A Brief Review of Mary Eberstadt’s Adam and Eve After the Pill
by: Ryan Jepson
One way we can move towards a more comprehensive, foundational conservatism is to discuss families. Families are important for this conservatism for a few reasons—that we are not isolated individuals and are, instead, meant for self-giving (spousal and familial), that reproduction is a natural (and good!) thing to which humans are called, and that intact mother-father families are undeniably better for children.
Discussing the ills of contraception is taboo. An important plank of Barack Obama’s reelection campaign was that even religious institutions ought to be forced provide free contraception against their consciences. For most Americans, most conservatives, and even most Catholics, it is a given that the Pill is an important, beneficial, and intractable part of modern society.
What if, however, artificial contraception were destroying families? So contends Mary Eberstadt, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Her 2012 book Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution examines the decades of social science in the wake of the widespread adoption of artificial contraception. Eberstadt argues that the sexual revolution, made possible by artificial contraception in the form of the pill, has had deleterious effects on every segment of society—women especially.
Paradoxically, the Pill that was supposed to liberate women from the natural consequences of sex—the horrific burden of children—has made them less happy, according to social science research cited by Eberstadt. The Pill and its corresponding revolution have also facilitated the proliferation of pornography, which is destroying both men and families.
Closer to home, Eberstadt also explores the connections between binge drinking and sexual aggression, especially as it negatively affects women. The administration and students at UNC frequently remind us of the harrowing statistics that many college women will be sexually assaulted. We see the “Only Yes Means Yes” signs and the statistics plastered all over the buses. What if sexual aggression were a campus epidemic because artificial contraception has enabled more widespread promiscuity than ever before? Contraception is not some sort of Bandaid to help people have sex and avoid babies but, perhaps, a mass enabler of sexual aggression. Maybe.
At the book’s end, Eberstadt ties all the social science together: “The Pill, which was supposed to erase all consequences of sex once and for all, turned out to have huge consequences of its own.” Conservatives—Catholics, Protestants, and atheists alike—need to ask the tough question: Are we willing to live with the widespread social consequences of contraception? It’s a discussion worth having.