Pope Paul VI, whose encyclical Humanae Vitae turned 30 this year, predicted that the proliferation of artificial contraception would bring “conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”
It’s hard to argue with him: The Pill may not be the only reason that Americans tolerate a 22-year-old tramp providing fellatio (but not sex!) to our chief executive on taxpayer time. Nevertheless, as Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver observed earlier this year, the sexual revolution (and the consequent cultural “unraveling”) would not have been “possible or sustainable without easy access to reliable contraception.”
Humanae Vitae‘s forecast was not merely a civilization turned orgy in which one out of four high school students is expected to graduate with a sexually transmitted disease. The encyclical also warned that contraception would become “a dangerous weapon . . . in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.” Pope Paul reasoned that if a husband and wife could sterilize themselves on the grounds that another child would break their limited means, governments could apply the same solution to “the problems of the community”: overpopulation, crime, low I.Q. A generation earlier, C.S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, described contraception as another technology that would be advertised as liberating but in practice would be a means for men to control other men.
Americans might find Pope Paul’s and Lewis’s warnings a little fantastic. After all, most victims of contraception’s darker purpose are Third World peasants, and many of them have allowed a giftbearing Rockefeller or Turner to convince them that paradise is really a village full of women with metal coils rattling around in their uteri. Over here you might find the occasional welfare mom in Baltimore who has had a “public authority” sew Norplant into her arm so she can stay on the dole, but Americans hardly live in fear of “placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy,” as Pope Paul put it.
No, our condition is more horrible—and more pathetic. In America we have self-loathing in such abundance that we don’t need life-hating billionaires to finance our abolition. Wc happily pay for it ourselves. Women in America so despise motherhood that they kill their young and regard their fertility as a disease to be treated with pills or surgery. American men by the millions line up to be snipped by the surgeon’s scissors. The proof of the self-loathing is in the desperate search for approval. I had a drink recently at the bar in a men’s club, hi the space often minutes, two men I’d never met before told me about their vasectomies. When the conversation inevitably turned to whether or not this will be the year that the club will admit women, it was all I could do to refrain from saying that it seems they already have.
At garage sales, people we’ve never met tell my wife and me that they won’t be needing these baby things anymore: “You know.” A couple we had dinner with once informed us that he had been “fixed.” Their insurance covered it, they beamed. Even a Marine officer for whom Fd worked told me before heading to the hospital that henceforth he would be “shooting blanks.”
Some men are not content with justifying their vasectomies to the strangers they meet but feel compelled to inform the strangers they will never meet, as well. Environmentalist Bill McKibben’s new book, Maybe One, rehashes tired “Population Bomb” arguments so that he can justify (and describe in detail) to the world the $200 vasectomy that he bought in Canada.
“ASK ME ABOUT MY VASECTOMY!” is the bumper sticker Fm expecting to see any day now. I am so tired of hearing grown men gossip about their privates that Fm thinking of putting a bumper sticker on my car: “IF YOU’VE STERILIZED YOURSELF, IT WAS PROBABLY A GOOD IDEA.”
But I’m not that cynical, and there is hope. One More Soul in Dayton, Ohio, maintains a database of doctors who will reverse surgical sterilizations for a reduced fee. One of them, a semi-retired doctor in Texas, does nothing but reverse vasectomies. Now, if we could only find a physician who can minister to the diseased minds that are so terrified of life that they are willing to commit intergenerational suicide.