In response to my post Vagina worship, Neguy came to George Gilder’s defense:
Men and Marriage is actually a re-released second edition of Gilder’s 1973 book Sexual Suicide, which was interestingly published by New York Times Books. It’s easy to sit here in 2018 and criticize Gilder, but writing back in the early 1970s (no fault divorce only began in 1969) he was actually one of the most prescient critics of the sexual revolution, one who foresaw a lot of what came to pass. He also understood the implications of things like government provided universal day care, which he strongly opposed. Yes, Gilder got some important things wrong, but his work needs to be seen in the context of when he originally wrote it and developed the ideas and the many things he got right. We also need to have the humility to realize that future generations, if they take notice of what we’re writing here at all, will be judging us for our blind spots.
There are two main weaknesses to this defense. First, Gilder’s response to the feminist arson against fathers was to break out the gasoline. Instead of calling out the evil of a system designed to destroy families, he praised the system as natural and right. On the same page as the quotes I provided yesterday, Gilder explains why fathers are and must be expendable. If fathers aren’t expendable, women can’t tame men the way civilization requires:
The female responsibility for civilization cannot be granted or assigned to men. Unlike a woman, a man has no civilized role or agenda inscribed in his body. Although his relationship to specific children can give him a sense of futurity resembling the woman’s, it always must come through her body and her choices. The child can never be his unless a woman allows him to claim it with her or unless he so controls her and so restricts her sexual activity that he can be sure he is the father. He cannot merely come back nine months later with grand claims. He must make a durable commitment.
Even then he is dependent on the woman to love and nurture his child. Even in the context of the family, he is sexually inferior. If he leaves, the family may survive without him. If she leaves, it goes with her. He is readily replaceable; she is not. He can have a child only if she acknowledges his paternity; her child is inexorably hers. His position must be maintained by continuous performance, sexual and worldly, with the woman as the judge. The woman’s position, on the other hand, requires essentially a receptive sexuality and is naturally validated by the child that cannot ordinarily be taken away. The man’s role in the family is thus reversible; the woman’s is unimpeachable and continues even if the man departs.
The man’s participation in the chain of nature, his access to social immortality, the very meaning of his potency, of his life energy, are all inexorably contingent on a woman’s durable love and on her sexual discipline. Only she can free the man of his exile from the chain of nature; only she can give significance to his most powerful drives.
The essential pattern is clear. Women manipulate male sexual desire in order to teach men the long-term cycles of female sexuality and biology on which civilization is based.
Again, Gilder isn’t sounding the alarm about the terrible destruction of the family courts. He is providing the philosophical foundation for them. He is explaining that fathers need to be expendable for civilization to work. This matters all the more because as other readers have noted, Gilder is highly influential among conservatives, and has been for decades.
The second problem with Neguy’s defense of Gilder is that Gilder, now 78, has had over forty years to observe reality since he first wrote Sexual Suicide. If he had learned and corrected his error, this would be one thing. The quote I included above and the quotes in my previous post were from the re-release of Sexual Suicide (renamed Men and Marriage) in 1992. By the early nineties the evil of decades of family destruction were obvious, but Gilder was still pushing his destructive line that mothers need to be able to kick out fathers in order to perform their civilizing role of men.
In 2010 Gilder doubled down on this message in an interview he did with Religion & Liberty:
R&L: What are the differences between the genders as articulated in your book Men and Marriage and what impact does this have on the social order?
Gilder: The key difference is that the woman holds in her very body a link to the long term future of the race. Her sexuality determines her long term goals. As a very physiological consciousness, she knows she can bear and nurture children. She has a central role in the very perpetuation of the species. The man is estranged from this process; his sexuality arises merely as a compulsive drive to pleasure. It’s short term by nature. It’s predatory and quickly gratified. The Women’s Movement tragically reduces female sexuality to the terms of male sexuality. When this happens, she reduces herself to the male level of recreational sex. Paradoxically, when that happens the woman loses all her power over men and the reverence and respect toward the procreative potential of woman is lost. And that really destroys the family. But if the power of “choice” is given up, the woman actually ascends to a higher level of sexuality and her body attains an almost mystical power over men.
The interviewer asked Gilder about divorce, but Gilder was all but uninterested in divorce:
R&L: How does the divorce rate affect economic life and the number of poor?
Gilder: The real source of poverty is not divorce, although it does spread poverty, and bitterness, and feminism, and other problems. The key culprit is illegitimacy. Among the poor, the welfare state has legitimized children born out of wedlock and de-legitimized marriage. Even conservatives who want workfare want to further enrich the welfare state. To them, it’s not enough to give mothers of illegitimate children all sorts of supports and special pregnancy services, housing, special educational and training programs. You now have to give them jobs and daycare centers on top of it.
This constant enrichment of the welfare state ignores the victims of the real problem who are not on welfare. They are unmarried men and they have rendered many of our big cities unlivable. They have reduced the real-estate values in American cities by trillions of dollars. It is single men who commit the violent crimes.
Gilder said these things in 2010, despite understanding full well the evil being unleashed in order to ensure that women could have the power over men that Gilder argued was essential. Gilder is quoted by Stephen Baskerville:
During the debate leading up to welfare reform, George Gilder warned of the bipartisan bandwagon being marshaled to punish private citizens who had been pronounced guilty by general acclaim:
The president wants to take away their driver’s licenses and occupational accreditations. Texas Governor George W. Bush wants to lift their hunting licenses as well. Moving to create a generation of American boat people, Senator Bill Bradley is leading a group of senators seeking to seize their passports. Congressman Henry Hyde wants to expand the powers of the IRS to confiscate their assets. Running for president, Lamar Alexander wants to give them “jail time,” presumably so they won’t vote. Also running for president, Alan Keyes suggests caning, recommending “a trip to Singapore to learn how to administer a civil beating.” Governor William Weld in Massachusetts wants to subpoena their DNA, put liens on their houses, and hound them through the bureaucracies of 50 states. (1995, 24)
And it isn’t that no one has pointed out Gilder’s error. In 1990 Dr. Daniel Amnéus dedicated a chapter of his book The Garbage Generation to correcting this very error*. From Chapter 7, titled The Gilder Fallacy:
Precisely the opposite of Gilder’s view that “civilization evolved through the subordination of male sexual patterns–the short-term cycles of tension and release–to the long-term female patterns.” “In creating civilization,” says Gilder,
women transform male lust into love; channel male wanderlust into jobs, homes, and families; link men to specific children; rear children into citizens; change hunters into fathers, divert male will to power into a drive to create. Women conceive the future that men tend to fell; they feed the children that men ignore.
Why, if so, didn’t civilization precede patriarchy and the regulation of female sexuality? This regulation was the precondition enabling males to create stable families from which they could not be expelled. The earlier matriarchal pattern is this: “The women are not obliged to live with their husbands any longer than suits their pleasure or conscience….” In such a society women, including married women, are sexually autonomous and the men can do nothing about it. That’s the way women prefer things.