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Conti

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Sex and culture
« on: December 11, 2017, 10:22 »
On Civilizations and Sex

Quote
Henry Ford once famously said, “History is bunk.” As the inventor of the assembly line and the Model T automobile, Ford’s name is inseparable from the ideal of technological advancement as the driver of human progress. For those who hail modern scientific progress and advancement as the hallmark of a more intelligent, forward-thinking generation, Ford’s words are dogma.

One of the most impactful changes wrought by high-tech advances is shift in societal views of sexuality. Traditional sexual mores have been dismissed as outdated, especially in an age of artificial contraception and abortifacients that dissociate procreation from a fundamentally life-giving act. Society has reduced sex to a pleasurable pursuit, and as a result, sexual promiscuity and libertinism are increasingly common. Progressives praise the sexual revolution as a period of enlightenment, whereby now people can freely engage in the pleasures of sex divested of its biological consequences. Even today the sexual revolution is viewed by (some) people of all generations as an unquestionably good nexus of beliefs and actions.

So, is the tradition of sexual morality, in the words of Henry Ford, “bunk?”

Oxford-educated anthropologist J.D. Unwin tangentially addressed this question in Sex and Culture, an evaluation of the sexual practices and morality of 86 different cultures. Unwin’s impetus for the project was to test the Freudian theory that civilizational progress was the product of repressed sexuality. This theory of “sublimated sexuality” states that natural impulses and desires require energy to fulfill, and that this energy—though finite—is fungible.

Unwin divided the collective energy of human beings into two categories, “expansive” and “productive.” Activities like exploring territory, conquest, colonization, and commerce were deemed expansive. Productive activities designated an advancement within society or a societal flourishing, such as the development of algebra or the power to harness electricity.  Thus, the sexual energy of human beings could be re-directed towards other aspects of civilizational advancement, such as technological progress, art, architecture, or conquering other peoples. (To anticipate an objection: it is worth noting that although Freudian theory has many shortcomings, one can’t blindly overlook the validity of certain aspects of his theories, sexual sublimation being one of them).

After a careful evaluation a variety of civilizations—including the Romans, Greeks, Sumerians, Moors, Babylonians, and Anglo-Saxons—a clear pattern emerged for Unwin: a perfect correlation between sexual fidelity and civilizational flourishing.* Unwin found that discipline in sexual matters appropriated social energy to more civilizational ends, validating Freudian sublimation on a societal level. Unwin remarks:

Quote
The evidence is that in the past a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy and that at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. … I know of no exceptions to these rules.

But what exactly were those strict sexual attitudes and regulations that contributed to societal flourishing? The answer: heterosexual monogamy.

For Unwin, the fabric of society was primarily sexual, and heterosexual monogamy was the optimal arrangement for planning, building, protecting, and nurturing the family. If enough heterosexual partners made a monogamous commitment, civilizational energy was directed toward promoting the firmest societal foundation possible: the family.

Unfortunately, each civilization allowed its success to alter its moral code and actions. Though each civilization’s success correlated with strict sexual ethics, attitudes toward sex became increasingly liberalized and loosened. The consequences of the myth that sexual activity and its impacts could be confined to the private sphere soon became apparent.  Premarital, extramarital and homosexual relationships proliferated and individuals began placing their individual desires over the common good. An increase in promiscuity corresponded to a subsequent decrease in the social energy required for civilizational maintenance and innovation. Ultimately, each civilization became less cohesive, less aggressive, and less resolute. Civilizations in this liminal phase then collapsed from either 1) an internal anarchic revolution, or 2) conquest by invaders with greater social energy.

Despite the differences between civilizational cultures, environments, and time periods, Unwin saw a clear civilizational cycle throughout:

Quote
These societies lived in different geographical environments; they belonged to different racial stocks; but the history of their marriage customs is the same. In the beginning each society had the same ideas in regard to sexual regulations. Then the same struggles took place; the same sentiments were expressed; the same changes were made; the same results ensued. Each society reduced its sexual opportunity to a minimum and displaying great social energy, flourished greatly. Then it extended its sexual opportunity; its energy decreased, and faded away. The one outstanding feature of the whole story is its unrelieved monotony.

It is no secret that America is the current world superpower, and the increasingly liberalized attitudes towards sex in our nation parallel those of the 86 civilizations during their periods of decline. It is also true that American society has achieved an unprecedented amount of scientific and technological progress, and many would argue that American progress has cast aside ancient notions of the importance of sexual propriety. Unwin’s research identified this attitude as a salient opinion in each of the preceding societies as well:

Quote
…convinced that the cultural process is a progressive development and that our own culture is the most developed of all cultures, we assume that every change in our cultural condition is evidence of a higher cultural development.

The American idea of being the most advanced of human civilizations is just one more example of the “unrelieved monotony” Unwin identified when uncovering social patterns. Over 5,000 years of human history argue for the prevalence of this same mentality in all of these extinct civilizations, and not one of them has managed to break the cycle.

One can choose to see Unwin’s work as the foretelling of a doomed American civilization, or merely a historical continuity that Americans will overcome because of technological and scientific progress. Whatever the case, the importance of sexual morality in everyday life should not be overlooked due to its strong correlation with civilizational flourishing. Sexual restraint and ethics are not products of an ancient past that progress can suddenly replace; they are arguably the lynchpin of all of the technological and scientific progress of today.

*Correlation does not imply causation. For example, it is possible that civilizational decline caused increasing promiscuity, or that both decline and promiscuity are related to a yet-to-be-identified variable. But acknowledging the fact that causation is not implied does not necessarily mean that the two variables are not causally related. The only way to know if this is or is not the case would be to conduct a statistical or quantitative analysis of the qualitative patterns and causal mechanism proposed by Unwin. Until such research is executed, claims of both causality and non-causality stand on equally tenuous ground with respect to the study itself; yet my argument loses none of its force no matter which interpretation of the data is sound.

selber

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2017, 13:47 »
I think the topic is important, especially in view of the fact that the Ureuropeans are aging and losing many of their values. It is a social decline, which some see as progress, to observe .The sex drive is an important driving force for people, and heterosexual monogamy has been a tool to use this driving force for responsibility to family and society.The sexual revolution is the liberation from responsibility and this is harmful to society in the long term. Individualism is close to selfishness.

Teapot S Russell

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2017, 15:10 »
Let’s note Unwin died in 1936. The book was published in 1934. The time frame does not automatically disqualify the conclusions but it is not trivial. Success, for Unwin, is perceived in the light of the Industrial Revolution not the Silicon Valley. He is highly Freudian in his approach and believes that (purported) correlation between sexual norms and economic prosperity implies causality. I think the situation is, in truth, far more complex.

coffejohn

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2017, 12:27 »
-- Individualism is close to selfishness.

At the risk of repeating myself; Yes but.

The trite response is to say that "pluralism is close to socialism" which is a short step away from communism.

I am not advocating an anything go`s attitude, nor do I see societal collapse as a result of sexual norms being challenged.
But men have to understand that women will not accept the masculine centered view of sexual relations.

At the same time financial power is moving to women who are starting to outpace men in education and earning capacity; I pity the low paid man who tries to give his higher paid partner orders.

 

Go solar, go slow.

selber

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2017, 13:29 »


The trite response is to say that "pluralism is close to socialism" which is a short step away from communism.


 
I pulled out a sentence to make it easy for me. Like you. The image you draw features oppositional extremes. The most logical question is - which extreme are we closer to? The GDR was ten years younger than the FRG. The GDR reacted when the birth rates were too low. There was marriage loans and with every child a part of the debt was settled, 3 children and you were debt free. Everybody is egoistical and it is importent directing the selfishness for social benefits .Children are future, children pay our pension. And we have too few children.Freedom is the magic word, but freedom without responsibility does not exist, we are being  responsible and have to bear today the harmful consequences from unconditionel freedom .
« Last Edit: December 12, 2017, 13:41 by selber »

selber

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2017, 00:57 »
But men have to understand that women will not accept the masculine centered view of sexual relations.At the same time financial power is moving to women who are starting to outpace men in education and earning capacity.
If you are right then you are right. I admit that.But it is a difficult topic - man and woman.If the financial power moves to the women is that not a sign of oppression.Sex is only fruitful between man and woman and that should not be enemies. The sexes need each other and are dependent on each other. In sports, men are superior because of the physique, but there is a sport where that does not matter - chess. The most successful woman of all time in chess came to rank 9 in the world rankings.Even when I went to school I learned - girls are the better students. I have 4 siblings, two brothers and two sisters. From school to today, the sisters have been more successful.That was not normal, but possible. Women can be more successful in " mans world " than men if they want that , but they want it less often than men . And women may find less attention in society, but even more so in family. In the family, women are often valued more than men, and that is also recognition.I think women work better in a regulated world. But when things need to be regulated the man is better.Man and woman are not equal and everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Neither the strengths nor the weaknesses have anything to do with oppression by the opposite sex.Man and woman should value each other's strength instead of blaming their own weakness on the other.The role of women is an important part of the topic here and certainly not I want women to be oppressed.No one should be put in a role, whether man or woman.It is about shifting values, material has more value than children and family, and that makes us poor.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2017, 01:46 by selber »

Frank Zappa

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2017, 22:33 »
On Civilizations and SexThe evidence is that in the past a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy and that at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. … I know of no exceptions to these rules.

Actually the ancient Romans, who you usually admire quite a lot, had a rather permissive sexual culture. It is enough to visit Pompeii to get an impression of that.

It is maybe important to remember that the ancient Romans have not been christians except for the time immedialtely before their decline. And I also do remember the main message of Jesus Christ to be in favour of charity and against materialism, greed and envy. Most of the rules about sexuality for the rest of mankind have later been added by the popes, while they have not been busy with their private orgies in the Vatican state.
"Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex."

Frank Zappa

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2017, 01:10 »
@Conti

P.S.: Do you know the movie "Agora"? They put quite a different light on the late Roman Empire than the official narrative of the catholic church suggests.



"Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex."

Conti

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2017, 14:17 »
@Conti

P.S.: Do you know the movie "Agora"? They put quite a different light on the late Roman Empire than the official narrative of the catholic church suggests.

No, I haven't watched it. I have heard about Hipatia before, but what's the intended meaning of the film and what's the official Catholic narrative of the late Roman Empire?

Frank Zappa

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2017, 16:46 »
No, I haven't watched it. I have heard about Hipatia before, but what's the intended meaning of the film and what's the official Catholic narrative of the late Roman Empire?

To make it short: The narrative of the catholic church is that things became less cruel and better in terms of humanity when christianity became more influential inside the Roman Empire, while the movie claims that the rise of christianity made people more intolerant and violent than their pagan predecessors. Of course there can also be seen an analogy to the rise of Islam today.

By the way, you havnt answered concerning the rather permissive sexual culture in pagan Roman times and concerning the fact that christianity and its norms only became strong in the Roman empire in the years of its decline.

"Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex."

Conti

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2017, 17:05 »
By the way, you havnt answered concerning the rather permissive sexual culture in pagan Roman times and concerning the fact that christianity and its norms only became strong in the Roman empire in the years of its decline.

Roman times cover ten centuries. My understanding of Roman sexual mores is that they were strict in early Roman history and became more permissive when Rome conquered the hellenistic areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and was influenced by their culture.

Frank Zappa

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2017, 17:52 »
Roman times cover ten centuries. My understanding of Roman sexual mores is that they were strict in early Roman history and became more permissive when Rome conquered the hellenistic areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and was influenced by their culture.

There has actually been a debate about "spätrömische Dekadenz" in German politics initiated by FDP chairman Guido Westerwelle in 2010: http://www.zeit.de/wissen/geschichte/2010-02/Rom-antike-dekadenz

"Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex."

Conti

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2017, 10:57 »
There has actually been a debate about "spätrömische Dekadenz" in German politics initiated by FDP chairman Guido Westerwelle in 2010: http://www.zeit.de/wissen/geschichte/2010-02/Rom-antike-dekadenz

I've read the article now, but Westerwelle talked about work ethics and Hartz IV, not about sex. Also, Hartz IV beneficiaries don't get money unconditionally. I'm not sure Hartz IV is really the same as panem et circenses:)

Teapot S Russell

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2017, 11:37 »
Roman times cover ten centuries. My understanding of Roman sexual mores is that they were strict in early Roman history and became more permissive when Rome conquered the hellenistic areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and was influenced by their culture.
It's the point Unwin makes in the book. Whether he is correct is a matter of debate. Like I said, Unwin tends to have a Victorian take on progress.

selber

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Re: Sex and culture
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2017, 12:13 »
It's the point Unwin makes in the book. Whether he is correct is a matter of debate. Like I said, Unwin tends to have a Victorian take on progress.
In my opinion this blurs the problem. The Romans did not have the problem of having too few children, but the children were not sufficiently loyal to Rome. Too many strangers were the problem - Rome was destroyed from the inside. That threatens us too, but only because we are not able to keep our population at least constant without immigration.Today, there is sex without consequences, for men and women. Commercial sex even. If you have money but too little sex is that your own fault. With money you need only ask, and you get it. Money destroys responsibility and conscience. That is our decadence.Sorry, but we talk about sex, and so we talk openly.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2017, 12:33 by selber »