Friday, December 11, 2009

Your Great Grandmother wasn't a Ho.

Following up on the previous post and its implication that the First World War was the time when the rot set in with regard to Western Civilisation, the following data from the research of Mr Lewis T Terman seems appropriate.

Sex research existed before Kinsey and while limited in scope, seemed to be more objective and of higher quality than nearly all of it that followed it. One of the few researchers in the field at that time, Lewis P Terman, published a book in 1938, The Psychological Factors in Marital Happiness. This was a wide ranging study looking at what made marriages happy and it involved 792 couples. It is of interest because it was one of the first studies to ask about premarital sex. He found the following rates of premarital sex amongst women in the following cohorts.

Before 1890: 13.6%
1890-1899: 23.6% (This is the generation that reached young adulthood about WW1)
1900-1910: 48%
Post 1910: 66%

Now admittedly most of the women who did have premarital sex did so with their future fiancee, and sleeping around did not really gain societal traction till the 50's, but what really stands out is the change post WW1. Then as in now, it was the lower classes that lost their virginity first, whilst the better educated and higher classes kept chaste till later. Still the big changes seemed to have happened about the time of the First World War. It really was a different world back then.

12 comments:

Will S. said...

Still, that is quite the change over a twenty-year period, from 13.6 to 48%; more than threefold what it was before. Given that the change to the post-1910 part of Terman's survey was less dramatic, can we still surmise that WWI played a great part? Or may there be other cumulative effects from other sources, already at work prior to the War? I have no idea what they might be, though. While it was a period of a high degree of technological advancement, I'm not sure what impact that had, if any.

Neo-Victorianist said...

I never been sure that any of these statistics have much accuracy. But the moral decline is very real.

Venereal diseases now the main cause of infertility

Will S. said...

Certainly.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Neo-Victorianist.

To a certain degree you are right. Significant sexual studies simply weren't done till till the early part of the 20th Century. And you're right, most of the studies published are rubbish. Terman's studies seemed to be relatively unbiased, (he was also involved in the development of early IQ testing) and he was very critical of Kinsey's figures and methodology. It should be noted however that Terman's studies were limited to whites, so how applicable this is to other communities is unclear.

@Will S.

Personally I think that there were many factors which were responsible for the change. However it seems to be a phenomena driven from the bottom of society upwards. The inevitable "prole drift". Because even in Terman's time premarital sex was more a feature of the lower classes.

The big factors that I see as pushing the revolution were:

1)Spreading Literacy. In itself a good thing but it made people susceptible to,

2)The Yellow press and gutter journalism which profoundly influenced the unthinking classes.

3)Urbanisation, with its concomitant social anonymity. Small villages and communities are policed by social opprobrium.

4)The secondary status of women in the early 20'th Century. From some of the accounts that I have read, many women would work and have to give their money to their family, their money was not considered their own. If they wanted to go out it would usually be on the basis of the generosity of a man. It didn't take too long to realise that the "nicer" a woman was to the man the more she could expect from him.

5)The proleterisation of the middle class.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Man, a lot seems to center around WW1.

chrisj said...

Can we assume that "the rot" you describe is some measure of western morality? Does this morality index in a society roughly follow a sine curve or some other simple mathematical function?

For example, the Georgian Period that preceded the Victorian period has been described as having low morality (in great contrast to the victorian).

I say this because a lot of discussion about the downfall of western civ arises because people see the rot getting worse. Maybe the sample period being used is too small and doesn't show the longer period trend. The long term could see an actual reversion to another era of Victorian style morals.

The Social Pathologist said...

Can we assume that "the rot" you describe is some measure of western morality?

Yep.

The long term could see an actual reversion to another era of Victorian style morals.

I personally see a reversion to something a little less strict than Victorian Morals. But I see it as coming after a time of great social upheaval and distress.

Aldonza said...

I happily point out that I was a virgin longer than my mother (who married at 18) and my much older sister (who dropped out of high school to marry at 17). When asked if she'd have rather I just had sex or gotten married at 19, my mother agreed that just having sex was probably the right answer as I was in college at the time.

My dad, on the other hand, insists that pre-marital sex was a lot more prevalent than my mother might've believed. "The first baby comes anytime after the marriage, they all take 9 months after that."

It can be argued that higher-class men slept with lower-class women before marriage, keeping the "price" of higher-class virtue relatively high. These women had a lot more to lose in strict economic terms for their lax sexuality. They also had very limited alternative options.

Fascinating stuff though. So many variables. Personal morality being only one of them.

Anonymous said...

Good observation, there is much to be said about the Great War period.

The attack on the Christian West has certainly been around a lot longer than I realized. Just look at Dada art and by comparison the 60s looks like a rehashing of an old theme.

Anonymous said...
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Neo-Victorianist said...

Part of solution is to encourage earlier marriage. The Amish in the past married close to age thirty; in recent years the average age has dropped and they now marry in their late teens and early twenties. The whole "college cult" is another problem with no easy solution.

Has College become a Moloch Cult...

The Social Pathologist said...

Neo-Victorianist.

Early marriage by immature people will lead to early divorce.

The problem is the culture. It shouldn't be pushed back but sideways towards the right direction. Kids need to be sexually continent. Promiscuity should attract social opprobrium from both sexes.

High standards should be expected and the only long term way to enforce them is through reward.