It's the Sex, Stupid: A Response to Mark Steyn

Jennifer Roback Morse
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Posted: Jan 09, 2006 12:05 AM
Mark Steyn’s analysis of “The Real Reason the West is in Danger of Extinction” is completely correct in his important recent article, “It’s the Demography, Stupid.” But behind the problem of the West’s below replacement fertility levels, lies the problem of sex. Babies come from sex. The modern view of sex has created the demographic collapse of the West, and the human void into which Islamic fertility is rapidly flooding.

Sex is an organic reality, with two natural purposes written on the human body. The first is procreation. The second is not so obvious but equally important. Sex builds up and solidifies the relationship between the members of the couple. We know now that sexual activity physiologically creates a bond between the partners.

Women connect to their sex partners, and to their children, due to a hormone called oxytocin. Women secrete this hormone during orgasm, and while breast feeding. Oxytocin creates a response of “attach and connect.” It promotes attachment between a mother and her newborn infant, so that she will enjoy taking care of the helpless infant’s needs. Oxytocin promotes her connection with her sex partner, who after all, may become the father of her child. All this is nature’s way of keeping the woman bonded to her child and to her child’s father.

These natural purposes build the community of the family. Procreation brings new life into the family. Because sex supports the relationship between the parents, it helps them work together long enough to raise their children to adulthood. The fact that sex is fun is along for the ride. The fun is nature’s way of getting us to keep the species going.

But the modern world has completely lost sight of the social purposes of sex. We now regard sex as a private recreational activity, with no moral or social significance. Unlimited sexual activity without a live baby resulting is the quintessential modern entitlement.

I call this modern view, consumer sex. Sex is a consumer good and our sex partners are objects that please us more or less well. When I am speaking at college campuses, and feeling particularly mischievous, I call it Wal-Mart sex. (I myself have no problem with Wal-Mart, but I can always count on finding Wal-Mart haters on college campuses.) The modern sexual ethos provides us with large amounts of low-cost sex, without ever taking into account the spill-over costs associated with our behavior.

I submit that this view of sex is at the root of the West’s demographic death spiral. Sex is naturally a force for sociability. Consumer sex inverts the whole natural order of sexuality. Instead of drawing us out of ourselves and into relationship with others, we turn sex inward, on ourselves and our own individual pleasure. The natural purposes of sex, both procreation and spousal unity, have become strictly optional. We think we are entitled to have sex with someone we’re not married to, or not even in a relationship with. And we have created a conspiracy of silence around the sad fact that no one really wants to be on the receiving end of this “use and be used” culture.

Demographic collapse is hardly surprising. Many commentators have observed that children have become a commodity, an extra line on the accomplished woman’s resume. Few have noticed the short, direct line from sex as a commodity, to sex partner as commodity, to babies as commodities.

Without permanent bonds between parents, having babies is a risky business. Marriage is the healthiest, most reliable environment in which to bring children from helpless infancy to productive adulthood. But our society has become indifferent as to whether parents are married or not. We are even on the verge of becoming indifferent as to whether children have two parents of the opposite sex or of the same sex. Hardly a cultural environment conducive to having a higher than replacement level of fertility.

So, as I said, Mark Steyn’s article is correct in every particular. But I didn’t rush to the computer to compose another op-ed column, as well-argued articles often inspire me to do. This time, I reached for the Flash Cards. That’s right. A grown woman, with a doctorate in economics, I reached for the Flash Cards.

I was one of those career women who thought I was being sensible to postpone childbearing until I had tenure. I have had only one “live birth,” as the demographers would say. In that sense, I am part of the problem of the well-educated, high-income women who can’t bring themselves to replace themselves.

But I was blessed with adoption. And, Divine Providence, acting through San Diego County Child Protective Services, has placed two school-aged foster children in my care. I didn’t bring them into the world, but I have at least temporary responsibility for them. Mark Steyn inspired me to make sure that these two little rascals learn enough math to take care of themselves when they grow up. Goodness knows, no one else is likely to do that for them. Not their birth parents, the County’s agencies or the public schools.

What women do and want will be decisive in determining whether the West survives the demographic clash with Islam. If intelligent, educated women believe children are an unacceptable distraction from their careers, we won’t have many kids. If women regard flash cards as beneath their dignity, educating the next generation will be left to hired help. If women think raising a child alone is less trouble than dealing with a pesky man, we’ll have a lot of stressed out single mothers and poorly raised kids.

So, stay at home moms, don’t let anyone tell you that you are wasting your talents. Without your contribution of a healthy, functioning next generation, all the strength of the U.S. military won’t be enough to protect us from the primal force of Islam that believes in itself enough to replace itself. Your actions show that you believe in your civilization enough to invest in its future.