Symposium: Barter’s Advantages

This article is in response to “Has the Sexual Revolution Been Good for Women?” by Mary Eberstadt and is part of the symposium, “Sex and the Polis: Perspectives on Marriage, Family, and Sexual Ethics.

George Orwell once said,

Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Political language has always been manipulative, unreflective, shallow. As Mary Eberstadt points out, Orwell’s words are particularly true of the “War on Women” rhetoric of recent political battles in the United States. We all love a good story, and a narrative with so clear a victim has emotional force.

Eberstadt quotes the statistics that tell the story of “the paradox of declining female happiness.” But it’s particularly heart-wrenching to hear the personal stories, the anecdotes that confirm the soul-wounds that sexual libertinism inflicts.

In class a few weeks ago, two girls were talking as everyone was picking up their books to leave. Class had been on new developments in internet technology, so their thoughts had turned to a form of caddish behavior that the Web has made possible: guys can keep various girls suspended in a state of constant high-level flirtation through online chatting without ever meeting any of the aforesaid females in person or committing to any of them in any way.

They commented on how such behavior would have not only been possible a few decades ago, but downright unthinkable. In  a tone of deep lament, one said, “Women now give away what they used to barter.”

Barter isn’t the same thing as the full and deep communion of self-giving souls that sexuality is supposed to lead us to in marriage. But they were very right: the Sexual Revolution has actually eroded women’s power in the sexual marketplace, and the dignity of women has been eroded in consequence.