For previous generations, sexual responsibility meant acknowledging the consequences of sex and living accordingly. Today, it seems that sexual responsibility means using technology to avoid or manipulate those consequences.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson — the ruling that overturned constitutionally guaranteed access to abortion — demand for sterilization procedures sharply increased. One urologist reported a tripling in vasectomy requests, explaining to Bloomberg that what’s driving the demand is the desire “to remain pregnancy-free, because now you cannot reverse a pregnancy as easily as you could before.” It ought to be no surprise that those who think abortion is “reversing a pregnancy” also view sterilization as an ingenious feat of human progress.

Writing for the Spectator World, Guy Shepherd argues that, in the aftermath of Dobbs, “organized women of the world are going to be asking more of men.” He suggests men be on their “best behavior” and that parents talk to their “sons and daughters about the need for shared sexual responsibility.” Sounds promising. But what Shepherd has in mind has nothing to do with developing character or rising to meet the demands of marriage, fatherhood, or civil society. Instead, he is promoting the idea that “men should get reversible vasectomies — not in their thirties and forties after they have kids, but early, as a form of male birth control.”

“All of us, men and women, are coming to sexual maturity earlier and we are pushing the window on marriage and children later and later,” Shepherd explains. “We need to close the window.” Hm. Might there be a nonsurgical way “to close the window”? Something behavioral, perhaps?

What Shepherd gets right is that up until now, women have been made to bear the brunt of ensuring that sex “remains pregnancy-free.” Either they take a pill orally every day, or they have a copper contraption inserted into their arm or cervix, or they use some other form of birth control. Shepherd thinks that men ought to make parallel sacrifices, since the problem, in his view, is “too much sperm in the sexual marketplace.” Might there be a nonmedical way to keep sperm from being deposited into women unwilling to be mothers?

The success rate for vasectomy reversal is between 30 and 90 percent. But this doesn’t matter, Shepherd says, because “the future of childbirth is moving to the freezer”:

The best birth control plan for a young man — and society — is for him to harvest his youngest and best swimmers as early as possible, put them in a freezer under lock and key and then get a vasectomy. The end. No unwanted pregnancy, no needs for an abortion, fewer deadbeat dads. VD maybe; baby never.

How romantic.

The period between adolescence and adulthood, in which the boy becomes the man, was once seen as the critical time in which to cultivate moral character. Good habits were encouraged to set a young man up for life, to help him understand that some things are bigger and more important than his whims and appetites. His virility propelled him toward marriage, given that commitment was the price of sex and offered tremendous purpose. After falling in love with a woman, and discerning that they were well suited, he would ask her to marry him. Should she agree, the two of them would get married, accept and raise children as part of the deal, and then (after a hopefully long and certainly meaningful life) die, as we all must.

But who needs romance or purpose when you have licentiousness? “Men: imagine walking into a doctor’s office when you are eighteen and walking out with the knowledge that an unintended pregnancy will not be in your future,” Shepherd writes. For those wishing to prolong adolescence through emasculation, perhaps that’s appealing. But for those aspiring to more, what an insult.

Slate recently published an essay about the “people who ovulate” (i.e., women) who have also decided to be sterilized in post-Roe America. Some of these women, mostly in their thirties, say they have always known they don’t want kids, and they are therefore terrified of a world without guaranteed access to abortion. As for why they want to be sterilized, one woman cited 16 reasons including “bad side effects from previous birth control” as well as “the cost of child rearing, gun violence, and item No. 10, fascism.”

Last year, I wrote in the Spectator about “baby doomers,” young couples of childbearing age who are forgoing children because (they say) of climate change. The most striking thing about such people is how miserable they are. Their paralysis and despair recall the words of Christopher Hollis summarizing the views of his friend George Orwell about the contraceptive mentality: It shows, Orwell thought, “a profound lack of faith in life.” Moreover, “a generation which slipped into the way of thinking such a desire legitimate was inevitably damned.”

Fertility is not a disease. Impeding it is not a virtue. Every single one of us is going to die. Our civilization needn’t. But sterilizing the fertile and indoctrinating the children who are allowed to be born with this newfangled notion of “sexual responsibility” is one great way to ensure that it does.