It was 50 years ago this month that the contraceptive pill was launched. It sparked a worldwide revolution which we are still feeling the effects of. It was a major factor in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and it was meant to be a leading feature of so-called sexual liberation.
One can ask however just who has been liberated. Men were certainly the big winners in the sexual revolution, and in the use of the Pill. They could literally love ‘em and leave ‘em, thinking sex was now fully loosened from any concerns about procreation.
But women were the real losers here. They certainly did not find liberation as a result of using the Pill. The Pill of course could never prevent a busted relationship or a broken heart. It did nothing to halt a whole range of sexually transmitted diseases. It did nothing for women’s self-esteem and sense of worth. And it did nothing to generate real love and commitment.
And then there are all the health risks associated with the Pill. Just how many women actually read that small folded piece of paper that came with the Pill? Once unfolded, it turned out to be a very large piece of paper with a huge amount of tiny print totalling thousands of words, warning of all sorts of nasty side-effects and negative consequences.
I am sure most young women on the emotional and physical crest of the wave, about to engage in sexual intercourse, did not tell their male partner to wait for ten minutes while they pulled out these instructions and carefully read through all the many warnings contained therein.
I and others have written elsewhere about the many devastating effects of the sexual revolution, and how we are all the worse for it. The Pill certainly must take a fair amount of responsibility for all this. But I can already hear the critics saying that I have no right to comment on all this – after all, I am only a mere male.
OK, then, let me draw upon two women – out of many – who have also decried the Pill and its horrendous consequences, especially for women. The first is Canberra-based newspaper columnist, Angela Shanahan.
She begins by noting how Big Pharmacy was also a big winner in all this. They have been raking in billions while ordinary men and women have suffered. She lists some of the dangerous side effects of the Pill, and notes how those marketing it want to play this down:
“Consequently, even though the pill has been linked to deep-vein thrombosis and enhanced risk of stroke and thyroid problems, and it is contra-indicated for women with migraines and liver problems and has been linked in many studies to enhanced risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer, we are still told it can have a ‘protective’ effect in some circumstances against some other cancers such as the much rarer ovarian cancer. This is also despite the fact its use is no preventive against sexually transmitted diseases and could worsen the spread of papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer.”
But if it is so dangerous, why do women keep using it? “Why are more women not informing themselves? Women who pride themselves on their independence, a supposed result of the sexual revolution the pill itself initiated, are still swallowing a cocktail of hormones that has as its only purpose the suppression of the most delicately balanced part of our endocrine chemistry.
“The irony is obvious. So is the answer. Because the pill works well as a contraceptive, it has a weird catch 22 effect on women’s choices. Because the pill is effective, women did not gain independence in 1960: just another type of slavery. Women graduated from the slavery of multiple child births to the slavery of obligation to be always sexually available, and never to suffer the newly declared disease of unintentional pregnancy.”
Shanahan also notes how men are the winners here while women are the losers: “Frankly, the pill was the best invention men could have thought of for themselves. Rather than the contraceptive pill giving women independence, it made them solely responsible for contraception and took all the onus off men. Where once it was considered honourable for the male to accept his responsibilities, abortion or lone motherhood rapidly became the only alternatives for unmarried girls with pregnancies. Married women were now caught in the tyranny of the rigidly planned family. Hence the rise in abortions.
“Over the past 50 years, there was another unintended cultural effect of infertility. It was assumed the pill would be used to space children apart, not almost eliminate births as it has in so many parts of Europe. So now we live in a society that can no longer reproduce itself.”
She concludes, “Fifty years ago the pill was marketed like a lovely package of independence tied with the beautiful bow of sexual freedom. But after 50 years many women have found to their detriment that just like a series of empty boxes, one inside the other, there was nothing inside – but an empty box.”
My other female witness is a rather unlikely source of criticism of the Pill. The following telling remarks come from former Hollywood sex goddess, Raquel Welch. She is equally scathing of the Pill and what it has done to a generation of women. She notes that the very moral fabric of society has been savaged by the Pill and the sexual revolution:
“One significant, and enduring, effect of The Pill on female sexual attitudes during the 60’s, was: ‘Now we can have sex anytime we want, without the consequences. Hallelujah, let’s party!’ It remains this way. These days, nobody seems able to ‘keep it in their pants’ or honor a commitment! Raising the question: Is marriage still a viable option? I’m ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that it is the cornerstone of civilization, an essential institution that stabilizes society, provides a sanctuary for children and saves us from anarchy.
“In stark contrast, a lack of sexual inhibitions, or as some call it, ‘sexual freedom,’ has taken the caution and discernment out of choosing a sexual partner, which used to be the equivalent of choosing a life partner. Without a commitment, the trust and loyalty between couples of childbearing age is missing, and obviously leads to incidents of infidelity. No one seems immune.
“As a result of the example set by their elders, by the 1990s teenage sexual promiscuity – or hooking up – with multiple partners had become a common occurrence. Many of my friends who were parents of teenagers sat in stunned silence several years ago when it came to light that oral sex had become a popular practice among adolescent girls in middle schools across the country.”
She concludes with a personal note: “The 13-year-old daughter of one such friend freely admitted to performing fellatio on several boys at school on a regular basis. ‘Aw come on, Mom. It’s no big deal. Everyone is doing it,’ she said. Apparently, since it’s not the act of intercourse, kids don’t count it as sex. Can any sane person fail to make a judgment call about that?
“Seriously, folks, if an aging sex symbol like me starts waving the red flag of caution over how low moral standards have plummeted, you know it’s gotta be pretty bad. In fact, it’s precisely because of the sexy image I’ve had that it’s important for me to speak up and say: Come on girls! Time to pull up our socks! We’re capable of so much better.”
It is hoped that many more women will speak out on how the Pill in particular and the sexual revolution in general have done more harm for women than perhaps anything else in modern history. Thus we cannot celebrate what occurred 50 years ago. We must instead mourn.