It is difficult to track the number of accusations of sexual assault and harassment that have surfaced this year. Perhaps not all the claims are true; it is possible that an unscrupulous person has falsely accused someone in order to ruin them. However, there have been many credible accusations and many admissions of guilt.
There is something deeper going on here though. Our culture has made the discovery that powerful people have powerful appetites for sex. This fact was not lost on previous generations. Customs from a century ago (chaperones for young couples, protecting the less assertive from the more aggressive, not leaving females alone with unfamiliar males) prove that they knew it long before we rediscovered it.
That means it was forgotten.
I realize it is modern day blasphemy to suggest that there is anything bad about the sexual revolution. Ostensibly, it was to provide more sex for everyone. But as anyone who has looked into the matter from a sociological perspective knows, it had the opposite effect: The best and most frequent sex is still that between two happily married people. Today, we have more singleness, shorter marriages, and less sex overall.
So if powerful men have always had powerful urges, why blame the sexual revolution for today’s problems? In bygone days, all men were expected to control themselves. They didn’t all succeed, but the expectation was there. The sexual revolution taught the opposite, namely that no self-control was needed. But when, in one generation, society tears down boundaries that have been in place for hundreds of years, it is difficult to simultaneously get across the idea that there are still boundaries out there somewhere. Naturally, powerful men will be the last ones to admit that any boundaries still exist.
The sexual revolution spread so rapidly in part because of movies, television and print media (I’m thinking of you, Cosmopolitan and Redbook). The people behind the media act as if they are pro-woman, yet they shelter abusers, and actually do more to turn women into sex objects than any other influence in our society. When men (and women) attend movies featuring nudity, view similar shows in their living rooms, and see magazines in every checkout aisle and on every coffee table that portray women as being concerned solely about sex and their outward appearance, what other idea could men possibly get?
Did it really take from the 1960’s until 2017 for our society to figure out that the boundaries had been moved recklessly? Did it require three generations and untold amounts of emotional pain to figure out that some measure of restraint is actually good? Those responsible for the sexual revolution and those carrying it forward today owe the rest of us an accounting for the damage they have caused. I’m not arguing that we return to an era where the matter couldn’t be discussed at all. Rather, the discussion needs to be more open than ever, and focused on where a reasonable set of boundaries should be for the benefit of everyone—women first.