The connection between the Sexual Revolution and “MeToo”: An interview with Mary Eberstadt

“I wish humanity generally knew more about the disadvantageous empirical fallout of the revolution. … That empirical record needs to be brought to the light, and it’s something that all people of reason can understand.”

Mary Eberstadt delivering her opening remarks at the May 31st conference on the "MeToo" movement and the sexual revolution. (Catholic Women's Forum)

On Thursday, May 31st, the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture hosted the Catholic Women’s Forum event titled “#MeToo Moment: Second Thoughts on the Sexual Revolution” in Washington, DC. Speakers included His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC, who gave the keynote address; Helen Alvaré, JD, Professor of Law, Scalia Law School at George Mason University; and Mary Eberstadt, who is a widely noted author and Senior Fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute.

Eberstadt has been writing and speaking about the Sexual Revolution for many years, including in books, such Adam and Eve after the Pill, and articles, including her 2012 Wall Street Journal essay “Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women?” In her opening remarks, entitled “The Cultural Moment,” she noted that we have a great advantage today over those who started and supported the Sexual Revolution of the 60s, saying:

Unlike our forerunners in 1968, those of us living today now have access to something they didn’t: 50 years of sociological, psychological, medical, and other evidence about the Sexual Revolution and its fallout. Thanks to the MeToo movement, the time has come to examine some of that evidence.

The process of examining and re-visiting the evidence, she said, “is not theological or religious or even, necessarily, philosophical. It is empirical, based on objectively derived evidence and data.” There are, she argued, several reasons for various sex scandals that have generated so many headlines and the MeToo movement:

Where in the world do otherwise sophisticated and knowledgeable men learn such obtuseness, such emotional unintelligence? The question answers itself. Pornography, like the revolution of which it is a bastard child, has become ubiquitous, and it not only deforms individual relationships. It is now working its way like invisible ink into the scripts and expectations of our time. It is re-sequencing our very lives.

A great many of the prominent men brought down in these scandals are have been closely identified with a political worldview that could be called the “revolution-first.” Most wore their feminist credentials on their sleeves. Many were public advocates, sometimes even major benefactors, of the abortion industry. “And this non-coincidence, too, is something we can’t pretend not to know,” said Eberstadt. “Some men have plainly infiltrated important cultural precincts under the false flag of being ‘pro-woman’ because they’re ‘good’ on abortion…. They’ve been using pro-abortion politics as protective coloration for harassment and exploitation.”

“There’s an unbroken line of them extending straight back to Hugh Hefner, who was agitating for legal abortion fully eight years before Roe v. Wade precisely because he understood one big thing: abortion is the factory floor to the industrial sexual use of women.”

Eberstadt spoke to CWR shortly before the conference began and discussed some of her findings and analysis.

CWR: Can you connect the dots between the Sexual Revolution and the MeToo movement?

Mary Eberstadt: Yes, absolutely. What did we see in the MeToo movement? Women have been harassed and objects of pursuit when they didn’t want to be. We’ve seen this happening on a very large scale, not only in the United States, but in other supposedly sophisticated countries. What does this mean? Well, what it means is that the Sexual Revolution’s first assumption, which is that women are always and everywhere available for recreational sex, is what powers the MeToo movement because it’s the same thing that powers the scandals. If you didn’t have the assumption of ubiquitous contraception, it would be impossible for so many men to try to take advantage of so many women in such a serial fashion.

CWR: What evidence is there for this link?

Eberstadt: I think the evidence is in the causal chain. Beginning about 50 years ago, society de-stigmatizes non-marital sex, or at least many people in society do. This is the beginning of the Sexual Revolution. Before that, it would have been impossible to witness events on the scale of these secular sex scandals. Why? Because before that, if men were hitting on women all over the place, there would have been the possibility of pregnancy, for which men were assumed to take responsibility. And to a world governed instead by contraception, men no longer have that responsibility; society doesn’t even project it onto them. So only in a world where men are assumed not to take responsibility is it possible to try to take advantage of all these women.

CWR: Why is the link between the sexual revolution and the MeToo movement so little known or acknowledged?

Eberstadt: People are story-tellers by nature, and most of the attention has been, understandably, on the individual stories of men who fell from grace, or women who were victims of these scandals. That’s natural. But what we’re trying to do at this conference is switch the focus from individual people to society at large, and to look at the deeper, fundamental changes in society that have made something like the MeToo movement possible in the first place.

CWR: What do you wish women knew about the sexual revolution or our current cultural mores?

Eberstadt: I wish humanity generally knew more about the disadvantageous empirical fallout of the revolution. There’s a lot of data on broken homes, cohabitation, etc., etc., showing that the way we live now is making a lot of people miserable and also having terrible consequences, in some cases, for children. That empirical record needs to be brought to the light, and it’s something that all people of reason can understand.

But for women in particular, there’s a very important take-home from this movement. If you look at where the scandals originated (although it’s not fair to say that they’re altogether a creature of progressivism), obviously: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, major mainstream newsrooms, National Public Radio…all these places that have been focal points of the scandal are synonymous with being pro-Sexual Revolution in their ideology. So what’s happened is that obviously some men have been able to use their pro-abortion ideology as a fig leaf, and to be harassers and predators because women think they [these men] are pro-women.

What women need to do—and I think this is true for all women—is to break that false association according to which being “pro-abortion” is being pro-woman. The MeToo movement shows in spades why that association doesn’t exist.

CWR: Where can non-experts learn more about these empirical data?

Eberstadt: A lot of social scientists have been writing for non-experts for many years: great thinkers like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, James Q. Wilson, who did a lot of work on the connection between crime and fatherless homes, for example. And then moving into more recent times, I think the work of sociologists Brad Wilcox and Mark Regnerus is especially important. Also Ignatius Press, frankly, has done a lot of good work in this regard [Editor’s note: Ignatius Press publishes CWR]. More and more, people who write for an academic audience are trying to write for a general audience as well, and that’s absolutely something we’re trying to do with this conference: to take data assembled by experts and put it into language that laymen can understand.

CWR: What would you like to say to American Catholics on all this?

Eberstadt: Well, it’s so interesting in this anniversary year of Humanae Vitae to see the anniversary coinciding with the MeToo movement and the scandals that created it. I would say to American Catholics that the Church, in a very difficult time, got one of the biggest calls in history right. The document was prophetic for reasons lots of people have talked about this year, but also in prophesying a world where men and women would be ever more estranged, thanks to contraception. Humanae Vitae really saw the MeToo movement coming. I think Catholics should be proud of…that teaching of 2,000 years…and proud, in the right way, of the Church for standing as a sign of contradiction.

CWR: What do you hope will be the outcome of the conference?

Eberstadt: Most of all we hope that those outside of the religious orbit will give second thought as to why some of us haven’t been cheerleaders of the Sexual Revolution. For the most part, I don’t think secular people have given a fair hearing to critiques of the Sexual Revolution, but as of the MeToo movement, it’s clear that this isn’t just some religious preoccupation.

The problem of sexual harassment is system-wide, and it cuts across social class, it cuts across just about every way that we usually divide ourselves. For that reason, secular people have to be attentive to it as they have never been before. What we’re hoping is that we can create a new alliance of rational men and women, whatever their political views otherwise, to look at this empirical record, understand that things have gone badly wrong, and that the Sexual Revolution is not something we should take for granted as a fact of life; it is something that we need to treat like any other social phenomena and to ask, when it’s hurting us, how we might change the game.

• View the full video of Mary Eberstadt’s “The Cultural Moment“:

All of the conference presentations—and more—are available at the Catholic Women’s Forum website.

About Jeanette Flood 11 Articles
Jeanette Flood is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and their six children. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, she received her M.A. from the Catholic University of America. Her first book, How Do I Love Thee?, will be published by Ignatius Press in 2018.

14 Comments

  1. Men taking sexual advantage of women certainly predates the legalization of abortion and the invention of contraception – or the widespread availability of pornography. Pregnant women then were just shunned and hidden away – their offspring, the “evidence” of their “sin”, put up for adoption.

    Would the hierarchy also try to blame these scientific advances for the wholesale abuse of minors by priests who were simply transferred from location to location. After all, much of this crime took place “back in the day” before contraceptives were widely available or pornography was regularly accessible via the internet.

    The truth is that men have always seen women as lesser humans, all the way back to the author of Genesis who blamed the plague of sinfulness on women.

    I’m sure you will find these comments needlessly “inflammatory”.

    • Inflammatory, no. Monumentally and colossally stupid, yes, but then we’ve come to expect that.

      “The truth is that men have always seen women as lesser humans, all the way back to the author of Genesis who blamed the plague of sinfulness on women.” Do you pretend to be Catholic, and sneer at the Bible like that? In any event, it’s quite clear that the blame is placed on Satan, who the last time I checked was not a human woman.

      Eberstadt didn’t say that men did not prey on women before the sexual revolution, she pointed out that the behavior has become much, much worse since then.

      Given that the vast majority of the abuse of minors by predatory homosexuals, the availability or not of contraception isn’t relevant, but even at that most of the cases are not from before the widespread availability of contraception, and pornography became increasingly available even before the Internet, all part of the sexual revolution.

      And now the countdown to somebody’s whining about how we need to have priestesses…

    • Oh, just please stop it. I am a woman,I have lived my life in disrespect of Ten Commandments. What I am dealing with now was, is and will be my own making. Granted, some of the actions were clearly not my fault (being sexually, mentally and physically abused as a child not by clergy but extended FAMILY member) but those are not excuse for acting as an adult. For every action, there are consequences. You reap what you sow. The world is ruled by Prince of Darkness, and our refuge is in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. For Pro-Lifers to oppose abortion without opposing contraception is to play pin the tail on the donkey with the horses escaping the barn, before closing the barn door after they’ve all escaped. In Abortion: A Failure to Communicate (First Things April 1997 https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/04/004-abortion-a-failure-to-communicate ), a foible of the Pro Life movement is revealed, in essence, extreme preaching to the choir failing to reach the Moms WHO DECIDE; this on the part the Vitae Caring Project, the people to whom the major credit goes for the fact that A Majority of Americans Are Now Pro-Life (Catholic League https://www.catholicleague.org/majority-oppose-roe-v-wade/ ).

    But the bigger stumbling block is, Pro Lifers who are deluded, that there can be any further progress in Pro Life without understanding that, as Mother Theresa said, “abortion is God’s punishment for contraception”. (Romans 1:21 “senseless minds darkened”. Cardinal Dolan rebukes liberal Jesuit: We must end abortion, and not with contraception https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cardinal-dolan-rebukes-liberal-jesuit-we-will-end-abortion-and-not-with-con )

    Bill Clinton’s recent comment, “Norms have changed about what you can do to someone against their will”, is assurance of the failure of #MeToo, just a temporary pause in the quest for the last barrier, sex with children. Genesis 19:5 “bring them out, that we may know them”. The context was, that every single man, woman and child in the twin cities had been systematically, sexually degraded, and no strangers might be excepted. Charles Manson assured himself of homicidal zombies in a focused exercise in this very sexual degradation he titled “Getting Scared”, he got his killer robots by degrading their humanity.

    Key fact of traumatic early sexualization: the younger the age of corruption, the more likely force was used. This means, virtually all young, sexually active, pubescent children, were raped, disintegrating the distinction between violent- and statutory-rape.

    Imagine the bizarre prospect of Gloria Steinem’s triple cross: “Under-cover” spoofing Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Club, at the same time that Heffner was supporting abortion feminists. Steinem, author of The Moral Disarmament of Betty Co-ed, explicitly touted the morally corrupting effects of the Pill, at the same time she boasted how profitable it was going to be for Big Pharma.

    Sexual zombies follow the same pattern as other kinds: When a zombie bites you, it’s just his way of saying “hi”. http://www.sacra-pizza-man.org/sex-zombies-versus-the-human-beings/

  3. “I’m sure you will find these comments needlessly “inflammatory”.”

    They could be found to be “micro aggressive” but that would be silly.

  4. This is a great article. I love the linkage between men who have been labelled “pro-woman” because they favor abortion, who use that to get away with being predators. The response to all this is “Of course”! ESPECIALLY if you’re Catholic, but even if you’re not.

  5. The MeToo movement was started in 2006 by Tarana Burke who was a victim of sexual assault. I have read some media reports about MeToo and cannot find WHY they are being singled out and “connected” to the Sexual Revolution, rather the empowerment of female victims.

    You make a mistake by saying: “50 years ago, society de-stigmatizes non-marital sex”. Non-marital sex has no date of origin, but it certainly it predates recorded history. Another error is : “wholesale abuse of minors by priests who were simply transferred from location to location. After all, much of this crime took place “back in the day” before contraceptives were widely available”. Since most of the crimes against the young are committed by homosexual priests who give little if any thought for contraception.

    Cardinal Dolan spews his bit about ending abortion. What he misses… does that mean all abortion will be illegal? He added “we must end abortion and NOT with contraception”. Is Dolan in the real world?

    • The statement about de-stigmatizing non-marital sex 50 years ago, does not mean it didn’t exist before then. It means that prior to that time, it was seen as something you didn’t engage in, something wrong & not to be emulated. The Sexual Revolution gradually changed attitudes, so that now, many people accept fornication, co-habiting, etc, as if it’s perfectly fine.

      • yes, wasn’t there a term, “the walk of shame”? How long did that term last? But then again, i remember when couples ‘had to get married’. I don’t hear that anymore.

  6. No mention of false accusations being used as a weapon by spurned women or those seeking revenge or dealing with post-fornication regret badly. Where’s the discussion of feminism behind the rise of #MeToo?

  7. We need to get that information out as soon as possible about the consequences of the Sexual Revolution in a way that is quick and concise and easily understandable — things like the numbers of sexually transmitted diseases; the effects of divorce on children; the physical and emotional devastation caused by abortion; the dangers of the Pill; the consequences of viewing pornography; and the ravages of the gay lifestyle.
    One good way is to provide lists with one or two paragraphs per item: “7 Ways Divorce Devastates Children;” “The 9 Sexually Transmitted Diseases that are Epidemics in America;” “6 Ways the World is More Dangerous for Women because of the Sexual Revolution;” “8 Possible Reasons for the Increase in Suicides;” and “10 Excellent Reasons for Not Getting an Abortion (with Alternatives).”
    These lists could have footnotes and referrals to more detailed articles and studies.
    Our culture is literally poisonous in that it is truly ailing and killing our people. We urgently need to get information out about the casualties of the Sexual Revolution to save each other from misery.
    Compared to the Vietnam War, the Sexual Revolution of the Sixties was probably much more dangerous and deadly to the Baby Boomers. If we present the statistics in a way that is compelling and compassionate — emphasizing that the divine mercy is much greater than any and all sins — we can also show the great wisdom of Jesus as found in his Catholic Church.
    A couple of authors who might help are Rodney Stark, who shows that these problems existed from the time of Jesus, in his book, “The Rise of Christianity.” See also Mike Aquilina’s masterful work, “Yours is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World.” For analysis of the ruins left by the modern Sexual Revolution, Judith Reisman seems very good.
    Let’s begin in earnest the great work of Cultural Apologetics. Catholicism is the way of human flourishing in this life, as well as the next. Seek first Jesus, and all the rest will be added unto us. His ways are authentic love; he is source of organic healthiness, holistic healing, and lasting happiness.

  8. I am not entering into a contest about who is right, wrong or indifferent but wonder why no one has asked questions concerning the raising of children to show respect not only to their parents, siblings fellow human beings and themselves.

    • I agree with what you are saying. I don’t think it is so much that men feared making a women pregnant but we did not teach our children respect for each other and respect for sexual behavior within marriage.

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