Further to the essay I wrote on TRANSLOGIC some time ago, I now want to consider not the logic but the causes of the current disarray in our marital law, identity politics and sexual behaviour.
The short argument, here, is that our current disarray is the long consequence of a SEXUAL FEEDBACK LOOP. For at least a century we have sought to achieve sexual freedom. Against the old marital morality, we have tried to do whatever we want with whomever is agreeable as long as this is qualified by consent. This experiment has been premissed on the idea that it is about freedom of activity. But the experiment has not been controlled and limited to activity. By an elaborate feedback loop our tendency to greater sexual experimentation has come back in a great arc to undermine our sense of our own original sexual nature.
In the article on TRANSLOGIC I suggested that there are three logics, which accompany three stages of sexual history.
The first logic is that I am a man, you are a woman, we commit ourselves to each other ‘until death us do part’, and we have children, where we can.
The second is that I am a man (say, or a woman), and I am free to engage in what we call sexual activity (redefined so it is not simply sexual commerce in the old sense but any activity between any of us which involves our sexual organs) with anyone (man or woman, men or women), as long as they are sexually mature, consenting to this activity, and that no harm (also redefined so it is no longer intrinsic harm but consequential harm) comes to any of the consenting adults.
The third is that I am whatever I want to be, be it a man or a woman, or even what is now called ‘two-spirit’ (with both a male and female soul), and am free to ‘identify’ myself in my chosen manner, but also insist that I should be ‘identified’ by others in this way: any sexual activity is secondary to this.
Now, what I want to observe about this is that there is very likely a causal relation between the second and third stages.
We broke the old imperatives: about living in harmony and commitment, about fulfilling our sexual natures in committed sexual relations, about taking responsibility for the consequences of those sexual relations, and about building our institutions around the virtues of the relations as sanctified by care of children.
The second stage, I now think, depended on the assumption that every one of us is whatever we were supposed to be in the first stage: a man or a woman. But then it is assumed that we could do whatever we wanted. The particular claim I want to make here is I think that it is very likely that this freedom to do whatever ‘I’ want dissolved my certainty about who the ‘I’ was who possessed this freedom. Our free sexual activity was not simply free activity: the freedom was a corrosive agent which acted upon our nature – or what we formerly supposed, but now were inclined to doubt, was our nature. In a word, sexual possibility (concerning what we could do) fed back into sexual identity (concerning what we are).
This is the sexual feedback loop.
The result has been chaos: the chaos of LGBT, and now of Trudeau’s 2SLGBTQ+. There is, as critical commentators frequently suggest, no limit to the conveyor belt of initial letters of this contemporary set of movements. But, in terms of my argument, what I want to say is that L and G and B were originally meant to be terms about what we do. They then became terms for what we are, accompanied by T and the rest: where ‘what we are’ is our nature, that is, our chosen nature, that is, our artificial self-representation.
The root cause of this was uncovered 150 years ago. In the second half of the 19th Century, the historian J.R. Seeley wrote an astonishing piece called ‘The English Revolution of the Nineteenth Century’. In it he claimed that the fundamental principle of all new politics was the abolition of monopolies. One of the significant monopolies which was in the process of being abolished was what Seeley in 1870 called the ‘male monopoly’ (and what is now called ‘patriarchy’). The monopoly was broken by an unbuttoning of culture associated particularly with the recognition of homosexuality and the rise of feminism, but also, importantly, with the liberation from nature made possible by technology, and of course the opportunities these offered to both men and women. What were the consequences of this abolition of the male monopoly?
First we achieved freedom of activity. Then we achieved freedom of identity.
By the first step we lost the asymmetries which used to steer everyone into marriage: and so we saw the relaxation of marital law, up to and including the passing of the laws which recognised ‘civil unions’ and then ‘same-sex marriages’ as equally acceptable to traditional marriage. This state sanctioning of sexual freedom – through contraception, divorce and abortion to same-sex marriage – was originally premissed on the view that we know who we are and know what we want.
But, now, as a consequence of the second step we increasingly do not know who we are or what we want. The breakdown of traditional marriage has been accompanied by the breakdown of male responsibility and the breakdown of female instinct, both of which have gone into chaos: as men are torn between the old inclination to take a woman and bear the consequences and the new inclination to enjoy whatever they can without consequence (as well as the new cultural encouragement to show empathy, be a ‘feminist’, ‘raise the kids’, etc.), and as women are torn between the old inclination to take a man and bear the consequences and the new inclination to see enjoyment without consequence as legitimate (as well as the new cultural encouragement to be ambitious and adventurous, ‘kick ass’, etc.). Women are discovering the Old Adam, and men are trying to compensate by trying to adopt a bit of the Old Eve. (There’s quite a worm in that apple.) Plus there are now a lot of belligerent, censorious and sententious New Evams and Adeves.
This confusion (which I see Genevieve Gluck in Spiked claims has been magnified by pornography) has arguably led us into marital affray, mental disorder, substance addiction, perpetual depression, social irresponsibility, and medical tortures, all now sanctified by the ideologies of the diversity movements which declare that one should be proud of being confused and that individual confusion is in fact not confusion but membership of a proud community. By the second step we have seen the concretisation of this confusion – through inversion – from something negative into something positive: a movement which is now come to convert everyone to its exotic and unnatural and inclusive totalitarian creed.
At the moment in the West there are three ‘communities’.
- The first community supports the entire LGBT+ canon. They advocate the new ‘liberal’ [sic] position: the Woke position, the New Enlightened Position, the Nice Totalitarian position.
- The second community declares, “Thus far, and no further.” Figures like Douglas Murray, Brendan O’Neill and probably Piers Morgan defend freedom, including sexual freedom, but excoriate the consequences of the recent ‘Trans’ movement. This was the standard (old) liberal position: dominant between 1968 and 2008. It should be a bore, but it has suddenly become interesting because of the advent of the first community. It is still just about legitimate to argue from this position in our mainstream culture.
- The third community is composed of Christians, and pagans whose instincts are, if not Christian, then traditional in the sense of concerned with faithful or old-fashioned marriage. This is the conservative position, now, though it was anything but a conservative position for, let’s say, a thousand years at least. It is now becoming almost impossible to articulate this position in public: especially if it comes armed with condemnations of or cautions about all irregular sexual activity and now irregular sexual identity.
The whole debate has an air of unreality about it, since it is a game of tennis played between the first and second communities, with the third community silent. The debate has gone so far to the left that the third community, ironically, has to depend on homosexuals, lesbians and their liberal ‘allies’ to defend whatever vestiges of respectability and good order still remain in our society.
The point of the argument here is to make people like Douglas Murray and Brendan O’Neill think again. For the root of the problem is not what they think it is. It is not ‘Trans’. It is, in a word, ‘Gay’. The root of the problem is the abolition of the male monopoly associated with homosexuality, and, of course, feminism. Now, I am not condemning or blaming homosexuality as a set of dispositions, proclivities, indulgences, activities or interests. These have always existed in some form, along with other forms of libidinism and libertinism. Feminism is, in part, unobjectionable. But obviously ‘Homosexuality’ as an institutionalised ideology is a different matter. So is ‘Feminism’ as an institutionalised ideology. The cause of our malaise is not any particular behaviour. It is the public sanction of this behaviour, and the institutional establishment of it. If I am right – and I may not be (one makes an argument but, as a sceptic, one also shrugs one’s shoulders at it) – then this has caused the confusion that has recently thrown up the strangely corporation-ready ideology of paradoxically diversitarian sexual totalitarianism.
We have added ‘experiments in being’ to John Stuart Mill’s ‘experiments in living’. There has been too much experimenting in the last century.
Some liberals are caught in a bind because at the moment they want to approve of ‘Feminism’ and ‘Homosexuality’ but disapprove of ‘Trans’. This may seem to be a coherent position, and certainly for the moment it is a politically acceptable one, because the liberals are saying that although they are on board with equality, freedom, consent etc., they are not on board with novel sorts of harm. But I would say that this position is ultimately incoherent. It is a transitional position. The liberals will eventually find out – if it is not yet obvious to them – that the very freedom they think they want has generated the consequences they now want to deny.
Dr. James Alexander is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Turkey.