Sex at the End of the World

In Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World, sex has been completely removed from any traditional constraints. Sex literally has nothing to do with procreation or love. In fact, these things are seen as dangerous, backward, and uncivilized. Sex must be love-less, child-less, and meaning-less. Children are taught to experiment from a very young age in order to normalize sexual behavior. The goal is a society where sex is both casual and obligatory, where everyone belongs to everyone else sexually. In such a society, sex is everywhere, but love is nowhere. If you’re thinking this all sounds uncomfortably familiar, well, yeah.

We will be feeling the aftershocks of the Supreme Court’s monumental decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade for some time. The decision has left many people elated. Others have been apoplectic. It’s rare to meet a person who responds to the decision with a casual shrug of indifference. In the days immediately following the decision, I wrote a piece outlining the case against abortion from a biblical and philosophical perspective. As I’ve reflected further over the past several days, a fairly obvious point suddenly dawned on me. Roe wasn’t really about abortion at all. It was ultimately about sex. The end of Roe was an attack on a particular sexual worldview that has become pervasive since the 1960s, so pervasive that many young people – including many who call themselves Christians – don’t recognize any other way of living. Roe didn’t just legalize abortion. Roe allowed the sexual revolution to lose some of its revolutionary spirit. Instead, over time, sexual libertinism just became the conventional way of being in the world for many people. Obviously, it wasn’t only Roe that brought about this change, but Roe became the backstop for sexual libertinism. The sexual revolution placed individual sexual expression at the center of human experience. Roe made it so that this expression didn’t have to radically alter the course of your life. The party didn’t have to stop just because you got (or got somebody) pregnant.

Fifty years after Roe, we can survey what has become of the sexual revolution. Single-parent households are at an all-time high. 6.8% of children globally live in single-parent households. 23% of American children live in single-parent households including 64% of African-American children. Marriage is at an all-time low. Marriage rates have dropped by 40% since Roe. Fertility rates are also at historic lows. The US fertility rate is now below levels needed to replace population. Meanwhile, 25% of all internet searches involve pornography and 12% of all websites are pornographic. Counter-intuitively, Gen Z is having a bit less sex than previous generations. There are likely many reasons for this including fear, general lack of socialization, technology, and pervasive porn. But even though they are having less sex, no generation has been more concerned about sex as an identity. One out of six members of this generation place themselves somewhere on the LGBT spectrum of sexual identities. For many in Gen Z, sexuality has become the center of their self-understanding. Gen Z is marrying less, having less kids, using porn more, and experimenting more with sexual identities. Now, correlation is not always causation, but it bears noting that by every metric available they are also experiencing worse mental health than any other generation. They are struggling with pervasive loneliness, fear, and depression. The one thing we can say with some certainty is that the sexual revolution hasn’t led to general flourishing among our youngest generation. If you disagree with this, I invite you to show me data that shows otherwise.

The sexual worldview today mirrors that of Brave New World in some important ways. As in Huxley’s vision, children are sexualized earlier and earlier into their childhood. Drag queens read children’s book about sexual identity to five-year-olds in public libraries. In some schools, children in their most impressionable, pliable season of life are taught by teachers to explore and question their gender and their sexuality. What is this other than conditioning children to enter into a world where sex is stripped of its sanctity and every sexual expression is normalized? Another similarity is that sex has been divorced from any marital commitment. If you want to get married, fine, but don’t assume that sex and the loving commitment of marriage naturally belong together. Sex isn’t about love or even romance. In fact, feeling anything for another person in hookup culture is one of the greatest fears, other than pregnancy of course.

Speaking of pregnancy, we see another parallel with Brave New World in the childlessness of sex. Today, sex is about personal gratification. Pregnancy is about choice. The picture below perfectly captures this sentiment.

This picture is a tribute to the culture that Roe helped to introduce. A “maternity” shoot where the maternal figure is obscured in the background is obscene. The woman in this picture is nothing more than a gestational factory. Never mind the fact that the child carries half of her DNA and is equally hers. Never mind the fact that the love of two men can never produce new life. The illusion must be retained and amplified. Pregnancy is not about sex; it’s about will. That’s why in this worldview Roe must be retained. Overturning Roe makes sex more consequential and weighty. Roe allowed us to live in a brave new world of unfettered sexual libertinism free of biological consequences. Overturning Roe is a terrifying prospect to men and women raised in this worldview.

Here is the situation for young people today. They are told that sexual expression is obligatory in order to have a meaningful life, but they are also told that sex is ultimately love-less, child-less, and meaning-less. Sex is about me getting off as a solitary individual in the world. Such a worldview is not likely to lead to substantial happiness, but the situation is actually worse than that. At the same time that the sexual revolution has emptied sex of meaning, young people have been told that everything in the world is getting worse. The climate is changing. The economy is tanking. War is raging. Their parents vote for Republicans! Why in the world would anyone bring a child into this world? Having kids is inherently selfish! There is an apocalypticism and hopelessness that has come to characterize our culture especially among the young. We imagine ourselves to be living in a dystopian novel. The world is ending and all we can do is divert ourselves with sexual expression until we are all burned up on a dying planet. Sex is just something fun you do until you die.

So here is the contemporary sexual worldview that pervades our culture: Sex is meaningless, love-less, and child-less, but it is also hope-less. Is it any wonder that this nihilistic worldview of sex is leaving us miserable? There have been a lot of reflections on the Church’s responsibilities now that Roe has been overturned. This is a good and proper thing for us to think about. How can we continue to step up and create a culture of life? How can we continue to love and care for those who are fearful or without resources and a community? I would suggest that in a post-Roe world, the Church needs to not only foster a love for life but also a love for meaningful sex. Our world is languishing from a life-less sexualism. The Church should not hesitate to show that there is another way – a way that regards sex as meaningful, sacred, life-giving, loving, and ultimately hopeful.

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