Most battles over human sexuality spanning the last 50 years in the Western world can reasonably be parked under the umbrella of the sexual revolution. Its foundational principles are assumed dogma throughout the educational and entertainment establishments, serve as rallying cries for politicians and activists, and have seduced much of the professing Christian community. But the sexual revolution has been an unmitigated disaster for individuals and society, and it is built upon a foundation of lies.
Many outstanding articles and books are available refuting – very effectively, I might add – specific elements of present-day sexual revisionism. This series endeavors to target the fundamental assumptions underlying the prevailing sexual ethos. I will contend that each and every one is falsified by the best contemporary research, and that the Judeo-Christian norm of lifelong heterosexual monogamy can be scientifically established as the only true pathway to human flourishing. It is the nature of this undertaking that the arguments herein will be but capsule summaries. They will not be sufficient to overwhelm a hardened ideologue, but in each case I will point to sources that lay out the arguments more fully.
This series is primarily addressed toward Christian believers. The church is failing at discipleship of her youth, and nowhere has this been more acute than in the area of human sexuality. They all know what the Bible teaches; what we have been lacking is an effective apologetic to uphold the Biblical teaching.
The Sexual Revolution
What do I mean by sexual revolution? In its essence, the negation of God’s design for marriage, sex, and children.
Within the biblical paradigm, which has been reflected in almost all civilizations throughout history, we begin with marriage as the Central institution. Sex takes place only within marriage, and children occur only as a result of sex within marriage.
Marriage is at the top of the hierarchy. This system worked well throughout most of recorded history, though it might not have been called “marriage” in every case. Any deviation from this paradigm led to predictably bad consequences.
As documented by Carl Trueman and others, there is a long and distinguished philosophical history behind contemporary notions of sexuality. The actual expression “sexual revolution” is attributed to Wilhelm Reich. Reich was a successor to Freud who continued his clinic in Vienna throughout the 1920s. In 1939 he emigrated to New York to join the “New School for Social Research.”
Throughout his career, Reich advanced a number of peculiar ideas, particularly pertaining to human sexuality. Because of his extravagant health claims and disturbing connections with sexual abuse, Reich was pursued by the FDA and eventually died in prison. In his final years, he became increasingly delusional, if not overtly psychotic.
Suffice it to say that none of Reich’s ideas survive in modern mainstream science.
What we think of as “the sexual revolution” really took off in the 1960s, and I would contend that popular culture was a much more potent driving force than delusional Austrian psychotherapists. At its heart, it is the rejection of Judeo-Christian sexual morality. How? By severing the traditional relationships between sex, marriage, and children.
One could say it began with rupturing the tie between sex and children, enabled by the Pill in the 1960’s. This was made possible by advancing technology, and the Griswold decision in the US Supreme Court. What this meant was that people could engage in intercourse without worrying about the natural consequence, dramatically lowering the “cost” of sex – especially for women but men too. And if contraception did fail or was just too inconvenient, then there was abortion. At its peak, that was about 1 ½ million a year just in the US. It’s much lower now. Over 85% are among unmarried women.
Next came the separation of sex from marriage, driven by pop culture as well as shoddy scholarship claiming that non-marital sex was healthy, normal, and free of consequences.
Finally came the rupture between marriage and children. Illegitimacy is not the only cause. We mustn’t forget divorce, which rose rapidly in the late 20th century with the nationwide trend toward no-fault divorce and increasing social acceptance.
There’s another side to stage one. Technology not only made it possible to have sex without children, it made it possible to have children without sex.
So instead of marriage, sex dominates the hierarchy. Some sexual relationships lead to or begin with marriage, but most do not. Children are usually within marriage, but often outside marriage, and thanks to the fertility industry don’t even require sex.
In Brave New World, written 90 years ago, Aldous Huxley anticipated all three stages. In his future dystopia, marriage is eliminated and the break between sex and children is absolute.
In that context, you might find this quote from Huxley revealing:
“For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, 1937
So Huxley was pretty transparent about his motivations. But even in writing the book, he wasn’t able to put lipstick on that pig. His imaginary future was a DYS-topia.
Many Christians are skeptical of science in general – typically the ones who don’t know much about it. For various reasons, the relationship between science and faith can be complicated. The sexual revolutionaries confidently claim that science is on their side. But not only is science not on their side, it increasingly affirms the Biblical view of human sexuality as the optimal pathway to human flourishing.
In this series, I’m going to zoom in on the myths that undergird the sexual revolution. This isn’t a “Letterman” kind of list. They’re organized more by topic than priority. But I’ll offer my opinion as to which one is the worst. It might not be what you expect.
So, let’s proceed to our first Myth.
Myth #1: “Gender is a Social Construct”
What does that mean? This is a claim that there are no intrinsic differences between men and women other than the physical ones – that everything pertaining to gender norms and roles is dictated by society.
The idea emerged during what we call “second wave” feminism. “First wave” feminism was the movement starting in the late 1700s advancing the empowerment of women and legal equality. Second wave feminism came along in the mid-20th century. One of its more noteworthy proponents was Simone de Beauvoir, the girlfriend of existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre.
Simone famously declared, “on ne nait pas femme, on la devient” which translates “we are not born women, we become one.” She denied that anything related to femininity was biological or present at birth. (You may notice this flatly contradicts the bedrock assumption of contemporary transgenderism, in which one’s gender is determined by those same stereotypes, over and above biological sex).
In the mid-20th century, that might have been a workable hypothesis, even if it sounded a bit fishy. But in the later 20th century, neuroscience research exploded. The 1990’s were designated “the Decade of the Brain” by the NIH. And that research established there are concrete, persistent, and pervasive differences between male and female cognition.
For example, male children really are more aggressive, more systems-oriented, and more inclined toward risk-taking. Female children really are more empathetic, less aggressive, and risk-averse. The complete list is much, much longer.
But these are averages. There’s no “Berlin wall” separating one sex from the other, but a lot of overlap. Probably the one area where there is the least overlap is sex drive, where the difference between men and women is rather large and persistent.
But far from being “culturally determined,” these differences begin in utero and are already firmly established at birth. Even in the developing embryo, circulating testosterone causes male and female brains to develop differently. Not so much in a structural sense, but in the way they are wired.
[For a comprehensive treatment, I highly recommend Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, now in a second edition].
The January 2017 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research was completely devoted to articles reviewing the neuroscientific evidence of innate male-female differences.
In his introduction, journal editor Larry Cahill wrote, “the notion that sex matters fundamentally, powerfully, and pervasively for all of neuroscience (not just for reproduction) is an idea whose time indeed has come.”
But this doesn’t completely negate De Beauvoir. It’s not “either/or”. Some gender roles and behaviors, even how people dress, are culturally influenced. Virtually all modern Bible scholars agree that Paul’s extended riff on head coverings speaks to a social construct, not a moral concern (I Corinthians 11:2-14). Besides, socialization cuts both ways. If in olden days girls were pressured to act like women, now there’s a drive to make girls act like men. How is that any better? It’s still social pressure.
Some may bristle at the phrase, but you could pretty much say the science on this score is settled. Is this common knowledge? Of course not. Most of the media and education establishment are still stuck in the 70s.
Myth #1 is pretty easy to knock off, so let’s forge ahead.
Myth #2: “Intercourse between consenting adults is harmless.”
So, according to the prevailing secular narrative sexual intercourse is morally neutral, harmless, possibly even healthy. The only constraint is mutual consent.
This idea really took off in the 60’s and has become an unchallenged dogma of the political left and most of the entertainment industry. In TV and movies, most romantic relationships end up in bed. Apart from a few rare exceptions, like Fatal Attraction, when are there ever any negative consequences?
Well, let’s do a reality check.
Consequence #1 should be pretty obvious: pregnancy. No matter what they say, contraception – even if used – is far from 100% successful. Occasionally, intercourse still results in God’s intended outcome.
Number two, sexually transmitted diseases. This April, the CDC reported that 2020 was a record year for gonorrhea and syphilis, right in the middle of COVID lockdown. Even the CDC recommends limiting the number of sexual partners. Make that one, or zero, and STD’s cease to be an issue.
Number three, the emotional consequences. There’s a complex and unavoidable neurochemical response to sexual intercourse that impacts how one feels and how one behaves in the future. Intercourse results in a dopamine hit, which activates the brain’s reward centers. Whatever you do that releases dopamine, your brain wants to keep doing more of it. That’s true for gambling, illicit drugs, birdying on the 18th hole, or having sex.
Sex also stimulates the production of oxytocin. This is known as the “cuddle hormone” and is part of God’s design to facilitate emotional bonding between father and mother, or mother and child. Vasopressin has a similar effect in men. The brain doesn’t differentiate between a lifelong monogamous partnership and a one-night stand, at least not initially. However, the brain is also highly malleable. It learns and adapts. So over enough time, it adapts to whatever lifestyle you pursue.
This becomes problematic if someone later decides to enter a monogamous relationship after years of promiscuity. It’s like trying to make a sudden course correction on an ocean liner.
[Joe McIlhaney has compiled an excellent review of the neuroscience pertaining to this subject in Hooked: The brain science on how casual sex affects human development, now in a second edition].
Lastly, there are the social consequences. If one of the partners happens to be married to someone else, obviously it’s a problem. How about if they’re cohabiting? Just going steady? An awful lot of emotional pain and conflict emerges out of something that’s supposed to be harmless. In the worst cases, and far too often, it ends in violence.
Intercourse is harmless? Better rethink that one.
In our next installment:
Myth #3: “Marriage is just a piece of paper.”
Myth #4: “The sexual revolution was a boon for women.”
Myth #5: “Chastity and monogamy are oppressive.”