Jennifer Roback Morse on the mess we're in
Marilyn Monroe’s childhood included: a mentally unstable mother, a completely absent father, a disorganized childhood that included two different foster homes, probably sexual assault at the hands of adults in those homes, and an early marriage that she hoped would create stability. The “glamorous” side of her adult life included movie stardom, modeling, appearance in the first issue of “Playboy” in December 1953, three marriages, and an uncertain number of affairs. The dark side of her adult life included sexual exploitation by rich and powerful men, drug use, and her own cavalier disregard for the feelings of others. And in spite of all her fame and success, she had an unsureness of herself and her own value that included stage fright and finally, an early death. [Her biographer Norman Mailer wrote that she’d had twelve abortions before age 29.—ed.]
Her life and death is a metaphor for the Sexual Revolution. The “glamour” and the empty promises get the full attention of the media. The downsides, not so much. The sexual exploitation that led to so much of the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe’s life does not get the blame that it deserves. Neither does the brokenness of her early family life. We just keep looking at the carefully-crafted images and ignore the dark underside.
Likewise, the media still do not connect the dots between the poisonous ideology of the Sexual Revolution and the pain and grief and ultimately the loneliness that are endemic in our society. This book tries to fill that gap.
How is your message being received on college campuses? What kind of ratio do you see between overt hostility and acknowledgement that you’re on to something?
It depends on the issue. I find that young people are very receptive to hearing that something is dreadfully wrong with our divorce culture: many of them have been wounded by their parents’ divorces. I talk about cohabitation in this book: some women grasp that something is wrong with cohabitation. Some are open to hearing about alternatives to the hook-up culture. But on the issue of a gender requirement for marriage, many young people are deeply committed to removing the gender requirement out of solidarity with their friends. I find they have not really thought about it very deeply. And I also find that the Gay Lobby has drawn so much attention to “their” issues that it takes up all the air in the room, making it very difficult to have reasonable conversations about a whole variety of issues.
Nonetheless, we at the Ruth Institute have found quite a few very bright and talented students who are deeply committed to the Ancient Teachings of the Church on marriage, family and human sexuality. And I find these students among most of the major faith traditions: Evangelicals, Latter Day Saints and observant Jews, as well as Catholics.
Have you been back to Yale to speak during Sex Week?
I have not been back to Yale during Sex Week. I was, however, invited to Harvard during their first similar event. I was part of an alternative program, sponsored by students from the Love and Fidelity Network club there called The True Love Revolution.
Wasn’t contraception supposed to free women from poverty because pregnancy and childbearing would no longer interfere with their education and careers? So it seems counter-intuitive that contraception would result in child poverty. Could you explain for our readers why you believe there’s a link between contraception and children living in poverty?
Yes, I consider this one of the big empty promises of the Sexual Revolution: every child a wanted child. What a joke that turned out to be.