Sexual liberation is one of the great ideological and political movements which has agitated the West from the beginning of the 1960s. Strongly linked to political feminism, dissident Marxism (or Leftism), and also to libertarian anarchism, the current of sexual liberation is a fine example of metapolitical success, since it attained its objectives — which in any case were part of the current of the time and may have occurred in any case.
The sexual liberation movement mixed, pell-mell, as if utterly bewildered, all of their projects and goals: the end of the bourgeois family, of conjugal fidelity, of female virginity at marriage, of heterosexual predominance, total freedom for pornography, abolition of taboos against incest, paedophilia, and so on and so forth. A great potpourri in which Eros is noticeably absent; a potpourri lacking the refinement of the libertine.
To value pleasure above all. ‘To enjoy without restraint’, said the anarchist slogan of May ‘68. The most unbridled, egotistical individualism was curiously mixed, in France especially, with affinities for the collectivist Left. But here there was no contradiction. In hindsight, we can see that the sexual revolution was a surge of vulgar hedonism of petty-bourgeois origin which wanted to emancipate itself brutally from the straitjacket of Christian sexual morality. With a bit of ideological sleight-of-hand, the theory of sexual liberation (which also frequently referred to itself as ‘the sexual revolution’) presented itself as the counterpart to an anti-capitalist revolt and to an infantile neo-Marxism, a pretention whose imbecility was demonstrated by Christopher Lasch (of whom I speak elsewhere), since commerce used it as the basis for a new business.
An Ideology of Puritans
This ideology has a principally Anglo-Saxon (above all, American) and Germano-Scandinavian origin, that is to say, it comes from a cultural domain marked by puritanism of Protestant origin.
People threw themselves headlong into what might be called sexualism with the eagerness of beginners, of philistines. Sexual liberation thus has nothing to do with the refined libertine spirit which is erotic and free, and in its freedom managed to maintain order without sacrificing pleasure, and it does so discreetly. . A certain Germanic coarseness, a certain dullness of spirit (well perceived by Nietzsche) which the United States has partly inherited runs through all the movements for sexual liberation. Does not manifesting a desire for liberation in any case amount to an admission that at bottom one is frustrated?
Frustrated puritans discovered sex and were fascinated, passing from one excess to the other, from the narrowest prudery to the grossest shamelessness, like children who find the forbidden pot of jam and gorge themselves on it by the handful.
Paradoxically, the ideology of sexual liberation has gotten further in Europe than in America. That is because the ideological or cultural viruses which originate among the American elite affect only a rather small part of the general population; this holds in all domains. Small-town America is not that of the college campus, nor that of New York or California. It has remained puritanical, even though America invented Gay Pride Marches and the pornography industry.
More than sixty years later, the principal aims of sexual liberation have entered into our mores. But it can hardly be said that the results have lived up to the hopes. The universal happiness and joyful liberation that were supposed to result from sexual liberation have not been realised. The great slogan of abolishing taboos went to work and brought back a mouse?—?not to mention bringing back taboos far worse than those which preceded.
The False Promises of Sexual Liberation
Has this sexual liberation produced the anticipated effects, those of fulfillment and a mythical path to physical and psychological pleasure? Have we, as promised, passed from the repressive and frustrating straitjacket of bourgeois society to the permissive paradise of bodily freedom, as predicted by Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse? Certainly not. In fact, we observe the opposite—among women as well as men. Dreams of emancipation have resulted in alienation.
The universal sexualisation of society has triumphed at the expense of personal well-being and well-balanced sexuality. The media plugs society into a gigantic virtual sexual universe, a simulacrum made of images and words. This dream world consisting of all forms of eroticism—from the sweetness of well-balanced and beneficent sexual love to the orgiastic fantasies of pornography—has become a mass ideal, but it has become a hell on the individual level: the categorical imperatives of sexual happiness have become impossible to achieve. One dreams of a chocolate cake, but there is no chocolate cake.
In this respect, the traditional pornography industry of images (films, magazines), legalised in the 1960s, and the industry of erotic encounters (by telephone or via Internet messaging) becomes ever more frustrating for millions of naïve, exploited customers—because, obviously, it practically never leads to a real romantic or erotic encounter.
As always, in attempting to substitute the virtual for the real, the chimera for the reality, the shadow for the form, the credulous masses are being manipulated and driven mad. The collapse of family norms, the retreat of the culture of modesty, sexual confusion, adult sex placed in the hands of unprepared adolescents, pornographic display made into a mass spectacle—all these have not lead to greater but to lesser pleasure, not to more well-balanced but instead quite unbalanced individuals.
Here we must bear in mind the intellectually brilliant but sociologically aberrant discourse of psychiatrists and ‘philosophers’ and dissident Freudians who reproached Freud because his Oedipal resolution aimed at reinforcing social morality and regulating sex according to social norms. In the 1930s, the Marxist psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich denounced the repressive character of the patriarchal family. Twenty years later, Herbert Marcuse criticised the mortifying character of ‘renouncing impulse’ and spoke in favour of a sort of sexual anarchy which would set one on the path to happiness and fulfillment. In the 1970s, the French current of anti-psychiatry carried the torch down the trail blazed in May ‘68. In their celebrated Anti-Oedipus, the ‘philosopher’ Gilles Deleuze and the psychiatrist Félix Guattari defended (in terms that sounded almost like political demands) the demise of the family as an oppressive straitjacket and now obsolete (much in the same vein as the decadent novelist André Gide). They preached the ‘legitimacy of every desire’, even pederasty, and championed ‘an elective, polymorphic sexuality without regard for the distinction between the sexes.’ Obviously, they were preaching in favour of their personal inclinations, but forgot that they themselves had been raised in stable families.
Such are the intellectual roots of the sexual confusion with which we are familiar. We are struck by the naïveté, superficiality, and sociological ignorance of these celebrated ‘thinkers’. Their procedure was identical to that of Lysenko: a dogmatic discourse disconnected from reality and fiercely hostile to the natura rerum [nature of things –Tr.].
It is not only sexual misery but also emotional and familial poverty that we are faced with here. Individual emancipation and freedom seem to produce, by a dramatic inversion, isolation and incarceration in the ego.
But the most extravagant thing about this whole project of ‘sexual liberation’ is that it did not even succeed in defining and systemising its own concepts. This ideology did not even manage, for example, to identify the central ideas of transgression and perversion. Exactly how far could the liberation of individual desire be taken? There was never any clear response.
Indeed, since sexual freedom was to be total, since there were no longer any ‘bourgeois norms’, no natural regulation, and since the emancipation of individual desire was to take precedence over everything else, why not allow paedophilia, rape, incest (already defended and glorified by movie director Louis Malle), bestiality, sexual torture or murder (a recurrent theme in Sade, an author greatly admired by the theoreticians of sexual liberation), and so on, ad infinitum?
This ideology has shown itself incapable of drawing a line between the normal and the deviant, the permitted and the forbidden, the acceptable and the harmful, the licit and the illicit. By the same token, the ideologues of sexual liberation also posture as apostles of the Rights of Man—Leftist dogmatism requires it. But the contradiction is insurmountable: for freedom of desire without restraint, proclaimed as a right, automatically causes harm to others. This is illustrated by paedophilia, along with the spread of AIDS.
On this last point, the contradiction I mentioned has become as plain as day; for everyone knows that the male homosexual ‘community’ has contributed to the explosion of this viral illness, thanks to the active encouragement male homosexuality has received across the entire West since the 1970s. Now, it is radical homosexual associations (usually tied to the Trotskyist extreme-Left) which have caused the biggest ruckus in favour of increasing funding for AIDS research and for opposing any ‘repressive’ measures against the above-mentioned ‘community’ and even against any official prophylactic control, described as ‘discriminatory’. One gets the feeling that the AIDS virus is a sort of ‘fascist agent’ which attacks homosexuals in order to punish them. In reality, the AIDS pandemic is the direct, logical consequence of the ideology of sexual liberation, especially of its promotion of male homosexuality—not to mention the irresponsibility and anarchic hedonism of homosexuals.
By rejecting the very idea of order, this ideology turns against itself. It makes a pretence of defending harmony, freedom, and the end of oppression, but ends up constructing a world that operates according to the law of the jungle, the law of the strongest or most perverted. The implications in the political domain are the same as in that of sex: since desire and freedom without restraint constitute an absolute ideal, why thwart the impulses of the criminal or the tyrant? Isn’t the terrorist free to gratify his impulses, as well as the cannibal and the child-killer?
We find the same contradiction when it comes to drugs. In the 1960s, this ideology considered taking drugs a human right, a form of liberation—in short, it was considered in the same light as sex: an absolute individual right to pleasure. Unfortunately, enormous problems of public health and criminality resulted from the consumption of narcotics, problems with no clear solution (as with both AIDS and paedophilia). The spread of AIDS owes a great deal to unbridled tolerance of the ‘gay’ phenomenon. This emancipatory ideology completely lacks any principle of responsibility. In all domains, its promises of happiness result in unhappiness, an unhappiness for which it stubbornly refuses to take responsibility. Yet this dominant, pseudo-emancipatory ideology continues to impose its unjust and hypocritical egalitarianism in the name of a phony liberation—it continues with the pitiless and totalitarian repression of all who do not follow its errors.
By its excess, by its folly and deep misunderstanding of human psychology, the ideology of sexual liberation risks a very severe return to that against which it originally rebelled: it provokes a rebirth of the thick-headed puritanism by way of reaction. It is provoking a counter-offensive, a real sexual repression much more serious than that of supposed bourgeois repression. The massive intrusion of Islam into Europe, with its cortege of subjected women, obsessive and rigorous discipliarianism, separation of the sexes, and machismo is the disturbing sign of this swing of the pendulum. Already in France, an increasing number of girls—mostly of immigrant background, of course—are having their hymens re-sewn to ‘regain their virginity’ before marriage. We have come far from the dreams of sexual liberation.
The Illusion of Virtual Encounters
The child of the sexual revolution and also of the Internet is the explosive growth of ‘dating websites’ (80 percent sexually oriented, 20 percent explicitly pornographic) and social networks. They have replaced the traditional type of direct meeting and cruising, and theoretically they offer a multitude of opportinities for meetings of every kind. However, the results are disappointing. Why?
Because the virtual can never replace the real.
The Internet sites (Facebook, Meetic, and thousands of other sites) are based on a virtual and simulated second-hand sex through a screen interface. The first encounter is not natural; it occurs in solitude, in front of a machine interface, and everything else flows from there. Dialogue in front of the screen falsifies and misguides the rest of the relationship, because it suppresses the direct emotion of the first meeting and establishes the relationship on lies, even if these are involuntary. The accident of the first meeting—in a bar, at a party, an office, a friend’s house—is replaced by calculated effort in front of a cold screen. Imagination supplants reality. Romanticism or desire are transmitted in computer files. Psychologically, a contact receives a certain bias if it originates from a computer search. If you later happen to meet the person, you understand quickly that she does not correspond to the electronic persona with which one chatted.
Moreover, time spent trying to find a mate in front of a screen comes at the detriment of older and more concrete and human forms of seduction, less rationalised but more effective. Sexual and emotional relationships elaborated over the Internet have neither the density nor the fleshy taste of real seduction. Here once again, we are witnessing the unfolding of a false liberation without real effect. The virtual sociability of the Internet has about as much depth as a flat screen.
Moreover, it is simulation and lies that characterise these relations, first of all because of the general swindle inherent in all ‘hot’ sites which tempt their users to dream without these fantasies resulting in anything concrete, since the goals of such websites are commercial. The same goes for all the countless ‘telephone sex’ numbers. Most of the men and women (who are often disguised) who click and surf around these sites have no intention of really meeting anyone, but merely of amusing themselves in front of their computer screens. The cold computer medium plays the role of keeping people from actually acting.
The conjunction of sexual liberation and the Internet had the opposite effect to what was intended: it has simply increased sexual solitude. Bars are going out of business or closing at ever earlier hours; dance halls and discotheques are drying up (nightclubs are five times less common today than in the France of 1980), matrimonial agencies are locking their doors, and so on. Real places for meeting and socialising are gradually giving way to a vain and anxious search in which each individual is alone in front of his screen contemplating a scene with as much density as a ghost: such is sexual liberation.
The above text is an excerpt from Guillaume Faye’s Sex and Deviance (Arktos, 2014). If you liked this selection, be sure to check out the whole book.