The sexual ‘revolution’ that keeps on turning

I saw last week about half a minute of VH1’s documentary “Sex: The Revolution”, which seemed to relish in the notion that the “advances” in sexual behavior that occur today were brought about by the libidinous free-wheeling of the 60’s and 70’s. Off with the old American puritanism, it seemed to say.

Last week, I also happened to read the following description of early American sexual mores in George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life that shows how more things change, the more they stay the same:

…Not only was lasciviousness encouraged by nightwalking and similar frivolities, but New England parents allowed practices that are “looked upon as shameless and disgraceful at Canada, New York, [and] England.” Everyone knew that [Edwards] referred to the New England practice of “bundling” in which parents allowed young people to spend the night in bed together partly clothed…

Bundling, which was supposed to be a way of getting acquainted without sexual intercourse, did not always work as advertised. Pregnancies before marriage were rising dramatically in New England. Even in well-churched Northampton, where premarital pregnancies were rarer than in some parts of the region, the figure had recently risen to one in ten first children born within eight months of marriage. Premarital sex was commonplace. Even when it resulted in pregnancy, so long as the couple married, there was no longer much stigma involved…

pp. 103-131

The popular line is that the sexual revolution of the hippie generation was linked to rebellion of the so-called “repressive” puritanical sexual virtues of the 1950s. The fact is that people have been rebelling against the created order as long as there has been creation.

Or said better by Qoheleth: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”