On vacation I was able to read Mary Eberstadt’s social and empirical analysis of effects of the sexual revolution entitled, “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution.” (published in January 2013)
As she says “No single event since Eve took the apple has been as consequential for relations between the sexes as the arrival of modern contraception.”
Her thesis is as follows:
First, the sexual revolution has proved a disaster for many men and women; and second, its weight has fallen heaviest on the smallest and weakest shoulders in society—beginning with the fetus and proceeding up through children and adolescents—is perhaps the most vivid example of the denial surrounding the fallout of the sexual revolution. In no other realm of human life do ordinary Americans seem so indifferent to the particular suffering of the smallest and weakest.
As she says, normally the sexual revolution is portrayed for the social and economic good it has produced.
The sexual revolution has been a nearly unmitigated boon for all humanity. Along with its permanent backup plan, abortion, it has liberated women from the slavery of their fertility, thus freeing them for personal and professional opportunities they could not have enjoyed before. It has liberated men, too, from their former chains, many would argue—chiefly from the bondage of having to take responsibility for the women they had sex with and/or for the children that resulted. It has also enriched children, some would posit, by making it easier to limit family size, and hence share the pie of family wealth and attention among fewer claimants.
She traces how it has affected men, women, children and young adults.
For men “the sexual revolution seems more like a slow-acting virus whose damage does not become apparent till much later in life. As Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite, among other researchers, have emphasized, divorced men have higher rates of depression, alcoholism, and other forms of “risk taking.”
For women “the fallout from the revolution appears more immediate and acute. It is women who have abortions and get depressed about them, women who are usually left to raise children alone when a man leaves for someone else, women who typically take the biggest financial hit in divorce, and women who fill the pages of such magazines as Cosmopolitan and Mirabella and chatty websites like Salon with sexual doublespeak.”
She cites Albert Mohler who says in First Things:
I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the Pill. . . . The entire horizon of the sex act changes. I think there can be no question that the Pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation.
My only critique of the book is that she sometimes gravitates towards blaming all the ills of society on the pill.
Pornography, broken homes, children failing out of school, poverty are all a result of rampant sex that the pill allowed. And although I agree with her that the sexual revolution is a large part of the answer, there are other factors at play (which she I am sure would agree with). Pornography would have never boomed without the concurrent rise of the internet. Poverty cannot merely be traced back broken homes.
In other words her thesis seems to be a little too neat when there are other avenues from which to trace these outcomes.
That being said, the wealth of information and Eberstadt’s winsome analysis makes the book worthwhile. Additionally, she masterfully takes the argument of “the opponent” and wraps it around their neck. The very thing that promised freedom to the weakest has further enslaved them.
Rather than being a source of freedom, the sexual revolution has been a disaster to the smallest and the weakest.
She also rightly cautions Christians from bashing those on the other side of this issue:
Christian-bashing bloggers and pundits is not the answer. Do not treat your opponents as they will habitually treat you—as if the merest contact with them requires a giant pair of barbecue tongs. An example of what not to do is the way the mainstream media tend to report on evangelicals, especially, i.e., with all the anthropological frisson of explorers encountering the Stone Age Yonomami of the Brazilian rain forest for the first time. At a minimum, those on the other side ought not follow suit.
The table of contents can be found below.