How The Sexual Revolution Will Affect Our Culture

“In the early twentieth century, the British social scientist J.D. Unwin conducted a massive study of six major civilizations and eighty lesser societies covering five thousand years of history in order to understand how sexual behavior affects the rise and fall of social groups. Unwin’s study included every social group on which he could find reliable information. He set out expecting to find evidence supporting Sigmund Freud’s theory that civilizations are essentially neurotic and destroy themselves by restricting sex too much. But to Unwin’s surprise, all the evidence he discovered pointed exactly the other way.

“Freud had said,

It is natural to suppose that under the domination of a civilized morality [one that restricts sex] the health and efficient in life of [sic] the individuals may be impaired, and that ultimately this injury to the individual, caused by the sacrifices imposed upon him, may reach such a pitch that the civilized aim and end will itself be indirectly endangered.

“This led Freud to think civilization was unstable and perhaps self-defeating, so that he once wrote Albert Einstein saying he feared that, limiting sex, civilization “may perhaps be leading to the extinction of the human race.” Freud especially feared total sexual abstinence outside monogamous marriage [emphasis added]. Some restriction might be tolerable, but total abstinence except within marriage was dangerous. . . .

“Freud was not a social scientist and never proved his theory But he did think someone should try. . . .

“Unwin accepted Freud’s challenge, setting out to study how sexual morality affects civilization and especially whether Freud was right about the restricting of sex to monogamous marriage threatening the survival of societies. He did indeed find strong evidence linking “the cultural condition of any society in any geographical environment” with “its past and present methods of regulating the relations between the sexes.” But rather than being injured by restricting sex to marriage, Unwin found in every case that the “expansive energy” of a social group comes from restricting sex to marriage, and sexual license is always “the immediate case of cultural decline.”

In other words, all the evidence he discovered showed that the survival of a civilization or society depends on keeping sexual energy focused on supporting family life and not allowing individuals access to sex in ways that do not support family life.

“Unwin found, without exception, that is a social group limited sex to marriage, and especially to lifelong monogamous marriage, it would always prosper [emphasis added]. There was “no recorded case of a society adopting absolute monogamy without displaying expansive energy.” He found that, when sexual standards were high, “men began to explore new lands…commerce expanded’ foreign settlements [were] established, colonies [were] formed.” In contrast, is a social group lowered standards so that sex was no longer limited to marriage, it always lost social energy. And again he found absolutely no exceptions. . . .

“He came across the same pattern over and over. A society would begin with high standards limiting sex to one partner in marriage for life. This produced great social strength, and that society or culture would flourish. Then a new generation would arise demanding sex on easier terms and would lower moral standards. But when that happened the society would lose vitality, grow weak, and then die.”



Excerpt from Daniel R. Heimbach, True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis  (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 345-348.