The recent victories for conservatives at the Supreme Court are a welcome respite from the Long March of the cultural Left through the nation’s institutions. But conservatives should not be fooled into thinking things will suddenly return to normal. The Left knows it has lost control of the Supreme Court, and it is trying to find ways around its rulings already (and even before these rulings came down). Social and cultural conservatives especially need to recognize that, despite this setback, the Left has many avenues by which it can continue to impose its agenda on the country.
This is true above all with regard to the most damaging part of that agenda: the Sexual Revolution. As the campaign to sterilize and mutilate children intensifies—and states like California and Washington are preparing to use the pretext of “gender affirming care” to seize children from their parents—the campaign against this insanity swells as more people who are “liberal” or simply not crazy find themselves moving to the Right because of it.
As a result, you have people who, while horrified at the prospect of removing the flesh from the forearms of ten-year-olds to make genitalia out of it, have long accepted abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and other aspects of the Sexual Revolution as normal parts of their lives making allies with cultural conservatives.
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This has led some on the Right to talk about needing to find ways to mediate between those social and cultural conservatives and those who think social liberalism can be separated from “wokeness.” I am all for welcoming those who have awakened to the threat this movement poses into the coalition of the sane. But I am not sure we can form any sort of lasting coalition, unless there is some reckoning with the legacy of the Sexual Revolution.
Conservatives, and especially religious conservatives, understand the connection between treating human beings as interchangeable slabs of talking meat and, say, abortion; but the newcomers to this coalition do not. And make no mistake, that is the basic idea underlying pretty much everything we have come to designate “the Sexual Revolution” since the 1960s, particularly in this country.
This includes “gay rights,” another one of those areas where our new allies (at least some of them) don’t seem to see the connection with the current transgender mania. (I’ve seen, for example, gays on Twitter bemoaning the fact that “T” has taken over from “LGB,” as if they did not share common ideas about human nature). In fact, the logic of both is the same. Take “same-sex marriage,” for example. The idea behind the push for gay marriage, as I understood it, was that it harmed gays not to redefine the definition of marriage to include their relationships.
The reason for this is that marriage, so the argument goes, is not based on mere biology but only upon love. Families aren’t biological units; children don’t need mothers and fathers to raise them, since their biological differences are irrelevant. That your DNA comes from a mother and father is irrelevant, so you can have two fathers, or vice versa (or several “mothers” or “fathers,” for that matter). No damage is done to a child by depriving them of the intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex that mothers and fathers represent, because human sex is completely fungible, like stocks and bonds.
Once you have embraced this logic—that men and women are interchangeable—it is no big leap to believe their body parts are as well. (Woke activists could rightly accuse liberals of inconsistency on this point.) Once you have embraced this logic—that men and women are interchangeable—it is no big leap to believe their body parts are as well. Tweet This
The exact same logic underlies the idea of “transgender rights.” Transgender individuals are harmed by not legally redefining gender to include their self-identification, even if it contradicts their biological sex. Giving puberty blockers to children and operating on them is a moral imperative, as they, too, are harmed by not being allowed to rearrange their bodies to fit their self-conception. One might object that children are different because of their age and lack of maturity, but this doesn’t matter to trans activists.
Not only do they see nature as something meaningless—or even positively harmful—because it imposes limits on one’s desires, they see all human relationships as socially constructed. Things like “maturity” and “age of consent” are merely arbitrary constructs. Only those constructs that liberate are good; those that restrict are bad. But then so are things like “marriage” for gay marriage activists, and “human person” for abortion rights activists.
Religious conservatives remember well Anthony Kennedy’s “mystery of life” passage from Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which well captures this sense that not only society but pretty much all of reality is arbitrary and determined by will and desire. This sort of logic underlies all of the Sexual Revolution, since our technological developments now enable us to alter our bodies (and the natural world more generally) as never before. These changes have radically altered our immediate moral incentives, and what we call the “Sexual Revolution” is predicated upon giving free rein to this newfound power.
This is why the movement for “sexual freedom” was never going to stop at some “reasonable” middle ground, as certain anti-woke liberals have tried to argue. It cannot. To put into question even one of these practices, no matter how extreme, is to call into question the principle that unites them all.
That is why today even pedophilia is being countenanced among the most advanced of the cultural Left. Admit that the more extreme sexual ideas are, in principle, morally corrosive of the common good and every one that has gained public acceptance since the 1960s becomes suspect.
Talk of a “slippery slope” with regard to moral questions, at least in this instance, is inaccurate. There is no “slope” down which you can slide more or less quickly, or somehow stop the slide on the way down. Once you embrace its totalizing moral logic, it inevitably undermines many of the beliefs we hold dear in Western life, since it contradicts those beliefs so thoroughly.
One might object that the transgender phenomenon is so recent in time that it is unfair to link it with the earlier, more “respectable” version of, say, gay rights or abortion advocacy. But this rests on a distorted notion of how the earlier changes came about in the first place. This didn’t happen because arguments for mainstreaming homosexual behavior won out in a “marketplace of ideas.”
They won as the result of activist manipulation, as when gay rights activists bullied the American Psychological Association to remove its classification of homosexuality as a “mental disorder” from its diagnostic manual. They used the same activist playbook as their woke successors and leveraged its cultural power in the “consciousness making” centers of society to reshape elite opinions on sexuality.
This, in turn, influenced the courts, culminating in the Obergefell case that enshrined gay “marriage” into law. This was pivotal, because it gave sexual revolutionaries legal power over their cultural opponents. Obergefell in particular acted as a signal for the cultural Left to shake off its moderation and openly declare war on their enemies.
Following the decision, liberal law professor Mark Tushnet declared, “the culture wars are over, we won” in 2016—meaning the losers didn’t merit any mercy legally speaking. In 2017, one wealthy gay rights activist said in an interview that he wanted to “punish the wicked,” presumably those who would not accept same-sex marriage.
But the significance of Obergefell goes beyond this because it enshrined the main idea of the Sexual Revolution—that nature has nothing to do with our humanity—into our Civil Rights regime. It put behind it what in effect is a second constitution, one whose strictures can be used to override formerly sacrosanct rights such as speech, assembly, and religion. The 303 Creative case puts a dent in this regime, but it has not destroyed it, not by a long shot. Given the totalitarian logic underlying the Sexual Revolution, it would be foolish to assume this.
I say this because I believe the cultural Left is more invested in sexual revolution than anti-racist wokeness, which I think is more a matter of opportunism. The former is tied to a much more powerful tendency in modern society, the drive to control nature. This is the Left’s positive goal; its strictures on race are more about undermining its opponents.
This logic can be seen at work in the Left’s policy on immigration. Far from seeing immigrants as coming from unique ethnic or cultural backgrounds that are incompatible and which might alter the nature of American society in significant ways, the Left sees immigrants as interchangeable with the current population of the country.
As with so much else, the Left’s cultural agenda fits perfectly with that of the modern administrative state, whose directors see in immigrants little more than interchangeable quanta of laboring meat. They both see human beings primarily as resources to be exploited, tax cattle to be milked for their Utopian projects, whether it be remaking one’s body according to their self-image or remaking other countries in the self-image of our elites.
To return us to our starting point, convincing the newcomers to the coalition of the sane that they must oppose the Sexual Revolution in all its aspects is imperative because the challenges it poses are far more extensive than any specific issue. Its revolutionary logic cannot be undone by pulling out one thread and leaving the rest in place.
This is why merely stopping Drag Queen Story Hour at your local library or getting a few more victories at the Supreme Court, though necessary starting points, will not solve the problem. Without understanding the nature and extent of the challenge, any coalition against it is doomed to fail.
[Image Credit: Bettmann Archive]