A review of The Rising Price of Love: The True Cost of Sexual Freedom. By Dr Patrick Dixon.

Hodder & Stoughton, 1995.

In 1956 the Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin wrote: “This sex revolution is as important as the most dramatic political or economic upheaval. It is changing the lives of men and women more radically than any other revolution of our time … Any considerable change in marriage behavior, any increase in sexual promiscuity and sexual relations, is pregnant with momentous consequences. A sex revolution drastically affects the lives of millions, deeply disturbs the community, and decisively influences the future of society.”

If Dr Sorokin were alive today even he might be shocked at how profound and how far-reaching that revolution has been but the promised liberation and freedom have turned out to be illusory. The sexual revolution has instead enslaved, injured and killed. The hopes and dreams of the 60s idealists have turned into jaded memories and scarred realities.

Consider some of the changes and their costs: in 30 short years a culture of marriage has been replaced with a culture of divorce; teenage sexual activity, illegitimacy and abortion rates have all skyrocketed; the incidence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases has soared as too has the occurrence of rape and sexual assault.

Thirty years ago a child could expect to be raised by a mother and a father. Today a child is just as likely to be raised in a single parent family or in some “alternative lifestyle” arrangement. Thirty years ago homosexuality was seen as an aberration. Today the only abnormality is to favour heterosexuality.

Society is now coming to terms with the physical, medical and social costs of the sexual revolution. The AIDS epidemic has been one of the most powerful warning signs. But other costs also need to be examined. “What are the true economic costs of the sexual revolution?” asks Dr Patrick Dixon in his new book. Leaving aside the human costs – broken hearts, aborted babies, barren wombs, broken families, etc. – the economic costs are enormous. Dr Dixon estimates that the minimum cost of the sexual revolution each year in Australia is $5 billion. He estimates that the costs in Britain come to some £9 billion per year, while in the US the costs are at least $83 billion a year. That is a lot of money.

How are such figures arrived at?

Dr Dixon looks at a number of factors: health costs (treating AIDS patients and those suffering from STDs, etc.); divorce costs; job costs, benefits costs; child care costs; social work costs; crime costs, etc. And these are all conservative estimates from recent figures, figures which are certain to keep rising each year.

As Dixon notes, “The trouble with social experiments is that they usually take a generation or two to assess.” Yet we should have known. Indeed, prophets like Sorokin did know. In fact, most people knew – commonsense and the historical record have made it all quite clear.

The history of civilisation up until now has put the emphasis on constraining various passions. This is especially true in the area of sexuality. Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History, explain it this way: “The sex drive in the young is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”

Or as Joseph Sobran put it more recently, “All durable societies have had sexual codes. The variations are less important than what they have in common: a sense of responsibility about reproduction, the assurance that fathers will take care of their children … The Greeks and Romans worshipped fornicating gods; the Jews worshipped a God who forbade fornication. Who survived whom?”

No known culture has survived for long when it tolerated sexual anarchy. In an important article written by J. D. Unwin of Cambridge University, sexual constraint and marriage are seen as the crucial elements in the development and maintenance of healthy societies:

“The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilised unless it has been completely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs. Marriage as a life-long association has been an attendant circumstance of all human achievement, and its adoption has preceded all manifestations of social energy … Indissoluble monogamy must be regarded as the mainspring of all social activity, a necessary condition of human development.”

[734 words]

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