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Dad Meets the Sexual Revolution

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This coming Sunday, in homes across the nation, millions of American men will awake to the arrival of breakfast in bed. Prepared and served by their children, these Father’s Day repasts convey appreciation as well as contributing to the general bonhomie of the day to come. But as he sips his coffee from his “World’s Greatest Dad” mug, even the most obtuse father has to ask himself: Have I been the man my children deserve?

For dads with daughters, the question can be particularly disquieting as we contemplate a sexual revolution that has lost sight of any boundaries. In theory it’s all gloriously empowering. But for those who regard human sexuality as a profound gift, and la différence as a key to appreciating this gift, it’s astonishing how judgments that would have been elementary to our great-great-grandmothers today elude the most privileged and well-educated.

Just one example, from a news story that made national headlines about two years ago. At Stanford, two grad students were cycling across campus when they noticed a young man sexually engaging a woman who wasn’t moving. In the cozy surrounds of a campus dumpster.

The young man was a member of the Stanford swim team. He was sentenced to six months for sexual assault and released after serving half his time. The coverage suggests the issues are complicated. But are they?

For young men: Does it require a Stanford degree to know that sexual contact with an unconscious woman is a line a man does not cross? As for being drunk himself, if he had no notion he might be doing something wrong, why did he make a run for it when the cyclists interrupted him?

For young women: This may sound impolitic, but loving moms and dads say it anyway. What happened here is a lesson in the vulnerability of women not in control of themselves because they are drunk.

The straw-man rejoinder is that this suggests the woman was “asking for it.” To the contrary, this is a refusal to allow ideology to deny a fact of life. The physical reality is that a woman’s inebriation removes a critical barrier to assault and humiliation.

The great fraud of our age, of course, is that consent and contraception are all a woman needs to have sex the way a man can. Certainly birth control and its backstop (abortion) permit women to enjoy a sexual relationship without the fear of an unwanted child. But seldom does anyone ask whether an unwanted pregnancy is the only unfortunate consequence a consensual sexual relationship might bring.

This father wonders. I know any number of accomplished women who are not prudes, who want to be more than someone’s Tinder swipe and who are looking for full and worthy partners. When these women relate the reality of modern courtship—how so many first dates end with the man making clear that not jumping into bed with him means no second date—let’s just say “empowering” is not the first word that comes to mind.

In a 2014 piece for the Weekly Standard, Heather Mac Donald noted that when the social default for unmarried sex was “no,” the woman didn’t have to explain herself. “No” was sufficient. The irony is that this default meant the woman held most of the cards when it came to deciding whether a relationship would become sexual.

Today, Ms. Mac Donald notes, the default has become “yes”—and the woman who resists is both on her own and on the defensive. For men, of course, this has been a most welcome shift. And no doubt for some women, too.

Then again, if all women are yearning for is strings-free sex, why does it seem to require so much alcohol? Might one answer be the loneliness that comes from giving fully of yourself in the hope of finding intimacy—and in return getting only intercourse?

Already I hear the chorus rumbling. Mansplaining! This guy’s a dinosaur! Get woke!

Perhaps. Then again, most dads accept that part of the job is a willingness to be the unfashionable one; that is, to love enough to speak unpopular truths when the world cheats your children with fifty shades of grey. For all the complaints about “toxic masculinity,” genuine masculinity seems hard to come by. Surely the greater male dysfunction of our time is perpetual adolescence, and a culture that encourages the man-child.

So this Father’s Day, looking over the three greatest blessings in his life, this dad pines for the day when we might again speak honestly and openly about the profound differences between male and female sexuality, when the heart might be taken as seriously as the orgasm—and when young men pursuing young women might even rediscover the marvelous possibilities of moonlit summer evenings.

Source: William McGurn, wsj.com