Portrait of an artist as a young prig
Oh dear, Ross Douthat (for whom a lit red candle and an Enya CD is a sure sign of whoredom) is talking about sex again:
None of this renders the abstinence-versus-contraception debate pointless. But we should understand it more as a battle over community values than as an argument about public policy. Luker describes it, aptly, as a conflict between the “naturalist” and “sacralist” approaches to sex — between parents in Berkeley, say, who don’t want their kids being taught that premarital intercourse is something to feel ashamed about and parents in Alabama who don’t want their kids being lectured about the health benefits of masturbation. The debate might be less rancorous if the naturalists and sacralists didn’t have to fight it out in Washington.
This is the real problem with federal financing for abstinence-based education: It drags the national government into a debate that should remain intensely local. We federalize the culture wars all the time, of course — from Roe v. Wade to the Defense of Marriage Act. But it’s a polarizing habit, and well worth kicking.
I will let slide his description of Roe v. Wade as mere part of the “culture war” (because others will no doubt pick it up and beat him about his bearded face and neck with it) as opposed to, say, a health and privacy right of Vagina-Americans and go directly to pointing out that Ross really seems to know less about sex than Megan McArdle knows about…well, anything actually.
As a recent Mother Jones profile put it:
In choosing Douthat, the editors got a peculiar specimen of both. He first gained attention for Privilege, a bittersweet 2005 memoir of his years at Harvard, where the drinking, partying, and hooking up left him feeling alienated. Of one alcohol-fueled fling, he wrote: “Whatever residual enthusiasm I felt for the venture dissipated, with shocking speed, as she nibbled at my ear and whispered—’You know, I’m on the pill.’…On that night, in that dank basement bedroom, she spoke for all of us, the whole young American elite. Not I love you, not This is incredible, not Let’s go all the way, but I’m on the pill.”
Douthat does have a Catholic’s profound sense that sin is real, and he is always on high alert for the perversion of virtue. In a 2006 blog post, for instance, he expressed dismay that Jennifer Aniston’s character in The Break-Up gets a Brazilian bikini wax: “As with breast implants, it’s another instance of modern women taking their sexual cues from pornography.” Indeed, his writing often exhibits a tension between the contemporary, culturally engaged, tolerant intellectual and the moral rectitudinarian. Even his moralizing has two sides: that of the peace-loving Catholic, nourished by the mysterium tremendum of the Mass, and that of the crusader, certain that abortion is murder and masturbation is a vice.
You don’t have to be Einstein, or Chunky Reese Witherspoon for that matter, to figure out that Ross has serious issues with teh sexxytime. Anyone, at the age of thirty, who addresses something that Woody Allen called “the most fun you can have without laughing” by pointing out that he maintains “theological premises about the nature of sex” is on the fast track to Double Wetsuits, Dildo, and Stout Overhead Beamville.
As I have said before, you could take a person like Ross and stick a lump of coal in his butt, and by Friday you’d have a diamond.