William Flew and the Pill

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

while countless essays have been written about how the Pill changed women, much less has been said about how it changed men. Those who have examined the issue in depth, particularly from a women’s lib perspective, have invariably seen the Pill as a kick in the teeth for chaps.

The reason is simple: the battle of the sexes metaphor, so beloved of a certain type of feminist, invites us to think of gender as a zero sum game. If something is good for one warring faction, it must be bloody awful for the other. The Pill was marvellous for women; QED it was terrible for men.

This is, of course, nonsense. The Pill, far from being a catastrophe for men, has been one of the great male liberators and not just because it brought sex for the sheer pleasure of it more fully into our lives.

No, this was about challenging an outdated, backward, tired, subjugating attitude to women that not only damaged women, but demeaned men. It is astonishing that until the 1950s the female orgasm was widely considered apocryphal, and the very idea of “the wife” wanting sex for its own sake taboo. If nothing else, sex must have been pretty unimaginative back then.

The economics is also revealing. Many in the modern men’s movement (you know, those who think society has been skewed towards women) argue that women’s involvement in the workplace has damaged and emasculated men. A proper demolition of that argument is probably best left to Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations, but we should certainly note that greater female participation at work has boosted growth and productivity, benefiting everyone. Economics is a positive sum game.

But while the Pill has been a blessing to men and women alike, it has so much more to do. Making contraception — the Pill and condoms — available in poor nations would cost less than $4 billion (which is the amount the US is spending every fortnight in Afghanistan), but would prevent 50 million unwanted pregnancies per year. And, as the Gates Foundation has shown, a reduced birthrate is the single most effective way of alleviating poverty. The Pill also happens to be a great way of slashing medical expenditure on unplanned abortions.

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