BY CATHERINE TROLL
The first 2013 installment of the Distinguished Speakers series at Franciscan University of Steubenville opened with a talk on the “Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution.”
By profession, Mary Eberstadt is a writer and researcher. She began writing about the sexual revolution when her friend became editor of First Things, an ecumenical publication that focuses on creating a “religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society,” and asked her for a submission. That year was the 40th anniversary of Humane Vitae, which professes the Church’s opposition to contraception.
Humanae Vitae is, according to Eberstadt, currently the most mocked Church document. Reading it compelled Eberstadt to defend it in a powerful essay she called, “The Vindication of Humane Vitae,” which caused quite a stir with her readers. In it, she argued that secular scholars and evidence found recently within the social sciences actually defended Humane Vitae.
In reference to the secular world, Eberstadt told the audience, “As my kids like to tell me about snakes: they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” She then outlined the three myths of the sexual revolution.
Myth number one, she said, is that the concern about the sexual revolution is just a “backwards Catholic thing.” The early Protestant denominations condemned contraception; in fact, some things Martin Luther, John Calvin and others said against it “made the pope seem tame,” Eberstadt said. She pointed out that many evangelicals today realize that the Catholics got this right and are rethinking their point of view about contraception. Eberstadt added that many secular scholars who have been through or seen the direct effects of the sexual revolution also agree with the Church.
The second myth is that the sexual revolution has made women happier. Eberstadt asked what secular women say about their current condition. The research shows that women say marriage today is impossible, there is no such thing as commitment anymore, women are better off without men, etc.
“This is the language of despair and unhappiness,” said Eberstadt.
Modern women have been taught that contraception will make them happy. The paradox is that when “hookups” are easy to find and guys have no incentive to stay with one woman due to easily-attainable means of contraception, relationships are simply devoid of marital commitment.
The final myth claims that the sexual revolution is a permanent part of humanity that cannot be changed. Eberstadt offered hope with an analogy to smoking. She said 50 years ago most people were resigned to smoking. Most said smoking was inevitable and would stay in the culture indefinitely. However, since people have earnestly examined the evidence, smoking, particularly indoors, is stigmatized today. Eberstadt believes when people really look at the evidence, their minds will change about the sexual revolution.
Students at the crowded talk were impressed with her presentation.
“This talk was extremely enlightening!” said Rachel Teague. “I’ve been told about the effects of the sexual revolution, but to hear about ‘hard,’ substantial, secular evidence to back up the Catholic view was wonderful and very helpful.”
Drew Pultorak said, “I read her books and was excited to come to the talk. She really got to the roots of the problem and made me want to help heal society and families.”