In some ways, Primal Screams is a follow-up to Eberstadt's 2012 book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution. If the sexual revolution led to unexpected problems between men and women, how else has it affected us as a society? Primal Screams answers that question.
Eberstadt is a shrewd, thoughtful analyst of our culture, and scrutinizes her subject through a nonpartisan lens. She writes, “this book would not exist without the conviction that beneath the noise of identity politics lie authentic hardships, including antediluvian ones that have not been hitherto acknowledged.”
Primal Scream is, then, important for readers of all political and ideological complexions. But it’s especially significant for readers on the Right, who might be tempted to dismiss identity politics as mere snowflakery.
Identity politics is driven by race, class, corrosive multiculturalism, mentally fragile millennials, and tribalism, among other things. But the sexual revolution made the allure of identity politics much stronger, Ebsterstadt argues. The quest for identity is primal, not political, and the sexual revolution was partly responsible for the break-up of the family structure, which used to provide a sense of identity.
She argues, for example, that feminism has evolved from a civil rights movement to a survival strategy. “This is the deeper unrecognized allure of draconian speech codes on campuses and elsewhere: they promise to limit what men can do and say, in a world in which the old limits on male behavior no longer apply.”
As “the ethos of recreational sex blurred the line between protector and predator,” women sought an ideology that would protect them from male predation. “However unconsciously,” Ebsterstadt writes, “feminism is in fact expressing an overlooked truth here: today’s women have reason to feel concerned.”
This brings Ebsterstadt to a claim that androgyny in fashion, the blurring of gender roles, et cetera, gives women a safe space from male predation, and protects men from charges of toxic masculinity. The sexual revolution “has inadvertently subsidized androgyny by raising the penalties for traditional masculinity and femininity,” she writes.
“No-fault divorce, out-of-wedlock births, paid surrogacy, absolutism about erotic freedom, disdain for traditional religious codes: the very politics and practices that have chipped away at the family, and helped to provoke the subsequent flight to identity politics, are those that liberals and progressives embrace,” she writes.
Whether or not you believe that the sexual revolution has had as much of a role in the rise of identity politics as Ebsterstadt claims, it’s difficult to deny that, amid fracturing families, people search for new identities to embrace.
All the lonely people are looking for a place to belong, and more than 50 years after the sexual revolution, The Beatles still don’t have their answer.