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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Sam Brinton & The Choice We Face

The Benedict Option and why the controversy over the Biden appointee and condensed symbol of the Sexual Revolution matters
Sam Brinton & The Choice We Face

As a follow-up to my post about the Sam Brinton controversy — and I hope you will go back there and read the important update I just posted — here is the first part of the chapter about Eros in The Benedict Option:

The opportunity to work is a gift from God that, when rightly employed, serves life and draws us back to Him. However, if work—or family, community, school, politics, or any other good thing—becomes an end in itself, it turns into an idol. It will eventually become a prison, a desert, even a graveyard of the spirit. These things only serve the truth and human flourishing if they are icons through which the light of Christ shines forth, making them a means by which the kingdom of God flourishes.

So it is with sex, a divine gift that, cherished properly, becomes a source of joy, abundance, and flourishing—of the couple and their community. When bound to God’s purposes, sex unites a man and a woman physically and spiritually, and from that fertile union new life may come, creating a family.

But if we use sex in a disordered way, it can be one of the most destructive forces on earth. Look around you at the suffering of children brought up without fathers, the scourge of pornography destroying the imaginations of millions, the families broken by infidelity and abuse, and on and on.

For a Christian, there is only one right way to use the gift of sex: within marriage between one man and one woman. This is heresy to the modern world, and a hard saying upon which hearts, friendships, families, and even churches have been broken. There is no core teaching of the Christian faith that is less popular today, and perhaps none more important to obey.

It’s easy to get why secular people don’t understand the reasons for Christian sexual practices: many Christians today don’t understand them either. For generations, the church has allowed the culture to catechize its youth without putting up much of a fight. The Benedictine life offers a better way.

Why should Christians pay attention to teaching on sexuality of monastics, who live in chastity? Don’t they hate sex?

Of course they don’t, no more than they hate good food because they often fast, hate words because they live in great silence, hate families because they don’t marry, or hate material things because they live simply. We should listen to the monks on sexuality for the same reason we should listen to them on wealth and poverty: because their asceticism is a testimony to the goodness of those divine gifts.

Remember that all Christians are called to live with some degree of sexual abstinence. Benedictines commit themselves to a life of sexual purity as part of their radical discipleship. Their celibacy testifies to the sanctity of sex in the Christian cosmos as the property of the married state alone. And their example of bodily purity transforming the erotic instinct into spiritual passion demonstrates to laypersons that living within God-ordained bounds of sexuality, even in the most extreme circumstance is not only possible, but necessary to enjoy the fullest fruits of life in Christ. As Wendell Berry puts it, “the point about temperance, including sexual discipline, is not that it reduces pleasure, but that it safeguards abundance.”

The radical witness of Christian monks is a special grace to lay Christians in these times. There is no other area in which orthodox Christians will have to be as countercultural is in our sexual lives, and we are going to have to support each other in our unpopular stances. We have to understand the rich Christian view of sexuality, understand how the Sexual Revolution undermines it, recognize our own culpability, and be prepared to fight to keep our children orthodox.

Sexual practices are so central to the Christian life that when believers cease to affirm orthodoxy on the matter, they often cease to be meaningfully Christian. It was the countercultural force of Christian sexuality that overturned the pagan world’s dehumanizing practices. Christianity taught that the body is sacred, and that the dignity possessed by all humans as made in the image of God required treating it as such.

This is why the modern re-paganization called the Sexual Revolution can never be reconciled with orthodox Christianity. Alas, that revolution has toppled the church’s authority in the broader culture, and is now shaking the church itself to its foundations. Christians living the Benedict Option must commit themselves resolutely to resistance, and to helping each other do the same.

I once heard an Evangelical woman, in a group conversation about sexuality, blurt out, “Why do we have to get stuck on sex? Why can’t we just get back to talking about the Gospel?”

Christianity is not a disembodied faith, but an incarnational one. God came to us in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, and redeems us body and soul. The way we treat our bodies (and indeed all of Creation) says something about the way we regard the One who gave it to us, and whose presence fills all things.

As the Benedictines teach, one of our tasks in life is to be a means by which God orders Creation, bringing it into harmony with His purposes. Sexuality is an inextricable part of that work.

Wendell Berry has written, “sexual love is the heart of community life. Sexual love is the force that in our bodily life connects us most intimately to the Creation, to the fertility of the world, to farming and the care of animals. It brings us into the dance that holds the community together and joins it to its place.”

This is more important to the survival of Christianity than most of us understand. When people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.

This raises a critically important question: is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?

Though he might not have put it quite that way, the eminent sociologist Philip Rieff would probably have said yes. Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph of the Therapeutic analyzes what he calls the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. Nearly everyone recognizes that this process has been underway since the Enlightenment, but Rieff showed that it had reached a more advanced stage than most people—least of all Christians—recognized.

Rieff, writing in the 1960s, identified the Sexual Revolution—though he did not use that term—as a leading indicator of Christianity’s demise. In classical Christian culture, he wrote, “the rejection of sexual individualism” was “very near the center of the symbolic that has not held.” He meant that renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture and redirecting the erotic instinct was intrinsic to Christian culture. Without Christianity, the West was reverting to its former state.

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.

In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.

Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” Chastity—the rightly ordered use of the gift of sexuality—was the greatest distinction setting Christians of the early church apart from the pagan world.

The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what a person does with their sexuality cannot be separated from what a person is. In a sense, moderns believe the same thing, but from a perspective entirely different from the early Church’s.

In speaking of how men and women of the early Christian era saw their bodies, historian Peter Brown says the body
was embedded in a cosmic matrix in ways that made its perception of itself profoundly unlike our own. Ultimately, sex was not the expression of inner needs, lodged in the isolated body. Instead, it was seen as the pulsing, through the body, of the same energies as kept the stars alive. Whether this pulse of energy came from benevolent gods of from malevolent demons (as many radical Christians believed) sex could never be seen as a thing for the isolated human body alone.

Early Christianity’s sexual teaching not only comes from the words of Christ and the Apostle Paul, but more broadly, it emerges from the Bible’s anthropology. The human being bears the image of God, however tarnished by sin, and is the pinnacle of an order created and imbued with meaning by God.

In that order, man has a purpose. He is meant for something, to achieve certain ends. When Paul warned the Christians of Corinth that having sex with a prostitute meant that they were joining Jesus Christ to that prostitute, he was not speaking metaphorically. Because we belong to Christ as a unity of body, mind, and soul, how we use the body and the mind sexually is a very big deal.

Anything we do that falls short of perfect harmony with the will of God is sin. Sin is not merely rule-breaking, but failing to live in accord with the structure of reality itself.

The Christian who lives in reality will not join his body to another’s outside of the order God gives us. That means no sex outside of the covenant through which a man and a woman seal their love exclusively through Christ. In orthodox Christian teaching, the two really do become “one flesh” in a way that transcends the symbolic.

If sex is made holy through the marriage covenant, then sex within marriage an icon of Christ’s relationship with His people, the church. It reveals the miraculous, life-giving power of spiritual communion, which occurs when a man and a woman—and only a man and a woman—give themselves to each other. That marriage could be unsexed is a total novelty in the Christian theological tradition.

“The significance of sexual difference has never before been contingent upon a creature’s preferences, or upon whether or not God gave it episodically to a particular creature to have certain preferences,” writes the Catholic theologian Christopher Roberts. He goes on to say that for Christians, the meaning of sexuality has always depended on its relationship to the created order and to eschatology—the ultimate end of man.

“As was particularly clear, perhaps for the first time in Luther, the fact of a sexually differentiated creation is reckoned to human beings as a piece of information from God about who and what it meant to be human,” writes Roberts.

Contrary to modern gender theory, the question is not Are we men or women? but How are we to be male and female together? The legitimacy of our sexual desire is limited by the givenness of nature. The facts of our biology are not incidental to our personhood. Marriage has to be sexually complementary because only the male-female pair mirrors the generativity of the divine order. “Male and female he made them,” says Genesis, revealing that complementarity is written into the nature of reality. Easy divorce stretches the sacred bond of matrimony to the breaking point, but it does not deny complementarity. Gay marriage does. Similarly, transgenderism doesn’t merely bend, but breaks the biological and metaphysical reality of male and female.

Everything in this debate (and many others between traditional Christianity and modernity) turns on how we answer the question: is the natural world and its limits a given, or are we free to do with it whatever we desire?

To be sure, there never was a Golden Age in which Christians all lived up to their sexual ideals. The church has been dealing with sexual immorality in its own ranks since the beginning—and, let’s be honest, some of the measures it has taken to combat it have been cruel and unjust.

The point, however, is that to the pre-modern Christian imagination, sex was filled with cosmic meaning in a way it no longer is. Paul admonished the Corinthians to “flee sexual immorality” because the body was a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” and warned them that “you are not your own.” He was telling them that their bodies are sacred vessels that belonged to God, who, in Christ, “all things hold together.” Sexual autonomy, seemingly the most prized possession of the modern person, is not only morally wrong, but a metaphysical falsehood.

But our perception of that truth diminished long ago. Now, we are on the far side of a Sexual Revolution that has been nothing short of catastrophic for Christianity. It struck near the core of Biblical teaching on sex and the human person, and has demolished the fundamental Christian conception of society, of families, and of the nature of human beings. There can be no peace between Christianity and the Sexual Revolution, because they are radically opposed. As the Sexual Revolution advances, Christianity must retreat—and it has, faster than most people would have thought possible.

In 1996, the Gallup polling organization conducted its first survey asking Americans what they thought of same-sex marriage. A whopping 68 percent opposed it. In 2015, just before the US Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision proclaiming a constitutional right to gay marriage, Gallup’s poll revealed that 60 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage. This number will rise steadily as older generations die and make way for younger generations, who overwhelmingly favor LGBT rights.

Research shows that Millennials, both secular and religious, favor gay rights by enormous majorities. Those who have disaffiliated from Christianity say that the faith’s negative attitudes towards homosexuality were a major factor. Strong majorities of Millennials who identify as Christian believe the church must change its views.

That being the case, you would think that churches that have liberalized their teachings on homosexuality, like Mainline Protestant denominations, or downplayed those teachings, like progressive Catholic parishes, would be booming. They’re not. If anything, they are cratering faster than the more orthodox.

Future historians will wonder how the sexual desires of only three to four percent of the population became the fulcrum on which an entire worldview was dislodged and overturned. A partial answer is that the media is to blame. Back in 1993, a cover story in The Nation identified the gay-rights cause as the summit and keystone of the culture war:

All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.

They were right. Tying the gay rights cause to the Civil Rights movement was a strategic master stroke. Though homosexuality and race are two very different phenomena, the media took the equivalence for granted, and rarely if ever gave any opposing voices a chance to be heard.

Though the unrelenting media campaign on behalf of same-sex marriage was critically important to its success, it wasn’t the most important thing. Americans accepted gay marriage so quickly because it resonated so deeply with what they had already come to believe about the meaning of heterosexual sex and marriage.

We have gay marriage because the straight majority came to see sexuality as something primarily for personal pleasure and self-expression, and only secondarily for procreation. We have gay marriage because the straight majority, in turn, came to see marriage in the same way—and two generations of Americans have grown up with these nominalist values on sex and marriage as normative.

To be modern, as we have seen, is to believe in one’s individual desires as the locus of authority and self-definition. As philosopher Charles Taylor writes, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaningful cosmos).”

Gay marriage and gender ideology signify the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because they deny Christian anthropology at its core, and shatter the authority of the Bible. Rightly ordered sexuality is not at the core of Christianity, but as Rieff saw, it’s so near to the center that to lose the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter is to risk losing the fundamental integrity of the faith. This is why Christians who begin by rejecting sexual orthodoxy end either by rejecting Christianity themselves, or laying the groundwork for their children to do so.

“The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America is in mortal danger.

If a remnant wants to survive, it must resist the Sexual Revolution. But how?

If you want to read the whole thing, you will need to buy a copy of The Benedict Option, which turns five years old this March.

The Brinton controversy reminds me of a famous incident from the life of W.H. Auden — a wise and cultured gay man of whom it is impossible to imagine approving of the mainstreaming of what Brinton stands for — when he lived in Manhattan in 1939, shortly after the Nazis invaded Poland and started the Second World War. I will quote below from the book Auden And Christianity, by Arthur Kirsch:

If you are convinced that Sam Brinton is wrong, and that all values are not a matter of personal taste, then on what do you base your own values? Even if you can’t easily explain that moral intuition, you need to think about it. The only two answers are either a) your revulsion is based on pure prejudice, and needs either to be abandoned, or at least neutered; or b) there really is something profoundly evil at work here, and you had better return to the Church — not in a halfhearted way — and work to strengthen it as a bulwark and refuge against the suicidal decadence of the post-Christian West.

There is no third way, not that I can see. You can either have Sam Brinton, or you can have Jesus Christ, but not both. You can have either barbarism (defined as the release of passions), or you can have civilization. You can have death, or you can have life. The hour is late. The signs of the times are flashing neon.  You must choose.

UPDATE: Matt in VA — who, if you don’t remember, is a partnered gay man — is back with a doozy comment:

There are many problems with this, but I’d say the main one is that all this talk of monasteries and that sort of thing suggests a type of Western Christian that gets rarer by the day. I mean a Western Christian who doesn’t 100% believe in feminism and women’s liberation or indeed honestly believe in any real differences between the sexes that a feminist wouldn’t wholeheartedly agree to. Men and women are equal, except for the ways in which women are better, is something feminists and respectable Western Christians 100% agree to, at a level so deep I don’t think there is anything that can be done about it.

It is absolutely true that Western Christianity has foundered on the issue of sexuality. And it is because Western Christianity has swallowed whole the view of women that feminists have — as victims/as people who cannot possibly be held accountable for their own actions and choices in the same way men are. The man has, ultimately, to deal with things and take the responsibility; it is just too much to expect that the women ever do it, too *hard.* It would not be unfair, no matter how much it makes respectable decent people cringe, to say that western Christians are utterly whipped by modern/contemporary sexual politics. I find it very tedious when conservatives make the point about how gay rights activists conflated the racial Civil Rights movement with the gay rights movement despite the two things being very different; this is something that the Right enables every day, because they treat the Civil Rights movement as more holy and more sacred than the most basic traditional Christian understandings about things as basic as the differences between men and women. Of course everybody in our society runs the Civil Rights playbook to advanced their interests; it is the Right, I’m afraid, who make that work every time, because the Right really does treat it as more holy and sacred than vast parts of the religion even the most religious profess to believe. As many right-wing cultural critics have noted, the conservative of the past century always just ratifies/reifies the changes made by the left; he conserves whatever the left has introduced, rather than conserving the things he claims to value, or the actual Eternal Verities.

Here’s Richard Hanania in his very, very good piece about how the feminisation of our culture and politics has changed it:

But there’s also a hypocrisy of the right. Actually, it’s more a hypocrisy of centrists, who will present studies showing that, believe it or not, men and women are different, but then argue that we should “treat everyone as an individual.”

Think about how strange this is. We don’t say this about other group differences. “So what if on average children are more impulsive and make worse decisions than adults? Some children are more mature than adults, therefore abolish all age requirement for voting, sex, etc. and treat everyone as individuals.” If an alien species came to earth and was found to significantly differ from humans on nearly every important cognitive trait, it wouldn’t make sense to expect them to assimilate to human institutions and not fundamentally alter how they work.

At the same time, the argument against giving in to more emotional women is that truth is actually pretty important and if feelings get hurt on the way there, too bad. But of course I’d think that. I’m a man, and one at the extreme tail ends of both disagreeableness (high) and neuroticism (low). If I was the type who responded to difficult ideas by “literally shaking,” I could well have a different opinion. But it would be the job of the rest of society to steer me away from thinking too hard about political or philosophical issues, and towards private pursuits where my hypersensitivity would do less harm.

More:

But I also believe that, to a large extent, conservatives wish they were facing a more masculine form of authoritarianism. Men know what to do when other men try to oppress them. They resist and fight back. But who wants to participate in a struggle where women’s tears are what you need to overcome? Men can feel invigorated after a fistfight with another man, even when they lose! Nobody feels that way after arguing with his wife.

This can also explain the weird melodramatic way in which conservatives understand foreign policy. Why were conservatives, who have basically been pessimists about the state of their society and where it has been going since the 1960s, such enthusiastic supporters of foreign adventures in places like Vietnam and Iraq that meant absolutely nothing to the future of the United States? Why are so many who think they’ve lost their country still desperate for an existential struggle against China?

There is no doubt in my mind that Richard Hanania has gone from being completely unheard of to rapidly being referred to by many because he is one of the few people willing to write things like this and put his own name on it. Of course, anonymous people have been saying stuff like this for a long time, but conservative Christians have no interest in it, it’s too mean, it’s not nice. How can we, in this day and age, say something that is not flattering to women? In just this way, we see how shallow, conventional, and middle class so much of conservative Christianity has become. The Left, say what you like about it, is at least not so terrified of somebody somewhere not liking them/of the possibility of conflict.

There is an absolute wealth of good writing about how men and woman are just not the same, and a feminized politics is not the same as a masculinized one, and we can bang our hands against the wall all we want for as long as we want lamenting things, but it won’t matter if we cannot bring ourselves to face these facts.

Why has Christianity in the West been so utterly routed when it comes to sex and sexuality? Because Christianity in the West is currently going through a bad period where it cannot and will not admit to itself the truth about the fact that men and women are not the same and that — gasp! — *both* sexes have their good points and their bad points, their strengths and their failure modes. There is such a contrast between reading someone like GK Chesterton when he writes about men and women, and reading some awful dreck produced by contemporary Christians now, which ALWAYS does the same thing: “Men, why won’t you man up already — you are *failing* Good Christian Women by not stepping up and doing what is needful. Women are *tired*.” And of course, by “man up,” what is meant is be a bourgeois provider and middle-class good corporate cog or entrepreneur, be “reasonable,” cut your hair and your lawn and don’t displease the homeowner’s association. The talk of monasteries and the like is supposed to represent a willingness to be totally committed and even radical — but in fact what it represents is the continued desire to run as far away from conflict as possible, to find some place to hide from the changes that keep coming. The essential characteristic of the bourgeois is how risk-averse he is, how fearful of real conflict and of stakes.

That Richard Hanania bit about how conservatives wish they were dealing with Stalin or a chest-thumping dictator or some other Big Bad Man type is exactly right. Conservatives have absolutely NOTHING in their arsenal when it comes to dealing with relentless nagging, weaponized bad faith, borderline personality disorder, or the other ways in which female armies advance. It is just a total rout. Christian conservatives *agree* with feminists about how terrible are all the ways in which men have traditionally/historically fought back or held their own, and Christian conservatives join with them, unilaterally disarm, and then despair at what follows in the wake of that. The whole “marketplace of ideas”, or “let’s debate” approach to the public square and establishing values …. what is there to even say. Imagine having dealt with a bpd woman for even one second and thinking that there is some kind of neutral “marketplace of ideas” where we rationally hash things out. I suspect having had a bpd parent is responsible for how completely and utterly allergic I am to any idiotic Intellectual Dark Web “we can win things by Debating!” nonsense. Weaponized bad faith is a superpower. Women beat men *every time* when it comes to ingroup-outgroup ostracism, relentless stigmatizing and hysterical conformism, and all the weapons that are most effective in middle-class contexts. It’s absolutely true that for the vast span of human history, when want, scarcity, isolation, etc., meant life was more precarious, men had the upper hand, via their superior strength and ability to use violence, their greater abilities to secure food and shelter and protect it from being taken away, etc. But in a domesticated, docile middle-class context, the man is at a disadvantage (Camille Paglia is very good on this). To be sure, in some sense, men have only themselves to blame, and the only response would still seem to be “man up” — but of course, what “manning up” actually means and entails is the central question. This is the “waiting for barbarians” feeling, the desire for some men who are actually men to come riding in and horribly, bloodily rescue us from our predicament; this is what Hoellebecq’s Submission is about — “teach us to be men again” — and what a huge portion of the energy, such as it exists, on the moribund Right is about.

If you don’t like homosexual male excesses — what is the only thing that has ever worked at curbing them? The very stigmatization and threats of harsh punishment that conservative Christians faint at even contemplating. OK, I get it, you need plausible deniability, but do what the Catholic Church did and turn over the sodomites to the secular authorities for the actual corporal punishment — but you have to be at least willing to do that. The church doesn’t have to be the hangman, but you have to be willing to make sure *somebody* is the hangman. The conservative of the past was somehow able to say “never darken my doors again” to wayward daughters, or at least to make them think he might be capable of saying it ( just the threat is very often enough); the conservatives who are actually interesting to read and worth learning about, like Phyllis Schlafly, were *unafraid* to be “mean.” If you always wilt in 5 seconds in front of women’s tears or hysterics (and, look, I don’t mean to be dismissive, women’s emotional abuse is an absolute superpower, they are ten, twenty, a hundred times better at deploying it than men are), you can’t be surprised if sexual relations and sexual matters go to hell rather quickly.

I 100% agree with Richard Hanania’s assessment that the root of American conservatives’ sociopathic foreign “policy” is sexual. This is the kind of analysis that we need much more of, but instead of course all we get is dried-up Reaganism from the right and utterly moribund Soviets-praising-Lenin-style “black women’s s*** smells like lavender water” dreck from the left. The right/conservatives are utterly lost because they believe in liberalism’s stories about the liberation of victim groups and how that liberation (from tradition, religion, biology, family, age-old societal and cultural structures) is ultimately good– and even though they don’t like it when the Civil Rights playbook is used to run game-winning touchdowns on transgenderism, etc., they still ultimately agree that it’s more important that Civil Rights be *the* untouchable sacred lodestone of the society, no matter how many L’s they rack up. Thus the desire to use force against enemies they really still feel they can beat, like the very male Taliban or whatever, or China; thus the fears — which are really hopes, I think — that what is happening in our society and culture will finally get so bad that it will look like the *masculine* terrors of the 20th century, like Communism or whatever, because at least then we’ll know how to fight it. Whereas you don’t fight your wife, it’s not worth it — you just give in to her every time.

Incidentally, a big part of why significant numbers of women are so unhappy and hysterical is precisely *because* so many men are so checked out, nihilistic, and disengaged. The men do not want to deal with the women, because women really are a challenge and an adventure, meaning they are difficult, scary, and you can get really hurt. It’s not for the risk-averse (which is why conservatives’ message to men, “be a bourgeois”, is horrible and cruel advice). The knight, the dragon and the princess all play essential roles in the story and you cannot simply have the princess without fighting the dragon–you will get nothing. You cannot be a bourgeois who makes a business deal or arranges a cell phone contract and expect to get the woman–you will get something else entirely. It is silly to believe that women want what the loudest and most prolific ones in our current cultural moment say they want. They obviously do not. Again — the whole “we’ll meet in the marketplace of ideas and earnest and baldly state our positions” is so engineer-brain-male as to be autistic. This may be some people’s life, but it is not life, and anybody who appreciates art and beauty knows that. Nothing is more fundamental to all of the oldest and most basic stories, the myths and fairy tales, than the idea that *seduction* and temptation is a million times more powerful than some boring earnest nerd talking about the invisible hand or whatever. If in a story there is a box that shouldn’t be opened, or an apple that shouldn’t be eaten, it WILL be opened, and it WILL be eaten, or else there is no story. Nothing is more powerful than seduction and temptation. You have to approach the entire women question differently from the way our think-tank politics approaches things.

The tired pieties of feminism intensely bore me, but certainly it’s true that women are not passive damsels in distress patiently waiting for men to Step Up and provide for them. That particular old trope is quite false, or at least quite rare to find in reality, and is a product of male fantasy. But many other old tropes are of course certainly real, such as the shrew, the harpy, the fishwife, or what the very first woman, Eve, represents. As long as conservatives essentially agree with feminists about women — that there are zero differences between the sexes except for the myriad ways women are better than men — there can be no progress anywhere on any of this. This is not to say that gender ideology, gay male communal-sewer sexual culture, or the like, are good, or even acceptable, or that the disgust and dismay about these things is unwarranted or unmerited. But nothing is going to change, about this entire trajectory, as long as the essential element of sex — THE sexes — is something that people cannot be honest about.

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