Sexual Suicide: A critiqueShlomoh Sherman
by George F Gilder
A critique by Shlomoh Sherman
September 25, 2013
I was asked to critique this book so here are my thoughts.
The book is is a criticism of the Liberation Movements, Feminism and Gay Liberation, plus several other aligned issues.
The first thing to notice is that the book was written and published in 1973 and society has changed a lot since then. At the time that the Liberation movements began, there were very strident voices, advocating all kinds of extreme positions. But take into consideration that when any revolutionary movement arises, the pendulum swings all the way to the other side but ultimately comes to rest in the middle. There are no longer any Gloria Steinems or Betty Friedans around, telling us how awfully women are being treated. In fact, women are treated pretty good. In fact, they have achieved acceptance into areas where it might be illogical. Be that as it may, our society has gone a long way to make up for their unequal treatment in a male dominated society. Doesn't a cigarette ad say, "You've come a long way, baby!" :)
Yes, there are now women who want a career and have no interest in having children. These times are not like the times of our parents. In their time, a husband could make enough money to support a wife and many children. Now they can't. And there are women who simply don't want to stay home and tend house and children. What can we do? It's their choice. We can't take away opportunities from them. Why would anyone want to? But you don't see many women today going on about how they are oppressed and forced to be sexual and baby making receptacles. In 1973, you did.
The real oppression was that which led to a sexual double standard in which there were "good girls" and "loose girls." Today, women are all good girls because they have the right to choose how they will conduct themselves sexually without being shunned and given a bad name. Of course, in strict Jewish, Christian, and Muslim societies, women's sexuality is still governed by community attitudes. And good for them. They are entitled to their own morality. Gilder says that old fashioned virgin women kept men in a state of sexual expectation leading to early marriage. BUT people STILL get married, some early and some later. Economics now play a more important role in marriage management than chastity.
Gilder says that love is the important ingredient in forming bonds of couple-hood and marriage, and that feminists were saying that love is an outmoded concept making slaves of women and men. Love is as important today as it ever was and in the 1970s, MOST people thought that this kind of outrageous feminist rhetoric was "crazy". The greater part of society did not go along with the militant stance of Liberation. But at the time, some people such as Gilder, looked at the loudest among the feminists and thought that they were going to be the new leaders of society. That never could happen. It's like someone seeing a flaming fairy and thinking that all homosexuals are such. They are not.
In the 1970s, there were people who seemed to be in favor of Open Marriage. Anyone with sense could see that Open Marriage is not viable in a society such as ours. Open Marriage destroys marriage, love, the family, and the people who practice it. And how many people really DID practice it? Some, and those who did found that it was not a good thing. If a man or woman loves the spouse, he/she does not want the spouse being "open" with another person. So those who did practice it were not the societal norm, and who can say if they really DID love their spouses? Open Marriage more often than not led to divorce. And when there are children involved in so-called Open Marriage, it devastates them. People are generally rational although sometimes it seems that they are not. Basically we know right from wrong, and things that will harm us, and we avoid those things.
The 1970s saw an increase in the divorce rate. Divorce has become more commonplace since then. In prior times, divorce was looked at as a failure and a family disgrace. This was really based on a Christian perspective forced on our secular society. The Jewish wedding ritual does not contain any vow or declaration that the marriage will be "till death to us part." The wedding proclaimation says, in effect, that in the event of divorce the husband will have obligations to his ex-wife. That's all. In the ancient Roman world, divorce was becoming a universally accepted fact of life. Christianity put a stop to that, forcing mismatched mates to stay together in unhappy alliances. American secularism alleviated that condition. Recently in a discussion on marriage, Howard Stern put it sucintly. He said that marriage is good. People should get married and have families but when you get married, don't expect that it will be for life. For some people, marriage is only for 10 or 20 years, and young people should be taught that. They may be deeply in love now but ten or twenty years down the road they won't be the same people. Or they may simply be disappointed in the marriage. No need to blame anyone but be prepared with a pre-nup and don't let anyone tell you that a pre-nup is negative because it signals possible failure of the marriage before death.
That's EXACTLY what it does signify.
We generally marry young and when we divorce, we are older and wiser, and hopefully the next marriage will be the better one. Often it is not. Most people who divorce were not meant to be married.
Gilder feared that as women began taking over traditional male occupations and careers, men would feel disposed of their self esteem, and that would affect their self-image leading to all kinds of feelings of impotence and negative acting out. He said this was especially true in the black communities. I know many men whose mates have moved into roles that were once the sole province of women and none of them feels disposed of male power. Women working alongside men is now taken for granted.
In Israel, women have long been soldiers and now they soldiers in America. Good for them. They are also guardians of our safety as police and fire fighters. If they are physically able, more power to them. But in spite of all that feminist reflection has done, it was no table to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed and females still earn less money than men.
Gilder says that other things outside the realm of the women's movement that go along with the preservation of the family, and Americans opposed to equality of women also in many cases are against day care, welfare, gay rights, marijuana, birth control for unmarrieds, abortion, and ungoverned sex outside of marriage. These things are seen as a detriment to the stability of families in a stable society. Whether or not this is the case, all of these things appear to become a normal, accepted part of American society. In some cases they actually DO negatively affect the family, and in many cases they do not. This is the whole issue of Gilder's book.
To sum up, Gilder says that rights granted to American individuals have a negative affect on the American family. But lawmakers not concerned with the family so much as they are concerned with the individual citizen - because for too long, the individual had suffered from suffocating, illogical laws imposed on a secular society by politically powerful religious organizations whose agendas have always conflicted with the Constitution.
One day, my rabbi, Shlomo Riskin, gave a speech in SHUL in which he stated that ever since New York City introduced males and females sharing the same patrol car, divorce has gone up in the NYC Police Dept. That is probably true. But so what? I repeated this to some women I knew and their response was - too bad but we are not going back to the old ways just because people are divorcing. What can one do?
Gilder is correct. The country and its lawmakers are giving more attention and rights to the individual and not taking into consideration the affects of these rights on the traditional family. And that is why those who uphold the traditonal family have to be more vigilant in the ways that they conduct their lives. It's not that America is suffering sexual suicide or any other suicide. It's simply that the RESPONSIBILITY for maintaining traditional families has shifted from government overseeing to personal family overseeing.
Every change in society since the beginning of human history has brought about negative effects as well as positive ones.
America now is very much the same as it was in the 1970s. We have learned to ignore or shout down strident revolutionaries. We still fall in love, get married, go to school, go to work, go to SHUL and church. We still maintain our American values. It's just that now they are becoming less CHRISTIAN American values. But Christian or secular, there will always be love, respect, marriage, children, family even though certain people who did things in secret even before the 1970s are now doing them openly with the consent of the law.
Gilder wrote a really good book. It's just that it is now in many ways, out of date.
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