The Real Surprise Behind Lauren Boebert’s Latest Controversy
Early family formation is the human norm; why have we made it so exceptional?
The U.S. congresswoman from Colorado, Lauren Boebert, is without a doubt a character. She recently found herself again at the center of a controversy, this time involving something very ordinary—Boebert is set to become a thirty-six-year-old grandmother.
The congresswoman’s seventeen-year-old son got his girlfriend pregnant. While no law was broken, we can all agree that the situation is less than ideal. Still, it sounds like the father-to-be is standing by the mother and the entire family is excited to welcome the child.
Something should bother us about the latest installment in Boebert family chronicles: premarital sex. It hardly does. Instead, we are scandalized that a woman of (admittedly advanced) maternal age is going to be a grandmother.
Boebert herself said that her situation is fairly typical of the rural community that she represents—if two generations of women have babies at eighteen, they can expect to be grannies by their mid-thirties.
I come from an urban area, yet Boebert is no different than many women I knew in my childhood. In the Soviet Union where I grew up, abortion, sadly, was considered a form of birth control. It was a terrible practice, but here is how it brought the age-of-first-birth down.
While first trimester abortion was legalized under Khrushchev, the authorities worried about the long-term effect of the operation on fertility and mounted a campaign warning Soviet women that terminating a first pregnancy could lead to sterility. It was understood that, if possible, the first pregnancy ought to be saved.
People also overestimated the risks of mature motherhood. It was widely believed that conceiving a child even in one’s late twenties was a serious health impediment. Women aimed to have two kids before turning twenty-five and teens with prams were seen on every street.
Many of them were good girls from good families, though, if there was no baby on the way, parents often tried to dissuade children from tying the knot too early. Parents implored young people to enjoy the single life before jumping head-first into the hassle of parenting. To be sure, they were making a very modest request to “please wait till you are twenty.” (It’s worth mentioning that many of the early marriages of the 1980s ended in divorce, but that took place in the context of the social breakdown after the dissolution of the USSR.)
I don’t suggest that we start using fear of a first-pregnancy abortion as a tool to encourage early motherhood—I’m more on the side of installing the general fear of all abortion. But it's worth considering that industrialized societies exist where women opt to give birth early in life. Given the fact that kids past puberty develop feelings for each other, some kind of social mechanism is required to address it, and marriage is one such mechanism.
Our society acknowledges that teenagers will want to be sexually active. In recent years, we went overboard not just accepting the fact that they do, but pushing sex education under various disguises to children as early as pre-school. Originally intended to inform Gen Xers on how to avoid pregnancy, it has now morphed into a tool to implement a repressive code of “tolerance” for public displays of anti-social sexuality. Kids are being spoon-fed fantastic ideas, like that a girl can actually be a boy (with a little help from extensive surgical alteration and hormonal interventions).
The post- #MeToo popular culture is no less exploitive. In Teen Vogue, the wellspring of Gen Z “sex positivity” and wokeness, girls are instructed to wear peek-a-boo g-strings and aim for “literally magical” feminist orgasms. Teen Vogue’s presumably mostly virginal target audience must be creeped out by the advice on how to use trinkets of late stage capitalism to empower the revolutionary Wiccan matriarchy:
A radical approach of incorporating the lunar vibrations into your sex magic manifestation is to charge your sex toys under the moon.
Yet a seventeen-year-old dad is a “trashy” sensation. It’s not moral degradation or silliness verging on mental illness that troubles us. Nearly all sexual activity is encouraged under most circumstances and under a single limiting condition—severely delayed childbearing.
I am sympathetic to the idea of finishing schooling before marriage. Even with that in mind, compulsory education to eighteen is a long stretch for most students. In many European nations, high school ends earlier, and marginal or disinterested students are diverted to trade schools. In the U.S., an increasing number of high school graduates are funneled into universities where they spend years learning subjects of dubious importance for which they lack the aptitude.
In American urban centers, young people spend their time doing nothing in particular—traveling, playing video games, hooking up. Smoking dope, shooting fentanyl. All these life choices are considered more "sophisticated" than early marriage.
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Young people have internalized the idea that responsible sex is not necessarily the kind that takes place within the socially and religiously sanctioned bond of marriage but the one that postpones it. When marriage is delayed indefinitely, celibacy is an uphill battle; it’s one thing to ask a child to wait until he graduates high school and gets a decent blue-collar job, and it’s something entirely different to ask him to wait until his girlfriend graduates with her second advanced degree. Parents assume that premarital sex is inevitable and only expect their kids to avoid out-of-wedlock birth.
We are so used to delayed childbearing, it doesn’t strike us as odd that the moms on suburban playgrounds would be considered grandmother-age in most places. What did they gain by postponing childbirth? It goes almost without saying that many of them got married in a panic realizing that their fertility was about to fall off the cliff.
I wish the Boebert family all the best, and I hope they will manage to avoid the melodrama of the Palins. It's normal not to be stuck in a self-perpetuated cycle of extended schooling and entertainment, delaying family formation. And a good economy should enable high school graduates to provide for growing young families—particularly in the social context of marriage.