Lasting effects of debunked theories

I’ve read a few articles in the mainstream press recently about the burgeoning culture of sexual harassment in schools in the UK.

It’s tempting to take these with a pinch of salt, given the parallel “rape culture” in universities and “Me Too” in Hollywood, which seem to have as much to do with victim culture linked to radical feminism and critical theory as to an actual tidal wave of male sexual abuse. But the nature of the problems described, the quality of the sources, and the general congruence with daily experience, all suggest that the problems are all too real.

A couple of examples probably suffice. A survey of teenage girls suggests that some large percentage has been pressured by boys into sending pornographic photographs of themselves, not rarely but repeatedly. As we know, these pictures tend to become male currency after the relationship ends, if it ever truly begins. Even more concerning was a report of primary schools having to take action on dress-codes for PE in even the earliest classes because of “upskirting” by boys of five or six years old.

Predictably, and no doubt correctly, these articles tend to blame the prevalence and accessibility of online pornography in distorting the perceptions of children and teenagers with respect to sexual relationships. That is not the only claimed effect of pornography, which is also blamed not only for reducing birthrates, but increasing the number of people not establishing long-term relationships at all.

To whatever extent these connections are true, it is important to look further and ask why pornography became prevalent in the first place. The existence of the internet is insufficient explanation for a rampant phenomenon: online bomb-making instructions are also easily available, but terrorists remain a minority, and the sermons of world-class preachers are equally accessible on the net without generating a worldwide revival.

No, the mainstreaming of pornography is just one symptom of the sexual revolution that began early in my lifetime, and particularly from the 1960s. It is worthwhile calling to mind how that was sold, what it promised, and how it delivered in the event.

One could make a strong argument, as Aldous Huxley did in Brave New World, that sexual liberation was a deliberate political ploy of the left to undermine the Judaeo-Christian roots of society. And if one examines the role of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse in the early days of “The Long March Through the Institutions” Huxley was prescient in this, though the seeds of their ideas were already present in the radical writings of Huxley’s time. Incidentally, Huxley’s utopian dystopia, whilst it predicted the opiate effect of sexual licence on society, entirely failed to foresee the exploitation of women and the fraught relations between the sexes that are attracting attention now.

The reason for that prescience corresponds with my greater interest here in what was sold to society as the reason for sexual liberation, rather than any ulterior destructive political motives. And that reason is Freudianism, which deeply influenced Reich and Marcuse. Since the eclipse of Freud, apart from the adoption of buzzwords like “subconscious” into daily conversation, we have forgotten just how ubiquitous Freudian ideas were back in the fifties and sixties. In fact, they were pretty much as undisputed, being “the scientific findings of psychology,” as Critical Race Theory has become across the culture today, except that the former was less coercive. Plenty of Christian leaders managed to pervert their churches by prioritising Freudian teaching over the Bible because of its supposed scientific insights, but unlike today’s wokery psychoanalytic theory did not devastate entire denominations like the Southern Baptists or Church of England, nor cause riots and cancellations of dissenters.

I’ve written before on the instructive parallel between the un-evidenced and unfalsifiable claims of Freud about the repressed oedipal complex, and the “unconscious bias” of CRT. It’s instructive because, just as the universally accepted Freudianism eventually collapsed because it was untrue, we may be sure that critical theory will eventually go the same way, and we should learn from history not to buy into such all-encompassing meta-theories about things we don’t actually experience, based on academic authority or fashion.

But the point is that, when Freudian views on sexuality, and particularly on sexual repression, were so prevalent, the whole idea that more sex would liberate the human race from its ills appeared entirely plausible. It was the repression of sexual desire, and its oppressive channeling into monogamous marriage and family life, that were responsible for pretty much every evil in the world, from war to violent crime to neurosis to homosexuality, and more.

As we look at how that has worked through, then in our children’s education, now more than ever, it is expressed in terms of “sexual health.” As taboos were gradually swept away, the concept of a “healthy sex life” became more and more overt. Sex education increasingly taught that the expression of sexual desires as soon as they emerged, rather than “repression” until marriage, was not only acceptable, but the only way to be healthy in mind and body. To advise a young girl to remain a virgin until marriage, or a young boy likewise, was held to be unrealistic (given the force of nature) and, worse, damaging to development.

It is important to remember how the whole culture promoted this. In my childhood, the majority of schools above primary level were single-sex. In primary schools then, though naughty boys might climb the walls in the loos to spy on the girls, it was to annoy them rather than abuse them. Some of the girls returned the compliment, or simply pinched the boys when they came out into the playground. In PE the boys already wore shorts, and the girls discarded their skirts and revealed their blue knickers for freedom of movement – nobody would have even been able to comprehend the idea of “upskirting” as a sexual misdemeanor.

At least a part of the move to close down all the single-sex schools in favour of vast co-ed comprehensive schools was because it was considered progressively “healthier” for adolescent boys and girls to mix. I don’t doubt that the paederasty in Public (“Private” to you American types) Boarding Schools lent some credence to this (see C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy on this), but most of us weren’t at boarding schools. The 600 boys at my grammar school did not lack the opportunity to meet the girls from the High School and County School out of hours – there were even joint dances. But there was no vast anonymous campus in which harassment could take place all day, every day. So the girls had the opportunity to pursue their education without being pestered – and one has to say in these days of male underachievement, the boys could pursue education without sexual distraction.

The writing has been on the wall regarding sexual liberation and “health” from the start. Single-parent families, with their poor life outcomes, began to increase from the 1960s, most notably amongst the poor, who were most vulnerable to loss of support and family stability. The social costs of this have been most marked in particular groups like the British working class and US Blacks, amongst whom the number of kids in married households has plummeted, together with their life chances. And in a vicious circle, the lower the life opportunities, the greater the incentive to grab consolation where one can – through drug abuse or casual sex.

Through my medical career I charted the escalation in rates of abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. The former has now become normalised to the extent that, in last year’s UK figures, there were more abortions in women over 25 than amongst teenagers. Amongst American blacks, I understand, there are more abortions than live births. The latter (STD) has seen both a proliferation of new conditions (such as AIDS and genital Herpes), and resistance to drug treatments for the old ones because of the high prevalence. To refer to all this as “sexual health” is increasingly ironic.

Once the lid of the sexual liberation jar was lifted, the whole legion of aberrant sexual practices and, ultimately, the selling of alternative genders to children, once more to avoid repression of their “true selves,” (though such Freudian language is no longer used) was inevitable.

The illusory nature of the benefits was also, in retrospect, obvious, though we humans are so gullible that we easily allow prevalent ideologies to trump our actual experience. A large number of women who went through the Hippie Revolution in the wake of the 1968 Paris events have now pointed out how the Marcusian “sexual liberation” (and the availability of “the Pill”) was in reality a liberation for men, not women. The latter were more likely to be abandoned with an unsupported baby, to be rendered infertile by silent STDs, to be raped by a man disinhibited through drugs, and so on.

Was this known at the time? Of course – I remember hearing an interview with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in which one of the trio pointed out that each teenage groupie casually shagged was somebody’s daughter – the remark produced a moment of shame, then nervous laughter. But no questioning of the behaviour.

There is also another truth suppressed by the Simone de Beauvoir kind of feminism that also emerged from the sixties: that sexual liberation, with its casual encounters, favours the emotional makeup of (immature) men and crushes that of most women. This too was known, but suppressed, at the time – the Ten Years After hit Love Like a Man only makes sense if most of the women known to the protagonist did not “love like a man/ Love when you can.”

As Jordan Petersen has pointed out, marriage culture actually offered women a pretty good deal – control over both their sexual lives and the security of their offspring, and the emotional stability of committed relationship. Arguably this is at the root of much of the campus female angst over relationships now – the required norm is “relationships” in the sense of “healthy sex”, whereas their unconscious desire is for a good man who will support them for the duration. Neither sex fully appreciates this, because both have been conditioned from infancy into the “sexual health” lie. Nobody knows the rules any more, because the rules are incoherent. And the rules are incoherent because the whole Freudian edifice from which they evolved was spurious.

It’s an instructive exercise to look at just how many of the currently accepted evils in society actually stem from this societal wrong term, which occurred because the movers and shakers accepted a false theory on authority, and the people complied because it suited their baser instincts. Our world has been transformed, much for the worse, by one simple false idea – that of invisible sexual repression.

I’ve only scratched the surface here, for other examples are everywhere. For example, only yesterday I heard someone commenting on the demand for special consultants to be present in the filming of sex scenes in Hollywood, to prevent at best people being asked to do what makes them uncomfortable, and at worst rape. The commenter pointed out that perhaps a better alternative would be to stop filming sex scenes altogether. Radical.

The ultimate irony is in the aforementioned observation that fewer young people are able to manage real sexual relationships at all as the virtual world takes over: the much-vaunted “healthy sex life” turns out to be the celibacy that was regarded as unhealthy repression in Freudianism (as represented in this Stranglers song):

The sexual revolution affected Christians almost as much as the rest of society, not only because they were conditioned in the same schools, by the same media, and by the same Freudian untruths, but mainly because their churches failed to point out that lies did underlie the changes, what the lies were, and perhaps most importantly that there is a fundamental gulf between biblical truth and the world’s truth that is best taught simply by applying Bible truth diligently.

We have a very comparable situation with regard to critical gender theory, critical race theory and the other “woke” offspring of the Frankfurt School (including, perhaps, my proposed “critical ecological theory“!). The damage done by the sexual revolution is a stern warning to us about just how harmful ideas can be. And the way the whole world swallowed it is a warning to the churches to abandon compromise and become “The Church Militant” once more – or face oblivion.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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