Aziz Ansari and the Counter Sexual Revolution

Sooner or later some prominent celebrity was going to be accused of sexually inappropriate behavior and the charges would be a bit too ambiguous to stick. For now it seems that prominent celebrity is Aziz Ansari.
If you’re not fully au courant about all the current celebrities, Ansari is a popular standup comedian who had a notable supporting role on the long running “Parks and Recreation” television series and now writes and stars in a popular and well-reviewed Netflix series called “Master of None.” He’s also an impeccably and slightly preachy liberal who wrote a very feminist book about dating, but nonetheless comes across as a likable fellow and is often quite funny. All the more surprising, then, that he’s the latest in the long list of accused celebrities.
The accusations, though, don’t rise to the level of misconduct recently alleged. Ansari’s anonymous accuser recalls meeting him at the Emmy awards, where he was wearing a pin to signal his support for the anti-sexual harassment “me too” movement, and admits being charmed by his celebrity and well compensated wit, having an enjoyable conversation about their mutual interest in photography and shared fondness for a certain ’80s-era camera, and exchanging several mutually flirtatious texts before excitedly accepting his invitation for a date. The date began at his swank apartment in a swank part of Manhattan, where she was slightly annoyed he served a glass of white wine rather than her preferred red, and then proceeded to a swank oyster bar on an historic boat just a few blocks away, where she snapped a cell phone picture of the lobster rolls that is included in the news site’s tell-all account of the evening. She alleges that what happened when they walked the few blocks back to Ansari’s swank apartment resulted in “the worst night of my life,” but even if you believe the worst of it we’d guess that most women have had many worse nights,
As she tells it he quickly had her sitting on the marble countertops she had complimented, and then began kissing her and fondling her breast, and although she recalls feeling uncomfortable she does not report that she protested or otherwise resisted the advances. When he shortly announced he was going to get a condom she said “Whoa, let’s relax for a sec, let’s chill,” then allowed him to continue kissing her and briefly perform oral sex, then voluntarily if unenthusiastically briefly returned the favor, and within ten minutes it ended without what the accuser calls “actual sex,” but was followed by some prolonged finger-in-mouth business and some clumsy attempts to guide her hand toward his crotch, repeated requests for “actual sex” that she put off by saying “next time,” some more brief oral sex, another “aggressive kiss,” and then a tearful Uber ride home.
Which is all quite tawdry, to be sure, but even the most stridently puritanical or feminist district attorney would be unlikely to regard it as sexual assault by any jurisdiction’s legal definition, and by the standards of recent celebrity scandals it’s merely tawdry. The anonymous accuser acknowledges that when Ansari texted her about the date, and she texted back that “You ignored clear non-verbal cues; you kept advancing,” and “I want to make sure you’re aware so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home,” Ansari texted back that “I’m so sorry to hear this. Clearly I misread things in the moment, and I am truly sorry.” Ansari repeated the apology in his statement about the story, which didn’t deny any detail of the accuser’s account, and we think that speaks well of his character.
The whole account is undeniably tawdry, though, and we can’t help finding Ansari a little less likable and his comedy a little less funny after reading it. As much as we’d hate to be accused of “slut-shaming” we think his accuser could have handled things a bit better, and expect that most stridently puritanical feminists would have preferred a more forceful response on her part, but we do sympathize with what she and few other women have had to put up with over the years. By now we’ve heard pretty much the same tale countless times, albeit without the fancy lobster rolls and swank apartments, from both tearful women friends and genuinely regretful men friends, and it’s always sounded just as tawdry.
We try not to judge, lest we be judged, but the same Sunday-school-inculcated Christian instincts leave us nostalgically yearning for those long-fogotten cultural norms that used to preclude such unpleasantness. Not for everybody, of course, as men’s obviously instinctive aggressiveness and women’s seemingly instinctive passivity have resulted in rape and sexual assault since long before the Bible was written, but at least for those well-trained men and women who conformed to those old-fashioned cultural norms.
Those old-fashioned notions were long ago laughed away by Hollywood and academia and the rest of the popular culture, with the feminists now leading the “me too” movement piling on, and the puritans of the religious right are momentarily busy defending a Republican president who had bragged on tape of doing far worse things than Ansari stands accused of, but right now the entire sexual revolution seems at a moment of reckoning, along with the fact of obnoxious male sexual aggressiveness and female vulnerability that it previously overlooked.
There were always moral and legal reasons for men and women to proceed slowly and deliberately with sexual relationships, and to put off any sort of sexual contact until a romantic relationship was more firmly established, and if the current trends offer more pragmatic reasons that’s fine by us. Given the rules people have been playing since the ’60s we’ll not pass judgment on Ansari or his accuser, or any of our male and female friends who have the same story to tell, but we hope that all of them will agree the rules need to be changed.

The Election Year of Anything Goes

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking,” the great Cole Porter once tunefully observed, memorably adding “But now, God knows, anything goes.” That was way back in 1933, so we shudder to think what the oh-so-sophisticated songwriter of that scandalous era would be thinking if he had stuck around for 2016. The latest rap and rock and pop cacophony would have surely appalled him, the rest of the popular culture would no doubt also dismay the sensibilities of the fellow who lamented that “Good authors, too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose,” and even such a classy and contentedly closeted homosexual of that bygone era as Porter would probably be confounded by all this current public enthusiasm for creepy guys hanging around women’s restrooms.
What he’d make of this crazy election year, well, God only knows.
This crazy election year has gone far beyond a glimpse of stocking to include stark naked pictures of a major party nominee’s third wife exposed on the cover of a New York tabloid, and more widely disseminated across that newfangled internet thingamajig without those minuscule but pesky stars over the naughtiest bits that even New York tabloids still feel obliged to use, along with some suggestively sapphic poses with an anonymous naked woman or two that easily meet the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s definition of pornography as “I know it when I see it.” That same major party nominee used to run a strip joint before it went bankrupt, has boasted in print about the many married women he’s bedded, once offered assurances about his sufficient penis size during a presidential debate, often cusses in front of the kids, seems to share the unaccountable current popular enthusiasm for creepy guys hanging around women’s restrooms, and for crying out loud he’s the Republican nominee.
Meanwhile, the Democratic nominee is the wife of former President Bill Clinton, the predatory serial philanderer best remembered after two terms and nearly 16 years of historical reflection as the punchline to countless late night comedy show fellatio jokes, and for crying out loud she’s running as the long awaited culmination of the feminist revolution. The long-presumed and still potential First Woman President is as always committed to the pro-abortion stand that her Republican opponent took right up until he decided to run as Republican and rather clumsily tried to be anti-abortion, and a lot of the older feminists are still grateful that she protected her pro-abortion woman against the women who spoke frankly about his predatory serial philandering, and a lot of the younger feminists find the Republican just as icky, so she might well get away with it. She’s not about to be outflanked for the creepy guy in the women’s restroom vote even if the Republican nominee is offering them concealed carry, she’ll always enjoy the advantage of that double standard that regards scorned women as admirable victims and betrayed men as laughable cuckolds, and even the current Republican nominee with the naked model third wife and newfound anti-abortion zealotry is unlikely to overcome the party’s cornball reputation for old-fashioned family values.
What’s most striking to us, and would surely get the attention of a resurrected Cole Porter or any other previous American, is that none of this seems to matter. The only interest that the more respectable press took in those naked pictures had to do with the fact that they were apparently taken in in America in 1995, and that the potential first lady’s first work permit was issued in 1996, raising doubts about her future husband’s stand against illegal immigrants taking jobs from natives. Some of the feminist sisterhood even came to her defense, the right to pose naked and especially to do the sapphic sorts of shots being the most up-to-date version of the cause that even the aging Democratic nominee didn’t want to argue with, and no one except such fuddy-duddies as ourselves would wants to be on record saying that there’s something somehow unsettling about naked pictures of one major party’s nominee’s third wife and his opponent being in no position to say anything about it. We grew up long after Cole Porter’s heyday but still in a time when the happily married Rob and Laura Petrie were sleeping in separate beds on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and when Lyndon Baines Johnson was holding bathroom press conferences and Richard Milhouse Nixon was creating the familiar phrase of “expletive deleted” but never doing it in front of the kids, and both the cutting-edge feminists and the retrograde family values types had an unease with the sort of objectification of women that recently appeared on the front page of that Republican-nominee-endorsing New York tabloid. Call us old-fashioned, but in this crazy election year we feel a certain nostalgia for the hopeful hypocrisy of those long-lost days.
We rarely find ourselves in sympathy with The New York Times’ Ross Douthat, but we rather liked his recent essay about how this crazy election will in one way or another be the culmination of the sexual revolution that coincided with the feminist revolution during those lamentable ’60s. He astutely likens Republican nominee Donald J. Trump’s braggadocios sexism with the Brat Pack and Hugh Hefner and of course Democratic icon John F. Kennedy and the rest of the alpha males of the “Mad Men” era of early ’60s sexual liberation, and Clinton with the adversarial if equally libidinous feminism that reacted in the latter part of the decade. Regardless of the outcome of the next election one of the two will be ratified, Douthat suggests, and while we doubt we’re in complete agreement about which would be best he seems to share our concern that neither is at all satisfactory. For that matter, we can’t imagine that any self-respecting feminist or intellectually honest family-value types sees any hope in this crazy election year.
There are more important issues than such long-lost causes, we suppose, such as the ever-harder-to-dispute fact that the Democratic nominee was running an utterly corrupt influence-peddling “family foundation” while in public and that the Republican nominee who openly brags about buying influence was one of the donors during his exclusively private sector career, and that a certain level of personal and financial and political sleaziness is now assumed by both sides and it’s all a matter of deciding which is more objectionable. We can’t help thinking that the lowered cultural standards have something to do with the lowered political standards, and that the range of acceptable debate has shrunk even as the rules about how views can be expressed have expanded, and that Cole Porter and his better generation of contemporaries would be startled what happens when anything truly goes.

— Bud Norman

Manliness and Modernity

Although we’re not at all the macho type, and try to maintain a gentlemanly demeanor whenever possible, we can’t fathom the modern aversion to masculinity. We notice it daily, in the stories about schools cracking down on the most traditionally boyish behaviors, in the sit-coms and chick flicks that ridicule regular guy activities, in those Obamacare ads with the cocoa-sipping boy in his pajamas, and in almost every encounter with those bearded and tattooed and yet oh-so-sensitive hipsters at the local dives. We’ve recently come across two articles, however, that take it to an infuriating level.
One was at a newly-discovered web site called The College Fix, which reported on Vanderbilt University’s “Healthy Masculinities Week.” Kicking off the event was a speech by Jackson Katz, apparently the first man to minor in Women’s Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who showed clips from his film “Tough Guise” and fretted about how the G.I. Joe toys and action movie stars have been flexing ever big arms. There was also a screening of the film “The Mask You Live In,” which features a former National Football League player warning that “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to ‘be a man.'” There was also a panel on “Maintaining Bro Status,” in which one panelist, ironically named Bill Savage, expressed his contempt for the phrases “man up” and “don’t be a pussy.” Other panels addressed such topics as “Masc 4 Masc: Policing Masculine Identity in the Gay and Bi Communities,” and “Masculinity XXL: The Portrayal of Manhood in ‘Magic Mike.'”
One shudders to think how the famously rough-and-tumble Cornelius Vanderbilt, eponymous founder of a suddenly ridiculous university, might have reacted. We’re certain Vanderbilt would not have fretted that America’s fictional he-men lately have bigger biceps, or that even point guards and other formerly lean athletes are also sporting them, which apparently went unmentioned at the panel but is something peculiar that we’ve noticed the last several basketball seasons, and we expect he would advise the panelists to man up and not be a pussy. This is not to say the southern gentleman and educational philanthropist would be urging rape and pillage and unrestrained flatulence and similar sorts of fraternity hijinks, just that he wasn’t the sort to advise not being a man and being a pussy. There is a middle ground, in our experience, and by our reckoning Vanderbilt occupied that area better than any of the panelists at his namesake university.
We can’t even guess what the late Col. Vanderbilt might have thought about policing masculine identity in the gay and bi communities, or that illiterate “Masc 4 Masc” in the title, and we’re not even sure what we think about that. If the panelists are talking about banishing all the bulging biceps and leather-jacketed machismo in those Tom of Finland cartoons that all our homosexual friends seem to adore, we suspect the gay and bi communities will respond by manning up and not being pussies. Although we haven’t seen “Magic Mike,” and can’t comment on whether it promotes an XXL or otherwise unhealthy masculinity, we are given to understand that it’s about a male ecdysiast whose bulging biceps and otherwise buff physique make him wildly popular with a female audience, which seems plausible enough. All sorts of people seem to like bulging biceps, and it’s going to take a lot of hectoring from academic panels to change that.
One can always count on The New York Times to help with the effort, though, and it’s latest contribution is a list of “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man.” Not all of them are awful, and we even rather like the idea that “The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot,” and “The modern man uses the proper names for things,” and although we’re not familiar enough the terminology to be sure we also like the sound of “The modern man has never ‘pinned’ a tweet, and he never will.” Most of the rest is pure bosh, though. We’ll not argue with the part about knowing a spouse’s shoe size or showing consideration for one’s fellow movie-goers, even if the former does seem a bit excessive and the later is merely common courtesy, but other rules for the modern man are far more modern than manly. “The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week,” for instance, or “The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.” The modern man also has a melon baller and all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-Ray, prefers daughters to sons, re-charges his wife’s batteries and buys her flowers for reasons other than special occasions or apologies, makes sure the dishes are dry before putting them in the cabinet, and otherwise act in a manner that the pre-modern man described as “whipped.”
The New York Times’ version of the modern man sleeps on the side of the bed closer to the door in order to protect his spouse from an intruder, but its 25th rule is that “The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and never will.” In this case we hope the modern man has some awesomely bulging biceps to deal with that intruder, who probably doesn’t read the Gray Lady and is old-fashioned enough to be carrying a firearm. We’re also told that “The modern man cries. He cries often,” and that “On occasion, the modern is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.” The modern man will presumably hope that won’t occur on the night an armed intruder enters his marital bedroom, but if it does he’ll be entitled to a good cry.
So much for modernity. Say what you will about the old-fashioned variety of manliness, but back in the bad old pre-sexual revolution days no one was complaining about a “culture of rape” on the nation’s campuses. The dad of yesteryear might not have been checking the dryness of the dishes he’d done or buying melon ballers, but it was far more uncommon to find a home with no father at all. The husband of yesteryear might not have been so solicitous of his wife, but he seems to have suffered a far lower divorce rate. The old notion of manliness also entailed self-reliance, a willingness to defend family and country even if it required a gun, and an instinctive disdain for the pointy-headed drivel that lately emanates from academia and the elite press, so perhaps we can understand the modern aversion to masculinity.

— Bud Norman

Ahmed’s Clock and Its Ominous Ticking

Those sharp-eyed news aggregators over at the invaluable web site routinely run stories about public school students victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies, but so far the only one that’s been invited to White House is a 14-year-old from Texas named Ahmed Mohamad. Why he should be singled out for such a honor is unclear, but we have our suspicions.
Ahmed’s case is rather typical, after all, except that he was subject to arrest rather than just the suspensions and expulsions and public shaming that other victims of overzealousness have endured. Apparently the lad, an aspiring engineer, was showing off some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque electronic clock that he had been tinkering with, the clock was encased in a brief case and brimming with wires and looked enough like a bomb to a panicked English teacher that the police were called to the scene. The suspicions of the police were further aroused by Ahmed’s “passive aggressive” answers to their questions and his refusal to “offer any explanation about what it was,” and the student thus wound up in police custody on the class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake bomb before his release. One can imagine any number of reasons for Ahmed’s recalcitrance, some exculpatory and some damning, but given the facts as they were eventually established it does seem just another one of those numerous cases of students being victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
It’s hardly the most outrageous case, though. For that title we’d recommend the case of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from his Baltimore-area elementary school for chewing his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun, or perhaps the fifth-grade student in Milford, Massachusetts, who was kicked out of school because he made his hand into the shape of gun and cocked his thumb and said “bang,” or the high schooler who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt advertising the National Rifle Association. There are similar stories about first-graders being labeled as sexual harassers and subjected to police interrogation because of a pat on a classmate’s buttocks, 6-year-olds being suspended for kissing a girl’s hand, and other outsized responses to what once was considered normal childhood behavior. None of these students declined to explain their behavior, which in any case did not involve anything that could have possibly posed a threat to the safety of their schools, yet none rated an invitation to the White House for their travails.
Which is not all surprising. The current occupant of the White House is unlikely to make any gesture that could be interpreted as chastising the educational establishment’s gun phobias or its aversion to ordinary boyish behavior or its eagerness to censor the Second Amendment. With its Justice Department and Department of Education and the rest of the Democratic Party insisting on a guilty until proved innocent standard for any student accused of sexual impropriety on America’s college campuses, where a supposed “culture of rape” is the result of the left’s 50-year-old sexual revolution, the White House is even less likely to protest a crackdown on butt-patting and hand-kissing on the nation’s elementary school playgrounds. When the victim has a name such as Ahmed Mohamad, however, there’s an irresistible opportunity to blame it on that long-awaited anti-Muslim backlash rather than paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
Ahmed’s name and Muslim faith might well have had something to do with that English teacher’s suspicions, as the student’s father angrily claims, as we can’t claim the White House’s ability to look into the heart of an English teacher in a Texas high school, but at this point we assume that every American public school employee has been properly taught to be exceedingly non-judgmental about Islam and downright paranoid about everything else, and the White House can’t wait around forever for that anti-Muslim backlash to materialize. There is indeed religious intolerance afoot in the land, but better to have a photo-op with some nerdy-looking would-be engineer as a photo op than any of the Jews who are victims of hate crimes at five times the rate of Muslims, or those nuns who are forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize the sex lives of those colleges girls at the mercy of the “culture of rape” that the sexual revolution wrought, or some protestant bakers who have been fined and forced into re-education camp for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, or certainly some southern Christian white boy wearing an NRA t-shirt.
Better to send the loud and clear message that henceforth any nerdy-looking people with Arabic names and Muslim faith bringing brief cases full of funny-looking and unexplained wires into public building must be presumed innocent, even if paranoia is the appropriate response to nuns and dangerously-chewed toaster pastries and loaded fingers and schoolyard crushes and everything else. We expect that White House security will continue to take a more suspicious approach to their job, based on its recent paranoid reaction to an unattended coffee cup, and we suppose that is a good thing.

— Bud Norman

Second Thoughts on a Sexual Revolution

One of the compensating advantages of growing older is that one’s sex drive eventually diminishes to a point it no longer overwhelms dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, simple courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul. At least that used to be so, until modern pharmacology and Madison Avenue started selling perpetually teenaged libidinousness, but now it seems that the older the United States of America gets the more its public square becomes obsessed with private parts.
The economy is contracting and the national debt is rising, murders are up in the recently burned-down sections of Baltimore and other cities where the police are in retreat, a head-chopping gang of Islamist psychopaths calling themselves the Islamic State are conquering more of the Middle East, and similarly significant stories abound for those still interested in finding them, but dip into a random magazine story or coffeehouse conversation and the subject is more likely to have something to do with sex. If it’s not the former Bruce Jenner’s glamour girl appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair or that hipster co-ed hauling a mattress around Columbia University to protest a “culture of rape” in higher education, it’s the latest court ruling on same-sex marriage or one of those stories that keep popping up lately about women teachers in the middle schools with an unaccountable attraction to schoolboys. There also the usual tawdry sex scandals in Washington and every state capital, all the tiresome and un-erotic babble about the intersectionality of race and class and gender categories and the fluidity of sexual identity and the rest of that cacophonous jargon one suddenly needs in order to be conversant down at the coffeehouse, and of course there are still plenty of those biennial election-cycle allegations about the Republicans’ insidious plot to revive the Comstock Law and restore the patriarchy and roll back the glorious sexual revolution that has brought about these happy times.
The entertainment media are similarly sexually obsessed, as we suppose they have been at least since the silent movie days of Clara “The It Girl” Bow, and judging by what we see on models on the high-fashion runways and the starlets at the award show red carpets and the scantily-clad women staggering on the cracked sidewalks outside the low places of our prairie hometown the entire women’s clothing industry is as well. Sit-coms, hip-hop records, television advertisements, magazine covers, “reality shows,” late night cable programming, all the fawning attention paid to that naked fat woman from HBO’s “Girls,” entire departments of modern academia, along with the rest of our culture, including the more up-to-date churches, all proclaim an age of unfettered sexual freedom and endless bacchanal and infernal bickering over the proper terminology and protocol to make it all go smoothly. People who used to explain themselves to strangers in terms of their occupation or denominational affiliation or number of children now identify themselves by their sexual preference or “gender identity,” any sexual predilection, no matter how arcane or disconcerting to normal sensibilities, now has a web site and a lobbying group and “community” of like-minded people to provide encouragement, and the Roe v. Wade decision and an Obamacare law that mandates contraception and abortifacient coverage for everyone from nuns to Baptist businessmen and a host of other public policies make it all official, and anybody who admits any discomfort with this state of affairs is routinely dismissed from polite conversation as a blue-nosed puritan.
So far as we can glean from the snippets of boisterous conversation we involuntarily overhear from the fashionably hirsute fellows and their tattooed but otherwise comely young women companions in the next booth at a coffeehouse where we drink beer and grouse about foreign policy and economics and baseball with a gray-haired pal of ours, and from the often tragic gossip we can’t avoid despite our best efforts in our infrequent social encounters elsewhere, as well as the conspicuous lack of non-political and non-sports conversation we share with our gray-haired friend, it doesn’t seem to be working out very well for anyone. As we read the news, with agedly skeptical eyes unaffected by modern pharmacology and largely immune to the blandishments of Madison Avenue, we find further confirmation that no one out there seems genuinely satisfied with the situation.
That campus “culture of rape” that the young woman with the mattress and the Senator from California and the editorialists at the big papers and the rest of the feminist establishment are so worried about doesn’t seem to be so much an epidemic of college boys forcing themselves with brute strength onto unwilling young innocents as it is a widespread regret with the consensual albeit slightly reluctant “hook-up” encounters that have become so common since universities stopped being in loco parentis and started being simply loco. We’re sympathetic to the young women’s plight, as our hazy memories still recall the social pressures that accompany sexual desire and how very powerfully they can affect someone who hasn’t yet acquired advanced age and diminished sex drive, and how very grave the consequences can be, yet we find ourselves averse to their cause. Unable to come right out and call for a return to chivalry and chastity and the rest of that religious ’50s-era repression stuff, the “culture of rape” critics and their friends at the Department of Justice are urging that due process be suspended for any college boy accused of letting his sex drive overwhelm his dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul, even if it didn’t cross any established legal boundaries, and was well within the standards of unfettered sexual freedom and endless bacchanal that has been officially established as the societal norm, and we don’t believe that will work.
Nor do we believe that the former Bruce Jenner will likely find genuine satisfaction by having his penis and testes amputated, no matter how comely he might appear through the miracles of Vanity Fair’s photographic and make-up and air-brushing experts. That’s not just our admittedly uniformed opinion, as even a doctor at Johns Hopkins University, which was once the first hospital in America to perform “sex-change operations,” argues that the procedure doesn’t really change a person’s sex, tends to result in a suicide rate 20 times that of the general population, and is no longer done at his institution because some patients’ claims to be “‘satisfied’ but ‘still troubled'” are “an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.” The social consensus seems to be otherwise, what with the all-powerful ESPN sports network awarding the former Bruce Jenner its “Arthur Ashe Courage Award” rather than to an Iraq War veteran who became a successful athlete and “Dancing on the Stars” competitor despite the double amputations he endured from his service to his country, but we don’t think that will work, either.
All that blather about people basing their self-estem and personal identities on their sexual predilections seems equally futile, as a person’s occupation and numbers of children and denominational affiliation will ultimately have more important social consequences, and little of the rest of it makes any sense from our admittedly straight white Christian Republican conservative perspective here in the middle of America. Straight white male Christian Republican conservatives in the middle of America that we are, over the years we’ve had a number of dear friends who were homosexual or bisexual or something for which we’re not even sure what the currently polite terminology would be, but all had admirable attributes we found in common which seemed entirely unrelated to either their sexuality or ours. They seemed to find something in common with us as well, and some valuable friendships have resulted, so we are inclined to believe that social interactions are best conducted on such terms. By now we are inured to even the most lurid tales of heterosexual and homosexual and bisexual and whatever your might call it behavior, and you don’t even need to couch your back alley encounter in terms of “love,” as the homosexual lobby and broader sexual freedom movement routinely does, but we can’t help noticing that the tellers of these tales never sound genuinely satisfied, and that the fulfillment of their overwhelming sexual desires has come at the expense of some noticeable measure of dignity, dispassionate analysis, common sense, simple courtesy, and other higher impulses of the human soul. This surely marks us as blue-nosed puritans, but we suppose we’ll just have to declare that an oppressed identity and start a web site and hire some lobbyists and find a community of like-minded individuals to encourage such anti-social tendencies.
We have no hope or even any desire of reviving the Comstock Laws or restoring the patriarchy or rolling back the glorious sexual revolution that has brought us such happy times, nor do we believe that any other straight white male Christian Republican conservatives entertain such fanciful fantasies, but of course those allegations will continue. During the last presidential election the former Clinton family operative and putative American Broadcasting Company “journalist” George Stephanopoulos quizzed all the Republican presidential contenders about their stand on banning contraception, and despite all of those candidates’ obviously sincere confusion about what the hell he was talking about we were overhearing coffeehouse conversation about the Republicans’ attempts to revive the Comstock Laws and how it was far more important than the national debt or the deteriorating situation in the Middle East or the economy of any of that that asexual stuff. As a matter of fact, which is still out there for those who take in an interest in such outdated concepts as facts, the congressional Republicans are currently pressing for over-the-counter contraception deregulations that the Democrats and their doctor-lobby pals oppose, but in the end this will matter even less than the fact that former Bruce Jenner will still won’t be a woman even after his normal male organs have been lopped off.
We’ve also given up any hope of restoring the patriarchy, and won’t lament the worst of it, and we continue to wish our best to all those women who find fulfillment in the workplace and other non-traditional niches of our society but can’t help noticing that its passing is not without some unfortunate consequences. The patriarchy has already been quite thoroughly smashed in such places as those burned-out neighborhoods in Baltimore and the other murder-ridden jurisdictions where fathers are rare and even  the police are in retreat, and the social consequences don’t seem nearly so idyllic as what was promised, and we’re skeptical that whatever comes in its wake in the rest of the country will be any more successful. This will also mark us as blue-nosed puritans, but we suppose that we’ll just have to start a web site and hire a lobbyist and seek the company of like minded-indivuals as well as stocking up on whatever guns and ammunition are still legally available to deal with that.
Our personal inclination, after so many years of being young and libidinous and our many dear friendships with heterosexuals and homosexuals and bisexuals and whatever you’re supposed to call them, is to live and let live. That’s why we’re still affiliated with a Republican party that isn’t really calling for a revival of the Comstock Laws or fighting for the maintenance of an imperfect patriarchy or hoping to roll back the sexual revolution to the point that the married sit-com characters are still sleeping in separate beds, as Rob and Laura Petrie did on the “Dick Van Dyke Show” of our innocent youth, but we would appreciate a more agedly asexual and dignified and dispassionate and commonly courteous assessment of the rest of it.
The left’s reaction to oppressing gender discrimination of the Islamic world has been heartening to us, and we believe its revulsion of that culture’s murderous homophobia is entirely justified, but for the sake of solidarity we’d like to see it must some outrage about Islamism’s executions of Christians and Jews and the rest of the privileged people they’ve lately been executing. It would also  be nice if the oh-so-sensitive sensibiliies of the left would consider one parent homes affected those inner-city neighborhoods they claim to care about . We further suspect that the left’s indifference to the matter of national debt also derives fro the fact that it will eventually be dealt with by the children they never had, thanks to Roe v. Wade and all those contraceptive mandates and the rest of the popular culture and official mandates, and that all of these issues are being considered from the perspective of a society that by virtue of modern pharmacology and Madison Avenue are considering these issues from the perspective of perpetually teenaged libidos, and at the risk of sounding blue-nosed and puritan we’d like to see an end to that. It would be nice, too, if the left’s preference for unfettered freedom were extended beyond the bedroom and into the workplace and the rest of those boring areas of life. We’d also prefer that the facts of biology and economics and basic human nature prevail, and a world where women don’t freely admit to voting with their private parts rather than their brains, but that’s about as likely as a revival of the Comstock Law.

— Bud Norman

An Impossible Essay Question

Our college days were long ago in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and pitching woo over a box lunch on the quad, but we still try to keep abreast of the contemporary campus scene. These days the talk seems mostly about sex, as it was even back in our day, but it’s lately been a strange conversation.
After decades of giddily deconstructing the sexually repressed patriarchy and its archaic Judeo-Christians superstitions that notoriously kept women barefoot and pregnant through the ’50s or so, academia has now decided that neither does it care for the ongoing fraternity orgy that has resulted. Unsurprisingly enough the more demure co-eds haven’t found the promised self-fulfillment of sexual freedom, and instead feel put upon by the highly sexualized new social standards, and the modern feminist academia has declared it a “Culture of Rape.” Rape is defined here more broadly than law, lexicography, and the general English-speaking public have long understood the term, to the point that it encompasses almost any sexual activity that a woman later regrets, and with prodding from the Department of Justice schools are working to stamp it out. Bringing back that sexually repressed patriarchy is of course out of the question, so the official response has to been to do away with due process and presume the guilt of any student accused of violating the nebulous new rules of sexual propriety. At Ohio State University, proving one’s innocence not only entails proving the other party’s consent but also proving they had reached agreement on why they are having sex.
Our further advice to any libidinous Buckeyes is to get the agreement in writing, not because it’s likely to keep anyone off the sex offender register but because the documents would make for such fascinating reading. Over the past many millennia the question of why we have sex has been pondered by the world’s most brilliant scientists, philosophers, poets, and advice columnists, none of whom have come up with an adequate explanation for why anyone should become involved with such messy nonsense, and it would be quite a hoot to see those kids who sit shirtless in sub-freezing football stadiums with their fraternity letters painted on their fashionably-toned tummies take a stab at the question. Psychiatrists and stand-up comedians would find a gold mine of material in comparing the stated reasons of the men and to those of the women, making the unforgivably heteronormative assumption that a man and woman are involved, and our guess is that little sexual activity would occur even on a college campus if both parties were honestly forthcoming about their motives. Even the biggest and hunkiest man on campus is likely to strike out with even the most promiscuous and plain girl after affixing his signature to a document stating that he agrees to the ensuing sexual encounter because the party of the second of the part has large breasts and he’s been on a dry spell lately. Even the comeliest campus queen would be rebuffed even by the most nerdy engineering student if she ever confessed whatever dark and twisted character flaw it is that would cause anyone, at any age, to contemplate having sex with something so hideous as a college boy.
Some couples might state the same reasons of true love and all that, but given the current offerings in popular music and motion pictures we can’t imagine where today’s college students would get such ideas. Youngsters used to get such lofty notions from their literature classes, where Shakespeare was comparing his love to a summer’s day and finding her more lovely temperate, or on the black-and-white late shows that used to be the only thing on television, where Bogie was sagely telling the highly desirable Ingrid Bergman that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world, but those lessons have been lost. All that dead white male stuff is read only to expose its crimes against race, class, and gender, and anyone watching the late show rather than the latest indy films on the internet will find that the oldies are now from the ’70s when the sexual revolution still seemed a heroic cause. The college students being presumed guilty of violating the new and as yet unenunciated rules have been shaped more by popular entertainments and academic pronouncements and a political party’s promises of free contraceptions that constitutes what is, if not precisely a “culture of rape,”  a culture that encourages the behavior that the schools and the Justice Department hope to stamp out by iron-fisted governmental power rather than that nasty old social stigma that used to discourage inevitably horny college boys from pressing equally horny and inept young women into activities they later regret. Social stigma is so judgmental, after all, and although it once proved more effective than the government’s harsher measures it doesn’t pay any bureaucratic salaries.
We’ll keep an eye out for further developments, as we find it one of the more hilarious academic follies of recent years. Trying to impose some sort of sexual restraint on these college kids is going to be challenging, especially without any of that archaic Judeo-Christian superstition or any other commonsensical social rationale redolent of that still-hated patriarchy, and we’ll be interested to see how the dwindling number of male students on our college campuses react to being presumed guilty of sexual assault. Perhaps it should be a condition of enrolling in a school that the student and university sign a statement that explains their reasons for entering such an agreement. The student probably won’t mention a desire to learn the best of his civilization’s knowledge, or to prepare for a lucrative career in the soon-to-be-booming economy, and might even admit that he’s hoping to get some action for taking on a job and a wife. The school will admit that they’re interested in the tuition money that goes up every time the federal student loan program authorizes an increase in debt loads, or they’ll also admit a desire to indoctrinate another middle white class into anti-Americanism. At that point, nobody will be getting any action.

— Bud Norman

Bending the Moral Arc

The Russians are invading Ukraine, the Islamic State terror gang is beheading and crucifying and otherwise slaughtering thousands of people across a wide swath of Iraq and Syria and Libya, and another American aircraft carrier is heading to the contentious South China Sea, but not to worry. Speaking recently about the Islamic State’s beheading of an American journalist, just before another tee time, President Barack Obama assured the country that “the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”
At a news conference on Thursday Obama admitted in so many words that “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State, but he seemed to retain his usual faith in history’s happy predestination nonetheless. He and his Secretary of State have dismissed Russia’s massive land grab as a sign of weakness and an embarrassingly out-dated way of doing things, assurances have been made that all of that even more old-fashioned beheading and crucifying and slaughtering that the Islamic State gang has been up to certainly “has no place in the 21st Century,” and thus far these messes have dominated the news thoroughly enough that no one in the administration has been obliged by the press to explain why another aircraft carrier is needed in the South China Sea. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” as the president is fond of saying, to the point that he had it woven into the Oval Office carpet, and we are expected to share his confidence that the aphorism will prove true no matter what befuddled efforts America might make.
A couple of smarter fellows over at National Review have already written convincingly about Obama’s childish faith that the good guys always win in the end, no matter how wimpy their good guy ways nor how ruthlessly bad the bad guys might be, but we would add that such fantastical notions are characteristic of modern liberal thinking about almost everything. Not just foreign policy, but  economics, social issues, and the very nature of man.
Liberal foreign policy presupposes that the rest of the world closely resembles one of those impeccably multicultural Benneton clothing ads with the rainbow coalition of good-looking hipsters that you can tell are so much cooler and up-to-date than any of those troglodyte Republicans we’ve got around here in America, and that if we just stopped doing the things that mean old George W. Bush used to do humanity would resume its normal state of peace and cooperation. This theory cannot explain why a troublesome portion of the rest of the world remains intent on beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires or making other sorts of mischief, no matter how unlike George W. Bush the American president might be, but this has not shaken the liberal faith. Those Islamic State terrorists with American or other western passports will still be waved past airport security while the wheelchair-bound old white woman heading from Cleveland to see her son in Chicago is given the full search, lest Islamic sensibilities be offended by our outrageous profiling, and it remains a moral imperative that we not acquire any information about the plots afoot by harshly interrogating a prisoner at Guantamo Bay. Diplomacy and sanctions and a chin-up moral superiority will surely sway those who are beheading and crucifying and slaughtering or reestablishing Soviet Empires, and we’ll not ask about that aircraft carrier heading to the South China Sea, and if those miscreants continue such out-of-date behaviors they’ll just look all the worse, at least in the eyes of American liberals.
The same sort of cocksureness infects liberal economics. For all their railing against unfettered American capitalism, liberals apparently believe it is such a magical cornucopia of prosperity that no matter what taxes and regulations and energy costs and cultural scorn that is imposed on it the invulnerable machine will continue to generate enough wealth that it’s just a matter of divvying it out to the right interest groups. When people and companies flee a city, county, state, or country to avoid such impediments they are derided for their lack of patriotism, which liberals define as a mindless obeisance to their agenda, and the resulting economic decline is more than offset by the increase in the liberal sense of moral superiority. America is such a rich country that surely we can do this generous thing or that compassionate thing, we are constantly told, even when those things are entirely antithetical to the capitalist ethos that once upon a time made America rich.
Liberalism similarly holds that you can smash the patriarchy and an army of social workers will fill in nicely for fathers, despite the results apparent on the streets of slums from New York City to Los Angeles to Ferguson, Missouri, and that a moral society can exist absent a moral framework that stigmatizes anything other than a lack of appreciation for homosexuality and contraception and the rest of the sexual revolution. When such rampant licentiousness results in what the feminists are now calling a “culture of rape” at the nation’s colleges we can simply do away with due process and a presumption of innocence for those nasty frat boys who seem the main beneficiaries of that still-lauded sexual revolution, while nuns can compelled to pitch in for the contraception of the more willing co-ed sexual revolutionaries, and with a few other coercive measures we should be able to maintain a more perfect sexual freedom. Some of those mean old Republican rednecks and those dastardly nuns won’t like it, but the addition of a few million more illiterate and unskilled workers from Third World countries to their benighted communities should provide just the right enlightenment and communal peace.
All of this derives from the liberals’ touching but ridiculous belief in the inherent goodness of man. The idea that a noble human spirit once held sway in a pre-agricultural epoch is as old as Jean Jacques-Rousseau’s 18th-century musings on the supposedly idyllic “State of Nature,” and it has done more damage to mankind than all the carbon it ever emitted. Rousseau’s philosophical opposite Thomas Hobbes was more correct in describing the state of nature as “nasty, brutish, and short,” and all the good that have been accomplished over the years was achieved by fierce resistance to the beheaders and crucifiers and slaughterers, all the wealth that has enriched mankind was created by individuals acting in their own enlightened self-interest, and the most tolerant and the most well-ordered societies in human history have been informed by the dour postlapsarian view of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It would be tempting to believe that the moral arc of the universe bends toward the justice that can be found in these timeless truths, but history shows that we have to do the bending, and it looks as if we’re blowing it.

— Bud Norman

A Sexual Counter-Revolution

Our carefree college days were long ago, back in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and goldfish-swallowing, but we try to keep abreast of what’s current in higher education. Imagine our horror, then, to discover that the once-idyllic campus life has degenerated into a culture of rape.
This isn’t our usual grumpy old man’s anti-intellectual assessment of those pointy-headed academics, but rather the conclusion of academia itself. The more-or-less official feminist line is that one in five currently enrolled co-eds will be sexually assaulted while in college, an alarming statistic that has been repeated by the President of the United States, and the term “culture of rape” is frequently invoked to explain the epidemic. Many colleges have responded by adopting a “preponderance of evidence” standard when considering allegations of sexual assault, and now that the Department of Education has made federal funding contingent on such measures the rest will eventually do so, while there seems to be a serious movement afoot to eradicate whatever culture is causing all this rape.
Let us make clear at this point that we do not wish to make light of rape, which is as heinous a crime as man can commit and should always be punished with the utmost severity whenever guilt of it has been proved, but only a heart of stone can’t find some bemusement in academia’s clumsy response to this eternal problem. That one-in-five number is laughable at first glance, and would be the most damning indictment of higher education yet if it were true. One would almost certainly reach something approaching that ratio if the definition of “sexual assault” were expanded to include any regrettable experience a young woman might have in today’s hyper-sexualized society, and we have great sympathy for all of them insufficiently wary young women who have fallen victim to our cultural depredations, but it’s disquieting to see colleges denying due process to young men accused of violating the cultural norms that academia has long sought to abolish.
Back in the bad old days of sexual repression a patriarchy imposed virginity on the yearning-to-be-unleashed libidos of young women, especially those bold and brilliant enough to a pursue a college education, but academic feminism was at the forefront of liberating society from such archaic restrictions. Colleges used to promise the tuition-paying parents that they would act in loco parentis, meaning they would assume the role of nosy and puritanical parents, but by now they are acting those loco sorts of parents who provide condoms and encouragement for a nice robust romp in the dorm. There’s an inadvertently hilarious Hollywood movie set in the ’50s called “Mona Lisa Smile” that features the comely Julia Roberts as a heroic professor in the “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” mode who encourages her female charges to pursue promiscuity as self-expression, another called “Kinsey” that features the handsome Liam Neeson portraying the titular perverted Indiana University sexologist as a hero of the sexual revolution, and they accurately reflect the role colleges played in eradicating the old sexual etiquette. We suspect the sexual pioneers intended that their distaff charges would all have enlightening affairs with sensitive poetry majors, which would somehow enhance their procreative marriages to more boring but lucrative business majors, but it turned out that the main beneficiaries of the new rules were the buff frat boys and their infuriatingly anti-feminist “bro culture.”
(We’ll note in passing that a Democratic Senatorial candidate in Kentucky is running on her party’s familiar claim that the Republicans are engaged in a “war on women,” but is the heiress to a “breastaurant” called “Hugh Jass” that caters to the local fraternity clientele with a double-entendre-laden menu and scantily-clad waitresses.)
This is probably the real reason for feminism’s sudden concern with the “culture of rape,” and we have some sympathy. Our disdain for the womanizing frat boy culture is not based on feminist principles, but rather the old-fashioned respect for womanhood that our Christian mother inculcated in us at an early age, but we hope that one way or another it will soon wither from public scorn. The irrecoverable end of the old rules of courtship is not at all limited to that sub-culture, however, and until academia is willing to embrace more old-fashioned notions of sexual propriety it is unlikely to correct what truly is, in some unsettling if not strictly legal sense, a culture of rape.

— Bud Norman