Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For October 31 weekender, 2015
The Danger of Self-Identification
David W. Hegg
The most recent issue of New York magazine features a lengthy series of short articles describing the rampant culture of hooking up on our nation’s university campuses. For those of us either ancient or un-hip, “hooking up” refers to sexual activity between those who don’t know each other.
The articles brought out three themes, over and over and over again. First, they described the now accepted custom of “reverse dating”, defined as sex first, apart from any relationship, and then if there is some other attraction, maybe dating to see where the relationship goes.
Second, they decried the incredible rise in a culture of rape on the campuses.
Finally, they proclaimed a perspective on gender that was a parallel function of the hook up culture, a perspective in which everyone gets to self-identify not only their gender, but several other variables. The epitome of this perspective is the propriety of referring to another person as “they” in consideration of the fact he or she may self-identify in several different ways depending on the mood.
Let’s look at these individually in order to asses the considerable danger such foolish ideas hold for those who live by them. At the core of each is a deranged ethic that ultimately is self-destructive. It is one thing to be wrong. It is quite another to be engaging in behavior that deconstructs one’s own humanity.
First, the statistics regarding pre-marital sexual activity are starkly one-sided. The proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, as bad as they are, still fall short of the number of those for whom sexual promiscuity has created an inability to achieve and enjoy true intimacy. Further, the emotional scars and broken hearts associated with serial sexuality continue to help fill the counseling centers and pastoral offices of our land. Those who believe casual sex bears no price tag are blind to the self-inflicted harm their activity is creating.
Second, anyone who refuses to see a connection between the devaluing of mutually satisfying sexual intimacy between committed partners, and the predatory activity of rapists simply is playing with a closed mind and a two-ton bias. If sex has no meaning other than pleasure, and no consequences at all, then is it much of a leap to see predators assuming the object of their sexual advances really wants to engage despite a lack of overt acceptance? Doesn’t sexual satisfaction become a right? An entitlement almost? Historically, when boundaries and fences are diminished, trespassing becomes commonplace. As the boundaries surrounding acceptable sexual activity are erased it is clear that trespassing will only increase, to our great detriment.
Thirdly, the whole idea of self-identification flies in the face of common sense. If you do a DNA scan on a self-identified transgender individual you will find their current DNA is an exact match with the DNA they had at birth. Self-identification in terms of gender is no more accurate than if I were to self-identify as a Los Angeles Laker. The fact I am old, fat, and bald proves I am not a Laker, all my self-identifying protestations to the contrary.
Much more troubling however, is the idea that a person can choose a different gender identity, and several variables in that identity at will, and demand society abide by their decision. The New York magazine articles chronicled students who chose to be female one day, male the next, and in subsequent weeks, aromantic, and even asexual.
What we are watching is the devolution of the human spirit. While politically we are arguing over whether or not America must remain exceptional, culturally we are passively experiencing the devaluing of human nobility. We are turning into a society defined by our basest desires, while the power of individual choice is cheered as dominant over the best interests of the many.
One hopeful message coming out of the New York magazine articles was the statistic that 40% of university students are not sexually active. Also encouraging was the high percentage of students claiming to be virgins. Perhaps it is the flamboyant and avant-garde that are garnering all the publicity while a large percentage of students are living lives with their eyes wide-open to the dangers of transgressing historical norms.
Maybe things aren’t what they seem. I only hope they aren’t as bad as they seem, and that the next generation will be men and women of courage and character. If not, we may be watching as the sun is setting over the grand American experiment.