• spec-ta-cles

Ross Douthat’s weekend column in the Times is about the differing views on abortion held by “cultural liberals” and “social conservatives.” There’s some funny language in this piece. It’s not clear, for instance, why Douthat considers abortion a “cultural” issue—a divertissement on par with, say, a night at the opera—for east-coast communist gay elites, and a “social” issue for others. And I have to confess being brought up short by Douthat’s use of the phrase “artificial birth control,” by which he means “birth control,” only modified with a meaningless adjective. “Natural” birth control—that is, abstinence—would appear to be, in the context of the two modifiers being opposites, equally without meaning. For instance! My boss will be pleased to learn that I am, right now, practicing natural birth control. At my desk! And Ross Douthat will be pleased to learn that I find natural birth control quite easy to consummate. “Birth control” is only a cogent concept if you’re actually talking about sex, in other words. In which case, “natural” styles of birth control range from the withdrawal method to various nonpenetrative tactics, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Douthat’s social conservatives have in mind.