There’s been a major shift in the public attitude concerning what is proper sex since the sexual revolution of the 1960s. When I was a kid in the 1980s, it was already taken for granted that sexual mores from earlier times were outdated, and only backwards dinosaurs adhered to them. For example, the idea that there’s anything wrong with extramarital sex has been laughed at for decades now. Additionally, old taboos concerning other sexual activities, despite clear evidence of their danger in the form of AIDS, divorce, etc., were portrayed as out of date and oppressive. Pornography was deemed legitimate political speech and therefore a right, and obscenity laws repealed.
To listen to the supporters of the sexual revolution, you’d think this would have led us to some sexual utopia where everyone’s sexual needs are met with no problem, but the human impulse to control sexuality returned in fairly short order, only in a different form. The result is that today, we still face a great – perhaps even greater – amount of control where sex is concerned, and a lot more people are locked up for sex crimes than in the bad old days of “oppression.” What compounds this problem is that it’s possible that even more men are sexually repressed now than a hundred years ago.
Today, there are essentially two kinds of bad sex: “nonconsensual” sex and sex with underage people. The bad actors in this regime are overwhelmingly male for a couple reasons. First, forcible rape is far more likely to be committed by males than females, for obvious reasons. Secondly, men generally prefer younger partners and women older. One could argue that prostitution remains in the “bad sex” category, but prostitution is increasingly held to be an example of male sexual exploitation. Examples from Superbowl sex hysteria and the Secret Service scandal highlight this. Essentially, prostitution has begun to fall under the nonconsensual or rape category. Pioneering Swedish legislation that only punishes johns for prostitution transactions will probably be introduced in the US soon, and then the process will be complete.
While only a few fringe characters have ever argued that rape or pedophilia is justifiable, what’s wrong with all this is that practically no female sexual behavior is currently seen as negative, whereas men are responsible for almost all of what’s deemed bad sex. Not all that long ago, this was far from the case. While rape has always been seen as the most serious sex crime, neither fornication nor adultery were held to be innocent activities, and women were seen as equal participants in these acts. In fact, in the majority of cases, a woman was just as responsible for “bad sex” as a man. Where prostitution was concerned, females were held to be more responsible than their clients, just as drug dealers are held to higher level of accountability than drug buyers, because they profit from the transaction.
However, lest we try to draw parallels, it should be recognized that most of what society considered bad sex was not criminalized until relatively recently. Fornication, sodomy, prostitution and adultery were definitely frowned upon, but they were not typically formally punished until the Victorian era. In the US, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that these laws were widespread and regularly enforced. Nevertheless, people were a lot more careful about engaging in these activities, because social consequences could be severe.
Since then, aside from a brief period from the late 60s to early 70s when there was a sort of sexual free-for-all in the West, we’ve seen a steady crackdown on male sexuality combined with a loosening of restrictions on female sexuality. What has happened is that the entire burden of sexual control has been increasingly foist upon men, while women’s load has been lightened.
Probably the most important and liberating change for women has been the relaxation of the social prohibition on fornication. In the old days, fornication was definitely seen as bad sex. A loose woman was considered socially irresponsible and wicked for a number of reasons. She could lure a husband from his wife, seduce a young, naive man and capture him in a marriage against his interests, and have illegitimate children who became a burden on the community. Such a woman was not seen as marriage material. In general, men preferred virgin brides. Today, of course, the virgin bride is as rare as the horse and buggy.
A lot of men might say we have it a lot better than in those times, because “sex is easy and available” now whereas it used to be more difficult to obtain. I’m not sure I agree. Fornication is as much a risk for men as ever, and probably more so, because now only men are held responsible for the consequences. Get a woman pregnant and it’s on you. Sleep with a couple women, make one angry and jealous, and you risk a rape accusation. Sleeping with a married woman is another good way to get accused of rape if she changes her mind and decides to stay with her husband. Sleep with a woman who said she was 19, she turns out to be 17, and you’re in trouble. Visit a prostitute and you could be arrested or, if she tells the press, lose your career. There isn’t much of a difference from the old days, and you’re more likely to face jail time for slipping up. For men, fornication is clearly still bad sex. Possibly even more so than it was when it was generally recognized as such.
For women, on the other hand, the benefits are clear. Fornication has virtually no social consequences and the most minimal of risks. Pregnancies can be easily avoided, and if wanted the man will be forced to pay child support whether he committed or not. Male lovers can be easily controlled and kept in line, and as many taken as any woman pleases. Women even go so far as to proudly march in slutwalks to further demand rights to behave sexually in any manner they please. The slutwalk was actually very clear in demanding more of the status quo, i.e. less control of female sexuality and more control of male. For women, particularly young and attractive ones, this has been a real bonanza. But what has it done for society?
Marriage rates dropping precipitously, men taking path of least resistance and dropping out, illegitimacy skyrocketing, class divisions hardening, children growing up fatherless and with fewer options. For most of us, it’s been quite negative.
I wish I could say there was a solution to the problem, but it looks pretty hopeless. The alternative to what used to be seen as bad sex – marriage – has been all but destroyed by the liberation of female sexuality and the redefinition of marriage as little more than a federal tax status; a sort of very risky corporation with arbitrary rules. The result is that for men, there is really no such thing as “good sex,” that is, socially-approved sex — it’s a risk no matter what. Furthermore, a society in which the overwhelming majority of women are fornicators gives men no choice; you just aren’t getting a wife in the traditional sense of the word, so why bother with marriage?
I think men ought to realize that we got suckered in this deal, and perhaps we should have listened to the old sages who have warned us over the centuries. We overreached in our naivete, thinking we’d get more of what we desire if we only tossed out the old attitudes, but all we ended up with was more responsibility and fewer rewards.