The End of Women

The recent death of the American feminist poet Adrienne Rich has brought many accolades on account of her literary gifts and contribution to the feminist movement over the past 50 years. In her transformation from conventionally married mother of three sons in the 1950s, to lesbian partner and apologist in the 1970s, she became not only the voice but a living example of the revolutionary character of second wave feminism.

The chief legacy of that movement has been brought into sharp focus in recent months by the battle royal between Catholic authorities (mainly) and the Obama administration over the latter’s mandate forcing employers to pay for birth control, including abortifacients and sterilisation.

Old-guard feminists — including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius — are nervous and casting the conflict as a “war on women”, an attempt to wind back the “reproductive rights” won in the 1960s and 1970s with the arrival of the contraceptive pill and the Supreme Court decision decriminalising abortion.

On the other hand, those who regard such methods of birth control as objectionable or morally wrong — including those who hold that view as a matter of religious faith — are outraged that the principle of freedom of conscience could be trashed for the sake of a symbolic enshrining of contraception in the pantheon of free health services.

Yes, the mandate is both an overblown tribute to the value of contraception in women’s lives — in particular for their “health” — and an act of intolerance towards those who do not value it at all. But at least we can be grateful that it has stirred up a debate that really needs to happen – a debate about whether the sexual revolution that contraception and abortion let loose on society has been a good thing or a bad thing.

As Mary Eberstadt wrote in her contribution to a forum on the issue in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, the legacy of the sexual revolution has yet to be “settled in the Western mind” — despite claims that “women” (minus, at the very least, the 25,000+ who have signed a letter objecting to it) are solidly behind the HHS mandate, and the sexual revolution to boot.

In her recently published collection of essays, Adam and Eve after the Pill, Eberstadt covers all kinds of fallout from the “sex without consequences” culture that has grown up over the past four decades, including the growing chorus of unhappiness from women writing on such mournful themes as “The Case for Settling” and “The End of Men”, complaining about men who won’t grow up and lamenting the general state of relations between the sexes. If the sexual revolution was such a boon, how come women are not happier? She asks.

Hanna Rosin, who also contributed to the WSJ’s sexual revolution forum, has an answer to that. She says happiness doesn’t matter. Rosin argues that young women (those in their 20s and early 30s) are generally better off than young men. “They are better educated and earn more money on average,” she points out. In other words, they don’t need men — except for “temporary, intimate relationships that don’t derail a career.” She is working on a book called — guess what? — “The End of Men”, due out in September.

Rosin does make some frank admissions. She concedes that there is a rumble of complaint from young women about men who won’t commit; that this is because the post-pill market has made sex “very cheap” and turned men into “free agents” who sleep with as many women as possible; which in turn causes women “a lot of frustrating little dating battles” and “heartache”. But that is a small price to pay, Rosin argues, for a woman’s future success in a career.

(Funny how arguments in favour of post-pill sexual culture always seem to hang on college educated women with careers, who generally do find a mate, rather than working class women who increasingly “settle” for the insecurity of serial cohabitation, and bringing up children, much of the time, on their own. But that is another story.)

The odd thing about Rosin’s theory is that it really describes “the end of women” rather than the end of men. The great gift of the sexual revolution to women is not that it has taken them out of men’s power but that it has made them over as the new men. They can pursue their careers just like men. They can have sex without getting pregnant and having to get married, just like men. They can ignore the emotional consequences of uncommitted sex (“And how bad are heartaches, anyway?” asks Rosin) as men tend to do.

When the ache for a baby gets too strong, today’s macho woman can go get herself impregnated with donor sperm at a fertility clinic. And since there’s really no difference between men and women any more she could just settle down with a lesbian partner and save herself any further trouble from the officially male of the species.

The truth is that, if men have become redundant, so have women. One makes no sense without the other. What we have instead is humanoids who come in a range of genders and can make use of their sexual endowment (or someone else’s) in a variety of ways. They can generate or acquire children as the case may be; they can saddle the kids with two “moms” or two “dads” or with other combinations of “parents” if it suits them. What that means for the children simply doesn’t matter. Nothing that comes from the sexual revolution can really be bad for anyone. Get used to it.

Isn’t this the insane world we see taking shape before our eyes? There may have been a lot wrong with marriage and the status of women in the America of young Mrs Adrienne Conrad (Rich’s married name), but cutting sex adrift from babies and marriage was patently not the solution. It has made nonsense of the body and made men and women strangers to themselves.

To refuse to become an active party to such madness is a right no just society should deny to any member.

This article was originally published on under a Creative Commons Licence. If you enjoyed this article, visit for more.


Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Pascal in the Pensées sums up the problem very well

    425 Man without faith cannot know the true good, nor justice.

    426  True nature being lost, everything becomes its own nature; as the true good being lost, everything becomes its own true good.

    430 The greatness and the wretchedness of man are so evident that the true religion must
    necessarily teach us both that there is in man some great source of greatness and a great source of wretchedness. It must then give us a reason for these astonishing contradictions…You are not in the state of your creation.

    548. Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ.  Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.

  • poetcomic1

    Men and women ‘define’ each other in a supernatural way.  Attempting to ‘define ourselves’, we are our own creation, but find that such a ‘creation’ is never done. The self is a constantly shifting flux of needs, appetites, likes and dislikes.  The apogee of the feminist revolution is classes on creative masturbation – the ultimate sacrament of the religion of Selfism.

  • Kalpakgian

    Without the union of men and women in love, marriage, and family–God’s plan for happiness and the blessings of life for men, women, and children–human beings will remain incomplete and an enormous void will gape. Men need women to become more masculine, more chivalrous, and more fatherly just as women require men to become more feminine, more beautiful, more refined, and more motherly. “The End of Men and “The End of Women” that is the logical culmination of the sexual revolution is not only starkly dehumanizing and monstrously ugly but also destructive of life’s greatest sources of joy and contentment.

  • Brian A. Cook

    I have seen many liberal websites.  Noe one has actually advocated the abolition of women or sexual difference.  Not one.  

    • Coffee

      sorry Brian, they “advocate” abolishing women and sexual differences all the time by the lifestyles, behavior, dress, etc. they encourage. Its ironic that the liberal Feministl Movement has done more to Defeminize and denigrate women than many chauvenistic men ever did.  And when women lower their moral standards to mimic men at their worst, the whole system breaks down. 

    • Charles

      Huh?  Not abolishing sexual difference? Then what was I reading and listening to for all those years in my doctoral classes and conferences?

    • MarylandBill

      It is not an explicit abolition of women (or generally for men, though sometimes you see that), it is an elimination of everything that women and men were suppose to aspire to.  Love, family, etc.  

      Remove the consequences from sex, and you also remove the sacredness of it.  In the past, it was far more likely that a man had to commit to a woman if he wanted to have sex with her.  Since that commitment likely involved children, it forced both the men and the women to mature more quickly.  

    • Micha_Elyi

      You haven’t seen enough of those liberal websites, Brian A. Cook.  Nor read enough of the comments.  Haven’t read much of Adrienne Rich’s stuff and that of her most fervent admirers either, have you?

      I suggest that doubters like yourself go examine the texts used in the women’s studies classes of nearby universities.

  • hombre111

    Also overblown is the wisdom and sensitivity of the all male celibate hierarchs who presume they have the wisdom in their never ending sexual adolescence to pontificate on the sexual lives and struggles of married people. 

    • Steve

      Even more overblown are hombres constant  strawman non sequiturs

    • WSquared

      *YAWN* Dull as dishwater. 

      I thought you were supposed to be smarter than us Catholics.  Use your superior intelligence to come up with something new, instead of peddling the same old dross all of the time.

      Come on, hombre.  We’re BORED.

  • Guest

    Just for future reference, “Mrs. Adrienne Conrad” was not Ms. Rich’s married name.  Her married name would have been “Mrs. Husband’sfirstname Conrad.”  Mrs. Adrienne Conrad would have been her name if she were a widow.  She was Adrienne Conrad, Ms. Adrienne Conrad, or Mrs. Conrad, but never Mrs. Adrienne Conrad unless her husband had died while they were still married.