This is a scene from the movie Cuties streaming on Netflix. With the fight against paedophilia taking steps forward and back over the years, this film is a definitive step back, says Andrea Mrozek. CNS photo/Netflix

Listen to voices warning we’re in the wrong lane

By  Andrea Mrozek
  • September 28, 2022

In the classic movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, John Candy is driving late at night when a car comes alongside with the person at the wheel shouting with increasing urgency: “You’re going the wrong way.” Candy shrugs and rolls his eyes: “How would he know where we are going?” After careering through two oncoming semi-trucks — a near-death experience — Candy’s character comes to realize he was indeed going the wrong way. 

It’s an odd way to start a column about opposing the sexual revolution, but stay with me. Other than an opportunity to showcase this masterful John Candy moment, it reminds me of the approach some feminists have taken to critics of the sexual revolution. Women from Mary Wollstonecraft in the 18th century through to today’s Mary Eberstadt declare: “You’re going the wrong way!” only for many feminists to retort “how would you know?” — or assume critics are crazy, drunk, or worst of all, Christian. Better late than never, we are thankfully seeing a rising tide of women, even self-described feminists, who are speaking out against the sexual revolution with aplomb. 

Louise Perry offers the latest brilliant salvo in her newly released book The Case Against the Sexual Revolution. Her cogent prose lends researched support to counter the current sexual ethics so many of us have painfully endured. Her credentials as a secular feminist, and someone who has campaigned against male sexual violence, lend weight to arguments religious conservatives have been making for some time. As such, she is the right messenger for many to hear how the sexual revolution has detracted from women’s rights, rather than advancing them. Women in relationships today are on a lesser footing in a power struggle we cannot win. 

In points that once were uncontroversial, but today must be strenuously defended, we learn how men and women experience sex differently, why and how consent is the low bar and why marriage is infinitely important. Short of ceasing to be in relationship or ever have children, feminists who oppose marriage have never found a way of replicating these benefits. 

Every society has some limitations on sexual conduct, Perry points out. There are strictures and stigmas we accept. (Who knew the age of consent in Victorian England was 12?) Stigmas and laws change over time, not necessarily advancing into a better era. The fight against paedophilia, for example, has been ongoing for decades, taking steps forward and backward. (The Netflix release of the movie featuring sexualized pre-teens, Cuties, marking a definitive step back.) 

Oral contraceptives are seen as the sine qua non of modern life for women, the most effective way to control fertility. Be this as it may, Perry points out the Pill opened the door to uncommitted sex, without it being quite effective enough. With typical use, “around nine in 100 women taking it will get pregnant in a year. Across a population, that is a huge number of unwanted babies,” she writes. Abortion became our backup and, in this way, birth control has contributed to an abortion-friendly culture. 

Back to where we started, with Planes, Trains and Automobiles — the Catholic Church has been the strongest voice shouting “You’re going the wrong way!” Thanks to a studious disinterest in receiving wisdom from religious sources, this has been largely ignored. There are other reasons, of course. Sexual scandal in the Church for one, though the long list of public intellectuals we still study today engaging in grotesque conduct with minors remains the untold story of our era. My own experience is that religious leaders would tell people how it is, with little to no explanation of the “why” — an uncompelling proposition. That too, is thankfully changing as Christian leaders have realized we live in a thoroughly post-Christian age, one where nothing can be taken for granted. Listening to Christopher West talk about theology of the body is as reasoned and captivating as anything opposing the sexual revolution that’s ever been written. 

Thus, we may slowly come to a good place — one where religious voices are more thoughtful, and where feminist voices who speak against the sexual revolution can receive a hearing. These voices need each other, as research informs religion and good theology carries the message of unconditional love, grace and redemption. After going the wrong way over so many decades, this ultimately is what we will need to recover. 

(Mrozek is Senior Fellow at Cardus Family.)

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