235 Unprotected

While working as a psychiatrist at UCLA, Miriam Grossman, M.D., grew distressed by the fact that various ideological mandates from her profession and university seriously endangered the youngsters she sought to serve.  So she wrote Unprotected:   A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student (New York:  Sentinel, c. 2006, 2007).  Fearing her career would be compromised, she first published the book anonymously!  This was because, as Robert Perloff, a former president of the American Psychiatric  Association, confessed in 2004:  “‘I lived through the McCarthy era and the Hollywood witch hunts and, as abominable as these were, there was not the insidious sense of intellectual intimidation that currently exists under political correctness’” (p. xxi).  In short order, however, Dr. Laura Schlesinger discerned Grossman’s authorial stamp and urged her to publically acknowledge it.  With Dr. Laura and her vast radio audience supporting her, emboldened by favorable reviews in numerous publications, Grossman found her message resonating with important segments of the population and began energetically promoting it.  That’s because:  “You see, I’m a woman with a mission, and one of my goals is the large-scale revision of sexual health education” (p. xii).  “Unprotected,” she says, “tells the stories of college students who are casualties of the radical activism in my profession” (p. xxviii).  

On today’s university campuses there’s “a tacit approval of promiscuity and experimentation” (p. xvii) with virtually no recognition of the grave damage such behavior causes.  This was on display in one of the women who came to Grossman’s office deeply confused and depressed.  Probed to evaluate events in her past, she acknowledged that her relationship with a “friend with benefits” had left her puzzled and sad, wanting more than transient sexual encounters.  She sensed, deep in her being, that “we are designed to bond” (p. 8).  Another woman asked the doctor why (given all the sexual instruction available on campus) “‘do they tell you how to protect your body—from herpes and pregnancy—but they don’t tell what it does to your heart?’” (p. 3).  Nothing was said because it would violate a primary plank of the feminist agenda.  “To acknowledge the negative consequences of the anything-goes, hooking-up culture would challenge the notion that women are just like men, and undermine the premise of ‘safer sex.’  And in our ultra-secular campuses, no belief comes so close as these to being sacred” (p. 5).  In addition to the damage done to the heart, there’s “self-injurious behavior—and there’s loads of it on campus” (p. 13).  Young women, especially, are cutting themselves, often as a result of discovering they’ve contracted a STD such as HPV, now virtually an epidemic on campus.  They’re rarely told that chlamydia may very well render them incapable of bearing children.  Gay men rarely receive accurate information regarding the risks they run when engaging in homosexual activities.  Many admonitions stream from health centers regarding the dangers of tobacco, but warnings regarding sexual activity rarely materialize.   

Similarly absent in campus health centers is any recognition of the importance of religion.  When one of Grossman’s patients discovered her willing to encourage prayer and spiritual endeavors, he was both surprised and relieved.  It’s demonstrable that “students who are highly involved in religion report better mental health” (p. 34), but psychiatrists routinely ignore such evidence.  There will be professional representatives of various ethnic groups on campus, but students “will not find a therapist at the student counseling center with their social values” (p. 39).  Personally agnostic or atheistic, mental health specialists often have little regard for traditional religious belief and experience.  Thus there is, Grossman declares, an “irrational antagonism that psychology has for religion:  theophobia” (p. 45).  

Equally politically incorrect on campus is any criticism of abortion.  Planned Parenthood activists routinely tell young women there are no psychological consequences to “the removal of ‘tissue’ or of ‘uterine contents’” (p. 101).  Yet many of them do in fact feel deeply that they’ve taken the life of their babies, and one of Planned Parenthood’s own studies reveals “that after two years 28 percent of women reported more harm from the abortion than benefit, 19 percent would not make the same decision under the same circumstances, 20 percent were depressed” (p. 83).  Feminists may deny there’s trauma in aborting one’s baby, but Grossman deals daily with collegians (men as well as women) refuting the regnant ideology.  Abortion, however, receives no serious attention in psychiatric journals or meetings, and virtually all mental health centers uphold the “entrenched dogma:  the experience is just not a big deal” (p. 91.  To this Grossman asks:  “why does psychology, in its quest to identify and counsel every victim of possible child abuse, sexual harassment, or hurricanes, leave no stone unturned, and then go berserk at the suggestion that maybe, maybe, some—not all but some—women and men hurt for a long, long time after abortion, and they too need our help?” (p. 101).  

Most of the students Grossman examined deeply desired to marry and establish families.  But Planned Parenthood and its on-campus surrogates neither celebrate nor tell young people anything about marriage and family!  In truth, Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with parenthood!  Regarding “how a young woman can preserve her fertility and maximize her chances of becoming a mother, Planned Parenthood is silent” (p. 134).  Instead, they urge unfettered sexual activities while avoiding pregnancy, fundamentally misleading our young.  In sum, Grossman has “one question:  Shouldn’t our daughters be warned?” (p. 140).  And she’s written a powerful book packed with multiple warnings!  

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In Unhooked:  How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both (New York:  Riverhead Books, c. 2007), Laura Sessions Stepp assembles a journalistic montage of sexual activities on high school and elite university (e.g. Duke and George Washington) campuses.  Today’s collegians, she says, “have virtually abandoned dating and replaced it with group get-togethers and sexual behaviors that are detached from love or commitment,” engaging in “casual sexual encounters known as hookups” (p. 4).  Rather than actually uniting two persons as the word “hook up” implies, the “hook-up” culture studiously avoids any meaningful personal bonds!  This distresses the author, who believes that our “need to be connected intimately to others is as central to our well-being as food and shelter.  In my view, if we don’t get it right, we’re probably not going to get anything else in life right” (p. 8).  So she writes with a sense of sadness for the young women (three Washington D.C. high school girls and six college students) she interviewed, fearing that for all their professional successes they will surely attain they will fail to find what they most deeply crave, becoming the women they’re designed to be.  

Seeking to define “hooking up,” Stepp discovered that for many it means generally unplanned, alcohol-fueled, “random oral sex” (p. 29)—though intercourse is of course inevitably part of the scene.  “Of the hundreds of young women I interviewed about hookup experiences, less than a half-dozen said they were sober at the time” (p. 115).  Conversation is minimal, love is never mentioned, and no subsequent interactions are promised.  Unfortunately, these young women were not prepared for the truth that “women always remember in great detail the first time they had sex, even women who take so many men to bed that they forget the other names and faces.  I suspect that it’s not just lost maidenhood that etches that one time in their minds, but also the first-time union of the physical and the emotional—a powerful reaction that young women often aren’t expecting” (p. 110).  Recent research points to a biological basis for this:  “When female mammals engage in intercourse, the hormone oxytocin is released in large amounts.  Oxytocin, usually associated with the release of breast milk during childbirth, stimulates a caring instinct during or after intercourse, apparently more in women than in men.  Though the research is still new, there’s a good chance that, as one scientist put it, ‘you’re specific to a man as soon as you have sex.’  Severing that bond can be emotionally difficult” (p. 121).  

Curious as to “how we got here,” Stepp sketches the context for hooking-up.  Front and center is Feminism, with its call for female empowerment, which “is undeniably a driving force behind the phenomenon of hooking-up” (p. 143).  Being in control, at least as they understand it, fuels the transient liaisons young women contract.  Then permissive parents add the lack of adult guidance to this mix.  Preaching “self-sufficiency and independence,” frequently failing to provide models of marital fidelity and bliss, too many moms and dads simply set their daughters loose on the high seas of youth culture without any “vision of what good love, good sex and meaningful work looked like in combination” (p. 170).  Ever vigilant in prescribing nutritional advice and securing a quality education for their daughters, always adamant regarding their limitless vocational opportunities, parents foolishly entrust their daughters’ sexual instruction to TV, magazines, and peers. Finally, today’s college environment incubates the hookup lifestyle.  Apart from momentary and generally impersonal contacts with professors, students live almost entirely with their peers and try to participate in a campus life which is utterly unregulated.  No adults seem to care what transpires in university dorms and fraternity houses.  “It is safe to say that dating would not have vanished completely, nor hooking up become as common as a cold, were it not for coed dorms and unrestricted visiting hours” (p. 202).  To stand apart from the hookup campus culture requires an inner fortitude rarely found in adolescents!  

Evaluating the evidence she’s presented, Stepp concludes by insisting it really matters.  Young women fare poorly in the hookup world.  Impersonal sexual escapades provide short-term pleasure without long-term fulfillment.  “A girl can tuck a Trojan into her purse on a Saturday night, but there is no such device to protect her heart” (p. 225).  Thus there is, says Richard Kadison, a psychiatrist and chief of mental health services at Harvard University, “‘an epidemic of depression’ on campus” (p. 228).   Virtually all young women want to marry and have children some day.  What they fail to understand, however, is how seriously the hookup culture negates that prospect, for “the traits that characterize good marriages are firmly established and include trust, respect, admiration, honesty, selflessness, communication, caring and, perhaps more than anything else, commitment.  Hookups are about anything but these qualities” (p. 237).  Thus at the very time they should be cultivating and nourishing these qualities today’s young women are acting out the converse.  Sexually active, they rarely actually enjoy it.  Attracted to men, they frequently find them unattractive.  Wanting children, they increasingly find single parenthood alluring.  In short, the consequences of the sexual revolution reveal its bankruptcy.

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Nearly a century ago, in A Preface to Morals, Walter Lippmann labeled artificial contraception “the most revolutionary practice in the history of sexual morals.”  He doubtless discerned, Mary Eberstadt says, “the movement of many Protestant denominations away from the sexual morality agreed upon by the previous millennia of Christendom.  The Anglican abandonment in 1930 of the longstanding prohibition against artificial contraception is a special case in point, undermining as it subsequently did for many believers the very idea that any church could tell people what to do with their bodies, ever again” (p. 97).  Decades later, assessing the record, Albert Mohler Jr., an eminent Southern Baptist theologian, noted:  “‘I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the Pill. . . .  The entire horizon of the sexual act changes’” (p. 151).   In retrospect, perhaps the Anglicans in 1930 should have paid closer attention to some of the “pronouncements of the founding fathers of Protestantism.”  For example:  “Martin Luther in a commentary on the Book of Genesis declared contraception to be worse than incest or adultery.  John Calvin called it an ‘unforgivable crime’” (p. 156).  

Consequently, Eberstadt, in Adam and Eve After the Pill:  Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, c. 2012) declares:  “Modern contraception is not only a fact of our time; it may even be the central fact, in the sense that it is hard to think of any other whose demographic, social, behavioral, and personal fallout have been as profound” (p. 11).  Still more:  “The technological revolution of modern contraception has in turn furled the equally widely noted ‘sexual revolution’—defined here and elsewhere as the ongoing destigmatization of all varieties of nonmarital sexual activity, accompanied by a sharp rising such sexual activity” (p. 12).  If anything amply illustrates the “law of unintended consequences” it’s the flawed expectations of the sexual revolution provoked by the Pill.  Consequently,  she says:  “It is the contention of this book that such benign renditions of the story of the sexual revolution are wrong” (p. 15).  

One of the 20th centuries philosophical giants, Elizabeth Anscombe (a devout Roman Catholic who famously sparred with C.S. Lewis at Oxford University’s Socratic Club) saw the issue clearly:  “‘If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection” can one make to various other forms of sexual activity?  If sensual pleasure is all that matters, certainly there are various ways of attaining it.  “‘It can’t be the mere pattern of bodily behavior in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference.  But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example.  I am not saying:  if you think contraception [is] all right you will do these other things; not at all.  The habit of respectability persists and old prejudices die hard.  But I am saying:  you will have no solid reason against these things’” (p. 150).  Once the first phase of the sexual revolution has been embraced, there hardly any way to arrest or even modify it.  

Providing an important “intellectual backdrop” to the revolution is, Eberstadt insists, “the will to disbelieve,” a “profound and systematic resistance to the empirical facts” (p. 24).  Evidence abounds regarding the harms caused by unrestrained sexual freedom.  But just as devout Marxists refused to recognize any evils in the Soviet Union or Cuba (odes to Che Guevara still resound around the world!), so too celebrants of uninhibited genital pleasure tout it as nothing but a boon to mankind.  “This resolute refusal to recognize that the revolution falls heaviest on the youngest and most vulnerable shoulders—beginning with the fetus and proceeding up through children and adolescents—is perhaps the most vivid example of the denial surrounding the fallout of the sexual revolution.  In no other realm of human life do ordinary Americans seem so indifferent to the particular suffering of the smallest and weakest” (p. 29).  

Along with our youngsters, our women (contrary to feminist dogma) are also suffering.  While freeing them to behave as freely as men, they have in the process freed men from the obligations that nurture women.  Consequently, as Kay Hymowitz says, women must deal with “‘an unintended set of medical, economic, and social consequences, including more child-men, single mothers, and fatherless homes’” (p. 37).  Young women in the ‘60s thought they were freed to have more fun.  In time, however, they found themselves saddled with onerous liabilities while the men expanded their pleasures.  Consequently, “Over the past thirty-five years, ‘women’s happiness has fallen both absolutely and relative to men’s in a pervasive way among groups, such that women no longer report being happier than men and, in many instances, now report happiness that is below that of men’” (p. 47). 

This certainly repudiates the feminist gospel, early proclaimed by the likes of Betty Frieden, which promised utopian delights in the garden of liberation.  For what we find in the nonstop stream of subsequent feminist publications, is, Eberstadt says, this:  “If feminists married and had children, they lamented it.  If they failed to marry or have children, they lamented that, too.  If they worked outside the home and also tended their children, they complained about how hard that was.  If they worked outside the home and didn’t tend their children, they excoriated anyone who thought they should.  And running through all this literature is more or less constant invective about the unreliability and disrespect of men” (p. 146).  “As the peerless Midge Decter once noted, the real truth about the sexual revolution is that it has made of sex an almost chaotically limitless and therefore unmanageable realm in the life of women’” (p. 44).  Sadly, Eberstadt  concludes:  “In the postrevolutionary world, sex is easier had than ever before; but the opposite appears true for romance.  This is perhaps the central enigma that modern men and women are up against:  romantic want in a time of sexual plenty” (p. 53).  

Men too have been adversely affected by the sexual revolution, especially inasmuch as it renders them perpetual adolescents playing videogames rather than shouldering the responsibilities of marriage and children.  Doing so they affirm the old adage:  “Adults don’t make babies; babies make adults.”  Of particular concern to Eberstadt is the growing influence of pornography on young men, providing sexual satisfactions deliberately detached from personal commitments.  Academics and feminists may dismiss the problem—it is, after all, they say, only one any number of tolerable sexual activities—but reality presents us with “the marriages lost or in tatters; the sexual problems among the addicted; the constant slide, on account of higher tolerance, into ever edgier circles of this hell; the children and teenagers lured into participating in the various ways in this awful world in the effort to please romantic partners or exploitive adults” (p. 60).  In Roger Scruton’s perceptive analysis:  “‘This, it seems to me, is the real risk attached to pornography.  Those who become addicted to this risk-free form of sex run a risk of another and greater kind.  They risk the loss of love, in a world where only love brings happiness’” (pp. 63-64).  

Graver still is the emergent “pedophilia chic” evident in certain quarters of the new morality.  Though sexually exploiting children generally remains one of the few remaining taboos in our culture, some liberationists find nothing to condemn in sex with minors—or “intergenerational sex”—especially if it’s pursued by celebrities such as Roman Polanski or his defenders, e.g. Frederic Mitterand, France’s minister of culture, has been exposed “as a sex tourist whose autobiographical novel speaks frankly of his use of boy prostitutes in Thailand” (p. 76).  Eberstadt provides examples of academics, publishing in prestigious journals such as the APA’s  Psychological Bulletin, who seek to soften opposition to adult-child sex.  (The scandals of priestly abuse of minors in the Catholic Church, however, elicited such outrage on all sides that for the moment the taboo endures.)  

Amazingly, as Eberstadt concludes in her final chapter, “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI was prophetic and right in his 1968 encyclical sustaining the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control!  In truth, “the most unfashionable, unwanted, and ubiquitously deplored moral teaching on earth is also the most thoroughly vindicated by the accumulation of secular, empirical, postrevolutionary fact” (p. 134).  As “Archbishop [Charles] Chaput has explained:  ‘If Paul VI was right about so many of the consequences deriving from contraception, it is because he was right about contraception itself’” (p. 157).  Rereading the Pope’s warnings—declining moral standards, lowering respect for women, rampant infidelity, government edicts regarding reproduction—no one can evade his  prescience!  Embracing contraceptive technologies cannot but facilitate certain behaviors revealed as toxic in scores of scholarly studies validating the unexpected harms in the wake of the waves of sexual liberation.