Kathryn Lopez

Jennifer Roback Morse will talk to anybody who will listen about the social impact of sexual promiscuity. And we can all be thankful for that. Morse, author of "Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-up World" (Spence, 2005), demonstrates that the most intimately personal is absolutely political.

Morse's book is the sex-ed class you probably never had, the birds-and-the-bees talk you'd love her to have with your children. Her basic point: Don't be so close-minded when it comes to sex because it's about more than you. Morse argues that, "Human sexuality is the great engine of sociability. Sexuality builds up the relationship between the couple, and this relationship becomes the basis of higher society."

Sex matters. Not just to the two (or more?!) actively participating, but it has ramifications. If you're married, one act may change the structure of a family for generations. If you're not, what if there's a pregnancy? If you're cheating on a spouse, take a look at family courts or classroom discipline problems or talk to your local police precinct for stories about some of the pathological ramifications. Sex is a civil act inasmuch as "there is much more at stake in our love lives than just personal happiness. It matters to other Americans whether we succeed -- because bad sex and bad family life usually produce damaged children." And society pays for bad sex choices. When you know, for instance, that only 6 percent of married families in the United States live below the poverty line -- a fact Kay Hymowitz points out in a recent piece in "City Journal," a national urban-policy magazine -- you better realize that "smart sex" decisions really have the potential to do a world of good.

Morse, a conservative economist, who taught at Harvard and dubs herself "Dr. J," has the rhetorical advantage of knowing too well of what she speaks. She "got to be an expert on what doesn't work." She writes, "I more or less did the whole sexual revolution" while a student. "I tried most of the hare-brained things I'm now writing about: adultery, fornication, cohabitation, group sex, same-sex sex. I had an abortion. I was married and divorced."

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.