I had a previous post about Catholic bigotry that seemed to resonate. It was originally aimed at the Roman Catholic doctrine against homosexuality (which John Paul II once called part of an "ideology of evil"). Somewhere in the middle, the post took a left turn toward feminism, specifically toward reproductive rights. I need to clarify a few things that might have been unclear.
For the non-Catholics out there, the church's attitude toward sex is basically, "don't have sex until you're married, and then the ONLY sex you're permitted to have is sex that allows for procreation." In other words, you're not supposed to masturbate, orally or digitally pleasure your partner, have sex in "other orifices," or (it should go without saying) engage in gay sex.
Furthermore, the church prohibits all forms of birth control that don't amount to the so-called "rhythm method." This is basically timing your periods of sexuality to coincide with the woman's least fertile period. Oh, and you can guess what the church has to say about abortion, right?
I'd like to take the liberty of speaking for those who, like me, have turned up their noses at the church for its stupidity, arrogance, and lack of touch with the modern world by addressing the flaws with these points, both practical and philosophical.
First, to the issue of "no sex before marriage." Let's get that right out of the way by saying it's impractical if not impossible to mandate that. You're talking about a bunch of beings who are exploring their sexuality for the first time, they're pumped full of hormones, they're looking at each other in a whole different light than a few short years before, and the best you can tell them is to ignore several hundred million years of vertebral evolution? Good luck with that.
And on another level, here's why you SHOULD sleep around before you get married: you need to find out what you like, you need to gain experience as a willing and skillful partner, and you need to find people who are basically on a similar footing with their likes and dislikes. If you marry someone before you've ever had sex, not only are neither of you going to be any good, you might turn out to be on far ends of the spectrum, not just in frequency of sex drive, but in how kinky you are. It's a divorce waiting to happen (something else the church frowns on, BTW).
Now, let me say this: I'm not actually saying anyone should engage in sex before they are ready. It's a good idea to put it off for a while until you have some semblance of maturity. But until then, it's not a bad idea to get yourself off, both to learn what pleases you and to ease the pressure. Well, the church doesn't like that. Which is stupid. Barring abstinance, masturbation is the safest form of sex in which you can engage. And in this day and age, sex can be awfully, awfully complicated and even deadly. The only reason I can see for the Catholic church to forbid it is because of ancient sex-phobia.
Ancient taboos are, in my opinion, again the only reason the church prohibits gay sex (well, OK; Leviticus). But I'm going to punt this one to Dan Savage of the Stranger, whose "Savage Love" is one of the best advice columns out there. He made the following point about gay sex not exactly being the worst taboo out there:
The taboo against gay sex was irrational because it denied gay people the right to any sexual expression or romantic attachment, and consequently the taboo against homosexuality was as unjust as it was unenforceable. The cultural taboo against incest, however, is not an attempt to deny a group of people any and all access to love and intimacy, but an attempt to direct sexual feelings toward healthier, more appropriate targets.The point being that gay people cannot help their sexual orientation. And don't give me this ex-gay crap. Larry Craig might still be a married man, but does anyone have any doubt at all that he's gay? How would you feel if your daughter brought Ted Haggard home to meet you knowing what you know about him now? There's a difference between your sexual behavior and your sexual orientation. You cannot help who you are. You CAN, however, fall just as much in love and demand the same things that straight couples can. It's called equality. The only reason to deny it is bigotry. Savage again:
(G)ay and lesbian couples would like to marry for the same reasons so many straight couples would like to marry or have already married: They're in love, they've made a commitment to each other, and they want the rights, privileges, and responsibilities (RPRs) that come with legal marriage.
Finally, the birth control point. I pointed out in my last post on this topic (to the delight of one of my female readers) that the rhythm method is not exactly the most proven, foolproof method for birth control. Short of never having sex or getting yourself spayed or neutered, there isn't really anything foolproof. But the rhythm method is particularly insulting to me because it's so fucking condescending (I really tried this time to get through a blog post about the Catholic church without dropping the f-bomb. One of these days I will, but sometimes the crudest of words are all that will suffice to express the outrage).
Here's what the church is saying when it comes to birth control:
--You can't use it, male or female. No condoms, no spermicide, no pill, no IUD, no nothing.
--You have to make sure you're constantly keeping track of your body temperature to make sure you're not ovulating before having sex. And of course, we all know how the body temperature NEVER EVER fluctuates for any other reason, so there's NEVER A CHANCE of a false reading.
--If you DO get pregnant, and you can't afford the kid, and you're having a difficult and potenially life-threatening pregnancy--well, you should have kept your legs together, you slut. Oh, and the morning after pill is not an option, even if you are raped or you were falling-down drunk at the time, either (that should end the argument right there, as far as I'm concerned)
What really burns me about this whole debate is the fact that it demeans women by basically saying, "Even if you're in the mood NOW, and you are in the most fertile time of your cycle NOW, you can't so much as have your man put on a condom to responsibly, safely, and maturely postpone the chance of getting pregnant. I can't express this politely or quietly, so turn down your speakers:
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT PERMIT YOU TO BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN SEXUALITY, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A WOMAN. THEY DON'T RESPECT YOU ENOUGH TO LET YOU DO AS YOU PLEASE WITH YOUR OWN BODY.
This attitude is stupid, wrong, and demeaning. And as evidenced by all the scandals in the clergy, not just the molestation of boys, and not just by Catholic priests, it's about enough to make you tell your local white-collar-wearer to stick it up his crucifix.
In short, when it comes to the Catholic church denouncing people for being in charge of their sexuality...I say it should go right on doing so. Because the less they change with the times, the more time will pass them by, and the more quickly they die out from irrelevance.