Imagine having certain knowledge about the harmfulness of practices that are commonly engaged in by the people. Imagine having knowledge that in your mind would be certain to improve the lives of people. Imagine the people vehemently rejecting that advice and attacking you for telling them. That is moralizing in a nutshell. When I was younger and enveloped by the default view of culture and politics found in left-wing countries, I despised those preaching morality as much as the next guy. I supported the secularization of society, “sex positivity” and so on more by default than by careful examination of the facts.
Since then, many of my views have done a 180-degree turn. The engine driving this dramatic change wasn’t listening to doomsayers preaching on about divine punishment and condemnation, but rather from calmly stated, neutral, scientific facts. Let’s look at consumption of pornography as our first example. When I was younger I adopted the leftist view of pornography. I understood it as “liberating”, healthy and a finger in the eyes of old, stodgy, conservative bible-thumping people clinging to old world morality.
My turnaround on this issue came through listening to interviews of people like Gary Wilson on Molyneux’s podcast. I read Wilson’s “Your Brain On Porn” and found it presenting a compelling case about the demonstrated scientific consequences of pornography consumption. Where traditionally religiously motivated preaching would lump all pornographic material together into a single category, Wilson’s research has traced the differences between “classic” material like 50’s and 60’s era Playboy magazines and modern “tube” sites, offering an infinite variety of instantaneously gratifying material. Whereas “old-school” porn doesn’t have many of the detrimental effects recently observed in young people, the sensory overload modern material and viewing habits provide combined with the scientifically demonstrated neuroplastic nature of the human brain are reason for concern.
It was precisely Wilson’s calm, neutral, fact-based and judgment free approach that converted me towards his way of thinking on this issue. While I’ve yet to give up pornography, I have a new framework for evaluating my viewing habits and for determining whether or not I suffer from negative outcomes as a result of my consumption. This is the type of knowledge that I wished that I had had at a much younger age. Schools should inform young people of the scientific consequences of pornography addiction and modern viewing habits to allow youngsters to determine their own path forward, not blindly preaching sex positivity. In doing so, the state run education system is just as harmful as the moralistic preachers.
The same argument applies to “sex positivity”, the fight against “slut shaming” and so on. There are real and documented negative outcomes directly contributable to “sluttish” behavior. The number of sexual partners a person has had prior to marriage is directly correlated to divorce. The chances of a divorce are low if the two lovebirds are each other’s first sexual partner, and really, really high if one or both have a long track record of sleeping around. My understanding of the science isn’t clear enough to lay it out here, but it is related to an individual’s ability to form pair bonds. Not telling young people in particular about this is lying by omission by activists, schools, parents and the like.
Another modern malady that can be understood using this framework is “body positivity” or “fat acceptance”. As a former fat person myself, I wish people had told me earlier about the harmful health consequences I was accruing. Normalizing a diseased state of being is harmful, immoral and just simply plain wrong. Just ask any reputable doctor. Just as we saw a resistance to talking about pornography above, criticizing modern patterns of alcohol consumption often suffer the same fate. I would be willing to bet a not insignificant amount of money on the fact that many young people (men in particular) would easily and quickly give up all or at least most of their beer if they were told the truth about its xenoestrogenic effects. Beer drinking is compatible with a “soy boy” lifestyle.
As an advocate working towards the proliferation of certain behavior, you are likely to find much more success by changing your framework. Telling people real and verifiable factoids will garner you more success than hitting them over the head with your beliefs in a moralistic fashion. The societal consequences of many of these behaviors are too severe and negative to allow a misplaced strategy from allowing the needed healing.