A Dead Culture in Three Generations.

Ann Carriage
3 min readNov 11, 2021


A wide-ranging study conducted eighty three years ago defines a dead society and what it looks like. And the bad news? By its standards we are it.

The study concluded that sexual morality or the lack of it was not only central; it was a matter of life or death for a culture.

In the study sexual morality went hand in hand with rational thinking and determined how successful a society was in the arts, sciences and other intellectual pursuits; indeed it was the mark of what was known as a flourishing society.

But why? The most likely reason was that all that pent-up sexual energy was siphoned into other areas.

J D Unwin’s 1936 study Sex and Culture was the most in depth of its kind and spanned some 600 pages.

As an Oxford anthropologist he examined the data from 86 societies to compare the relationship between sexual freedoms and societal thriving.

He found that cultures that embraced strict chastity and absolutist values were the best flourishing; and only 3 out of a total of 86 managed to reach this standard.

Under the category pre-nuptial he listed 3 groups;

1) Complete sexual freedom

2) Irregular or occasional periods of abstinence

3) Strict chastity

Under the category post nuptial he listed 4 groups;

1) Modified monogamy one spouse at a time

2) Modified polygamy where men have more than 1 wife who’s free to leave

3) Absolute Monogamy one spouse for life

4) Absolute Polygamy where men can have more than one wife but wife is bound to husband for life

His final summing up; sexual constraints either of a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial nature led to increased flourishing while increased sexual freedom led to the collapse of a culture in as little as three generations later.

He defined a generation as 33 years.

If there is a change in sexual constraint, either increased or decreased, the full effects only come to fruition by the 3rd generation that followed on.

So the generation that does away with sexual restraints gets to have their cake and eat it; and notices no change to the culture.

Obviously the next generation sees changes as it gets worse the further down the line it goes.

Here are some other changes the researcher noted; deism, a rational belief in God, also disappeared in a defunct society following on the heels of rationalism; while cultural and moral relativism ruled.

Wants and needs pre-dominated; along with the will to power.

We are at an advantage here; we have the hindsight of the ‘60’s sexual revolution to compare this research against; which Unwin didn’t.

Unwin conceded that a dead culture either collapsed on itself at the third generation; or was conquered from the outside by a much stronger one.

It has been 58 years and Unwin’s expiry date for a defunct culture falls short by a generation; considering how the decline has accelerated it looks like his timeframe should be revised down to two generations; even allowing for the shaving of the second generation by eight years?

Certainly the culture of death seems an appropriate a tag as any.



Ann Carriage

Political animal, interested in the story behind the story. A concepts driven individual.