Is it possible to argue effectively against the Sexual Revolution without arguing against contraception? I do not believe it is. It is clear that many Christians who are against certain aspects of the Sexual Revolution (such as abortion and same-sex marriage) are in favor of Christians using contraception. But I see a definite link between the two.
So what is the Sexual Revolution? Let’s look at some secular sources. Google, which seems to have scraped this definition from Oxford Dictionary, defines it as:
the liberalization of established social and moral attitudes toward sex, particularly that occurring in western countries during the 1960s, as the women’s liberation movement and developments in contraception instigated greater experimentation with sex, especially outside of marriage.
Wikipedia says that it is:
a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage). The normalization of contraception and the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex, homosexuality, and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.
Dictionary.com says that the Sexual Revolution was:
A drastic relaxation in general standards of sexual behavior. The most recent occurred in the 1960s and was helped by the introduction of the Pill, an easy and reliable method of preventing pregnancy.
It should be clear that contraception is inseparable from the Sexual Revolution. So why do most Christians fall silent when it comes to contraception?
Contraception is very seductive. Instead of sex being a presumptively fertile activity, sex becomes a presumptively sterile activity. The appeal of sex without babies is strong. Many people who use contraception seem to believe that they have a “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. A right to pregnancy-free coitus completely explains the problem of abortion.
The United States Supreme Court alluded to this “right” for pregnancy-free coitus in its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. This decision, the subject of which was not contraception but rather abortion, mentions the word “contraception” nine times, and “birth control” once. For example:
“[P]eople…have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.“
“It should be recognized, moreover, that in some critical respects, the abortion decision is of the same character as the decision to use contraception...”
Contraception is the main lynchpin here, not abortion.
It should not be a surprise then that a survey conducted in 2015 of women who had abortions, 70% identified as Christians, over 40% said they attended church once a month or more, and 20% said they attended church at least once a week. Given that they identify as Christians, there is a disconnect somewhere with these women. I propose that a major disconnect has happened within Christian circles that do not explicitly reject contraception. They have accepted the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus. By so doing, the logic must follow, and abortions will happen.
Undoubtedly, some who use contraception and still become pregnant do not choose abortion. But they reveal their reliance on the “right” for pregnancy-free coitus by saying that they were not “intending” pregnancy, and/or by labeling those children as “happy accidents” or worse, as mistakes. The child’s very existence should be evidence that there is no “right” for pregnancy-free coitus, that sex is not a sterile act. But rather than rejecting the “right” to pregnancy-free coitus as a false right that has no basis in reality, we adopt intentions and labels that cover for it because we love the pleasure of sex more than we love truth. By labeling a child like that, we are saying to them, “You are an accident, and your existence does not undermine my right to pregnancy-free coitus. Since you were an accident, I was being generous to allow you to live, because you came into existence in violation of my right.” Either the child is a gift from God with an intact ontology and personal anthropology that adults are bound to respect as a duty in justice, or the child is an accident who lives at the pleasure of his parents. I do not see a middle ground here. In fact, what I see is an inequality between those who have their personal anthropology and ontology respected by their parents, the legal system, and the wider society, and those who do not receive such respect.
Same-sex marriage eventually became accepted, and this follows the logic established by contraception. A “right” for pregnancy-free coitus among fertile opposite-sex couples means that sex is presumptively a sterile act. If sex is presumptively sterile, then there is no need to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, because children are no longer logically integral to marriage or coitus.
Given the separation of marriage, sex, and children that has been widely accepted in Christendom, there is not much left to justify the exclusion of same-sex couples from enjoying the benefits of civil marriage. After all, by accepting the suppression of children from sex and marriage, this elevated sterile sexual pleasure to the highest sexual good for many Christians. If sterile sexual pleasure is indeed the highest sexual good, then it is illogical to exclude couples who can never under any circumstances bear their own children.
If sterile sexual pleasure is the highest sexual good, then it could be argued that same-sex sexual relations are superior to opposite-sex sexual relations, since there is no chance of an unwanted intruder (pregnancy) imposing himself into a same-sex sexual relationship. See, for example, some homosexual advocates’ use of the term “breeders” as a derogatory way to label opposite-sex couples who bear children. Also, if children are licitly separated from sex and marriage, then it is logical for them to be obtained in a manner that disrespects their ontology, such as by utilizing third-party reproduction.
Infertility does not undermine what I am saying. In the real world, the world based on facts that impact real human beings, some opposite-sex couples with unwanted infertility do conceive children, and some opposite-sex couples who contracept also conceive children. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in the film Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”
Many will completely discount this point. For them, life doesn’t find a way. Instead they turn everything upside down. Like the scientists employed in the lab of Jurassic Park, they find a way for life. This means a few things:
- They believe they are bigger than life, that they can, and that they ought to, control the creation of life in a direct manner.
- They’ve built their lives and their entire worldview on certain aspects of “sexual freedom.” Curtailing this “freedom” means a lifestyle change. Not easy to do, and there are no worldly incentives to actually do it.
- They unwittingly place sterile coitus in a more prominent position than human life conceived at unexpected times. Even if they are otherwise pro-life, this undermines their pro-life position.
Let’s consider a different angle: when human life is spontaneously conceived, it is exercising an important form of freedom. It comes into being apart from the explicit will of another human being. Nobody commanded it to come into existence. Certain conditions happened (a sperm found an egg), and the life sprang into being. This phenomenon is an overlooked aspect of human freedom. The Sexual Revolution’s adherents need total control over the creation of human life, because spontaneous human life interferes with sexual pleasure. That form of freedom must be suppressed, because spontaneously created human life imposes unwanted obligations upon others. It is difficult to accept that an orgasm has eternal, or at least long lasting, consequences, and eliminating unwanted obligations while maximizing sexual pleasure is at the very heart of the Sexual Revolution, even if it means killing hundreds of millions of human lives to achieve. While many Christians are not in favor of killing human life through abortion, they are in favor of the logic and lifestyle that leads to it.
To accept contraception is to accept a foundational aspect of the Sexual Revolution, including the logic that leads to abortion and same-sex marriage. We can’t effectively argue against something while simultaneously accepting its foundation. Arguments against the Sexual Revolution will become stronger and more effective when Christians reject its cornerstone, contraception, in large numbers and on an institutional basis.
Jennifer Johnson is a Catholic convert, is the author of Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds Equality for Children, and is the Treasurer for the Ruth Institute.