Artificial birth control is so common. Condoms have been made so attractive that they almost look like candy and bubblegum packages on some counters and shelves. Flavored to let you know how else to use it, ribbed and with extra add-ons to supposedly enhance the pleasure to an already pleasurable activity. Birth control pills can even improve skin tone and make some women more womanly according to some reports. And all these products allow us to enjoy the joys of sex practically anytime we want to with only a small percentage chance of pregnancy or catching a disease of some sort.
But it has a catch.
It’s like cigarettes or junk food. It’s like a number of things that have changed our lives. It’s about, to use terminology by Al Gore, an inconvenient truth.
Think about wireless technology and work. Years ago, people worked hard and seldom took work home, but even with take home work, certain days were kept untouched by work. Now, because of technology, we can end up working on weekends and dead of the night evenings, at home, on vacation, during special quality time dates and family moments. We’re professionally more efficient and effective. But at what cost? It has become so normal we have accepted this work-style (not lifestyle since it isn’t much of a life anymore) so much that it is now so hard to break away from it. Some of us may remember days when we said we wouldn’t need (insert technology here) or that we wouldn’t be a slave to (insert technology here). Until the convenience becomes a center in our life. In the same way, artificial birth control has entered our way of life so much that it looks like the norm rather than the foreign object that entered our life and changed how we lived sexually.
But think of the days when we are able to beat this wireless technology and spend a day without it. Or a week. We actually feel better, don’t we? On some level, we know we want to be free from it, despite all the usefulness it provides. Artificial birth control is similar to this, but less clearly so because we enjoy the pleasure of using it too much that not having it causes discomfort, unlike how wireless technology is empowering in work, yet can be constricting at the same time to our personal pursuit for pleasure.
And just like we hope for better technology to make work easier or more efficient, we forget that it is technology that has invaded our lives so much that personal space is lost. Yes, we have gone so far. But at what cost? We long for escapes more. We can afford more expensive escapes and lifestyles, but only because we complicated our lives so much that pleasurable lifestyles reach higher and higher levels. But wasn’t it just about discipline before? To balance work and life? Business and pleasure?
Yes, contraceptives allow for a more fun sexual lifestyle. And now we need it to control that lifestyle from leading to more teenage pregnancies and unwanted sexually transmitted diseases. But wasn’t it really just about discipline before.
(A short note here: there are a lot more teenage pregnancies and single mothers today than 25 years ago. And the age of girls with teenage pregnancies is dropping. In my college years, one 18 year-old teenager getting pregnant a year was considered common (as something that will happen, not something that is right). Now that yearly expectation is happening in high schools and even grade schools (a 13 year-old girl getting pregnant every school year will soon be expected at this rate); which wasn’t the case back then. And, yes, artificial contraception helps lead to this because sex being treated as something casual instead of intimate is a way of life aided by artificial contraception.)
It’s about convenience and inconvenience. Many things in life have brought convenience. If we truly believe in preserving the environment, we have to be ready to be inconvenienced. If we believe in valuing what sexual intimacy is, what intercourse is about, then we have to be ready to be inconvenienced by what it entails.
Think about it for a while. Are any of us looking forward to teaching our children how to use a condom? Or do we see the condom as a tool that is needed to hopefully limit the consequences that follow for living a sexually active life outside of marriage?
Some of us probably used our first condom that way when we were younger. Until sex became so easy, so convenient, that it changed our lifestyle. That’s how I was. When I realized (I mean really read their works on the matter and thought about it) what the Church was teaching about artificial birth control, I knew what I ought to do. And I was greatly inconvenienced by the change in lifestyle. But I am better for it. It wasn’t easy and I can’t say I succeeded right away, but I am better for it.
If you don’t want to be inconvenienced, then don’t say you are right, just say you are comfortable and don’t want to leave your comfort zone. I don’t, for example, give up riding in a car for the sake of the environment. But I do try to take care of it in other ways. And I do not try to get in the way of those who do more than I do in taking care of it. I even try to help them in a manner that is, yes, convenient for me. But I do not complain about or stand against their good work.
When I one day meet the man dating my daughter and somehow discover him carrying a condom or if I one day see my daughter with a condom, I will certainly not first think, “Good, they’re careful.” I may think that later on, not as a positive note but only as a small, small consolation. I am fairly certain my first thought will be in the line of “Nooooooooo!!!” or “Not now. Please, not yet now.” And I may even think where have I gone wrong that they are engaging in this now. I may even blame the media and her peers. Then I may later hope they are “practical”. But I will first hope they know what is right and I will wonder why they don’t live by what is right.
The condom and the media (so, yes, I do blame them even now) has changed how we view sex. Our view of sex has changed because of the convenience brought by artificial birth control and how the media has made parenting that much harder by making practically every hero/heroine in every show have some sexual act with one or more characters in that same show. And it becomes common and normal and cool and desirable. And, worse, chastity somehow becomes embarrassing and wrong in their eyes.
We can call it progress. But do we want to? We know it brings something else with it that we can call modern, liberal, practical, open, and many other things. But, really, don’t we use these terms when we know it’s a little bit wrong and we want to feel a little less uncomfortable about it?
There is a better way than artificial birth control. A way that will teach us discipline. A way that will help us value the sexual act in all its beautiful decency and glory. Don’t you miss the times when decency and innocence and inner goodness was more beautiful than what is vulgar and illusory and only good outside? It is not easy. But I believe it is right. And, with plenty of inconvenient effort (and over a span of years) to make it work: very, very beneficial for us as humans and as a nation.
After all I’ve said, I want to end with just two more points:
One: I believe arguing on the practical level is a dangerous way of thinking. Because it can be so deceptive as inconvenience can make us think something is practical when it is not. I think we will find, looking back at our practical decisions in life that it is not really practical to be practical in many cases, but because “practical” is really a very subjective and vague concept, it becomes very easy to trick ourselves into thinking we are or were being practical.
Two: I do, however, also believe that, if one really thinks carefully, and considers long term benefits and considers moral values and preserving human decency, then what is truly practical about living will come to light as the same thing as what The Church tells us to do because this is what God wants for us: a better life.
(If I have been able to help you rethink the value of artificial birth control, that maybe we should try to temper our use of it or how we make it available to people, then I think I have done a good thing. Because, just like an activist for the environment can help move some of us to segregate waste or carpool or use less electricity or avoid environmentally damaging products, I may just have been able to help you stand against the RH Bill or support the Church or allow the Church to do what I believe it does so well. And that is: to guide us. If you want to know more about the options the Church teaches check out this site which is one among many out there or read the letter I quoted before. she has much literature to share. Some of the things here might not be to your taste, so I am putting myself on the line here, if you want to know more send me a message or place a comment.)