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.
...I think we can settle that debate in about 100 words. Here is an excerpt from an article in Real Simple magazine’s Expertise section, called 10 Truths I Wish I’d Known Sooner. Truth #3 is:
Sex always gives you an answer, although not necessarily the one you want. It’s possible to have very good sex, a few times, with a person who shouldn’t be in your life at all. Have fun, and hide your wallet and your BlackBerry. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that a grown man, however nice, will become much, much better in bed than he was the first five times you slept with him. And if you sleep with a man who is unkind to you, there will be more of that; long after the sex is humdrum, the cruelty will be vivid. [emphasis mine]
I’m only picking on this particular piece because the author summarized her point so concisely. This message that “it’s possible to have very good sex, a few times, with a person who shouldn’t be in your life at all” is all over women’s magazines. You would be hard pressed to find an issue of Cosmo or Marie Claire that doesn’t have that idea in it somewhere. And yet if you were to ask these same advice-givers if it is a good idea to plan to have a child with a man who has a lot of bad stuff going on, they would undoubtedly say no.
This worldview accepts both of the following statements as true:
1. It is okay to have sex with a man who might steal your wallet
2. It is not okay to have a baby with a man who might steal your wallet
This worldview is founded on the contraceptive mentality. It takes for granted the idea that sex is only about the personal fulfillment of the two people involved, that it is perfectly possible to sever human sexuality from its life-giving potential.
And so what happens when a reader of one of these magazines takes this kind of advice? If the contraception fails, as it so often does, and she ends up with a positive pregnancy test, she’s in a situation where abortion is going to start to feel pretty necessary. No woman wants to have a child with a man who she’s afraid might steal her wallet. So you can see how Planned Parenthood’s messages of “It’s just a clump of tissue” and “We’ll make this problem go away” could be awfully tempting to believe. In theory, people should dispassionately examine the evidence and accept the truth that life within the womb is human ... but when the pressure is high, the temptation to dehumanize that life is huge.
Granted, this is an extreme example. There are plenty of people out there who use contraception whose views on sex are much more conservative than the one described above. I don’t think anyone would suggest that using contraception automatically makes each individual accept abortion or lower his sexual morals. However, all acceptance of contraception is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human sexuality, and when you apply something like that to society at large, it’s going to lead to widespread disaster—even if there are individual cases where it doesn’t.
It would be like saying that loaded guns are okay to use as toys as long as you put blanks in the chamber. Maybe you personally would be quite cautious with your gun, making sure that a live bullet didn’t get in the mix somewhere. Maybe you’d take the extra precaution of only pointing it at things you’d want to shoot, even though you were trying to use only blanks. However, if this kind of base-level disrespect of the nature of guns were to catch on in wider society, of course there would be a lot of grave mistakes. Other groups of people might take this “truth” that “guns without live ammunition are playthings” to its logical conclusions, and start playing with them in a completely casual way. And, as soon as human error got into the mix, disaster would ensue on a wide scale. It always does when an entire culture misunderstands the nature of something with tremendous power.