"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Pill Has Been Powerful... But For Whom?

The Regular Guy has often pontificated, based on self-examination of my own wayward youth, that the Pill and the availability of abortion on demand have largely benefited the natural predilections of young men toward predatory sexual behavior by removing the consequences of that behavior and taking away the leverage young women used to have to control young men (namely, saying "no" because saying "yes" would mean getting pregnant and getting pregnant would mean getting married).   In other words, what women's rights advocates advocated has largely harmed women and helped men; sexual liberation has essentially been about liberating young men from responsibility.

Anyway, there is a great article up at NRO on the topic.   Here's a piece, but read the whole thing:

The Pill, together with abortion as backup, appeared to provide full insurance against pregnancy risks. But as economists well know, full insurance tends to induce greater risk-taking: As people perceive sex to be safer, they pursue more of it. This applies especially to people who would otherwise be most vulnerable to the risks of unwanted pregnancy: the young, the unmarried, and those unable to care for a child. While a tight causal argument is difficult to make, correlations alone do not augur in favor of the Pill: The rapidly increasing sexual activity of the Pill era correlates with a staggering increase in non-marital births — less than 5 percent of births in 1960 were to unmarried mothers, compared with roughly 40 percent today. A counterintuitive result, perhaps, but a fairly human one nonetheless.

And this points to an unresolved difficulty with the contraceptive revolution, which was supposed to serve women above all: Women on the whole disproportionately bear the burden of the new sexual regime. They are expected to dose themselves with a Group 1 carcinogen for approximately two-thirds of their fertile years. They sustain greater emotional costs from casual sex. They are at greater risk of contracting STDs and disproportionately suffer from their long-term consequences, such as cervical cancer and fertility loss.  And even after 50 years with the Pill, as many as half of all pregnancies are still unintended. Women, not men, must make the heart-wrenching choice between abortion, reckoned a tragic outcome even by its supporters, and bearing a child with little to no paternal support. After all, since children were negotiated out of the bargain by the availability of contraception and abortion, men have secured a strong rationale to simply ignore or reject pregnancies that result from uncommitted sexual relations. Nobel-laureate economist George Akerlof predicted nearly two decades ago that this would lead directly to the feminization of poverty, as it ruefully has.

These traumas take their toll. A stunning paper by leading labor economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers documented recently that women’s self-reported happiness has declined both overall, and relative to that of men, since the early 1970s. Where women used to report higher happiness than men, they now report less. Stevenson and Wolfers ask, “Did men garner a disproportionate share of the benefits of the women’s movement?” Good question indeed. One may well wonder if the bargain advocated by the feminist elites has made much sense in the end: Were gains for elite women purchased with the currency of a new sexual ethic that has damaged women more generally?

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