They posted another of my articles at The American Spectator Online on Sunday. It’s called A Message to the Young: Beware the Groove.
It was around 1973, and I was attending a small Midwestern college. This being the ’70s, the school was already busy debriding itself of its past Christian tradition and regenerating as a sort of flyover Dartmouth.
I was in a Christian Ethics class, listening to presentations on the topic of sex. A young woman had already informed us that the Roman Catholic Church saw no value in women except as baby factories — I was kind of pleased with myself for asking her how she accounted for nuns.
British author Sofka Zinovieff, 58, has written a book set in the 70s about a relationship between a child and an adult who is twenty-five years older. It has been called “a Lolita for the era of #MeToo.” In The Guardian this month, she writes about how her daughter’s generation think they have this morality thing all figured out.
When I asked my 23-year-old daughter whether there was sometimes too much emphasis on consent, she retorted: “You can’t debate the importance of consent when rape is still such a big issue. It’s confusing priorities.”
I tried again with my 26-year-old daughter. “It must sometimes be hard these days for sensitive, intelligent, young men,” I said. “They have to be so careful about what they can say and do.”
“It’s only about not being an ****##$*,” she replied curtly. “That’s not so difficult. It’s just speaking and behaving with respect.”
Zinovieff doesn’t spell out exactly what she’s defending. Perhaps we’d have to read her book to get a better idea. But I wonder if both she and her daughters are saying the same thing: whatever happens in a physical relationship, if everyone continues to say her or she approves of it, then it’s good or at least difficult to oppose; only when someone says he or she has been hurt does the relationship become a problem.
I’m going to criticize a song you’ve almost certainly never heard. And when you watch the video, below, you won’t understand it, because it’s in Danish.
But I thought of it last night, during one of my ever-popular sieges of insomnia. I hadn’t heard it since I stopped playing my vinyl albums, back in the ‘90s. So I checked out the video. And the more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me. Because I think it’s a really pretty and sweet piece. But also wrongheaded and soul-killing.
The singer is Birgitta Grimstad, as well-known Danish folk singer. This number, adapted from a modern Swedish popular song, was a big hit for her in that country. What it describes, in brief, is how the singer wakes up on a beautiful morning to find herself alone in her bed. And she immediately understands that “it happened, what we talked about.” Her lover has moved on – he’s searching, metaphorically, for “Samarkand,” which apparently symbolizes some transcendent dream that won’t let him settle down.
Except that’s not exactly it. She says, “…and another will be what I can never be.” In other words, her lover is looking for a new – presumably better – lover. She is sad about it, and cries. But she’s very accepting and hopes he finds what he’s looking for “if you ever find your way to Samarkand.”
There it is, the ethic of the 1970s. “Love” means sex, and sex is temporary. Nobody is obligated to stay in a relationship if some better prospect shows up. I first heard this song on the “Prairie Home Companion” program, and I remember Garrison Keillor praising its “sweet reasonableness.” Well, from what we’ve now learned about Keillor, it’s no surprise he’d consider the song reasonable. The perfect lover is one who lets you go without complaining, when you get offered an upgrade.
So here I am again, railing against sins I never got the opportunity to commit. But I’ll say this – I suspect that a lot of the anger we see in radical feminism today springs from women who were expected to play this kind of submissive game back during the Sexual Revolution years.
All of a sudden, it seems old cases of sexual abuse are being dragged out into the light. Almost all at once. As if there’s been a massive sea change in our society. Perhaps that’s true. There comes a moment when the dam breaks, when the worm turns, when the last straw sends the camel off to the chiropractor.
But I’m inclined to think of it as chickens coming home to roost.
I’m fairly sure there’s lots of political maneuvering going on at the moment. I’m certain there are plenty of slimy things still hiding under a lot of rocks. Both sides are firing warning shots, to remind their opponents that this is a game any number can play.
That’s because of the place we’re at in history.
Any man (and yeah, we’re talking mostly about men here) who’s alpha enough to have achieved political power (or Hollywood power, for that matter) by our present decade was probably coming into sexual maturity in the 1970s, or at least in the 1980s which were the residue of the ‘70s. And that was the age of the Sexual Revolution. We had at last shucked off the carapace of Puritanism (or Victorianism) and discovered the Prime Truth: Sex Is Good.
I remember the propaganda. Sex is Good. Always good. Morally good. Good for you. Good for society. Sex good. Experimentation good. Marriage bad.
What nobody mentioned was the tremendous pressure this put on young women. “Come on baby, I know you want to. Hey, you’re not repressed, are you? You’re not one of those hung-up bourgeois, are you? You want to smash capitalism, don’t you? You want to end the Vietnam War? Then get with the program, girl! Here, ingest this.”
And of course they couldn’t complain. Didn’t want to be square. Didn’t want to be one of those God Squadders.
Today, at long last, women are starting to feel free to tell the stories. And alpha males everywhere are suddenly very worried.
“The book was not about Harvey per se,” Peter Biskind told him. “It was about the explosion of independent film in the ’90s.”
But Chotiner pressed him on whether he’d heard stories of Weinstein’s (or other people’s) aggressive immorality.
“There was a lot of free sex in the ’70s,” Biskind said. “This was the era of free love, so everybody was stoned all the time. . . . There was a general feeling in the ’70s, and I think it has always been true in Hollywood, all the way back to silent pictures, that rules don’t apply to them, which was the name of Beatty’s last movie. It’s the air they breathe. They are not constrained by civilian morality, put it that way.”
I don’t have any respect for The Color Purple, and now I have less respect for Alice Walker, but it’s good for some people to give themselves up as examples of bad ideology. Walker’s daughter, Rebecca, writes about how hard it was to live with a neglectful mother.
My mother would always do what she wanted – for example taking off to Greece for two months in the summer, leaving me with relatives when I was a teenager. Is that independent, or just plain selfish?
I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill and the Brontes died prematurely. My mother had me – a ‘delightful distraction’, but a calamity nevertheless. I found that a huge shock and very upsetting.
According to the strident feminist ideology of the Seventies, women were sisters first, and my mother chose to see me as a sister rather than a daughter. From the age of 13, I spent days at a time alone while my mother retreated to her writing studio – some 100 miles away. I was left with money to buy my own meals and lived on a diet of fast food.