The Empty Promise of the Sexual Revolution

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Tuesday, November 20, 2001

The Empty Promise of the Sexual Revolution
A new collection of essays from the Manhattan Institute‘s City Journal chronicles the many ways in which the sexual revolution has failed to deliver on its promise of “liberation,” especially for women. Modern Sex: Liberation and It’s Discontents (Ivan R. Dee, Inc., 2001) gives us a picture of the reasons why the loosening of moral constraints on sexual behavior has not resulted in greater happiness and fulfillment, as promised by the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960’s and ’70’s. Far from being a source of happiness, the sexual revolution has wrought all manner of social pathologies from out-of-wedlock childbearing and rampant divorce to increasing sexual sophistication among pre-teens, not to mention the general coarsening of feeling and behavior in modern society. Largely due to the sexual revolution, sex in the modern age has been reduced to a mechanical, even athletic, exercise devoid of any deeper meaning. A recent review in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) cites a study from the University of Edinburgh that offers a clue to why so-called “free love” has been particularly harmful to women. The study found that women’s brains react to sexual intimacy by releasing a chemical, oxytocin, which creates a bond between her and her partner that increases in intensity the longer their relationship continues. Without the protection of marriage, the likely result is sexual and emotional chaos. Citing the Edinburgh University study Meghan Cox Gurdon, the author of the WSJ article, puts it this way: “[I]f you wanted to devise a prescription for sexual misery and social wreckage, 30 years of frantic, indiscriminate coupling would pretty much be it.”

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