(Originally published at the National Catholic Register, April 27, 2020.)
When the COVID-19 crisis first hit the news, I thought to myself, “Oh boy, nobody is going to want to talk about the family anymore. It is going to be all COVID, all the time.”
I was wrong. The issues the Ruth Institute deals with are just as important as ever. That’s because pandemics don’t exist in a vacuum. We can easily see that the political and economic system in which a new disease takes hold plays a part in how that country copes with that pandemic. We can now see that the culture surrounding the family makes a difference in how the United States and other developed countries are dealing with the new coronavirus. And the pandemic raises serious questions about our modern approach to marriage, family and human sexuality.
Top of the list: The pandemic highlights the absurdity of the hyper-sexualized society in which we live. At the opening of the crisis, a pornography industry lobbying group called on those who make so-called adult entertainment to voluntarily cease operations for two weeks. (This was before it was obvious that everyone was going to shut down.) The industry congratulated itself, for its undying love of humanity. Really? A two-week hiatus by a $16.9 billion industry is a great sacrifice?
In fact, the move was a public relations gimmick by an industry that daily wrecks people’s lives. Pornography is strongly correlated with infidelity, divorce and marital dissatisfaction. It’s also an affront to human dignity. This harm will barely be impacted by a two-week break. And the consumption of porn has increased during the near-global lockdown. Just Google “lockdown on pornography” and you’ll see what I mean.
Meanwhile, New York City’s Department of Public Health issued guidelines which helpfully note that “masturbation will not spread COVID-19, especially if you wash your hands (and any sex toys) for at least 20 seconds before and after.” Beyond that, it recommends avoiding intimate relations with strangers and group sex.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, couldn’t bring himself to tell people to avoid sex with strangers. In response to a question about people using casual sex/dating apps like Tinder or Grinder, Fauci said, “If you’re willing to take a risk — and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks — you could figure out if you want to meet somebody. And it depends on the level of the interaction that you want to have. If you’re looking for a friend, sit in a room and put a mask on, and you know, chat a bit. If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk.”
Sensible people don’t need to be told to abstain from risky conduct, like casual sex and orgies, even without a pandemic. The public health establishment appears to assume that sex with strangers is so natural that we can’t ask people to give it up. If you think you’ll die by abstaining from sex, you’re probably a sex addict. All of which raises the question: Are we ruled by sex addicts?
Both the U.S. surgeon general and the Centers for Disease Control have advised health care facilities to reschedule non-urgent appointments and elective procedures. A number of pro-life and pro-family groups, including the Ruth Institute, have asked state attorneys general to enforce CDC guidelines by ordering abortion businesses to close down for the duration. For decades, abortion proponents have told us that a woman has a “right to choose.” That makes abortion elective, by definition.