September 29, 2011

First, a link: Reconsidering sexual repression.

The first difficult thing to accept, after the sexual revolution, is this: sexual repression and the double standard weren’t arbitrary forms of cruelty that societies ended up with by accident. They were functional adaptations. By raising the clearing price that women charged for sex, they actually increased female bargaining power and raised the marriage rate.

The question becomes: what are we going to give up? Family formation? Sexual equality? Sexual liberty? (By sexual equality I mean the presumption that women should be legally, economically, and educationally equal to men. By sexual liberty I mean both an absence of formal legal sanctions and an absence of guilt and psychological repression.) It looks very much as through we can’t have all three of those sustainably, and (this is the thought that really disturbs me) we may not even get to have more than one.

He goes on to say he doesn’t think giving up what he calls “sexual liberty” is going to happen, but that’s what needs to happen. One clue to the problem, though, is a word in the title of his post, “repression.” That’s a pretty loaded word. (I believe we owe its use here to Sigmund Freud.) If we talk about people exercising self-discipline and trying to maintain high standards in their sexual behavior, that sounds, well, mature, or civilized, or some such. But if we call it repression it sounds pretty ugly. It kind of sounds like “oppression,” which is something fascists and other nasty people do. We wouldn’t want any of that, now, would we? In this way sexual virtue is portrayed as something unhealthy and sinister, instead of as what it really is, a key to personal happiness and a functional society.

Related: More Sex, Less Babies?