Reflections on the sexual revolution debate in Los Angeles
Another great article. Thank you.
The Eagles song, Desperado, was released in 1973.
One of my favorite lyrics from the song is:
"Freedom, oh freedom
Well that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walkin' through this world all alone."
The ending of the 1961 film, Breakfast At Tiffanys, is one of the best film endings of all time.
The point of the ending is that being free & alone is a much harsher prison than being in the "cage" of a loving relationship.
I no longer hear songs or see movie endings expressing this wisdom.
Trading love for freedom is like trading cheesecake for sugar free jello.
You can eat as much as you want of the latter, but who cares?
To get a 5% decrease from 56 to 51, 8% of those who originally thought it succeeded had to change their minds (if everyone on the other side stayed the same - which they probably did not). So that 8% of opinions changed is a minimum. No wonder people in power do not want real debate, it works. No wonder real debate is so necessary
A few thoughts
1) “We sacrificed the happiness of children for the freedom of adults. And because every adult starts out as a child and carries their experiences with them, we get to live with the consequences.” So true.
2) The fact, as Rob points out, is they started with the wrong question, and should have asked if it made us happier, not free. This illustrates the importance of asking the right question at the beginning.
3) The pursuit of Meaning is more important than the pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson got it wrong. It should have been, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
What we are talking about is that without an opposing something, a thing has no meaning. Black without white, love without hate, freedom without responsibility. Philosophical I know but it's true. Unfortunately our culture increasingly demands all the rights and the freedom but rebels against the responsibilities and self discipline etc that give it meaning. Listen to some Jordan Peterson about this. When you offer up sex or take sex without requiring anything of them, the result will be one party is happy happy and one party is much less. Duh. As a consultant many years ago, I learned that services people get for free are services people do not appreciate or value. It is ironic, when humans get what they want in a frictionless way without anything being demanded of them to get it, they become more entitled, demanding, impatient and spoiled. And helpless, frankly. Certainly less happy. It's pretty simple really. And it can be applied to many fields.
Just one caveat: there was child abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) and domestic abuse in intact families too. Adults bound unhappily together by strict social norms could create a lot of misery and trauma for children. Traditional belief in corporal punishment left scars, visible and invisible, as overpermissiveness can now. Adults have power over children, and adult selfishness, appetite, and unhappiness hurt children in all kinds of social structures. Parenthood may be the biggest moral challenge human beings face, and maybe we take it, and take it on, too lightly
Most of us aren't very good at freedom. The difficulty arises in who does the curtailing of others' freedom "for their own good." It is likely true that we are not fit to be our own masters. But others are even less fit than we are in authority over us. In our wisest moments we can see what limitations we should impose on ourselves, whether we call them fences, or disciplines, or structures. Marriage would be one, and parenthood another. Becoming a group member rather than a mere observer. Being a student (or teacher) instead of a receiver of entertainment.
Would’ve loved to have seen the debate in person.
I’m reading Freddie deBoer’s book right now, How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement, which is basically about how the elite (both white and non-white alike) turned what ought to have been a movement about improving the material concerns of lower-class POC (especially black people) into one about elite POC interpersonal grievances against white people. In an AMA in the r/redscarepod subreddit, deBoer said he defines wokeness as an ideology that elevates the “personal is the political” to the highest level.
The natural evolution of that mindset is to turn happiness itself into an ideological goal. What could be more personal? And even if the idea of happiness is incredibly subjective and capricious, if the personal is political, then one’s happiness is a political right, even above all else.
Going back to the Sexual Revolution debate, happiness-as-ideology is the only way I can think of that can reconcile the fact that social and technological progress have nevertheless contributed to women’s unhappiness. With sexual mores, it’s usually presented as a conservative = prude / liberal = free love dichotomy. A socially progressive ideology that preaches traditionally conservative dating norms would seem contradictory, unless the ideology centers around women’s happiness. Then it makes sense.
I wrote about it more here if people would like to read: https://salieriredemption.substack.com/p/cat-person-2017-brain-and-womens
Eye-opening post. Did anyone discuss ways to encourage two biological-parent marriages?
The debate was great! (Also, I sat in front of you. Hi! 👋)
For me, Grimes made one of the most compelling arguments that human morality and behavior has not kept up with the technology and liberation of the sexual revolution. Under these circumstances where we have not self-regulated to keep up with change, we really couldn't have expected the sexual revolution to make us happier.
That being said, whether it be societal or personal, humans need rules and structure in order to lead happy lives.
There is no freedom without morality. The freedom to have casual sex is just the freedom to be enslaved by one’s urges and passions.
I argue in one chapter in my forthcoming book that the sexual revolution absolutely benefited men more because it explode the number of available women for middle aged and high earning males. And it made them wiling and available in their offices. It created easy opportunities for consensual, yet unethical, sexual entertainment. Noncommittal sex as you note with orgasm data only benefits men as well. Men suffer few downsides from accidental pregnancies because women tend to conceal them and get abortions privately, so not ask for child support to end the relationship or men just avoid child support as deadbeats by moving out of state. Men won in so many ways it’s hard to close the list.
The stats on abuse in “step parent families” is staggering. That set of data should be very widely publicized.
interesting to see the attention this has received in the media:
I am betting that it will get even more attention, and be cited in the future. Bellwether event.
I have 4 children. Still married. great kids. I am fortunate. Marriage and kids is the hardest thing that we do.
It’s not a representative sample, but 9 out of 10 of the couples with children who got divorced in my child’s class at school was because the father was cheating on the mother and wanted out. Not sure you can blame women’s lib for that.
If you look at any of the high-profile celebrity rape cases, including the one just broken on Russell Brand, it’s very easy to see how sexual freedom has brought unhappiness to women. It’s hard to watch fragile legal limits of consent be pulled so taught to the point of breaking.
Hello Rob, I attended this event, and you may recall I briefly said hello.
Thank you to Rob and the other commenters for your great comments.
I was one of the people who switched from "yes" to "no"., for basically the reasons already commented.
Indeed, I decided the sexual revolution has been a successful revolution, even though it has left us overall probably worse off than before. Similarly, the French Revolution was a successful revolution, but it unleashed tremendous injustice and human suffering, and it took France decades to recover.
Revolutions may be inevitable, but whenever society spins out of control, we are not wise enough to anticipate the trajectory. The same thing was true of the idealistic communist revolutions.
The real question is, what do we do now? We cannot put the Jini back into the bottle. Most of us really control only our own household, and that only if we are lucky.
The title of the debate derived from Louise Perry's book title, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution. I agree, the debate title should have been more like, "Are we better off or worse off as a result of the sexual revolution?", or, "Have we mismanaged the social effects of the Pill?"
Also discussed was the wide dissemination of pornography. Sarah Haider (as I recall) pointed out that this was more related to relaxation in laws governing porn, and to the internet. Porn itself has been around for thousands of years. Porn would have happened without contraception, and without a changing role of women. Porn may have been a parallel revolution.
Notably, the discussion was largely women-centric. Next, Bari should direct attention to our entire human species and society, including men, women, and children. It is narcissistic for any one gender-age group to focus on their own insular needs. We are in this together; women, men, and children.
The interest in this event was remarkable. That was perhaps the most remarkable thing about it. It was sold out with at least 1000 people in attendance. The crowd was extremely diverse, mostly really regular-looking people listening carefully. Young and old people, men and women, gay and straight, dreadlocks and sport jackets. Bari is reading the forefront of social-cultural change.
The panel emphasized that the rich and educated are the ones best able to avoid the adverse effects of the sexual revolution. It is self-contradictory that rich educated social idealists are the most likely to support removing the “guardrails” (quoting Louise Perry) of society, hurting the less privileged.
Rob has articulated the paradox-dilemma very well.