World O’ Crap uncovers a real gem from University of Chicago “pro-life” ethicist Leon Kass, lecturing the kiddies in Focus on the Family’s children’s magazine, The Good Old Days When Women Were Bound. Oddly, we have yet another nationally prominent pro-lifer, endorsed by a major pro-life organization, who combines a strong belief in the state’s dominion over the woman’s uterus with mind-blowingly reactionary conceptions of gender relations, but I’m sure this is just a coincidence. s.z. does great work as always, but here are a couple key quotes from Leon:
For the first time in human history, mature women by the tens of thousands live the entire decade of their twenties — their most fertile years — neither in the homes of their fathers nor in the homes of their husbands; unprotected, lonely, and out of sync with their inborn nature. Some women positively welcome this state of affairs, but most do not; resenting the personal price they pay for their worldly independence, they nevertheless try to put a good face on things and take refuge in work or feminist ideology.
Chilling but true: some women live for some period of time when they could be churning out babies without the protection and supervision of a man! I’m as shocked as you are. And the only possible explanation can be unuspported assertions that women really hate what they choose to do, and fall into feminism as an ex post facto rationalization of their profound unhappiness that they are no lonnger controlled by men. I certainly can’t think of another explanation; I mean, surely it can’t be the case that some silly hysterical women know their desires and values better than kindly ol’ Leon does.
Oh, and here’s the quote that some of our commenters would prefer not to be made public:
Here is a (partial) list of the recent changes that hamper courtship and marriage: the sexual revolution, made possible especially by effective female contraception; the ideology of feminism and the changing educational and occupational status of women; the destigmatization of bastardy, divorce, infidelity, and abortion; the general erosion of shame and awe regarding sexual matters, exemplified most vividly in the ubiquitous and voyeuristic presentation of sexual activity in movies and on television.
Birth control (I mean, female birth control–men have to have their freedom, ya know), the ability of women to work, abortion–it’s all connected, and it’s all bad. Women’s freedom is inherently “anti-family.” But I’m sure Kass must be the only person who thinks that, and this article was printed by Focus on the Family by mistake.
Still, I think this is the most offensive passage:
Many, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one’s partner than for one’s mother.
Yes, society used to be constituted by a Virgin/Whore complex that would embarass Jake LaMotta (a woman who likes sex as mother of your children? That’s disgusting!)–and this was a good thing. And as for why men who avidly seek pre-marital sex can be good people and husbands while women with the same desire are women of “easy virtue” and hence of no social value…I’m sure a non-misogynist explanation is forthcoming in Part 2.
For bonus crackpottery, make sure to check out Maggie Gallagher’s feeble defenses of homophbia at Volokh. Shorter Gallagher: “Society has never been better off, except for the fact that the family (and the ‘natural’ definition of the family is what existed during the time in which women were subordinate but not quite as subordinate in marriage as they were for the previous centuries, during which the static institution of marriage was also apparently unnatural) is crumbling, which proves that the ubiquity of bourgeois marriage is critically important. And the fact that the family crumbled before same-sex marriage appeared in the United States makes stopping same-sex marriage a particularly important remedy.” I can’t argue with that logic! Actually, Kieran makes a very important point here. If you’re serious about protecting traditional forms of marriage, no-fault divorce is far more important than gay marriage, given that the latter consists of a small minority most of whom won’t get married to people of the other gender anyway. Except, of course, that tightening divorce rules might actually affect large numbers of “pro-family” reactionaries, so we don’t see a lot of state referendums trying to reinstitute tough divorce laws. It’s much easier to deny rights and benefits to a small minority, and it’s amazing how much stronger the impulse to protect “the family” becomes when it allows you to stigmatize your pre-existing prejudices. (As even Gallagher admits, “It’s true” that “many people are opposed to gay marriage simply because they despise homosexuals, or have a strong religious feeling that homosexuality is wrong, wrong, wrong.” But not her, though.) Oh, and as for my earlier comments to the effect that Volokh’s conflation of the banal claim that “people try to have sex with people who may be attracted to them” with the reprehensible claim that “gay people try to convert others to their diseased, unhealthy lifestyle” was attempting to legitimize the prejudices held by the majority of his party, I reiterate them.