Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sex and Culture by J D Unwin

Seeing how popular the Devlin articles are. I noticed that a few commenters mentioned an old book called "Sex and Culture" that was published in the 1930s.

By a stroke of luck I found it linked in a blog comment, and have added it to my share.

Please note 3 things.
1) I have not read it yet, so I cannot discuss it, apart from saying, if the commenters are right about its contents - its an important book
2) has file restrictions for free accounts - ergo it is broken up into 7 files + a readme.
3)Box has a 10GB per month limitation on downloads for free account holders (me). So Download only once. Further, if you are going to share it with any friends etc - give it to them directly. DO NOT just give them the link - as you will end up depriving others of it. Also, consider mirroring it somewhere if you can , and post the link in the comments.


2 Reviews straight from Reviews are in chronological order ergo opposite of the order in Amazon)

Review 1

Sexual repression is the foundation of civilization., March 30, 2008
By MCP - See all my reviews
That is the basic thesis of this unjustly forgotten book. According to Professor Unwin, who was influenced by Freud, it is the "limitation of sexual opportunity" which creates the "mental energy" necessary to build a civilization.

He backs this up with exhaustive examples of the historical cycle he proposes. The cycle goes as follows: in a primitive society, people take their pleasure at whim, without commitment or limits. Then the practice of monogamous marriage, including premarital chastity, is instituted. (How he believes this first arises would take far too long to summarize here; read the book!) The sexual repression required for this chastity and fidelity increases the "mental energy" and the inner strength of those who practice it, enabling them to embark on long-term projects such as monumental architecture, agriculture, and conquest. In this early stage, men have enormous power over their wives and children, even when the children have grown up.

The "sexual opportunity" of women is always, of necessity, more limited than that of men in a civilized society, and this has a powerful effect, according to Unwin; they convey this repression and its benefits to their children. Indeed, he blames the decline of feudalism on its habit of putting its "best" women into convents to live as nuns - it is true that for a woman with intellectual aspirations, a convent was her only real option - instead of having them bear children to whom they could convey their "mental energy".

Unwin also criticizes polygamous societies; the easy "sexual opportunity" it affords men limits the "mental energy". He says, "That is why, I submit, the Moors in Spain achieved such a high culture. Their fathers were born into a polygamous tradition; but their mothers were the daughters of Christians and Jews, and had spent their early years in an absolutely monogamous environment. The sons of these women laid the foundations of rationalistic culture; but soon the supply of Christian and Jewish women was insufficient, so the incipient rationalism failed to mature greatly."

It always begins with the ruling class, the aristocracy, being the most chaste and monogamous. As they grow decadent after a few generations, the "middle class" (not necessarily in our modern understanding of it) is just getting the hang of it, having aped it from their betters, and they acquire more power in the society.

In time, however, the strict monogamy loosens. Unwin speculates that the extreme power the builders of civilizations have over their wives and children is unbearable to most, and the decrease of this power is inevitable. Unwin's attention is more on the monogamy than on the legal position of women, but the two seem to march hand in hand. "A female emancipating movement is a cultural phenomenon of unfailing regularity; it appears to be the necessary outcome of absolute monogamy. The subsequent loss of social energy after the emancipation of women, which is sometimes emphasized, has been due not to the emancipation but to the extension of sexual opportunity which has always accompanied it. In human records there is no instance of female emancipation which has not been accompanied by an extension of sexual opportunity."

Indeed, as sexual opportunity becomes easier - which always takes place in concert with female emancipation - the society's mental energy weakens, it cannot continue to invent things or maintain what it has, and in a few generations it is easily conquered by a robust monogamous patriarchy, which is fairly bursting with the mental energy of repressed sexuality.

Professor Unwin, by the way, was not in any way a male chauvinist. He concluded his book with a hopeful wish that we may find some way to have sexual repression and the equality of the sexes at the same time, and clearly believed that women are not inherently unfit for power and independence.

That is one of the two criticisms I would make of this excellent work. But one can hardly blame Professor Unwin, who was writing in 1934, long before scientific study had verified that all of the traditional stereotypes about women were based in biological fact. Indeed, thanks to feminist domination of mass media, few people today are aware of this.

The other criticism is that Unwin focuses all of his attention on the "mental energy" caused by sexual repression. I suspect he is right about it, but there is another vital factor in the building of a civilization, and that is paternity. Men build things - houses, palaces, empires, codes of ethics - so that they can pass them on to their own children, and thus achieve one kind of immortality. Men who know they cannot train and endow their children are disinclined to produce. This, even more than the lack of opportunity for personal enrichment, is why communism and socialism are such abysmal failures, and why inheritance tax is such a dangerous threat to civilization itself. It would be good to read an intertwining of this theory and Unwin's.

This book has long been out of print and copies are rare and expensive, but until this situation is remedied, it can be obtained through inter-library loan. I highly recommend it for its exhaustive documentation.


Review 2

Female chastity is correlated with civilization, June 19, 2008
By Franklin Schmidt (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I have to disagree somewhat with the previous reviewer. Unwin is a very methodical anthropologist, and so he carefully distinguished between the facts that he uncovers and the explanation he offers of those facts. The primary thesis of this book is that the development of a society correlates with its regulation of female prenuptial chastity. But Unwin was a Freudian liberal, so he felt compelled to come up with as unsexist an explanation as possible, and this is where his idea comes from that prenuptial chastity causes sexual repression which in turn causes energy to be redirected into developing culture. Of course this is complete nonsense, but I forgive Unwin both because living in the 1930s, he couldn't have a deep understanding what conditions are really like when a society reaches an advanced state of feminist decay, and because I am extremely grateful to Unwin for honestly recording facts that were at odds with his own beliefs. But even Unwin should have realized from historical evidence that his explanation was wrong. Ancient Athens was probably the most productive civilization in history, and never did a society have less sexual repression for men than Athens did, where the government was kind enough to subsidize prostitution so that men were never in need for sex, and where women had absolutely no rights, and so could not interfere with the productive energy of men.

Of course I rate this book 5 stars. It is the most important book written since The Origin of Species. But since the facts it contains are not politically correct, it is doomed to obscurity. The lack of availability of this book, because it is out of print, is just part of the cultural decay of our society caused the lack of regulation of female sexuality that Unwin so well chronicled.



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