In our age of gender mania, does anyone even remember the word tolerance, the seemingly modest request of same-sex couples some years ago? Or the Defense of Marriage Act, a statute enacted by Congress and thirty-one states to clarify that marriage could be only between a man and a woman? Official supporters included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and …. Joe Biden.
Obviously the 2015 United States Supreme Court opinion, Obergefell v. Hodges, upended these laws. That opinion discovered, 227 years after the Constitution’s ratification, that the Equal Protection clause demands acceptance of same-sex marriage, though one wonders if real acceptance can ever be demanded.
Many thought the decision would lay to rest sexual politics, since marriage had long been the end goal for activists.
But the opposite has happened: Far from settling sexual politics, Obergefell has escalated its demands. Now the country is told to accept the overt sexualization of kids with “Drag Queen Story Hour” and parade chants like, “We’re here! We’re queer! We’re coming for your children!”
Worse, current gender ideology promotes Frankenstein procedures, monstrously called “gender affirming care,” where clinicians distribute drugs to, or mutilate the genitals of, confused people, including minors, pretending they can change someone’s sex. Regular citizens are also browbeaten and sued to participate in this brave new sex world, forced to bake wedding cakes, design websites or use nonsensical pronouns for the sex totalitarians.
How did we go from tolerance to tyranny? Indeed – to this war on sexual reality?
Until recently almost all societies channeled human sexuality toward marriage and children to ensure a stable future, whether those societies were polygamous or monogamous. In fact, many cultures even today arrange marriages, a sign of how important marriage is in their eyes. Conservative Dinesh D’Souza, an immigrant from India, once explained that his country viewed marriage as too significant to leave to foolish young people; hence, arranged matrimony.
For most of American history, any channel other than marriage and family was considered harmful, as older laws against adultery and fornication attest. But even now it should be obvious that the “hook up” culture (transient sexual encounters) creates problems: What happens when a child is conceived, since contraception isn’t perfect?
This is how “sex-on-demand” is a set up for abortion-on-demand, or for illegitimacy, both disastrous for the child and for society. Regarding illegitimacy, no one disputes that children without stable homes and married parents are at greater risk of underachievement, drug addiction and crime, as well as the inability to form their own stable families, perpetuating a cycle of pain and pathology. Medically, sexual promiscuity means rampant disease and psychological disorder, as documented by books like Dr. Miriam Grossman’s Unprotected.
Society used to contain the public health threat of sexual indulgence in “red light districts;” but now sexual indulgence is normalized – even advocated – not just in schools and public libraries but also in churches.
Traditional wedding ceremonies actually recognize and instruct on the societal aspect of marriage. The ceremony often involved not just family and friends but the wider community, which was a real party of interest, as lawyers would say, because a wedding means children are coming. And those children either benefit the community or harm it – the kids can become either contributors … or criminals. So the community is truly affected by a marriage, has a stake in its success, and therefore a place at the ceremony. Indeed, when marriages go awry, the broken family almost always turns to others, including the public purse or welfare, to get by. In essence, when spouses with children split, others in the community often pay.
The issue of fairness was part of a larger moral framework. Families should stay together not only to avoid burdening others but to cultivate virtue in spouses and in turn, in society at large. After all, a home only works – and then a society only works – when its members aim for basic virtues such as honor (keeping one’s word, or marriage vow, or business agreement) and fidelity (staying faithful to spouse and children and community). Those virtues are, in turn, part of a general disposition toward sacrifice for a greater good.
Historically, marriage and children made spouses grow up and become better people (more responsible) since spouses would sacrifice for their children. And in that process, the stable home became the basis for a stable society, allowing for peace and prosperity, secured by mature, responsible citizens. Any doubt about this is resolved by the fact that 90% of violent criminals come from broken homes, especially those without fathers. Chaos at home quickly means chaos in society.
Marriage was therefore not just a personal preference or a passing fancy, dissolvable at will, but a social good that should be supported and preserved. And society also prepared young people for marriage by cultivating these basic virtues of honor, fidelity, industry and self-restraint.
Needless to say, elites today have trashed these norms. Instead of cultivating virtue in citizens, and maturity and sacrifice in spouses, elites today promote vice, and nowhere more than in sexual matters where individuals are told to put their wants first. Any kids or others hurt by sexual self-indulgence should just get over it.
Gluttony and lust are similar vices in that both involve physical self-indulgence. Ancient Romans personified gluttony. They would gorge themselves on food and then actually vomit in a “vomitorium” so they could eat more!
But the ancient world, especially the Greeks, also understood the real nature of vice: It saw vice as slavery.
While philosophers sought to be ruled by reason to lead a truly human life, those ruled by their wants (called passions or appetites) actually lacked self-rule, or self-governance, and were therefore regarded as lowly slaves – slaves to their passions. By this ancient wisdom, “I do what I want;” or, “I sleep with who I want,” is bondage, the opposite of freedom.
What’s more, indulging vice has no end point. Indulgence just feeds the beast, increasing the power of your master vice. Drug addicts know this phenomenon. They know their addiction is bondage. The more they use, the more they’re slaves. Worse, slaves of this sort are not only not in control of themselves but end up controlled by others. In fact, drugs have actually been used as a war tactic precisely to control and subjugate people, as in the opium wars waged by Great Britain against China and India.
So promoting vice is actually a means of controlling people, though the vice is always packaged as freedom, or pleasure, or some other ostensible good. In reality, however, vice is a weapon and self-indulgence is a weakness and both displace self-control with external control. Thus, as sexual indulgence grows, so does government control (think adultery, then divorce court), since citizens without internal, self-governance require outside, state governance. Inevitably, they get tyranny.
The way out?
The only way out of our current dystopic age of gender mania and sexual degeneracy is, therefore, a new, strong and self-governing citizenry that sees sexual vice for the slavery it is and sees its indulgence as inevitable tyranny, not tolerance.
Teresa R. Manning is Policy Director at the National Association of Scholars, President of the Virginia Association of Scholars and a former law professor at Scalia Law School, George Mason University.