Sexual Expressionism and the Immiseration of Women

May 3, 2013

On Thursday, April 23, as France voted for the legalization of sex-same marriage despite months-long mass protests, Professor Helen Alvaré of George Mason University School of Law affirmed that such “sexual expressionism” cannot lead to true human flourishing.

Invited by the European Parliament, Professor Alvaré, a specialist in family law, spoke of existing tensions and even clashes between the free exercise of religion, on the one hand, and the push for equal recognition of all sexual behavior, on the other. Although recognition of different sexual orientations (known collectively as LGBT) is not a new phenomenon, the claim for granting them complete equality within society is. Alvaré calls this the “demand for sexual expressionism”.  

Based on strong emotional and sexual interests, LGBT organisations have continued to push for public recognition of their different sexual orientations – thereby pushing for a new definition of marriage. For “sexual expressionists”, the sole condition for marriage should be an emotional relationship between a flexible number of consenting adults – a decision based on individuals, regardless of the consequences that this may have on children, lineage, and society. Besides the legal redefinition of marriage, the key goals of „sexual expressionists“ – as a necessary consequence of that lifestyle – are free access to contraception, abortion and sterilization.

But again, this demand has no foundation in any research of what actually contributes to the well-being and flourishing of persons and pays no attention to consequences, which include the large-scale immiseration of lower- and middle-class women.

According to Professor Alvaré, instead of responding to the social science evidence of what women really want and need – namely a stable partnership, a marriage, and a family – the demand for the recognition of “sexual expressionism” is mainly articulated as a liberation from religion as a way to achieve full equelity and freedom.

In fact, partisans of „sexual expressionism“ and the abortion rights movement are accusing first and foremost the Catholic Church of not recognizing women as being equal to men and of not respecting their dignity. But few of the Church’s critics are even familiar with the Church’s own documents regarding women. Anyone wanting to find a document that deals seriously with the Christian position on equality and women has a hard time finding one. Moreover, they simply overlook the fact that the largest provider of care, education, and vocational training for women worldwide is actually the Catholic Church.

In addition, when considering the position of these partisans with regard to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage, they simply oppose modernity to conservatism and equality to dignity. There is a fundamental gap between worldviews. As a result, partisans of sexual expressionism simply state that the position of its opponents (like the Church) must be wrong.  They claim 2,000 years of history and marriage laws are against them, and they accuse anyone who is against same-sex marriage of being a homophobe.

There is neither solid philosophical nor theological thinking – nor empirical facts – behind any of this. Their argument is simply that all those who think differently are against modernity and against equality; and this is repeated like a mantra, as if repetition will eventually make things convincing and true.

In light of all recent serious studies to the contrary, the assumption that partisans make that gender equality must be linked to a recognition of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage is surprising. None of the reserach confirms this assumption. Quite on the contrary.

Based on social science evidence, the liberalization of sexuality and the growing demand for sexual expressionism are negatively correlated to human dignity, Professor Alvaré suggested. This is the so-called “paradox of women’s declining happiness”. The feminist movement and the partisans fighting for free contraception and access to abortion have not seen an increase in the welfare of women. On the contrary, they have seen more sexually transmitted diseases, fewer births and more abortions, fewer marriages and more divorces, and more single mothers. The result of all this has been more poor women, and more women (and children) suffering. In short, free abortion and contraception have been damaging –  not curing – women’s health and flourishing.

Traditional marriage, however, does make a difference in welfare for women and children. Brian Grim and Roger Finke of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University show that there is indeed a clear link between religious freedom and economic welfare, education, and the protection of women. Religious freedom also has positive effects on one’s willingness to be a citizen and on one’s sense of community. In addition, the religious understanding of human dignity has borne wonderful fruit over the centuries with regard to, among others, migration, the emancipation of slaves, the right of women to vote, the abolishment of capital punishment, and care-giving for people with AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.  

It is clear that the partisans of sexual expressionism offer no real, rational arguments against opponents of their “equality = abortion + contraception + sexual liberty”-mantra. What they do offer is constant attacks on religious freedom, with which they hope to silence the voice of reason.

In her lecture, Professor Alvaré defined religious freedom as the freedom to understand the meaning of one’s life and destiny. This desire, which is as old as history, is essential for true human dignity and human flourishing. But attacks on faithful, committed love and other human aspirations, and the new doctrine of sexual expressionism, promote a separation of the body and mind. This only leads to individualism, materialism, and to widespread social disfunction.

Time has come to stop putting up with the radically irrational doctrines of the sexual expressionists and their allies, and to recognize and defend the true keys to human flourishing and poverty reduction: committed, faithful love and marriage, responsible and mature parenting, and respect for women – with their capacity to create life, provide care and be loving mothers.