An interview with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse on The Sexual State
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the Ruth Institute’s founder, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse. Dr. Morse was in the DC area for some speaking engagements related to the launch of her new book The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives, and Why the Church Was Right All Along (TAN Books). Dr. Morse is a seasoned economist, writer, speaker and champion of the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality, chastity, marriage, the family and children’s rights.
1) Please tell us a little about yourself and your faith journey.
I’m a cradle Catholic, with a pre-Vatican II upbringing. I left the faith in the 70s, got married, got divorced by the time I was 24, and was sure that I would never have anything to do with the Catholic faith again. I taught at Yale for five years, and then at George Mason University. I got married again, and figured that I would get pregnant once I got tenure. Well, I didn’t get pregnant during the month that I had set aside for it. The infertility crisis brought me back to the Catholic faith. I realized (finally!) that I couldn’t get everything that I wanted.
I “found myself” in the back of the church at Mass, sobbing during the consecration. I “found myself” kneeling at the statue of Mary, asking for her help. I realize now, of course, that this was all divine grace, and I didn’t really “find myself” anyplace. God had led me there. We resolved our infertility crisis by adopting a 2-year-old boy from a Romanian orphanage. He had been profoundly neglected, and could not even utter his own name. My husband and I did not really know what normal child development looked like. Six months later, our daughter was born, and we watched her developing. It was then that we realized, looking at how children were disregarded in the countries that had experienced Communism, how much children need their two parents. They can’t just be put aside like potted plants; they need the support of their mother and father.
2) How has economics given you particular insights into the Sexual Revolution?
As an economist, I am used to looking at numbers. If you tell me about a study, I am going to look at the study and form my own conclusions. Also, economists are trained to follow patterns of cause and effect. The price of eggs has an impact on farmers, on the consumer, on restaurants and other businesses, on so many things. So, my economics training had me primed and ready to follow the ideas of the Sexual Revolution through all their impacts on all sorts of aspects of society. The negative impact of just a handful of ideas points to the fact that these ideologies were really lies at their core.
3) What is the Sexual Revolution?
If you think about it, what we think of as the “Sexual Revolution” can be reduced to three parts, three components.
First, the marker of a progressive society is the separation of sex from babies, and that is the contraceptive ideology. Abortion is a backup plan for contraception, as many pro-life thought leaders have observed.
The second idea is that a “good” society should separate both sex and babies from marriage — the divorce ideology. You don’t have to be married before you have sex, or you can even have babies without having sex, and so forth. Traditionally, sex has been related to marriage, because having both parents is so important. The divorce ideology directly contradicts this traditional understanding. The idea that both sex and babies can be separated from marriage relies on the claim that “children don’t really need both parents.” The extreme form of this is third-party reproduction, where you can have a relationship with a test tube, really. You can purchase a gamete, have a surrogate, and pretend that the baby does not have a right to both actual parents.
The third ideology is the gender ideology, which tries to eradicate any differences between men and women. According to this ideology, the sex of the body can be overwritten by technology and social engineering, with the human will being able to override physical realities. Thus, the sex of the body is insubstantial, and can be changed at will.
4) You have researched and written extensively about the Sexual Revolution. What is the origin of its three components?
The contraceptive ideology begins with Margaret Sanger and eugenics, and the population control mentality. The contraceptive ideology was manufactured by those who wanted to control others’ fertility. The divorce ideology began with the American Law Institute and its desire to want to recreate marriage as a revocable contract between two consenting adults – the idea of “if you want to get out of it, you can, and there is no question of fault.” The gender ideology is a little harder to pin down exactly, but what is called “feminism,” or the feminist movement of the 1960s, was a resentment of the differences between men and women. The deepest and oldest of these ideologies is the contraceptive ideology.
We tend to think of the Sexual Revolution as being a “left-wing” ideology, but it really overlaps with different backgrounds. For example, you had rich and powerful figures who simply thought that there were too many poor people. I don’t think anyone would claim that John D. Rockefeller III or Henry Kissinger or Richard Nixon were left-wing Marxists. But each of them contributed to the implementation of the contraceptive ideology.
5) How do you hope for readers to benefit from reading your new book The Sexual State?
I want my pro-life readers, and pro-marriage readers, to see how these two issues are interconnected. I want the pro-marriage activists to realize that we cannot dodge issues like divorce and third-party reproduction. It is not fair to single out the gay issues, and ignore the other, numerically more significant, ways that children are separated from relationships with their parents. We need to understand that being pro-life is important, but we also need to see the importance of how this fits together with chastity and marriage.
6) Do you have a favorite scriptural passage?
Mary’s words to the servers at the Wedding at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
7) Any parting words of wisdom for your audience?
Be not afraid. Many people are both victims and perpetrators of the Sexual Revolution. If you were a perpetrator, confess your sins sacramentally, and be rid of them. Victims and perpetrators both should share their stories, anonymously if necessary. This is the only lasting path to healing the culture. People need to hear the truth, from people who have experienced the costs of the Sexual Revolution and have the courage to tell the tale.