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Emancipating Sexuality: Breakthroughs into a Bulwark of Tradition

Journal article
Authors Amy C Alexander
R. Inglehart
C. Welzel
Published in Social Indicators Research
Volume 129
Issue 2
Pages 909-935
ISSN 0303-8300
Publication year 2016
Published at Quality of Government Institute (QoG)
Pages 909-935
Language en
Keywords Cultural change, Economic development, Emancipation, Emancipative values, Existential opportunities, Fertility norms, Freedom ladder, Life quality, Moral evolution, Religion, Secular values, Sexual liberation, social-dominance orientation, liberal political-attitudes, immigration, policy, gender, professionals, explanations, psychology, societies, cultures, support, Social Sciences - Other Topics, Sociology
Subject categories Sociology


This article presents evidence for a rising emancipatory spirit, across generations and around the world, in a life domain in which religion hitherto blocked emancipatory gains: sexual freedoms. We propose an explanation of rising emancipative values that integrates several approaches into a single idea-the utility ladder of freedoms. Specifically, we suggest that objectively improving living conditions-from rising life expectancies to broader education-transform the nature of life from a source of threats into a source of opportunities. As life begins to hold more promise for increasing population segments, societies climb the utility ladder of freedoms: practicing and respecting universal freedoms becomes increasingly vital to take advantage of rising life opportunities. This trend has begun to spill over into a life domain in which religious norms have until recently been able to resist emancipatory gains: sexual freedoms. We present (1) crossnational, (2) longitudinal, (3) generational and (4) multilevel evidence on an unprecedentedly broad basis in support of this theory.

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