The sexual revolution reconsidered

The sexual revolution reconsidered January 15, 2013

You have GOT to read A. N. Wilson’s article in the London Mail entitled ” I’ve lived through the greatest revolution in sexual mores in our history, the damage it’s done appalls me”.  An excerpt, with my emphases:

“I have been divorced. Although I was labelled a Young Fogey in my youth, I imbibed all the liberationist sexual mores of the Sixties as far as sexual morality was concerned.

I made myself and dozens of people extremely unhappy — including, of course, my children and other people’s children. . . .

Back in the Fifties, GfK National Opinon Poll conducted a survey asking how happy people felt on a sliding scale — from very happy to very unhappy.

In 1957, 52 per cent said they were ‘very happy’. By 2005, the same set of questions found only 36 per cent were ‘very happy’, and the figures are falling.

More than half of those questioned in the GfK’s most recent survey said that it was a stable relationship which made them happy. Half those who were married said they were ‘very happy’, compared with only a quarter of singles.

The truth is that the Sexual Revolution had the power to alter our way of life, but it could not alter our essential nature; it could not alter the reality of who and what we are as human beings.

It made nearly everyone feel that they were free, or free-er, than their parents had been — free to smoke pot, free to sleep around, free to pursue the passing dream of what felt, at the time, like overwhelming love — an emotion which very seldom lasts, and a word which is meaningless unless its definition includes commitment.

How easy it was to dismiss old-fashioned sexual morality as ‘suburban’, as a prison for the human soul. How easy it was to laugh at the ‘prudes’ who questioned the wisdom of what was happening in the Sexual Revolution.

About one-third of marriages in Britain end in divorce

Yet, as the opinion poll shows, most of us feel at a very deep level that what will make us very happy is not romping with a succession of lovers.

In fact, it is having a long-lasting, stable relationship, having children, and maintaining, if possible, lifelong marriage.

HT:  David T. Koyzis


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  • tODD

    Meh. Obviously, I’m not in disagreement with the article’s overall point, but it’s still a lousy article. It’s a philosophical piece that wants to play at science and statistics, but it’s a remarkably unconvincing go.

    For instance, rather than merely argue that sexual “freedom” doesn’t actually make us happy, he had to go and cite polls about happiness. Did you notice how he expects you to believe that the decrease in the number of people saying they were “very happy” was caused solely or mainly by the Sexual Revoluation? Why is that? Was nothing else going on in the world during that time? My friends, that’s exceedingly shoddy logic. Oh, and by the way, during a similar period, it turns out that American answers about happiness have remained remarkably consistent, with those saying they’re “very happy” rising ever so slightly. So, per the article’s reasoning, the Sexual Revolution in America wasn’t a bad thing at all, was it? We were slightly more “very happy” in 2004 as we were in 1972.

    Then there’s this:

    But if the propagators of the Sexual Revolution had been able to fast-forward 50 years, what would they have expected to see? Surely not the shocking statistics about today’s sexual habits in the UK which are available for all to study. In 2011, there were 189,931 abortions carried out, a small rise on the previous year, and about seven per cent more than a decade ago.

    Again, what’s the takeaway for Americans here? The argument from the article should apply equally to our country. Except that, well, the US just saw its abortion rate fall to an all-time low, with 2012 experiencing the biggest one-year decrease in a decade, during which the rate was largely flat (though the rate has been almost monotonically declining for three decades.

    Again, this article? Meh.

  • SKPeterson

    tODD – for purposes of comparison we’d have to know what is meant by happiness in both the American and British context. Certainly similar, but maybe not entirely a 1 for 1 correspondence. I also wonder if the reasons for happiness were given by the survey respondents, or were selected from a predetermined list, and if a list, what were the possible responses. The big problem with surveys of emotion goes into quantification: are British units of hap the same as American? Are we talking metric tonnes of hap, or simply standard tons? Do we measure happiness as a solid while the British measure it as a liquid? If I have a big load of hap, am I “very happy” in the U.S., but only “moderately happy” in the U.K.? Is there a Emotional Weights and Standards Board that exists to define the states of happiness and their measurability? Is it true like they say, “One pound of hap is equal to 5 grams of gid?” “Stable marriage accounts for a mean happiness level of 300, an increase in almost 80 haps over unmarried persons. Over a lifetime, this translates into a difference of almost 300,000 haps.”

  • Pete

    @tODD (2:17AM), who says, “Did you notice how he expects you to believe that the decrease in the number of people saying they were “very happy” was caused solely or mainly by the Sexual Revoluation? Why is that? Was nothing else going on in the world during that time?”

    At least one of the “other things” going on at that time was increasing availability, widespread prescription of and increasing use of mood-elevating prescription pharmaceuticals – e.g. Prozac, etc. And, as tODD so accurately points out, correlation does not necessarily indicate causality. One wonders whether these phenomena (loosening sexual mores, increased use of mood-altering medication) are causes of the now-observed decrease in happiness, or whether they are simply responses to something that was already present in the culture; existential angst, perhaps. Or maybe affluence. Our human response to certain stressors might actually be to flee to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. In that paradigm, “happiness” was on the wane and neither the sexual revolution nor the easy availability of mood-elevating drugs have been unable to turn that around – as opposed to the idea that these things have caused our current level of “unhappiness”. I’m not sure which I think to be true – maybe both. Maybe the sexual revolution accelerated the rate of already declining happiness. Interesting.

  • Pete

    sorry: “… have been ABLE to turn that around…”

  • Paul Reed


    ” the US just saw its abortion rate fall to an all-time low”

    The rate of surgical abortions is lower, not abortion overall. We aren’t killing children less, we’re just being more efficient in how they are being killed. Not that I’m saying pro-aborts want to murder children — they just don’t care. If they could live the lifestyle they want without any abortion, I’d imagine they’d do so. The article goes along with their position about how the chief aim of life is a person’s personal happiness and fulfillment, except it (poorly) questions if the sexual revolution helped them in their aim.

  • The West and the rest of the world, that joined the Counterculture; would do good, by reconsidering a lot more then that.

  • elizabeth

    I always second guess my reaction to a post after someone points out what they see as a weakness in the article. I read the post and thought, yeah. Then after reading the comments I question if I just like the article because it agrees with my thoughts on a subject, and that in being so quick to agree I might have missed the “shoddy logic.” Oh well..has anyone read “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes . of the Sexual Revolution” by Mary Eberstadt? It addresses many of these same issues, and of course I thought it was a great book, but am open to someone pointing out any weaknesses I might have missed.

  • This sounds like a sorrow unto death, a realization that the author is in sin (perhaps not in the true biblical sense, but at the very least in a practical, personal, and societal sense), but at the same time the author is not conceding repentance and faith in Christ. The problem is that the solution to the sin-the salvation, if you will-is the law. It’s running to moralism instead of running to the gospel. I suppose nothing less should be expected from somebody whose heart has not been regenerated by the Spirit, but it’s still frustrating to see this.

    A former pastor of mine (ironically a Nazarene pastor) once brought up the accurate point that “You can be a nice guy and still go to hell.” This is a perfect illustration of that: correctly diagnosing the disease, but not taking the proper cure.

  • Lou G

    Since A. N. Wilson is a professed atheist, I think the article is interesting and significant.
    Thanks, Dr. Veith.

  • Richard

    Actually, AbFab (the BBC show pictured in the article) was probably the best take-down on the whole culture of the 60s. And Joanna Lumley was a riot!

  • Lou G — Unless he has re-un-converted, A.N. Wilson is now a Christian. The following story is his Christian to atheist to Christian story: