The only mechanism by which crude sexual activity can be reduced is sublimation, which converts libido into creative activity. The periods in which sublimation of libido seems to occur most readily are those in which there is a satisfactory balance between father and mother Projections: hence even the most orthodox would be justified in regarding them as more moral than fully patrist periods, not less so. In contrast, extremely repressive standards tend to make sex into an obsession. The supposedly greater morality of patrist periods is an illusion created by turning a blind eye to the wealth of perversion and neurosis which distinguished them.
In thus indicting patrism, it is perhaps as well to stress that matrism also has defects, though not, I think, as serious ones. Since matrists turn their aggression inward, they harm only themselves. Socially, matrist societies seem to lack the driving energy and discipline which make for discovery and achievement: they tend to a happy-go-lucky philosophy of enjoying the present. Like the Trobrianders, they may be happy in the sun, but they are unlikely to excel in research. The alternative to patrism, therefore, is not matrism, but a judicious balance between the two extremes.
But the problem is not simply one of maintaining a balance between too much repression and too little: it is much more a problem of how, with whom and in what spirit. If we believe (as many people now do, including some modern religious philosophers, such as Martin Buber) that the social task of man is to create sincere and rewarding personal relationships between individuals, then it would seen} to follow that sexual relations are good in proportion as they support and contribute to such relationships. By this standard we must regard a marriage which has deteriorated to the point where the two partners hate each other as a bad thing, and a fruitful relationship, involving sexual relations, as a good thing, irrespective of whether it has been blessed by marriage or not. This is not to say that we should abolish the institution of marriage: quite to the contrary, there are overwhelming arguments for encouraging a public declaration of intention to attempt this difficult but worthwhile venture, and for protecting both partners by putting it on a legal footing. But it does imply that we should cease to regard marriage as an indissoluble ceremony, magically sanctioning and decontaminating sexual congress; and that dissolution of the marriage should be permitted whenever the relationship has deteriorated beyond repair. To say that sexual congress between persons who are married to each other is “moral” and between all other persons is “immoral” — regardless of all other circumstances — is delightfully simple. Unfortunately, life is not simple, and it is a sign of immaturity to oversimplify it; the time has come to attempt a more adult standard. Christian morality was placed by the Church on a quantitative basis: the less sex the better. The task of today is not, as some appear to think, to substitute a policy of “the more sex the better” but to change over from a quantitative standard to a qualitative one.
At the same time, the problem is something much vaster than that of finding convenient social forms for the satisfaction of a natural appetite, and it would be an error to imagine that sexual matters could be ordered with no more difficulty than culinary ones. Eros is a tremendous positive force, deriving from the deepest layers of the unconscious, and the problem, in the last analysis, is how to come to terms with it. Bottle it up, and there will be a catastrophic explosion. Free it, and it will dissipate itself uselessly or harmfully. The task is to transmute it to a constructive form, for only when it is transmuted into forms of social and artistic value can civilization survive. But even this metaphor breaks down, for the force is part of ourselves, and the test of success is not simply the creative works it produces, but also the satisfaction we derive in producing them. The problem of sexual control is the problem of what we do with our creative powers. The society which provides adequate outlets will have few sexual problems.