"The Family in America"    Online Edition    [SwanSearch] 

Volume 19  Number 10


October 2005



The Age of Aquarius? The False Promise of The Sexual Revolution

By Bryce Christensen, Ph.D.

The release in 2004 of Bill Condon’s movie Kinsey occasioned more than a little praise for the real-life person the film celebrates: namely, the pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey.  Like Wilhelm Reich, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Hugh Hefner, Ruth Westheimer, Shere Hite, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, and many others, Kinsey was one of the iconoclasts who helped spark America’s Sexual Revolution.  As movie critics applauded the movie based on his life, they praised Kinsey for defying “a political climate of fear and repression” as he “redefined what was considered normal sexual behavior.”[1]  They lauded him for his “genius” in developing a sexology that made “life easier for people by promoting tolerance to human sexuality in all its diversity.”[2]  They even came close to beatifying him for having allowed himself to become a “martyr at the hands of the FBI and the religious right.”[3]

Others in Kinsey’s revolutionary cadre have likewise shared in recent applause.  Shere Hite, for instance, still basks in journalistic favor as the sex researcher who “brought feminism into the bedroom” and consequently “made most women feel more normal, more relaxed, and sexually secure.”[4]  Sexologists William Masters and Virginia Johnson are likewise still favorably remembered for “the curiosity and courage” with which they “lifted shrouds of ignorance.”[5]  Self-proclaimed sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer similarly still gets credit for having promulgated “the best scientifically validated data about human sexual functioning.”[6] 

And since liberated sexual functioning brought much of the excitement to Hair — that Sixties-era paean to nudity and unrestrained sex — it likewise receives favorable notice whenever it returns to the stage, as enthusiastic critics continue to hail it as a visionary piece.  These critics still generously laud this play, noting not only its “clinical terminology for sex acts,” but also the imaginative “sympathy and understanding” that it extends to men and women who are “unfettered by society.”  This, after all, is a work that “reminds us that the Age of Aquarius was more than just bad fashion, bad hair, and bad drugs.”[7]

Perhaps because he has steered clear of bad fashion and bad hair, even the genial pornographer Hugh Hefner has been accorded a place in the contemporary pantheon of sex heroes, journalists now viewing him as “an American legend” who has aged into “the veritable Yoda of the sexual revolution.”  After all, Hefner helped a nation “hobbled by Puritan roots” to discover the joys of “sexual freedom.”[8]  And as fellow rebels against a “Puritan value system” that made it hard for Americans to “claim their own sexuality,” even pelvis-gyrating Elvis Presley and his rocking-and-rolling epigones have received battle ribbons for their role in a sexual revolution that finally effected “the breakdown of sexual barriers.”[9]

Why have commentators continued to heap such effusive praise for the leaders of the Sexual Revolution?  One prominent journalist has recently explained that he views the sexual revolutionaries favorably because he views “the sexual revolution as a necessary liberation of the human body and spirit.”[10]  Others have explained their praise for sexual revolutionaries as the appropriate attitude toward brave pioneers who have “shed a light” into the “darkness” of sexual ignorance.[11] 

Such views may be understandable among those who have grown up listening to the sexual revolutionaries’ own self-congratulatory rhetoric.  But anyone willing to carefully examine the social and psychological realities that these revolutionaries have helped create will soon develop a deeply skeptical view of their accomplishment in forging those new realities.  For in their zeal to sweep away ignorance, these revolutionaries have fallen victim to fraud and illusions.  Blinded and confused, these self-styled liberators have broken not the manacles of slavery, but rather the anchor chains of security.  Neither the new knowledge nor the new liberties that the sexual revolutionaries claim to have given society will bear critical scrutiny.

For all their boastful claims to having penetrated the veils of sexual ignorance, the sexual revolutionaries have been themselves remarkably blind to the most obvious truths.  These revolutionaries have supposed that sex finds its meaning in the pleasure of individuals.  As some of its more candid champions have openly acknowledged, the sexual revolution means “a transformation in sexuality” in which sex is torn away from “family reproduction” and “increasingly serves to pleasure individualized men and women.”[12]  But even if they know nothing about the physiology of sex organs or the various techniques of sex therapists, most Americans have long recognized that sex finds its true meaning in the joy of a unified family, not in the pleasure of free-floating individuals. 

As Christina Robb has suggested, we need an understanding of human sexuality as something far more than the reductive and dehumanizing “orgasm-trading” of the sexual revolution.  “Love is a sexual act ... ,” Robb remarks.  “Parents can be lovers,” their abiding love providing the context for “birth [as] a sexual act[; p]regnancy [as] a sexual state[; n]ursing [as] a sexual act.”[13]  It is, of course, wedlock and family that have always focused and guided human sexuality toward family joys.  That those joys are worth all our striving is well understood by psychologist Judith S. Wallerstein, who sees humans at “our civilized best” in successful marriage and in the family life such a marriage makes possible.  “We are,” Wallerstein avers, “at our most considerate, our most loving, our most selfless within the orbit of a good family.”  What is more, all hope for preserving our highest ideals in generations to come depends ultimately on wedlock: “Only within a satisfying marriage,” Wallerstein affirms, “can a man and a woman create the emotional intimacy and moral vision that they alone can bequeath to their children.”[14] 

Because of their blindness to the family as the very ground of our human nature, the sexual revolutionaries have grievously misunderstood the restraints on sexuality encoded in traditional morality.  In his landmark book After Virtue, ethical philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre explains that the modern world has stumbled into moral confusion by forgetting that moral principles find their meaning not as arbitrary and restrictive lists of prohibitions, but rather as meaningful and formative influences that shape individuals toward some social purpose or telos.[15]  Thus the traditional moral restraints governing sexuality serve ultimately to shape those who submit to them for their telos as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.  Given the inherent relationship between moral principle and social telos, it is predictable rather than surprising that MacIntrye regards as a failure every modern attempt to integrate traditional sexual restraints into a modern ethic focused on the individual rather than the family.[16]

Tens of millions of Americans see in the way that traditional restraints on sexuality shape us for our social telos as husbands and wives not merely a coherent moral logic, but a divine wisdom.  After all, God Himself ordained marriage as the reason a man would leave his father and mother to cleave unto a woman as “one flesh” (Gen. 2: 24; cf. Matt. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31).  Those who engage in sexual relations outside of wedlock are sinfully departing from the path a merciful God has marked out to lead us to marital and familial joy (cf. Ex. 20:14; Matt. 5: 27, 32; 19:9; I Cor. 6:18; 7:2).     

Even many who lack the faith to see a divine hand in traditional sexual morality can see how that morality serves to reinforce marriage and the family.  It is thus sociobiology, not Scripture, that has taught philosopher Andrew Oldenquist that “the purpose of sexual love is collaboration in the care of children” and that “from a biological point of view sex is ... not an end in itself.”[17]  And though Oldenquist has not reached the doctrinal firmness of the religiously devout on the matter of “recreational sex,” he at least recognizes — as the insouciant leaders of the sexual revolution never have —that such sex “almost always [entails] a price to pay” for the participants and their families, even if “it is not easy to understand why this is so or even what the exact nature of that price is.”  Oldenquist can at least see enough of the relationship between moral principle and social telos to suggest that “promiscuous sex” conflicts with “sexual, romantic love between mates” and with that deep-down element of “human nature ... [that] wants couples to stay together,” an element of human nature that comes to us as “part of our Pleistocene inheritance.”[18]

Nor are the religiously devout and the sociobiologically initiated the only ones who are beginning to recognize the very high cost of violating a sexual morality that guides us toward marital fidelity and family commitment.  Sociologists now have collected compelling evidence that premarital sexual activity (fornication in the language of our ancestors) means a significantly higher chance of marital failure.[19] Giving real weight to this finding are the voluminous sociological studies linking divorce to an alarming vulnerability to physical and mental illness, to poverty, and to crime.[20] Psychologists now also have ample evidence that extramarital affairs visit “great suffering” on betrayed spouses, even when those spouses profess a “sophisticated” modern outlook in which such things are not supposed to matter.[21]

Like betrayed spouses, betrayed children pay a high price for the extramarital adventures and divorces the sexual revolution has fostered.  Psychologists report that when parents engage in adulterous liaisons, their young children develop “symptoms of insecurity” such as thumbsucking, bedwetting, or night terrors, while their adolescent children contemplate suicide.[22]  And in the numerous cases in which a lack of sexual discipline leads to divorce, the children of the separating parents are tragically exposed to poverty, illness, psychological distress, and violent crime.[23]  The Age of Aquarius has put a lot of innocent young people in psychologists’  offices — and morticians’ parlors!

Some sexual revolutionaries might brush aside the costs of marital failure by dismissing marriage itself as an outmoded institution.  In their luminous sexual theorizing, men, women, and children will all be happier when they simply stop trying to make this antiquated institution work.  As appealing as this theorizing might sound to sexual adventurers, neither history nor social science offers it any support.

The experience of those who lived through the free-love communes of the Sixties contradicts rather than confirms the radiant theorizing of sexual revolutionaries.  A daughter of Sixties flower children succinctly sums up the consequences of the communes’ sexual philosophy:  “The cost of ‘free’ love?  Self-esteem.  Happiness.”[24]  Of course, neither the self-esteem nor the happiness of children was ever the prime concern of the Sixties hippies who created the free-love communes.  A son of one of those who participated in these nightmarish free-love experiments recalls that the adults were so absorbed in “exploration of sexual energy” that “children were left to their own devices.”[25]  Tragically, neglect was the least of the evils visited upon young children living in communes:  in some of these communes, children were the objects of horrific sexual abuse.[26]  One of the children in a free-love commune recalls that his remorseful mother eventually confessed, “I got lost.  I would just give myself away to the moment.  I didn’t have a substance that kept me anchored in the things that mattered.”[27]

Perhaps only the drug-crazed denizens of the Sixties could ever have supposed that what they needed to keep them anchored in the things that mattered was “a substance.”  For millennia, men and women have understood that it is their moral principles that keep them anchored in the things that matter.  Only such moral principles inform and make possible the marriages and families that most Americans still recognize as the social realities of greatest substance and meaning.  Even after decades of bombardment with post-Kinsey propaganda, most American teenagers still recognize family ties as the key to life satisfaction, and three-fourths of the nation’s college freshmen still identify “raising a family” as one of their most important life goals.[28]  And even years of study in socially progressive universities cannot — to the surprise of social-science researchers — disabuse bright young Americans in MBA programs and law programs of the notion that “Family is first, always first!” and that “keeping a happy family and a good marriage” is the “ultimate” accomplishment that “defines you.”[29]

True, the propaganda of the sexual revolution has helped drive down the nation’s marriage rate by 40%, while dramatically multiplying the number of couples living together without taking vows.[30]  But the available evidence indicates that neither sexually liberated singles nor cohabiting couples are finding the joy and fulfillment promised by the ebullient theorists of the sexual revolution.  Instead, they are finding domestic violence, drug abuse, psychological distress, poverty, and disease.[31]  Compared to married peers, cohabiting women are five times as likely to suffer “severe violence” at the hands of their domestic partner.[32]  Compared to married peers, cohabiting men and women are four times as likely to suffer from a sexually transmitted disease.[33]  Compared to married peers, unmarried singles and cohabiting couples suffer from worse health.[34]  Compared to married peers, unmarried singles and cohabiting couples live in greater poverty.[35]  And even when they have experienced fewer traumatic experiences than their married peers, unmarried young Americans suffer from more anxiety and depression.[36]

Unfortunately, children born to unmarried singles and cohabiting couples share in all the deprivation and misery of their sexually emancipated parents.  A 2004 study of almost 36,000 American children and adolescents concluded that compared to peers reared by two married biological parents, children reared by cohabiting couples and by unmarried singles manifest significantly more psychological, behavioral, and academic problems.[37]  Recent data likewise indicate that children living with single and cohabiting parents experience far more poverty than do peers living with married parents.[38]  Though the communes of the Sixties promised to bring everyone together in a newly harmonious society, what has really happened as their free-love philosophy has seeped through American culture is that all the evils once confined to Prune or Friedrichsof, or some other New Age commune, have spread through millions of impoverished and crime-ridden family fragments.  No wonder that when a team of pediatricians investigated the various circumstances in which American children grow up, they lamented the plight of children living in these fragments and concluded that “marriage is beneficial in many ways,” in large part because “people behave differently when they are married” and consequently “they have healthier lifestyles.”[39]

Clearly, in advocating a freedom that shatters wedlock and the family, the sexual revolutionaries have championed a deeply dubious liberation.  How many Americans really want to be freed from the happiness, health, and other benefits that come with a successful marriage and family?  Unfortunately, the sexual revolutionaries have so confused many young Americans that they now view traditional sexual ethics as arbitrary and repressive, not as the necessary guides to securing all the life enhancements that come with wedlock and family.

The sexual revolutionaries have spread confusion far and wide (with the help of pliant media) partly by obscuring the way traditional sexual morality fosters marital and familial success by shaping us toward our social telos as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.  But these revolutionaries have even more thoroughly befuddled the naďve by promising in sexuality a kind of freedom seen in no other sphere of human behavior — a freedom without restrictions, without consequences, without accountability.

It is deeply ironic that some of these revolutionaries — including Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, Reich, and Hite — have promulgated this illusion of boundless freedom while claiming the mantle of science, a human enterprise in which discipline is universally recognized as essential to freedom, not as a contradiction to it.  As anthropologist Jacob Bronowski has pointed out, because one scientist can only work with others if he is “able to trust their word,” the scientific community absolutely relies on “the principle of truth” that gives their collaborative work “the power of virtue.”  Putting this point emphatically, Bronowski writes, “A scientist who finds that this rule [of truth] has been broken in his laboratory ... kills himself.”[40]  Seen in this light, strict fidelity to the truth is no genuine restriction on a scientist’s liberty; rather, such fidelity is an essential precondition to his professional freedom to do meaningful labor with colleagues.  To speak of liberating scientists from their obligation to find and report the truth is to speak arrant nonsense.  But it is nonsense at least as palpable as that which the sexual revolutionaries have been spreading in promising emotional fulfillment and psychological rewards to those who jettison the very principles that guide us toward the marital and family life essential to such fulfillment and rewards.  Just as those who would talk about freeing scientists from honesty would actually be talking about freeing them from science itself, even so sexual revolutionaries’ rhetoric of liberation from traditional morality is actually a formula for freeing men and women from their very humanity.  It makes as much sense to speak of freeing fish from water or birds from air.

That Kinsey — for one — never accepted moral restrictions as the precondition to freedom in any domain, not even his much-vaunted science, may be inferred from the way he acted when psychologist Abraham Maslow detected evidence of “bias toward unconventional sexual behavior” in his work and confronted him with that evidence:  Kinsey severed all professional relationships with Maslow and concealed the evidence Maslow had uncovered.[41]  That Kinsey’s research involved sexual abuse of infants and toddlers further indicates just how completely Kinsey rejected any moral restriction as a legitimate precondition to his freedom as a scientist.[42]  The indulgence that other sexologists have extended to Kinsey since his scientific fraud has been exposed suggests that ideological advocacy counts for far more than fidelity to truth or moral probity in sexology, raising grave doubts about its legitimacy as a science.

Doubts about sexology would persist even if its practitioners could expunge Kinsey’s misdeeds from the historical record.  For as psychoanalyst Leslie H. Farber has pointed out, sex researchers appear not to have learned the lesson that quantum physicists (the very model of scientific rigor) have amply demonstrated: “the act of investigation alters the thing under investigation.”  Sex researchers, Farber complains, labor under “the mistaken conceit that everything human will, and should, yield its secrets if exposed to the proper illumination.”  They thus lack any of the discretion that would tell them that “big ideas” such as love and sex are “as fragile as they are powerful, as subject to mutilation as to clarification.”[43]  The French essayist Georges Bataille had the same defect in sexology in view when he asserted that inquiries into sexual life were fundamentally “incompatible” with the scientific objectivity to which sexologists have laid claim.[44]

Only the spurious objectivity of sexologists can account for the way they have smuggled into their initial assumptions a radical individualism that they have then tried to legitimate through their findings.  By making the same hedonistic and individualizing assumptions about human nature that Hugh Hefner, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, and numerous other sexual revolutionaries have made without scientific pretext, sexologists have simply sidestepped the traditional wisdom of Aristotle’s designation of man as a zoon politikon, a social animal.  From Aristotle’s traditional perspective, a rootless individual must be a god or beast, not a human, for a human’s happiness depends on “his parents, children, [and] wife, and generally ... friends and fellow citizens.”  Even the well-being of unborn descendants weighs heavily in this outlook.[45]  Since no one will ever mistake the radical individualists of the sexual revolution for gods, the suspicion grows that they are subhuman beasts.  Critics have good reason to remember that Kinsey began his scientific labors as a researcher of gell wasps and appears to have carried into his sexology an assumption that “human beings are just more complicated gell wasps.”[46]

Having seen sexual revolutionaries draw freely from bad science to advance their cause, Americans can hardly take at face value their assurances that they are fighting political repression and advancing the cause of liberty.  Under careful scrutiny, in fact, the much-advertised liberty offered by sexual revolutionaries turns out to be mere heedlessness, not a genuine freedom of the sort that enhances human possibilities.  As the psychiatrist Norman Doidge has perceptively noted, in the world of the sexual revolutionaries sex is “not so much a slave that needs to be freed as an overbearing master ... [and their] idea of health is to give it more power still.”  Thus Doidge sees the sexual revolutionaries creating “more happy slaves, who pass off their dependence as freedom.”[47]  It is indeed a vision of happy slavery that Aldous Huxley depicts in his brilliant novel Brave New World, in which an imaginary future government encourages almost unlimited sexual couplings in order to keep everyone in a state of pliant emotional infancy.  As one of Huxley’s characters comes to realize, “We went to bed yesterday — like infants — instead of adults and waiting.”[48]  Underscoring the point that sexual license erodes rather than enlarges true freedom, Huxley remarked in the foreword to a second edition of the novel that a dictator would “do well to encourage that [sexual] freedom” as a strategy for “reconcil[ing] his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.”[49]

As Huxley well understood, however, the sexual license promoted by sexual revolutionaries imperils human liberty in real democracies, not just imaginary dystopias.  When citizens refuse to discipline their sexual appetites in a genuinely adult way, they typically also lose control of their other appetites in ways that often lead to law-breaking — and then imprisonment.  No one should really be surprised that young people who fornicate are more likely than continent peers to use illegal drugs and to be entangled in legal difficulties.[50]  Among older adults, those who have succeeded in marriage — an institution reinforced by sexual discipline and destroyed by sexual license — are far, far more likely to live the lawful lives that keep them out of prison than those who never make and keep marital vows.[51]  What is more, parents who lack the sexual discipline necessary to marry and stay married are far more likely to see their children commit crimes that subsequently make them prison inmates than are parents who command such discipline.[52]  Sexual revolutionaries have boasted loudly of the new freedoms they have given Americans.  Why is it that those boasts are echoing from thousands of newly constructed prison walls?

But the sexual revolution has imperiled real freedom in a democratic republic not only by turning so many citizens toward criminal activities that land them in prison.  The sexual revolution has also undermined liberty for ordinary non-criminal Americans by destroying the intact marriages and families that have traditionally provided a stable sphere in which men, women, and children can live their lives free from intrusive governmental scrutiny, bureaucratic intervention, or judicial oversight.  When anarchic sexual impulses destroy marriages or prevent them from forming in the first place, it is inevitably the coercive power of the state — operating through divorce courts, welfare and child-protection agencies, and child-support collection agencies — that takes over, dramatically constricting the real freedom of the Americans who become part of their jurisdiction.  A number of observers have commented on the growing dangers to liberty in the powerful government agencies that collect child support from non-custodial parents.  These agencies now use massive computer monitoring systems that track where everyone is working and rely on aggressive policing practices in which hundreds of divorced and never-married fathers find themselves treated as “quasi-criminals, perpetually under corrective supervision.”[53]

The liberty of American citizens has also shrunk as sexual license has separated more and more children from their natural fathers and put them under the roof of either a harried and isolated mother alone or an emotionally preoccupied mother now joined by a new husband-stepfather or live-in boyfriend.  Allegations of child abuse have skyrocketed in such circumstances, putting more and more state officials in more and more homes and entangling more and more children and parents in the government’s labyrinthine bureaucracies for child protection and foster care.[54]  And though no one can doubt that the real incidence of child abuse has soared as the sexual revolution has shattered bands of wedlock (or prevented such bands from forming in the first place), that revolution of the libido has further compromised the possibilities for American freedom by multiplying the divorce proceedings in which aggressive lawyers have discovered the strategic utility of a groundless accusation of such abuse.[55]  Given the number and the severity of ways that sexual anarchy has undermined the freedom that secure marital and family life protect, it is hardly surprising that legal scholar George S. Swan regards with alarm the erosion of the family as “a freestanding institution mediating between the individual citizen and the central government.... Today’s family, continually threatened by dissolution, is less and less able to serve as the context in which millions of Americans...organize their lives independent of central political authority.”[56]

The actual political effects should make Americans skeptical of progressive commentators who pejoratively characterize any society governed by traditional sexual ethics as “priest-ridden.”[57]  For it is becoming all too clear that the sexual revolutionaries have given us a society that is lawyer-ridden, bureaucrat-ridden, and judge-ridden.  Because of the increasingly unavoidable legal and bureaucratic entanglements it has produced, even a self-identified defender of the sexual revolution as a “liberation of the human body and spirit” may find himself “chagrined at some of the places to which the liberation has delivered us” in our “cynical, litigious, and libidinous times.”[58]

And even as the sexual revolution undermines freedom now by turning more and more men and women into cynical and libidinous litigants, it diminishes prospects for freedom tomorrow by allowing fewer and fewer men and women to develop the civic virtues essential to the health of republican institutions.  For by disintegrating marriages and families, the sexual revolution has torn up the social setting that Cicero aptly called “the seedbed of the state.”[59]  As the social institution that creates that seedbed, marriage turns men and women toward civic responsibility and civic involvement.[60]  The sexual revolution’s baleful effects on wedlock and the family have thus translated into real decline in community participation, evident in lower rates of involvement in scouting, the Red Cross, the PTA, and the Jaycees. It has also meant falling attendance at town meetings, declining involvement with political parties, and reduced willingness to hold or run for public office or even to vote.[61]  Have sexual revolutionaries simply not understood that real freedom does not flourish in an unhealthy civic culture?

Just how seriously the sexual revolution has hurt our civic culture becomes all too evident when even a social theorist who is in principle committed to defending “the right to consenting sex” — a right central to the agenda of the sexual revolutionaries — admits that the sexual revolution has let loose “fantasies of masochists [that] are anything but conducive to enlightened social attitudes” and concedes that the “inequalities and unfairness” of the sexual relations scripted by such fantasies entails “a rather heavy price to pay for a relatively modest increment in sexual liberty.”[62]  And unfortunately, it is not just in the fantasies of masochists that the sexual revolution has fostered inequalities and unfairness.  Far from ushering in a utopian Age of Aquarius, the sexual revolution has made it easier and easier for the rich to enjoy their casual pleasures at the expense of the poor, for men to sate their lust while abandoning the women who endure the consequences, and for adults to indulge in caprices that must be paid for by children. 

Thus it is injustice, not freedom, that captures the attention of political scientist James Q. Wilson when he analyzes the “heavy price” the poor have paid for falling under the cultural spell of “articles about sexual freedom or ... motion pictures glamorizing the lives of unmarried mothers.”  For while affluence shields the wealthy from many of the consequences of “loose sexuality,” the poor are fully exposed to those consequences.[63]  Meanwhile, the slack ethics of the sexual revolution — coupled with the wide availability of contraceptives and abortion — has also created a dynamic of injustice along gender lines.  The morality that once made a man morally and financially responsible for any pregnancy he caused has faded.  In the wake of the sexual revolution, social scientists see a world in which “men who wanted sexual activity, but did not want to promise marriage in case of pregnancy, were [no longer]...expected nor required to do so.”[64]  The sexual revolutionaries have thus written a social script in which men play and women pay.

But perhaps the worst injustice fostered by the sexual revolution has been the injustice of permitting adults to seize immediate carnal satisfactions paid for in the long run by their children.  As one disillusioned youth has remarked, the “sexual revolution [that] defined [his parents’] generation” helped turn their children — “all children of divorce” — into “20th-century history’s janitors,” as “a party [that] started in the 60s and continued through the ‘me’ era of the 70s and 80s” left the nation a mess, forcing the young to take up the unpleasant duty “to clean the place up.”[65]  Is it any wonder that anti-depressants have now surpassed birth-control pills as the most often-used medication on college campuses?[66]  Surveying the aftermath of the sexual revolution in the United States and Western Europe, even French socialist Larent Baumel tiptoes gingerly toward the sorry truth: “Without being a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary, one can safely assert that the new personal liberties the men and women of the 1968 generation enjoyed, the chances they got to escape more traditional family models, did not have wholly positive effects on their children’s identity and adjustment.”[67]

When even French socialists can no longer blink the harm visited upon the young by the sexual revolution fomented by their elders, perhaps it is time to admit that the leaders of that revolution were leading society not toward liberty and enlightenment, but rather toward injustice, confusion, and bondage.  Perhaps it is time to admit that true liberty has never meant satiating every appetite upon a whim.  As one who taught America much, much more about liberty than did Alfred Kinsey, Hugh Hefner, or any other sexual revolutionary, Abraham Lincoln urged his countrymen to deal with their greatest national crisis by heeding “the better angels of our nature.”[68]  Implicit in Lincoln’s urging was an acknowledgment that, unless we watch ourselves, we can fall under the sway of the baser angels of our nature.  The last forty years have shown only too clearly that no angels of human nature are baser than those of unrestrained lust.  These demonic angels of the sexual revolution have already dragged us deep into crime, disease, neuroses, injustice, and servitude.  Perhaps it is time, once again, to heed Lincoln’s sage advice to listen to the better angels of our nature, angels that by again teaching us continence and self-discipline will take us back toward the real understanding of human nature that alone makes true freedom possible.


1 Roger Ebert, Rev. of Kinsey, dir. Bill Condon, 19 Nov. 2004, Reviews for  ‘Kinsey.’   1 Sept. 2005. http://www.rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.d11.

2 Louis B. Parks, “Starting the Revolution,” Houston Chronicle 27 Nov. 2004: 3.

3 Peter Travers, Rev. of Kinsey, dir. Bill Condon, Rolling Stone 3 Nov. 2004, 1 Sept. 2005 http://www.Rollingstone.com/ reviews/movie.

4 Virginia Ironside, “So, how was it for you? Shere Hite’s ‘Report on Female Sexuality’ brought feminism into the bedroom,” The Independent 2 June 2001:1.

5 “Sex Studies Lifted Shrouds of Ignorance.” Editorial. Omaha World-Herald 20 Feb. 2001: 6. 

6 Renee Peck, “A Sexy Retrospective From History,” Times-Picayune 15 August 1999: T3.

7 Jana J. Monji, “‘Hair’ Recalls Dream Unfulfilled,” Los Angeles Times 28 Aug. 1998: 22.

8 Lynn Elber, “Eternal playboy Hefner gets into bed with his own reality TV series,” Augusta Chronicle 7 Aug. 2005: G8.

9 Kate Flatley, “From the Waist Down: Men, Women & Music,” TV Review, Wall Street Journal 6 Aug. 2001: A11.

10 Leonard Pitts, “Baby, I want you!  (But first, sign a pre-sex agreement),” Houston Chronicle 12 Jan. 2004: 2.

11 E.g., James Berardinelli, Rev. of Kinsey, dir. Bill Condon, Reelviews 2004 26 Aug. 2005 http://movie-reviews-colossus.net/ movies/k/kinsey.html.

12 David John Frank and Elizabeth H. McEneaney, “The Individualization of Society and the Liberalization of State Policies on Same-Sex Relations, 1984-1995,” Social Forces 77 (1999): 911-944.

13 Christina Robb, “A Flawed Attempt to Feminize Sex,” Boston Globe 24 Oct. 1986: 23.

14 Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995). 

15 Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd  ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 52-54.

16 Ibid., 232.

17 Andrew Oldenquist, The Non-Suicidal Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 196-197.

18 Ibid., 176-177.

19  Joan R. Kahn and Kathryn A. London, “Premarital Sex and the Risk of Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53 (1991): 845-855.

20  Cf. Ingrid Waldron, Christopher C. Weiss, and Mary Elizabeth Hughes, “Marital Status Effects on Health: Are There Differences Between Never-Married Women and Divorced and Separated Women?” Social Science & Medicine 45 (1997): 1387-1397; I.M.A. Joung et al., “Health Behaviors Explain Part of the Differences in Self-Reported Health Associated with Partner/Marital States in the Netherlands,” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 49 (1995): 482-488; Peggy A. Thoits, “Gender and Marital Status Differences in Control and Distress: Common Stress versus Unique Stress Explanations,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 28 (1987): 7-22; Janet Wilmoth and Gregor Koso, “Does Marital History Matter? Marital Status and Wealth Outcomes Among Preretirement Adults,” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2002): 254-268; Karen F. Parker and Tracy Johns, “Urban Disadvantage and Types of Race-Specific Homicide: Assessing the Diversity in Family Structures in the Urban Context,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 39 (2002): 277-303.

21 Cf. Wallerstein, op cit.

22  Frank Pittman, Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy (New York: W.W. Norton, 1989), 259-267.

23 Cf. Karen Seccombe, “Families in Poverty in the 1990s: Trends, Causes, Consequences, and Lessons Learned,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (2000): 1094-1113; Susan L. Brown, “Family Structure and Child Well-Being: The Significance of Parental Cohabitation,” Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (2004): 351-367; American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, “Family Pediatrics,” Pediatrics 111 Supplement (2003): 1541-1553; Stacey Nofziger and Don Kurtz, “Violent Lives: A Lifestyle Model Linking Exposure to Violence to Juvenile Violent Offending,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency  42 (2005): 3-26.

24 Kimberly Palmer, “Daughters of free love look back at the price: Honesty, not nostalgia, fills their memories of ’60s counterculture,” USA Today 9 Dec. 1999: 07D.

25 Geraldine Bedell, “Review: Living: The future was orange: Tim Guest’s upbringing as a child of the Bhagwan Shree Ranjneesh ‘free love’ movement left him anything but spiritually enlightened,” Rev. of My Life in Orange,  by Tim Guest, The Observer 11 Jan. 2004: 4. 

26 Cf. Peter Peterson, “The true cost of free love,” Rev. of Slaves in Paradise, by Otto Muhl, Daily Mail 13 Oct. 1999: 69.

27 Qtd. in Bedell, op. cit.

28 Nansoon Park and E. Scott Huebner, “A Cross-Cultural Study of the Levels and Correlates of Life Satisfaction Among Adolescents,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 36 (2005): 444-454; Jennifer A. Lindholm, “The American College Teacher and Student: Perspectives on Undergraduate Education and Beyond,” Presentation based on 2004 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Data, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, 17 Aug. 2005.

29 Robert M. Orrange, “Individualism, Family Values, and the Professional Middle Class: In-Depth Interviews with Advanced Law and MBA Students,” The Sociological Quarterly 44 (2003): 451-480.

30 U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001 13 Sept. 2005 http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract-04.html.

31 Cf. Joung et al., op. cit.; Waldron, Weiss, and Hughes, op. cit.; Wilmoth and Koso, op. cit.; Thoits, op. cit.; Jan E. Stets, “Cohabiting and Marital Aggression: The Role of Social Isolation,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53 (1991): 669-680; Jan E. Stets and Murray A. Straus, “The Marriage License as a Hitting License: A Comparison of Assaults in Dating, Cohabiting, and Married Couples,” Paper presented at the 1988 meeting of the American Sociological Association, VB20F.PSS, VB119, 8 July 1988; Maria Testa, Jennifer A. Livingston, and Kenneth E. Leonard, “Women’s substance use and experiences of intimate partner violence: A longitudinal investigation among a community sample,” Addictive Behaviors 28 (2003): 1649-1664; Lawrence B. Finer, Jacqueline E. Darroch, and Susheela Singh, “Sexual Partnership Patterns as a Behavioral Risk Factor for Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” Family Planning Perspectives 31 (1999): 228-236.

32 Stets and Straus, op. cit.

33 Finer, Darroch, and Singh, op. cit. 

34 Joung et al., op. cit.

35 Wilmoth and Koso, op. cit.

36 Thoits, op. cit.

37 Brown, op. cit.

38 Seccombe, op. cit.

39 American Academy of Pediatrics, op. cit.

40 J. Bronowski, Science and Human Values, Rev. ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 57-59.

41 H.H. Bloedow, “The Indoctrination of a People,” Rev. of Kinsey, Sex and Fraud, by Judith A. Reisman and Edward W. Eichel, Upstream 26 Aug. 2005 http://www.mugu.com.

42 Judith Reisman, “Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution,” Leadership U.          13 July 2002, 26 Aug. 2005 http://www.leaderu.com/jhs/reisman.html.

43 Leslie H. Farber, “O Death, Where Is Thy Sting-a-Ling-a-Ling?” Commentary June 1977: 36.

44 Qtd. in J. Hoberman, “The XXX Files,” The Village Voice 8 Nov. 2004.

45 Qtd. and discussed in Thomas Fleming, The Politics of Human Nature (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1988), 38, 108.

46 Cf. Hoberman, op. cit.

47 Norman Doidge, “Hugh Hefner got it all wrong: Playboy didn’t liberate sexuality, it impoverished it,” National Post 1 Dec. 1999: B1.

48 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World  (1932; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1989), 94.

49 Aldous Huxley, Foreword (1946), Brave New World, op. cit., xvii.

50 Donald P. Orr, Mary Beiter, and Gary Ingersoll, “Premature Sexual Activity as an Indicator of Psychosocial Risk,”  Pediatrics 87 (1991): 141-147.

51 Dorothy S. Ruiz, “The Increase in Incarcerations Among Women and its Impact on the Grandmother Caregiver: Some Racial Considerations,” Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 29.3 (2002): 179-197; Allen Beck et al., Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991, The Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 1993, NCJ-136949, pp. 3, 9, 32.

52 Cf. David T. Courtwright, Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), 244, 271-278; Peter Marquis, “Family Disintegration as a Risk Factor in the Development of Antisocial Behavior,” Psychological Reports 71 (1992): 468-470.

53 Cf. Bryce Christensen, “The Strange Politics of Child Support,” Society Nov./Dec. 2001: 67.

54 Cf. Bryce Christensen, “Fostering Confusion: The Real Foster-Care Crisis,” chapter four of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2005).

55 Cf. Lynn D. Wardle, “No-Fault Divorce and the Divorce Conundrum,” Brigham Young University Law Review 1991: 79-142.

56 George S. Swan, “The Political Economy of American Family Policy, 1945-85,” Population and Development Review 12 (1986): 752.

57 E.g., Cal McCrystal, “Dancing Is the Devil’s Work,” Rev. of Ireland’s Holy Wars, by Marcus Tanner, The Independent 11 Nov. 2001: 15.

58 Pitts, op. cit.

59 Qtd. and discussed in “The End of Patriotism: Family Tumult in ‘the Seedbed of the State,’” chapter seven of Divided We Fall, op. cit.

60 Robert J. Sampson, “Crime in Cities: The Effects of Formal and Informal Social Control,” in Communities and Crime, eds. Albert J. Reiss Jr. and Michael Tonry, Vol. 8 in Crime and Justice, eds. Michael Tonry and Norvel Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987), 271-307; Corey L.M. Keyes, “Social Civility in the United States,” Sociological Inquiry 72 (2002): 393-408.

61 Cf. Christensen, “The End of Patriotism,” op. cit.

62 Stuart Walton, A Natural History of Human Emotions (New York: Grove Press, 2005), 276-277.

63  James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 211-220.

64 George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yeller, and Michael L. Katz, “An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 111 (1996): 277-317.

65 Jonathan Lyster, “Generation X pays dearly for sins of the parents,” Ottawa Citizen 11 Dec. 1993: B3.

66 Cf. Susan Kinizie, “For College Deans, Crisis at Any Second; Pressures Greater on Today’s Students,” The Washington Post 21 May 2005: B4.

67 Qtd. in Christopher Caldwell, “Europe draws back from 1968,” Financial Times 27 Nov. 2004: 13.

68 Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address.  4 March 1861. Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States.  1989.  13 Sept. 2005. http://www.bartlby.com/124/ pres31.html.





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