Fear of Reese Witherspoon Look-Alikes on the Pill
I was once approving of Ross Douthat as a New York Times oped columnist. But that was when I was younger. And easily misled.
From Ross Douthat, Privilege, bottom of p. 184:
One successful foray ended on the guest bed of a high school friend's parents, with a girl who resembled a chunkier Reese Witherspoon drunkenly masticating my neck and cheeks. It had taken some time to reach this point--"Do most Harvard guys take so long to get what they want?" she had asked, pushing her tongue into my mouth. I wasn't sure what to say, but then I wasn't sure this was what I wanted. My throat was dry from too much vodka, and her breasts, spilling out of pink pajamas, threatened my ability to. I was supposed to be excited, but I was bored and somewhat disgusted with myself, with her, with the whole business... and then whatever residual enthusiasm I felt for the venture dissipated, with shocking speed, as she nibbled at my ear and whispered--"You know, I'm on the pill..."
What squicks me out is (a) that the real turnoff for Ross Douthat is that she has taken responsibility for her own fertility and gone on the pill, and (b) that Ross Douthat does not take this to be a learning moment--is not self-reflective enough to say "Hmmm... If there are other men like me who are turned off by women who take responsibility for fertility control, isn't that likely to be a cause of more abortions?"
Combine that with what Ross Douthat's dismissal of Belle Sawhill's point that free-as-in-beer (but not free-as-in-no-hassle) birth control appears to prevent 1/5 of abortions--and there is an awful lot here not to like, and an awfully good reason to think that Tyler Cowen or Kerry Howley or Virginia Postrel or any of a large number of other candidates would be an infinitely better choice for the job.
And, of course, there is the other point: here is a Reese Witherspoon look-alike who has offered Ross Douthat the extremely precious gift of wanting to make love to him, and he writes her into his book in this way with what look to be sufficient identifying details. You can write that paragraph in a way that is calculated to try to make her feel bad about herself should she ever read it; you can write that paragraph in a way that does not try to make her feel bad about herself should she ever read it; normal human sociability and empathy suggests that one should try to do the
first second; Ross Douthat chooses to do the second first.