Op-ed columnist Ross Douthat has written an argument for the NY Times called "Why Monogamy Matters" -- he says that women with minimal or virginal sexual experience are the happiest women in the land. Wheeeee!
Upon the story's publication, pink-cheeked schoolgirls in braids floated across the national horizon, clutching bouquets of daisies, giggling over something they couldn't quite recall. Happy. Happy! That's what little girls are made of. Ross knows.
According to Douthat, back in the old days, (before women's lib), Americans had far less pre-marital sex, and they married when they were really old, after they'd considered everything, like their moral values. So happy, too, really happy. It's in all the historical record; I'm sure he checked!
Ross reminds us that no matter what you hear today, abstinence programs really work. Do you know how happy that makes him? Tee-hee! Ross always makes me laugh, and that makes me... happy!
There are 4 Big Kinds of Sex: casual, promiscuous, premature, and ill-considered. They all lead to... depression. Did you know that? It's truthy.
Ross looked it all up in a book by a Christian sociologist in Texas who has studied things like "pornography," and its magical ability to wed grown men to masturbation for the rest of their lives, to the exclusion of any real live yummy sex partners. Fascinating stuff!
Douthat teaches us that sexual restraint leads to "emotional well-being." Restraint is another word for: happiness! Not knowing too much is the biggest happiness of all. Little girls crave security, that's what you have to understand. Bunnies. Baa-Baa. Binkies! Mommmmy!
Little boys... I'm not sure what Ross says they care about -- except that hot porno the other guy mentioned. I'm sure he'll write about them next time!
Little gay or trans people... HEY! This is for happy people; get it?
Douthat wraps it all up by arguing against Planned Parenthood's existence as the enemy of little girls' "sexual idealism" around the world. Those PP people are so... un-babylike. Unladylike! Does that rhyme? If they weren't depressed before, they sure will be after they read Ross' story.
I'm going to tell you a story about Ross himself, from his memoir, a tale from the days when he was not happy. He was in college at Harvard, at a party, where he met a tipsy, buxom blonde -- he said she kinda looked like Reese Witherspoon!
Reese-y kissed Ross-y, and laid bare her arousal. She even reassured him that she was on the Pill, so they could just go wild.
You can imagine what happened. Ross went completely limp! He'd never been so turned off in his life. So scared. So NOT HAPPY! Boy, did he learn a lesson. College boys everywhere can relate to that!
Ross became a Pentecostal during puberty -- he wasn't born to it. His mom started following a faith healer, 'cause she was really sick, and they prayed and prayed and prayed. It must've been really depressing, and sex wasn't even a part of it. It's quite the life story.
Something went awry though, 'cause the whole family stopped traveling the faith-healer circuit, and converted to Catholicism, the old-fashioned kind. You can just imagine how happy they all are now!
Ross's biography of profound religious conversion got under my skin, the one thing that made me just a teeny bit un-happy.
You see, if ANY other subject than sex was discussed in the New York Times, the editors would feel obliged to preface the op-ed by revealing the writer's religious agenda. Apparently, America's top-shelf publishers know so little about physiology, biology, and sexual history, that their authors can just say... ANYTHING, and it sticks, no matter how absurd.
Fact-checking? Not when it comes to fire and brimstone, baby! Let's not let "facts" get in the way of our moral imperatives. Don't fret your pretty little heads about what really happened in the "old days." My grandmothers and great-great-great grandmothers got knocked up young, didn't always get hitched, and died in childbirth early -- but that's so sad to think about, let's not dwell on it. Remember the good times, I say!
It must make Ross pout that unrelenting evidence proves abstinence programs are not only "ineffective," they actually cause higher pregnancy rates than in places where young people have info and access to birth control. Eww!
It can turn a smiley-face upside-down, if you're a Christian religious fanatic, but sometimes the truth is... proof-y.
As for women having an infantile essential nature, which desires innocence and vacuity above all other sexual traits, leading to an unparalleled state of happy brainlessness -- gosh, how do you even begin to document that, outside of scripture and tattered Catholic catechism pamphlets?
Douthat's faith is based on the tenets of unapologetic misogyny, sexism, gender determinism, and an all-around "Daddy Knows Best" approach. I'm sure you've heard how well the Catholic clergy has led in this regard.
In Christianity, men are the natural leaders, and must stand guard against their carnality. Grrr!
Women must follow man, doting on him, caring for the hearth. Women have a lot to atone for, because they're the reason human beans got tossed out of the Garden of Eden. That's where God created everything in Seven Days and there was a Magic Apple and it really tasted good... which was premature and ill-advised. To say the least.
Now in Catholicism... I was raised Catholic, brainwashed early. In that faith, sin and hell are all anyone talks about! If you even THINK bad thoughts, that's as bad as doing them. Masturbation is really, really bad. Sex is so wrong, there's like a million ways to do it wrong and burn in hell forever. Only if you get in the missionary position and do it just to have babies, then it's okay.
The Virgin Mary was happy, you know, 'cause she didn't have to go through all that sh*t. She was so full of grace.
Despite Ross's efforts, I have nagging questions that keep me from achieving my desired beatific state:
When will we stop allowing religious doctrine and its zealots from determining public policy on sexual health?
How long will these same people remain the arbiters of taste and convention in sexual relations?
Last I checked, George "God-Is-Speaking-Thru-Me" Bush is no longer the POTUS. The Christian religious right is not remotely the majority in this country. Why do we listen to them, over and over again, on the front pages of our country's most prestigious newspapers, where they preach what's best for men, women, and children?
It's such a bummer. The perps who write these stories and lead these campaigns always seem to get revealed as disgusting closeted perverts. And I don't mean that in a happy way.
How many more humiliations in the public square, starring avowedly chaste evangelicals, do we have to endure? It was bad enough reading about Ross's nausea at female flesh in college -- I don't want to read the next chapter!
I'd like to see an atheist op-ed on sex in the NYT, or even one from a recovering Catholic. I'd be happy, very happy to do it myself.
Here's what I'd say:
Our cute little species desires both sexual familiarity and sexual variety. That's why we are so rarely monogamous over a lifetime, although we often enjoy its benefits for episodic periods. When unencumbered by religious shame, we feel perfectly fine about "having it all."
(I'll use myself as an example! Je ne regrette rien. May I take a moment to thank all the lovers I've ever had for everything I learned from you? You'all are the best, and it makes my heart just want to burst with... oh, you know.)
When young adults, past puberty, remain sexually inexperienced with their peers, it is because of dysfunction, not virtue. Something is wrong, and it's not happy.
Sexual self-knowledge is a huge part -- perhaps the biggest part, of growing up. Like taking your first steps, or speaking your first words, you gain enormous intelligence and independence every time you figure out another piece. You fall down and cry sometimes, but you can't wait to get back up. To learn that things are not "black and white," to hold contradictions, ambiguity, and empathy in your body and mind at the same time: that's sexual maturity. You don't achieve it from cutting out paper dolls and keeping your knees crossed.
Fun clue: Men are sensitive creatures. They like to feel safe and adored, just like, you know... everyone else. Sometimes they don't always know what to do and don't feel like having the answer to everything.
And women? They can be total thrill-seekers; when they get sex on the brain, they'll get off with their fingers or their pet bunny or whatever else is around. They have brilliant ideas and can march into the battlefield with a double-sided ax.
It's dangerously stupid to talk about "men" and "women" like they were different animals -- when we have so much more in common, in our capacities, than we do in profound differences.
Hasn't everyone been a lot happier now that we don't live our lives based on superstition? Why, at this point, do we ignore primary evidence -- at our peril -- and cling to shaming, stunted fairy tales?
I had a dream about Ross. He was eating an apple and he was happy. His mom got better and she didn't need him to take care of her anymore; she was happy too. Men and women gathered around Ross and started kissing him, as tears ran down his cheeks. He was scared that everyone would find out, but the sexy happy people said, "No, Ross, it's okay, you're not crazy. You can have this, but you have to be honest about it, 'cause that's only fair."
And then Ross took a big giant bite.
Susie Bright is the author of Big Sex Little Death: A Memoir