When it comes to good PR, 2012 has been a great year for Christian sex. Between Mark and Grace Driscoll's new book Real Marriage and Ed and Lisa Young's Sexperiment, married sex has assumed a central place in the public spotlight and in our daily conversations. It is affirmed by visible evangelical pastors and exalted as the glue that holds our marriages together.
These books and others have encouraged candid conversation about sex. Younger Christians now talk about sex openly and in a way that might make their grandparents blush. Yet with all this talk about sex, with all the teaching and writing about sex, are we really getting to the core issues of Christian sexuality? Does the sheer volume of conversation necessarily entail substance?
Mary Eberstadt's new book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution (Ignatius Press), addresses these questions, though indirectly so. Throughout the book, Eberstadt pieces together the societal fallout of the sexual revolution. Examining the consequences of sexual liberation for women, men, and children, she systematically catalogues a whole host of social ills ranging from out-of-wedlock pregnancy, to divorce, to addiction to pornography. The result is a concrete set of "empirical evidence" with which the culture must reckon.
Eberstadt presents the data in a short and digestible format that will hopefully equip more lay Christians with the sociological arguments for biblical teachings on sex. Because she chose this more accessible format, Eberstadt (admittedly) sacrifices the time and space that a comprehensive study of the sexual revolution deserves. At times her summaries seem reductionist, giving only a nod to complicating factors such as affluence, individualism, and narcissism, all of which arguably contributed to the collapse of the American family and rampant female unhappiness. Sexual libertinism cannot be the sole culprit in our nation's moral failures.
What's more, Eberstadt frequently critiques an unidentified group that she labels the "academic elite" or the "enlightened," a vague category of people who deny the sexual revolution's negative consequences. Her persistence in accusing this unclear group of Americans comes dangerously close to a kind of anti-intellectualism. Her broad-brush condemnations also take aim at "modern feminism," a term that is about as precise as "evangelicalism" and therefore runs the risk of demonizing an entire movement of diverse voices who surely cannot be categorized so narrowly.
These issues aside, Eberstadt mounts a compelling case. The book includes a wide spectrum of consequences wrought by the sexual revolution, and is therefore a terrific one-stop shop for anyone interested in understanding the big picture of American sexual mores.
Returning to the opening question of Christian discussions about sex, Eberstadt's final chapter is a major contribution. It is her argument's coup de grace as she pinpoints the moment when Pandora's Box was first unlocked: the creation of the Pill.