Coming Soon: Incest, State-Sponsored and Court-Approved
Oh, Rick Santorum, you left us too soon.
The former Pennsylvania senator and obdurate social conservative may be absent from public life, but he's on track to receive a bigger honor: going down as a biblical prophet, not unlike Micah.
During his ill fated presidential campaign, Santorum was asked by a university student to clarify his past comments likening homosexuality to bestiality and incest. Flustered, he replied, "If the Supreme Court gives the right to consensual sexual activity, then you have the right to incest, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to all sorts of – you have the right to anything if it's consent."
He was mocked then. He should be seen as clairvoyant now.
Cosmopolitan, that distinguished sex rag providing perverted tips for teenagers, discharged the next volley in the Sexual Revolution's war on bourgeois norms. The puerile publication tweeted out a story of the forbidden love between a sister and her half-brother, titled "This Is What It's Like to Fall in Love with Your Brother."
Whoever the headline editor is for this particular article should be fired at once. The piece, filled with dizzying accounts of infidelity, illegitimate children, and the discovery of multiple half-siblings, is not a love story. It's a tale of erotic attraction that would make the damned in Dante's second circle of Hell blush. Melissa, the woman around whom the story revolves, had "sexual fantasies" about an adult half-brother she found on Facebook. When they actually met, she described the "love at first sight" encounter in purely sexual terms. "The sexual force was like I was levitating off the earth. Your body instantly craves the other person," she told author Ashley Fogle.
What Melissa's describing isn't love; it's lust.
The account, it turns out, is older. It actually comes from a 2015 article in Good Housekeeping, which provides more questions than answers. Why is the magazine that publishes "80 Crazy-Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes" giving its famed seal of approval to this sort of story?
Perhaps the question is, rather, why not? Why shouldn't forbidden love be celebrated? Liberals, after all, have already decided that #lovewins. What kind of mossback Neanderthal still hasn't accepted the ontological fact that "love is love"?
The person out of step with modern thinking on individualism, that's who. The modern consensus on sex has come to resemble capitalism: choice rules. Liberals, especially the young, may pine for socialism, but they inject the capitalist ethos into sexual relations. Shop around, make your pick, have some fun, return for a refund if it's defective – such is love in the "Netflix and chill" era.
And let's not let the right tut-tut too much on this issue. There is fault there as well. The individualism lauded by many conservatives has not always been balanced with a sense of the collective good. Economic growth was traded for the withering of familial bonds. As Yoram Hazony explained recently in the Wall Street Journal, the divide between libertarian thinkers and more communally minded conservatives has left the former ignorant of the truth that a "flourishing state requires a cohesive nation, or how such bonds are established through family and religious ties."
But really, when your only qualification for licit sexual relations is consent, why shouldn't siblings have hanky-panky? What's stopping a father and daughter, or mother and son, from copulating? Outdated notions of morality? Please – we have "transgendered sex scenes" on television now. Get with the times!
Even health-minded arguments against incest don't hold up to scrutiny. "Oh, but it is not an ape, and it is worthwhile," Lord Byron is said to have written about his progeny who was the product of a rumored incestuous relationship with his half-sister. But as Theodore Dalrymple points out, "The hoary old argument against incest, that it leads to a high proportion of offspring with genetic defects, is anachronistic in an age of so wide a choice of contraception."
Technology has provided a wide berth for perfecting the process of fornication. Burdensome children with genetic diseases are easily eliminated. Expecting parents pay thousands of dollars to choose their child's facial features. Conceiving and giving birth to new life was once seen as a Providence's blessing. Now it resembles a vending machine, dispensing with carefully curated consumables.
When sex is stripped of its inherent meaning and societal purpose, it's an activity like any other. The focus on consent, while important, has distorted the lens through which sex used to be viewed. In our demystified world, intimacy no longer contains transcendent consequences. There's no guilt unless someone gets physically hurt.
In Walker Percy's novel Love in the Ruins, the protagonist, Dr. Thomas More (a descendant of the great saint), finds turmoil in his sybaritic lifestyle. He lusts for women, drinks too much, holds multiple affairs at a time. But he still feels the tinge of guilt from his days as a faithful Catholic. He confides in a friend, a Jewish physician, that though his hedonistic ways are sinful, he doesn't feel the pangs of guilt. And this is a big problem.
"What I don't see ... is that if there is no guilt after une affaire, what is the problem?" his friend asks.
"The problem is that if there is no guilt, contrition, and a purpose of amendment, the sin cannot be forgiven," More replies.
Feeling ashamed is the great sin of today. Guilt used to be a guiding thing – if you felt less esteemed in the eyes of your neighbors, you'd correct your depraved behavior. But in an individualized world where institutional trust is at an all-time low, church attendance is falling, and technology constantly feeds you opinions that reinforce your own beliefs, there's no reason to heed those pesky warnings from your conscience.
We're not full people without contrition. And you can't feel contrite unless some actions are seen as objectively wrong. As long as surface-level morality continues to be the modus vivendi of a large number of Americans, incest will soon be an accepted arrangement. Liberal activists realize this and are planning accordingly. Increasingly, those who vacillate on man's higher nature and choose to focus on the consent component of sex have less of an argument to stop it.