Most Americans look back at the radical notions of that rebellious and drug-soaked era with skepticism and discomfort, if not outright regret. The sweeping changes in intimate relationships may have provoked excitement some forty years ago, but those alterations produced so many painful costs in terms of shattered families, degraded culture and proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases that even the most enthusiastic revolutionaries have come to reconsider the advisability of encouraging copulation without consequences or standards.Nevertheless, arguments for redefining marriage (including the shockingly shallow logic behind last week’s Supreme Court decision in California) rely on shamelessly silly assumptions from the Age of Aquarius without acknowledging their dysfunctional history and unwholesome origins. The case for legal sanction for gay unions relies on the notions that it’s beneficial to separate sex from child-bearing, that every intimate urge deserves respect and fulfillment, and that males and females count, ultimately, as interchangeable.
1. Separating Sex, Marriage and Procreation. The British poet Philip Larkin announced the new order in human relationships in unforgettable terms in his poem “Annus Mirabilis”:
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP
The principal facilitator for the new dispensation involved the development and dissemination of the birth control pill and other improved means of contraception. For the first time, young people could “go all the way” without fear of unintended, life-changing consequences. Legalized abortion (given Constitutional protection by Roe v. Wade in 1973) completed the explosion of the ancient association celebrated in another (anonymous) piece of poetry:
First comes love,
Then comes marriage,
Then comes Sally with a baby carriage.