Author sees sexual revolution at root of women’s discontent

Author sees sexual revolution at root of women’s discontent

Author Mary Eberstadt.
Author Mary Eberstadt.

.- Modern women are less happy because of fundamental problems caused by the culture’s casual attitude toward sex, according to author Mary Eberstadt.

The sexual revolution “has changed the world that we live in,” said Eberstadt, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a consulting editor to the journal, “Policy Review.”

Eberstadt told CNA in an April 10 interview that America is only just beginning to realize the profound and fundamental effects of the sexual revolution, which she believes did not actually make women happy but “left many of them worse off than they were before.”

“(T)here’s a lot of evidence from both popular culture and social science” indicating that women are less happy than they used to be, she said.

Among the complaints of the modern woman are a heavy workload and difficulty finding a committed man. 

These problems were caused, at least in part, by the sexual revolution, which “put a lot more people in the sexual marketplace,” leading to increased competition and more “pressure on human relationships,” Eberstadt said.

She added that widespread birth control led to greater sexual experimentation and dissatisfaction, as people found themselves constantly looking for more and more sexual pleasure, separated from the reproductive nature of sex.

In her new book, “Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution,” Eberstadt explores how a culture of contraception has led to widespread discontent.

Contraception has taken center stage in the national political debate in recent months, after the Obama administration announced a new federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their conscience.

Eberstadt said that the controversy surrounding the mandate hinges on a question of religious freedom, but also reflects the ongoing fallout of the sexual revolution, which she described as a “seismic event” underlying the entire dispute.

Seeing the broader context of the debate over the mandate is key to correctly understanding its implications, she said.  

The sexual revolution is affecting the whole world “in all kinds of ways that nobody foresaw when all of this got started,” Eberstadt explained, offering the example of the European economic crisis that was caused by a shortage of children being born.

Eberstadt said that she was inspired to write her latest book when she read Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” for the first time.

She described his writing as “astonishing” and “prophetic.”

The Pope’s encyclical predicted that the sexual revolution would lead to trouble between the sexes, difficulty committing in relationships, and government use of birth control against its own people, all of which have come true in recent decades.

“I don’t think there’s a document that has been mocked and reviled more by the modern world,” Eberstadt said, adding that the encyclical’s insightful analysis of human nature and accurate predictions about future also make it an “intellectual cornerstone of modern times.”

“It’s a great paradox,” she noted.

The warnings presented by Pope Paul VI are important not only for Catholics, but for those of all faiths, as well as nonbelievers, explained Eberstadt.

Women, like men, “tend to absorb the messages of their time,” the author said, noting that the culture tells women that they are free, and they see that they have more economic earning power when they are not having children.

But they may not stop to wonder whether greater economic potential is really the source of human happiness, she said. 

With her new book, Eberstadt is hoping to reach people who have not given much thought to the sexual revolution or considered the facts.

She explained that she uses “perfectly secular evidence,” drawn from both social science and popular culture to convey information to a world that desperately needs it.

“Secular evidence proves what ‘Humanae Vitae’ was saying all along,” she said. “The experiment of the sexual revolution has run amuck.”