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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Claire Barshied on sex, part 2

Claire Barshied, in “Novel Bioethics,” continues:

Still in my mid-twenties, I do not anticipate needing fertility aids any time soon. In fact, since I am newly married, contraception is a much more pressing concern. If severing the connection between sex and babies can create so many moral quandaries, and if it can upset social relationships so profoundly, I cannot help but wonder what effect it has on the sexual relationship itself. I have had to reconsider the implications of one of the most common biotechnologies in our society: the eminently respectable use of contraception.

First of all, (ignoring the “eminently respectable” comment for the moment), I question the characterization of contraception as a biotechnology. Second of all, in a culture of life, why would contraception even be a “pressing concern” to a newly-married individual? Why would he/she not be eager to embrace the natural consequence of his/her marital relationship?

Barshied appears to find similarity between the separation-of-babies-from-sex characteristic of biotechnology and separation between sex and babies afforded by contraception. I believe there are differences, however: the ethics of biotechnology concerns manipulation of a natural process as well as substitution (of the petri dish for the sex act) in order to produce an individual, or a certain type of individual; it also brings up issues of sanctity of life of the embryo. While it can be said that contraception involves a manipulation of the sex act (although I think it’s more accurate to call it an interference rather than a manipulation), the interference occurs before conception takes place, and involves no substitutions.

If a couple contracepts to avoid conception yet creates babies artificially, there is definitely a separation of sex and procreation. Is this on par with the separation of sex from babies afforded by contraception alone, which seeks to prevent creation of a baby altogether (and does so 95% or so of the time)? Perhaps -- if there is no intent for the contracepting marriage to produce any children at all. Yet, if separating sex and babies is the issue, how is abstaining (as with natural family planning, which is the option Barshied says she is pursuing) in order to avoid creating babies any different from contracepting in order to avoid creating babies? Does having sex only during a non-fertile period not separate sex and procreation as well? Why, in a culture of life, would a married person want to avoid creating babies by any means?

Barshied continues,
It is not difficult to see the social effects of the mainstreaming of contraception in the last fifty years. By removing the responsibility of parenting from the sexual act [strange choice of words – contraception certainly doesn’t remove the “responsibility of parenting” from those who already have children], it opened the door to the Sexual Revolution: When there was a decent chance of pregnancy every time a couple engaged in sex [there isn’t – the window of fertility is about 5-9 days; it’s possible for a woman to determine this fairly closely], individuals thought longer about their partners and their promiscuity.

I can also see the influence of birth control’s acceptability in myself: Like nearly all other Americans, I feel that I have a right to have sex without the ever-present possibility of conception. [#1, the possibility isn’t ever-present, and #2, feeling one “has a right to have sex” misses the point of sex, which exists to serve and celebrate the marriage, and, therefore, God.] Most churches I have attended highlight the role of sex in maintaining healthy, loving marriages, but they emphasize the bonding features of sexuality almost to the exclusion of the child-bearing aspects. [I don’t know which churches she’s attended, but I wouldn’t say they are representative of all churches] And I have always assumed the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception was simply medieval—a stubborn dogma that resigned poor people to ungovernably large families. [I wouldn’t say that either]


To be cont...

5 Comments:

  • Yet, if separating sex and babies is the issue, how is abstaining (as with natural family planning, which is the option Barshied says she is pursuing) in order to avoid creating babies I know you and I have already been there, done that.I still like Bishop Chaput's succint summary on the difference:
    "Contraception is the choice, by any means, to sterilize a given act of intercourse... Natural Family Planning is in no way contraceptive. The choice to abstain from a fertile act of intercourse is completely different from the willful choice to sterilize a fertile act of intercourse."

    By Blogger Elena, at 10:59 AM  

  • You've missed the point of the sentence, Elena, as stated in the opening clause:

    "Yet, if separating sex and babies is the issue, how is abstaining (as with natural family planning, which is the option Barshied says she is pursuing) in order to avoid creating babies any different from contracepting in order to avoid creating babies?

    The issue is separating sex and babies. NFP does it, even if by a different means than contraception.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:37 PM  

  • I got it Bonnie. And my answer is that the difference is in the "how." I think the Chaput quote speaks nicely to the difference.

    Ms. Bairshed touches somewhat on the difference as well when she says in the same article:"
    What is more, I have begun to suspect that God’s design for procreation, as in so many other areas of life, might contain hidden blessings."

    By Blogger Elena, at 9:17 AM  

  • Does God's design for procreation include marital abstinence? ;-)

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:20 PM  

  • God's design includes natural periods on infertility that couples of recourse to for grave and serious reasons.

    By Blogger Elena, at 1:15 PM  

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