Modesty and the Irony of Sexual Revolution

In October I blogged about Wendy Shalit’s fascinating suggestion that there is a positive correlation, perhaps even a causal relationship, between modesty and sexual fulfilment. This hypothesis is intriguing because it stands an assumption of the sexual revolution on its head.

Since writing the aforementioned post, I had the opportunity to explore this further in my weekly Salvo column, with the following two articles:

From the second of these, on Wilhelm Reich:

The 1960’s sexual revolution was based on the following three assumptions:
1) Widespread societal acceptance of immodesty will lead to greater comfort (less embarrassment) for us to expose “erotically important parts of their bodies.”
2) This in turn will result in a net increase in sex-affirming attitudes.
3) Sex affirming attitudes will result in better sex and thus to healthier human beings.
When the sexual revolution became mainstreamed, it turned out to be a complete failure even on its own terms. The irony of the sexual revolution has been that we remain stranded in stage one (widespread acceptance of immodesty) of the above itinerary without ever reaching happier and healthier sex lives (stages two and three). What went wrong?
A clue comes from Wendy Shalit’s book A Return to Modesty. Surveying the emerging state of affairs over two decades ago, Wendy Shalit discovered that our sex-saturated culture has flattened the body of its implicit eroticism, introducing boredom to the entire phenomenon. She even cited evidence that when sex becomes less of a “big deal,” it becomes less pleasurable….
If the first sexual revolution was about enjoying sex without being encumbered with the possibility of child-bearing, the second has been about enjoying sex without being encumbered by bonding, as if human connectivity is a kind of byproduct to be overcome in the quest for total sexual liberation. How ironic that this itinerary would end up flattening sexuality of the very elements that make it so potent and pleasurable, reducing nudity to something tame and benign. But this is the paradox of today’s sex-saturated society, where sex has become so cheapened that it has receded into banality.
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