The Pill Perplex: ‘Liberation’ and its consequences


Over at The Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last reviews Mary Eberstadt’s new book, Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution.

‘Contraceptive sex,” writes Mary Eberstadt, is “the fundamental social fact of our time.”

Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Ebersta

Eberstadt argues that the invention of the pill and near-mastery of contraception in the West during the 1960s caused a cascade of epochal consequences. Just to tally a few of the big-ticket items: It uncoupled sex from reproduction, caused people to have sex earlier and marry later, increased divorce, cohabitation, and illegitimacy, revolutionized the economic role of women, imploded the fertility rate, and set the modern welfare state on the course to insolvency. The sexual revolution unleashed by contraceptive sex, says Eberstadt, rivals the Communist revolution in terms of its influence on the world of the 20th century.

She’s almost certainly right. And the comparison of the two revolutions stems not just from the magnitude of their consequences but also from the intellectual reactions to both. Most Western elites spent the Cold War denying the problems of the Communist state, despite all of the horrible evidence. They have taken much the same stance regarding the consequences of the sexual revolution. Which, on balance, have been quite negative.

I have read Eberstadt’s book and am ambivalent about it. On the one hand, it’s a powerful indictment of the sexual libertinism that contraception made possible by delinking marriage, sex, and childbearing. On the other hand, it’s a specifically Catholic indictment (published by a conservative Catholic press), and I don’t have moral objections to married couples using contraceptive. (Plus, some contraceptives have legitimate medical uses beyond contraception.)

So what would a Protestant indictment of the sexual libertinism that contraception made possible look like?

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One thought on “The Pill Perplex: ‘Liberation’ and its consequences

  1. Malcolm Gladwell has an fascinating essay on John Rock, the inventor of the pill, who hoped that the Catholic Church would hail his invention as a natural and acceptable form of birth control. Although he later abandoned his faith after the Pope’s rejection of the pill, it’s interesting that the pill’s inventor was a man of faith who thought it compatible with Christianity.

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