The irreducible core of their dispute is the question of legal abortion — whether it represents progress or regress, a necessary human right or a grave evil. But then in addition to that division, there is a more complicated contrast in their sexual ethics. Religious conservatives generally want to restore the sexual order of a more Christian past, restoring ideals of chastity and monogamy that the ‘60s and ‘70s dissolved. But feminists believe those older rules were just a means for men to subjugate women, so it’s better to maintain or further sexual emancipation while imposing the most stringent moral norms around consent. Instead of fruitlessly trying to tame lust, the theory goes, we can remoralize sexual culture by taming misogyny, extirpating toxic masculinity, and re-educating men.
We seem to be headed toward a world where the parties are polarized by gender and the two moralistic programs, feminist and conservative, are therefore seen as just the expression of each sex's interests as pitted against the other.
That means that #MeToo zeal will be seen by too many men (and their sympathetic wives and friends and mothers) as a means of punishing only guys for a sex-and-booze culture in which both sexes are complicit … while any Christianity-influenced sexual moralism will be seen by too many women (and their male allies and partners) as just the royal road to the Commander’s bedroom in Gilead.
In which case the war between competing moralisms will also become a war between the sexes, making a fuller re-moralization impossible while sacrificing the human future to permanent resentment, misunderstanding and distrust.