The sexual revolution was designed to cast off the restraints of outdated and repressive attitudes toward sex. In the bad old days, women were expected to remain chaste until they were married. This was due to practical as well as moral considerations. Families wanted their daughters to have children only after the potential father promised in a legally binding way to help raise the offspring. These rules protected daughters, their children, and the extended family.
But of course, it is unfair that only women can get pregnant and have to be the ones to exercise restraint. So, hurrah! the sexual revolution freed women from those old inhibitions that so damaged their psyches. Once the Pill was introduced and it was made legal to kill a baby in utero, women could have sex without the unwanted consequences of children. Now they could liberate their libidos and be on par with males in finding sexual pleasure where and when they wanted—which was quite a boon to male aspirations as well.
Unfortunately, there have been some problems on the road to unfettered sexual freedom—especially in the free-for-all hookup culture of the college campus. A book published in 2006 (Unprotected) by a then-anonymous campus psychiatrist (since revealed to be Dr. Miriam Grossman) documented the increase in depression among the co-eds on her campus, which she attributed to the expectations and actual physical responses a sexual relationship induces in women.
It turns out, oddly enough, that women get depressed when they feel like the men they are involved with only want them around for sex. Equally as odd, men don’t seem to get as depressed when their sexual encounters come without many other obligations. Dr. Grossman explains how the hormone oxytocin is released in women during sexual relations and generates feelings of attachment and bonding (it is released when women breastfeed their babies as well). This results in women developing unexpected feelings of attachment to men who began and ended the encounter only interested in some no-strings sexual recreation. It’s a recipe for broken hearts and good, old unhappiness.
It’s unfair that women get these feelings and men don’t. So Dr. Grossman recounts how college campus health centers seek to suppress facts that don’t promote their goals of “equality.” Grossman writes:
“I submit that the notion of being designed to bond is to some an unwelcome finding. It implies that sexual activity, especially in women, might be more complex than, say, working out…. To some on campus these are fighting words. …do the actions of oxytocin threaten the feminist agenda? I can think of no other explanation for the failure of this research [into the effects of oxytocin] to make headlines.”
Some college administrators are intent on breaking down natural inhibitions and traditional moral constraints. I know of no siblings of different sexes that endeavor to share a bathroom at the same time. Even among family members, privacy is usually valued. But in the progressive college campus men and women share common bathroom sinks, showers, and even toilet areas. And exploring all your sexual options is encouraged. Yale is renowned for “Sex Week” where purveyors of all types of products and information are invited to display and demonstrate their wares.
The novelist Tom Wolfe recreated the destructive and dehumanizing culture of the sexualized college campus in his 2004 novel I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel. He visited major campuses and tried to capture in his book the activities and attitudes he saw there. These activities are what one might expect from young people unrestrained by morals or authorities or older adults. But even in a world where anyone can do what he wants sexually, Wolfe’s heroine does not have a very happy time at college.
Now nearly ten years on from Grossman’s and Wolfe’s depictions of the sexual culture on campuses, the sexual equality of men and women is still apparently unrealized. College administrators are scrambling to come up with ways to deal with what they consider a rape crisis. Although rape cases have actually declined in the last twenty years, administrators must have a policy in place to deal with rape allegations (one would think that is what police are for, but colleges are handling these accusations). Rules must be devised to protect accusers; but these rules in turn have caused lawsuits from accused men who feel the process treated them unfairly.
It is true that some men will force women to have sex against their will. This is rape and it is a crime. But in a culture that encourages sexual adventuring and creates situations where sex and alcohol mix freely, some unfortunate encounters are bound to happen. Encounters where women feel pressured to have sex they don’t want or where they feel regret after sex can be a setting for misunderstanding and accusations. Also, some women have found that accusing a man of rape is an effective method of revenge.
It turns out there are more unwanted consequences to sex outside of marriage than just out-of-wedlock children.