A Morality Lesson from The Beatles


Musical careers can be over in an instant. To find proof of this one need look no further than the Wikipedia entry for winners of the Grammy award for best new artist. There are many one-hit wonders on the list (Starland Vocal Band anyone?) In this context it is amazing that a single band placed three albums on the list of top 150 albums sold in 2017. Every more remarkable is that each of the albums was released in the 1960’s. The band was the Beatles, and there music is still popular over fifty years after they invaded America.

While their music has endured some of their lyrics now seem terribly out of date. Consider these lyrics, written in 1963-

Oh yeah I tell you somethin'

I think you'll understand

When I say that somethin'

I want to hold your hand

It may come as a surprise to the current generation but there was a time when holding someone’s hand was a big deal. When I was a teenager it was universally recognized that hand holders were a couple, paired up and off the market. As a result reaching out and holding a girl’s hand was a risky step. Rejection was a possibility. You didn’t hold hands with just anyone, trying it early on a first date was a bold move. Hence the song lyric.

We live in a different time now. Forget holding hands, kissing goodnight or other innocent expressions of affection and interest. Gradual progression in intimacy is a thing of the past. Single people today are jumping the line and skipping steps. People today are engaging in the highest form of physical intimacy with complete strangers.

A recent survey of sexual behavior in America reveals just how far we have fallen. A study published in "Review of General Psychology" discovered that college aged individuals reported twice as many hookups (casual sexual encounters) than they did first dates. According to the book Cheap Sex, when asked at what time in their relationship sexual intimacy began the most common answer was “before we started dating.” What a disheartening revelation this is. My generation was more cautious about hand holding than the current generation is about having sex!

I have seen this attitude expressed by patients I have seen in the office. Not too long ago I met a young woman who reported 15 sexual partners in the previous year. A man in his 40’s shared with me that he had no interest in marriage. He could have sex almost anytime he wanted, thanks to apps like tinder and women who were willing to have sex at the drop of a hat. With sex so easy and cheap he reasoned, there was no need for commitment.

Casual attitudes about sexual intimacy pose a significant threat to marriages. When sex can be had free from commitment, when it can be had with little emotional investment, one of the most powerful motivations for commitment is lost. When intimate relations can be had with strangers there is less interest in intimate relationships. Marriage becomes less essential, less valuable and less important.

Society has advanced in many ways, but there is no question that when it comes to attitudes about sex things have gotten worse. 

I hold out little hope for change. Reversing the trend of increasingly casual sex will require a restoration of old values and a willingness to challenge the attitudes of the world in which we live. Parents will need to teach their children that intimacy is special, that monogamy is desirable and that casual sex is wrong. Moral people need to model for others a commitment to intimacy that places a priority of saving oneself for marriage, of maintaining the sacredness of the marriage bed and that denounces those attitudes and behaviors that threaten it.

The future of marriage depends on it.

- Bart