"For Love of Neighbor" is a new documentary film offering a hopeful vision for Christian engagement in politics. Click here to learn more.

Ayn Rand, Sexual Ethics, and America's Future

A friend of mine coined a term that I think fits our hookup culture perfectly: “consensual rape.” He was writing a review of the second “Atlas Shrugged” film, and shared a draft with me that touched on not only Ayn Rand’s odd ideas about sex, but also how widely they are shared, saying an “ethical objectivist, a moral solipsist” is “the kind of person who freely allows himself to be objectified just so long as his partner does too.” For those blessed to have not read Rand, the rambling, immoral author glorifies a rather rough version of sex between her heroes, several shades darker than “50 Shades of Grey,” but in the same vein. What does this have to do with Christianity and capitalism? Stay with me—I’ll tie them together. A second item to observe is this article another friend sent me recently, entitled “Sustainable Sex,” from Hipster Conservative. I will warn you that the post mentions certain sex acts and facts, but I don’t find it offensive. Three girlfriends I’ve been discussing the article with have each said they wished their Christian upbringing had included similarly frank, yet not profane, discussions of this dangerous, glorious gift. We all want Christians to start talking about pornography’s horrors, as it traps so many young men that scientists can’t find control groups for studies of its effects. Marc Barnes, the article writer, notes the odd schizophrenia within our culture, of being simultaneously sex-obsessed and sex-exhausted:
If we are witnessing the cultural death of sex, I—for one—am unsurprised. Farming unsustainably kills the land. Running a business with unsustainable resources kills the business. Sustainability is the capacity to endure, and our current sexual culture is unsustainable.
The sustainability insight is one that brings me to capitalism, which sounds odd but makes sense if you extend Barnes’s farming observation: In a market system, people who waste resources are penalized. Farmers who ruin their fields can’t remain farmers for long. Cultures that become hedonistic to the point of killing their own children die off, leaving life-sustaining cultures to endure. Yes, sometimes this process takes a long time. The question this brings me to next is this: Has capitalism artificially allowed our cultural schizophrenia about sex by removing from families the financial necessity of having children to support us through sickness, old age and even for basic physical needs? That may temporarily have happened. But we are now also realizing that even capitalism, that great wealth generator, cannot save us from our own unsustainable profligacy, as all the money in the world could not pay off our debt, and a central reason our entitlement programs are approaching bankruptcy is that we are having fewer kids to redistribute wealth from. In short, “consensual rape” pretty well describes not just our culture’s sexual ethos, but also our politics.