Sunday, April 28, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part Three

This is part three of my series on Contraceptive Culture. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.


Before diving into the topic of today's post, I'd like to clarify what I mean by "Contraceptive Culture," and discuss its similarities to the term "Contraceptive Mentality." For the purposes of this series, I've been discussing contraceptive culture as a mode in which our society operates, its language and ideology produced by a contraceptive mentality. It is a mentality that fundamentally separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, such that babies are no longer "natural" or necessary to the marital act. This mentality, has become so ubiquitous and pervasive since the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control (and even prior to it) that it has become a cultural way of thinking, and therefore has created a contraceptive culture. It has bled into every aspect of what are considered "cultural norms," even so that people who are staunchly against artificial birth control nevertheless have adopted the contraceptive mentality. The topics I've been discussing in this series are manifestations of the contraceptive mentality and its resulting culture in our society.

And now, on to our post for today. This one is especially interesting to me because it speaks to just how much we, as a Catholic culture, have allowed the contraceptive mentality to seep into our ways of thinking, even while we are consciously and deliberately opposing contraception.

Now that I have a girl, and will be having a boy, I've already received comments such as, "Oh good, now you can be done!" or "Oh, perfect. The perfect family!" or "Since you're not having another girl, can I have your baby girl clothes?" (seriously, someone asked me that.) As if I don't hope and pray that with PCOS and  a devastating loss in my past, I can still accept as many children as God will give me. And as if the "perfect family" has only to do with the number and gender of the children I have.

Yet comments like these betray the contraceptive mentality and the expectations it puts on our culture so poignantly. And even when we purposely oppose this mentality, we can still be made to feel as if we've failed at it.

Please read Dwija's post, "NFP doesn't work. You have so many kids!" if you haven't already. **Please note that I am aware that some parts of this post, and some of the comments, will strike those struggling with infertility and subfertility. I don't suggest this reading without being fully aware of that. I will say right up front, I obviously cannot relate to the problem of having what society deems as "too many children."  And those dealing with childlessness are dealing with the converse and simultaneously mixed message of a society that is telling them, "Um, you know how to have kids, right? You just stop using birth control/relax/pray harder/try IVF/all-the-other-asinine-advice-you've-ever-been-given-about-conceiving."

And this woman, struggling with infertility, must face other, more particular and scary demons in this contraceptive culture. And how twisted is that? The devil can twist the truth to points completely illogical and confounding. However, for the sake of discussion on the topic of contraceptive culture, I think reading it is really important.

Have you read it yet? Well, go read it. Then come back here for a quick follow up.

Dwija's post could easily stand alone, I think, without me having to repost it. Still, I think it is worth highlighting that the entire reason that Dwija had to write such a post (and a really good one in my opinion) is because the contraceptive mentality has invaded even our own thinking about having children. It is such that the inability or unwillingness to actively prevent and limit children in marriage with NFP is a social FAILURE. The contraceptive culture says, "Hello? Don't you know you can prevent having more than two children? You should really get a handle on that. Stop using NFP and use birth control instead. NFP doesn't work."

And, as Dwija says, what we should be saying to these people is, among other things, "Hello? NFP isn't meant to be a child prevention technique. It's a method that creates fertility awareness, and I'm not stupid. My goal isn't necessarily to prevent children."

But we don't. Instead, we tell ourselves and the world, "Oh, I have more than two children. I am a failure at child prevention." This is how penetrating the contraceptive mentality really is.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the caveat about Dwija's post! This is somewhat off-topic, but as a childless woman, I really hesitate reading posts titled like that, and usually don't. It's just too hard to be immersed in the uber-fertile world, a world I feel such a stranger in.

    Regarding your post, I think you're right on! I remember our NFP class before our wedding, and the focus was so much about avoiding and so little about achieiving pregnancy - it was like they assumed we were going to avoid because we were newlyweds. That rubbed me the wrong way!

    Having children is a natural result of sex, truly! (Introspective side note: hence why infertility hurts so much...our bodies are not doing what they're naturally meant to do.)

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts as always =)


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