I spoke at the Colorado School of Mines last night on Green Sex, and had the smartest most engaged audience thus far. The questions were great, the students were really receptive and willing to discuss, and these kids were smart. I mean, most of them are engineers and probably even took calculus in high school. That kind of smart. (Luckily, I didn’t let on to them that I have to use my cell phone’s calculator function before I check out at Target to get a decent idea of the total damage. Or that I once – or maybe twice – got lost on my way to work. 9 months into a familiar commute which involves 4 left turns.)
So, they were awesome, and it was awesome to be there speaking to the target demographic for contraceptive manufacturers… and to disabuse them of some commonly-held misconceptions about their bodies, their girlfriend’s bodies, the Church’s funny holdout against technology, and the fact that there is no such thing as “Catholic” birth control.
But the idea is deeply, deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness. The notion that conception=bad and “protection”= good has made it necessary to explain the natural good of pregnancy, of the creation of a new person, of our very existence. There just isn’t much of a concept of the goodness of life in a culture where our young people have come of age always knowing that they – and everyone else around them – were disposable.
The pro-abortion side of the aisle has done a great job advancing the notion of pregnancy as a “disease” and a “traumatic event.” My current favorite lovetohateit advertising campaign is a sign in bubbly pink letters proclaiming (on a bus terminal) “Freaked you’ll get pregnant?! Call today for cheap (or free!) birth control!”
So I’m talking to these young men and women, loving their questions and level of participation and inherent desire to discover the truth… but I have to keep refuting a term frequently misspoken in their questions: the idea of “natural” contraception.
It was unfathomable to some of them that the Church’s teachings on family life and sexual love do not leave room for some kind of “loophole” whereby, if you play by the rules, you can somehow contracept “naturally,” in a way that is neither harmful to the body or to the environment, and would therefore be acceptable by the Church’s standards.
Contraception has so long been sold as an ultimate good, an incredible blessing which has freed us from the slavery of fertility. This is all we’ve known, my reality tv generation, and to suggest otherwise is to venture into totally unfamiliar territory for most of us.
We scratch our heads, wondering what the big deal about the Pill is … and then once we discover the consequences, we logically look for a safer alternative… not stopping to think that the method and means are as disordered as the concept itself.
To want to “contra-cept” (which roughly translates to “against” “the beginning”) is to desire to prevent life. It is the opposite of love, which is always seeking to expand and to fill.
It is the desire to divorce the unitive from the procreative element of the sexual act… and it is all the rage in our culture of selfish, pleasure-oriented gratification.
Pleasure is not bad, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not a complete “end” in itself. Pleasure is actually attached as a sort of “motivator” to things we were designed to do: eat, sleep, make babies… among a host of other items.
When something is pleasurable, it makes sense that we might mistakenly begin pursuing the pleasure as an end in itself, but our desire for satisfaction does not alter reality. Just because our reasons for seeking sex have become self-centered does not change the fact that sex is fundamentally “other-centered.”
The Church teaches against contraception because it is contrary to love, not because the Church is contrary to love. Contraception is the means by which a couple makes of one another an object to be used, a means to gratification.
Yes, sex should be pleasurable. Yes, it’s bonding and satisfying… but why? Sex is designed to be both the means and the result by which families are built. Our desire draws us together, unites us… and expands us, creating (if the timing is right) an “other” who wasn’t there before.
What if someone were promoting the concept of sex without bonding? Of sterile, passion-less copulation between couples seeking only the physical fruit of their union: a child?
Well… ever heard of IVF?
The point is, when you attempt to redefine reality, you’re going to get burned. Pope Paul IV predicted it in 1968, and we’re still reaping the fruits.