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Time for frank talk about the sewage, filth of the sexual revolution

The question to ask, when the town sewer has backed up and water of dubious color is spurting out through everybody’s kitchen sink, is not, “How should we label our outhouses?” Anybody who would distract you from the main question, the pressing trouble, is either a fool or a knave.

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The other day I happened to find out about the recent death of the first person who ever approached me and asked for sex.

I am sorry to put it in those ugly words, but it was a pretty tawdry thing, and sad. I was a senior in high school and had been going steady with a girl for a year. It was a medium-sized Catholic school, about ninety in each class, so most people knew who you were and that meant they knew who were “items,” as my girl friend and I were.

I was minding my business one day, and walked into the boys’ lavatory, when the younger brother of a classmate (neither of whom I knew at all), followed me in, and in a hoarse and nervous voice asked the question.

I told him to get lost, but I was rattled by it. When I talked to my father that night, he told me that something similar happened to him when he had just gotten out of the army. He was working in New Jersey at a factory, coming home to Pennsylvania on the weekends, while he and my mother were waiting for her younger sister to graduate from high school so that they could get married. That was because the family needed one girl to be working in one of the dress sweatshops that had been sprouting up across the county, as the coal mines where shutting down. The foreman noticed that he was alone, so he invited him to his flat for dinner, and my father—who was as normal as the day is long—accepted. Then came a proposition.

My father quit that job. The point of the story was that I wasn’t to think anything of what had happened, that some guys are confused and get into filthy habits, and that that was one of the things they did. Sure enough, in the next couple of days word got out at school that the same kid had approached a few other guys. The Dean, a good Catholic and a sensible man, took the boy out of the school situation, which had gotten like a hothouse. No noise was made about it. The aim, as I saw then, was to help the kid if possible, not to expose him worse than he was exposed already, remove him as a moral threat to others, and protect him from cruelty and ridicule. I thought they did the right thing, and I still do. His obituary suggests that he never married, and the farewell words of his family wished that he might find peace at last.

That happened forty years ago. I imagine that nowadays such confrontations in school are as common as mud, and that any good-looking boy will have to be instructed by his father beforehand on how to deal with them. I doubt he would get any sympathy from the teachers.

Do you notice anything odd about these stories? It is easy to notice the unexpected, and sometimes hard to notice the commonplace. What’s odd is that not one reader in a hundred will have found what I said to be odd. If a boy followed a girl he did not know into a private place and asked her point blank for some sexual favor, you’d hope she had immediate means to call the police. If a girl followed a boy she did not know into a private place and did the same, you’d hope that he would do something other than leap for glee within. You would hope that he’d see that she needed psychological help, and would, far from taking advantage of her, find a way to talk her down and take her home.

But male and male—we shrug. Why?

When people praise me for perspicacity, I shake my head and reply that almost all of what I do is to notice what is in front of my nose, and write about it. Almost all of what I do is to refrain from shutting my eyes toward what is right there, plain as day. It’s not that I notice it and others don’t. It’s that I won’t un-notice it. I won’t pretend not to see what I do see, and what everybody else sees too.

What would you say if a group of married men and women were to parade down the street nearly naked, in garish outfits, some with spikes and whips, others simulating sexual congress in front of children? Wouldn’t you say that there was something wrong with those people? Of course you would—and you would be right. Well?

Sometimes you meet Christian men and women who say, forthrightly, that sexual congress before marriage is a grave sin, and so for two thousand years it was held to be, consistently and with culture-changing results even when half-pagan converts took some centuries to get the idea. Then why will you never find a “gay” man or woman who says the same? A lefty, as I am, understands as well as a righty that he shouldn’t go around punching people in the nose. An Italian, as I am, knows that it is wicked to spread evil rumors about somebody in Italian, as well as a Frenchman knows it is wicked to do so in French. If, as people have been cajoled into repeating without bothering to notice that they do not for one moment really believe it, a certain sexual predilection is just a statistical variation and is therefore no different from the natural predilections that prompt men and women to do the child-making thing, why then does it seem to rule out as unthinkable the normal Christian disapprobation of sexual activity before marriage? Or if the natural predilection is just like the other, why does that rule out as indecent and ridiculous my imagined parade of half-naked or naked Misters and Mistresses Anderson and Cleaver and Stone?

If the loosening of sexual mores was a good thing, why do men and women, outside of their own marriages, spend so little time expressing gratitude or admiration for the opposite sex? Let’s suppose that you have two tribes, the Comanche and the Shoshone, and that before some particularly bloody battle, the Comanche used to say good things about the Shoshone, and the Shoshone used to say good things about the Comanche; and that they generally did so, though they did not always get along. Wouldn’t you conclude that the battle had poisoned their relations? Suppose the feminist insists that relations between men and women have never been better, because before she came into the world to enlighten us, all they did was quarrel and abuse whatever power the one had over the other. That’s absurd, but grant her the jaundiced view not only of history but of every single human culture that has ever existed and that exists even now, besides that of the feminist-influenced west. Fine; now we ask the feminist the obvious question. “If what you say is true, why don’t you spend most of your time expressing gratitude or admiration for men—for their accomplishments, their strengths, and their gifts to women? Why are you not in a tizzy of wonder? If your movement has sweetened everything, why are you so sour?” She is a walking and talking self-refutation.

Normal people want young people to get married, have children, and stay married. They may differ on what to do in the case of extremely difficult marriages, but at base they agree that marriage is a very good thing, and should neither be rare nor fragile nor subject to needless threats from without. Now, it is clear that in the aftermath of the sexual revolution marriage is in steep decline. Normal people would view that as at least worrisome and at worst calamitous. The question to ask, when the town sewer has backed up and water of dubious color is spurting out through everybody’s kitchen sink, is not, “How should we label our outhouses?” Anybody who would distract you from the main question, the pressing trouble, is either a fool or a knave. The question is, “How do we repair the town sewer?”

The question for us is, “What customs, and the laws that corroborate and promote them, give young men and women the best chance of getting married, bearing children within wedlock, staying married, and raising their children in a clean and sane household?” If, when the water is foul, somebody at your ear persists in asking about what to do with old paint or whether mixed-use zoning is a good thing, you will look at him as if he had lost his senses. “Now is not the time for that!” you would say. If he were at your ear saying that the new kind of water was really pretty good, and that only prejudice kept you from liking it, you would be sure that he had lost his senses, you would order him off the premises, and you would return to your task at hand.

Clear your heads, my good readers. Some things in life are complicated. These things are not. Do not pretend that you do not see what you see.

About Anthony Esolen 20 Articles

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. He also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy for Modern Library Classics. He directs the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts.

17 Comments

  1. OUTSTANDING piece: very well-written, well-organized, intelligent, articulate, and full of truth.

    Thank you very much for this “restoration of sanity, right reason, and common sense” today!!!!!!

  2. We’ve become jaded our vision blurred with the breathtaking rapidity of acceptance of the abnormal. Now the normal. Bertrand Russell 1948 rebutted Fr Frederick Copleston on Christian morality, comparing it to projection. Like envisioning all things colored yellow. When in fact things are multi colored. Russell clearly suffered jaundiced vision. He was selective in his moral vision. Very much anti war anti poverty. Advocate of sexual amorality. Similar to today. The sewage rushed into a previous clean water system with society’s turn to apotheosis. We’ve become gods Tony. Highly creative in our predilections. Causes for the sewage is not matter for concern. It’s the sewage that interests us. The variations of wallowing. Presently we contest which outhouses should be labelled and how. Soon that will be passe. There is always hope. And our faith. However futile it may seem those who perceive the sewage must name it. Candor here is charity.

  3. ” Fine; now we ask the feminist the obvious question. “If what you say is true, why don’t you spend most of your time expressing gratitude or admiration for men—for their accomplishments, their strengths, and their gifts to women? Why are you not in a tizzy of wonder? If your movement has sweetened everything, why are you so sour?””

    Because they still live under an oppressive patriarchy.

  4. “The question for us is, “What customs, and the laws that corroborate and promote them, give young men and women the best chance of getting married, bearing children within wedlock, staying married, and raising their children in a clean and sane household?””

    Patriarchy, which we don’t actually have, contrary to what feminists believe.

  5. Very good point:many people dont want to see the truth and even get cross if you want to explain it to them. We Downunder are in for the fight of our lives over ssm postal plebiscite and I m just considering how best to help!

  6. Just to illustrate how casually filthy we have become – tonight the TV was on in the background. Some show about celebrities was on. All of a sudden I heard the host chick say ‘The couple that swims naked together, stays together”. I realized this was a dirty perversion of the old saying “The family that prays together, stays together”, Things have gotten so casually dirty that they would invert something decent like that and apply it to some vapid celebrity couple that runs round swimming naked in public. How far we have fallen.

  7. I know someone who is suffering mightily with STD and AIDS. He is one of the walking wounded caused by the sexual revolution.

    He has made this frank statement about the sexual revolution, and the incapacity and often deliberate refusal of adults to do justice to young people and teach them about the truth of human sexuality: “Sane people do not teach children that it is “OK” to inseminate our intestines.”

    • I really do wish that one could still up-vote comments on Catholic World Report, because I would most certainly up-vote this one.

  8. The article is spot on. But i have one request: help me thru this present situation: I have a sister who has been in a very long term relationship with another woman (SSA), and they are raising two daughters. THey attend family gatherings, go camping together as a family and attend Holy Mass and all the sacraments. Now i have never heard a priest or my bishop give me any guidance as to how i am to ‘order’ this situation. I have, as the rest of our large family has done accepted it as normal. And so it is. Is that how we come to accept ‘filth’?. Whah??? Is it filth? Priest responce please: ____________.

    • Teo it’s certainly a difficult scenario since your family has accepted their relationship and clergy who are likely aware remain silent. You may not be able to resolve an apparent Lesbian relationship, which is sinful. Good people frequently assume bad postures as seemingly good. Salvation isn’t attained by personal happiness and acceptable apparent decent life style. We are called to do God’s will. Salvation is achieved to the extent we make the effort. At present I advise prayer and sacrifice. Given the opportunity gentle conversation explaining the Church’s long standing doctrine on sexual behavior. The rest is in God’s hands. I’ll offer my prayers to assist.

  9. You use the word “Normal” in one of your descriptions. I can tell you most of my Protestant family and non-Catholic friends think my family and I are abnormal for toting the Catholic line about the sin of adultery regarding any form of intercourse except between a married man and woman who are husband and wife. Kumbahyah they say, getting along is more important sticking to archaic, superstitious beliefs.

  10. Teo, I am not a priest but I hope you will not mind if I add my 2 cents. May God have mercy on your poor sister and her partner. I have not been in your situation but I failed a couple of times to speak the truth when I should have done. I am sure you love your sister and the two children involved and you want them to go to heaven. So, even if it costs you family harmony you must tell them the truth. This is a terrible cross, but offer everything for the salvation of those involved. You say they are receiving “all” the sacraments. If that includes the Eucharist it is urgent to speak out. Also, as Father says, lots of prayer and sacrifice for them all and try to educate them as kindly as possible about the Church’s teaching. May the Holy Spirit give you the right words to say.

  11. The feminist movement became the anti-man movement, primarily a lesbian front. When did things start to fall apart, I mean, precipitously? Hmmm. Mid to late 1960s. What happened around then to change morality throughout the world?

  12. As one whose discipline is history, I find this article most prescient and reflective. As I was mentally recalling all the countries/civilizations that have fallen from within, I was hard pressed to remember more than a couple who did not first descend into a general malaise of immorality. Those who professed morality, even if imperfectly practiced, seem to have a better chance of survival that those who simply ignore moral standards altogether. I fear the Western world is not even doing that today.

  13. Two things: feminist delusions of liberation, and is there an anti-dote for the sewer?
    I believe Hefner’s thesis “The Playboy Philosophy” was bought lock, stock and barrel by the so-called women’s movement, PP, ERA, etc. One medium through which it is enshrined is the James Bond franchise, which intentionally or not, advanced the playmate persona. A Bond girl is physically attractive, coy, never has a headache, never says NO, is never menstruating, is usually or eventually available for soulless fornication, but never gets pregnant. (Some are soon killed off.) I am sure some feminists dislike the Playmate and the Bond girl persona, but too many Planned Parenthood coffers have been $tuffed by Hef and Flynt to effectively protest. Further, this fantasy is made possible by contraception. That, along with abortion-on-demand are deemed as necessary to women’s liberation. Playboys are grateful. As long as females are willing to de-personalize their fertility, and also the unexpected fetus, attenuated males are let off the hook for any shared responsibility for fertility or unborn life. I believe contraception and abortion reinforce the very roots of the sexism and chauvinism feminists believe these anti-life, anti-female methods neutralize. And they depersonalize themselves by resorting to either. The current wave of sexual assault and other males-behaving-badly news crossing our screens is evidence that respecting women as persons is a lost cause as long as females buy into the vestiges of sexual revolution.

    Where is the anti-dote to Esolen’s apt description of the resulting sewer? The sacrament of Marriage, properly prepared for and celebrated -and- supported by the Christian community as per St. John Paul’s Exhortation Familiaris consortio. Written after the 1980 Synod on the Family, and referencing Gaudium et spes (1965, nos. 48-52), he repeats the urgent need (16 years later) to strengthen marriage and the family. He provides a template and a challenge (FC 65-66,70-71). Thirty-five years later, Pope Francis calls a second synod. As far as I have seen, no plan or strategy emerged. And the last time I checked the USCCB web site, no plan or strategy, now 2 years later.
    There are certainly other ways to clean up the sewer. But Christian marriage and parenthood in the Catholic vision is the foundational path for making disciples and for healing church and society of many social ills. Most of what I’ve seen has been doctrinal defending of marriage. I’ve seen no courageous, developmental, incremental, prophetic, evangelizing energy or interest in DOING something to renew the other sacrament in service to communion.

    Meanwhile, while our leaders wring their hands, the father of lies continues to “evangelize” couples and families daily on screens in hours that far exceed the number of hours they spend weekly in worship or faith formation. I guess as long as we are right about all things marital and moral, everything will be fine. If another synod is called 35 years from now, it will be too late.

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