Sex

This should be fun.

It’s remarkable to me how, in my own lifetime, sexual mores have changed so drastically. Go back about fifteen years or so before I was born, and you’ll find a society that was so prudish that I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show asked us to believe that married couples slept in separate beds. The word “pregnant” was verboten on television, too – “expecting” was acceptable, but it was pushing the line. Compare that to what’s acceptable today, and you’ll realize just how drastically things have changed. The change isn’t all bad; I’m not really interested in pretending that sex doesn’t happen, but I think a world that errs on the side of caution rather than reckless abandon is probably better than the world we have now.

C.S. Lewis once described the sexual appetite as “morbidly inflamed,” and to illustrate this, he described a burlesque house where women weren’t pulling down their stockings. Instead, people would come out with plates of food and offer you teasing glimpses of chocolate chip cookies or a side of ham. It’s a ludicrous image, but it demonstrates how we’ve elevated the sexual instinct to a place in our personal and public lives that is equally ludicrous.

Growing up as a practicing Latter-day Saint, nothing set me apart further from the mainstream than my supposed “sexual repression.” Particularly as I got older, more and more people were aghast that I was antiquated enough to think that sex should wait until marriage. And, indeed, many of them assumed that I was simply hypocritical and not telling the full story. A good number of them doubted that abstinence was even possible. Unlike any other appetite, we’re now led to assume that the sexual appetite is unique, in that it is the only bodily appetite over which we fundamentally have no control.

This is the primary reason why the gap between the LDS Church and the world at large continues to grow, and as the chasm widens, it’s going to get harder and harder to straddle it. Chastity was once a quaint notion in the world’s eyes; nowadays it’s considered a destructive one. It may well reach the point where the state will intervene to protect children without ample freedom to express themselves sexually, stepping between a child and his sexually repressive parents or church. If that sounds ludicrous to you, then try to imagine what the concept of gay marriage sounded like when Lucy and Ricky were on the air.

We’re going down a very, very dangerous road.

There are those who will read this and scoff at my supposed Puritanism and wonder why on earth I should care. Someone else’s sexual behavior, we’re told, is only of interest to busybodies and zealots, and we ought not regulate in any way what happens in the bedroom. I agree with that to a point, in that I don’t think governmental regulation on this score is necessary or helpful. But in the days of separate beds on television, it wasn’t the government dictating sexual restraint. It was the prevailing societal standards of the day, the same forces that now are making great strides at marginalizing as a “hater” anyone opposed to labeling a gay couple as married. Defining the role of sex in society is not the role of government; it’s the role of the people who make up the government. And it’s a role at which we’re miserably failing. Because sexual behavior matters, and it impacts far more than just the people in the bedroom.

Those who consider sex to be uncontrollable end up breaking up marriages, destroying families, and creating generations of children with no sense of continuity or community. We’re going down a road where the nuclear family becomes an archaic construction, where “mommy and daddy” are a cute idea in theory, where the world is about nothing but a series of multiple partners and nothing lasts, nothing counts, nothing matters. There’s a lot more sex in that world, so that’s something to look forward to. (Believe it or not, I like sex, actually. Big fan.) But think of everything that’s lost along the way. Is that really a world you’re looking forward to seeing?

Control of sexual appetites isn’t about prudishness or shame any more than a healthy diet is about hatred of food. If I ate everything I wanted to eat regardless of the consequences, I’d have three meals of McDonald’s breakfasts. I’d never exercise; I’d eat donuts twelve times a day, and I’d drink a lot of Strawberry Quik. I don’t think the government should step in and tell me not to do that, but I doubt anyone around me would applaud my lack of restraint. And, sadly, those McDonalds b*stards stop serving breakfast after 10:30.

Similarly, if I pursued my sexual appetites to their natural conclusions, my wife would be gone, my children would hate me, and I’d have no deep, fundamental connection to anything. But many would see that as just the price I paid for being “who I really am.”

No, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. There’s still enough shame left in the world that people who abandon their families and children are considered turds. But not necessarily so if they abandon their families because they’re gay. After all, how can you expect a man who’s attracted to other men to stay married to a woman? It’s who they are! Why should they deny that? Why do you hate them?

Suddenly, a bizarre double standard becomes evident. A married man attracted to other women is expected to keep his pants zipped. A married man attracted to other men, however, can’t help themselves, and they shouldn’t be expected to “live a lie.” I wonder if they’d be encouraged to eat a Sausage McMuffin with egg three times a day, too.

I remember a conversation I heard between radio talk show host Dennis Prager and a gay man who had just left his wife and children because he didn’t want to live a lie, and he was furious about what “society had done” to him. Prager and he then had the following exchange.

“Do you hate your wife, then, for marrying you?” Prager asked.

“No, of course not. I loved my wife. I still love her.”

“You’re just not sexually attracted to her.”

“Right.”

“How about your children, then? Do you hate them?”

The man was indignant. “Of course not! I love my children. I’d die for them.”

“But you wouldn’t have any of them if you hadn’t married your wife.”

“I don’t get it,” the man said. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” Prager replied, “that society didn’t do all that bad by you, did they?”

And then there was silence on the radio for a very long time.

People who would define us by our appetites, as if our appetites are as immutable as the color of our hair or skin, make a fundamental mistake, and it redounds negatively to society at large. Whether you’re attracted to men, women, horses, or anything else is beside the fundamental point, which is that the nuclear family is the source of life’s primary joys, and to enjoy the kind of happiness that only comes from a deep connection to your ancestors and your descendants, you have to exercise sexual discipline.

A society that refuses to recognize that is one that is in the kind of very deep trouble in which we currently find ourselves.

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