Sex vs. Political Correctness?

By | 2018-01-10T16:41:39+00:00 January 9th, 2018|
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The Left has some reason to worry that the newfound solicitude for sexual propriety spread by #MeToo might overflow the traditional bounds of political-correctness-as-weapon.

No different from demands regarding race and identity politics generally, the strictures of political correctness concerning sex do not define rights and wrongs. Rather, they claim authority to suppress such evils as the powerful may impute to their enemies. They also serve the ruling class’s war against Western Civilization. But current demands for “sensitivity” for women’s sense of sexual self-worth, rather than merely enhancing the power of better-connected people over less-connected ones, might actually lead America to consider what proper or improper sexual behavior is.

Neither P.C.’s partisan nature nor its corrosion of our civilization are in doubt. Elsewhere, I showed that Communists originated the term to distinguish between the “correctness” of what serves the Party’s interest from that which is factually correct—and that the Party’s paramount long-term interest lies in overcoming the reality that human beings perceive through the senses and reason with the Party’s “correct” version thereof.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), the most durably influential of Communist theoreticians, had argued that re-orienting the popular mind away from the cultural icons of Western Civilization would anchor the Party’s power to a cultural hegemony impossible to break. Gramsci’s argument is all too well rooted in modern thought since Machiavelli, and cultural destruction has been part of every revolutionary movement at least since the French Revolution.

The fundamental problem with cultural revolution is that it is easier to destroy cultures than to replace them. The end-states sought are inherently undefinable. Each and every revolutionary will have his own ideas of what is proper and improper, since those ideas must be bound up with the struggles of each for his own power. As the revolutionaries clash, incoherence is guaranteed. Beyond that, no matter what the revolutionaries do to disorient people, human nature’s magnetic needles always end up pointing people away from that which is merely politically correct.

Of all human nature’s aspects, sex is among the most intractable to political power. Soviet teaching (see Marx and Engels’ “The Origins of the Family”) and policy reflected the Marxist notion that humans are animals, and the sexes are equally self-interested. As Soviet family policy see-sawed, natural families were wrecked. Powerful males lorded over females, as it is in the animal world, and females then acted defensively or manipulatively toward men. Russia is not a happy place, and its population is declining.

Here and now, a New York Times op-ed by Daphne Merkin reflects the sense growing among erstwhile P.C. revolutionaries of the feminist kind that they have been on the wrong path. Their most immediate concern is ordinary partisanship. Merkin and her friends find it “troubling” that men such as “Garrison Keillor, Jonathan Schwartz, Ryan Lizza and Al Franken” have been hurt by accusations they regard as unspecific and unproven. OK. But logic then leads to asking what behavior it should take to disqualify even such worthy people. Political correctness has no answers. “Scattershot, life-destroying denunciations” are not enough. “Due process is nowhere to be found.”

At this point, Merkin steps onto the slippery slope to objectivity about right and wrong. “What is the difference between harassment and assault and ‘inappropriate conduct’?” she writes. “There is a disturbing lack of clarity about the terms being thrown around and a lack of distinction regarding what the spectrum of objectionable behavior really is.” From a P.C. standpoint, this is a doubly dangerous thought. Were any such standards to be formulated, they would protect ordinary people, even conservatives, as well as the Left’s favorites. More important, they would have to be based on law, positive or even natural. That would be the end of sex P.C. as a weapon.

In fact, Merkin seems to worry that massive denunciations of sexual harassment are encouraging women to think beyond contemporary American paradigms of sexual behavior. Complaining about being “objectified” as sex objects has led some to conclude that they should dress and act less provocatively. Who’d have thunk it? Others are objecting to nudity in the arts and advertising. Such thoughts might lead to concluding that modern thought about sex is the opposite of liberation.

After all, if “consent” alone is needed for sex to be ok, and nearly all in Weinstein’s, Clinton’s et al.’s harems consented, what’s the problem? Maybe Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy Philosophy” did not liberate women. Maybe women leading male sexual lives and equating dating with intercourse, like Bunnies, has not been good for anybody. Maybe that, and abortion on demand, liberated not the best in women but the worst in men. Maybe women and men have souls, and the mingling of their bodies brings forth yet other souls. But how can we think that nowadays?

We may never get to such thoughts. But the spreading realization that many of America’s most iconic men have been treating women badly is freeing some of human nature’s magnetic needles from the bonds of political correctness.

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About the Author:

Angelo Codevilla
Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).