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In my previous posts (1) I have discussed the biblical, biological and ethical dimensions of the "pro-life" (i.e., anti-choice, forced-birth) debate.  Now I will address the more practical sociological concerns that affect nearly everyone on a personal level.

In the ongoing public debate around this issue there has been a recurring theme raised by the "pro-life" faction:
"If you don't want a baby, then don't spread your legs!"  The purpose of sex, they say, is reproduction, and if women don't want to be pregnant, then we shouldn't have sex.  It is that simple.

But, is it?  Let us consider the implications of this.

Obviously, one could argue that a better or more workable plan would be universal access to reliable birth control.

There are a few problems with this plan:
1.  Not everyone, in fact, has access to birth control, and most conservatives are opposed to birth control being provided as part of "Obamacare" because it supposedly violates their religious liberty as well as their wallet.  While it is true that generic birth control pills are available for $10 a month or less, the real expense is in the doctor visits and lab work that are required to obtain a prescription, which many women cannot afford.  Moreover, doctors will not prescribe The Pill or other hormonal methods to women with various underlying health issues, even though pregnancy and childbirth would be even more strongly contraindicated for these women.
2.  Many people who are opposed to abortion also argue against some of the most effective forms of birth control such as the Pill, the Patch and the IUD on the basis of their mistaken belief that these methods can cause abortion by preventing implantation of a fertilized ovum.  Others oppose any artificial birth control in principle, because it implies that pregnancy is undesirable and that babies could ever be anything but a blessing.
3.  The more readily available and affordable birth control, condoms, are typically only about 89% effective.  Even the best birth control is not 100% effective and pregnancy can result despite the most careful precautions.

So, this brings us back to the assertion that abstinence is the only valid approach for any woman who is not ready and willing to bear a child at any given time.

Perhaps this is not particularly bad advice for, say, young teenagers who are still in school, assuming that they can manage to control themselves despite their raging hormones, which unfortunately history and statistics suggest they can't.  I don't think that girls under 18 necessarily ought to be having sex; even though most of us did and they probably will, I would prefer that they pay attention to their textbooks and ignore the boys for a few years.  But, in a society where many people postpone marriage and childbearing until they are finished with college and established in their careers (which, IMO, is a good idea), typically around 28 years old, is it really reasonable to expect that they will remain celibate until that time?

Ah, celibacy.  This is something that I know quite a bit about, having been celibate myself for 14 years, from the time I became a [third-order] Sister until I got together with my husband 9 years ago.(2)  Interestingly, I received fierce criticism from all sides regarding my lifestyle choice.  Friends, family members, coworkers and complete strangers, liberal, conservative and otherwise, told me that my lifestyle was abnormal and wrong!  Society is, after all, oriented around couples and family life, and sex is the glue that holds romantic relationships together.  So while the conservatives say they support celibacy in theory, it's quite another matter when you actually practice it, then suddenly you are going against God and Nature.  Basically, in my experience you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

I had fully intended to remain happily celibate until I died, but as we know, life often turns out differently than we had imagined.  I say "happily" because yes, if you have the "gift" - the rare vocation - it can be a very happy life indeed, especially if you know advanced yoga practices.  In fact, there are places you can go in meditation that involve ecstasy as far beyond ordinary sex as mushrooms are beyond beer.  And, being a yoga teacher, I can show you how to get there!  But, it requires years of discipline and undistracted practice, so if you are going to learn, I strongly recommend that you do it before having kids, because once you are busy raising a family, it is highly unlikely that you will have the time and energy to do so.

And this brings us to the next problem with the "keep your legs closed" plan:  It's not just irresponsible young teenagers and wild 20-something singles who are having sex.  Contrary to popular belief, married people also have sex!  At least, many of them do.  So, if we are to take the plan seriously - that a woman should ONLY have sex if and when she is prepared to have a baby - this means that married couples must stop having sex once they have had all the children that they can manage to support.  While the Vatican encourages couples to remain "open to life" because "God will provide," realistically I think experience demonstrates that He won't.  In today's economy, most people can probably afford no more than one or two kids, which will likely be born within the first few years of the marriage, after which there will be no more sex according to this plan.

Now, I'm sure many wives won't have a problem with this, because they are exhausted from working [since nowadays both spouses need to work in order to support a family] and taking care of the kids; their husbands aren't that great in bed anyway, it's hardly worth the trouble, and if a woman really feels the need, a vibrator can do the trick.  Being "pro-life" and sincerely concerned about a potential baby that you cannot afford to give birth to, never mind raise, is a convenient excuse to ward off your husband's unwanted advances.

But, the "don't spread your legs, you slut!" program neglects the other half of the equation.  After all, women don't become pregnant all by themselves.  What about the men?  While I have found that many "pro-life" men endorse this slogan with great passion in online discussions, I wonder how they feel about it in real life.  Men, are you serious that you really, truly, don't want your wife, girlfriend or mistress to have sex with you unless she is ready and willing to have a baby, and that you are willing to stop having sex after the number of babies you can afford to support, have been born?  REALLY?

For some reason I don't believe this.  And if you're honest, neither do you, unless you are in fact gay or closet gay, in which case good for you!  You'll never have to worry about unwanted pregnancy again, since men cannot get pregnant.  But for the rest of you [straight] husbands, no, I'm not buying it.  I don't believe that you are really willing to be celibate the rest of your life.  As I said above, celibacy is a rare gift and more than likely, not one that you would prefer to receive.

So if the women are supposed to keep our legs closed, then with whom are all you [straight] men planning to have sex??

I think we can all agree that this "don't spread your legs!" idea, while it sounds all morally righteous in theory, is not a practical solution.  People are going to have sex and unwanted pregnancies are going to result.  So, what is left?

Adoption, of course!  Adoption is the "pro-life" solution to everything.  Never mind that orphanages and foster homes are already overflowing with unwanted children who desperately need homes.  It's bad enough for the children.  But what about the women?  If the men keep having sex with their wives/ girlfriends/ mistresses which will inevitably result in pregnancies which if carried to term they won't be able to afford, what is going to happen?

Simple:  Poor women will have to give up their babies for adoption by rich women who either cannot conceive, or would rather not be bothered by the messy and uncomfortable [to say the least!] process of pregnancy and childbirth which would interfere with their high-paying careers.  So assuming that in fact there are enough such wealthy families to adopt the babies (which the "pro-life" people assure me there are, despite statistics to the contrary), then we have "The Handmaid's Tale."  And apparently everybody is ok with that.

You know, on second thought, maybe it's not a bad idea after all.  Maybe women in states where laws are being passed to infringe on their reproductive rights, ought to keep their legs closed.  Don't give the men sex until the laws are repealed, especially if your spouse is a politician or lobbyist.  Help your men to understand the real-world implications of these policies.

(1)
Is The Bible Pro-Life?
How Pro-Life Are You?
Privacy, Property and Communism
The Gift of Life
The Allegedly Nonexistent War on Women
Biology, Personhood and Civil Rights

(2) Third order religious, who live outside of the convent, are permitted to marry.  See my account of celibacy and relationships here.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Brilliant! (8+ / 0-)

    Although, you overlook one point -- maybe these guys are all just planning on masturbating in the shower.  I don't know for sure, but it would be fun to ask them.

    "When puzzled, it never hurts to read the primary documents—a rather simple and self-evident principle that has, nonetheless, completely disappeared from large sectors of the American experience." -- Stephen Jay Gould

    by 8ackgr0und N015e on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 10:52:07 PM PDT

  •  I have never considered celibacy as a man, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metalnun, BadKitties

    and like you were/are, am a Lay Religious something akin to the Third Order Franciscans. (Lay Associate of the (Anglican) Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament which includes both male and female religious).

    SPES MEA IN DEO EST.

    by commonmass on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 11:01:31 PM PDT

  •  Dolly Parton (6+ / 0-)
    Now, I'm sure many wives won't have a problem with this, because they are exhausted from working [since nowadays both spouses need to work in order to support a family] and taking care of the kids; their husbands aren't that great in bed anyway, it's hardly worth the trouble, and if a woman really feels the need, a vibrator can do the trick.  Being "pro-life" and sincerely concerned about a potential baby that you cannot afford to give birth to, never mind raise, is a convenient excuse to ward off your husband's unwanted advances.
    This bit reminded me of a quote from Dolly Parton that I read recently. "After Mama gave birth to twelve children, we put her on a pedestal. Mainly to keep Daddy away from her."
  •  I like the way the subject is handled (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metalnun, marleycat, Silencio, caryltoo

    in the Episcopal Church. From the Marriage Ceremony:

    The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.
    emphasis mine

    Look at two of the three parts: mutual joy, which scholars interpret as sexual pleasure in a committed and sacred marital bond, and procreation, which is acknowledged as not necessarily being in the cards for every married couple. Two separate and distinct functions. The fact that childbearing may not be the right thing for a particular couple (or only limited to one or two offspring) should not stop that couple from experiencing the "mutual joy" of sexual intercourse.

    And of course from this folks hopefully realize that not every Christian denomination is out to sew women's hoohahs shut if they're not planning to have kids any time soon.

    And being a secular nation, it shouldn't matter what any religion teaches or believes...but until we get a sane Supreme Court along with a sane Congress, this is what we're stuck with.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 11:44:19 PM PDT

  •  With the Cons it is never about what they say (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueMississippi, metalnun

    it's about. So, the anti-abortion agenda being spouted by people who promote killing adults on demand (in warfare or the electric chair) isn't pro-life from the get-go. Moreover, given the strictures passed through various legislatures and pushed by the members of the Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology elected to the U.S. Congress, one has reason to suspect that the antagonism towards clinics is largely profit driven. Obstetricians and hospitals, where almost all births occur, lose business when women abort. So, outlawing clinics is an anti-competition move.
    Obstetrics is a specialty from which it is difficult to retrain. Not to mention that mid-wives, whose practice has also been restricted by demands that they affiliate with a doctor who has hospital admitting privileges, have increasingly cut into their business.

    It's not pro-life; it's pro-fit.
    More evidence can be found in the new surgically implantable contraceptive being pushed. It has the advantage of having to be removed and replaced in three years (another sale and another surgical procedure), is only 99% effective, and comes with multiple serious health risks that will have to be addressed by the medecine man.

    When I had an IUD inserted 45 years ago, the thing was supposed to be removed after five years, triggering a return visit to the OB/GYN, whose expertise was questionable at the outset since he relied on me, the patient, to describe what had worked before. So, I didn't bother and, for all I know, it's still there and worked perfectly while I was still impregnable.
    Not much profit in a plastic doo-dad that serves for 45 years.

    http://hannah.smith-family.com

    by hannah on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 02:53:32 AM PDT

  •  Isn't stopping having sex the prevention of life, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, gfv6800, metalnun

    or just a really early abortion?  Think of all the children who won't ever get a chance because people stopped having sex!

    "Wrong, Do it again!" "If you don't learn to compete, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't learn to compete?" "You! Yes, you occupying the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"

    by ban48 on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 03:42:00 AM PDT

    •  It's Not Argument or Philosophy Because Correction (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      metalnun

      of a teaching is not permissible. It wouldn't matter what data or logical contradiction you found, or new technology you invented. You can't take it to religious authority to get a change of the rules.

      The rules are from God, via the authorities, they cannot be changed and even though they are changed periodically --which is not a contradiction, and in any case is none of your business-- it's none of your business.

      Rules are rules. There's no in-box with religious authority, no matter how much their instruction may resemble argument. At most it's explanation.

      But it doesn't matter, and if you have a problem with an explanation, that doesn't matter either. The answer to all questions is "obey the rules."

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 05:08:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metalnun

    Yep, you point to one important thing: all this jibber-jabber about "responsibility" tends to apply to women's sexual behavior, and not to men's.  Points to the common denominator: control of women.

    This fascinated me:

    Interestingly, I received fierce criticism from all sides regarding my lifestyle choice.  Friends, family members, coworkers and complete strangers, liberal, conservative and otherwise, told me that my lifestyle was abnormal and wrong!  Society is, after all, oriented around couples and family life, and sex is the glue that holds romantic relationships together.  
    I have become increasingly persuaded that our society does, in fact, denigrate the option of celibacy.  It is sometimes ridiculed, and other times viewed almost as unjustifiable or irresponsible.  It's as though only a crazy person, or one obviously repressed, would chose to not to have sex.  It's a remarkably widespread form of psychological and emotional coercion.

    It interests me, too, that you felt the need to justify celibacy, were criticized for it, from right-wingers as well as left-wingers.    

    "It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us in trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so." (Artemus Ward)

    by Silencio on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 05:52:13 AM PDT

    •  thanks for your insights! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Silencio

      to clarify, I didn't "feel the need to justify celibacy" to anyone.  Rather, I was attacked unprovoked by everyone for having made the choice.

      So, again, it's interesting that while wome are told "don't spread your legs" we are in fact criticized if we do exactly that.

      •  Thank you for the important correction. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        metalnun

        Yes, I was thinking just in terms of that double bind: you must be chaste!  You must be sexually active!

        "It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us in trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so." (Artemus Ward)

        by Silencio on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 06:20:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yep! so what do they REALLY want us to do? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Silencio

          just have tons of babies?  because as far as I can tell, babies negate the ickiness of sex in the conservative "mind" (and I use that term loosely).  Like, sex is bad, but as long as you're having a baby then it's ok.  right?  or is there some other thing I'm missing here?

          •  Honestly? I truly do believe it's about (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            metalnun

            control of women.  Social domination.  It's the mindset of an abuser: NOTHING the woman (or, say, the child, son or daughter) can do is right.  Go left, you're supposed to go right.  Drink milk, you're slurping it too loudly.  Go to bed, you're ignoring me.

            It sounds reckless to say this, but I think it's a type of pathology, which makes it so hard to understand or make sense of.

            "It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us in trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so." (Artemus Ward)

            by Silencio on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:01:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I went celibate for 2 years as an adult once (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metalnun

    Hair started to grow on my palms

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 06:45:42 AM PDT

  •  I still prefer sex. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metalnun
    there are places you can go in meditation that involve ecstasy as far beyond ordinary sex as mushrooms are beyond beer.
    Or even masturbation.  But that's mainly because it's way faster and more reliable.  One unruly car alarm can throw your high if you're relying on an enlightenment experience.

    I support a Biblical definition of marriage. When do I get my concubines and second wife?

    by jackdabastard on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 12:14:25 PM PDT

    •  like I said it requires advanced yoga techniques (0+ / 0-)

      which take years of discipline and practice, but once you get it down, is well worth the effort.

      •  oh, p.s. I should mention (0+ / 0-)

        that you can also do these same yoga techniques along WITH sex!  now that is REALLY fun, and when done correctly does not result in pregnancy - which, of course, makes it bad according to the Catholic Church, among others...

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