THE AMERICAN SEX REVOLUTION. An Extending horizons book. Boston: P. Sargent, 1956. 186p. In Sex Revolution
Sorokin argues that any significant change in the patterns of courtship; marriage; premarital, marital, and extramarital sexual relationships; and care of children would have significant consequences for society. Following J. D. Unwin's Sex and Culture, Sorokin asserts that societies tend to blossom, be creative, and grow when the sexual mores favor exclusivity, monogamy, fidelity, responsibility, and family stability. Conversely, when mores encourage permissiveness, sexual exploration, serial monogamy, easy divorce, and brief and changeable family relationships (particularly with children), then societies become unstable and alienating, and they decline. Sex Revolution was the result of one of Sorokin's most popular articles. As he noted in the preface:
The appearance of this little book is due to a voluminous reaction of the readers to my article, 'The Case Against Sex Freedom," published in This Week Magazine, January 3, 1954. The write-up was reprinted in several magazines [and] excerpts from it were reproduced in a number of other periodicals. The article was translated and published in several foreign countries... Finally, a sizeable stream of letters... has come to the author. At least ninety per cent of these . . . have expressed the wish that the author publish a more developed version of the article [fori the intelligent lay-reader. This book is my answer to these suggestions."Intending it for a popular audience, Sorokin kept the format and language of the book nontechnical."
He also believed that many readers would be displeased because his analysis was inimical to prevailing opinion. Thus the book might meet either an unfriendly or a "silent reception" from the partisans of sexual freedom.
His thesis was that America was undergoing a sexual revolution that threatened the continued moral growth and vitality of American culture. As evidence he cites the increasing rates of divorce and desertion, the growth of single-parent households, a decline in fertility, poor adjustment to and rising unhappiness with marriage, less attention to children, more adultery and infidelity, increasing promiscuity and illegitimate births, exploding numbers of sex crimes, and a growing preoccupation with sex. These changes in primary relationships had been accompanied by a growing sexualization of American culture, media, art, literature, music, and political life.
Even science, and particularly the psychosocial sciences, had not been immune to the trend. Prominent among the guilty were Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey:
The extraordinary popularity of Freudianism is a most convincing evidence of the sexualization of American psycho-social disciplines. One can hardly imagine a more degrading theory than the pan-sexual phantasmagories of Freud, which would hardly have had any serious chance among supposed scholars if today's psychology, psychiatry, sociology, education, and anthropology had not, in a sense, been infected by a growing sex obsession. In spite of the utterly unscientific nature of these [psychoanalytic] theories, and notwithstanding their extremely degrading effect; in spite of the fact that they drag into filthy sewers almost all the great values of humanity, beginning with love, marriage and parenthood . . . these theories continue to be accepted by many so-called scientists, and to win an ever-growing public. Their outstanding success is a tragic sign of sexual obsession.
Equally harmful is Kinsey's theory. According to Sorokin, existing evidence shows that overindulgence in sex undermines physical and mental health, destroys morality, diminishes creativity, and increases guilt while undermining future prospects for happiness.180 But if one believes the unscientific, poorly researched claims of Alfred Kinsey that indulgence shows no harmful effects upon health and vitality while restrictions of libido may cause serious illness, then we are again misled by a prominent and accepted dictum of psychosocial science. The truth is that existing "evidence points clearly to the fact that excessive sexual activity, particularly when it is illicit, has markedly deleterious effects."181 Unhappily, a large number of gullible Americans overlook the truth and accept Kinsey because it provides a scientific justification for sexual excess and irresponsibility. In this way the psychosocial sciences contribute to a false awareness and feed the sexualization of society.