Has The Pill "Increased Or Diminished Human Happiness"?

Birth control pills will go over the counter at a few locations in London in 2009, prompting James Berrill of The Independent to examine its legacy — and come up with some pretty weird opinions.

Berrill writes that "feminists who grew up in the 1960s have more recently claimed that it was a "misogynist tyrant in disguise", urging women to be ever more available for male pleasure, and pumping their bodies full of chemicals." It's not a new argument (and, to be clear, it's not Berrill's), but it does imply that men are the ones who enjoy sex, while women just want to cuddle and hold hands until they're ready to make babies.

Things get stranger when Berrill discusses the Pill's effect on women's sexuality. He writes:

Young single women have always had sex – statistics show that in 1875, 40 per cent of brides were pregnant on their wedding day. What changed with the advent of the Pill was that they were able to enjoy sex for the first time.

Uh, what? This is almost as silly as Ali G's claim that "people has been reading books for millions of years, but thanks to new technology, now they is able to write them as well." Sure, lessening the fear of pregnancy helps many women enjoy sex more than they would have otherwise. But we weren't aware that no woman had ever liked sex until 1961!

Berrill says the consequences of the Pill include "delayed childbearing, the huge increase in women going out to work, an obsession with perfect sex, and the rise in infertility have led some to question whether it has increased or diminished human happiness." It's debatable whether the Pill has turned us into a society of sex-perfectionists — or whether it has really led to lower fertility except where it was, um, supposed to. But the Pill has affected women's sex lives, both by letting them control their reproduction and, possibly, by lowering their libidos. So has the Pill made humanity happier? Or have its side effects outweighed its benefits?

How Britain Learnt To Love The Pill [The Independent]