November 16, 2017

The answer lies even further back along the arc of 20th-century history, in the aftermath of the First World War. As the bodies subsided into the ground, leftists found themselves puzzled by Western populations’ failure to have obeyed Marxist theory and risen against their countrymen. There being nothing wrong with the theory—it was theory, after all—they concluded there was something wrong with the populations: to whit, that they liked each other too much. To address this problem, a Hungarian named Georg Lukacs concluded that “Western society is the enemy.” But Lukacs was smart. He realized that society is an outworking of the family, which is, in turn, an outworking of sex. To remake society, therefore, you must remake sex.

Like Bernays after him, Lukacs also reached for Freud—specifically, the stage in a child’s life when it experiences mild stimulation from any type of physical contact. If this could be extended into adulthood, the sexual atom at the heart of the nuclear family would be split. And so he set about screening pornography for children and instructing them in promiscuity. The baton was then passed to American sexologist Alfred Kinsey, who, using a flawed sample of prison inmates, “proved” that everyone’s sexual preferences sit on a spectrum (less known is his research method of inducing orgasms in children).

These ideas exploded onto society in the ’60s, with subsequent barriers—mainstreaming homosexuality, then bisexuality, then transsexuality—falling at roughly twenty-year intervals. Their exponents cared little for collateral damage to other hard-won causes; not least the moral basis of gay rights themselves, which had been won on the basis that sexual choices are predisposed, not recreational. With most teen pregnancies in the U.S. now taking place among self-identified lesbians, such niceties have been forgotten. To illustrate with another of Anne’s more revealing outbursts, which was followed by a rare double take: “I must stop dating straight guys!”

In one of the great reversals of history, the “cultural terrorism” once intended to prepare for Marxism now drives consumerism. If people cannot control their sexual urges, how can they control their consumer urges? The pièce de résistance has been the dating app, which consumerizes sex itself. Yet the brilliance of Lukacs’ original strategy is shown by how many of its goals are still being delivered. Into the space left by personal morality has flooded the externalized morality of the state. Into the space left by personal trust has flooded an imagined bond with political leaders. Into the space left by national loyalties have flooded transnational loyalties (most recently, toward migrants). His dictum that “politics is only the means: culture is the end” has become more true than ever. The final exhibit is Anne’s greatest one-liner of all. Floored by a political reference, she stared at me dumbfounded and said: “Left-wing? Me?”


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