The New Politics of Sex:
The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power
by stephen baskerville
angelico, 408 pages, $30
Divorce cases in the U.S. now account for 35 to 50 percent of civil litigation, at a cost to the public purse of billions of dollars per year. Out of these cases has grown a vast panoply of ancillary bureaucracies: social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, child protection experts and enforcers, counselors, mediators, divorce planners, forensic accountants, and so forth. Behind a smoke screen of piety concerning the difficult job they have to do in “helping” or “providing services,” their purpose is the human equivalent of the breaker’s yard: They tear asunder the superstructure of the family and then move to the foundations, demolishing relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, and even sometimes between the children themselves.
In his scrupulously researched book on how the sexual revolution has proven a war against fathers, Stephen Baskerville, professor of government at Patrick Henry College, describes the costs of divorce:
No legislative enactment has spread more turmoil throughout the social order, transferred more power to the state, or done more to debase the legal machinery from a dispenser of justice into a weapon of plunder and aggrandizement of power.
Baskerville challenges a host of dearly held beliefs: that divorce results from philandering men, that women are in grave danger of violence by men at all times, that the most dangerous place for a child is the nuclear family. All this, he shows, is completely, monstrously wrong. Fathers, caricatured as embodiments of the hated patriarchy, have been unseated so that a bureaucratic state might increase its power.
In 2004, the U.K. government announced that it was requiring all doctors and midwives henceforth to ask pregnant women if they were being beaten by their husbands or boyfriends. In justification of this measure, the government claimed that 30 percent of domestic violence was actually “triggered” by the woman’s pregnancy. Such policies show how poorly domestic abuse is still understood. We tend to speak of “wife-beaters” and “battered women,” hardly imagining that the roles of aggressor and victim can be reversed.
A score of years ago, I accepted the conventional cultural wisdom that held women were pretty much incapable of doing really nasty things. But then a series of events led me to check out my intuition, and I discovered survey after survey showing a consistent pattern indicating that in roughly half of intimate relationships in which violence occurs, both partners are violent, with the remainder dividing equally between male-only and female-only violence. Although men are more likely to injure their victims, women are more likely to use weapons to inflict harm, and frequently strike from behind or while their victim is asleep. In 2003, Linda Kelly, a professor of law at Indiana University, summed up the consensus:
Over the last twenty-five years, leading sociologists have repeatedly found that men and women commit violence at similar rates. . . . However, despite the wealth and diversity of the sociological research and the consistency of the findings, female violence is not recognized within the extensive legal literature on domestic violence. Instead, the literature consistently suggests that only men commit domestic violence. Either explicitly, or more often implicitly, through the failure to address the subject in any objective manner, female violence is denied, defended and minimized.
At first this research seemed so counterintuitive that I was reluctant to report it. Then I spoke to Erin Pizzey, who had in 1971 opened the first-ever shelter for battered women in the United Kingdom, in Chiswick, London. She told me that she had already traveled the same road. Of the first hundred women who came to her organization seeking shelter, she said, two-thirds had been just as violent as the men they were allegedly trying to escape. When she went public about this, she was subjected to ostracism and public abuse.
The myths of the common male pedophile, wife-batterer, and deadbeat dad have spread like a cancer, carried in soap operas, movies, talk shows, newspaper and magazine articles, political speeches, and the patter of disc jockeys, even showing up in last year’s apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia. Given how widely shared these stereotypes are, it seems laughable to call them lies. “Yeah, right,” goes the chorus of response from the serried desks of the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Irish Times. Snorts of derision and a couple of satirical throwaways are usually sufficient to put paid to the speaker, who falls into silence, and the crowd, briefly intrigued by the iconoclastic content of his assertions, turns away to feed the ducks. Nothing to see here.
This scenario, which has played itself out 10,000 times, and which serves to keep inverted the public apprehension of reality, is the outcome of effective propaganda. Bulwarked by the utterances of celebrities, the acquiescence of cowardly politicians, vested interests, and the intimidating spleen of cyber-anonymous social justice warriors, these industrialized lies have remained at the core of the official belief systems of our societies for almost half a century.
When I stumbled across some of these tendencies in my own country, Ireland, about twenty years ago, my first thought was that I had run into some kind of overlooked vein of the human rights agenda that all my fellow enthusiasts for freedom and justice had simply not gotten around to pointing out. But then, as I started writing tentatively in my weekly column in the Irish Times of my observations of family-law injustice and the overwhelming preponderance of male suicides, I couldn’t help noticing that those advocating rights for women, gays, and others, far from seeking to join my campaigns, seemed anxious to shut my mouth. They regularly denounced me publicly and formed delegations to demand that the editor relieve me of my responsibilities. I had made the naive error of assuming that “justice” and “human rights” were indivisible and still had more or less the same meanings as in the dictionary.
Baskerville demonstrates that the concepts of equality and human rights have become so perverted that they no longer bear the remotest resemblance to their natural and ordinary meanings. In some respects they have turned into their opposites, allowing no place for whatever percentage of the human species fails to qualify for protection under a victim heading: female, homosexual, black, etc. It is an error to see this as a simple failure to include men in equality, or indeed as any kind of oversight.
I am by inclination a rock and roller. It’s where I started, writing about U2 and Elvis, Dylan and Lennon, all the icons of a liberal youth culture that assumed its own righteousness and irrefutability. When we arrived, back in the 1960s, it all seemed easy: We just overturned the stalls of the gray-bearded patriarchs and renounced them. The issues were clear-cut and objectively irrefutable: apartheid, nuclear disarmament, civil rights for black people, and, of course, equality for women. Time passed, things shifted and shifted again, but the culture kept pumping out the same slogans and shibboleths, which became hermetically sealed into a global groupthink that grew increasingly immune to alternative analysis. Now the clock has turned, though the worm has not, and we discover the revolutionaries walking around on their hind legs, some of them in conspicuous jackboots, behaviorally indistinguishable from the caricatures they once drew of the oppressors they pledged to overthrow. Even Orwell didn’t quite see this coming.
It is difficult to see how, short of outright disaster, this can be turned around. Even half-lies that have become axiomatic are difficult to unmask. Exposing the inversion of facts, principles, and truth presents itself as a seemingly impossible task, made all the more acute by the relentless attrition of a mindless celebrity culture seeking only the oral equivalent of T-shirt slogans.
Several times over the past couple of decades, I have been approached by prominent male celebrity figures whose lives and children’s lives had been destroyed by the culture Stephen Baskerville describes. Having given them what little advice and help I was able to, I watched them turn slowly around again, as they began to stand up for themselves and box a little more cleverly. Eventually, in several cases, I gently suggested to the recovering serf that he might think about sharing his experiences in public with a view to drawing attention to the unseen tyrannies of the contemporary world—and possibly helping other men in the same situation. In each instance, the individual said he would get back to me, but in all cases I’m still waiting.
Will the worm turn? Yes, because the worm always does. When? There is no knowing. One thing seems certain: The impetus, when it comes, will come from the center of culture, not from the peripheries of alternativism and rebellion, which are too entrenched in the propagandized version of reality to dare to rethink their most beloved canards. Indeed, far from questioning the hypotheses that have informed their public gaze for decades, these actors insist that there is some considerable way yet to go before equality is achieved.
There is no issue on the landscape of modern life that represents such an affront to nature and natural justice as those Stephen Baskerville chronicles in this book. For a genuine liberal, progressive, radical, Christian, conservative, maverick, or rock and roller, the attack on fatherhood is one of the most urgent and irrefutable causes of our time, of the same stuff as apartheid and Vietnam, worthy of the same righteousness nuclear disarmament or anti-fascism was when we were young.
This new flag of freedom, as unfurled here by Stephen Baskerville, has as yet provoked no songs, and that is an urgent matter for the songwriters and their consciences. Here’s a title to start someone off: “Hey Ma’am, Ain’t You Got No Boys?”
John Waters is an Irish writer and commentator, the author of nine books, and a playwright.