Guest Column: Lessons From the Soviets about Sexual Morality

The Soviet Union was well known for rejecting so-called “bourgeois” morality in ways that led to rejecting reality. Economically this meant squashing human self-interest in favor of state control.  So, basic modern commodities like cars and plumbing could take years for the average Russian to secure. Marxist-inspired agricultural science rejected “Western” science and led to the deaths of millions as crops were planted in the dead of winter, too close together, and without pesticides in the mistaken belief that they could be “educated” to take on more beneficial traits.   

In the 1920s, Revolutionary Russia rejected “bourgeois” sexual morality by attacking the institution of marriage and the nuclear family. 

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels believed the nuclear family was, like religion, just another means of keeping the working class oppressed. According to the Marxist dialectic version of history, prehistoric humanity lived in a state of free love, and the nuclear family only emerged to protect the property rights of the rich through inheritance, keep workers content with less, and enslave women to the home.   

Engels, who spent a lot of time in Manchester’s red-light district, was more specific than Marx in his condemnations of the family.  

He wrote, “[W]ith every great revolutionary movement the question of ‘free love’ comes to the foreground.” Together, Marx and Engels attacked “bourgeois claptrap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child.” In their view, family was a social construct that stood in the way of revolutionary progress.   

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they put these anti-family theories into practice. In 1918, the Soviets issued decrees “on the abolition of marriage” and “on civil partnership, children and ownership.” Marriage could be declared without the involvement of the state, and divorce could be obtained just as easily. As one Russian journalist summarized, “Divorce was a matter of choice. Abortions were legalized. All of that implied a total liberation of family and sexual relations.”   

Madame Smidovich, a leading Communist propagandist, put it this way: “To clear the family out of the accumulated dust of the ages we had to give it a good shakeup, and we did.”  Almost immediately, however, this experiment began to spiral the nation downward.   

Men across the country divorced their wives and sought new sexual encounters. The number of illegitimate children swelled by hundreds of thousands. Women with children were abandoned, while the more enterprising among them blackmailed multiple men for child support. Despite the State’s decree that fathers must pay alimony to their children regardless of marital status, thousands of children were kicked to the curb because they could not—or would not—be cared for. From there, an ungovernable criminal element developed in Russia’s largest cities. Given Russia’s dismal economic situation, the idea that the state would care for these children proved laughable.   

A Russian writer of that time observed, “It was not an unusual occurrence for a boy of twenty to have had three or four wives, or for a girl of the same age to have had three or four abortions.”  

The status of women devolved as well. As Madame Smidovich described in Pravda, the Communist newspaper: “If a man lusts after a young girl, whether she is a student, a worker, or even a school-age girl, then the girl must obey his lust; otherwise, she will be considered a bourgeois daughter, unworthy to be called a true communist.”    

As the 1920s wore on, however, Russia’s Soviet leaders were forced by reality to change course and desperately attempted to stem the tide of fatherlessness, crime, legal confusion, and economic disaster.  

In many ways, the Russian family never recovered. Even today, Russia’s birth rate continues to plummet. As late as the 1990s, and despite decades of government propaganda encouraging population growth, one study found that in some parts of Russia, there were 770 abortions per 100 births—“by far the highest rate anywhere in the world.”  

In 1920, on the other side of the world, G.K. Chesterton prophetically wrote that “[t]his triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilisations which disregard it.”    

History is full of examples of societies that tamper with God’s design for marriage, sex, and the family. It’s no coincidence that en vogue progressive ideas today, ideas with distinct roots in cultural Marxism, also decry marriage and the family as oppressive institutions that should be reimagined and sexual morality as outdated and even harmful.  

These things are not mere “social constructs,” however. They are laws of reality, like gravity. As Dallas Willard once observed, “We can’t choose to step off the roof and then choose to not hit the ground.” That’s true for individuals and societies alike. 

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Kasey Leander. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to

Copyright 2023 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from with permission.

Share of Adults Who Have “Never Married” Rises in Arkansas

A rising share of adults in Arkansas have never married, according to reports from the federal government.

In June, Pew Research published an analysis showing “a record-high share of 40-year-olds in the U.S. have never been married.” The article notes that,

As of 2021, 25% of 40-year-olds in the United States had never been married. This was a significant increase from 20% in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

This isn’t simply a nationwide trend. Census Bureau data specifically for Arkansas shows a rising share of adults have never married as well.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey found that 17% of men ages 35-44 and 12.6% of women ages 35-44 reported having never married. By 2021, those percentages had increased to 23.8% of men and 18% of women ages 35-44.

Similar increases were seen among other age groups.

Overall, married Arkansans dropped from 51% of the population in 2010 to 48.9% in 2021.

Cohabitation could be one explanation for the rising percentage of adults who have never married, but Pew Research actually found that most 40-year-olds who have never married were not living with a romantic partner. The article notes that nationwide, “In 2022, [only] 22% of never-married adults ages 40 to 44 were cohabiting.”

More and more, adults in America — including in Arkansas — seem to be either delaying marriage or simply forgoing marriage entirely.

Research repeatedly has shown that healthy marriages are good for adults, good for children, and good for society.

Cohabitation creates relationships that are less happy and less healthy. Meanwhile, children with a married mother and father are less likely to live in poverty.

Married couples report more satisfaction across the board than cohabiting couples, and marriage is also broadly connected with better health and wellbeing. 

As social commentator John Stone Street noted last year,

Marriage is a part of the created order. Though some marriages will tragically end for various reasons and others may want marriage but struggle to find it, the Church can provide vital community for all of its members, while still promoting marriage for the God-given good that it is. And when marriages hit rocky ground, resources like Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored conferences, are available for those willing to fight for reconciliation … with incredible stories of success. 

Ultimately, though, a successful marriage requires the same thing as Christianity, a commitment to something bigger than ourselves.

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.