Screenshot of the first website Google turned up for the keyword “Branson, MO.” No comment on the town slogan or it’s interest in attracting “groups.”
So effete conservative snob Charles Murray (he of the Reagan-era anti-welfare tome Losing Ground) talked the equally snobby conservatives at the Washington Post into letting him snub a few liberal elites on the op-ed page last week. It begins…
The tea party appears to be of one mind on at least one thing: America has been taken over by a New Elite.
“On one side, we have the elites,” Fox News host Glenn Beck explained last month, “and the other side, we have the regular people.” The elites are “no longer in touch with what the country is really thinking,” Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle complained this summer. And when Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell recently began a campaign ad by saying, “I didn’t go to Yale,” she could be confident that her supporters would approve.
All this has made the New Elite distinctly touchy (see Maureen Dowd’s “Making Ignorance Chic”), dismissive (see Jacob Weisberg’s “Elitist Nonsense”) and defensive (see Anne Applebaum’s “The Rise of the ‘Ordinary’ Elite”).
“Elite?” they seem to be saying. “Who? Us?”
He continues with cliché “you say potato, I say potato“ comparisons until reaching this exciting conclusion.
They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn’t be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.
I probably wouldn’t have picked Branson as emblematic of lowbrow Americana but Murray does. Therefore I’m going to use Branson as the example in the rest of this post.
Jeana Jorgensen of My Sex Professor went to a lecture by relationship sociologist Curtis R. Bergstrand at the Kinsey Institute. She brought back the following demographic data on swingers in America.
Bergstrand administered an online survey in 1999, with just over 1,000 participants, including questions from the General Social Survey such that many of the swingers’ answers could be compared to those of the general population.
During the course of the lecture, Bergstrand only had time to give us a partial glimpse of his data, but we learned that the swingers in his study are:
- Around 40 years old on average (respondents ranged from 22-82 years old)
- A wide range of occupations (some doctors and lawyers, but the bulk are miscellaneous blue collar workers)
- 90% white
- Primarily Democrat (but on a liberal-conservative spectrum, tended toward the center)
- Psychologically normal (lacking pathological traits, as has sometimes been assumed of people who veer outside monogamous normalcy)
- Happier and more excited in their marriages than non-swingers
- At least as devoted to their families are non-swingers
Bergstrand concluded that swinging seems to enhance strong marriages, but has negative effects on weak ones (this trend is anecdotally corroborated by people in the swinging and polyamory communities).
That sounds about right. It also happens to sound about like the non-elites Murray valorizes in his op-ed.
There’s a pervasive belief (among both left and right) that sexual “liberation” is and always has been limited to the elite, the effete, the overeducated, or either coast. Instead it’s as likely to occur in Charles Murray’s heart-of-America fantasy Branson, MO (which I’d imagine he’s never visited) as Berkeley, Boston, or Greenwich Village.
Aside: The following data points are totally non-scientific and they use non-orthogonal criteria* but
- Data point #1: a small amount of tweaking still turned up at least 60 male and female OKCupid users within 25 miles of Branson who match the looking for “casual sex” or it’s loose affiliate “activity partners” who’ve been online at least once in the last year.
- Data Point #2: according to numerous sources the population of Branson is… 6,000 people. Which isn’t the same as all the people within 25 miles. But I’m just sayin’
Anyway, I think the real takeaway from both Bergstrand’s presentation and Jorgensen’s post is the part where swinging per-se isn’t an indicator of either strong or weak relationships.
* But then I don’t recall sloppy methodology ever particularly bothered Murray in his own work.