One of the most important presumably unintended consequences of the Sexual Revolution of the second half of the twentieth century has been the increasing dominance of male desires and a corresponding diminution of the value of women’s ways of viewing sex. The opening of all doors ensures that men, who by nature tend to pursue a variety of sexual partners, will drive the agenda, and women, who are by nature better fitted for long-term partnerships, will simply have to accommodate them.
Perpetuation of the species ensures that men who spread their genetic characteristics widely will greatly affect the gene pool, and women who are able to take care of their children well—which at least in earlier times was much easier if a man was around to help—will be similarly successful. Hence there is an innate tension in relations between the sexes: there are centrifugal forces at work, but at its best human sexuality ties couples and families together.
The development of moral codes pertaining to such matters helped the species thrive. What both men and women give up in freedom they obtain in greater success in contributing children for the future.
What the Sexual Revolution accomplished was to sunder the relations between the sexes, substituting a radical latitudinarianism that fully undermined the ability of sexuality to bring couples and families together. This has led to a comodification of sex that further tears the connections between people.
This process has been highly damaging to women, as many writers and thinkers have recently noted. As a result, many girls today are fighting back, notes Wendy Shalit in her new book, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good. Shalit shows that far from extolling real freedom, the current sexualized American culture is aggressively hostile toward young women, as Kathryn Lopez notes in her excellent review in National Review Online:
Shalit says that in a culture where “being publicly sexual has become the only acceptable way for girls to demonstrate maturity,” it’s heartening that it’s not so much the older folks—like Tipper Gore and other politically connected angry moms—who are fighting back, as it is the young girls themselves. The smut is still out there, and it’s often in your face—even when you’re with your kids. But it’s not going unchallenged.
Girls, writes Shalit, are bringing modesty back—and not in some absurdly unrealistic way that can be caricatured as “repression.” These girls know—because they’ve seen it in their families, on their campuses, in their neighborhoods, or through direct, unfortunate personal experience—that acting “wild,” being promiscuous, is the truly repressive and dehumanizing option. Says Shalit: “Looking ‘wild’ and acting ‘wild’ are supposed to be empowering, but more often they lead to misery, especially for young women who quickly learn to put their emotions in a deep freeze in order to do what is expected.”
Shalit points out that intimacy is an immensely healthy thing for human beings, and that the modern sexually revolutionized culture aggressively attacks that essential part of life:
“Intimacy flourishes where there is also restraint,” Shalit writes. “Yet all the voices around young people tend to promote a cavalier attitude toward sex from the get-go, often under the guise of ‘health.’”
But today, more and more sensible young women are bridling when they hear “bitches” and “hos” on the radio. And it’s not a political issue in the least. A 25-year-old former model tells Shalit that it won’t be the conservative media that will help the culture go mild. The revolution, the model says, will continue to happen from within: It will start in a girl’s childhood home, “with a mother who values herself, and a father who respects her.” It will continue in college and in the workplace.
The culture we have created in the name of sexual freedom is actually among the most repressive we could possibly create in this regard. It degrades women relentlessly, reducing them to a few physical characteristics. Young men are harmed just as egregiously by our hypersexualized culture, as all that is good in them is mocked and all that is most base and vulgar is lauded.
The Sexual Revolution has been bad for everyone, and it is good to see that young people in particular, who are most immediately harmed by it, are realizing that. Far from being a force for freedom, our modern hypersexualized culture has been overwhelmingly a source of thoroughly malign oppression of what is best in the human heart.