To do a good job in raising their sons, modern fathers have to dig deeper into the nature of fatherhood, deeper than fathers ever had to in all of human history because of the Marxist feminist assault on “patriarchy”,amplified by technological shocks (the pill, internet pornography, etc.). Because the enemy dug deep so as to understand how to deconstruct society and family(see Shulamith Firestone’s seminal influence on 1970’s feminism: The Dialectic of Sex), men today have to dig deeper still. This may well turn out to be a great blessing because here after, men can pass this deeper knowledge on to their sons and in the process become better men themselves while forming their boys to be even better. While the father will make the boy, the boy will also make the father. As Seneca said: “While we teach, we learn.” Understanding fatherhood better, men will live it better.
What ironic justice if “man, fully alive” develops as an unintended consequence of feminism.
During the different stages of his son’s growth into
manhood, the father will touch on fives themes repeatedly, going deeper each
time, as he judges what his son needs to know and what he is ready to absorb:
About the physical and
biological facts of sexuality (male and female) that his son will need to know
during the next phase he is entering. It is best the son get this information
from his father first — not on the playground from other boys nor on the
screen from strangers.
About the differences
between men and women. This is remote preparation for understanding and
accepting the very different modes of seeing and experiencing things that are
the ways of his mother, sisters and future wife.
About how to choose a
good wife. Prudently prepared and
lightly delivered, these nuggets of wisdom will affect his choice of a good
About the inner moral
struggle that all boys and men have to engage in, deep in their own hearts, on
their way to manhood. This is a key point of identity between a father and son:
unique male way of battling to live well. This aspect is the core of a father’s
formation of his son.
Sadly, about the
dangers of abuse and pornography, which will have to be introduced early in a
boy’s formation because of their pervasiveness.
First Phase: Early Childhood
Well begun is half done.
The relational foundation of a boy’s sexuality is his
earliest relationship with his father. If this is warm, affectionate and
enjoyable the journey is off to a great start.
The demand on the father is one of time and possibly of temperament. Giving
his time to his son is his greatest gift, always. The more and the earlier the better. As the child reacts with joy and laughter the
father is naturally encouraged and rewarded.
The embrace and horseplay that father and child engage in develops his
son’s trust and confidence.
The task is friendship, the method is play: Anything and all
that the son enjoys with his father. It can be tiddlywinks or football, drawing
or singing, reading or baseball, fishing or hiking. Whatever brings joy to the
Also, this early stage is the time that deep friendship is
most easily formed. It will yield fruit
in mid-childhood and adolescence when that friendship will be tested by the
strains of that phase.
With such a friendship in place the later phases will be
handled with much great ease.
The total population of North, Central, and South America is less than a billion. Europe’s population is much less. Africa’s population is about one billion.
In the last 100 years the world has eliminated one billion childrenthrough abortion. In other words, whole continents. World War II was a walk in the park compared to this. The US alone has aborted 58 million infants (the total population of the US as it came into the twentieth century, and almost the same as the total populations killed in World War II, the bloodiest war in human history. The “body-count” in the Holocaust pales in comparison to this, US-only “body count”. Clearly, we “do sex” wrong. Humankind has never, ever, “done it” so wrong.
In the US, for children who survive pregnancy and make it to birth, most of their parents cannot stand each other enough to live their lives together and raise their children to adulthood. Slavery has returned to the US—in the form of sex trafficking. Pornography addiction (to some degree or other) is almost universal among young men. Cohabitation is the majority’s choice despite the widespread knowledge of its bad effects. STDs are “through the roof” and are now mega epidemics — having been epidemic for decades. Motherhood is frowned upon in the academic world and most business put up with mothers only because they are forced to if they want female workers. The list could go on and on— and that is without going near what is being taught and not taught in churches— of all denominations!
As a society we have really lost our way. Leaders in all institutions have lost their way or their courage. There are some who know how to “do it” but most don’t, or are afraid, and public schools and academia are not only totally lost, they lead down the wrong and debilitating path — even in the face of overwhelming data. Proof? Just look around you.
Where do we start to rebuild?
This rebuilding starts with men — with fathers in particular.
The fundamental correction involves all fathers taking back from everyone else the sexual education of their sons. Mothers need to do the same for their daughters. However, the sine qua non is that fathers become the sexual tutors of their sons, because, given the nature of males, men have much greater and difficult task to achiever bringing their sexual impulses under total control.
The program is simple: Every father worthy of the title, wants his son to end up happily married to the girl of his dreams and wants to show him the way to pull that off. This is what fathers do: make men out of their boys.
Now that presents a difficulty because most fathers, today, have not achieved that status or have lost it: they aresingle or married to some other woman. Thus, they are quite handicapped in giving what they do not have. However, let us leave that major difficulty to the side for the time being and focus instead on what has to be achieved: Lifelong marriage of a boy to the girl of his dreams.
As a nation— as a culture— we either go for this or we break apart into factions, because sex — at every level of social organization, from the couple to the polis— either powerfully binds us together or powerfully splits us apart. Those who do not go for the gold of lifelong marriage, ultimately, are prepared that our nation be split into pieces. Too strong a claim? What happens to families after divorce? Multiply that by millions and then by two or three generations and then you have a nation and culture falling apart. The choice is not just and individual choice it is a political one (in the pure sense of the polis).
Feminists and lots of other women are clear on what they don’t want men to do sexually, and they are right! But they are NOT clear on what they want men to DO. And without a clear destination anyone is lost. So, feminists, though correct in their attacks on predation, are totally wrong on the nature of sex. There is only one destination that makes sense of sex: Sex is meant for marriage and procreation— procreation within marriage— both entwined. There are lots of secondary derivative purposes and benefits but these two, procreation within marriage, are non-negotiables if we are to avoid social chaos, and if justice is to be done to every child, and if we are to be a people who want justice for every child.
Maybe the biggest natural barrier to achieving this justice is a universal fact about being male: for every man a huge portion of females are physically attractive to him— and will remain so throughout his life, no matter his marital status. Men see, and immediately register, the beauty and attractiveness of every female before they know anything else about her. And if a man permits himself to pursue that attraction to its logical end (intercourse) he can be in big trouble for the rest of his life, and worse still, he will have caused chaos in the lives of the woman, her extended family, his own extended family, and in particular, and most disastrously, will have severely damaged the children that result from that intercourse (either eliminating them in abortion or leaving them with split parents for the rest of their lives – and the grandchildren’s lives.
The only way that sexual attraction can be properly handled is by channeling it towards one person only — the future bride. Finding her is a long and delicate process for which a good father is the best guide, by far.
The journey to the bride starts in childhood. It used to start in adolescence for most of human history but now, with pornography being universally and aggressively obtrusive, it starts for boys around age seven or eight, because with his first exposure to it he is beginning to go down the right path or the wrong path.
(By the way – I am all for the death penalty for pornographers. The human suffering unleashed by pornography is so large it is beyond comprehension.)
Back to the task: fathers now have to begin tutoring early if they are not to be too late. By age 7 or 8 it is already urgent and assumes a good level of affection between father and son for this next phase to be successful.
The good father lets his boy know (despite his son not yet being interested in girls) that he wants him to end up as a great young man with a beautiful young wife who will be his companion and best friend for life. Even the father who has failed to achieve this for himself can lay this out for his son.
Gradually – and differently for each son – he leads him to understand the fundamental complementarity between male and female; that this complementarity between his mother and father brought him into existence and an even greater complementarity and unity between them is needed to raise him to be a great young man. The father reminds his son that he exists because he, his father, used his sexuality to bring him into existence! (This is a most powerful lesson each modern boy needs to hear from the lips of his father. Without this exchange a father is neglecting the growth of his son). He lets his son know that his father, and he alone, is the one to guide his son in teaching about sexuality and that his son should take it from no one else unless his father says it is OK. He even goes so far as to teach his son how to demand this as his (the son’s) right in the classroom and any other place. He teaches his boy how to be a modern warrior — and gentleman — in these sexually hostile times.
The father paints, repeatedly, the goal of the great woman to be won over – by his son being a great man. He teaches him that in this domain “like attracts like!” He cannot have a great woman without being a great man. It is impossible. (At the same time the boy’s mother is teaching the same lesson to his sister).
The father teaches his son that along the way there are many traps and snares for every man; that there always has been and always will be. The first snare that modern boys confront is pornography — new, modern and powerful in its intrusiveness and alluringness (that is what makes it a snare). The father tells his son (at the appropriate time) how he combats his own temptations to look at pornography. He does it in a way that invites the son to lean on his father for help whenever that struggle is present – and it will be. The father promises to protect him within the home and at school but tells him he has to learn how to protect himself when his father is not around. And he reminds him constantly that all this is for the sake of that wonderful girl he is going to win some day. The purer his heart the stronger it will be and the more easily she will sense it and be attracted by it. And he in turn will be able to recognize a woman with a similarly pure heart – ready to give it to the right man but only to the right man and only to one man!
Anybody with an ounce of sense will agree with the above. Anyone who does not is an enemy of children. Harsh? Yes — but true and fundamental to a just and peaceful society.
In all my years working with couples and families, with data and research, with evaluating programs and trying to figure out how best to help couples and families, I have concluded that nothing is more fundamental in the cycle of life and of nations than that the father be the one to induct a boy into sexuality. No one else. All else is fraud — dressed up no doubt, but fraud.
Given this, I think it is time for another Revolutionary War. This war is not fought with guns (though, if it is not won there will be a war with guns). It is the revolution by which fathers take back from everyone else, no matter who they are (teachers or clergy), the sexual education and formation of their boys.
We all love appropriate battle cries, such as New Hampshire’s “Liver Free or Die”. The one every father needs close to his heart (and on his lips when need be) is “Keep your hands off my son’s sex!”
If we get enough fathers taking “sex ed” (it really is sexual malformation) back out of the schools (public and private, denominational or secular) we can change America. If we don’t we lose it.
Too simple? No, no matter the difficulty of doing it. I see nothing more foundational than this in the cycle of human existence, handed on from one generation to the next.
(By the way, this is the ultimate reform the Catholic Church needs to rectify its own house on sexual ethics for all vocations—for marriage, priesthood, religious celibacy or single lay life. It was the “program” proposed in plenty of time by Pope Pius XII back in the 1950’s. It is a pity of historical proportions that Catholic bishops and religious teaching orders did not take that to heart.)
May fathers take back the formation of their sons’ sexuality from everyone else! It belongs to no one else. If anyone wants to do any “sex ed” let them help fathers and mothers do it — and most of them will need help to do this well. But any other forms of sex ed is only adding to the problem. Proof? Just look around you.
It is already very late. It is time to start this New Revolution.
Raj Chetty’s work, carried by The New York Times and now The Office of the Census, has made Americans more aware of the proportion who stay stuck at the bottom of the income scale.
From the work of many but especially Charles Murray we know that the bottom 10% is largely composed of those of low IQ… those with an IQ lower than 80. They are not too bright. And in today’s more and more complex world they are at greater and greater disadvantage through no fault of their own.
The Army refuses to take anyone with an IQ in that category, so that route, effective for many as a first step up and out, is closed off to them.
Many groups help the “mobile” sector of the poor. But the low IQ group is stuck and with little help and increasing isolation, abuse and crime. This was well depicted in the TV series “Wired”.
The need for community: A place to belong to with close others all around.
In a different era, in different political regimes such as the Middle Ages in Europe, but also in Asia, smaller communities were much more aware of these slower folks. The good lord of the manor took it as his duty to provide for these — often by support of monasteries, but also by the provision of basic simple (though back-breaking) work.
Family and extended family has always been the primary source of support and is so today. But for the poor, family is now fragmented, sometime multiple times (multiple fathers for one set of children by the same mother). The welfare state aids and abets this arrangement, essentially fostering fragmentation rather than unity and community. Without marriage, community is virtually impossible and functional community is non-existent.
Those who are less gifted need, more than anyone else, family and community to whom to belong. But for this they also need leadership capable of building community — of fostering belonging.
Our political order makes such virtually impossible. Out wealthy and gifted live far away from the poor and the slow of intellect. They feel no obligation and have absolutely no ties of relationship with or responsibility for them.
They need help and leadership.
Leadership implies hierarchy. An acceptable hierarchy is possible only under accepted norms of “the good”, i.e. shared moral norms. As the good community can only exist upon good family life, a trusted hierarchy for community leadership necessitates a sound set of values, norms or principles around family issues, i.e. sexual issues.
Where can the poor find leadership anchored in a sound set of sexual issues today? In the same place they have always been found: in their places of worship. The worship of God always leads to sexual order —marriage, chaste living, fertility and putting family obligations first: to spouse and to children. Well it always used to. Today a number of religious groups deny the need for chastity before marriage.
The welfare state does not promote nor address these issues. Our wealthy leaders (Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg), if they believe in these values (and the personal lives of some seem to indicate they at least believe in marriage if not in chastity), are afraid to talk this way in public.
So, our low-I.Q neediest— those who most need leadership and a guiding culture—- have neither.
But one source still seems probable and, in many areas, provides some of the leadership: the churches. But, sadly, so many inner-city churches do not lead nor preach marriage for the poor and therefore not capable of developing community for the poor. While chastity for the poor is unheard of.
The poor, like everyone else, no matter their income, education or IQ, need marriage and chastity and bear the same consequences as everyone else. One could say they need it even more. The joy of a life with a good wife or husband is within reach of every class, rich or poor. And for the poor man or woman, the greatest joy is their simplest and frequently their only one: helping each other by going through life together even when it is so tough. Such a poor man with such a wife is really a very rich man.
May we find it within all the human resources of the richest nation on earth and in history, the people who can lead the way forward for our slower brothers and sisters.
Neither the welfare state nor the elite (including the media which is under the control of the elite) teaches or leads this way. Good relationships need community and prayer and worship (see Mapping America) much more then they need material goods.
This richness will be brought to the poor by those who love God and love His poor. And where it is happening it is almost exclusively through them.
We need a religiously base Peace Corps for our inner city poorest — and least bright…those with an IQ below 80: a good 10% of our population. We had our past versions of this: religious orders of priests, nuns and brothers and the Salvation Army. The middle ages had monasteries. The 21st century needs its own new form of this perennial solution, its own from of dedicated, organized, effective love.
Most Black Americans are less free than their ancestors under Jim Crow laws. They no longer can marry and stay married.
Most Black Americans today grow up in broken families and suffer their parents rejecting each other. (Other ethnic children do also, but less so.)
Compare the Black Family to the Asian American family over the past decades:
Parents pass on a lot to their children, one of the strongest being social capacity. This learned complementarity between husband and wife is the great strength that keeps on giving… across generations. The rejection between husband and wife also keeps on giving — more brokenness across generations. The more splitting in a family’s history, the more the children will split.
Where did this loss of freedom come from? Was this something imposed on Black Americans? Imposed on their church-going families? Where did this rejection virus come from? How is it so endemic even among church-goers?
And keep in mind, this is one Black parent rejecting the other. It is not imposed from outside.
If Black leaders can build unity in the Black family, they can solve, not only their own problems but also white, Hispanic and Native American too. Such leaders will become national heroes.
How is this done? We can put men and women on the moon. But we do not know how build marriage for a lifetime. How do Asian Americans do it? Can they transfer it?
The five richest men in America, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all have intact marriages. If their combined funds could find the solution — nothing would yield greater dividends to the nation nor restore to Black Americans the freedom most of them have lost.
The most comprehensive overview of the effects of divorce on childrenuntil then was a 2012 synthesis paper I wrote with Aaron Churchill. For this blog I composed a short review of the more recent literature on divorce using the National Institute of Health’s Library and database. The simplified results confirm and extend the findings of the 2012 paper:
When parents divorce, a child’s world is shattered. For some children it is a slow disintegration. For others it is cataclysmic in its suddenness. The depth of the wounds is much the same, though the variety of wounds is myriad and, though patterns abound, each wound is unique and idiosyncratic in its effects on the mind, heart and soul of each child, even when a grown adult.
With divorce, the very center of the child’s universe has imploded. Yes, the child has to pick up the pieces and get on with life, but they are pieces, a poor substitute for a wonderful whole. If the marriage of parents is the rich soil in which children thrive, then divorce leads them to a perpetual depletion diet. The rich nutrition of love and unity is bleached out of their food. Different events — a visit to a friend’s home, a scene in a movie, a line in a song — reminds them all the time that they no longer eat steak every day but rather a thinner soup that they just have to get used to. No matter how much divorced parents try they cannot deny their rejection of each other, nor the wounds that rejection causes: They have made their child’s universe crooked. Granted in many cases it is one parent who did the shattering. Given the effects on his or her children such a person has become evil by doing so great an evil. Hard words? Just read the effects above in the italicized paragraph again (and they are only partial; for the full list read the full paper).
As laws have
shifted away from protecting citizens from harm, by forbidding evils and
punishing wrongs, legislators have turned instead to “policy making”. This shift
really took off with the sexual revolution and the divorce revolution. The more
they aided and abetted the storm (passing no-fault divorce laws), the more
effort they have to put into minimizing the damage: This is much of “social
disheartening to read research articles on the effects of divorce on children.
The vast majority of studies encourage social policy to reduce the damage done
to children by divorce. Virtually
nowhere is there a push for efforts to save couples from divorce, to rebuilding
broken marriages or even (especially) those on the rocks. The mantra instead is
one of conflict reduction… It is better that the children live in a home with
less turmoil. No one talks of a rebuilt
home, a rebuilt marriage.
I know a manwho is one of the great healers of “bad marriages”. He may be the greatest. At one time he was working in a family court (a divorce court) in a large Mid-Western city. After he had demonstrated his skill by resolving some awful relationships the judges gave him access to those waiting for their day in the divorce court. Soon, about half the divorce-seeking couples were going away HAPPILY reconciled. But that cut into the incomes of their divorce lawyers. In response, the divorce lawyers’ lobby got rid of him by having the legislature threaten to significantly cut the family-court’s budget. There is a special place in hell for the lawyers who pulled that off, and also for those behind the no-fault divorce revolution (read Jane Anderson’s 2014 on the effects of divorce if you think that too strong).
Next week I
will delve into the effects (visible in the Add Health data) of divorce on
boys. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the social science literature: The
divorce of parents plus the
worship of God turns boys into sexual predators.
After this delving into the dark side, I feel like a good shower and a good drink, or something even better to revive the heart.
Pew’s new report is a landmark study in the sociology of religion, which “—sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” 
What are the seven types or groups? And how many are in each group?
If you want to know where you land within the seven types, go here. For a quick overview of the difference between the types on major outcomes go here. Here is one comparison (frequency of worship:
Keep the following relationship in mind (from MARRI’s own Mapping America) as you study the Pew report on matters family and marriage:
The chart above gives some idea of the link between frequency of religious practice and the importance given to marriage. I note this as a reference point to keep in mind as you study the details below.
What is the relationship between Pew’s seven types and the typical identification by denomination?
As I am Roman Catholic, naturally, I paid attention to how represented Roman Catholics are “Sunday Stalwarts” (13%). [By the way it is very easy to misread this chart: it is not the percent of Roman Catholics who are Sunday Stalwarts but the percent of Sunday Stalwarts who are Roman Catholic). But still, for Catholics it is a poor showing indeed, for a religion which puts so much emphasis on the Mass (as the act of Redemption, and the obligation of weekly worship of God by this means). Compared to Evangelicals they are weak in worship, even if, by the nature of being an Evangelical, one self-selects into a devout group, whereas being Catholic has (in ordinary life) as much to so with what one was born into as it has to what you intend do about it. The biggest showing for “Catholics” is among the Diversely Devout — a strange title for you if you are “Catholic” because devout usually means a high level of faithfulness but not in this case! However, for the Pew typology the Diversely part fits it fits by Catholic norms even as the Devout part fits by Pew Typology norms. But Pew acknowledges the shortcomings of its “clustering” techniques. Even given my concerns the data is very helpful.
What is the relationship between the seven types and family behaviors?
As expected: There is a decrease in impact with a decrease in worship:
What is the relationship between marriage and the seven types?
Given that the next chart does not control for age it is not all that helpful. The biggest issue in “marriage” is the intactness of the biological parents’ marriage between their mid-30’s and their early 50’s, that phase of family life when their marriage has the greatest influence on their children’s future. From the Pew data below, we cannot tell.
It would be nice to figure out where the 7 types tend to fall in the different strata of family structures below. (From the MARRIcollection of 5 thousand chartson family structure from the 1940’s to the present).
The most disturbing finding:
For the future of our nation, the most disturbing finding for me is the following:
From this we see a disturbing polarization outside of the Sunday Stalwarts (who have some balance on the issue). I would be among those who would say (with a major caveat) that it is not necessary to believe in God to have good values and to be moral. I have met many such people. My caveat: it is much easier to be moral and have good values if one practices believes in God enough to worship him in community. I don’t trust the ‘God and Country’ type nor the ‘Diversely Devout’ to build the bridges necessary for a functioning polis or political community, which at bottom is a discourse on political morality. And clearly the remaining groups in the Typology see no contribution from religion to morality. Now that is dangerous! The more the Sunday Stalwarts shrink as a percent of the nation, the more polarized and the fewer bridge builders we will have, leaving more and more of the country polarized. Reason and philosophy will have no place in matters moral!
For the “wonks”: Notes on Motivation and Method from the Pew Report
“Pew Research Center’s religious typology is not meant to replace conventional religious affiliations, but rather to offer a new and complementary lens with which to glean new insights into religion and public life in the U.S.” 
“The typology groups were created using cluster analysis, a statistical technique that identified homogeneous groups of respondents based on their answers to 16 questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” 
“In some ways, cluster analysis is as much art as science. The groups that emerge will depend on both the number of groups that researchers specify and the questions that they choose to include in the analysis. What’s more, there is no “correct” cluster solution or any single criteria for deciding which solution is best. Researchers must weigh a number of factors: whether it’s clear why people are grouped together, whether the groups are different enough from each other to be analytically useful, and whether the groups are consistent with what researchers already know about the subject.” 
“In preparing this report, researchers tested several possible solutions – ranging from five to eight groups – and experimented with including larger and smaller numbers of questions.” 
“Researchers ultimately settled on the 16-question, seven-category cluster solution summarized in this report because it has several strengths. First, the solution divides respondents into a relatively small number of groups that are distinct from one another, large enough to permit statistical analysis, and substantively meaningful. Second, all the survey questions that went into the algorithm are measures of religious or spiritual characteristics, making this truly a religious typology.” 
[1-6] From the Report.
Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.
The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.
In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.
It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.
The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.
The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.
Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.
Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.
Recently, for a talk in Chicago to parents of high school boys, I had to update my knowledge based on a 2009 review of the effects of pornography. On this issue the world has changed a lot in less than ten years: the use of pornography has escalated and the effects are alarming.
The most telling effect, I think, is the epidemic of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men. For all of human history this was mainly an older man’s problem. As recently as 2002 the rate of ED for men aged 40–80 was about 13% in Europe. By 2011 rates reached 28% for men aged 18–40. As reported above, a 2014 cross-sectional study of active duty, relatively healthy, 21–40 old males in the US military, found that one third (33.2%) suffered from ED.
Unaware of these changes, for the last year or so I had thought that the drop in high school students’ rate of sexual intercourse was good news and that, since 2007, abstinence ideas were winning, but given the above data, all of the causes may not be good news. Increased pornography use among teenage boys, resulting in decreased interest in girls, may be the cause. This also serves to put in context a disturbing experience I had a few weeks ago while driving through a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb during rush hour: I noticed (as must several other drivers waiting for the traffic lights to change) a 12-year-old moving along the sidewalk, intently looking at his smartphone in one hand while his other hand was engaged in self-abuse. I had not yet reviewed the new research on the prevalence of pornography viewing and was quite taken aback. No longer. At age 12 he was already so addicted to porn and had no shame. The average age of a boy’s first viewing of pornography has dropped to 10 years of age. Fathers be aware.
75 percent of porn-watching is done on smart phones. 25 percent of all internet searches are for pornography. Tablets and computers make up the rest, computers being the smallest percentage. The average length of stay on a porn site is about 10 minutes. 70 percent of US college students watch porn — alone, with others, or in couples. 45 percent of women now accept it in their relationships. 10 percent of women refuse to view it themselves but accept it in their husbands or partners.
A decade ago women viewed pornography at about one sixth the rate of men. Today, depending on the country, it varies from only one third the rate of men (US) to one half (the Philippines and Brazil).
Estimates of production range up to 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total sites worldwide) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, worldwide, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).
What are the negative effects for those who become habituated and especially for those who become addicted? Changes in brain size (diminished); the younger boys start the greater the effects on their brain, and the more difficult to overcome the addiction; men see women as sex objects not as persons, have greater interest in pornography than in the company of women or girlfriends; they suffer increasingly from erectile dysfunction, become more aggressive in their relationships with spouses or partners, are more likely to believe the ‘rape myth’ (that women enjoy being sexually abused), and progress to more and more deviant pornography to attain sexual arousal, leading in turn to greater sexual deviancy; teenagers will be more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activities. It is no wonder that American young adults and college students are less and less interested in marriage and may be on the way towards the “Japanese disease” of widespread withdrawal from interest in sexual matters among 30-year-olds.
This is a calamity of monumental proportions. Combined with contraception and abortion, we now have a ‘society-collapsing’ conception and practice of human sexuality.
Given the borderless nature of the internet, pornography is difficult to control. However, there is not a nation on earth for whom its effects are not massively deleterious. This is one public health hazard on which the governments of the world should cooperate. Without that cooperation it cannot be stamped out. And, given the rate at which porn movies are made, the industry would have to be a major source of the sexual exploitation of women, with probable links to sex-trafficking.
In the meantime, savvy parents — and even savvy teenagers — will switch to dumb phones. Giving a teenage boy a smart phone is installing a porn-shop in his pocket… and a very alluring shop it is too: cheap (free) porn, immediately available, and anonymous. In ten minutes a teenage boy can see more and more beautiful undressed women than the greatest sultan harem-owner in history ever saw in a lifetime. Who could resist? Not many.
One father, a friend of mine who took great care in introducing his boys into a gradual and full understanding of male sexuality and its foundational role in marriage, came up with a savvy way of helping his boys avoid pornography: He told them that, if any boy at their school showed porn to them on a smartphone, they had his full permission to grab the phone, smash it on the ground, stomp it into bits, and then tell that classmate to have their father call his father. One can imagine their glee but, so far, they have not had the joy of following through. Their school now forbids smartphones during school hours on school property. Maybe the practice will spread. ‘Dumb phones’ work fine for communicating with parents, family, and friends. The world is different when dumb is smart!
Recently, I led a group of young parents in a case study designed to teach them how to handle a three-year-old when he is throwing a temper tantrum. The parents in the case study were dealing with their first child and made several typical mistakes: one parent spanked in anger and one parent denigrated the other in front of the child.
We dissected the case: what happened, what went wrong, what they needed to do in the future, and how to get there. Towards the end of the session we gained a bird’s eye view when someone pointed out that the underlying issue was one of trust. The whole episode came alive again with new energy as we analyzed the case from that perspective.
The case parents were trying to form a habit of restraint in their child so that they could trust him to practice restraint in the future. When he demonstrates that he can restrain himself their trust in him will grow. If he does not learn restraint, however, they will trust him less.
Ironically, to achieve this level of formation in their child, they need to be able to trust each other to “do the right thing” when disciplining their child. Though they agree on what Johnny needs to do they do not yet agree on what each of them needs to do. In this situation they cannot trust each other yet.
This problem will be solved when they can agree: “You can rely on me to do this in this situation. And I can rely on you to do that in this same situation.” When they can both look each other in the eye and each say this to each other the ground beneath them has shifted. Not only has trust been restored, but the foundation of their marriage has grown and they have learned how to deepen it. When they have solved a string of problems in this way they are well on their way to being great parents and a great couple because they have learned how to grow trust.
No matter what way they discipline their child he will turn out strong because they know it is all about trust. “Johnny, you can rely on me to do this for you. Can I rely on you to do the same for me?” Johnny learns many good habits but, more importantly, he learns the value of being trustworthy.
Given the massive disruption in trust that the US is experiencing in all its institutions (family, church, school, marketplace, and government) it seems that fellow citizens who are opponents on so many issues need to begin their discourse with: “You can rely on me to treat you with respect in our conversations. Can I rely on the same from you?” Without a “yes” there is no point in having the conversation. With a “yes” the ground has shifted— a brick has been laid in the infrastructure we need most: trust.
If we adopt this habit a lot will change. Is there anyone in your orbit with whom you need to practice this? A spouse? A child? A relative? A co-worker? A neighbor?
With an eye to the child, the future of America,
Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the MARRI Project
Catholic University of America
A few years ago I met Don Renzo Bonetti, parish priest near Verona, Italy. He is the founder of a family movement, The Great Mystery Project (“Mistero Grande” in Italian). He said he was “forming the families who will rebuild Western Civilization after it collapses” and wished me luck with my work in the social sciences, which he thought could play its own role (rather limited) in this rebuilding.
Western civilization is collapsing very quickly — silently in Italy and other European countries, as they gradually disappear, demographically, before our eyes — raucously in US. Our debate may be the first stage of the next great awakening. It is not yet a response but there is a widespread awakening to the level of the crisis and a growing desire to do something about it.
The solution, the rebuilding of America, will be aided by our deepest roots as a nation, which are not in our being a particular people or race but in the ideals of freedom, articulated by our Founders as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But these ideals alone will not be enough to carry the day.
Many institutions need rebuilding: schools, universities, media, movies, and churches. The reform needed for our ideals to flourish again in these will never take hold without the first and most basic reform – the rebuilding of our families.
Such rebuilding of the family is most likely to happen within communities of worship, because it is there that our national experts in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are most to be found: the intact married family that worships God weekly.
Where is life most abundant? In the intact married family that worships God weekly. Where is death most absent? In the very same place.
Where is liberty most abundant? Where are children free? Where are women and men most free to achieve the good they desire? In that same place.
Where are people happiest? In that same place. The data is incontrovertible.
This is the place where the two great loves are most present: love of others and love of God. And these loves are both the seed and the soil of the rebirth of America. These families know what to do and they are the most likely to help. This is America’s “Great Mystery”, its great resource.