This is my impressionistic take on how ideas about government influence ideas about sexual morality.
In pseudo-intellectualese “impressionistic” means I haven’t done any research at all or even bothered to think too hard about what I’m going to say. You are warned. This post is more “bloggy” than is normal here.
Somewhere along the line–probably reading Shakespeare, or talking historic Catholic natural law theory at Notre Dame–I realized that a certain antique attitude towards sexual morality and towards government overlapped. There was an idea that the passions, including the sexual passions, were unruly servants needing to be restrained by the wise rule of the will or the intellect. If there really is a connection, then you would expect a more democratic and egalitarian age, like ours, to have a greater problem with sexual morality.
Intellect: Don’t casually bed that girl!
Passions: Whatever. I didn’t vote for you.
What’s interesting about this is that you still hear Mormons talk about sexual morality in terms of “ruling” or “mastering” the components of one’s self that make good servants but bad masters. Is it just a coincidence that Mormons both advocate for and live sexual morality more than the population at large and also that Mormons live in a hierarchy that we take seriously? I dunno. Probably. These kinds of things of are hard to measure, but it probably doesn’t help the argument much that the peak of sexual morality was, say, 1850-1950, which was hardly the nadir of democracy and egalitarianism.
Anyway, I love this kind of stuff. Tocqueville on the democratic family, that kind of thing. Is it just a coincidence that I should be writing this post when I came across this article this morning?