If any further proof were needed that the Woodstock generation has taken over the federal government, President Clinton’s “AIDS Czar,” Kristine Gebbie, gave a speech a few months ago at a conference on teen pregnancy that should put the matter to rest. (Her office attempted to rewrite the speech retroactively, but unfortunately for her, an AP reporter got it on tape.)
Now, as we all know, over the past thirty years this nation, and the entire West, have been through something aptly named the “sexual revolution.” Centuries-old codes of morals and manners have been overturned. We have become a society drenched in sex and sexual themes. Things are being taught to children today that couldn’t have been mentioned in polite society just thirty years ago. That what we have here is the new mainstream is confirmed by the fact that those who are opposed to this development are regularly labeled “extremists” in the media.
In the wake of this revolution, what is Miss Gebbie’s reform agenda? That we should stop being such a “repressed, Victorian society.”
One would like to know what planet she lives on—and whether it is possible to buy a house there. Because on the planet where we all presently live, it is impossible to get through a single hour without encountering some sexual topic in a news story, an ad, a piece of entertainment, or even just a conversation. We have open copulation on prime time television, we have erotic fantasies on a cable channel that millions of children watch, and sexual hydraulics is being taught in school in ways intended precisely at breaking down modesty.
We also have epidemics of abortion, divorce, adultery, desertion, and sexually transmitted diseases. A skyrocketing percentage of our children lack any chance of having a stable, two—parent family, and as a result, are increasingly at risk of abuse and of following a life of crime.
But to Miss Gebbie, the main problem is that our common ethic “misrepresents information, denies sexuality early, denies homosexual sexuality—particularly in teens—and leaves people abandoned with no place to go.”
The Gebbies of this world are part of a long, tired story. Since at least the 1920s, the cognoscenti and the beautiful people have been lecturing the common folk about how we are messed up with respect to sex, and how the way out of our troubles is to overcome our “hang-ups” and “prejudices,” and join the elites in their newfound liberation.
A New Yorker cartoon from the 1920s showed a gawky young man and girl standing awkwardly about, while off to one side, one upper—crust old lady says to another: “They’re discussing sex. Isn’t that sweet?”
In Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, written in the 1940s and describing the social scene of the twenties, a troubled young student named Sebastian is warned by Oxford University authorities that he must “mend his ways” if he wants to remain in the university. “How does one mend one’s ways?” he laments. “I suppose one joins the League of Nations Union, and reads the Isis every week, and drinks coffee every morning at the Cadena cafe, and smokes a great pipe and plays hockey and goes out to tea on Boar’s Hill and to lectures at Keble, and rides a bicycle with a little tray full of notebooks and drinks cocoa in the evening and discusses sex seriously.”
Writing in the early forties, C. S. Lewis noted: “[Y]ou and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. . . . They tell you sex has become messed up because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet is still in a mess.”
The record is clear: aggressive anti-puritanism on sexual matters has long been integrated into the socially dominant notions of respectability. This is old stuff by now.
It is also ignorant and arrogant. From Margaret Mead to Kristine Gebbie, the ideologues of sexual liberation have talked as if they had personally invented sex.
Miss Gebbie breathlessly informs us—stop the presses!—that sex is “an essential thing to human life” and “a positive thing.” Does she think that she and the cultural class she represents are the first to discover this? It has been known and experienced in the lives of countless happily married couples across the millennia, and perhaps nowhere more than in marriages lived under the banner of Christianity, whose Founder pronounced the intimacy of man and wife to be a blessed thing.
The same is true today. Several surveys show that married couples who attend church at least once a week make up the most sexually contented segment of society. And then there are the hundreds of thousands of Christian teenagers who are making personal promises to remain abstinent until marriage. Repressed? Victorian? They’re frank about sex, positive about it, and looking forward to it. They just don’t want to debase it by using it as a cheaper alternative to seeing a movie, or (for boys) as a way of asserting machismo in the absence of positive male role models, or (for girls) as a desperate ploy to hold on to a boyfriend—or any of the other sad, dead—end abuses of sex that become common whenever a society sheds its “repressed Victorianism.”
Finally, Miss Gebbie’s agenda is not only ignorant and coarse; it’s also totalitarian. “The next generation of young people,” she said, “should be prepared to enter an adult sexual life with a better base of attitudes and information than we have provided so far.” Note the word “attitudes.” Miss Gebbie and her ilk are out to mess with your kids’ minds. You folks who still think saving sex for faithful and monogamous marriage is a good idea—Miss Gebbie may leave you alone, but she’s determined that your children will have “a better base of attitudes.”
The saddest part of Miss Gebbie’s performance is the part about how our “repressed” attitudes “leave people abandoned with no place to go.”
If there is one indictment above all others that could be brought against the sexual revolution of which Miss Gebbie is such a fervent commissar, it is that it is destroying the home, which is the ultimate place for people “to go.” What sort of old age are people looking forward to when they contemptuously reject all the opportunities that life affords to form lasting, mutually attentive relationships? Will they find the singles scene as satisfying in their sixties as it was in their twenties? Who is going to share our lonely “places” with us, if we’ve spent our youth and adulthood overcoming “hang-ups” about monogamy and fidelity? And what will take the place of homecomings and family gatherings in the lives of children whose parents decide that “Victorianism” isn’t for them?
It’s a cruel, cold, and dictatorial world that stands behind the seemingly liberating views of Kristine Gebbie and her patrons in the White House.
Gary L. Bauer, now President of the Family Research Council, was domestic policy adviser to President Reagan and Undersecretary of Education under William Bennett.