Gender Equality and Gender War

I have a piece up at First Things today on the sexual revolution, #MeToo, and why women are always the biggest losers in a sexually autonomous society. Here’s an excerpt:

The two most consequential gains of the sexual revolution in my lifetime have been birth control and pornography, both of which have radically shaped the public square in the image of male desire. Both oral contraceptives and abortion have been cast as victories for female liberation, and to the degree that “liberation” means the weaponizing of our bodies against nature, this is true. But it is the men who have reaped the richest rewards (sex without children), without any of the tradeoff. Men, after all, need not concern themselves with the physiological effects of the pill, or with the surgeon’s knife, or with the risks of darkness and depression. It is the liberated women, not the men, who are asked to sacrifice their bodies for equality.

You can read the whole thing here.

Interestingly, and purely coincidentally, my friend Alastair Roberts has a new post about “weak men” and the gender wars. He riffs on a recent interview of social psychologist Jordan Peterson, in which Peterson appears to offend his interviewer by suggesting that men who perpetually defer to women in their life are ironically frustrating the ladies they’re trying to placate. Instead of being constantly admonished to support strong women, Alastair argues, men should be encouraged to shed immature weakness of their own and assert virtuous control over their lives and responsibilities.


Women, Peterson argues, deeply desire competent and powerful men as partners, because they can contend with and rely upon such men. Such power is not seen in tyrannical control—in the puerile husband who live action role-plays as a micro-managing patriarch—but in competence, confidence, strength, resolve, courage, honour, self-mastery, and other such manly virtues. Many women will settle for weak men, because weak men allow them to dominate them, but such relationships are almost always unhappy and frustrating for both parties in the long run.

Just how threatening the development of powerful men is to our society and how invested our society has become in stifling men and discouraging their strength is illuminating, and the responses to Peterson are often telling here—both the instinctive resistance of many women to the prospect of more powerful men and the immense hunger of young men for a maturity they feel they lack.


Contemporary feminism is a cause doomed to frustration in key respects because the healthy strength and commitment that women so desire in their partners is something that they are invested in systemically stifling elsewhere and because their natural sexual power over men has been traded off for advantages in the realm of economic participation. There is a strong connection between the weakening of men and the progression of feminism, yet the result isn’t satisfying to either sex.

Had I read Alastair’s piece before writing my own, I would have connected our two points explicitly. While the economic dynamics of modern life are tilted to favor women, the sexual dynamics are perhaps more male-biased than ever. That’s because, as Alastair and Jordan Peterson point out, contemporary culture encourages women to lay aside their natural leverage over men and embrace a homogenous sexual ethos, one that is eventually reduced to competition, resentment, and consumerism. These attitudes erode trust and communal accountability. All that’s left is litigation and the will to power, which, unsurprisingly, plays right into the hands of amoral men.

Gender equality, unmoored from a transcendent moral vision of the sexes, culminates in gender war. If we are to push back against the tide of sexual violence and exploitation, we have to push back all the way, all the way against the sexual nihilism that convinced us first of all that we could be and do whatever we want.

Author: Samuel D. James

Believer, husband, father, acquisitions editor, writer.