On Tuesday the Thomas International Center sponsored a talk at UNC by Jennifer Morse titled “Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World.” Dr. Morse is the president and founder of the Ruth Institute, an organization that works to promote and defend marriage and the institution of the family on college campuses around the country.
Before getting around to what smart sex is, Dr. Morse spends the first half of her presentation focusing on what she sees as very un-smart and harmful sexual and lifestyle choices that are encouraged and promoted in contemporary America, especially among young people.
She begins with the prevailing notion of a “hook up culture,” where sex is meant to be for recreation, while emotional attachment is discouraged and unnecessary. Dr. Morse argues that the “hook-up culture” often results in women being left emotionally scarred from a supposedly “casual” sexual encounter. This results from a failure to understand that emotional attachment cannot be separated from sex.
Dr. Morse also argues that this culture ultimately harms men as well, pointing to a Washington Post article showing the shocking increase of men under 30 with erectile dysfunction. “There’s something wrong with men under 30 not enjoying sex,” claims Dr. Morse, as case in point as to why the “hook-up culture” and pervailing views concerning sex are out of whack.
In regards to cohabitation, Dr. Morse points out that many people wish to “try out” a partner before getting married, but couples who cohabitate before marriage actually have lower quality relationships and are more likely to get divorced. The “try it before you buy it” method may apply to buying a car, Dr. Morse says, but not to a relationship with a human being.
Dr. Morse also addresses what she sees as two very disturbing trends concerning having children. The first is the idea of planning children around one’s career, education and other major priorities. Dr. Morse says that when she had children, having to turn away from her professional life to raise them significantly ultimately led her to be such a strong and devoted advocate of family and marriage. She says that “this experience proved to me how much moms and dads do for their children.”
Next, Dr. Morse addresses the “single mothers by choice” scenario. Regarding artificial insemination, Morse argues that a woman is from day one making a lifelong decision for the child—that it will not know its father. Although this unfortunate situation usually arises by accident or neglect, in these cases the mothers are actually intentionally choosing this outcome.
In other instances, Dr. Morse says women can agree to a “no commitment” policy on behalf of the male partner either before or after the pregnancy. Dr. Morse argues that often in these cases “the two partners will end up having a lifelong relationship anyway, in court.” This is because either women begin to demand the father be a part of the child’s life at least via child support, or fathers demand to be a part of the life which they created. In either scenario, the outcomes are not good for no parties, especially children.
So, what exactly is “smart sex?” Dr. Morse says that “smart sex consists of a recognition of two basic reasons for sex. The first is for procreation, while the second is for spousal unity.”
The former is obvious, but Morse says takes the opportunity to point out how drastically the times have changed, saying that “when the sex revolution started, we thought it would be fun because we could have sex without babies. This has now devolved to where we have babies without sex. It seems more fun the old fashioned way.”
Ms. Morse addresses spousal unity in greater detail, laying out the biological reasons for her arguments. She says the human body cannot tell the difference between one night stands and lifelong partners when it comes to sex. Morse goes into further scientific detail, pointing to the female hormone oxytocin, which is secreted only on three occasions: while giving birth, while nursing, and during sexual intercourse.
Morse believes this is significant, as these are the times when one is engaged in family building. Because there is a biological attachment between two sex partners as between mother and infant, there is something profoundly wrong with a society and culture that is telling us sex without attachment is normal and healthy.
According to Ms. Morse, “Smart Sex is married sex, that’s the secret. Smart Sex waits, smart sex lasts and endures.” Smart sex means understanding the two reasons for sex just discussed, and not attempting to suppress these facts but embracing and responding to them.
Besides the cultural and paradigmatic challenges, Morse also briefly addresses issues of public policy that have negative implications, such as “no fault divorce” policies and entitlement incentives that encourage single motherhood and fatherless homes, which should be priority number one for reversing damage that has been done.
After having children, Dr. Morse refocused her passion to promoting and defending marriage and the family structure. Holding a doctorate in economics and having taught at George Mason and Yale, Morse is able to offer critical insight into the disintegration taking place among American families, and offers young people scientific and logical reasoning for making marriage and family a priority in their lives by adopting the idea of “smart sex.”
Thanks to Dr. Christopher Wolfe and the Thomas International Center for hosting the event, and to Dr. Jennifer Morse for her talk at UNC.