Saturday, February 21, 2009

My thoughts on the Anscombe Valentine's Day campaign

by Josh Franklin

This Valentine's Day, the Anscombe Society produced a poster campaign that perfectly symbolized my relationship with the Anscombe message. Attached to lampposts all over campus were double-sided posters: on one side there was a positive message like, "This Valentine's Day, share a journey," and on the other, a negative message like, "This Valentine's Day, don't share misinformation." David Pederson expressed the purpose of this campaign in his column in the Daily Princetonian:

"That is why, instead of hooking up this Valentine’s Day, students and their significant others should go out on a date. Watch a movie, see a play, have a romantic dinner, enjoy deep conversation — the list is endless. Dating or courtship is not a time for sexual experimentation but rather for sharing time together and coming to know the other person as a person — as an end, not a means. If one night’s mistakes can lead to a lifetime of regrets, one night done right can lead to a lifetime of bliss in a loving and faithful relationship. The possibility of that bliss is the best thing to share this Valentine’s Day."

Understanding that it's unpopular to hold this opinion among certain circles, I was a little conflicted about this message. While I dislike the pretentious language of academic ethics and Pederson's shameless definition of dating for everybody everywhere, I found something really positive in this message. Seeing the photograph of two young lovers sharing their "journey" peacefully in a sunlit field was moving for me. I appreciate the idea that creating meaningful relationships is valuable and even beautiful.

What I don't like is the closed-minded condemnation of certain behaviors. This isn't the place to discuss the accuracy of the Anscombe ideas, but I will say that I don't think it's any better to scare people about the risks involved in sex without cause than it is to intentionally conceal them. For some, premarital sex constitutes a part of what is valuable to them in life. To combat what could be percieved as an overwhelming "hookup culture" (assuming it exists) by creating a new standard of normativity and exclusion is merely to perpetuate the anxiety and suffering that we experience when our sexual identities are not respected.

Since there have been numerous critiques of the Anscombe position, I don't want to approach that territory here. Rather, I want to address Anscombe's critics (among whom I count myself). It's my belief that the unfortunate antagonism we have to experience every Valentine's Day (and every day, for that matter) ends not when we dismantle every ridiculous claim about oxytocin, but rather when we challenge our slavery to sexual normativity itself. Progress, I think, consists in creating possibility. It is necessary to recognize the idea of a chaste lifestyle as legitimate--not at the expense of other lifestyles--in order to allow both to exist as possibilities rather than exclusions. I hope that when we challenge Anscombe's dissemination of misinformation, we don't merely create a new vision of what kind of behavior is acceptable, but rather assert that one ought to explore the profound world of sexuality in freedom.


At February 23, 2009 at 10:07 AM , Anonymous Whiskey said...

The Pill, the condom, rising incomes for women, anonymous urban living, as Roissy in DC has noted [Don't let the Pick Up Artist stuff scare you off, he has startling insights into how dysfunctional the male-female relationship has become] enable women worldwide to achieve a seeming utopia, what City Journal writer Kay Hymnowitz has termed the "New Girl Order" of consumer goods, control over their own fertility and sexuality, fashionable clothes, independence, and all around fabulousness! Just look at how Ford in China is targeting "Mei" (the personification of their customer) for sales of the Fiesta. Even in the land of "Little Emperors" and male preference, Ford would believe that sales lie in the New Girl Order.

But like every other utopia, there is a catch. Falling Total Fertility Rates, in countries wherever there is enough female earning power, urban anonymity, and availability of the pill and condom, are the result. Italy, Spain, and Greece have point of no return TFRs. Around 1.1. White Britain and the US have under 2.1, the replacement rate, around 1.9 or so. Even places like Algeria, Tunisia, and Iran, of all places, certainly no feminist paradises, have TFRs of 1.7 or so. The rates are available at the CIA World Factbook, you can look it up!

This happens because women often delay marriage until well into their thirties, when excess baggage on both parties, rather limited attractiveness, and the dilution of the effect of bonding hormones released during sex make a high divorce or break-up rate (for those never marrying but cohabitating) a near certain thing. A man or woman with many, many sex partners will not have any practical hope of bonding with one partner. Certainly not when both have far less limited attractiveness compared to their salad days, when sheer physical attraction could get them over inevitable bumps in the relationship.

Now, by no means should these links be taken as endorsement that women are somehow "bad" or that they hold responsibility for the decline of the West. But I don't think any casual observer can say that the lack of social institutions, mores, and limits on women's (and men's) actions, sexual expression, and behavior has been a positive result. We see in these links the expression of hatred towards straight White men, general promiscuity that prevents any possibility of a happy marriage, the death of dating and judging the opposite sex on behavior, decorum, character, and other things other than pure physical animal attraction, and murderous thuggishness as the attractive markers of men for women. To round everything out, we have Single Motherhood by choice.

No single factor other than the collapse of how men and women relate to each other, and the inability to form even the nucleus of a nuclear family (lacking only the capital to start having children in a house of their own), explains the fall of the West.

At February 24, 2009 at 11:48 AM , Anonymous Molly Borowitz said...

Is the West really falling? Maybe I'm naive, but I would opine that rather than criticizing single mothers (which activity -- at least to me -- runs the risk of "falling," at least into the trap of closed-mindedness and judgmentalism), we adopt the same acceptance that Josh expresses so beautifully in his post. If the West is in fact falling, it's because its denizens aren't supporting each other. Funny how that works: at least to my mind, the only way for our society and culture to present a united front is to accept the differences of belief, opinion, and especially lifestyle that exist under its auspices.


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