Here's the thing about revolutions—there is no taking them back. You may review history and wish that it had gone the other way; perhaps you always longed to be a British colonist and regret the outcome of the American Revolution. Or maybe you liked the idea of a man behind a horse and plow and feel that the Industrial Revolution was all a big misstep.
But personal laments are only that: personal. They cannot change what has been done. If you feel that the sexual revolution destroyed the American family by giving women power over their reproductive choices, and that power turned daughters and wives, by and large, into a bunch of wanton hussies, well, stew over your feelings all you want, but you might as well give up thinking that it is possible to herd us up and drive us back into the kitchen—which, depending on how many revolutions have offended you, might be a kitchen with a washboard and cake of soap or a smoke house featuring a picture of King George.
Believe me, you are not alone in your feelings of discontent. There are plenty of things that people call progress which I believe are destroying the fabric of the American family: social networking, for example. Facebook tries to stand in place of the deeper connections that are essential for us to thrive, but it actually gets in the way of those connections, leaving people feeling all the more isolated. Allowing small children to watch television and play "Angry Birds" on iPads also seems like a terrible idea, but I don't imagine that I will be able to gather up all the cellphones and televisions and MacBooks in the world and bury them in a landfill just because I believe that my vision of the past would be a better way for everyone to live again.
Here's how I deal with aspects of progress that are distasteful to me: I do not participate in them.
Let me tell you how I deal with aspects of progress that are personally distasteful to me: I do not participate in them. I do not tweet or text or watch television. If the sexual revolution offends you, stay away from it. If, say, you don't approve of birth control, then choose not use it. If you are a Catholic, as I am, and birth control is covered in the insurance plan of the Catholic institution that employs you, you still don't have to use it. Think of it as a protest. If you are galled by the idea of paying for the birth control of people you do not know, people who might be using it to have wanton sex, stop and make a list of all the other troubling ways your tax dollars are spent. Contraception will probably not make the top 10.
The sexual revolution, which rode into town on the backs of those pink plastic cases of birth-control pills, was, after all, not so much a matter of sleeping around as it was of having the ability to decide when you were going to have a child, and then deciding how many children you wanted to have. For me, it meant the freedom to choose not having children at all. It was a quiet use of a revolution, but a completely appropriate one. I never wanted children and therefore doubted I would be a great parent. Perhaps a few more people who don't want children and feel that they wouldn't be great parents could consider following my lead. You can have my birth-control pills when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands.
If there is to be talk of regret where the sexual revolution is concerned, perhaps we should consider the ways in which it failed to go far enough or, to cast this in a better light, might still progress.
Let us so empower the young women in our communities with the excellent education that is available to them, the love and support of their families, and the abundance of positive role models, that they are strong enough within themselves to wait until they feel fully ready to have sex with a person they trust, a person who values them. And let the young men of our communities benefit from that same education, that same love. To make things easier, let's remove several million degrading images of women that can give a boy the wrong ideas about the value of other people.
When everyone is good and ready, let's supply them with birth control that allows them to decide when and if they want to have children together and, as an extra bonus, protects them from sexually transmitted diseases. We all have our utopian ideals and that's mine.
It seems to me that when birth control was making its debut, the notion of the freedom it promised was so dazzling that women actually remembered to use it, in the same way that the suffragists who marched and starved and went to prison for the right to vote remembered to vote.
It seems to me that when birth control was making its debut, the notion of the freedom it promised was so dazzling that women actually remembered to use it, in the same way that the suffragists who marched and starved and went to prison for the right to vote remembered to vote. In the intervening generations, the sexual revolution and today's sexually active teenagers have grown too far apart. Young women can still remember that they are free to have sex while forgetting that they are able to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Bristol Palin became a famous teenage mother and spawned (if you will forgive the word) a reality-show level of interest in girls by showing them how cool it is to be in high school with an infant on your hip. Sometimes I think the revolution could stand a refresher course.
Reproduction is the very purpose of life on earth. No matter which aspects of the act and its consequences are debated, mandated, outlawed or rolled back, sex will keep on keeping on. So for those who remain bitter about the revolution and wish it had never happened, join hands with the likes of me, who see the rights and freedoms of women as the only possible outcome for a thinking society. Together, let's make a country into which any baby would be proud to be born.
First, we could swap out baby showers for a revitalized Head Start program. Most expectant mothers would rather have prenatal checkups and proper nutrition than another stuffed bear anyway. Then we'd invite three fairy godmothers to attend the birth: Health Care (to pay for the delivery and checkups), Day Care (just in case mom and dad have to work outside the home) and Education (to set the child on a path to a successful life). I'm not certain this is the logical outcome of the revolution, but surely it should be the logical outcome of procreative sex. If you think that denying babies these rights and privileges might drive their parents to abstinence, well, we tried it your way, and it didn't work.
It is astonishing, really, this ability we have to complicate things. But we have complicated things, and we will continue to do so. The last time I checked, sex was one of the loveliest of human activities, and it deserves our respect. It's where we came from, every single one of us, and so in that sense, if perhaps no other, we should manage to find common ground.
—Ms. Patchett is the author of six novels, including the best-selling "State of Wonder" and "Bel Canto."