Sunday, 27 May 2012

David Warren – ‘In Defence Of Real Sex’ (Ottawa Citizen, May 20, 2012)



While reading David Warren’s column from May 20 one is struck by his casual admission that he has not attended the ‘Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition’ at the Canada Science at Technology Museum.  Clearly he doesn’t need any first hand experience to form his opinions when a single account written by someone else will suffice.  I guess Warren is indeed a true professional.  He just knows (perhaps one of those miracles he has described in past columns) that “there is nothing new or unusual” at the exhibition.   Warren also knows, simply knows, that the exhibition consists of “the standard, glib, materialist, amoral, happyface approach to sex.”      

Our columnist also notes with scorn that the museum is partially subsidized by tax payers.  He writes, “…the use of my impounded money to finance something that directly insults my values involves real tyranny.”  Directly?  I’m not sure how the absent editorialist could have been ‘directly’ insulted.  And if Warren is indeed a minority on this issue as he seems to suggest when describing our overall decline in values, then perhaps the use of taxpayer money is in fact evidence of democracy rather than tyranny (a ludicrous, inflammatory and lazy word to be using no matter how you feel about the issue).  As well, I’m guessing pretty much everyone in Canada has at one time or another had their values challenged or undermined by government decisions or programs.  One could, for instance, imagine people having the same reaction to the purchase of F-35 fighter jets regardless of their price.  Still, as with many self-professed social conservatives, Warren is only concerned about his own values as there cannot possibly be any other valid ones out there.  And what is Warren calling for here?  Surely not the intervention of the so-called nanny state he claims to abhor.      

Warren does adopt an interesting tactic in the second half of his column.  The notion he puts forward is that he is actually defending sex from all those who would degrade it – in particular pornographers (because, of course, he is certain that pornography is the issue at hand).  In his rudimentary opinion “this has everything to do with the sexual revolution, launched in the 1960s.”   Wow, hard to believe critics are still trotting out that ancient right-wing chestnut.  Anyway, not for a second does Warren consider that his isn’t the only conception of sex.  I guess he just knows the ‘real sex’ which needs defending.  By his way of thinking it would be impossible for anyone, male or female, to derive pleasure from pornography as the whole thing is “barbaric” and “degrades people morally, materially, spiritually and intellectually.”  And if anyone does consume pornography (a term I can’t even properly define let alone fully comprehend) they are a party to “a form of sexual assault.”  No guilt induction there (and I won’t even get into the willfully blind ills of the Catholic Church in recent decades).  What’s more, according to Warren, pornography is a “purposeful invasion of human serenity.”  I guess the implication is, contrary to all evidence, our natural state is one of tranquility. 

Still, I guess it is always easier and tidier for social (and fiscal) conservatives to blame the 1960s specifically rather than capitalism more generally.  While Warren makes a joke that this is a rare column of his which will not critique the so-called nanny state, one wonders where exactly he sees fault other than the (now some 40 years in the past) sexual revolution.  Warren makes veiled references to trade and advertisements but he studiously avoids using the word capitalism.  Perhaps Warren is really making a Marxist argument about how commodities are invading all aspects of our social and private lives.  Our columnist sounds like Karl himself when he laments, “At so many levels of our society, thanks to amoral, irreligious, technological view of life, the glossy and virtual have defeated the real; the machine method has defeated the human.”   And if Warren doesn’t think this is what Marx was on about I suggest he start doing more homework.  Still, as he makes abundantly clear in this piece he is allergic to homework – why do any work when intuition is all one needs.  Warren might claim to be standing up for a real or imagined past, but he is a truly contemporary opinion writer. 

The only questions I was left with after reading ‘In Defense of Real Sex’ were about the quality of journalism today.  How is a single anecdote (overheard on a streetcar no less) a substitute for rigorous analysis and detail?   How is it acceptable to club together a bunch of exhausted and self-righteous clich├ęs and pass them off as viable content?  This column would make an undergrad blush.  And if there is a decline in our moral values perhaps one could make a similar and parallel argument about newspaper writers.  The technological or ‘machine-method’ victory displayed in this case is writing done by the numbers.