BOOK REVIEW News Weekly
The impact of the sexual revolution
, September 15, 2012
ADAM AND EVE AFTER THE PILL:
Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution
by Mary Eberstadt
(San Francisco: Ignatius Press)
Hardcover: 175 pages
Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg
It has been said: “To live without love is a tragedy; to live without sex is inconvenient.” But in a sex obsessed culture which is also spiritually numb — if not dead — then the words of Malcolm Muggeridge ring even more true: “Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.”
In 1960 the contraceptive pill burst on the scene, and a few short years later the West experienced what is known as the sexual revolution. This revolution — like all significant revolutions — changed everything, and we are still reeling from its impact.
This book is about that impact. In meaty chapters, Mary Eberstadt looks at the devastating effects of the sexual revolution in general and the Pill in particular. She says: “First, and contrary to conventional depiction, 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 — even as it has given extra strength to those already strongest and most predatory.”
Her first chapter deals with the “will to disbelieve”. Despite the fact that we now have mounds of research showing the damaging effects of the sexual revolution, the elites, the left and the secularists are all in denial. They simply refuse to believe anything is amiss in their sexual and social utopia. Their Panglossian take on things means they must deny reality and live in delusion.
She offers an eerie and worrying parallel to the anti-anti-communism during the Cold War. Even though we had masses of evidence of communist tyranny, bloodshed, and barbarism, plenty of Western intellectuals refused to believe it.
So too our intellectualoids are living in denial about the high costs of the sexual revolution, which are amply documented in this volume.
Contrary to the claims of the sexual libertarians, the “empirical record today on sex documents the overall benefits of marriage and monogamy, beginning with the married couples themselves”.
This data has been accumulating for decades now, and Eberstadt offers a nice summary of this mass of evidence.
Women and children have especially borne the heaviest brunt of the sexual revolution. They have endured the most damage and taken the most blows. Women, for example, were supposed to be a major beneficiary of this revolution, but that is far from the case. Eberstadt documents their plight with plenty of social science and anecdotal evidence.
She concentrates on what women themselves are saying, including the feminists. Their voices are almost one in bemoaning their current fate, all of which has been brought about by accepting the rhetoric and empty promises of the sexual revolution.
The pornography plague is of course one major blight of this revolution. Sadly, we have now become quite familiar with all the statistics on this — they make for depressing reading. But we must not forget what is really happening here.
Porn has simply killed sex — it has devalued it, debased it, demeaned it and dehumanised it. And it has resulted in far too many men living lives of never-ending adolescence. The porn tsunami has led to “the perpetual and often successful hunt for sexual novelty [which] ultimately works to the detriment of longer-term romance”.
This also means many men are losing their protective instincts — they have nothing left to protect. The replacement of procreative sex with recreational sex has led to both a marriage dearth and a birth dearth.
Thus we have the paradox “of declining male happiness in an age glutted by sexual imagery”. And this also means many men are losing their protective instincts — they have nothing left to protect. The replacement of procreative sex with recreational sex has led to both a marriage dearth and a birth dearth.
She draws parallels with the obesity epidemic: each is a “social problem increasing over time, with especially worrisome results among its youngest consumers, and one whose harms are only beginning to be studied with the seriousness they clearly deserve”.
While the consumption of porn may be private, it has huge social consequences. And the proportion of adolescents getting addicted to the stuff is a major social problem in itself. These young people are more likely themselves to have sex, to have it earlier and to engage in it more frequently.
Related to all this is the growing problem of “paedophilia chic”. Eberstadt documents just how mainstream paedophilia is becoming. Our “sexperts,” our eggheads and our elites are all going soft on this, and that means huge trouble. The sexual abuse of the young, of course, leaves real and lasting scars.
She looks at other fallout from the sexual revolution, such as the sexual shenanigans which have inundated our campuses, and the collapse of marriage and family. And all these negative outcomes are of course simply getting worse.
Her last chapter looks at contraception and the 1968 Papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. The document looked carefully at the issue of birth control and the possible ramifications of it. Eberstadt argues that it was a prophetic statement, and everything it warned about has occurred big time.
Its specific predictions about what the world would look like with widespread use of artificial contraception seem spot on: “The encyclical warned of four resulting trends: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.”
Yes, indeed. That is pretty much what we now find. And Eberstadt reminds us that all churches and all denominations opposed contraception for the history of the church, until the Anglican Lambeth Conference in 1930. There the door was opened, and soon after the floodgates opened, at least in Protestant denominations.
She cites the well-known US Protestant evangelical author and commentator, Dr Albert Mohler, who said: “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 licence to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation.”
The sexual revolution has been enormously costly. We need a rethink on it before it does any more damage. And this book is a very good place to begin.
Bill Muehlenberg, a Protestant commentator on ethics, philosophy and contemporary issues, wrote the foreword to the Australian edition of Sam and Bethany Torode’s 2002 book, Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com