Monday, August 6, 2007

Goodbye to the Gilder age

George Gilder's Sexual Suicide, which the author later revised extensively and republished as Men and Marriage, is reportedly so hated by feminists that women's-studies departments refuse to authorize course literature that even mentions the book in its index.

You might think that I would love such a book, especially as its author is a champion of family values. But you would be wrong.

I did read Men and Marriage and found much of it brilliant. However, Gilder's central thesis, which has strongly influenced much of the conservative movement from the late Seventies through the present day, strikes me as wrongheaded and damaging.

The author argues that men are barbarians who need "princesses" to civilize them. He cites examples of men who clean up their act to please their love interests. It is all familiar to anyone who knows the songs of "Guys and Dolls," and I don't doubt there's truth in it.

But Gilder takes his exceedingly stereotyped and generalized argument further, implying strongly that because men are barbarians, they cannot be expected to use sexual self-control without a strong impetus from the women around them. As a result, he suggests, the way to bring about a culture of chastity is for society to encourage the chastity of women. Then all a man will have to do is find a good woman and he will be civilized. Problem solved.

Although I had not read Gilder at the time I wrote The Thrill of the Chaste — and, unlike him, my book does advocate chastity for both sexes — in retrospect I believe I was subconsciously infected by the ideas he popularized. I believed, when I first began speaking on campuses, that men would be less interested in chastity than women.

In a word, I was wrong.

From the beginning, my speaking audiences have averaged 60% men. The disparity, I quickly learned, reflects the fact that there are far fewer books, lectures, and other resources for men interested in chastity than there are for women. My book itself contributes to the imbalance, being targeted at women. However, my talks are of interest to men in that I help them gain insight into how women are affected by nonmarital sex and how both women and men may gain the motivation to become chaste.

Two things that I have learned from the men in my audiences is that (1) it is often the woman in the relationship, and not the man, who insists on introducing sex into it, and (2) men — a goodly number of them, at least — really want to be challenged to conquer their passions.

That is why it breaks my heart to read stories like this one, which is proudly posted on the "Real Stories" section of the (taxpayer-subsidized) Web site of Planned Parenthood of Maryland:

I am a male sitting here waiting for my girlfriend who I love dearly to come out of the examination room. We are here for birth control. We made this decision together to come here. I am nervous more than I show her. You see, I am not sure if it is the right time for me to be sexually active, but she is ready.

-Anonymous male, 21 years old.
RELATED: I addressed why some women put emotional pressure men to have sex in "Naked under clothes."

P.S. My next book, a practical guide to chaste dating, will be aimed at men and women: Get Out of My Bed, Get Into My Heart.