Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Sex Vote

Our friend James Poulos explores the cultural contradictions of liberaltarianism (apologies to Daniel Bell), focusing on what he provocatively calls the Sex Vote.

A snippet:

Such is the logic of the Sex Vote—the population of practical liberaltarians for whom the exercise of erotic liberty in fulfillment of their capabilities far outweighs in importance any exercise of political liberty, so content are they with a government that delivers sexual freedom (and perhaps some minimum of attendant social services). For the Sex Vote, eliminating the day-to-day drudgery of citizenship itself counts high among social services: outsourcing the detail and difficulty of governance to distant, centralized experts is a feature, not a bug, of ‘unaccountable’ government. In its liberaltarianism, the Sex Vote would solve once and for all Wilde’s paradox (the trouble with socialism is it takes too many evenings). In the world that we live in, captivated by erotic liberty, such is the destiny of ’smart citizenship’ and representative government.

If you grant that sex is more important than politics, or that one of the principal purposes of politics is to protect and indeed enlarge sexual freedom, might you not be tempted to acquiesce in a paternalistic government that frees you from the drudgery of self-government so that you can have more time for private gratification?

I’d ask another question as well: doesn’t the pursuit of self-gratification in all its forms undermine the responsibility necessary for vindicating one’s liberty? Doesn’t self-government reuire character? Older libertarians were in a sense aristocratic in their assumption that genuine libertarianism was a pleasure for the few who had the backbone for it. Their younger counterparts lack any vestige of that old assumption, which libertarian theory already worked to undermine.

Discussions - 26 Comments

These people don't seem to be libertarian in any sense of the term, so "liberaltarian" gives them way too much credit.

It is funny that this article deals with the same subject matter and comes to the same conclusions as David Icke's thoughts on the reptilian brain. Not that I believe in his alien humanoid stuff, but I listened to an interview he did about the media/government complex trying to appeal to the lower consciousness or reptilian brain. We have a lower level consciousness like a crodidile where its all sex food sleep sex food sleep, advertising appeals to this. It does have people turn the other way when liberty is at stake in favor of football and T&A. I don't think the endgame is about sex as much is it is about dumbing people down to the lowest possible level and what better way to do this than overload the lower levels of the mind with an orgy of sex and violence.

I have never met a person who plays runescape, the failure of this bit of guerilla marketing is laughably epic. Mabye its a dirty secret of the scholars.

Can't resist the obvious joke: This is exactly what we've been saying that the Left has been trying to do to us for years. No?

The little secret here is that the conservatives like Poulos and Knippenberg out there do not really love freedom after all, since they seem eager to monitor and condemn sex freedom. I wonder what other freedoms they seek to monitor and control, or if the pursuit of self-gratification in all it forms extends to the pro-marraige and pro-life motifs of evangelical conservativism, and the denunciation of the sex vote includes the Christian sex vote. So sexual political identity is ok so long as you vote conservative and keep to the missionary position. This form of conservativism seeks a social command and control of the sexual body, the bio=political form of social organization and control that Foucault warned us about. So it is Foucault and not Mill in play here. Evangelical disciplinary power seeking to structure the parameters of and limits of our most intimate thoughts and practices through the sanctioning and prescribing of behaviors. Why do conservatives want to regulate sex so much but do not want to regulate capitalism? Maybe I should go Glenn Beck on you and announce: Behold, the hatred of freedom and the pursuit of a control immanent to the social field.

The little secret here is that the conservatives like Poulos and Knippenberg out there do not really love freedom after all, since they seem eager to monitor and condemn sex freedom.

Riiight. That Kippenberg, seems like every darn post of his is obsessed with monitoring "sex freedom". It's a good thing that we have that genus ren to spy the "secret".

I wonder what other freedoms they seek blah blah blah at great length.

Can you say "projection", ren? I bet you can.

For Mill, the good life, partially but by no means completely superintended by politics, required general adherence to two rules.

Mill actually wrote a great deal more than On Liberty and formulated many rules, most of them contradictory. It's regrettable that his many worthwhile ideas have been superseded in the popular imagination by the view of him as the "anything goes" libertarian, because he was far from being that, or being simply that.

Having read the Poulos article carefully, it's rather lame. Though not for the reasons that twit ren imagines.

Four years after the fall of Napoleon, Benjamin Constant succinctly expressed the difference between what he called the liberty of the ancients and of the moderns. We moderns, he explained, have no good reason to measure good citizenship by ancient standards. The spread of technology and education has shown us that, today, our capabilities are best pursued and fulfilled in lives that are disproportionately non-political. Whereas the Spartans and Athenians had so few resources for actualizing their capabilities that they had to rely on political life, full of conquering and ruling, we moderns have many more resources. Thanks to our markets and our cleverness, we created a vast new range of ‘private’ desires, which revealed huge new vistas of human capabilities to pursue.

The ancients did not think that the good life was best lived in political ways.

In a more general sense, the problem with Poulos, as with ren, is that he seems to think that "individual sexual freedom" is something that exists in the absence of the state, This is nonsense. The sort of individual sexual freedom which the left loves is only possible in conjunction with the existence of a large and intrusive state. Society as a whole has always been and must always be socially conservative. It requires a coercive state to "free" those who deviate from the norms of society to do their own thing.

As a conservative obviously betrayed by the Republican party, I've been trying to figure out Libertarians. They have some very good concepts. They show up at all the TeaParties, flyers in hand. But this article speaks the reason why they will never attract a large number of conservatives: lack of moral laws.

Was Pericles right, then, when he told the played-out, deer-in-headlights Athenians of 430 B.C. that freedom is "to live as you please?"

My fault, gentlemen. That comment should obviously be directed at the lauded ren herself...

Excellent post.

Just to point out the obvious: I'm not really sure what sexual or erotic "freedom" is in a culture that commodifies sex as much as our own. Is it the freedom expressed on the cover of "Self" magazine? or the one on the television commercials? or TV shows? or internet porn?

Perhaps Mr. Knippenberg should worry less about the "paternalistic government" and more about the all-consuming sexual images of tele-visual culture coked out on deregulated mass communication mediums. I suppose so long as its in the pursuit of capital, most libertarians would call it simply a successful business to convince children that sexy women and ultra-cut men love/are/desire your commercial product . . .

I don't know if this is a generation gap or what, but the bombardment of hyper-sexualization on every screen everywhere has a much greater impact on one's interest in self-gratification than the leisure time gained from a complex, centralized, and paternalistic government structure. But whatever floats your boat, I guess.


I'm pretty sure you got disconnected somewhere. Mr. Knippenberg was discussing the elitism of the old libertarian camp for precisely the reason that it was believed virtue was required of the ideology, and the difference between them and the rather loathsome new liberaltarians.

Oh. Fair enough. Oops.


I'm not exactly a big fan of eroto-capitalism (oldest profession or not). My family participates in it as little as possible, going to great lengths (for example) to try to find relatively modest clothing for my 11 year old daughter to wear. I'm not going to go to Amish or Mennonite lengths, but (again, for example) bikinis and very short shorts don't form part of her summer wardrobe. (And she's O.K. with that.)

I've always been interested in the areas where the values of conservative American Christians and more fundamentalist Muslims overlap to varying degrees. But these things are really complex. I know lefty agnostics and atheists who similarly opt out of "eroto-capitalism" but the reasons vary quite a bit.

Anyway, in light of Mr. Knippenberg's comment, I wish we could now hear from Mr. Hayward on this matter, as I'm guessing it's one of the rare topics (like torture/"enhanced interrogation techniques") where there's real disagreement among a few of the bloggers, although Hayward may be the only dissenting voice on this one (at least among the regular bloggers).

Mr. Knippenberg should not forget that the one-piece swimsuits of Baywatch fame (oh so many years ago) were the stuff of many men's naughty fantasies. All a man needs is the revelation of the neck, a shoulder, an ankle and voila, the woman is making herself "tempting."

[That's bizarre. My original captcha words were, honestly, "visit Utah" !]

Good old Scanlon drops by to uphold his position as the foremost ignorant jackass commenting here. Not to worry, Craig, you have that spot nailed down.

John M, I'll repeat my previous suggestion: Why not try to get through a post once in a while without any name-calling? You might make someone proud of you. (You're also welcome to address the myriad logical problems that I noted in your previous posts, as well)

Scanlon, when you can get through a post without name calling (your witless liking of American Christians to Muslim fundamentalists being just the latest in an endless string of examples) then you'll have some justification for your whining.

Until then, I suggest you kiss my ass. Your unfortunate students may to have to indulge you in your stupidity and hypocrisy. I do not. You want to be treated with respect, earn it.

Now go back to your fantasy about Rush in leather and stop expecting me to treat you seriously.

Restricing freedom is bad, encouraging people to act like beasts is bad as well. We can have freedom without a mid morning talk show (the dr' came on after the US open finished in the background) doing a segment on the benifits of self- pleasuring.

Brutus - right on. I learned about that stuff the old fashioned way: experience and this book. I think there's a fine line between an active encouragement in acting like beasts (and, believe me, I generally view television in general in that kind of light) and encouraging a healthy understanding of and inquiry into the complex issues surrounding sexuality. I doubt "The Drs" were interested in discussing that, though.

14: Matt, wouldn't it be interesting to know how many of the Hollywood sex and violence merchants are among the paymasters of the Democratic party? You can't just blame capitalism. Certain capitalists are just scum.


Are you married? Do you have a daughter, at least one still young enough to have some innocence to protect? If you haven't yet had the pleasure (and the pain), please refrain from making sly comments about what I might or might not have in common with Muslims. Or do you share President Obama's professed respect for the Islamic world (in which case I guess I can take your comment as a compliment)?

Mr. Knippenberg, as a matter of fact, I do have a young daughter. Seriously. I suspect you still don't want me to notice any similarities though, despite the wording of your conditional. The fact is that there are very similar businesses - some for Muslims, some for Christians - that produce and sell modest swimwear. I might not share your religious beliefs or the Muslims', but I respect your right to dress your children as modestly as you wish. In my defense, I'll just say that many people don't see bikinis or short shorts as necessarily part and parcel of "eroto-capitalism".

And the conservo-capitalism (my term) swimwear companies that I referred to above, can be found in a previous post I made (in a thread where I also elaborated on some other similarities I've found), although the burqini link is now dead. Those products, which are pretty similar to the "Wholesomewear" swimwear, with added head coverings, can now be found here.

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