Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
Did you see Simcha Fisher’s post from yesterday? If not, go check it out. It’s a takedown of a Slate piece by Jocelyn Nubel, in which Nubel suggests that women who support Planned Parenthood should go on a sex strike if Planned Parenthood’s contraception and STD testing services are threatened. Simcha peels back the layers behind that idea, pointing out just how much it reveals about the author’s worldview:
[Nubel] can’t imagine having sex that isn’t risky. She can’t imagine making love with a man and not subsequently needing to be tested and treated for disease. She can’t imagine intimacy that’s not inextricably linked with an appointment to be wrapped, plugged, scarred, burned, twisted, snipped or poisoned in order to protect you from conceiving a child. In other words, she has no idea what sex is for.
Exactly. But there’s more, so much more, that could be said about this. A reader named Nella pointed out:
I’m confused by Ms. Nubel’s strategy to stop having sex with Republicans. I thought abstaining from sex is impossible and that it is widely known that no matter what the risks, people would have sex anyway.
That’s the first thing that jumped out to me about the Slate piece as well. So ... it is possible for people to make principled choices about the circumstances under which they’ll have sex? And if it’s important to avoid negative consequences from sexual behavior, it might be best to abstain altogether? These are great points! I hope that Nubel and her readers keep exploring these ideas.
But the most interesting part of it was the emphasis on the sexual behavior of women. Nubel sounds the battle cry, “Ladies, it’s time for a sex strike!” (emphasis mine), and then proceeds to list examples of women effecting change in society through thoughtful abstinence. And thus she reveals her understanding of something that everyone knows but nobody wants to admit: Women hold all the cards when it comes to sex. As a gender, men want sex more than women do, and they are willing to go to great lengths to get it. They’ll change their behavior. They’ll reconsider their ideas. Granted, men aren’t mindless animals who will do anything for sex (well, not most of them, anyway), but the fewer opportunities there are in the culture for intimacy with women, the more willing men are to meet women’s conditions for it.
The Sex and the City-inspired ideas of women finding empowerment and enjoyment by sleeping around are as silly as they are unrealistic, and take away a tremendous source of power for women. As Nubel skilfully points out, from time immemorial women have been able to have a tremendous impact on society through the parameters they put on their willingness to engage in sexual behavior with men. All the culture of female promiscuity does is harm women (case in point: those STD-testing services Nubel is so worried about losing), and give them less control over the world around them.
In a backward way, the Slate piece is actually an illustration of an important point that Archbishop Fulton Sheen once made. He said:
To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.