Brian Peachey

Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution
by Mary Eberstadt
(Ignatius Press, 2012, 175pp, hardback, $39.90, ISBN: 978-1-58617-627-3. Available from Freedom Publishing)

This is a must-read-book for parents, teachers, priests, counsellors and all those concerned with the damage done to modern society.

Mary Eberstadt is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. She is also a consulting editor to Policy Review and a contributing writer to First Things.

A clue to the book's intriguing title is contained in the opening lines of the Introduction. The author names several well-known people, a series of popes, some of the world's leading scientists and other unlikely allies who all agree that 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 that the sexual revolution, which took off in the 1960s following the invention of the contraceptive "Pill", has done irreparable damage to families, both men and women, and the foundations of modern society.

By rendering fertile women infertile with nearly 100 percent accuracy the pill and related devices have transformed the lives and families of the great majority of people born after the invention.

Mary Eberstadt says that her aim in the book is to understand in a new way certain of the human fallout of our post-pill world – to shed light on what the Harvard sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin in The American Sex Revolution has called a revolution "more far-reaching than those of almost all other revolutions ...".

This remarkably insightful book commences with the first of eight chapters, "The Intellectual Backdrop: The Will to Disbelieve". This essay makes a comparison between what she calls the "inexplicable act of intellectual abdication" by otherwise reasonable, educated people in possession of damning empirical evidence of the brutality of communism during the Cold War and "the powerful will to disbelieve in the harmful effects" of the world-changing social and moral force of the sexual revolution that we see today.

Then follows four must-be-read chapters: "What Is the Sexual Revolution Doing to Women?", "What Is the Sexual Revolution Doing to Men?", "What Is the Sexual Revolution Doing to Children?" and "What Is the Sexual Revolution Doing to Young Adults?"

Chapters 6 and 7, "The Transvaluation of Values", deals with "New Sex and Pornography", but it is the lengthy Chapter 8, "The vindication of Humanae Vitae", which is the jewel in the crown of a fine work.

Mary Eberstadt identifies the specific predictions of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae about what the world would look like if artificial contraception became widespread.

Pope Paul 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.

In the years since Humanae Vitae's appearance, numerous distinguished Catholic thinkers have argued, using a variety of evidence, that each of these predictions has been borne out by the social facts, for example, Msgr George A. Kelly's 1978 Bitter Pill the Catholic Community Swallowed and the many contributions of Janet E. Smith, including Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later.

The 44 years since Humanae Vitae appeared have also vindicated its fear that governments would use the new contraceptive technology coercively. The outstanding example, of course, is the Chinese government's long-running "one-child policy," replete with forced abortions.

Lesser-known examples include the Indian government's foray into coercive use of contraception in the "emergency" of 1976 and 1977, and the Indonesian government's practice in the 1970s and 1980s of the bullying implantation of IUDs and Norplant.

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