The Sexual Revolution Keeps Going Around

That Other Blog keeps harping on the evils of the Sexual Revolution and why Our Culture will wither up and die if we don’t reverse it. I guess it’s time for a review of the facts, at least from the point of view of a history major-turned-lawyer who has spent a lot of time in divorce court and juvenile court:

v The Sexual Revolution didn’t start in the 1960s. In fact, it wasn’t a one-time only event at all, except to the extent that technology played a role. The Romans had one, which Augustus Caesar deplored big-time, while of course, like almost every other opponent of his era’s sexual revolution, playing a major role in it. The French had several, one in the Middle Ages, one during the Second Empire, and one in the late 19th century. The Brits had at least one per century beginning in the late 1500s. And the good old USA had one in the early 1800s and one that began in the 1920s and is arguably still going on.

v As is obvious from the previous paragraph, no Sexual Revolution is irreversible.

v The current Sexual Revolution may be different from its predecessors because of the contribution of contraceptive technology. But even that doesn’t make it irreversible, since even in societies where contraception is readily available, not every sexually active person chooses to use it, or even considers it a matter of choice at all.

v The Good Old 1950s weren’t all that good. There was at least as much teenage sex as there is today, and somewhat more teenage pregnancies per capita. That phenomenon was cloaked by frequent resort to Shotgun Marriage.

v These days, even our most upstanding citizens (Bristol Palin, for instance) consider that an undesirable compromise. In fact, the Catholic Church ordinarily will not perform a marriage while the prospective bride is pregnant. Obviously they consider unwed motherhood preferable. Some personal anecdotal stats: in the year before I was due to start high school, half the girls in the graduating class of the public high school I would ordinarily have attended were pregnant. Including my cousin. Which undoubtedly had something to do with my spending the next four years at a convent boarding school. So far as I know, all of the young women in question got married well before their due date.

v But I suspect that the Sexual Revolution is responsible for the decrease in math skills of our younger generations. My classmates and I, all the way through high school and college, got to exercise those skills quite regularly calculating just how premarital our friends’ sexual activity was, by subtracting 9 months from the birth of the baby, and then subtracting that date from the wedding date. Probably none of the current younger generation could work that out even with a calculator.

v Not to mention, of course, the fact that today’s youth are a seriously lost generation, at least in terms of geography, since most of them can’t even find their own state on a map. Before Playboy, young men had no place to look at nekkid wimmen except National Geographic. Yes, we can blame that on the Sexual Revolution too.


v Back in the Good Old Days, when a young woman was found dead of non-natural causes, the first thing the coroner checked for was pregnancy. Because pregnancy was an equally plausible motive for either suicide or homicide.

v Those shotgun marriages ended in divorce far more often than marriages contracted under less precipitous circumstances.

v Even current data tells us that such marriages are more likely to involve abuse.

v That doesn’t even begin to deal with the issue of homosexuality as a cause of blackmail, homicide, and suicide (and divorce and infidelity.) Yes, that still happens today, but not nearly as much as back in the Good Old Days.

Yes, there are things I don’t like about post-1960 attitudes toward sex:

v The fact that young girls get pressured into it to please other people (boyfriends or girlfriends or occasionally even parents) and often get absolutely no pleasure or reward from it.

v The fact that most of those young girls cannot imagine using contraception, and in fact consider pregnancy a highly desirable outcome, at least in comparison to ordinary high school life.

v The dangerous intersect between drugs and sex (although not much different from the link between alcohol and sex in the Good Old Days.)

v The fact that the major cause of death among pregnant women these days is homicide (probably an unintended consequence of our more stringent enforcement of child support laws.)

v The child support laws themselves, which seem to expect happy young couples to include in their repertoire of pillow talk an inquiry into the male’s date of birth and Social Security Number.

v The declining prestige of marriage, except among lesbians and gay men. (It enjoyed a brief boom among Catholic priests and nuns, but that population has now aged beyond marriageability and dwindled almost beyond recovery.)

So the Sexual Revolution was neither an unmixed blessing nor a universal curse. Like many other social phenomena, it is both cause and effect of our culture as a whole. It has affected some people much more than others. And we still haven’t figured out all of those effects, or how to modulate them. We certainly haven’t figured out how to repeal it. I don’t dream of trying.

Red Emma

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