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Straussian Social Conservatism and the “Dangers of Contraception”

February 24th, 2012 · 43 Comments

The philosopher Leo Strauss was perhaps best known for the view that great philosophical works—especially those produced in times when persecution for heretical views was commonplace—often concealed an “esoteric” message, intended only for an elite of truly “philosophical” readers, that was different from, and often quite at odds with, the surface meaning of the text.  A somewhat cruder version of that view has often been associated with neoconservatives—many of whom count themselves admirers of Strauss. This was perhaps most clearly expressed by the late neocon grand don Irving Kristol in an interview on the subject of religious belief:

There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy.

Increasingly, I find myself thinking that it’s not really neoconservatives but social conservatives who are more prone to this view. Years ago, I wrote that the conservative case against gay marriage only really makes sense if seen through this lens. The reason their public arguments against marital equality so often seem incoherent is that the true rationale rests on the social desirability of a myth or “noble lie” that would cease to be effective if it were exposed by making the argument publicly.

Something similar is at work, I suspect, in some recent arguments over contraception.  Many commentators have expressed understandable bafflement, for instance, at Rick Santorum’s attempt to explain what he means when he alludes to the “dangers of contraception”:

What I was talking about is we have a society — Charles Murray just wrote a book about this and it’s on the front page of “The New York Times” two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active.

What we’re seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all — a host of other things when children have children.

On its face, this is nonsensical: How can contraception, of all things, be responsible for an increase in out of wedlock births?

The clue here is the reference to Murray’s book Coming Apart—which if not exactly a work of high sociological rigor, is interesting and a quick enough read to be worth a look. Murray’s core topic is what he believes to be a growing cultural gap between the educated elite and the rest of America. While the elite profess the most socially liberal attitudes, Murray argues that they hew to “conservative” norms in some crucial respects—such as generally bearing children in the context of stable marriages.  Yet as Phoebe Maltz observes, this is hardly a thoroughgoing conservatism: Sure, the educated elite eventually settle down to marry and have children, but that’s routinely preceded by a decade or more of extramarital sexual activity enabled by contraception.

Here is one way to make sense of Santorum’s remarks. Elite sexual norms have transformed over the past half century, as a result of a combination of factors: Contraceptive technology; improved educational sorting that increases the frequency of romantic partnerships between highly educated professionals, and an economy that rewards longer periods of education and correspondingly delayed marriage and reproduction. Under the new norm, there’s no expectation of marriage or childbearing before one’s late-20s or early-30s,  but also no expectation that people will abstain from sexual activity or romantic cohabitation until that point. There is no stigma against premarital sex, engaged in strictly for the enjoyment and emotional satisfaction of the participants. For the cognitive elite—who are generally reasonably good at impulse control and long-term planning, have the social and economic resources to provide a buffer against youthful misjudgments, and have powerful incentives to avoid derailing their ambitious career plans—this works out just fine.

Here is where the “esoteric” or Straussian social conservative argument comes into play: For those outside the cognitive elite (they would argue) this does not work out fine. Lacking both the incentives and the resources of the elite, the erosion of the stigma against premarital sex among the “lower classes” yields increased premarital childbearing, locking both generations into poverty and dependency.  This outcome can only be avoided (the Straussian social conservative might argue) if the “lower orders” do not adopt the sexual norms that work perfectly well for the cognitive elite.

But nobody likes to be told they’re simply not capable of enjoying the same freedoms as the elite: The only publicly acceptable norm for a democratic polity is the rule that sex outside the confines of traditional marriage is “just wrong” or somehow “immoral.” This norm may not make sense, but since most people do not think deeply about the underlying ethical rationale for local norms, it will be widely accepted so long as it appears to be widely accepted—which is to say, so long as the cultural elite at least continue to give it lip service, whatever their private behavior. Contraception (in tandem with those other changes) makes it possible for the elite to visibly reject that norm, enjoying successful and happy lives in which a long sexually active young-adulthood precedes eventual marriage and reproduction. The argument that non-elites are incapable of successfully living according to the new elite norms is publicly unacceptable in a democratic society, and so those norms become widely accepted, with damaging results.

I am not, I should stress, endorsing this argument. But it is, at least, an intelligible argument. It is the only remotely coherent way I can see to make sense of Santorum’s purported link between the prevalence of contraception and rising non-marital births. It’s just not an argument social conservative elites can make openly—certainly not if they wish to retain any pretensions of populism. The best justification of “traditional values” is ultimately pragmatic and utilitarian, and their acceptance as general rules depends crucially on the idea that most people are not good at making ad hoc judgments by applying a pragmatic and utilitarian standard directly. But they’re only effective if this pragmatic foundation is not laid bare: If people simply accept the traditional rules as “what everyone knows to be right.”

This is, I suspect, why so many social conservative positions seem not just misguided but downright baffling and mysterious to others. It’s not that they lack any intelligible justification, it’s that social conservative elites (believe that they) cannot openly or publicly  advance that justification without undermining their own ends.

Addendum: As a commenter reminds me, this argument is occasionally stated explicitly, as it was in a famous “No Guardrails” editorial in the Wall Street Journal in the early 1990s, which Radley Balko references in this 2003 Fox News article on… Rick Santorum! It’s also the basic idea underlying Gertrude Himmelfarb’s 1995 book One Nation, Two Cultures (the wife, as it happens, of Irving Kristol). But again, it’s rare for the argument to be made quite so explicitly in these terms, because it implicitly concedes that it’s not inherently immoral for the elite to deviate from conservative values, except insofar as doing so openly sets a bad example for non-elites who can’t handle that level of personal freedom.

Tags: Moral Philosophy · Religion · Sociology


       

 

43 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chuck Rudd // Feb 24, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Great write-up on this. Thanks for pointing me towards Strauss (I have some similar intuitions but don’t have a grasp on which philosopher/sociologist/etc. said what).

    When culture is being diffused from above, there will be a tendency to take what looks like the good and fun parts at the expense of the hard parts. The hard parts that allow the elites to function with relative freedom are the social and human capital that have been developed to undergird their class. These behaviors are passed down the line in the same manner as fashion or other forms of culture. And when culture is pushed upward, it enters a realm where prevailing social and cultural norms are able to deftly handle it.

    So something like the sexual revolution (with contraception at its epicenter) is merely unbridled and unchecked freedom. This is why many of the liberal defenses of sexual freedom and single motherhood are so frustrating. We have educated and elite people saying that because it worked for them then it should be able to work for people with less education and in lower classes.

    And the thing is that the education isn’t actually the causal agent. Women go further in school than ever, but many more are choosing the single mother route.

  • 2 JohnMcG // Feb 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I’m not sure Santorum (or I) would concede that a contracepted sexually promiscuous young adulthood as a prologue to mater marriage and child rearing always works out “just fine” for the elites, but that the ill effects are less overt for them than they are for the lower classes.

    One example is the series of worried articles about the “hookup culture” on college campuses, and what the effects are on (most particularly) young women who take part in it. These articles are usually cheered and jeered along the same culture war lines.

    Now, I suppose it’s possible that everyone involved knows deep down that there is no harm in the hookup culture and that these stories are part of building up the cultural lie by pretending that it’s harmful for adults, too.

    But I’m not sure that’s the case. I do think most social conservatives would say, and actually believe, that a promiscuous young adulthood, even if put way in the past, would lead to an unhappier marriage, regardless of the social class of the couple. That a child raised by a single upper class parent may fare as well as his two-parent social class cohorts, but will still have an emotional void from the other parent.

    So, while I think there’s truth in Sanchez’s analysis, I don’t think it drives to the heart. I think Santorum truly believes that contraceptives lead to a less-rich life for the elites. It’s just that it is not as apparent as it is for the lower classes.

  • 3 Julian Sanchez // Feb 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Well, Murray argues that this is actually not true: College-educated women continue to opt for single parenthood at extremely low rates:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occur-outside-marriage.html

    College graduates, as the article notes, overwhelmingly marry before having children; it’s among those without a BA that nonmarital childbearing is skyrocketing.

  • 4 Grant Gould // Feb 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Is this not just the old “no guardrails” argument in a new decade and with a layer of IQ varnish over it?

  • 5 Julian Sanchez // Feb 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Basically, yes.

  • 6 dan // Feb 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    “It is the only remotely coherent way I can see to make sense of Santorum’s purported link between the prevalence of contraception and rising non-marital births.”

    There’s at least a coherent, if implausible, argument that contraception is either a) improperly used, so contraception leads to overconfident teenagers having more sex and accidentally getting pregnant, or b) a gateway drug for having sex without contraception.

  • 7 Lindsay Lennox // Feb 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    This feels familiar to me from the study of utilitarian philosophers, who seem especially prone to the belief that satisfaction-maximizing is (a) the correct and right way to make ethical decisions, and (b) something that [most or all] people are better off not believing. Self-effacing.

    Interestingly, self-effacing beliefs seem to require a never-ending cycle of repression of knowledge about the correct belief (in the service of greater happiness/morality), then repressing knowledge of that act of repression, and so on. Which is really uncomfortable, obviously. Possibly this accounts for the sometimes hysterical reactions of social conservatives when their ostensible ‘beliefs’ are challenged?

  • 8 Julian Sanchez // Feb 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Lindsay-
    I think that’s on point. There’s actually an apt passage on this from Strauss’ “Persecution and the Art of Writing” where he talks about “logica equina” (horse-drawn logic)—basically the idea that most people will accept as true any idea that is widely repeated without being openly challenged, without probing the grounds for it too closely. When a norm can’t be publicly justified without undermining its efficacy, the only recourse is to render it beyond the pale to openly question it.

  • 9 DivisionByZero // Feb 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Assuming social conservatives have a rational basis for their positions your analysis seems a reasonable hypothesis. I just seriously doubt that anyone that espouses these views is so self-conscious as to be able to maintain such a double standard for public reasons. I tend to prefer the idea that it is a psychological double standard that arises to keep an equilibrium among drives. Basically the public position is a rationalization. I think that’s why challenging such beliefs is so threatening. It risks throwing their psychological economy into chaos. I know this line of thinking basically poisons the well in terms of rational discourse on the topic but it’s been my experience that rational discourse on this topic is simply not possible with social conservatives.

  • 10 DivisionByZero // Feb 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Just in case it’s not clear I mean social conservatives emphasize these so-called conservative positions to prevent themselves from doing exactly what they are forbidding. I’m not suggesting they want to do it because it’s forbidden but rather that they forbid it because they want to do it.

  • 11 DivisionByZero // Feb 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Further, I think most social conservatives especially the ones in the middle class and above (folks not in the middle class and above need to be disciplined since they have less slack precisely because of the policies put in place by the middle class and above conservatives) are twisted, narcissistic, hypocrites who project an image of probity in order to compensate for their gnawing anxiety about their moral self-worth and you, Julian, give them too much credit. I realize this partially confirms what you are saying but I think the motivation is not one of paternalism but coercion.

  • 12 Sam // Feb 27, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    This reminds me of a quote from the famous Esquire profile on Newt Gingrich. When his then-wife confronted him with how he could run for office on a platform of conservative family values and then sleep around, he responded:

    It doesn’t matter what I do… People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.

  • 13 van Rooinek // Feb 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    “… I suppose it’s possible that everyone involved knows deep down that there is no harm in the hookup culture …”

    No harm? Have a look at all those hookup girls 10 years later, as they stagger out of the fertility clinic awash in tears, having learned that they’ve been sterilized by the STDs they caught during the hookup days….

    NO HARM? Are you crazy?

  • 14 CaptBackslap // Feb 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    While I’d agree that most elite social conservatives have the sort of argument outlined above in mind, the other possibility is that they’re coming from a sort of pseudo-Lacanian mindset: If nothing harmless is considered transgressive, then people’s need for the rush of transgression can only be filled by genuinely harmful activities. So lip service must be paid to making some harmless things transgressive, in the interest of providing safe outlets for jouissance.

  • 15 JohnMcG // Feb 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    To clarify, I do think there is harm in the hook-up culture. Just that for the thesis of this post to be correct, one would have to assume that social conservatives do not really believe it is harmful, but pretend it is and hype studies saying it is so that the lower classes won’t engage in similar behavior.

  • 16 Erica // Feb 28, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    I love the analysis here, but, like dan, dispute the premise. Without sharing Santorum’s opposition to certain forms of contraception, it doesn’t strike me as baffling. He seems to be saying that access to contraception increases both contraception use and contraception failure (and, perhaps, the tendency to put oneself in a situation wherein contraception is a relevant concern).

    In some ways, Santorum seems to reject the Straussian intuition–actually, I’m going to think about this some more and take it up at DiA. :-)

  • 17 van Rooinek // Feb 28, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    for the thesis of this post to be correct, one would have to assume that social conservatives do not really believe it is harmful, but pretend it is

    Why in the hell would we ever do that? What a total waste of time and energy. Every social conservative cause there’s ever been, has been driven by a sincere perception of harm. Sincere, although not always well advised (eg Prohibition.)

  • 18 BobFred // Feb 28, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    A conservative is a liberal who got herpes.

  • 19 van Rooinek // Feb 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    How can contraception, of all things, be responsible for an increase in out of wedlock births?

    Easy. By promoting widespread disinhibition of sexual impulses, which are notoriously difficult to reign in once they are unleashed. Once disinhibition is widespread, there will be more and more OOW pregnancies DESPITE the contraceptives.

  • 20 van Rooinek // Feb 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    While I’d agree that most elite social conservatives have the sort of argument outlined above in mind…

    News flash: there ARE NOT ANY elite conservatives. Only slimy newts that pretend to be. Conservatives are strictly excluded from the ranks of the elite.

    think most social conservatives especially the ones in the middle class and above ….are twisted, narcissistic, hypocrites who project an image of probity in order to compensate for their gnawing anxiety about their moral self-worth

    Well… this is getting annoying. Clearly you don’t know any actual conservatives, so allow me to enlighten you. As an insider I can tell you that middle class social conservatives, for the most part, actually live out what they believe fairly consistently. And their motives for doing so, are a combination of religious conviction, love for their families, and just plain common sense.

    ..(folks not in the middle class and above need to be disciplined since they have less slack precisely because of the policies put in place by the middle class and above conservatives

    Folks not in the middle class, need to be discplined because of the inexorable laws of economics, which are just as true in socialist states as in capitalist ones. Even the Soviets had the sense to realize that communism wouldn’t work without intact families, and thus were quite puritanical on most matters of sex and family life. (Of course communism can’t work longterm no matter what…. but ghetto lifestyles would have bankrupted it a lot faster.)

    Furthermore, folks in the middle class also need to be disciplined, if they wish to STAY middleclass. We don’t expect more of others than we demand of ourselves. It’s only the superrich, and those on welfare, who can afford to live undisciplined lives.

  • 21 CK MacLeod // Feb 29, 2012 at 12:25 am

    You don’t need to appeal to a familiarly superficial interpretation of the work and thought of Leo Strauss to explain why social conservatives are socially conservative.

    Really, it’s not complicated, and, to say the least, it’s not very new. Van Rooinek and others above are right, though I’d put it this way: Many social conservatives are at least as concerned about the “wedlock” part as the the “birth” part, and would be a lot less troubled by teen pregnancy if it was more often resolved after the fact by marriage. They’re not against “births,” but they are disturbed by the state of the world into which babies may be born. They latch on to Charles Murray because they support a patriarchal culture held together by organic, “natural” family bonds – “blood ties” as we used to say, which are equally bonds defined by “birth.” The opposition to “marriage equality” emanates from the same source, as only slightly less directly the emotionalism of their patriotic and anti-immigrant impulses. Those who hold those views are rather mystified by the inability of “liberals” to comprehend what holds communities together, and that inability, like the cosmopolitan atheism that tends to accompany it, is to them indicative of the very same problem that they believe a self-destructive culture of hedonism and irresponsibility, licentious decadence, represents.

    As for the “cognitive elites” (a term I confess makes my skin crawl a little), regardless of how they conceive of their own position or conduct their own personal lives, they don’t have much trouble acknowledging the “utilitarian” advantages of the “culture of life” as they may understand it, though the language of utilitarianism may leave them or their constituencis cold. No one needs to explain to them and their supporters that happier families are happier than unhappy families, or provide for richer and more rewarding lives, communities, and nations than empty atomized individualism can. Some may even view their own non-traditional professional lifestyles as reflecting a sacrifice they’ve made on behalf of their larger social and moral philosophy.

    As for where things really are and are going next, we may need a few thousand years to determine what really has changed – what really sticks, and what is just fashion and distraction: Could be that we’re leaving the traditional “facts of life” behind, that in a sense our sociobiology has actually changed in accordance with technological advances and the expanded biopolitical horizon of modern politics in a possibly overpopulated world… Or it could be that social liberals have mistaken the odd customs appropriate to an odd sliver of humanity at a peculiar historical moment for something much more fundamental and lasting. Either way, the deep discomfort with modern life cannot be simply banished. Get rid of the identified “social conservatives,” and you are very likely to find their causes re-appearing somewhere, or everywhere, else. Strauss understood and wrote about that, too.

  • 22 DivisionByZero // Feb 29, 2012 at 11:39 am

    CK MacLeod said: “Get rid of the identified “social conservatives,” and you are very likely to find their causes re-appearing somewhere, or everywhere, else. Strauss understood and wrote about that, too.”

    I don’t think anyone suggested we “get rid of” social conservatives. I don’t even know what that means in reality. The concerns motivating social conservatives are real and legitimate. It’s their solutions that suck. Seeking ever greater control over ever more differentiated and variegated human experience is a fool’s errand.

    Both because it’s always already more complicated than social conservatives would like to admit and because it’s impossible to control everything or even those things social conservatives care about most.

    Social conservatism and the discipline that goes with it has always had a limited utility. It’s especially useful for those that have a lot to lose based on everyday decisions. It’s utility is less clear in a society that tries to minimize bad outcomes, i.e. the modern welfare state. Obviously this leads to the general animosity towards the welfare state by conservatives.

    Frankly, it comes down to trade-offs. I understand the value of working in a tight knit group with clear lines of authority in highly adverse situations (e.g. special operations or the military in general, etc) but what happens when those conditions no longer obtain? Do you artificially impose them in order to restore comfort? Whose comfort? Who is uncomfortable in this new world? And is their comfort sufficient reason to deliberately make the rest of society uncomfortable? I don’t think so.

    And here we come to the vanity and arrogance of the social conservative movement which makes hypocrites of all of them. The foundation of the movement is a kind of hedonism akin to the kind they actively oppose. It’s not a physical hedonism but an emotional one and it’s equally dangerous when left unchecked but it’s not even acknowledged as a threat. It’s the great sin of pride.

    Anyhow I may be missing some other value of the socially conservatives movement and I’d be happy to be educated.

  • 23 CK MacLeod // Feb 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    n/0: By “get rid of,” please read “rout them politically, defeat them in detail on all of the main issues currently defining the social conservative agenda.”

    Precisely because social conservatism is a comprehensive worldview, and because, as a political force it is, as you concede, motivated by “real and legitimate” concerns, you may find it difficult if not impossible to determine where that agenda ends. In all likelihood, once you took care of the “easy ones” – the ones you may have no difficulty declaring more or less permanently settled – you would likely find yourself on or at least sympathetic to the socially conservative side on some or all of the remaining issues.

    It would likely turn out that the “real and legitimate” concerns you or your former allies may feel about, say, pre-natal gender selection or euthanasia or DNA screening or genetic modification or human or animal cloning and so on, and so on, will be thematized under familiar formats, but with you and your former allies on different sides.

    …Then someone would come along with a political scentistic or sociological or utilitarian or merely mass electoral argument and you or perhaps your former allies would be unwilling to accept that such “numbers” should decide something you or they consider to be of fundamental, life-defining and meaning-producing (moral) importance.

    So, if you want to understand “some other value of social conservative,” you might want to look within and examine your own personal “this far, but no further”‘s. Odds are that you have them. Some might suggest that you ARE them.

  • 24 That Fuzzy Bastard // Feb 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    It seems weird to me to explicate the motives of social conservatives without once mentioning God, the Bible, or Christianity. Most social conservatives are trying to create a secular rationalization for a religiously-motivated position. That’s the necessary and correct approach for bringing one’s religion into the public sphere, but being a posteriori, it often leads to these sorts of strange and not quite coherent rationalizations.

    Because essentially, the No Guardrails argument doesn’t jibe very well with evidence. Marriage has never been all that common among the poor—what changed was that commonlaw marriage became less acceptable as a category, and sterilization/death became less common byproducts of sex and childbirth.

    Meanwhile, conservatives are mostly just upset by people having non-marital (or kinky marital) sex, because their religious text tells them its immoral. Scarier still, contraception and norms of consent have made it ever-easier to have such sex without being punished for it, which undermines the sense that the world is going the way God wants it. So you get nonsense like van Rooinek’s enthusiastic drooling over the possibility that those sluts will be sterilized by STDs, without noticing that if you’re getting STDs, you’re doing contraception wrong (and that STD rates tend to be higher among those who receive abstinence-only sex education).

    Much more revealing than all this “Why won’t they just stop” blathering are the efforts of good sociologists to understand why people have children too young. And there’s been some excellent research! Much of it has to do with a sense of little potentiality, and that’s where the “more money” stuff becomes useful—poor people have babies early in part they’re not giving up much potential income by doing so. If there was greater potential income, there would be greater incentive to defer gratification, including the emotional gratification of sex and babies. But if you live in an environment like the contemporary USA, where there is so little chance, statistically speaking, for doing better than you do now, why bother?

  • 25 van Rooinek // Feb 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    So you get nonsense like van Rooinek’s enthusiastic drooling over the possibility that those sluts will be sterilized by STDs

    Enthusiastic drooling? What the hell are you talking about? I consider it the worst of all tragedies — the potential future wives of my sons, losing the ability to produce my grandchildren. That’s the END OF THE WORLD — I don’t “drool over it”, far from it.

    It never cease to amaze me, how liberals regularly manage to misattribute insanely malicious motives, to the most benignly intended conservative positions. Perhaps they’re projecting?

    Social conservatism and the discipline that goes with it has always had a limited utility. It’s especially useful for those that have a lot to lose based on everyday decisions. It’s utility is less clear in a society that tries to minimize bad outcomes, i.e. the modern welfare state

    It’s mathematically impossible for the welfare state to continue indefinitely. Sooner or later it will go bankrupt, and “conservative” (ie. common-sense) self discipline will be forced on people.

    Unfortunately, the habits of self-discipline are not so easily regained once lost. When welfare finally falls, many of the undisciplined will turn to violence. A lot of them, and a lot of good citizens who fight back, will probably die during that “re-set”. But in the end, welfare will be gone and those who are still alive will be FORCED to face the “utility” of living a self disciplined life, if they didn’t get it already.

    This is why conservatives opposed the welfare state to begin with — they saw this coming.

  • 26 van Rooinek // Feb 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    “Santorum’s purported link between the prevalence of contraception and rising non-marital births.”

    There’s at least a coherent, if implausible, argument that contraception is either a) improperly used, so contraception leads to overconfident teenagers having more sex and accidentally getting pregnant, or b) a gateway drug for having sex without contraception

    Implausible? Tell me, in the decades since the introduction of the Pill, has out-of-wedlock birth gone UP, or DOWN???? Correlation by itself doesn’t prove causality, but it certainly indicates that causality is at least plausible.

  • 27 That Fuzzy Bastard // Feb 29, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Van Rooinek: If you considered it a tragedy, you’d be interested in the things that have been shown to reduce STDs, like consistent use of contraception and early sex ed. I wonder, would you consider these women adequate “wives for your sons” if they had been way promiscuous, but had used contraception correctly and thus had no STDs?

  • 28 van Rooinek // Feb 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Van Rooinek: If you considered it a tragedy, you’d be interested in the things that have been shown to reduce STDs, like consistent use of contraception and early sex ed.

    Staying a virgin til marriage, worked perfectly for me. Far more successful than any program ever created by the liberals.

    Also…. I consider the de-sanctification of sex, and its decoupling from marriage, to be an even greater tragedy. Even if “sex ed” and contraception were actually successful in making illicit sexual indulgence truly safe — a highly dubious proposition, since the disease rates and the OOW birth rates are astronomically higher than the 1950s when “saving it till marriage” was still the social norm — it would STILL be intrinsically wrong.

    I wonder, would you consider these women adequate “wives for your sons” if they had been way promiscuous, but had used contraception correctly and thus had no STDs?

    I’d prefer virgins if available, of course.

    But, the best way to prevent all these negative outcomes, as our history plainly shows, is to return to the behavior and social norms of an era (eg, 1950s) when OOW birth and STDs were extremely rare.

    The cycles of history being what they are, such an era WILL return….somehow. Will we repent and save ourselves, or will it be forced on us at the point of an Islamic bayonet? Those are the only 2 options.

  • 29 DivisionByZero // Feb 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    van Rooinek, there’s so much about which I disagree with you that I don’t know where to begin but I’ll just say that while certain social conservative norms are intrinsically safer than the alternatives (e.g. abstinence) we don’t live in a perfect world and bad things will happen and the point is that we want to minimize the harm. By forbidding things like contraception you are just ramping up the negative consequences to less than ideal decisions. Basically you are trying to control behaviour by coercion and fear. Do you not see that there is a direct line between this strategy and that of dictators and totalitarian regimes?

  • 30 GotOffOnTheWrongFloor // Mar 1, 2012 at 5:08 am

    “It’s utility is less clear in a society that tries to minimize bad outcomes”

    Whoa.

    Why don’t we just try to minimize outcomes period (eugenics, mass murder, depopulation)? That would resolve many questions of utility in society.

    Santorum’s position is pretty easily understood: he’s Christian. 1 point for the guy that talked about rationalizing religious belief.

    2 points for the guy that talked about not creating economic incentives for social behavior that might be considered harmful. Really, Strauss?

    -1 point for the original theory. The depth of analysis is appreciated, but also transparent. We get it, you and your friends are the more betterer gang.

    My 2 cents: while the 1950’s ended before the 1960’s, by which time anyone will concede we saw the end of traditional sexual mores, the level of public acceptance of promiscuity is a new phenomenon. Before the thong song, normal people did not wear thongs to school and work. Look at the jeans and pants that tv and movie characters (female) wore even in the late 1990’s.

    By the time this cultural phenomenon fully metastasizes, when there is no child whose parent never didn’t wear a thong – basically when a full generation of children are raised by parents with unabashed nostalgia for college promiscuity – then you’re going to have a lot of lonely adults.

    Human sexual attraction is not configured to favor the sort of rationally responsive emotional needs of modern life. Dating is an unregulated marketplace. Once complete sexual liberation is tolerated, than biology is the only thing that will govern that marketplace.

    Young adults who are reasonably attractive, successful and sociable can usually achieve the standard 1-6 year live-in. This not only excludes many demographics, but has serious long run problems once you throw children and, oh yeah, other stages of life into the picture.

    The baby boomers have by and large tried to pretend that children shouldn’t be exposed to sexual content. This has changed.

    The “what’s wrong with the hook-up culture anyway” is a great argument if you are ignorant of all of the rest of society yet happily take it for granted. But damn if we just couldn’t have a government more like Sweden because that would just do it.

    Forget the economic and welfare-state arguments. Forget contraception as a political issues.

    The culture of promiscuity will wreak havoc on the nation’s emotional landscape.

    And since there will probably be economic problems to boot, few will afford the narcotic substances necessary to cope with the bitter, confused, loneliness.

    Well, good luck all.

  • 31 How liberals form stable atomic families « Detail Oriented // Mar 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    […] –Julian Sanchez, Straussian Social Conservatism and the Dangers of Contraception […]

  • 32 DivisionByZero // Mar 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    GotOff, I have no idea how you got to eugenics from minimizing bad outcomes. It’s clear we have very different ideas of government. I simply meant the highly non-controversial idea of social safety nets.

  • 33 Rush Limbaugh, Peter Kent, and the culture war-ification of everything | Rated Zed // Mar 7, 2012 at 4:36 am

    […] general evil and “destroys families”. This is literally nonsensical, as Julian Sanchez explains (and then neatly explains what is actually meant by these complaints). Still other conservatives […]

  • 34 Straussian Social Conservatives? - NYTimes.com // Mar 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    […] and suggests that conservative critiques of the sexual revolution ultimately amount to a kind of “Straussian social conservatism,” dependent on the idea that (in the provocative words of Irving Kristol) “there are different […]

  • 35 Straussian Social Conservatives? Rhonn Mitchell Rhonn Laighton Mitchell // Mar 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    […] and concludes that conservative critiques of the sexual revolution ultimately amount to a kind of “Straussian social conservatism,” dependent on the idea that (in the provocative words of Irving Kristol) “there are different […]

  • 36 Kolleen // Mar 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Having worked as a social worker without a bleeding heart I have seen the reality that in an economically state such as we have evolved not everyone is able to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”. Opportunity does not rest with intellectual capacity alone, often it is combined with opportunity, role modeling and an education that informs and brings insight. Not all children born into two parent, educated, “considered stable” homes grow up acting and being responsible about having their own children. There are factors such as sexual abuse followed by substance abuse or addiction coupled with poor self esteem that often leads some to make poor or impulsive choices. The bottom line is there are many variables why children have children. It is not just because they are not intellectually elite. It is because the damage they’ve suffered as children is too impacting to overcome and move through. The whole idea about intellect is discouraging – there is emotional intellect the choices we make due to our feelings about self and there is intelligence or rational thought choices we make based on insight and experience. Those that think they are intellectually elite really are living in a fish bowl surrounded by pretty goldfish.

  • 37 Sexual liberation: a great idea for the rich – Telegraph Blogs // Mar 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    […] was picked up by Washington-based writer Julian Sanchez, who touched on the strange lie behind conservative sexual mores: Here is one way to make sense of Santorum’s remarks. Elite sexual norms have transformed over […]

  • 38 Links IV « chabonsby // Mar 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    […] are about moral issues, especially those on the right, and especially when it comes to sex. Julian Sanchez uses everyone’s favourite latter-day platonist to account for the rampant pietism of the […]

  • 39 Vacation Response Roundup // Mar 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    […] Ross Douthat complained that “Straussian social conservatism” is a misnomer given that conservative writers make the kind of argument I describe in plain […]

  • 40 Barry // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

    A sidenote: his proper name is Charles ‘The Bell Curve’ Murray; anybody who uses his writings as based in fact is either ignorant or dishonest.

  • 41 Schools | basicrulesoflife // Mar 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

    […] http://www.juliansanchez.com/2012/02/24/straussian-social-conservatism-and-the-dangers-of-contracept… […]

  • 42 Schools | Basic Rules of Life // Jun 28, 2012 at 9:32 am

    […] http://www.juliansanchez.com/2012/02/24/straussian-social-conservatism-and-the-dangers-of-contracept… […]

  • 43 learn more make money online // Oct 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Nice blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What host are you using?
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