Illegitimacy reflects moral erosion

January 09, 1996|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON For all the rancor over which programs to cut in order to balance the budget, we have been spared the meanest and dumbest part of the debate.

While "welfare reform" is part of the verbal warfare halting many government functions, wehave escaped the argument that if we cut off aid to families with dependent children, women especially teenagers will stop having "illegitimate" babies.

The folly of this argument is manifest in the fact that we have become a society in which sex and the exploitation of it dominates American mores. Pre-marital and extra-marital sex are now commonplace. The stigma of bearing a baby without the convenience (or inconvenience) of marriage has virtually vanished. An abundance of beautiful white wedding gowns are now made with pouches to accommodate stomachs swollen by six or seven months of pregnancy.

The only people still scorned and stoned because they are caught up in America's sexual revolution are the poor women, especially poor young women, who are producing more than a million out-of-wedlock babies a year.

Permissive society

Few people will acknowledge that these youngsters are victimized by a society in which sex is used to sell almost everything. Is Madonna less an attraction or money-maker because she has a cleverly-nurtured reputation for being sexually promiscuous and advertises for a man to help her make a baby? Whoopi Goldberg may portray a nun on screen, but she changes bedmates faster than you can lock up a convent. Whoopi usually gets a new marriage license, however, which may explain her continuing popularity.

Is actor Hugh Grant sinking into oblivion because police caught him sinking into a car with a Hollywood hooker?

Do you remember how horrified Americans used to be at talk of BTC "trial marriages"? Nowadays, millions of parents accept the idea of their kid living with someone of the opposite sex long enough "to be sure they're a good match." Mothers explain at bridge tables that they let their college daughter and her male guest for the holidays share the same bed because "they're engaged."

If you can bear to watch an evening of the current pathetic TV fare, you'll see a string of "sitcoms" where every other line is not just a sexual double entendre, but borders on the "blue" and pornographic. For the real lewd and lascivious stuff, you need only turn to a cable channel like HBO.

And Hollywood? Any Sharon Stone role will make any 14-year-old believe that having sexual intercourse is the moral equivalent of drag racing.

Then there's adultery. It's still a crime in 27 states, including Connecticut and New York. When last did you hear of cops hauling adulterers to the hoosegow? Is Diana, the Princess of Wales, less to "Di for" since she revealed on television that she has committed adultery? No. People the world over said "Ho hum," knowing that her estranged husband, Charles, the Prince of Wales, had committed adultery long before they were separated.

Sociologists and sex researchers claim that perhaps 40 percent of married women and 65 percent of married men have committed adultery at some point.

In this social milieu, there are precious few restraints on the hormonal and glandular eruptions of teenagers. It is cruelly hypocritical to leap on youngsters who are overwhelmed by sex-based ads, TV shows, movies and song lyrics, cursing those youngsters as the ones who are debasing and disgracing this society.

It is lunacy to believe that withdrawing a pittance of money to support teenagers and their babies will counteract all the sexual forces that are at work in America, causing young women to stop having sex and babies before marriage. Yes, lunacy. Plain, unadulterated lunacy.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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