Author's Note: I have been debating the impact of contraception on society over at www.marriagedebate.com for the last week. My opponent asked me whether I didn’t really want to ban contraception, saying, "Don’t tell me what you think is possible. Surely you have a dream." This is my response.
Thank you for asking. As a matter of fact, I do have a dream.
I have a dream that some day, every child will be conceived from an act of true love between parents who love each other, are married to each other, and eagerly welcome him. I have a dream that every child will spend his childhood with those parents who brought him into being. Parents see the value of the small society they have created between themselves and their children, and do everything humanly possible to sustain that society.
I have a dream that children can be children, take joy in their childhood innocence, and not become sexualized before puberty. All of society recognizes parents as the primary educators of their children, instead of regarding parents as impediments to formal sex education. Parents take seriously their responsibility to provide their children with accurate and complete information about sexuality, including the social and moral significance of sex, rather than acquiesce in whatever the school provides.
Instead of the school deciding when children are ready for sexual information, parents monitor their child’s maturity level, and make a considered judgment about when their child is ready. Parents feel themselves negligent if they fail in this. I have a dream that when parents elect to remove their children from public school sex education classes, the parents no longer feel like interlopers and the children like outcasts.
I have a dream that Corporate America takes some responsibility for preserving the innocence of the young, and monitors the sexual images they place into the public square. Advertisers think it disreputable to market to children using sexual images. Retailers think it irresponsible to place erotic material at check-out counters and other places where children might stumble across them. The entertainment industry takes responsibility for limiting the sexual content of its programming to appropriate venues.
I have a dream that the market accommodates the needs of the family, rather than the family adapting itself to the needs of the market. We create an economy in which people are prepared to earn a living before the age of twenty-five or thirty. Young people graduate from college without crushing debt, and without the prospect of unmanageable housing costs and tax burdens. Families can support themselves on one income, at least for a while. Mothers can return to the labor market and find a place where they can use their talents and earn some money.
I have a dream that young women find a way to embrace their desire for motherhood as well as their desire for meaningful work outside the home. At some time in their lives, most women have the opportunity to give themselves over completely to caring for their children and making their home. Women make sensible life plans for themselves that take into account the possibility that their children may be too needy to be in day care and may need to be with their mothers. I have a dream that mothers not feel that they are wasting themselves if they stay home with their children.
I have a dream that fathers and mothers are husbands and wives. Men and women learn to cooperate with each other, respect each other’s differences, appreciate each other’s unique gifts. Women can trust their husbands not to abandon them, and men can trust their wives not to eject them from the family home.
I have a dream that if a woman chooses a lifetime of barrier-free, chemical-free intimacy with her husband, she not be made to feel like a freak. A family with many children can appear in public, without having to endure rude remarks. People might even show some gratitude to those who are investing their lives and their bodies in building the future of society.
And if any of these things are not possible for a young couple, I have a dream that friends and family will step up to help them. We find a way to accommodate and assist people who are unable to live up to the social norms, without destroying or dissipating those norms. Neighbors will help see them through their difficulties. And if it must be that they rely on the kindness of strangers, these strangers become friends.
I have a dream that we recognize that we have been trying to do something that no society in the history of the human race has ever attempted: create a society that has no norms at all about the proper context for sexual activity or childbearing. We come to recognize how unlikely this is to succeed.
So you see, I am not being evasive when I say I have no interest in regulating contraception. I believe that the widespread promotion of contraception has unleashed many social forces that would have been best contained. But it does not follow that the way to improve our situation is to retrace our steps. I realize that my agenda is not modest. Yet many changes I support do not involve legislation or regulation at all, but rather changes in private-sector policies that accompany a change of heart.
Among those that do require government action, such as reform of divorce laws, the most appropriate venue is state or local legislation, not dictates from the federal judiciary.
You accuse me of wanting to turn back the clock to the 1950's. I have no desire to go backwards. If we are going to go back to any place, it might as well be the Garden of Eden. That is where we are all trying to go anyway, and it is just as practical as going back to the Eisenhower administration.
No, I do not want to go back anywhere. I want us to go forward, to become what we should have been from the beginning.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at jennifer-roback-morse.blogspot.com
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