Phase one of the sexual revolution has had everything to do with “sexual freedom.” This rather lofty, almost poetic label for promiscuity was elevated to a way of life sorry, lifestyle by the time “The Joy of Sex” was published in 1972, eschewed only by the terminally uptight. Almost 30 years later, such “freedom” has not just been accepted, it’s been entrenched to the point where notions of abstinence, chastity and even monogamy have an antique, lost-world, and practically extraterrestrial aura to them.
Are we happy? Hardly. As David Frum notes in the Wall Street Journal, the sexual saturation point has long been reached, and it has loosened, rather than strengthened, the bonds between the sexes. “Promiscuities” author Naomi Wolf (she who has made a career chronicling her sexual past in stultifying detail), is, writes Mr. Frum, “by no means the only writer to suggest that sexual overindulgence may be squandering the possibilities for real connection between men and women.”
Men and women? How about boys and girls? Sexual overindulgence among New York City middle-schoolers (ages 10-13), as recently reported in the New York Times, has reached a saturation point of its own. Sure, there’s nothing new under the sun, but the special nature of this “sexual activity” hasn’t seen the light of day before, at least not much. Why, it’s even shocking the shrinks. What is it? The frequent, emotionally detached couplings of kiddies. Oral sex as goodnight kiss between children who don’t even pretend to be in love.
“I call it body-part sex,” said one Upper West Side psychologist. “The kids don’t even look at each other. It’s mechanical, dehumanizing. The fallout is that later in life they have trouble forming relationships. They are jaded.” That’s one word for them. Whatever you want to call them, these kids Generation XXX maybe would seem to personify total sexual freedom. Of course, a few loose ends remain. That is, according to the experts, “most young teen-agers cannot handle the profound feelings that go with early sex.” Most? By the looks of things, it is once again the girls who suffer under the new order. “(Oral sex) is something to do with someone,” said one 13-year-old boy. “Sex is pleasurable. Why not now?” said another lad.) Some girls and by no means all, according to the counselors who are quoted remain in thrall to a set of emotions the sexual revolution has not yet eradicated. Of course, while that revolution promised to put women on an equal footing with men, it seems, at least judging by these modern-day Manhattanites, mainly to have freed the male animal for a new state of being, one totally unfettered by any notions of responsibility, honor or other behavioral buggy whips. If the sexual revolution has finally crested, its ultimate gift to the world would seem to be more, and more experienced, sexual partners for desensitized adolescent boys.
It certainly leaves you wondering about these kids’ chances for “real connection” in later life. Particularly as phase two of the sexual revolution, the movement for “sexual equality,” continues to work its painstaking way through the law and our institutions, further unraveling the ties that bind the sexes. It is the military, of course, that has most prominently, and most problematically, attempted to impose sexual equality or, as it is more antiseptically correct to say, gender equality. The results are not pretty. In fact, the results are a mess. All may be fair in love and war, but put the two together and an outrageous, absurdist reign of injustice rules, as when a lady general claims to have been a three-star victim of sexual harassment, setting in motion the bureaucratic means to scuttle a male general’s career.
But, of course, it gets worse. Even more insidious are experimental efforts under way to transform human nature altogether and, in particular, men’s natures in order to accommodate all those “sexually equal” female troops. For example, men are being conditioned to ignore the suffering of women. Since most men, even at this late date, would do anything to stop the rape or torture of a woman, training exercises have actually been devised to inure male soldiers to the possible rape or torture of female POWs.
But hang on a second. Who actually benefits from stamping out that particularly noble, manly reaction? Is the real world (or even utopia) a better place if our men are conditioned to stand by, ho-hum, while such horrors occur? From the school yard to the trenches, the sexual revolution looks like one, big, dehumanizing exercise in desensitization. Maybe we haven’t been liberated from what they used to call our “hang-ups” so much as from ourselves from our own, yes, better natures.