If there is one thing of which modern man is utterly convinced, it is that he has reached a state of sexual enlightenment. Gone forever are the days of unhealthy concealment, of absurd Victorian taboos that led to the application of cruel and cumbersome devices to children to prevent masturbation, to prudish circumlocutions about sexual matters, to the covering of piano legs to preserve the purity of the thoughts of men in the drawing room. We are at ease with our sexuality, and the poet Philip Larkin's famous ironic lines
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three . . .
express for us an important truth: that for the first time in history we can now enjoy sexual relations without any of the unnecessary social and psychological accretions of the past that so complicated and diminished life. No more guilt, shame, jealousy, anxiety, frustration, hypocrisy, and confusion. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
Yet, enlightened as we believe ourselves to be, a golden age of contentment has not dawnedvery far from it. Relations between the sexes are as fraught as ever they were. The sexual revolution has not yielded peace of mind but confusion, contradiction, and conflict. There is certainty about nothing except the rightness, inevitability, and irrevocability of the path we have gone down.
A hundred yards from where I write this, 12-year-old prostitutes often stand under street lamps on the corner at night, waiting for customers. The chief of the local police has said that he will not remove them, because he considers that they are sufficiently victimized already, and he is not prepared to victimize them further (his job, apparently, being to empathize rather than to enforce the law). The local health authorities send a van round several times at night to distribute condoms to the girls, the main official concern being to ensure that the sex in which the girls take part is safe, from the bacteriological and virological point of view. It is the authorities' proud boast that 100 percent of local prostitutes now routinely use condoms, at a cost to the city's taxpayers of $135,000 a year, soon to be increased by the employment of a further outreach worker, whose main qualification, according to the recent job advertisement in the local press, will be "an ability to work non-judgmentally"that is, to have no moral qualms about aiding and abetting child prostitution. Meanwhile, local residents (such as my neighbors, a banker, a lawyer, an antiquarian bookseller, and two university professors) who object to the presence of discarded condoms in their gardens and in the street outside their homes have been offered a special instrument with which to pick them up, in lieu of any attempt to prevent them from arriving there in the first place. And at the same time, the overwhelming majority of the work done by the social workers of the city concerns the sexual abuse of children, principally by stepfathers and mothers' boyfriends who move in after biological fathers move out.
Evidence of sexual chaos is everywhere. Not a day passes without several of my patients providing ample testimony of it. For example, yesterday I saw a woman who had tried to kill herself after her daughter, nearly 16 years old, moved out of her home with her eight-month-old child to live with her new 22-year-old boyfriend. It goes without saying that this boyfriend was not the father of her baby but a man she had met recently in a nightclub. The father of the baby was "off the scene," as the end of a liaison is invariably described: fathers round here having their exits and their entrances, their exits usually following their entrances with indecent haste.
The mother was 14 when the father, age 21, made his entrance. On discovering that she was pregnant, he did what many young men do nowadays in such a situation: he beat her up. This not only relieves the feelings but occasionally produces a miscarriage. In this case, however, it failed to do so; instead, the father was caught in flagrante delicto (that is to say, while beating her) by my patient, who promptly attacked him, managing to injure him so severely that he had to go to the hospital. While there, he and she did a little informal plea-bargaining: she would not inform on him for having had sex with an underage girl, if he did not press charges against her for having assaulted him.
My patient subsequently spent what little money she had upon her grandchild's clothes, stroller, crib, bedding, and so on, even going $1,500 into debt to fund its comfort. Then her daughter decided to move out, and my patient was mortified.
Mortified, that is, by the absence of her grandchild, for whom she thought she had sacrificed so much. This was the first objection she had made in the whole affair. She had not considered the sexual conduct of her daughter, or that of either of the two men, to be in any way reprehensible. If the father of her grandchild had not turned violent, it would never have crossed her mind that he had done anything wrong in having sex with her daughter; and indeed, having done nothing to discourage the liaison, she in effect encouraged him. And her daughter had behaved only as she would have expected any girl of her age to behave.
It might be argued, of course, that such obviously wrongful behavior has occurred always: for when it comes to sexual misdemeanor there is nothing new under the sun, and history shows plentiful examples of almost any perversion or dishonorable conduct. But this is the first time in history there has been mass denial that sexual relations are a proper subject of moral reflection or need to be governed by moral restrictions. The result of this denial, not surprisingly, has been soaring divorce rates and mass illegitimacy, among other phenomena. The sexual revolution has been above all a change in moral sensibility, in the direction of a thorough coarsening of feeling, thought, and behavior.
Watching a British comedy from the mid-1950s recently, I grasped the speed and completeness of that change. In the film was a scene in which the outraged working-class father of a pregnant teenage daughter demanded that the middle-class boy who had made love to her must now marry her. The present-day audience giggled helplessly at this absurdly old-fashioned demand, which only 45 years previously would still have seemed perfectly normal, indeed unarguable. Such naïveté is not for us in our superior, enlightened state, however, and we prove our sophistication by finding it ridiculous.
But who, one might ask, had the deeper and subtler moral understanding of human relations: the audience of the mid-1950s or that of today? To the 1950s audience it would have been unnecessary to point out that, once a child had been conceived, the father owed a duty not only to the child, but to the mother; that his own wishes in the matter were not paramount, let alone all-important, and that he was not simply an individual but a member of a society whose expectations he had to meet if he were to retain its respect; and that a sense of moral obligation toward a woman was not inimical to a satisfying relationship with her but a precondition of it. To the present-day audience, by contrast, the only considerations in such a situation would be the individual inclinations of the parties involved, floating free of all moral or social constraints. In the modern view, unbridled personal freedom is the only good to be pursued; any obstacle to it is a problem to be overcome.
And yet at the same timein the same audiencethere are many young people yearning for precisely the certainties that they feel obliged to mock: young women who hope to find a man who will woo her, love her, respect her, stand by her, and be a father to her children, while there are many men with the reciprocal wish. How many times have I heard from my patients of their aching desire to settle down and live in a normal family, and yet who have no idea whatever how to achieve this goal that was once within the reach of almost everyone!
Our newspapers confirm daily the breakdown of the last vestiges of the traditional mores governing sexual relations. Last weekend, for instance, the British papers reported the third baby born to a homosexual couple by surrogate motherhood, and a liberal paper reported (with implicit approval and admiration, of course) a growing trend among women to make themselves pregnant by artificial insemination, like cattle. Of course, human sexual activity has never been very closely confined to procreation, even before the advent of birth control; but surely this is the first time that procreation has been dissociated from human sexual activity.
Thanks to the sexual revolution, current confusions are manifold. In a society that forms sexual liaisons with scarcely a thought, a passing suggestive remark can result in a lawsuit; the use of explicit sexual language is de rigueur in literary circles, but medical journals fear to print the word "prostitute" and use the delicate euphemism "sex worker" instead; commentators use the word "transgressive," especially in connection with sex, as a term of automatic approbation when describing works of art, while such sex offenders as reach prison have to be protected from the murderous assaults of their fellow prisoners; anxiety about the sexual abuse of children subsists with an utter indifference to the age of consent; compulsory sex education and free contraception have proved not incompatible with the termination of a third of all pregnancies in Britain and with unprecedented numbers of teenage pregnancies; the effective elimination of the legal distinction between marriage and cohabitation is contemporary with the demand that homosexual couples be permitted to marry and enjoy the traditional legal rights of marriage; and while it has become ever more difficult for married but childless parents to adopt, homosexual couples now have the right to do so. The right of lesbians to artificially aided conception by the sperm of homosexual men has likewise been conceded on the principle of non-discrimination, and 60-year-old women naturally enough claim the same rights to in vitro fertilization. Sexual liberty has led to an increase, not to a diminution, in violence between the sexes, both by men and by women: for people rarely grant the object of their affection the freedom that they claim and practice for themselves, with a consequent rise in mistrust and jealousyone of the great, age-old provokers of violence, as Othello attests. Our era admires sexual athleticism but condemns predatory conduct. Boundaries between the sexes have melted away, as men become women by surgical means, and women men, while demands for tolerance and understanding grow ever more shrill and imperious. The only permissible judgment in polite society is that no judgment is permissible.
A century-long reaction against Victorian prudery, repression, and hypocrisy, led by intellectuals who mistook their personal problems for those of society as a whole, has created this confusion. It is as though these intellectuals were constantly on the run from their stern, unbending, and joyless forefathersand as if they took as an unfailing guide to wise conduct either the opposite of what their forefathers said and did, or what would have caused them most offense, had they been able even to conceive of the possibility of such conduct.
Revolutions are seldom the spontaneous mass upheaval of the downtrodden, provoked beyond endurance by their miserable condition, and the sexual revolution was certainly no exception in this respect. The revolution had its intellectual pro-genitors, as shallow, personally twisted, and dishonest a parade of people as one could ever wish to encounter. They were all utopians, lacking understanding of the realities of human nature; they all thought that sexual relations could be brought to the pitch of perfection either by divesting them of moral significance altogether or by reversing the moral judgment that traditionally attached to them; all believed that human unhappiness was solely the product of laws, customs, and taboos. They were not the kind of people to take seriously Edmund Burke's lapidary warning that "it is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free": on the contrary, just as appetites often grow with the feeding, so the demands of the revolutionaries escalated whenever the last demand was met. When the expected happiness failed to emerge, the analysis of the problem and the proposed solution were always the same: more license, less self-control. By 1994, John Money, perhaps the most influential academic sexologist of the last third of the twentieth century, was still able to write in all seriousness that we live in an anti-sexual and taboo-ridden society. Get rid of the remaining taboos, he implied, and human unhappiness will take care of itself.
Not that there are many taboos left to destroy. In my hospital, for example, adolescent and young adult visitors to their hospitalized boyfriends or girlfriends not infrequently climb into bed and indulge in sexual foreplay with them, in full view of the staff and of old people occupying the beds opposite. This gross disinhibition would once have been taken as a sign of madness but is now accepted as perfectly normal: indeed, objection to such behavior would now appear objectionable and ridiculous. No one seems to have noticed, however, that a loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss of intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything.
There is virtually no aspect of modern society's disastrous sexual predicament that does not find its apologist and perhaps its "onlie" begetter in the work of the sexual revolutionaries 50 or 100 years earlier. It is impossible to overlook the connection between what they said should happen and what has actually happened. Ideas have their consequences, if only many years later.
Take the question of adolescent sexuality. It has long been an orthodoxy among the right-thinking that it is perfectly natural and therefore to be welcomed. Any attempt to promote self-control would be killjoy and would drive such sexuality underground once again, resulting in a renewal of furtiveness and yet more teenage pregnancy. That is why British doctors must now connive at illegal sexual acts by distributing contraceptives to underage children without informing their parents.
The patron saint of these ideas is Margaret Mead. In 1928, when she was 27, she published her Coming of Age in Samoa, which made her famous for the rest of her life. When she died 50 years later, her book was still selling 100,000 copies a year. Few university students during that half-century did not read it or at least know its message.
Mead was a pupil of the anthropologist Franz Boas, an extreme cultural determinist who wanted to prove that the angst of adolescence was, like most important human realities, the product of culture, not of biology, as was then generally believed. If a society could be found somewhere in the world in which adolescents felt no angst, QED: hormones were not the cause. Mead, intellectually infatuated with Boas and dependent upon him for her academic advancement, was preordained to find in Samoa what he wanted her to find.
And find it she didor thought she did. Here was a South Sea paradise in which adolescents spent the years between puberty and marriage in uninhibited sexual activity, as much as possible with as many as possible. There was no jealousy, no rivalry, no anxiety, no guilt, just funand, mirabile dictu, no unwanted pregnancy, a somewhat surprising fact that did not arrest Mead's attention then or at any time subsequently. So Mead added a value judgment to Boas's proposition: here was a culture that dealt with sex better than we, as the absence of Samoan adolescent unhappiness proved.
Of course her depiction of Samoa was in error: she was taken in by her ironical informants. Sexual morality in Samoa was puritanical rather than liberal, and owed much to the efforts of the London Missionary Society, no advocate of free love during adolescence or at any other time.
But few people are averse to the message that one can indulge appetites freely without bad consequences to oneself or others, and so Mead's book passed as authoritative. And if youthful sexual libertinism was possible in Samoa with only beneficial social and psychological effects, why not in Sheffield and Schenectady? Even had her depiction of Samoa, per impossibile, been accurate, no one paused to wonder whether Samoa was a plausible model for Europe or America or whether the mere existence of a sexual customthe celibacy of religious communities down the ages, sayshould warrant its universal adoption.
So generations of educated people accepted Mead's ideas about adolescent sexuality as substantially correct and reasonable. They took the Samoan way of ordering these matters as natural, enjoyable, healthy, and psychologically beneficial. No doubt Mead's ideas were somewhat distorted as they filtered down into the class of people who had not read her (or any other) book: but it does not altogether surprise me now to meet people who started living in sexual union with a boyfriend or girlfriend from the age of 11 or 12, under the complaisant eyes of their parents. Only someone completely lacking in knowledge of the human heartsomeone, in fact, a little like Margaret Meadwould have failed to predict the consequences: gross precocity followed by permanent adolescence and a premature world-weariness.
For example, an intelligent young woman patient of 20 came to me last week complaining of the dreariness of life. She had given up on education at the age of 13 to pursue sexual encounters full-time, as it were, but the initial excitement had worn off, leaving only grayness and a vague self-disgust behind. At the time of her induction into the sexual life, of course, she had been led to believe that it was the key to happiness and fulfillment, that nothing else counted: but as with all monochromatic descriptions of the ends of life, this had proved bitterly disappointing.
And, of course, once boundaries, such as the age of consent, that are to some extent arbitrary but nonetheless socially necessary are breached, they tend to erode entirely. Thus children inhabit a highly sexualized world earlier and earlier, and social pressure upon them to exhibit sexualized behavior starts earlier and earlier. A schoolteacher friend recently told me how she had comforted a seven-year-old who was in tears because a girl in his class had insulted him, calling him a virgin. She asked whether he knew what the word meant.
"No," replied the little boy. "But I know it's something horrible."
The sexual revolutionaries' ideas about the relations between men and womenentailing ever greater sexual liberty, ever less mastery of the appetitewere so absurd and utopian that it is hard to understand how anyone could have taken them seriously. But mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies of an existence freed of human limitations.
One of the earliest of the sexual revolutionaries, the English doctor and litterateur, Havelock Ellis, had strong opinions about marriage and relations between the sexes in general. For many years, this supremely strange and repulsive, though learned, manwho looked like a tripartite cross between Tolstoy, Rasputin, and Bernard Shaw; who was one of the many semi-pagan ideological nudists that England produced at the end of the nineteenth century; and who never achieved full sexual arousal until his second wife urinated on him in his late middle agewon respect on both sides of the Atlantic as a sexual sage. His works enjoyed immense prestige and wide circulation during the first third of the twentieth century. He attached supreme, almost mystical, importance to the sexual act (perhaps not surprisingly, given his great difficulties with it); his conception of ideal relations between men and women was completely untouched by any awareness of human reality and was at the same time implicitly sordid. Many venerated his views and made them the basis of an entire philosophy of life, as did D. H. Lawrence, another English sexual pagan.
Ellis believed in a complete fusion of two souls that, in the course of the sexual act, would achieve union with the creator of the universe (whom, being a modern pagan, he refrained from calling God). But for this mystical fusion to take place, the relations between men and women first had to be freed of all the dross of petty considerations, such as law, custom, and what was then considered morality. "Our thoughts of duty and goodness and chastity are the things that need to be altered and put aside; these are the barriers to true goodness," Ellis wrote. "I foresee the positive denial of all positive morals, the removal of all restrictions. I feel I do not know what license, as we should term it, may not belong to the perfect state of Man." Once freed from all restraintsocial, moral, legal, and politicalman would regain his natural beauty and generosity of character. He would become again the noble sexual savage. It never occurred to Ellis and his ilk that he might become instead the prototypical caveman of the cartoonists, dragging off his mate of the moment by the hair.
Ellis was not alone in this adolescent utopian dream of unlimited sex without tears as the key to both human happiness and goodness. Another English doctor who achieved world fame as a sexologist more than half a century later, Alex Comfort, whose sex manuals sold by the tens of millions, was of much the same opinion. Although he apparently had great difficulty in explaining the facts of life to his own son, he advised all 15-year-old boysagain, with the notable exception of his own sonto take condoms with them to parties, and he explained to adolescents in his manual The Facts of Love that pornography was "a long word for any kind of book or movie about sex which someone wants to prohibit." An anarchist and pacifist who saw all institutions merely as emanations of power, which he believed to be the supreme enemy of human happiness, he had opposed armed resistance to Nazism during World War II. In Barbarism and Sexual Freedom (which two phenomena he regarded as diametrically opposed) he wrote: "Normality of the biological kind . . . excludes religious coercion, economic pressure and social custom. Institutions based upon the State and other such bodies, civil or religious, have no place in biological sexuality." In other words, sex should float free from all considerations except the sexual attraction of the moment.
What is left but personal whim in the determination of sexual conduct? It is precisely the envelopment of sex (and all other natural functions) with an aura of deeper meaning that makes man human and distinguishes him from the rest of animate nature. To remove that meaning, to reduce sex to biology, as all the sexual revolutionaries did in practice, is to return man to a level of primitive behavior of which we have no record in human history. All animals have sex, but only man makes love. When sex is deprived of the meaning with which only the social conventions, religious taboos, and personal restraints so despised by sexual revolutionaries such as Ellis and Comfort can infuse it, all that is left is the ceaselessand ultimately boring and meaninglesssearch for the transcendent orgasm. Having been issued the false prospectus of happiness through unlimited sex, modern man concludes, when he is not happy with his life, that his sex has not been unlimited enough. If welfare does not eliminate squalor, we need more welfare; if sex does not bring happiness, we need more sex.
It is a matter of curiosity that such puerile drivel could ever have been mistaken for serious thought; but the fact is that Ellis's and Comfort's view of the proper basis for the relationship between men and women is now the commonly accepted, even orthodox, one. Explaining their decision to part from the mother or father of their children, my patients routinely tell me that they do not experience with her or him the bliss they clearly expected to experience, and that their union had no cosmic significance à la Ellis. The possibility that their union might serve other, slightly more mundane and other-regarding purposes has never occurred to them. That depth of feeling is at least as important as intensity (and in the long run, more important) is a thought completely alien to them. With no social pressure to keep them together, with religious beliefs utterly absent from their lives, and with the state through its laws and welfare provisions positively encouraging the fragmentation of the family, relationships become kaleidoscopic in their changeability but oddly uniform in their denouement.
I have seen Comfort's utopia, and it does not work.
One has only to compare the writings of the sexual revolutionaries with a single sonnet by Shakespeare (to take only one of literature's myriad subtle reflections on love) to see what a terrible retrocession in understanding and refinement those writings represent:
When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties . . . .
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.
The subtlety of this understanding of the human heart, to say nothing of the beauty with which it is expressed, has never been excelled. Everything is there: the human need for deep companionship throughout life, the inevitability of compromise if such companionship is to last, and the acceptance of the inherent limitations of existence that is essential to happiness. Shakespeare's view answers the needs of man as a physical, social, and spiritual beingand no one with the slightest acquaintance with his work could accuse him of being anti-sexual.
Another rhetorical technique the sexual revolutionaries favor (apart from the appeal to a fantasy of limitless eroticism) has been to try to dissolve sexual boundaries. They preached that all sexual behavior is, by nature, a continuum. And they thought that if they could show that sex had no natural boundaries, all legal prohibition or social restraint of it would at once be seen as arbitrary and artificial and therefore morally untenable: for only differences in nature could be legitimately recognized by legal and social taboos.
The arch-proponent of this viewpoint was Alfred Kinsey, author of the famous reports, a man who spent the first half of his professional life studying and classifying gall wasps and the second half studying and classifying orgasms: though in the event, he was to find the taxonomy of gall wasps far more complex than that of orgasms, since he came to the conclusion that all orgasms were created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, etc.
Kinsey's program had two pillars, designed to free people of the sexual restraint that he considered the cause of all their miseries. The first was to establish by means of extensive survey that the sexual behavior of Americans was very different from what it was supposed to have been according to traditional morality. Without doubt, he skewed his survey to ensure this intensely desired result. He had a personal ax to grind, of course: he was himself a man of perverted sexual appetite, though like most sexual revolutionaries he was a very late developer. He pierced his own foreskin and put metal wires up his urethra, and his filming of 2,000 men masturbating to ejaculation (ostensibly to discover how far they could project their semen) must rank as one of history's most prodigious feats of voyeurism.
Having established to his own very great satisfaction that 37 percent of American males had had a homosexual experience leading to orgasm, having expended three times as much space in his report on homosexuality as on heterosexuality, and having intimated that all forms of sexuality lie on a spectrum rather than existing as separate, discrete activities, Kinsey then established the second pillar of his sexual philosophy: what might be termed the 40 Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong argument. Our sexual morality, he said, must be based not upon a striving toward goodness, toward an ideal, but upon what actually happens here and now. Otherwise we are merely chasing chimeras. The fact that such a morality extends the scope of what actually happens by providing an instant justification for whatever anybody does whenever he does it appears not to have struck Kinsey; but if it had, it wouldn't have worried him.
Applied in the sphere of financial honesty, Kinsey's argument would have been seen as preposterous at once. A survey of the kind he conducted into financial probity would surely have revealed that there is hardly a person in the world who has never in his life been dishonestwho has never taken so much as a paper clip or overestimated expenses on a tax return. No sensible person would conclude from this that the striving for honesty is a sham, that it is pointless to have any laws regarding financial conduct, that it is perfectly all right for shopkeepers to shortchange their customers and for their customers to steal from them. And yet this is precisely what the sexual revolutionaries, Kinsey foremost among them, have argued in the realm of sex.
The work of dissolving the boundaries continues, never satisfied that it has gone quite far enoughas if to accept one limitation or taboo would be to admit the legitimacy of all. I recently read in a criminological journal that the only conclusive argument against bestiality with chickens was that the chickens were non-consenting to the liaison, and that therefore their (human? avian?) rights were infringed. And while Kinsey wanted to make all sexual activity equal, psychologist and sex therapist John Money went even further, insisting upon the almost infinite plasticity of what he termed "gender identity." He wrote that: "Beyond the four basic reproductive functions [impregnation, menstruation, gestation, and lactation], nothingnothingof the differences between the sexes is immutably ordained along sex lines. . . . As long as the four basic reproductive functions are allowed for, . . . no particular gender stereotype is unalterable. A society has almost unlimited choice of role design or redesign." Thus there is no normal and no abnormal either: whatever we choose is good, or at least not bad.
Money became, needless to say, a hero of radical feminists who wished to claim that female "sex roles" had been imposed upon them arbitrarily by society. A self-proclaimed "missionary of sex," who advocated all sex, all the time, he left to each individual the free choice of creating his sexual identity. No perversion was alien to him, pedophilia included, which only those in a state of "moralistic ignorance," he asserted, would condemn. Money became the multiculturalist of sex: with polymorphous perversity replacing cultural diversity as a good in itself.
Money was not only a theoretician, but a practitioner, head of the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic. It was his belief in the unlimited malleability of human sexuality that led him, in his most famous case, to advise the parents of a baby whose penis was nearly cut off during a botched circumcision that he should henceforth be brought up as a girl. After all, what was a girl but a boy in skirts? And what was a boy but a girl given toy guns to play with? The requisite operations once performed on the unfortunate child, to complete what the botched circumcision had nearly accomplished, all would be well.
The boy brought up as a girl continued to show the boy-like qualities familiar to any mother. He or she fought like a trooper, was more interested in cars and trains than in dolls, was adventurous and boisterous, and, given a jump rope as a gift, used it only to tie up his or her twin brother. As he or she grew older, he or she expressed no sexual interest whatever in boys. Professor Money continued to describe the case as an unqualified success, and for a long time the scientific and journalistic worlds were fooled. Yes, it was possible to turn little boys into little girls by fiat. No, sexual identity was not fixed by biology but was socially constructed, a product of convention and custom. Money's view was accepted uncritically as true and therefore it became orthodox (I remember being taught it as a medical student).
When at age 14 the subject of Money's experiment was told of what had happened to him or her in early life, he or she immediately determined to revert to masculinity, for he or she, depressed and maladjusted all through childhood, had known all along in inchoate fashion that something was wrong: and, with yet more reconstructive surgery, he made a sound readjustment to masculinity and is now happily married to a woman. This was a part of the story that Money never told, for it contradicted the philosophy to which he had devoted his entire life's work. It suggested that we cannot construct a sexual utopia of the kind that he, a once repressed farm boy from New Zealand, had dreamed about.
Such theories could only license and encourage ever more bizarre conduct and appetites of course. And the escalation of appetite that Jeffrey Dahmer experienced, eventually finding sexual release only in congress with the intestines of his increasing numbers of murdered victims, can occur on a mass scale also, as witness a recent film, funded by the Canadian Arts Council, "normalizing" necrophilia.
And so now, when I meet lesbian patients who have used a syringe full of a male friend's semen to impregnate themselves, they challenge me to dare to pass judgment on them. For who am I to judge what is natural or unnatural, normal or abnormal, good or bad? Transsexuals, in my experience, exude a triumphalist moral superiority, conscious of having forced the world to accept what it previously deemed unacceptable. Perhaps, if they haven't read John Money, they have read the eerily similar opinion of Havelock Ellis, that sexual perversions (which he called "erotic symbolisms") are what most distinguish man from the animals, and are his supreme achievement: "[O]f all the manifestations of sexual psychology, . . . they are the most specifically human. More than any others they involve the potently plastic force of the imagination. They bring us the individual man, not only apart from his fellows, but in opposition, himself creating his own paradise." They constitute the supreme triumph of idealism.
Here is the gnostic reversal of good and evil in the realm of sex, the technique that Sartre and Mailer employed in the realm of criminality, transforming Jean Genet and Jack Abbott into existential heroes. Of course, it is true that human sexuality is different from that of the beasts, but surely not because men can desire intercourse with chickens while chickens cannot reciprocate. We must go to literature, not to sexologists, if we want to understand the difference.
It isn't necessary, of course, for people to read the original sources of ideas for those ideas to become part of their mental furniture. But the ideas and sensibilities of the sexual revolutionaries have now so thoroughly permeated our society that we are scarcely aware any longer of the extent to which they have done so. The Dionysian has definitively triumphed over the Apollonian. No grace, no reticence, no measure, no dignity, no secrecy, no depth, no limitation of desire is accepted. Happiness and the good life are conceived as prolonged sensual ecstasy and nothing more. When, in my work in an English slum, I observe what the sexual revolution has wrought, I think of the words commemorating architect Sir Christopher Wren in the floor of St. Paul's Cathedral: si monumentum requiris, circumspice.