What Happens When We Forget To Tell the Truth About Sex, or: Say It Ain’t So, Matt Lauer, Say It Ain’t So

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/11/30/what-happens-when-we-forget-to-tell-the-truth-about-sex-or-say-it-aint-so-matt-lauer-say-it-aint-so/

A classic New Yorker cartoon many years ago captured some wisdom that has been lost in the Age of Weinstein. A dressed up, curvaceous young woman is walking on a street toward a middle-aged husband and wife. The thought balloon over the wife’s head is of the young woman’s hat and dress alone. The husband’s thought balloon shows the young woman’s body sans clothes. Men and women live in different sexual worlds!

The coverage of the Weinstein story and the cavalcade of revolting revelations that have followed it (i.e., Kevin Spacey, U.S. Representative John Conyers, Charlie Rose, and now Matt Lauer!) have together reached new heights of hypocrisy. People close to these rich and powerful men have been covering up their depraved “use” of vulnerable women without saying anything until very recently.

Or, perhaps, it has been social naivete. But, did not these aspiring female actors know how the Hollywood game is played? Tales of the casting couch have been around since the beginning of the movie industry. Wasn’t it well known that there has often been a sexual price-to-be-paid for the glitz and glamor of stardom? Or, for that matter, for special advancement in business and government?

And will the mainstream media, or, for that matter, really, any media, carefully explore the root causes of the Weinstein story and the tales of outrageous sexual behavior so many girls and women experience at the hands of men? The question is, having gotten the country all in a lather about the inexcusable, primitive behavior of some men, will this be just another link in the news cycle? Will the Weinstein et alia stories, having been sensationally covered, be quickly replaced by another story to attract our eyes and fatten the coffers of a profit-hungry press? Our guess is that the real causes behind Weinsteinism will go unexamined.

The political response, too, has been predictable. Vigorous finger wagging from the Right over the misdeeds of Senator Al Franken and Representative Conyers; from the Left, over Judge Roy Moore’s alleged past and previous allegations concerning President Donald Trump. Now, public servants from all over the political spectrum are crafting legislation to deal with future occasions of this kind. The Speaker of the House has told his colleagues that they will soon have to undergo sensitivity training, in order, presumably, to protect women from what in the past has been able to pass as innocent and playful male-female banter or, more realistically, a path to a woman’s career progress. Similar plans are being implemented in our universities and businesses.

Clearly blood is in the water. Trial lawyers have been circling and the air is filled with threats of lawsuits.

Today in America, the way we handle the breakdowns between men and women, boys and girls, is with lurid exposés, gender sensitivity workshops, and the exchange of money via lawsuits. Meanwhile the wisdom of the ages and the obvious “facts-of-life” about the dynamics of male-female relationships are ignored.

We used to know that males are irrationally attracted to females. Boys want to mate with girls before they know what sex is. And while most males are serially monogamous, they desire sex with many females. This inner drive has kept the human species going. It can be all-consuming. It can also be one of the great joys of life, but it is not without perils. It can be exploitive, leaving great heartbreak and suffering in its wake. It can produce unwanted, uncared-for children who quickly become burdens to themselves and their communities.

Societies have always known that for peace and prosperity, intercourse had to be controlled. Historically, sexual relations were constantly surrounded by the possibility of bringing human life into the world. As a result, sexual relations were fraught with rules and constraints. Churches taught that sex outside of marriage was a sin, an offense against God and the social order. Self-control was taught in schools. Protection of girls and women was seen as a fundamental sign of manhood, part of an unstated male code of honor. One reason sports were promoted by adults was that it was seen as a means of draining off the testosteronic energies of boys. On the other side, masturbation was seen as a weakness and unmanly.

Society has apparently changed its mind. Manly honor is out; a vaguely defined equality of the sexes is in. The chaste dating of yore is out; mixed-gender “hanging out” is in. Girls are defined as either “friends” or as sexual targets. Men aren’t expected to “protect” women. That is now seen as condescending. In the new world of work, women are competitors, an attitude that spills over to the social arena. 

Boys and men not only have a “locker room” attitude toward girls and women, assigning them numbers based on their physical appearance and sexual appeal – they are expected to act on these attitudes. Realizing they cannot “get” the 9s and 10s, and not wanting to “be caught with a dog,” increasing numbers of males don’t pursue real females and instead turn to the easily available pornography sites to satisfy their sexual desires. In this foul and antagonistic scene, is it any wonder that 70% percent of men 20 to 34 are unmarried, by far the lowest percentage ever recorded?

While males are our primary cause of sexual transgressions, females are not blameless. Few women are unaware of the power of sexual attraction. The average high school girl quickly becomes aware of what is behind the lustful glances of boys. While out of fashion, women know that their degree of modesty is a controlling factor of most male behavior. Nor, too, are they innocent of the effects of alcohol on their sexual vulnerability.

The overriding fact, however, is that we Americans have consciously created a highly sexualized culture with few rules and few guardrails for the young. We have chosen to separate sexuality from morality and sin. Increasingly unfamiliar with those terms, we fall back on the legal system, the value-neutral psychological community, and the media for guidance.

The root of our plight is, of course, the much-celebrated Sexual Revolution that is hailed from our current seats of progressive wisdom (our universities, media, and, of course, Hollywood). They have portrayed it as a huge cultural breakthrough, releasing us from oppressive Puritan sexual hang-ups and freeing us to experience whole new realms of sensual pleasure. Opposing voices, whether religious or civil leaders, were caught off guard, ridiculed, and easily neutralized.

The Sexual Revolution is much like an earlier revolution advanced by Progressives, the French Revolution, that promised a new age of human progress and happiness.  Instead, it brought massive bloodshed and human suffering. Instead of freedom, it brought the Reign of Terror.

We need a Counter-Revolution of Sexual Sanity. We need to restore the voices of sexual sanity, voices that have been cowed and sidelined. We need to bring to the surface the ugly face of these decades of unchecked debauchery and broken lives.

Is it possible that we have reached the nadir? That these recent revelations will shock us into big and small actions, actions that will begin a reclaiming of our traditional wisdom about human sexuality?

Or do we still have farther to sink?


Kevin Ryan is a Boston University emeritus professor and Marilyn Ryan is a political scientist and writer.  The Ryans live in Brookline. Read their past columns here.