What I Learned About Sex from Kids’ Books

The Adventures of Robin Hood tells of the folk hero who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The first Marxist, in other words. I never much liked him for that reason: his ends justified his (criminal) means. Didn’t he know how to create wealth, instead?

Everywhere in the world today, people live the longest and happiest lives where they have the most economic freedom. They can buy and sell property—including ideas—start businesses easily, invest in each other’s work, and trade with the least restrictions. The legal authorities deal with criminal law, not with picking winners and losers or protecting the establishment’s wealth. The people are, in Milton Friedman’s phrase, “free to choose” by their will and talents. Guided by natural law, they can turn water into wine, creating new wealth where there appeared to be nothing at all.

Reading Robin Hood through for the first time as an adult, however, I realized the Merry Men’s situation was very different from ours. England’s feudal economic system made sure the poor stayed poor by preventing them from owning even the land they worked. The king owned it all, and he merely delegated parcels to his dukes and such, subject to withdrawal at any time. Nobody at the vast bottom of the realm could earn or keep much of anything for himself, nor question the system without censure. Scratching out a subsistence life was law for most of the people. This wasn’t natural law; it benefitted only the powerful, backed by the unnatural law of brute force.

Not unlike the cultural situation we faced just before the Sexual Revolution.

Here we had a repressive society that forbade candid discussions of sex, and worked to prevent even simple questions from being asked. We created gibberish words for genitals, which carried over into adulthood in the form or euphemisms for intercourse. Oh, we had some wink-wink going on with regard to visuals (cheerleaders got a pass to show lots of leg, perhaps because they served the same purpose as pinups in the war), but for the most part we still lived in the Victorian Era.

And our Robin Hood was Hugh Hefner.

Although he initially forbade even the display of pubic hair in his mag,1 Hefner opened the way to a slippery slope that led to where we are today: anyone can be a pornographer, and everyone can steal everybody else’s porn. We live in a kind of sexual Somalia, a free-for-all with only the various warlords attacking whoever violates their space. There’s no more law, natural or unnatural. Law is in the hands of whoever’s willing to fight.

In the absence of better ideas, this was the binary choice we faced during the Sexual Revolution, and how it still appears to many: Prudery or anarchy, two different forms of repression. Both end in a kind of slavery. Ignorance and the destruction of one’s potential are the outcome for both sides.

That’s why I wrote my book. I never liked false dichotomies. Does anyone?



1. Curiously, with pubic hair now treated like crabgrass, we’ve come full circle.