In the days leading up to Texas federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of abortion drug mifepristone, the Washington Post ran a front-page feature (read: hit piece) on him. It is not difficult to intuit that authors Caroline Kitchener and Ann E. Marimow wrote the article to undermine Kacsmaryk’s credibility by painting him as a religious zealot whose rulings are influenced by his adherence to “biblical scripture” (their bizarre phrase, not mine), rather than a careful, unbiased consideration of American jurisprudence.
It’s unsurprising the dogmatically pro-abortion WaPo would run such a piece. But what is curious is that WaPo ran the article despite having so little ammunition to support their not-so-subtle thesis. Among the evidence weighed against Kacsmaryk includes that he was raised in a pro-life Christian family; he served on the board of the pro-life organization Christian Homes and Family Services; and he “prays often … and is constantly rereading the Bible.” Beware those Bible-reading (excuse me, “biblical scripture”-reading) federal judges!
Besides proving the embarrassing religious ignorance of leftist corporate media (the piece went through at least three rounds of edits, for goodness’ sake), the WaPo feature also demonstrates something else: the pervasiveness of the fruits of the sexual revolution over our culture, especially that of our secular elites.
In that sense, the response of the Washington Post — and, for that matter, all institutions of the secular left — to the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling adds further credence to Mary Eberstadt’s new book, “Adam and Eve After the Pill, Revisited.” For, Eberstadt argues, not only has the sexual revolution been disastrous for American society, politics, and churches, but it has become a simulacrum of a religion, with its own dogmas, creeds, and saints.
The Exploitation Of Women
One of the most arresting substories of Eberstadt’s book is how the sexual revolution — and its celebration of contraceptive sex — resulted in the exact opposite of its promoters’ promises. Instead of reducing abortion, out-of-wedlock births, divorce, and fatherlessness, it accelerated them. Eberstadt cites a 2015 study that found contraception encourages sexual encounters and relationships that would not have happened without it.
“In other words, when couples use contraception, they agree to sex when pregnancy would be a problem,” the study’s author argued. The frequent consequence of that choice, unsurprisingly, has been more abortions.
Contraception, as much as it has “empowered” women to delay or avoid pregnancy, has also enabled men to avoid the responsibilities of fatherhood through what sociologist Mark Regnerus called “Cheap Sex” in his 2017 book. Economist Timothy Reichart in 2010 examined data from the 1960s onward that showed “the contraceptive revolution has resulted in a massive redistribution of wealth and power from women and children to men.”
How? By creating a “prisoner’s dilemma” in which women are encouraged to “enter the sex market and remain there for as long as possible,” even though the ultimate result of this will be less happiness for them, as well as increasing the likelihood of divorce, infidelity, and the desire for abortion.
The sexual revolution’s promotion of promiscuous sex, pornography, and alternative sexual identities was supposed to uplift women, rescuing them from so-called oppressive, patriarchal norms that had imprisoned them in mundane, soul-crushing nuclear families. Yet promiscuous sex and pornography have more often led to the exploitation of women, exemplified by a consumerist mentality that views sex and sexual encounters as products. Indeed, it’s impossible to even imagine the Me Too crisis without the pill.
Perhaps most bizarre, the proliferation of new gender identities has also led to women being censured and shamed for decrying men’s entrance into spheres previously reserved for them: women’s athletics, women’s bathrooms, even, in the case of Pete Buttigieg and his partner Chasten, hospital beds intended for new mothers. Women who speak up, even prominent feminists such as J.K. Rowling and Martina Navratilova, are accused of “transphobia” and suffer professionally.
Devastating Our Society
The sexual revolution catechized women to fear their own fertility and perceive children as a threat to their careers and freedom, more or less putting them at war with their bodies. But it also wreaked havoc on all members of society.
About 40 percent of American children lack a biological father in the home, increasing the likelihood of all manner of negative outcomes for children and costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Because of the sexual revolution, the federal government, via the modern welfare state, has become what Eberstadt calls the “angel investor of family dysfunction.”
The sexual revolution has also increased income inequality in America. Sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman, in their 2014 study “For Richer, for Poorer,” found that the growth in median income of families with children would be 44 percent higher if the United States enjoyed 1980 levels of married parenthood. Moreover, about one-third of the increase in family-income inequality since 1979 can be attributed to the decline in stable, married families.
The fruits of the sexual revolution are profoundly alienating and dislocating. Eberstadt explains:
Abortion, fatherlessness, divorce, single parenthood, childlessness, the imploding nuclear family, the shrinking extended family — all these phenomena have something in common. They are all acts of human subtraction. Every one of them has the effect of reducing the number of people to whom we belong and whom we can call our own.
That subtracting force has also been felt by American churches. A sociological study in 2005 found that mainline denominations that vocally endorsed contraception saw the most dramatic decline in their churches between 1900 and 1975. As families have declined, so have our churches. “The West is secularizing, in part, because so many are no longer marrying, because divorce has become a common fact of life, and because many are failing to have children.”
Identitarianism: The New Religion
This distemper has created what we might call an “identity vacuum”: No longer shaped by their families and churches, individuals look elsewhere for beliefs and groups to give them an identity and meaning — typically the dynamic identities of sex, gender, and race. Identity in our modern culture no longer stems from natural, biological givenness as fathers and mothers or sons and daughters, but instead, by more impermanent categories we choose to inhabit, and typically those that possess the most capital in our social economy of grievance and victimhood.
Eberstadt notes the original language on Black Lives Matter’s website explicitly excluded fathers from its understanding of family structures and that many of the leading “anti-racists” — Robin DiAngelo, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge — are all products of broken families. Much the same can be said for those 2020 protesters in Oregon: Portland, for decades, has been known for its replacement of traditional families with “street families.”
The radical dogmatism of the new groups formed out of the wasteland caused by the sexual revolution can be seen in the decision of the so-called 2017 Women’s March on Washington to disinvite pro-life groups. “This happened because, within this new church of secularism, pro-life women, and men, amount to heretics: despised transgressors of a religious community’s core teaching and norms,” writes Eberstadt.
She cites the hagiography of secular saints that includes Margaret Sanger, Gloria Steinem, and Alfred C. Kinsey. Its proselytizing powers are arresting: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2015 pledged $120 million to limit the fertility of “120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020.”
Seen in this light, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s 2017 comment to Judge Amy Coney Barrett — “the dogma lives loudly within you” — is especially ironic, given that people like Feinstein maintain an unswerving adherence to the dogmas of the sexual revolution. That their devotion to that dogma has become so uncompromising and so unquestioned demonstrates the remarkable effectiveness of that project. Yet, as Eberstadt’s excellent book shows, it is not only against God that we wage war but against nature and our very selves.