Spearheaded but hardly originated by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s May 2nd issue, we have had more intelligent, if highly controversial, discussion on a real deficiency of the 1960s-and-beyond sexual revolution, the failure of it to extend to most people, than ever. In Part I, I introduced this problem and showed it to be real. Part II named nine points on this situation, explaining not only how it fits, or doesn’t, with other needs and giving it a broader base. This week I recommend the following courses of action.
First, legalize and regulate prostitution nationwide. That is certain to happen eventually anyway, would bring its prices down, would make it safe, and would be the most important legal change we could have.
Second, allow incest between consenting adults, and between consenting children of similar ages. After hundreds of years of consideration, we still have no reason why, between people with reasonably equal power in the relationship, it should be banned. And as with so many forms of sexual activity, teaching people that what they have done is wrong, not the action itself, is what causes most of the problems we have with it.
Third, nationally permit sexual relationships between those with less than two-year age differences, even if one or both are under 18.
Fourth, consider legalizing term marriages with full spousal privileges and protections. They would facilitate sex, and would be consistent with the reality that most, as it is now, end in divorce.
Fifth, promote and subsidize monogamy, especially marriage. Above all, remove all financial penalties for being married, such as those built into Social Security payments. That lifestyle provides the most sex and is constructive for a variety of other societal purposes as well.
Sixth, be truthful about the effects of sexually transmitted diseases. If the likes of gonorrhea can be cured by a routine prescription, say so. AIDS has not often been in the news, but many still believe that it can be spread as readily through genital-to-genital intercourse as through anal sex and needle sharing. That is not the case in this country.
Seventh, sponsor more research to further disconnect sex from reproduction. For one, we can badly use effective chemical means to indefinitely but not permanently block male fertility.
Eighth, encourage behavior changes among people. Remove words such as “slut” and “c*nt” from our vocabularies. Stop instilling shame and guilt about sex. Give college-age adults, especially women, more privacy from their parents. Drop the view that sex is zero-sum, and that if it helps one party it must hurt the other. Tell sexually unsuccessfully people, especially men, truths about how they can be more likely to have such relationships. Stop jealousy from causing us to be overly harsh or to lie outright. Encourage younger men and older women to pair up. Do not disapprove of older adults having such relationships, or try to stop them. Avoid what might be called “middle-class” thinking, that everyone is entitled to involvement with someone of above average general desirability. And above all, treat sex as the natural, uplifting, positive activity it should be for everyone.
Up until about fifty years ago, our dominant sexual ethic was “for reproduction and married couples.” With the advent of the female birth control pill and other changes, we moved on to “for its own sake.” The next phase will be “someone for everyone,” which promises not only far greater American happiness but other huge gains from the stability it will foster, such as improved health, longer life expectancy, and lower crime rates. We can get there without coercion – if we think freely.