No Civilization Without Restraint: Wise Words From 1939

No Civilization Without Restraint: Wise Words From 1939

Unwin’s conclusions can be boiled down to a single issue. Are people living for the future, with the ability to delay gratification, or are they focusing only on the here and now? When a culture fails to restrain its sexual instincts, people think less about securing the future and instead compromise the stability, productivity, and the well-being of the next generation in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.  Unwin claims that he had no moral or ideological axe to grind in this research. “I make no opinion about rightness or wrongness,” he wrote. But his work is nevertheless profound, as are his conclusions, which we seem to be living out in real time.  

It is not normal or healthy for a culture to talk about sex this much. From Pride month to education to companies telegraphing their commitments to inclusion and diversity, to just about every commercial, movie, or TV show produced today, sexual identity is treated as if it is central to human identity, human purpose, and human happiness. And this vision of life and the world is especially force-fed to children, who are essentially subjects of our social experimentations. 

“If the energy spent talking about sex is disproportionate, it’s important to know there were some who saw this coming. The best example is Oxford sociologist J.D. Unwin. In 1939, Unwin published a landmark book summarizing his research. Sex and Culturewas a look at 80 tribes and six historical civilizations over the course of five millennia, through the lens of a single question: Does a culture’s ideas of sexual liberation predict its success or collapse? ”

Unwin’s findings were overwhelming: 

“Just as societies have advanced [and] then faded away into a state of general decrepitude, so in each of them has marriage first previously changed from a temporary affair based on mutual consent to a lifelong association of one man with one woman, and then turned back to a loose union or to polygamy. ”

What’s more, Unwin concluded,  

The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs. 

Unwin saw a pattern behind societies that unraveled. If three consecutive generations abandoned sexual restraint built around the protections of marriage and fidelity, they collapsed.  

Simply put, sexuality is essential for survival. However, sexuality is such a powerful force, it must be controlled or else it can destroy a future rather than secure it. Wrongly ordered sexuality is devastating for both individuals and entire societies. 

Unwin’s conclusions can be boiled down to a single issue. 

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