This election will be remembered as a metaphor for our civilization. Though many people dislike both candidates for diverse reasons, one underlying subtext has now emerged into the open that shows there is still a very clear difference: the power of sexual indulgence to determine our politics.
The consequences of uninhibited sexual freedom are now as explicit as a pornographic movie. Both candidates are not only products but pioneers of the Sexual Revolution, and together they personify its political dynamic.
On the one hand, Trump epitomizes the personal hedonism of the Sexual Revolution – the side dominated by men. (He is not the first, but his case is the most politically critical – more than, say, Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton.) This side of the Revolution came first chronologically. Playboy magazine and its imitators came on the scene in the 1950s. This represents sexual freedom for its own sake, with no pretense at any larger principles.
Shortly after, we began to see the political side of the Revolution. This began with the “free love” of the beat and hippy generations, which transformed unlimited sexual freedom into a political statement: an act of rebellion against all authority. This soon transformed itself into the more aggressive and authoritarian feminism.
Though it may seem strange now, the two sides began as partners. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was genuinely perplexed and hurt when the feminists eventually turned on him as an exploiter of women. He had thought they were allies against prudery.
Though the feminists continued to champion sexual freedom and do to this day, they also turned sex into a political weapon and a show of power. They replaced the old sexual morality, defined by religion and enforced by social disapproval, with new political definitions of sin, defined by state functionaries and enforced by gendarmes.
The result was a political dialectic combining freedom with authoritarianism. “While women’s studies professors bang pots and blow whistles at anti-rape rallies,” observes Heather MacDonald, “in the dorm next door, freshman counselors and deans pass out tips for better orgasms and the use of sex toys.” This is no contradiction but a political dynamic that both encouraged unrestrained sex and then punished men for engaging in it.
Both sides of the dialectic are seen, for example, in students and military men who indulge in the orgiastic hook-up culture, which (however consensual) then leaves them open to accusations of “sexual assault” and “rape.”
Who will benefit from the latest Trump sex scandal, and what lessons will we learn? Not that those who defended traditional sexual morality – and became the objects of our ridicule ever since the 1960s – were right all along. No one describes Trump’s escapades as “immorality” or “fornication” or “adultery.” These quaint words do not appear in the media, even from conservative politicians. If they are invoked even in the churches, it is not with much conviction. When was the last time anyone heard a sermon on “adultery” or “fornication” or “chastity” or cohabitation or divorce – even though these are precisely the practices that create tens of millions of broken homes and fatherless children, accounting in turn for almost all social pathologies such as violent crime and substance abuse, plus the bloated bureaucracies and out-of-control domestic spending to deal with these problems?
No, even conservative politicians invoke not the traditional morality that inhibited mouths like Trump’s, but the political ideology that has replaced it: “sexism,” “misogyny,” “sexual harassment,” and other new political jargon that no one fully understands because it can be expanded to mean anything. Indeed, it implies quasi-criminality that rationalizes more government power. By spinning Trump’s adolescent behavior in ideological terms, the radicals reap the rewards of the sexual chaos they themselves foment. This is but one example of what scholar Bryce Christensen means when he says, “Gender-neutering utopians adroitly turn the social problems they cause into a justification for seizing yet more power.”
And now the utopians are personified in their own presidential candidate. Though Hillary’s feminism has been played down by both sides, so as to minimize the widening “gender gap,” no one really had to mention it. It is the unspoken subtext running throughout this election campaign. For indeed, it is here that Sexual Revolution is complete: the acquisition of political power at the highest level.
It is not Trump who will pay the price. It is others who will have to endure the radical sexual agenda in all its facets: the unborn, fatherless children and their victims, accused men who lack Trump’s means to defend themselves in courts intimidated by feminists, parents who lose their children to feminist social workers, religious believers who refuse to accept same-sex marriage, and more.
Trump has one chance, and so do the rest of us. The only way his apology will come across as sincere is to directly confront the sexual decadence of our culture and start showing us that he understands the full consequences of his own foolishness, not least in handing political power to sexual radicals.
Anyone who still pretends that unrestrained sexual indulgence is harmless is either a fool or a power monger. Real leadership now requires Trump to confess that (like many of us) he was a fool and to demonstrate that Hillary is a power monger.
Stephen Baskerville is professor of government at Patrick Henry College. His book, The New Politics of Sex, will be published by Wipf & Stock.