"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, August 18, 2017

In Praise Of The Promiscuous–The Gender Revolution And The Surprising Reaffirmation of Bourgeois Values

Kinder, Küche, Kirche were the principles of the moral, conservative, reproductive family which provided the foundation for German National Socialism.  A woman's place was in the home, and she was essential for providing the stability and strength necessary for national renewal.

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This ideal lasted long after the defeat of the Nazis; and was central to American society well into the 60s and defined the role of women.  They were to be not only wives and mothers, but responsible for safeguarding and promoting religious faith; caring for large and happy families, and providing a secure and comforting place for their husbands.

The Sixties Cultural Revolution changed all that.  Women were no longer to be chattels, subservient to men, and chained to children, church, and home.  From that point on they were to be considered the equal of men if not their betters. While they might still attend to domestic concerns, their real value was in the marketplace; and through the expression of their intelligence, wit, insight, and talent they would finally realize their true potential.

The idea of a two-parent, two children, male breadwinner family was dismissed as anachronistic at best and retrograde at worst.  The traditional family, said progressive theorists, should not only be dismantled but restructured and reconfigured to include any number of gender permutations and institutional combinations.  A transgender couple with in vitro children, the egg and sperm donors for which would be themselves transgender or mixed gender would be as legitimate as any other.

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Biological parentage, traditional sexuality, and Biblical prerequisites concerning lineage, heritage, or authority are irrelevant except as matter of choice.  A male father or female mother or blue or pink babies might be options, but of less relevance than more unique pairings.

Despite this radical and remarkable shift in valuation - who could possibly have conceived of it in Queen Victoria’s day? – and as transformative as it might seem, plus ça change still prevails. Families, regardless of their new configurations are still families.  Old, tried and true bourgeois values are still alive and well.  Gay men and women get married at the altar, dote on surrogate children, insist on inclusion at church and playground, insist that despite their alternate sexuality, they are as American as their straight neighbors.

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What was the point, then, of the sexual liberation of the 60s and 70s? Weren’t gay bathhouses more than just a particular and unique sexual expression?  Were they not a symbol of anti-bourgeois identity? Wasn’t every sexual encounter as much a political statement as well as a physical release?

And the heterosexual, straight revolution – what has become of it? Daughters of 70s feminists are getting married in white bridal gowns, sending out invitations, commissioning ice sculptures and themed floral arrangements, arranging bride-groom seating, and going on honeymoons.  Women who were brought up to believe they could have anything and all things are opting for the same traditional, bourgeois, predictable lives of their mothers.

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The Pill may have offered them more independence and sexual mobility than their mothers and grandmothers, but in the end, they are no different.

The fact that they are equal partners in a two-income family is of little relevance to the status quo.  Regardless of their professional engagements, women are still becoming wives and mothers; and although the calculus of balancing all three is increasingly complex, it has the same predictable solution.

Young men, who could be taking advantage of the new ascendancy of women, leaving breadwinning responsibilities to them and enjoying their surprisingly easily gained sexual freedom, have complaisantly accepted their post-patriarchal role. Service if not servility to women is the new masculinity and men embrace it.

Women are still faithful to their historical role as mothers and keeper of the flame but have taken on new extra-familial responsibilities and challenges, resulting in a something’s-g0t-to-give stress-and-pride generation.  Men have given up their traditional roles as head-of-family, patriarch, and ruler-of-the-roost, and have gone quietly into the playroom and nursery.

Not every man, of course. There are those who – like the most savvy and canny in every period of structural change – take advantage of shifting roles, responsibilities, and allegiances.

They are the ones who are quite happy to let their wives do the heavy lifting – long hours on the way to partner or senior medical consultant, high six-figure salaries, and residual guilt over neglecting husband, children, and family – and take advantage of it – while they step out.  While the terms of reference for modern women have been rewritten, no one has paid attention to codifying men’s contractual obligations.

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A few pledges to call the plumber, oversee the trimming of the trees, take the children to the park, and supervise the installation of the new air conditioner are enough to satisfy the New Age Woman who is still – despite one-and-a-half generations – in the thrall of Daddy and willing to overlook male disinclination.

In other words there is still hope.  There are men who disregard the stresses and strains of their ambitious wives, who understand  that it is they who have voluntarily complicated their lives and inadvertently given free rein to millennia-old male imperatives to stray, to dominate, and to rule.

Harford Reynolds was one such man.  He was a willing partner to his wife in the rebellious 70s, a supportive husband during her successive pregnancies and struggles in corporate Washington, and a glad recipient of the unexpected largesse afforded by her feminism.  With a few flowers, an occasional cleaning of the bathrooms, and Sunday mornings at the park with their children, he was Scot free.  He had cing-a-septs, early Sunday mornings, and Spring afternoons.  As long as he kept the bargain – a loosely-worded and never written marital agreement for ‘duty, support, and respect’ – he was never called nor challenged.

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Unfortunately men such as Harford Reynolds are very few indeed; for most have assumed a greater good in subscribing to a political manifesto which excluded them.  The rise in women’s fortunes was absolute.  No decline in men’s fortunes was to be lamented.

Women, so enamored with civil and social liberation, have been slow to realize its true rewards.  Women could be as sexually promiscuous, adventuresome, risk-taking, and sexually satisfied as men if they only gave libertinage a chance - if they gave up on  Kinder, Küche, Kirche once and for all, if they followed the examples of Rosalind, Portia, Margaret, Tamora, Lady Macbeth, and Cleopatra,, Shakespeare’s strong women, and freed themselves once and for all not only from men but the temporal bourgeois ties that bind.

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Promiscuity has been given a bad name; but only because the English language has not yet caught up with sexual trends and devalues extramarital relations.  Women who have lovers,  a la française, are not promiscuous but normal.  Female sexuality has never been bound by convention or social mores. Why should women, finally freed from imprisoning social conventions, ever return to virginity?

The movements for gender equality have their place, for the world has indeed from a classically sexual world; but they will always be subsumed within prevailing bourgeois culture.  There is no way that Andy Warhol, ‘Pink Flamingos’, and John Waters can become mainstream; nor Wilt Chamberlain (‘ The Man of 100 Ladies), the whole of Hollywood, and the new Trump White House.
Just as  America is not  ready for the outrageous vaudevillian, big top, Hollywood epic politics of Donald Trump, it is not ready for radical sexuality. 

Most cultures which have evolved past America’s obsession with Puritanism and insistence on universal rectitude cannot understand America’s consistent return to the middle.  How could we have so squandered our sexual freedom?

If anyone ever doubted it, we are a profoundly traditional, middle class, low-brow culture.  Some say this is a good thing, an antidote to the pretentious intellectualism of Europe; but others know that it is retrograde, anti-liberal, and narrowly self-focused and self-interested

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