummy,” John said.
Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking if we didn’t simply ask: Is this best? Is this good?
That’s not intolerant. That’s not accusatory. That’s simply being honest with ourselves. Thank you, Sir Elton, for opening a door. Now can we let Professor Regnerus — and serious scholars like him — get back to work?
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.