Five Reasons the sexual revolution has been a disaster

elephant in the sacristy

Hegel famously wrote that the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, meaning that history’s unfolding is most plainly seen in retrospect.

With all due respect to Herr Doktor, some moments are so transparently situated at a cultural crossroad that they illuminate history even in real time.

Improbably enough, the #MeToo movement seems to be one.

As anyone following events can see, the ongoing sex scandals that gave rise to #MeToo are more than just placeholders in the news cycle.

They reveal a shift in the cultural plates of the last half-century and demonstrate the many ways in which that shift has changed American families, workplaces, romances (and lack thereof), politics, and culture.

Unlike our forerunners in 1968, those of us living today have access to something they didn’t: 50 years of sociological, psychological, medical, and other evidence about the sexual revolution and its fallout.

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, the time has come to examine some of that evidence.

Such an examination is not theological or religious or even necessarily philosophical.

It is empirical, based on objectively derived evidence and data.

Over a hundred years ago, a Russian writer was sent to report on the facts of what transpired inside a slaughterhouse.

After setting them down in detail, he added this immortal line: “We cannot pretend that we do not know this.” The meaning of what Leo Tolstoy wrote then is plain.

Once the facts of any event are admitted to the record, to pretend we do not see them is to sin by omission and, figuratively speaking, against truth itself.

And so it is with the sexual revolution.

Following are five facts about the revolution’s impact that are by now empirically incontestable—five truths that the record of the past half-century has established beyond reasonable doubt.

Artificial contraception

First, the destigmatization and mass adoption of artificial contraception, beginning in the 1960s, followed by widespread legalization of abortion, has radically changed the world in which we now find ourselves.

This is an important countercultural point.

Over the years, a great many people have claimed that sex is merely a private act between individuals.

They’ve been wrong.

We know now that private acts have cumulative public effects. Individual choices, such as having children out of wedlock, have ended up expanding the modern welfare state, for example, as the government has stepped in to support children who lack fathers.

The explosion of sexual activity thanks to contraception has been accompanied by levels of divorce, cohabitation, and abortion never before seen in history.

And as the #MeToo movement shows, the same shift has contributed to a world in which on-demand sex is assumed to be the norm, to the detriment of those who resist any advance, for any reason.

Sexual revolution consequences

Second, the revolution is having deleterious consequences—and not only on the young—in the form of broken families and the attendant disadvantages conferred by fatherless homes, as has been excruciatingly well-documented by social scientists for many decades.

Over half a century into the sexual revolution, the human damages at the end of life’s telescope are now also visible.

Today, for example, one of the most pressing, and growing, issues for researchers is the plight of the elderly, who face the challenges of aging amid shrunken, broken, and truncated families.

Google “loneliness studies” and you will find a sociological cottage industry in every supposedly advanced country in the world—France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Portugal. Many social scientists now call this phenomenon an “epidemic.”

To mention just one example, toward the end of last year, the New York Times published a harrowing story about what the so-called “birth dearth” looks like in old age: “4,000 lonely deaths a week. . . . Each year, some of [Japan’s elderly] died without anyone knowing, only to be discovered after their neighbors caught the smell.”

It is critical that we not avert our eyes from this tragic picture and what it tells us about the impact of the sexual revolution. Fifty years after the embrace of that revolution’s principles—undeniably because of that embrace—atomization and severely reduced human contact is spreading across the planet.

Libertarian conceit

Third, the libertarian conceit often embraced by the sexual revolution’s supporters, that pornography is a harmless activity, is no longer viable.

The damages caused by pornography are legion: Pornography use is frequently cited as a factor in divorce cases; therapists report increased demand for treatment for pornography addiction, including for children.

Is it any surprise that many of the stories to emerge from the #MeToo moment seem drawn directly from the narratives of pornography? Continue reading

  • Image: Crisis Magazine
  • Mary Eberstadt is a senior research fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute.

News category: Analysis and Comment.

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