Sex Sells: Abortion, Capitalism, and the Sexual Revolution

In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond… In order to facilitate the spread of abortion, enormous sums of money have been invested and continue to be invested in the production of pharmaceutical products which make it possible to kill the fetus in the mother’s womb without recourse to medical assistance. (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 12-13)

Contraception and abortion are capitalist tools. They are useful for both maintaining the size of the labor market and for racist eugenics, but they have another purpose: the incredible profit of the Sexual Revolution.

Though sexual morality has long been in decline, the Sexual Revolution was a dramatic upheaval that swept away many remaining social norms. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion throughout the nation in 1973, but not before Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) legalized contraception for all Americans and Stanley v. Georgia (1969) established a “right” to the private possession of pornography.

How did such shocking degeneracy occur so quickly? The most powerful force was not the feminists and hippies who fought on the liberal side of the culture wars, it was multi-millionaire capitalists working with lawyers who followed the logic of liberalism.

To survive, capitalism must always create new commodities and markets. In the 1950s, a small band of capitalists led by Hugh Hefner tapped into the powerful desires of sexuality—previously contained by traditional family morals—and dragged them into the free market. In the words of Lyombe Eko, “Playboy was a classic sexual-capitalist venture. Hefner began the magazine in 1953 with a $600 loan and $8,000 from stocks that he sold to friends and family” (The Regulation of Sex-Themed Visual Imagery, Chapter 11). By taking entrepreneurial risks, capitalists amassed incredible wealth which they used to lobby politicians and judges, appealing to the liberal logic of the 1st Amendment and the Free Market.

In the words of the Financial Times, “in its effect, if not its intention, the 1960s were a gift to capitalism. Its emphasis on the individual reinforced the market, not the revolution, which is an innately collective act, requiring a groupthink and ascetic discipline that the 1960s blew away (mostly for the better). Individualism led to sexual freedom, artistic innovation and a questioning of authority, but also prepared the ground for the economic reforms of the subsequent decades.” (FT, April 13, 2018

Today, the industries of sexual capitalism—pornography distributed via magazines, video, internet, and cable, pay-per-view, strip clubs, fetish organizations, sex toys, contraception, abortion—are worth hundreds of billions worldwide. In the US, the porn industry alone was estimated to be worth $15 billion in 2018, larger than Netflix ($11.7 billion) or the NFL ($14 billion) (Source). Strip clubs in the US were worth $8 billion in 2019 (IBISWorld Report). Globally, the sex toy market is worth $29 billion (Source) and the contraceptive market $28.2 billion (Source). None of this factors in the profits produced by advertisements, marketing, and clickbait employing sexualized media.

Meanwhile, the U.S. “Family Planning” Industry (Planned Parenthood and the many independent clinics which provide contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion) is worth only $3 billion dollars (IBISWorld Report), yet it serves as the cornerstone of sexual capitalism. Abortion is necessary because condoms sometimes fail. Sex can only be completely separated from children if the “accidents” can be killed. And capitalism has always been happy to kill in the name of the market.

…contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree…. such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment.” (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae § 13)