Even supporters see failures of sex revolution, researcher says
By Jean Torkelson
Photo by Nissa LaPoint/DCR
The curious thing about the sexual revolution, said social science researcher Mary Eberstadt, is that even its biggest supporters attest to its damaging effects.
Eberstadt, author of Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution, which explored the catastrophic effects of the sexual revolution, spoke at the John Paul II Center in Denver Feb. 11 to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200, ranging from high school students to senior citizens.
Eberstadt opened her talk by admitting that it took her years to read “Humanae Vitae,” the
papal encyclical that in 1968 foretold the chaotic damage of the sexual revolution, which
was then only beginning.
She finally read the encyclical as she was writing an article for its 40th anniversary.
“I was floored by what I found,” she said.
In detail, Pope Paul VI had outlined all the consequences that lay ahead—general disrespect of women, broken homes, difficulty in finding and keeping mates, and the intrusion of government in family issues.
The great irony, Eberstadt said, is that it’s not Church theologians, but secular scientists and believers in the sexual revolution, who have documented all the damage. After all, she said, pick up any lifestyle magazine and read what women are complaining about—that marriage is impossible, men are unreliable and being a single mother is
“This is not the language of people who have been liberated, this is the language of defeat,” she said.
However, secular society also preaches that it’s too late to undo the sexual revolution—that you can never go back to the old days of the “Ozzie and Harriet” TV family of mom, dad and the kids living traditional values.
Not so, Eberstadt insisted.
“History is littered with movements that failed, movements that are now as outdated as
a typewriter and quill pens.”
The most dramatic example—cigarette smoking.
“We have done a 180-(degree turnaround) on tobacco use—it has gone from widely accepted 50 years ago to widely stigmatized today,” she said.
So there is reason to be optimistic.
“Over time many people do change their minds,” Eberstadt said. “If you doubt it, try lighting
up a cigarette in New York City.”
For those in the audience familiar with her work, it was vintage Eberstadt—incisive, witty
and wise. A year ago, Jeff Sherman, 44, was drawn to read Eberstadt’s pieces on philosophy and social issues—even before he accepted her point of view.
“I grew up believing the standard shibboleths about the sexual revolution,” he said. “But she is a really thoughtful writer and she delved into issues that are counter to today’s culture—and that’s provocative.”
Eventually, Sherman converted to the Catholic Church, and he gives a large measure of
credit to Eberstadt.
“Her writing opened my eyes.”
A group of young men from Bishop Machebeuf High School joined the crowd, encouraged
to attend by one of their teachers.
“We’re writing a paper on (pro-life issues),” said Huy Tran Jr., 17. “We want to get her viewpoint.”
Ashley Brock, 30, a Catholic middle-school teacher, had a reason to be there, too.
“To keep saturated in the truth,” she said.
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3215; www.twitter.com/DCRegister