Recently, I came across an interesting video, The Economics of Sex, produced by the Austin Institute for Marriage and Culture. The video was released in 2014, and it received a good amount of attention from both conservative and liberal media sources at the time. A writer at the New York Post raved about it, while feminist author Lindy West wrote a response lambasting the video in Jezebel.
The central theme of The Economics of Sex is that a new “economy” exists in the male-female relationship since the advent of “the Pill.” Liberals and conservatives alike agree that the introduction of oral contraceptives in 1960 fundamentally changed our culture’s sexual attitudes and practices. This alone is reason enough to bring this video to the attention of anyone interested in trends currently affecting the Church. My specific interest here, though, is to explore where the trend noted in this video—namely, how the “commodification” of sex has changed the relationship between men and women—could well take us. Here are my speculations:
The video compares the Pill’s introduction with that of DDT, a pesticide once commonly used by farmers for insect control. When DDT was first introduced, it “shocked” the world of agriculture by the manner in which it significantly altered natural ecological processes. Initially, the results were positive, and the supply of produce increased dramatically. It was only years later that the chemicals used in DDT were shown to have serious negative environmental consequences. Consequently, the use of DDT was banned. I believe that oral contraceptives could follow a similar trajectory to DDT, although I can’t imagine they would ever be banned. We have, though, already begun to see a decrease in their blanket acceptance and use. While most in developed Western societies still swear by the Pill (and contraception in general), seeing it as a means of women’s liberation from the domination of both men and their own biology, I predict that research concerning the long-term health effects of oral contraceptives will increasingly sow seeds of doubt in the minds of many. An indication of this is the increase of the Fertility Awareness method of family planning, both in secular circles as well as religious (which I wrote about in previous blog post here).
As The Economics of Sex points out, before the Pill, it was easier for men to be promiscuous than for women, as the “risk” of pregnancy was an ever-present reality. The “protection” of the Pill has been seen as eliminating that “risk,” allowing women to engage in “no strings attached” sex on par with men. Given this new “liberation” from their own biology, many women, encouraged by the dictates of feminism, have embraced sexual license over the past fifty years. At first, the Pill seemed to be a boon for female “equality,” but I think it has been a disaster both for women and society.
A positive trend seems to be emerging, however. Judging from several recent posts on feminist blogs, women are beginning to question whether “more sex” is “good sex,” and they are asking why men still seem to have the upper hand over women despite the sexual liberation promised by the Pill. This questioning, along with recent media attention on the “rape culture” prevalent on college campuses, has led me to believe that opposition to the over-sexualizing of women may also be on the rise. I believe that women, on some level, perceive that they are being used sexually—and that they have sometimes been willing partners in this as a result of the Pill. So this growing opposition is not surprising.
Without such opposition, we will surely continue to slide deeper into a “brave new world,” and the continued disintegration of the human person will be the result. It is my hope that women and men will come to recognize their great value and dignity, along with the extraordinary gift that comes with the proper use of one’s sexuality. This is where we are called to step out into the deep. We must look for opportunities to present those we encounter with an alternative to what the world offers—not because we are perfect and have all the answers, but because we believe that the answer found in the Divine Physician is what truly liberates.