Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Pill at 50

From LAT, "'The pill': 50 years after":
The thought of out-of-wedlock pregnancy struck terror in women in midcentury America, said Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University who has studied the pill's effect on professional women. The proper course of courtship was to go steady, become lavaliered, pinned, then engaged.

"They were a set of steps that led almost irrevocably to marriage, and they were set down at an early age," she said. "The pill allowed us to get rid of all of those steps."

That first pill, Enovid, contained a mixture of the hormones estrogen and progestin that worked to prevent ovulation. Women took one active pill a day for 21 days, then a placebo pill for seven days to allow for menstruation, which the pill's inventors thought was necessary and would assure women they weren't pregnant.

In the post-pill era, the average age of first marriage began to creep up as women and couples no longer felt they needed to wait to become sexually active. The rate of women in professional schools rose from 18.4% of professionals in 1960 to 36.4% by 1998.

The pill also has been credited — or blamed — for overturning sexual mores, but there is less evidence that it caused or evenly greatly contributed to the sexual revolution, May said. The nation, she noted, experienced sharp changes in sexual behavior in the 1920s, during World War II, and during the 1960s and '70s.

Other predictions swirling around at the time of its debut did not come true, May said. The pill did not curb worldwide population growth, create happier sex lives for married couples or reduce rates of divorce.
More at the link.

Amazing to think that a scientific advance like this accelerated the collapse of traditional values and culture. Could've happened in any case, but the empowering effect of the pill certainly made options available for women outside of marriage, and that, along with the radical feminist interpretation of marriage as institutionalized rape pretty much sealed the deal.