Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control
"Thus, a good man, though a slave, is free; but a wicked man, though a king, is a slave. For he serves, not one man alone, but, what is worse, as many masters as he has vices." – St. Augustine, City of God Writing at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, St. Augustine both revolutionized and brought to a close antiquity’s idea of freedom. A man was not a slave by nature or by law, as Aristotle claimed. His freedom was a function of his moral state. A man had as many masters as he had vices. This insight would provide the basis for the most sophisticated form of social control known to man.
Fourteen hundred years later, a decadent French aristocrat turned that tradition on its head when he wrote that "the freest of people are they who are most friendly to murder." Like St. Augustine, the Marquis de Sade would agree that freedom was a function of morals. Unlike St. Augustine, Sade proposed a revolution in sexual morals to accompany the political revolution then taking place in France. Libido Dominandi – the term is taken from Book I of Augustine’s City of God – is the definitive history of that sexual revolution, from 1773 to the present.
Unlike the standard version of the sexual revolution, Libido Dominandi shows how sexual liberation was from its inception a form of control. Those who wished to liberate man from the moral order needed to impose social controls as soon as they succeeded because liberated libido led inevitably to anarchy. Aldous Huxley wrote in his preface to the 1946 edition of Brave New World that "as political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase." This book is about the converse of that statement. It explains how the rhetoric of sexual freedom was used to engineer a system of covert political and social control. Over the course of the two-hundred-year span covered by this book, the development of technologies of communication, reproduction, and psychic control – including psychotherapy, behaviorism, advertising, sensitivity training, pornography, and plain old blackmail – allowed the Enlightenment and its heirs to turn Augustine’s insight on its head and create masters out of men’s vices. Libido Dominandi is the story of how that happened.