The 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae has prompted discussion about its supposed failure. But since it was a response to the Sexual Revolution, perhaps we should discuss the success of unlimited sexual freedom. And the astonishing truth is that while limiting access to sex tends to increase enjoyment, unlimited sexual freedom has succeeded in making sex boring.
Endless joy was promised with the promise of endless sex, but with the ‘threat’ of pregnancy removed, so too were the natural limits that prevent a gourmet becoming a gourmand. With fertility’s natural end – children - removed, women were seen as permanently sexually available; their neutered fertility no longer equalised the power imbalance between male and female - everything rested on the fragility of ‘consent’, handing yet more power to the more powerful party.
Women had to sleep with a man to get a man, and in the face of this superabundance the quest for endless novelty led to evermore degrading sexual practices. With no need for marriage, there was no need for courtship and romance. Everybody seeks commitment, but nobody wants to commit. Sexual ‘freedom’ succeeded in brutalising human relations.
Looking back on history from the other side of the Sexual Revolution, we wonder how our forebears could possibly have enjoyed sexual relations with the ‘threat’ of conception hanging over them like the sword of Damocles. Apparently they did, or we would not be here to judge them; best not to ask what judgement they would reach on the horrible outcomes of our ‘freedoms’.
It is claimed that contraception can help ‘plan families’, but no one can plan another human being; even if they could, they would be destined for disappointment. Psychologists insist that children need unconditional love, therefore it is better to want the children we have, than to have the children we want; but the contraceptive mentality has transformed fertility from a gift from God or Nature into yet another source of grievance in the Age of Entitlement.
The Malthusians claimed that human beings are the problem when they are the solution to our problems; but after successive scare campaigns - the proliferation of the unfit, the Social Problem Group, overpopulation, desertification, the new Ice Age, global warming, climate change, welfare scroungers, the ‘ageing population’ - we now fear the robot revolution.
Pride asserts that some are more worthy than others and that we are justified in supporting population control to ensure that the less worthy die out; but robots have no purchasing power, and no new ideas. Doubtless we will get robots to build yet more robots, but they will never create human genius – only human beings can do that. Charles Babbage was one of four, Alfred Lord Tennyson one of 12; John Constable was one of six, William Wordsworth one of five; Charles Dickens was one of eight, as was Jane Austen. Out of a family of six, three Brontë sisters achieved fame. Mrs Gaskell, the youngest of eight, had six children; Elizabeth Fry, one of 13, had 11. Parson Malthus, the father of the overpopulation scare, was a seventh child but had only two, whereas Charles Darwin, the fifth of sixth children, believed that Nature selected the best from super-abundance and had ten.
We have sought freedom and become imprisoned by our own egos; we have devalued the unborn only to succeed in devaluing ourselves; we have seized the present moment and sacrificed all our future moments.
Critics say that Humanae Vitae ‘failed to keep up’ with the times, but its relevance grows with every passing year; in reality ‘the times’ have failed to keep up with Humanae Vitae.