Today’s disastrous insouciance about so serious a matter as the relationship between the sexes is surely something new in history: even 30 years ago, people showed vastly more circumspection in the formation of liaisons than they do now. The change represents, of course, the fulfillment of the sexual revolution. The prophets of that revolution wished to empty the relationship between the sexes of all moral significance and to destroy the customs and institutions that governed it. The entomologist Alfred Kinsey reacted against his own repressed and puritanical upbringing by concluding that all forms of sexual restraint were unjustified and psychologically harmful; the novelist Norman Mailer, having taken racial stereotypes as seriously as any Ku Klux Klansman, saw in the supposedly uninhibited sexuality of the Negro the hope of the world for a more abundant and richer life; the Cambridge social anthropologist Edmund Leach informed the thinking British public over the radio that the nuclear family was responsible for all human discontents (this, in the century of Hitler and Stalin!); and the psychiatrist R. D. Laing blamed the family structure for serious mental illness.
All these enthusiasts believed that if sexual relations could be liberated from artificial social inhibitions and legal restrictions, something beautiful would emerge: a life in which no desire need be frustrated, a life in which human pettiness would melt away like snow in spring. Conflict and inequality between the sexes would likewise disappear, because everyone would get what he or she wanted, when and where he or she wanted it. The grounds for such petty bourgeois emotions as jealousy and envy would vanish: in a world of perfect fulfillment, each person would be as happy as the next.
The program of the sexual revolutionaries has more or less been carried out, especially in the lower reaches of society, but the results have been vastly different from those so foolishly anticipated. The revolution foundered on the rock of unacknowledged reality: that women are more vulnerable to abuse than men by virtue of their biology alone, and that the desire for the exclusive sexual possession of another has remained just as strong as ever. This desire is incompatible, of course, with the equally powerful desire—eternal in the human breast but hitherto controlled by social and legal inhibitions—for complete sexual freedom. Because of these biological and psychological realities, the harvest of the sexual revolution has not been a brave new world of human happiness but rather an enormous increase in violence between the sexes, for readily understandable reasons.
And there is very good reason why such violence should have increased under the new sexual dispensation. If people demand sexual liberty for themselves, but sexual fidelity from others, the result is the inflammation of jealousy, for it is natural to suppose that one is being done by as one is doing to others—and jealousy is the most frequent precipitant of violence between the sexes.
Here is something that is with us forever. It will never go away. This problem is behind lots of the rules that were put in place, the rules that have been loosened. What we see above is due to this weakening. It is not a pretty sight. One perhaps should consider the morality of these changes.
Maybe if people are disciplined, this unfettered sexual freedom could kind of work. Or if one is rich and/or powerful, one could maybe fix some of the resulting issues. Still there is the matter of the children. Do they factor into the equation anywhere?
So read it and weep; let us by all means have our demons fight each other for supremacy.