America's Declining Sexual Morality
The decline in sexual morality we see in our era did not begin in the year 2000. Today's "sexual revolution" is expressed by our being told by the highest court in the land that homosexual marriage can and must be married and by women being encouraged to abort children as a "right." In today's society, drag queens reading to little children in libraries is considered delightful by many. Further, vast numbers of people consider one's sex designation psychological and not biological, and, increasingly, parents encourage their little children to "choose" which sex/gender they want to be. As additional evidence of the "sexual revolution," the overall percentage of children born out of wedlock has risen from 5% in 1960 to about 40% the last three or four years (albeit much higher among black and Hispanic persons).
Tthese trends are the result of a series of developments that have been ongoing for more than 100 years. Sexual fantasies and desires were depicted by Sigmund Freud as repressed, and in their repressed unconscious influence on the personality, these desires and fantasies were leading to neurotic and psychotic behaviors in society. Deep sexual needs were being sublimated in creative activities, but many aspects of sexuality, being afforded no legitimate outlets or channels for expression, were wreaking havoc on personalities.
One of Freud's patients, referred to as "the Wolf Man," had a recurrent dream of six or seven wolves sitting on bare branches outside his window. Although they were wolves, they had foxes' tails. Applying the method of psychoanalysis, Freud concluded that the Wolf Man had castration anxiety. Freud claimed to reveal the deep, unconscious significance of the Pleasure Principle in our psyches, thereby freeing us from the excessive rigidity of late 19th-century Western Civilization.
For Freud, the individual decision-making agent exercised his so-called freedom with decisions made by the "I" or ego. But the identity of the "I" was within the context of the rules of social living. In Freud's Vienna, those rules expressed Christian values (which included Old Testament prohibitions as well as virtues) integrated in the psyche by the superego. However, both the ego and the operant rules of the superego were unaware of the unconscious dynamics that were significantly impacting the ego's adjustments to society and to its consciousness of itself. These challenges emanated from that vast unconscious tier of existence referred to as the id. In the id lay the repressed memories, dreams, aspirations, needs, lusts, and even attraction to death. Greater acceptance of one's sexuality (i.e., the Pleasure Principle) was needed. Further, the psycho-sexual implications of breastfeeding or toilet training also had to be factored into one's makeup. These influences were wholly unconscious, yet they are the most powerful influences in shaping our understanding of ourselves and our "adjustment" to society. For Freud, religion conceals rather than reveals the true foundations of morality and our interactions with others.
Influenced by Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the post-WWI world of artists and writers unlocked the door to expression of the unconscious and to sexual license as the path of freedom and creativity. Many notable literary figures did not maintain a married, monogamous, heterosexual relationship "'til death do us part." These included such notables as Henry Miller, a non-political iconoclast (married five times plus numerous lovers); Gertrude Stein (had a lifelong lesbian partner); Ernest Hemingway (married four times); Ezra Pound (he, his wife, and another woman had threesomes); T.S. Eliot (multiple affairs while his wife was in a mental asylum); James Joyce (had two children with Nora before marrying her); and Sherwood Anderson (married four times). These great writers constituting the "Lost Generation" felt alienated from Western, Christian socio-political culture as being too bourgeois or too puritanical. They were more comfortable in a European artistic climate marked by artistic freedom and burgeoning communism in the USSR with its anti-bourgeois rhetoric and policies.
Lara Feigel notes that in post-WWI Russia, "these ideals [anti-bourgeois and anti-family based sexuality] were enshrined in law in 1918 when the new Soviet government ratified its Code on Marriage, the Family and Guardianship abolishing the inferior legal status of women, eliminating religious marriage, giving children born outside marriage equal rights to those born within it, and making divorce an easy formality. The author of the Code, Alexander Goikhbarg, looked forward to the time "when 'the fetters of husband and wife' were obsolete and love could be enjoyed freely." Fourteen years later, in 1932, Alexandra Kollontai, founder of the Soviet Women's Department, wrote a book in which she insisted there was "neither morality nor immorality" in nature, and a sexual act should be recognized as "a manifestation of a healthy organism [much the same] as the quenching of hunger or thirst." Although the USSR formally reversed its anti-family and pro-abortion position in the mid-1930s, the distaste for the family conceived as a bourgeois institution first stated in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 remained as a steadfast pillar of extreme left-wing thought. The USSR backing off from its anti-family agenda in the mid-nineteen-thirties was more of a practical decision than a change in ideological commitment.
Situation ethics came into being during the 1960s regarding Christian sexual morality with the writings of Joseph F. Fletcher, an Anglican theologian. Non-marital sexual intercourse could be accepted if the parties believed in Jesus Christ and really loved each other, even if not married. This view is generally held by liberal churches today, even if it does not appear on their websites under "Our Beliefs." When this writer attended a liberal United Church of Christ and Congregationalist seminary in the early 1970s, some of the ministerial candidates were shacking up with their girlfriends in the dorms, and no action was taken by the seminary's administration. Another friend, in the 1960s, pursued his lifelong dream to become an Episcopal priest only to find homosexuality rife in the seminary as the students goosed each other as they went down the stairs to meals. He then dropped out of the seminary to protect his body, his morals, and his sanity.
The hippie movement with its counter-culture drug and sexually "liberated" mores presented yet another challenge to 2,000-year-old Christian morality. However, while it attracted a lot of press coverage, this writer does not believe it had the destructive effect on the unity of sex, love, and marriage as did Freudianism, the left-wing assault on bourgeois capitalist culture, and the selfish examples set by some of the greatest creative minds of the post-WWI generation.
To say these developments are a cause for concern would be an understatement. This breakdown in the moral order regarding human sexuality is not just a difference in values between some sectors of the population and others. Rather, it is a difference in values between fallen mankind and the Author of the moral law Himself. If it exists in what formerly was called Christian America, then judgment is likely to follow. It's as inevitable as the bite of a mosquito buzzing around one's body on a humid day, yet the consequences are far more serious.