Rethinking the Sexual Revolution

  Last week, Alex Comfort, best known as the author of The Joy of Sex, died in a London nursing home. Obituaries in the liberal press hailed him as a great progressive figure. In 1972, The Joy of Sex, a book he wrote in a matter of weeks, created an international sensation. Subtitled "A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking," it sold 12 million copies and was a key weapon in the sexual revolution—a revolution grounded in a philosophy of radical personal autonomy. This coffee-table book was pure sensationalism, leaving little to the imagination, but it soon became a status symbol. Having the book in your home was a way of showing your sophistication, that you refused to be bound by traditional morality—which was the way Comfort wanted it. Prior to writing the book, Comfort was an outspoken advocate for sexual freedom. And he condemned what he called the "prudery" of traditional sexual mores. Comfort's belief in sexual freedom was consistent with the rest of his philosophy. He was an anarchist who resented all forms of authority and believed that the greatest good is the ability to express oneself without restraints of any kind. These notions were alluring for many. They found expression in the movements of the 60s and 70s—all of which Comfort embraced enthusiastically. Comfort later expressed annoyance that he was principally remembered for this one book, but he shouldn't have. The sexual revolution is one of the most enduring legacies of that era, and his contribution to that dubious cause is the only reason his death was noticed by the media. I say "dubious" because Comfort and his followers, of course, got it all wrong. The sexual revolution has taken a terrible toll on American society—divorce, illegitimacy, abortion, venereal diseases, and now AIDS. Ironically, only days after The New York Times saluted Comfort on its obituary pages, it told in its news pages of the tragically degrading consequences of the revolution he helped start. In an article in yesterday's Times headlined, "The Face of Teenage Sex Grows Younger," reporter Ann Farrell tells of growing numbers of middle schoolers, ages 10-13, who engage in casual sex—so casual that one teenager described oral sex as no more significant than a kiss good-night. But a doctor quoted in the Times article said, "The kids don't even look at each other. It's mechanical, dehumanizing. The fallout is that later in life they have trouble forming relationships." This is freedom? Well, the evidence is in. Comfort's revolution did not turn out to create a gratifying sex life. And recent studies, on the other hand, show that Christians—Comfort's "prudes"—have the more satisfying sex lives. That's because they've placed sex in its proper moral and emotional context. The attention being given to the sexual revolution in the aftermath of Comfort's death provides an opportunity to point out to your neighbors the fallacies and consequences of the philosophy he espoused. Because, as the past three decades have shown us, the real joy of sex lies not in freeing yourself from restraints, but in embracing the limits that God established to protect us.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary