Monthly Archives: October 2009

Lena Chen’s “The Abstinence Mystique” article

Lena Chen’s article is more civil than last week’s Crimson fail.

But she takes it upon herself to declare a “logical inconsistency” every other sentence. So what’s really inconsistent? My abbreviated response (I could really one-for-one her on calling out logical inconsistencies, but I refrain because one girl can only respond to Crimson editorials so many times each week):

Miss Lena Chen’s October 27th article in the Crimson is an interesting attempt at trying to understand True Love Revolution’s new platform. While I appreciate Miss Chen’s feminist expertise, much of her article misinterprets TLR and feminism and misconstrues my statements.

First of all, I find it ironic that Miss Chen brings up “Muslim countries” and other non-Western societies in effort to prove that TLR arises out of an exclusively Western, Judeo-Christian philosophy. Miss Chen contends that the Muslim practice of polygamy validates her claim that TLR’s arguments are based on Western, Judeo-Christian perspective, and thus inherently lacking. Ignoring the fact that most mosques discourage polygamous practices and that we’ll be hard-pressed to find a polygamous Muslim couple, Islam, Hinduism, and every major world religion explicitly condemn premarital sex, demand fidelity, and enforce gender roles (and does not recognize same-sex marriage for that matter). If anything, the “Western, Judeo-Christian” perspective is the weakest when it comes to promoting or enforcing abstinence, lasting marriages, gender roles, and sexual ethics.

“Female Chauvinist Pigs” by Ariel Levy is an excellent read, and hardly a conservative one (for that, I would recommend “Girls Gone Mild” by Wendy Shalit), but it does condemn the culture that makes rampant sexuality normal and thus harder not to choose. I wish the article cited the book itself, rather than a blog. True Love Revolution discourages rampant sexuality and points out consequences that are harmful regardless of whether girls or guys “choose” to participate. Even if someone chooses to live promiscuously, TLR argues that this is not the best choice. Other groups may contend that “empowerment” is making any choice. We do not regard premarital sex as increasing the real strength of an individual, thus not falling under the “empowerment” category.

True Love Revolution is notably not restricting anyone from making choices, but we are certainly saying that not all choices are beneficial. Most of Harvard’s student body would agree, as evidenced by The Independent’s spring sex survey that revealed a huge campus majority not partaking in the hook-up culture. While radical feminists love the word “choice,” equity feminists (or TLR feminists, if you refuse us any other title) and many other Harvard students appreciate that some choices are good and some are harmful, thus not appreciating all choices equally. However, encouraging people to make certain life decisions is not restriction.

While Miss Chen did not attend the RUS meeting she mentions*, any TLR dinner discussion, ask me about my view of feminist history or theory, or contact anyone from the organization, she did take advantage of google. Miss Chen is concerned that TLR conceals a political agenda and she googled my name to find incriminating evidence, so I find it remarkable that the only dirt she could dig up was a sentence stating my interest in social policy. On google, she discovered that I wrote about my Heritage Foundation internship, saying, “After heading up a few social policy initiatives that are often unpopular among the liberal Harvard community through the Harvard Republican Club, Salient, Campus Crusade, and True Love Revolution, I jumped at the chance to be surrounded by conservatives for a summer.” She also noted a blog post that gave information about an abstinence education hearing in Boston. Miss Chen writes that these two instances confirm that TLR is not transparent because I once wrote in an email that TLR does not seek to legally restrict sexual behavior. Informing interested group members about an abstinence education event cannot be equated with legally restricting sexual behavior. Arguments like these insult the intelligence of Crimson readers.

Miss Chen brings up fatherhood and parenting. I am pleased that she uses the term fatherhood in her article’s addendum. Fatherhood and motherhood imply that children need both a father and a mother. A culture saving sex for marriage solidifies the creation of cohesive, committed family units.

Fortunately, Miss Chen agrees that raunch culture has negative consequences for women. In the search for equality, women try to become like men, implying that the home – or women’s work – is less worthy than men’s work. But the pursuit to be on par with men means women surrender special characteristics unique to women in order to become exactly like men. Ariel Levy writes about a Great Britain website for women that counted down the number of days before Daniel Radcliffe became “legal.” Society might expect (though hardly endorse) this vulgar behavior from men, but once women adopt vulgarity in attempts to achieve equality, we must question if equality means erasing natural differences. Lowering sexual standards or considering it a punishment to maintain proper sexual ethics in society is the real demeaning aspect of feminism. Miss Chen cites the “right to live without being subject to gendered expectations,” as “feminism’s foundation.” A nonbiased historical approach reveals that feminism’s foundation had to do with women who wanted to achieve a greater quality of life for themselves and their families by gaining equal social, political, and economic status. This worthy pursuit had nothing to do with erasing gender roles.

Miss Chen is fond of calling everything TLR promotes a “logical inconsistency” but fails to identify one. Miss Chen commented on her own article, writing that she does not want to get married and asks if she therefore is supposed to never have sex? She writes that not everyone can be abstinent until marriage. Take note: we are not sexual animals and we are blessed with the capacity for self-control. Perhaps Miss Chen’s concerns warrant insightful questions, but they do not reveal any logical inconsistency.

As for recognizing the profit agenda behind porn, I just so happened to write three research papers for my sociological theory class last spring on that very topic. I would love to co-sponsor an event calling for the end of porn with any group on campus.

I appreciate Miss Chen’s inquiry into the motives and theory of True Love Revolution and encourage all future discussion to mirror her largely respectful and honest intellectual inquiry.

In True Love,
Rachel

*It has been brought to my attention that Miss Chen did attend the RUS meeting. My apologies; she did not introduce herself.

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Marriage Happiness Training for College Kids

Heard about Northwestern’s most unique course: Marriage 101? Check out this info video.

Teaching compatibility, compromise (70% of fights are unsolvable, the prof makes clear), and how to weather the hard times, professor Arthur Nielson of Northwestern’s Family Institute, compares this course to his (Alma mater) Harvard’s old swim requirement. Harvard didn’t want to waste educating kids who were going to drown – and Northwestern doesn’t want to educate kids who are going to drown through bad marriages.

As one female student, who took the course with her bf, said:

One important point that I’ve learned through my classes at Northwestern is that a good relationship is the single most important factor in determining satisfaction with your life and overall happiness. Shouldn’t relationships be something that everyone learns about and works at, if they’re really one of the most important things in life? Sure, math and English and science are all important, but when it comes down to it, shouldn’t you be learning how to be happier in life?

Admitting that morality is so not last millenium

“Stop judging me,” jeers a friend recounting a tale about his scandalous Friday night escapades. I’m grimacing and probably not using my best endorsement-of-your-behavior facial expression, but I insist that I’m not judging. “Stop being paranoid. And stop judging me!” I counter pathetically.

It takes me a few days to realize that we are both ridiculous for distancing ourselves from judgments. In a culture that persistently hisses “don’t judge, don’t judge,” we lose our ability to articulate why judgments are an integral part of life. But moral judgments are the indispensable instruments enabling us to live the best life.

We regularly make moral judgments in so many aspects of our lives. Our generation is radically concerned with helping the poor and seeking social justice. PBHA is blessed with a plethora of Harvard students dedicated to the Boston community. President Obama hosted a fatherhood event in June that James Dobson could not have done better himself. David Brooks and Ivy League philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah dismiss the psychologist’s claim that character is nonexistent. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the backbone of a moral education no morally confused Harvard student should graduate without, contends that nature provides humans with a capacity for virtue. When we consciously develop virtue, or moral excellence, we are fully in accordance with our nature. A virtuous lifestyle engenders happiness, and a virtuous man acts morally with pleasure. The problem is that we fall into the paradox that the only unjust moral judgment is the judgment offering objective value. Relativism breaks down our ability to label some actions objectively right and others universally wrong.

Wondering if moral judgments are as condemned as they are passé, I embarked on True Love Revolution’s Operation Platform Change with a bit of curiosity. True Love Revolution was Harvard’s abstinence advocacy group, but dissatisfied with advocating abstinence without the philosophical context of what gender and marriage mean, the organization adopted an expansive pro-marriage, pro-family, and pro-equity feminism platform. Students rarely hear moral judgments that aren’t sufficiently doused with post-enlightenment political correctness. Tolerance trumps self-control, diversity trumps veracity, and experimental relativism trumps traditional virtues.

But what happens when you claim children ought to have a mother and a father, women and men are inherently different, people aren’t sexual animals, and the right to sexual privacy is not a right to normalcy? An objective moral judgment that condemns objective moral judgments. In fact, an invasion of objective moral judgments crawling out from all nooks and crannies on Harvard’s dusty campus.

Since we are all proponents of objective moral judgments, we must move past debating whether moral judgments are right and wrong. Harvard students must honestly accept that we constantly make moral judgments in pursuit of living well. True Love Revolution’s mission statement offers a set of moral judgments that must be examined, debated, and justified on their philosophical, moral, intellectual, and social merit. True Love Revolution seeks a dialogue where students who embrace other moral judgments challenge ours and defend their own, creating a culture that admits we all define morality instead of claiming to shun it.

True Love Revolution defends the reality of the best life. Our platform statements confidently address what we believe to be ramifications of degenerating traditional American love, marriages, and families. Dialogues about morality cannot exist without moral claims, and True Love Revolution starts the dialogue by presenting such claims. While we all make moral judgments to pursue the best life, we choose different routes.

So defend your routes, challenge our platform, offer your alternative moral judgment. Move past denying the validity of judgment, recognize that judgments are a fundamental characteristic of life. If you disagree with our definition of the best life and the choices that lead us there, stand up for your own. But join us in confronting the suffocating culture of praising tolerance while intolerantly demanding adherence to a relativist framework.

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Response to an anti-TLR Crimson editorial

Some people find it easier to let hostility carry their writing rather than honest criticism, as Silpa Kovvali did in her Crimson editorial against True Love Revolution last Wednesday, October 21st.  If I had to distill her piece, it would run: “I interviewed the co-president of a group I disagree with, I misconstrued her statements, and thereby showed the whole group is irrational.”  Kovvali makes no real attempt to understand and counter our claims and substitutes caricaturing our views for argument.

I can only presume that Kovvali thought her audience shared her distaste for TLR and so wouldn’t question her tactics. She levels the charge of “ignorant intolerance” at TLR, which is strong indeed.  Since the only cardinal sin on a college campus is being intolerant, if you can make that label stick to a group it becomes shunned.  Kovvali is not the only one to make this accusation, so it’s worth responding to.  TLR makes a stand for objective truth in sexual ethics and marriage and isn’t shy about claiming to be right, but is it fair to call it intolerant?

First of all, moral claims are difficult to defend when directly attacked; even a shoplifter could spin out a dozen rationalizations for why they “really don’t hurt anyone” if they wanted.  And when you do defend moral claims, you run the risk of being criticized for imposing your views on others.  Since many people view sexuality as a purely private choice, they don’t see the point of taking moral positions on it.  An analagous private choice fraught with moral issues is recreational drug use.  As a side note, the moral arguments are different from pragmatic arguments about effects on society and individuals, although these can certainly illustrate negative consequences.  But just because no immediate damage is evident does not mean a choice is morally justified.

So, imagine that you had a strong moral stance against recreational drug use. If you really felt that it was a serious enough problem, you might write an article in a campus journal.  If your friends complained to you about the intolerance of your views and said you were arrogant for thinking you knew what was best for others, how would you respond?  Would you back down and say: “Well, it really is just a personal decision and my moral philosophy doesn’t apply to others,” or would you stand by your beliefs out of personal integrity and concern for them?  However the conversation went, it’s clear there’s a huge difference between arguing against drug use and condemning individuals.  If you couldn’t convince your friends, you would just have to acknowledge your differences and live with the tension.  This is TLR’s position on campus.

Secondly, the reality is that everyone has views about objective truth, and no one is “tolerant” of conflicting views.  So when two people of good-will disagree sharply about a moral point, it’s all the more important to argue honestly. For instance, Kovvali unfavorably compares TLR with the Queer Students and Allies (QSA) and says that queers don’t demand that everyone else be like them.  However, their philosophy has real implications, to which a fair comparison would point.  The QSA shares the supposedly “neutral” liberal position on sexuality that sex is morally value-free and can be engaged in as one wants.  This gives a strong bias toward sexual experimentation and relations because it uncritically gives free rein to desire.  An extreme example is the recent article on gay Craigslist hookups in the Yale Daily News.  This moral position, which is prescribed for the whole campus, is a direct threat to students who are committed to abstinence because it undermines the reasons for waiting until marriage to have sex.

On another philosophical issue, the QSA clearly advocates gay marriage, as evidenced by their recent phone bank effort to change the vote in Maine.  Their position says that the definition of marriage should be between two unisex partners, and they’re quite willing to “impose” that definition on everyone else.  So please, let’s not pretend that TLR is the only group on campus with strong views.  Our philosophical and moral positions provide the framework for our lifestyle, and we’re not afraid to make the case for views that have universal import.  We invite the campus to think about these issues, see why we hold them, and argue in kind.  The last thing we’re interested in is compelling anyone to agree with us or change their sex life.  What could be more counter-productive?

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Lost in a world without courtship

Traditional family values are passe to my young hipster generation, but the culture of casual sexuality breaks down society. Far be it from me to call for a return to the courtship society (though my daddy would love that), but let me offer a glimpse of the current romance climate. Young marriage is socially frowned upon, so young adults naturally take sexual and emotional yearning into their own hands at great cost to future marital strength. Their inclination toward serial cohabitation breeds unhappiness and trains for divorce.

For those wary of moral statements, read on, for Michael Gerson speaks as the sociologist when he describes this rather inconspicuous but mainstream lifestyle fad (yes, just a fad, says the optimist). Gerson’s Washington Post article couldn’t be any more relevant to those in the Harvard community. Here’s a good summary (like usual, my summaries consist of most of the article):

“There is a segment of society for whom traditional family values are increasingly irrelevant, and for whom spring-break sexual liberationism is increasingly costly: men and women in their 20s.

This is the period of life in which society’s most important social commitments take shape — commitments that produce stability, happiness and children. But the facts of life for 20-somethings are challenging. Puberty — mainly because of improved health — comes steadily sooner. Sexual activity kicks off earlier. But the average age at which people marry has grown later; it is now about 26 for women, 28 for men.

This opens a hormone-filled gap — a decade and more of likely sexual activity before marriage. And for those in that gap, there is little helpful guidance from the broader culture. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, argues that the “courtship narrative” in the past was clear: dating, engagement, marriage, children. This narrative has been disrupted without being replaced, leaving many 20-somethings in a “relational wasteland.”

The casual sex promoted in advertising and entertainment often leads, in the real world of fragile hearts and STDs, to emotional and physical wreckage…

In the absence of a courtship narrative, young people have evolved a casual, ad hoc version of their own: cohabitation. From 1960 to 2007, the number of Americans cohabiting increased fourteenfold. For some, it is a test-drive for marriage. For others, it is an easier, low-commitment alternative to marriage. About 40 percent of children will now spend some of their childhood in a cohabiting union.

How is this working out? Not very well. Relationships defined by lower levels of commitment are, not unexpectedly, more likely to break up. Three-quarters of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents split up by the time they turn 16, compared with about one-third of children born to married parents. So apart from the counsel of cold showers or “let the good times roll,” is there any good advice for those traversing the relational wilderness? Religion and morality contribute ideals of character. But social science also indicates some rough, practical wisdom.

First, while it may not be realistic to maintain the connection between marriage and sex, it remains essential to maintain the connection between marriage and childbearing. Marriage is the most effective institution to bind two parents for a long period in the common enterprise of raising a child — particularly encouraging fathers to invest time and attention in the lives of their children. And the fatherless are some of the most disadvantaged, betrayed people in our society, prone to delinquency, poverty and academic failure. Cohabitation is no place for children.

Second, the age of first marriage is important to marital survival and happiness. Teen marriage is generally a bad idea, with much higher rates of divorce. Romeo and Juliet were, in fact, young fools. Later marriage has been one of the reasons for declining national divorce rates. But this does not mean the later the better. Divorce rates trend downward until leveling off in the early 20s. But people who marry after 27 tend to have less happy marriages — perhaps because partners are set in their ways or have unrealistically high standards. The marital sweet spot seems to be in the early to mid-20s.

Third, having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment. Some of this expresses preexisting traits — people who already have a “nontraditional” view of commitment are less likely to be committed in marriage. But there is also evidence, according to Wilcox, that multiple failed relationships can “poison one’s view of the opposite sex.” Serial cohabitation trains people for divorce. In contrast, cohabitation by engaged couples seems to have no adverse effect on eventual marriage.

There is little use in preaching against a hurricane of social change. But delaying marriage creates moral, emotional and practical complications. The challenge, as always, is to humanize change. The answer, even in the relational wasteland, is responsibility, commitment and sacrifice for the sake of children.”

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Thoughts on Princeton’s Chastity Center

They’re going the distance. Princeton’s Anscombe Society began advocating for a Center for Abstinence and Chastity last week.

A group of students, many of whom are Anscombe Society members, has stepped up its efforts to lobby the University to launch a Center for Abstinence and Chastity. The students have organized a series of events with the goal of convincing Nassau Hall to establish a center, in the style of the LGBT and Women’s centers, which would support students’ decision to live chastely and abstain from sex… Still, McGinley said his group maintains that since the University has centers to support groups like women and members of the LGBT community, the implementation of the Center for Abstinence and Chastity would be natural.

Our favorite Ivy League prof Robert P. George is rallying behind them. While we think it’s a long shot and would rather campuses just make established centers more friendly to conservative beliefs, we can’t help but respect Princeton’s efforts. Best of luck with the endeavor. Yet is a center really going to change the ethos? Indeed, it is most difficult to change the tenor of already created LGBT and Women’s Centers that are hostile to any other lifestyle or belief system than complete relativism, “tolerance,” and subjective virtue.

We can’t imagine how Harvard would react if we did this. Actually, we can imagine. So maybe another year.

But ultimately, TLR doesn’t want a center just promoting abstinence. What about a center that focuses on objective truth, virtues, self-respect, the strength of morality, and upholding the community? Maybe another decade.

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Malaysia gives free honeymoons to lower divorce rate

Malaysia stoops to new lows (stretches to new highs?) to keep couples married:

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s eastern state of Terengganu is offering free honeymoons worth up to $440 each to rekindle the romance between married couples on the brink of divorce.

The honeymoon package comes with some counseling and is an attempt to slow soaring divorce rates in the state, according to The Star newspaper reported on Monday.

“We can understand newlyweds having problems understanding one another, where a slight skirmish could lead to a separation but it is unacceptable for those married more than two decades to file for divorce,” the paper quoted Terengganu Welfare Community Development and Women Affairs committee chairman, Ashaari Idris, as saying.

The conservative Muslim state did not disclose divorce rates.

Idris said the state had carried out a successful pilot project where 25 couples facing marital woes were selected for three-day honeymoon package that cost around 1,500 ringgit ($440) per couple.

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country. Under Islam, divorce is allowed, but frowned upon, with the Prophet Mohammed saying divorce was, in the eyes of God, the most distasteful lawful act.

I hope it works. And then I hope the US picks up on the travesty of no-fault divorce. But ultimately, the government can’t make people fall in love, or stay in love. Social organizations must defend marriage on the grassroots level, encouraging individuals to practice a deeper love beyond the desires of the self.

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A Discussion on Gay Marriage on Saturday

“A Discussion on Gay Marriage and Law”     Saturday, October 17th at 12:10 pm

Is Gay Marriage a Human Rights Issue? How Do Supporters and Opponents Use Legal Arguments?

Presented by the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee

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Part of the PUBLIC INTEREST & LAW CONFERENCE with Keynote Speaker ACLU President Susan Herman. October 17. 10AM-4PM with lunch. Think law is more than just a career path, but a way to work for social justice? This conference is intended to expose curious undergraduates from throughout the Boston area to scholars, activists, and advocates trying to use the law in the public interest.

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(Free) Registration Required: RSVP online at http://tinyurl.com/ lawconference : it’s not too late! Learn more at our conference website: http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/legalcom/conferencewebsite.html

Timothy McCarthy ’93, is Lecturer and Director of the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; he was a founding member of Barack Obama’s National LGBT Leadership Council.

Maggie Gallagher is President and founder of the National Organization for Marriage, whose mission is helping fight for national and state laws that protect traditional marriage; she is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Father Geoffrey Farrow was removed as Pastor of the St. Paul’s Newman Center at Cal State University, Fresno for his opposition to Proposition 8; he speaks regularly for the cause of LGBT rights. The Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee is a program of the Phillips Brooks House Association.

Vampires and Young Love

Teenage girls read Twilight over and over. Heck, you can’t check the book out of Widener because of the long waitlist. Why does this vampire romance appeal to girls? Why did millions of girls fall for Edward? Read Caitlin Flanagan’s article “What Girls Want” in the Atlantic – no excuses (especially if you were that teenage girl who ate up young adult fiction like popcorn…).

Here’s an excerpt:

The erotic relationship between Bella and Edward is what makes this book—and the series—so riveting to its female readers. There is no question about the exact nature of the physical act that looms over them. Either they will do it or they won’t, and afterward everything will change for Bella, although not for Edward. Nor is the act one that might result in an equal giving and receiving of pleasure. If Edward fails—even once—in his great exercise in restraint, he will do what the boys in the old pregnancy-scare books did to their girlfriends: he will ruin her. More exactly, he will destroy her, ripping her away from the world of the living and bringing her into the realm of the undead. If a novel of today were to sound these chords so explicitly but in a nonsupernatural context, it would be seen (rightly) as a book about “abstinence,” and it would be handed out with the tracts and bumper stickers at the kind of evangelical churches that advocate the practice as a reasonable solution to the age-old problem of horny young people. (Because it takes three and a half very long books before Edward and Bella get it on—during a vampiric frenzy in which she gets beaten to a pulp, and discovers her Total Woman—and because Edward has had so many decades to work on his moves, the books constitute a thousand-page treatise on the art of foreplay.) That the author is a practicing Mormon is a fact every reviewer has mentioned, although none knows what to do with it, and certainly none can relate it to the novel; even the supercreepy “compound” where the boring half of Big Love takes place doesn’t have any vampires. But the attitude toward female sexuality—and toward the role of marriage and childbearing—expressed in these novels is entirely consistent with the teachings of that church. In the course of the four books, Bella will be repeatedly tempted—to have sex outside of marriage, to have an abortion as a young married woman, to abandon the responsibilities of a good and faithful mother—and each time, she makes the “right” decision. The series does not deploy these themes didactically or even moralistically. Clearly Meyer was more concerned with questions of romance and supernatural beings than with instructing young readers how to lead their lives. What is interesting is how deeply fascinated young girls, some of them extremely bright and ambitious, are by the questions the book poses, and by the solutions their heroine chooses.

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The Culture War

We’re fans of Brian Bolduc’s article in the Crimson about the merits of a traditional family. Brian explains why conservatives like the traditional family – and why Harvard students do too, whether they know it or not.

We’d highlight the best parts, but the whole thing is a best part:

When conservatives decry our culture’s decline, they’re fooling you, liberals warn. “Conservatives are using moral panic over girls ‘going wild’ and pre-marital sex to distract from the problems that young women actually need help with,” Jessica Valenti, executive editor of Feministing.com, wrote in an e-mail. “I’m similarly concerned that people are being duped into supporting regressive gender politics.”

This newspaper agrees: Conservatives bash alternative lifestyles to win votes. “For close to a decade, the Republican Party has gotten considerable mileage out of a narrative of cultural conflict that pits a snobbish, educated, costal [sic] elite against the hard-working, god-fearing denizens of the country’s heartland,” The Crimson wailed in an editorial, “The Wrong War,” on September 9, 2008.

They’re wrong. Politicians exploit cultural differences, but conservatives’ concern with our culture, specifically the lack of two-parent households, is legitimate.

Thomas Frank, author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”, contends that people should ignore issues like marriage and follow their economic self-interest, which aligns with Democratic policies. But people care about culture regardless of their finances. “It’s no less ridiculous to complain about evangelical Christians in Kansas voting for Republicans than to complain about movie stars in Hollywood voting for Democrats who will raise their taxes,” said Ross G. Douthat ’02, a columnist for The New York Times.

Liberals also worry about culture: They worry it’s too conservative. Stigmas on divorce and premarital sex seem oppressive. People should be able to live as they wish—liberals argue—without fear of neighbors’ disapproval. If conservatives stopped forcing their values onto others, people wouldn’t fight over the culture.

But every community promotes certain behaviors and discourages others. This campus, for instance, encourages efficiency. To embarrass students over their wastefulness, the Resource Efficiency Program piled trash eight feet high in front of the Science Center last November. This campus also urges “safe sex.” Last Halloween, Peer Contraceptive Counselors gave freshmen condoms and lubricant in festive goodie bags with the slogan, “Sex doesn’t have to be scary.”

On this matter, liberals and conservatives clash. Harvard Right to Life, which opposes abortion, finds its posters torn down. The True Love Revolution, which advocates abstinence, was denied permission to hand out flyers outside “Sex Signals.” Both sides conflict because liberals say that no lifestyle is better than another, while conservatives argue that the traditional lifestyle—the two-parent household—when possible, is best. They do so not merely to criticize other living arrangements, but to highlight the traditional lifestyle’s advantages.

Consider the evidence: Two people living apart require 56 percent more money to sustain themselves than two living together, according to national guidelines on poverty. Children also benefit. Sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur found that one third of children with divorced parents who participated in their study dropped out of high school, while one tenth of children from intact families did so. One third of their sample’s girls whose parents divorced became teenage mothers—triple the amount of girls from intact families.

These numbers require caveats. “It’s not as if once a poor couple marries, a money tree magically sprouts up in their backyard,” Valenti countered. And couples should separate if they have abusive relationships—those also harm children. Yet sociologists Paul Amato and Alan Booth note that two thirds of divorces do not stem from abusive relationships and the separations themselves traumatize children. This inquiry is not a search for the guilty, but an indicator that families are more than aesthetic arrangements.

Fine, liberals concede, but there’s no going back to 1960. No one wants to. But the two-parent household has rebounded recently—among the college-educated. Since the 1980s, divorce among them has fallen by 30 percent. Meanwhile, it has risen among the less educated by about six percent. Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institute, calls this difference a main driver of economic inequality. Why the two-parent household has become more popular among the college-educated and less so among other demographics is an important question—not a distraction.

In fact, some of the best adherents to the traditional lifestyle come from the Ivy League. Just 10 percent of couples whose children attend these schools get divorced. Harvard graduates “are much less likely to get divorced and less likely to have kids out of wedlock than the poor and working-class,” added Douthat. For proof that social conservatism—at least of a kind—is still relevant, look no further than your classmates. Those prudes.

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