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A Review of Adam and Eve after the Pill. By Mary Eberstadt.

May 30, 2012

Ignatius, 2012.

It has been said that “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 Eberstadt looks at the devastating effects of the Sexual Revolution in general and the Pill in particular. “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 lefties, and the secularists are all living 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 looking to be far from the case. They have actually gotten a pretty lousy deal here, which Eberstadt documents 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 stats on this – they make for depressing reading indeed, 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.”

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 recreative 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, there are huge social consequences of it. And the humongous proportion of adolescents getting addicted to the stuff is a major social problem. These young people are more likely themselves to have sex, to have it earlier, and to engage in it more frequently.

And related to all this is the growing problem of “pedophilia chic”. Eberstadt documents just how mainstream pedophilia 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 major hunks of the fallout from the Sexual Revolution, such as the sexual shenanigans which have inundated our campuses, and the major 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. It looked carefully at the issue of birth control and the possible ramifications of it. Eberstadt argues that it was a prophetic document, 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.”

Yep, that is pretty much what we now find. And she 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 Protestant evangelical stalwart Albert Mohler here: “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.”

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 with this re-evaluation.

[1038 words]

12 Responses to A Review of Adam and Eve after the Pill. By Mary Eberstadt.

  • Thanks Bill. It sounds like a must read. I wonder if she goes into Kinsey and Gramsci and their devastating effect on the sexual mores of this generation. The ‘going soft on pedophilia’ is particularly concerning. Once they start justifying and legalizing pedophilia, imagine who and what will come out of the woodwork! And what a Pandora’s box will open (again) unleashing the most enraged and lawless generation yet, not to mention the possibility of a huge burgeoning of the numbers of homosexuals in our society if you take into consideration the high percentage of homosexuals who are victims of sexual molestation.
    Dee Graf

  • Thanks Dee

    It is a brief volume so she does not mention those two, but she would fully agree with you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Add to that the desensitising effect of porn. The implication of that is they are likely to look for ever more perverse stuff to get their kicks.

    I’m not sure I agree with the bit about the pill giving licence to sexual immorality: It just made it easier to make bad choices.

    John Bennett

  • John, the logic of that is that the Pill and widespread use of contraception in general, including abortion, has led to a disconnection of sexual intercourse from its natural and logical consequence – pregnancy and babies.

    That’s the first level of immorality – attempting to do something whilst avoiding the consequences. I think that’s probably what you mean by “it made it easier to make bad choices”.

    The second level is that the entire way of thinking of the West went away from any sense of responsibility for a powerful life force (sexuality) to a focus on recreational sex, so that restraints of morality were deliberately smashed in the selfish pursuit of sex as entertainment.

    I think that’s what the book means by the Pill (the most convenient form of contraception) giving licence to immorality.

    John Angelico

  • John A., I think you are right, the impact of the pill may not have been what it was in the west, had the west not already had 100 years of openly accepted and “scientifically supported” Darwinism in its daily spiritual diet. It seems that the catholic church had more wisdom in this area. Has anyone ever done a study comparing the rate of extramarital sexual activity, abortion etc among catholics compared to protestants?
    I wonder is there any area left in our world where we as a society can now say, “well, we have had the experiments in the areas of sexual morality, economic management- socialism-communism and we have finally worked out after millions and millions of people died that they didn’t deliver what they promised”. So, is there anything left where it can be shown be evidence that if we obey God, we can show good results?
    Sorry, this is a very clumsy question, but I have always wanted to find a way and a place where serious Christians can showcase the blessing of doing things God’s way on a scale where the results can actually be measured and seen by a watching world.
    Can’t help being a dreamer, not sure that I want to either, age hasn’t knocked it out of me yet, maybe there is still hope of it being of more substance than just my own imagination.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • And as if on cue:

    “Diagnoses of increasingly antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea infections rise by ‘unprecedented’ 25 per cent”

    www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/diagnoses-of-increasingly-antibiotic-resistant-gonorrhoea-infections-rise-by-unprecedented-25-per-cent-7804780.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ursula, I think that many of the sixty generation Catholics rejected the Papal teaching on contraception but also many remained faithful to the teachings of the Church. However, I can say that the World Youth Day Generation are happy to take the pledge and refrain from sex until they marry which they believe should always be monogamous.
    Madge Fahy

  • I agree with the statement that the pill has given licence to sexual immorality. But does that mean that the pill or any other method of contraception should not be used within a marriage? My wife does not like using the pill for health reasons but we’ve never been against other forms of contraception. I’m interested in other people’s views on this.

    Luke Belik

  • Ursula, there are sadly many Catholics who don’t agree with the Church’s teachings on contraception. There are a lot of people who call themselves ‘catholic’ but are also unaware of the Catholic Church’s position and why.

    Dr. Jay over at the catholic blog Philothea on Phire has quite a few posts about this topic, as it’s one that is fundamental to our civilisation. This one on the link between SSM and contraception is interesting.

    It’s a battle that we are all fighting, and considering some of the news reports I’ve been reading lately, it’s going to get bloodier.

    May God have mercy on our souls.

    Debra Franklin

  • Wisdom is wisdom. So if Catholics are ignoring Church teaching on contraception etc then they will be participating in this degradation as much as anyone else. If Catholics or others are agreeing with Church teaching on contraception and doing their best to live it out, we can expect more positive outcomes.

    The pill or any other artificial means of contraception is unwise, even in marriage. It’s just not good at all.

    The question to ask is why has it only been the Catholic Church (among Christian groups and churches at least) which has held out against the wickedness of contraception?

    I’m not sure if other religions prohibit contraception, but it seems to me that Christians at least had better start looking more seriously at the Catholic Church.

    Louise Le Mottee

  • Bill, can you tell me if Mary’s book deals with all the following adverse effects of feminism’s contraceptive mentality ?
    – The escalation of divorce, the trivialisation of marriage.
    – The escalation of de facto marriages.
    – The loss of parental control/discipline in families.
    – The disappearance of neighbourhoods.
    – Unemployment
    – The demise and/or politicisation of voluntary charitable organisations.
    – The rise of single parenthood.
    – The ubiquity of abortion.
    – Homosexualism.
    – The fiscal difficulties of old age pensions and care for the elderly.
    – The sexual slavery of feminist women.
    – The lack of financial benefits from all of this.
    – The lack of religious vocations.

    Leo Leitch, NZ

  • Thanks Leo

    Yes, basically.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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