When it comes to the feminist movement’s impact on social bonds, intersexual relationships tend to be the primary focus of discussion, and for good reason: marriage is the primary human institution, the one from which all others flow and toward which all others are directed. How one man and one woman once related to one another reverberates concentrically throughout the lives of all people. It’s everything.
The fruits of the sexual revolution (crumbling mores, no-fault divorce, and intersexual wage competition, to name a few) have been destabilizing for everyone who is married or would like to be, whether they know it or not. Children of broken families know best the sharp and persistent ache the unsettling of this foundational relationship generates. Aside from the general malaise, fertility levels are reaching unprecedented lows as deaths of despair peak each year. It would appear that we need to return to the basics: repairing the friendship between Man and Woman could be the essential, existential project of our time.
In Books Eight and Nine of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines friendship as reciprocated goodwill and delineates three basic types. There are those based on utility or pleasure, which are imperfect and cease to exist once the source of usefulness or delight has expired. Then there is perfect friendship, in which two people of exceptional virtue are friends on account of their virtue, and are freely mutually charitable as such. These friendships are unassailable, not prone to “accusations,” and last lifetimes.
The friendship between man and woman is natural, says Aristotle, and “what is useful and what is pleasant” are both found in this friendship. But, if man and woman are decent, then there is the real possibility of perfect friendship between them too, because “there is a virtue belonging to each, and they would delight in a person of comparable sort.”
Perfect friendship requires perfect virtue of its members. Because virtue requires right action according to circumstance, then the particular circumstance of sexual difference will require different actions of each gender. Put simply, men and women should behave differently. We may share ends, but our means will vary according to our states in life, including the immutable state of our gender.
This is a key problem for modern Man and Woman. Operating under the assumption that men and women are fundamentally indistinguishable aside from superficial (now fungible) sex characteristics, as the neoliberal consensus suggests, we actively destroy the possibility of virtue as man and as woman, thereby destroying the possibility of lasting, fruitful marriages, and the perfect friendship at their center. When it comes to romantic love, singularity is the foundation of complementarity. So for the relationship between men and women to improve, men and women must become more particularly virtuous as men and as women.
In this way, sexual singularity is absolutely crucial to the revival of a suicidal state.
There were once institutions for the respective development of the sexes. Often lost in these discussions about feminism is its impact on intrasexual relationships. Exclusive groups for men and women, from single-sex educational institutions, to the Junior League, to the Boy Scouts, used to cultivate a particular curriculum of virtue for men and women based on the reality of their distinct bodies and souls. Intrasexual environments offered official and unofficial educations in becoming refined. These institutions were and are an absolutely necessary supportive structure for marriage precisely because they instantiate visible, public, political ideals of Man and Woman. Their disappearance over time tracks precisely with the demise of affection between the sexes.
The Equality Act is the last nail in the coffin of a sexual regime that long ago cast aside virtue in favor of atomized individualism and unfettered capital pursuit. The family cannot survive under conditions where Man and Woman are not permitted to thrive as such. As the family goes, so goes the stability of the state. But if you, reader, are looking for a way to resist the impending Great Demise, consider that everything old is new once again. The public square is in dire need of unofficial men’s and women’s groups for people who love life and want to see it continue. Back to basics, we begin anew.