While I had been noodling away on a book for years, it wasn't until the federal government put it out there plainly that "religion is women's enemy" (specifically, Christianity's view of human sexuality), that I simply had to sacrifice a summer to get a book out while the conversation was still hot.
The reason the "war on women" debate took off ... the reason why even seasoned politicos like, well, Politico, continue to be surprised at the persistence of the fight over abortion and even over the legacy of the pill, is that these really are proxies for the question of the meaning and purpose of women's lives. I acknowledge right up front that some women came -- and continue to come -- to the abortion and contraception debates from the perspective of legitimate fears regarding male dominance and even violence where sex is concerned. Addressing their concerns requires a different approach than I would take with the more typical supporters of the claim that Christianity harms women in the sexual arena. I think this latter group is still in the grip of the notion that breaking old sexual taboos is freedom, for women in particular who were, in the past, punished more than men for committing the same behaviors.
The thoughts/questions I wish to propose for comment today are this: where is their evidence? And why do they continue to attract adherents without it?
I am in the midst of writing a much longer law review article about this subject (for the Villanova Law Review, 2013), but here's the source of my comments: the data seem to show that women are worse off insofar as sexual intimacy, marriage, economics, and even happiness are concerned, since the late 1960s and 1970s. Their happiness levels have declined not only absolutely, but also as compared to men. Women today are also experiencing more sexually transmitted diseases, more non-marital parenting, less marriage overall, later marriage, greater difficulties conceiving, more unintended pregnancies, more abortions, and more cohabitation (when studies continually show they like cohabitation less than men like it, and a lot less than women like marriage). This is not junk, but rather mainstream law and economics, sociology and psychology stuff (I'll be summarizing it at womenspeakforthemselves.com in the near future, in advance of the law review piece).
So what's the claim on the other side? Well, I'm guessing it is reduced to this: being able to express oneself sexually, however one wishes, is freedom, and more and more so as we get better at controlling the consequences so that they are fewer and fewer (e.g. with more antibiotics, more readily available and effective birth control, cheaper abortion ,etc).
I maintain not only as a matter of my faith (we are after all, created in the image of a Trinitarian, socially, eternally loving-in-communion God), but also and fully as a matter of reason that: we are made for relationships and that all efforts to deny this are intrinsically harmful to woman, and the human family. Marriage and children are the fundamental forms of relationship for most people, though of course not for all. Efforts to deny or downgrade them are intrinsically suspicious, especially regarding women, who are, very likely, quite relationally-oriented.
The "War on Women" rhetoric might be right, in other words, save that the shoe is on the other foot.