Feminism, Review

Sex Through the Looking Glass

A review of The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and The Growth of Governmental Power by Stephen Baskerville (Angeliko Press, 2017) 408 pages.

One needs to be of a certain age to remember how much of a bounty was promised during the early days of feminism. It was to be a revolution in just about everything, transforming a world made out of male aggression and oppression into a world of feminine love and kindness, of which we would all, men as well as women, be the beneficiaries.

For my own field, organizational behavior, the implications seemed to be pretty well laid out in Carol Gilligan’s classic In a Different Voice. Organization would be based, not on the rules that men had developed to keep from killing each other, but on the feelings that women had evolved to connect. Working life would consist in being cared for and loved.

Being a hater of rules, this appealed to me. But I had my concerns and I thought they needed airing. In accordance with what was, at the time, standard academic practice, I wrote a paper for my professional organization, The American Academy of Management. I pointed out that the realm of feelings encompassed not only love, but also hatred and resentment, and that feelings were subject to spontaneous change and therefore could not provide the structure that rules could, which would seem to undermine the possibility of organization. The paper was not only rejected, but one of the reviewers said I should be reprimanded and expelled from the Academy of Management.

Catherine Mackinnon had told us that the kind of authority that women would establish based on their way of seeing things, by which she meant feminism, would be just about perfect. But while they promised us utopia what we got was political correctness. They turned the world upside down.

Stephen Baskerville’s new book The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and The Growth of Governmental Power is a comprehensive analysis of this process of overturning, showing how it has played out in virtually every social venue, from the individual couplings of men and women, through the family, the welfare state, and all the way up to US foreign policy and the international order.

He begins at the university level, where it began and where its incubation continues. The crucial move here was to accept feminist ideology as a body of objective knowledge, despite the fact that it is, and always proclaimed itself to be, a political program. This posed an existential dilemma for the rest of the university that it has never been able to overcome.

The disinterested pursuit of knowledge, operating through the intellectual disciplines, came under moralistic attack, from which it could not defend itself. For one thing, it could not be mobilized as a form of political will without losing its character as disinterested. The feminist political apparatus, and its clones within the various victim studies fields, colonized the rest of the university and their ideology increasingly defined it. Over time, educated people came to believe that this ideology is what knowledge is, and this has become more true with every passing day:

The scholars are advocates and activists, and no attempt to approach their subject matter from a detached or critical viewpoint is tolerated. The evidence is very plain: no scholar at any university in the Western world today focuses his or her research on a critical analysis or detached appraisal of sexual ideology…. [W]e are being asked to believe that there is 100% unanimity in academia that feminist and homosexual political agendas are simply matters of factual knowledge, equivalent to medieval history or organic chemistry. (P.4)

The core of the feminist transformation is the politics of sex. The politics of sex is, of course, about sex, but more important is that it is about power. Specifically, it is about the power to control how people think about sex.

The purpose of sexual restraint is, and always has been, the stability of the family and, through it, social order. When the sexual revolution became a righteous crusade, the counsels of restraint became subject to moral condemnation, and the institutions through which such counsels have been transmitted came to be seen as agencies of oppression. This could not help but undermine the family and order. When “the personal is political,” as is said, society becomes a circle with no circumference and a center everywhere, as impossible sociologically as it is geometrically.

I think of this in terms of what I call the “pristine self,” which is a self surrounded by nothing but love. In reality, there are no pristine selves, only people’s idea that this is the way they should be treated. Given that, contact with reality leaves them with a feeling of abused entitlement and generalized grievance; their fundamental orientation toward life becomes the enactment of revenge. Society transforms itself into an attack upon itself.

This takes the form of an attack upon men, whose work, which constitutes civilization itself, has come to be experienced with resentment rather than appreciation. Baskerville shows how this manifests itself at the present time through the creation of new classes of vague crimes that can only be committed by men, and which, since they are the manifestation of fundamental, almost metaphysical forces, are adjudicated outside the judicial system, with its safeguards against prosecutorial abuse:

Some of these offenses have been redefined so loosely as to make them the opposite of what plain English suggests, while others have been simply concocted altogether, entailing crimes no one ever heard of before: “rape” that includes consensual sex; domestic “violence” that involves no violence or physical contact or any threat of it; “child abuse” that is routine parental discipline or homeschooling or fabricated altogether to win advantage in divorce court… (p.112)

What began as a drive toward liberation thus becomes tyranny. What was normal becomes antisocial; what was malign becomes laudatory. This is how the social world was turned upside down.

Baskerville’s book is a trip through the looking glass. It provides us with an appalling and alarming series of such inversions. It is ambitious, complex, and highly compelling; it needs to be widely read.

 

Howard S. Schwartz is an emeritus professor of organizational behavior at Oakland University. He writes on the psychodynamics of political correctness. His most recent book is Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). His blog is MarchoftheVirgin.com. He lives in New York City and can be followed on Twitter here.

Filed under: Feminism, Review

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Howard S. Schwartz is an emeritus professor of organizational behavior at Oakland University. He writes on the psychodynamics of political correctness. His most recent book is Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) His blog is MarchoftheVirgin.com. He lives in New York City.

9 Comments

  1. Carl Sageman says

    I am deeply interested in this topic. I will look for this book.

    I have a few comments on this article, as a fellow traveler. You need to expand on this sentence. “When the sexual revolution became a righteous crusade, the counsels of restraint became subject to moral condemnation, and the institutions through which such counsels have been transmitted came to be seen as agencies of oppression. ”

    There is too much of a gap, for me, who has read and researched widely on this topic, to fill the gaps. Are you saying that undermining the family will undermine society? Are you saying that all children should be born to 2 parent families? There is a lot of literature about health effects and poverty of single parent families. However, what about gay people? What about shades of grey like childcare for infants, work crèche, etc? I just couldn’t appreciate what you were alluding to.

    You also mention homeschooling without context. It’s fair to say that schools focus heavily on sex (eg. Some local co-Ed schools near me specifically and consistent emphasise girls, we only talk about girls in STEM, not the bigger gap of boys and reading – or the fact that girls dominate veterinary “science” in all western countries). Is it possible that sexist attitudes in education may drive parents to homeschool?

    The comments about the feelings were excellent. I could probably tolerate the feelings if they were applied consistently across both sexes, although, failing to differentiate the sexes may cause significant social harm if it’s a natural inclination for that differentiation (eg. Read stories about girls raised as boys and vice versa. It messes them up, mentally).

    I’d like to see an expansion of this article. If you do, you may want to reference this article from the Institute of Public Affairs about identity politics,

    https://ipa.org.au/publications-ipa/media-releases/rise-identity-politics-audit-history-teaching-australian-universities-2017

    When your genitals are 4x more popular than the enlightenment for history across all universities, you know academia has deeply entrenched issues. That’s before we even touch on the significant harm that it causes.

    • Carl,
      Remember, I was doing a review of Baskerville’s book. For an expansion of his ideas on families, you should look there. But he does indeed say, and I agree, that undermining the family will undermine society. His argument is that the primary function of the family is to establish the role of the father, and we do know how important fathers are for the socialization of children. I’ll go for that, but for my own reasons, having to do with the radical narcissism, I call it the pristine self, that an exclusively maternal world will give rise to.
      Howard

      • defmn says

        Really enjoyed your synopsis. Thank you for posting it. I think I have to disagree with Baskerville on the function of the family though – or at least what you say is his understanding since I have not read his book.

        The telos of the family is self-sufficiency. Survival and reproduction explain the family. Viewed in this light the evolution to form villages and then towns etc. explains both the taboos and the advantages of human organization.

        The ascendancy of patriarchal societies simply notes the primacy of survival over other considerations. Women needed men to protect them from other men. Now that we have cleared the fields and beaten back the wild beasts (including other men) women feel that men’s role no longer demands that primacy. I think that places an inordinate faith in the conventions of law but here we are.

        jmo

  2. >> the creation of new classes of vague crimes that can only be committed by men, and which, since they are the manifestation of fundamental, almost metaphysical forces, are adjudicated outside the judicial system

    Insightful. The “outside the judicial system” = the court of feelings.

    And as Feminism is the goose that births “various victim studies fields,” the way men are accused of these new vague crimes becomes the way anyone in the target of these victim cultures is attacked.

    Let’s all shine a light on this nonsense… And chase it back into the shadows.

  3. Paul Peterson says

    In our parents time many of the morals were in place as a check on natural human behavior. Later in the 60s many felt these to be forms of undo oppression. Many of these checks on behavior were then vilified over time and discarded. However, this allowed human nature to run freely.

    The downside is being played out on the media. The new morality may make the old morality look small in comparison. Always the problem of utopia is people and the fact they are human and hence limited.

  4. defmn says

    Years ago watching a younger generation grow up I used to joke that the major effect of feminism was that girls were now allowed to make as big fools of themselves as had previously been restricted to boys. If only that had been the end of it.

    The major contribution to society of feminism has been to mainstream victim hood. This says something about women in general but more about the naturally bitter. There is an old distinction traceable to Plato – I think, but my memory fails me – that gratitude is one of the main attributes of the naturally noble while bitterness is ever present in the naturally base. Regardless of its philosophical accuracy the rhetorical value is unquestionable.

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