Jay Richards tweeted this article Touchstone magazine.
Here’s part of it:
Here is how the Mead Method works. It has four easily memorized steps. You begin by proving that some behavior is natural, in the sense of being enjoyed by primitive people, who are assumed to be far closer to the basic human realities than we are. As the Chronicle’s writer put it:
Less than 50 years ago, Canela women, who live in Amazonian Brazil, enjoyed the delights of as many as 40 men one after another in festive rituals. When it was time to have a child, they’d select their favorite dozen or so lovers to help their husband with the all-important task. Even today, when the dalliances of married Bar ladies in Colombia and Venezuela result in a child, they proudly announce the long list of probable fathers.
Then you find some way to show that the behavior works. If to our overdeveloped modern eyes it looks like self-indulgence or sluttishness, it is actually a rational and effective way of living. An anthropologist quoted in the article claims that the more possible fathers a child has, the more men will take care of him and his mother. As the writer put it, “Fooling around appears to have helped our ancestral mothers equip their little ones for success—the sexual equivalent of reading to them every night or enrolling in the after-school chess club.”
Having established to your satisfaction that the behavior is not only natural but effective, you then declare that all such behaviors are just social constructions anyway and ours (the modern, still sort of Christian way) is really not nearly so common as we would like to think. To do this the writer quotes an anthropologist who studied tribes in Paraguay and Tanzania, who said, “This model of the death-do-us-part, missionary-position couple is just a tiny part of human history. The patterns of human sexuality are so much more variable.”
At this point, the case is often strengthened by caricaturing the present. That “missionary-position couple” is supposed, I think, to suggest “dull.” It can be strengthened even more by not stopping to ask what the patterns found in history might actually be. Perhaps there are only a few patterns, and contemporary marriage an expression (as it seems to be) of a dominant mode by which human societies try to restrain the destructive effects of human sexual desire and direct it to social ends.
Finally, you imply, without quite saying it, that the primitive behavior would work just as well for us, it being (though a social construction) more natural and all. The writer does this with quotes, like this one from a William Crocker of the Smithsonian Institution: “Multiple lovers, that’s just part of the life. It’s recreation, just like races and running. It’s all done in the spirit of joy and fun.”
The Margaret Mead Method, in either its original or modified form, is a very useful method . . . if you’re a creep. It proves—to the standard of the man with his pants halfway off and the woman who has gotten a better offer than her husband the couch potato will make, anyway—that sexual libertinism is natural and sexual restraint unnatural, and since being natural is always good, you ought to let go and have fun, just like the jolly party girls of the South American tribes.
This is why Coming of Age in Samoa made Mead famous. You want to have an affair with the babe next door? Well, those darling little Samoans living in a state of nature are doing it all the time, and look how happy and fulfilled and innocent they are. Margaret Mead said so. It’s scientific. You feel guilty? You’re a modern man afflicted with Judeo-Christian guilt, but just ignore it—socially constructed and unnatural as it is—and enjoy the pleasures nature and evolution have provided for you.
I am afraid this is the idea these stories almost always promote, whatever insights into the nature of a fallen creation they provide. They begin with reports of young Samoans having free and joyful sex among the palm trees, and end with middle-aged Barney desperately betraying his wife at the Hampton Inn.
Now this is supposed to be a hopeful, helpful blog post, so let me give you some advice.
There are things you can do to get around the older people who try to sell you this in school and in the culture. You have to do your own research, and learn the consequences of getting rid of the rules around sexual conduct before you break them.
First, read Romans 1, and understand that people who are doing evil things feel better about what they are doing if they can get you to approve of it, celebrate it, and subsidize it. So keep that in mind when people are telling you that something wrong is “right”.
Second, understand that people who are teaching you in school often portray themselves one way in class, but in actual fact, their private lives are totally messed up. It’s tempting to give them more respect than they deserve.
Third, it’s good to be think critically about what you see in the culture, and to read history in order to gain a perspective that allows you to judge what is seen as normal in your own time.
Fourth, it’s good to read studies to find out what happens next, should you take some course of action that is “normal”. For example, it’s a very good idea to research the link between the number of premarital sexual partners and divorce rate.
Fifth, you should be skeptical of people who misuse science in order to push an agenda. Just understand where they are going and then see if they might not be abusing science to get there. It happens all the time – just look at how global cooling / global warming has been used to justify increased control of energy development and consumption by government.