Occasionally I witness liberals giving their views on sex education for the young and on what a sexually healthy upbringing looks like for young people.
Here is what I'm hearing: Pleasure is everything, and so is consent. As long as kids are taught to respect the need for consent, anything goes. Oh, and we aren't (aren'taren'taren't) promoting sexual activity for minors. We're just giving facts.
The latter part of this is so self-deceived and stupid that I simply don't have the time to debate it. The web sites and "educational" materials defended by the left (Planned Parenthood, GLSEN, etc.) are so blatantly promoting sex to young people as fun, fun, fun that any pretense to the contrary is risible. And the pattern continues in college, with upbeat, sexually explicit presentations at freshman orientation, Sex Week at Yale, and so on and so forth. This is hedonism in pretty much its purest form.
Yet, in the "progressive" view, it is social conservatives who don't understand consent. We sexual traditionalists are allegedly the ones teaching (by commission or omission) that consent isn't important. They are the only bastion of the importance of consent. Only in the hedonism+consent equation, they imply, does consent come into its own.
This is dangerously false.
Sex is one area where choice devours itself with a vengeance. It simply is not possible to hold simultaneously that hedonic pleasure is the greatest good, for all ages, and that full, rational, informed consent is also the highest priority. These priorities are not compatible.
First, this should be obvious from the fact that the ability of minors to consent is legitimately questionable, and the more so the younger the minors. Progressives actually do realize this at some level, and most support statutory rape laws, but they seem to "forget" when it comes to promoting "consensual" activities between minors. This is a blatantly incoherent position. You cannot simultaneously hold that minors cannot consent (which progressives have to do, for example, to tell us conservatives how mean and nasty we are even to bring up pedophilia as an analogy in the context of opposing homosexuality, because of course they don't support that, because minors can't consent, so there) while promoting programs that encourage minors down to middle school in sexual experimentation.
Second, a hedonic approach is what has given us the hookup culture, in which there isn't even a relationship between the participants and in which alcohol is often involved, which impairs one's faculties and blurs the entire issue of consent. Yet the use of alcohol in these contexts is usually done willingly (I'm not talking about slipping a drug into a drink), and is often carried out for the very purpose of lowering inhibitions. If that is what people want to do--to make themselves less able to think through what they are consenting to--that fulfills the hedonic imperative while violating the priority of consent. And, from a progressive perspective, "who are we to say" that they shouldn't do that, especially if they are adults?
Third, a hedonic approach in culture and education encourages young men, in particular, to assume that women are consenting, which leads to all sorts of messy situations vis a vis actual consent.
The hookup and date rape culture, which ultimately is the culture of progressive sex education, cannot be fixed by regulations, because the problem doesn't have its source in regulations. It can be fixed only by a return to an understanding of sex in the context of marriage, love, and the whole person.
It is the traditional view of marriage that offers a rationale for the importance of consent, by placing sex within the entire context of love, commitment, and the unity of the marriage. Without that understanding, consent is just a surd, and as our culture "progresses" deeper and deeper into the pit of all manner of perversions and experiments, the tensions between that ethical surd and the hedonic imperative become more and more evident. The culture of hedonism is coming apart at the seams, and consent cannot sustain itself.
What this means is that those who promote the hedonic view cannot be the allies of conservatives under any circumstances, even to address thorny issues such as sexual abuse. Their hedonic heaven is our hedonic hell, and it may even be that some of them will eventually start to realize it.
When Eros is made a god, he becomes a devil. Consent, in isolation, is a god without a reason. When these two gods go up against one another, the devil always wins.