Wednesday, February 20, 2008

'Sex and Culture' by J.D. Unwin

From 'Fschmidt' on my forum:

I just read an incredible book called "Sex and Culture" by J. D. Unwin published in 1934. The book analyzes 80 primitive cultures (anthropology) and a number of past empires (history) and finds that, without exception, the level of advancement or decline of all cultures is directly tied to the level of regulation of female sexuality. His historical examples include the Sumerians, Babylonians, Athenians, Romans, Teutons, and Anglo-Saxons (600s - 900s), and English (1500s - 1900s). In every example, these cultures began to rise when women were required to be virgins at marriage and to be monogamous for life. All of these cultures began to decline when women were given rights, were not required to be virgins at marriage, when divorce was common, and marriage was in decline.

This book makes me feel ridiculous for thinking that we are facing some new problem with feminism. We are just repeating history, that has been repeated over and over again. I knew that late Rome had some of these issues, but I didn't know how universal it was. For example, in late Babylonia, they had alimony, child support, no-fault divorce, marital rape laws, and economic equal rights for women. Soon after, this empire, that had lasted hundreds of years, collapsed. All of these successful cultures had begun at the opposite extreme, almost beyond modern imagination, with no rights for women. For example, the punishment for adultery among the early Anglo-Saxons was that adulterous wife was killed and the guilty man had to buy a new wife for the harmed husband. The European middle ages were a result of sexual decadence and the gradual rise of Europe starting in the 1600s was the result of gradually increasing regulation of women, largely caused by Christianity.

Since this book was published in England in 1934, Unwin describes the degree of sexual decay in his time as being substantially less advanced than it was by the end of other empires. Of course, what we see today in 2008 is quite different from 1934, and exactly matches the behavior of all empires just before their collapse.

The great strength of this book is in its method, to rationally analyze all anthropological and historical data to look for the relationship between sex and culture. The weakness of this book is when he tries to analyze and explain this relationship. Unwin is actually an academic liberal thinker, and largely a Freudian, which was common at this time. His explanation is that restricting female sexuality also restricts male sexuality, and that repressed sexuality expresses itself in other ways such as cultural advancement. All of us realize that this is nonsense. We realize this because we live in a culture that is fully decayed, and we know that restricting female sexuality actually benefits male sexuality by distributing women more equitably. So I cannot really hold Unwin's mistaken conclusion against him since he did not have enough understanding to realize the cause of the relationship between sex and culture that he found.

I don't think anyone interested in men's rights could not be profoundly influenced by reading this book. It is extremely hard to find. I got it through inter-library loan. This week, I will try to contact the publisher to see if anything can be done to make this book more widely available.


Anonymous said...

>>We realize this because we live in a culture that is fully decayed, and we know that restricting female sexuality actually benefits male sexuality by distributing women more equitably.

Closer but still not correct. I believe the correct answer is in "The Garbage Generation" (

If a man wants a child he has two options. The first option is to have sex with as many women as possible with the hope that one of them has his child (evolution has given him a strong sex drive for this purpose). The second option is to take part in "The Trade" otherwise known as marriage.

In traditional marriage, the woman trades sexual fidelity for security and resources from the man. That's why it's so important that the woman (not the man) is a virgin. Sexual fidelity means that she can guarantee that the child belongs to her husband.

Since the husband in return has to find resources for his entire family, the net result is a large male workforce. This workforce is vital for any civilisation to exist.

Without marriage, there is no male workforce. No male workforce, there is no civilisation.

Note that it isn't about Patriarchies and Matriarchies. That just defines who leads the country. What is more important is the role of the father in families and the father's lineage. It's the difference between Patrilinear and Matrilinear societies.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the data used. While Rome and England may be true to what you say, Athenian women were non-factors in their cities' decline. In fact, excepting Sparta for a brief period (say 600-300BC), Greek women STILL don't have many rights (yes I too long to live in Greece). The men in Athens caused their own downfall (the decision to invade Sicily cost them the Peloponnesian War). Athens defeat was made final 100 years later when Philip of Macedon conquered Greece (excepting Sparta). So in the case of Ancient Greece, the one state that gave it's women more equality or rights (Sparta) held out the longest (Alexander the Great didn't defeat the Spartans, he just ignored them). Having said that, the Spartan policies, including their policies towards women, caused such a low birth rate that the Spartans simply bred themselves into extinction.

fschmidt said...

What you say about the fall of Athens is true. A country can collapse for reasons other than its women. But Ancient Greek culture did not end with the fall of Athens, and the empire that was created by Alexander spread Greek culture, and lasted, in various pieces, for another century. Many of the great thinkers that we associate with Ancient Greece come from this period, including Euclid and Archimedes. It was during this period that women were given the most equality within Greek culture. To give an idea of the thinking at this time, Zeno, founder of the Stoics, wrote in Politeia that in an ideal society, unisex clothing should be worn as a way to obliterate unnecessary distinctions between women and men. Among another group at the time, the Cynics, women and men alike were free to follow their sexual inclinations. This period, not the fall of Athens, marks the end of Ancient Greek culture. These Hellenistic states simply disintegrated and gave little resistance to Roman expansion.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! I look forward to getting this book for my husband. He is working towards another degree and has found himself surrounded by feminist professors and students...All too often he is chastised and given a grade lower than his papers deserve simply because he does not bow down to the idol of feminist thought. I fear for the future of our society and hope more men and women will see the wisdom in traditional male and female roles.

Anonymous said...


Where did you find this book?

The only place I have been able to locate a copy so far is the library of congress (which is not a very practical source for me right now)

fschmidt said...

I got the book through inter-library loan. It is hard to find. I made an optical scan of the book which can be found here:

When I have more time, I will try using OCR to convert this to text.