Rethinking Sex

My last La Lupe blog post generated some comments about what people believe leads to so many abortions. You know why I think there are so many abortions? Society no longer associates sex with babies.

If we really stop and think about the most natural things about our bodies, sex creating babies is right up there with being hungry and eating. Sex resulting in pregnancy is the natural order. When we’re hungry we eat. When we are tired, we sleep. When we have sex, we sometimes get pregnant.

But we don’t hear this message anywhere in society. Everything in society tells us that sex is for pleasure. Sex is for fun. Sex is for getting closer to another person. Sex is no big thing. Sex has nothing to do with babies. And this attitude is not just among non-married couples but married couples as well.

When we separate sex from babies then I can see how it might not take a huge leap for some people to believe it is ok to have an abortion. If sex is not “supposed” to end in pregnancy then having an abortion is just getting rid of something that was never supposed to happen in the first place.

A while back I read this article in America magazine that so clearly articulates why it is imperative to change the way society talks about sex. The author writes about her journey from being a pro-choice atheist to a pro-life Catholic. Along this journey, she found that her language changed a lot.

Here are some snippets of her writing that really resonated with me:

“In high school sex education class, we learned not that sex creates babies, but that unprotected sex creates babies.”

This is so true. The term unprotected sex is thrown around all the time. In fact, when a teenage girl gets pregnant, society does not question her decision to have sex but calls her irresponsible for having “unprotected” sex. The term unprotected sex is very misleading. Any sex outside of marriage is “unprotected” whether using birth control or not. The Church teaches us that only within the Sacrament of Marriage, with its permanence and lifelong commitment, can sex can truly be protected. Under this “protection,” sex is good, sex is sacred; it is clear that babies are the natural fruit of the relationship, babies are blessings; the couple knows each other as intimately as two people can and does not use each other as objects. We must teach kids about this kind of “protection.”

“The generally accepted view was that babies were burdens, except for a few times in life when everything might be perfect enough for a couple to see new life as a good thing.”

The idea that everything has to be absolutely perfect to have a baby is pretty unrealistic. Yes, the Church holds that couples can use Natural Family Planning in grave circumstances to avoid pregnancy, but really, there is never a “perfect” time to have a baby.  Having babies is hard but when we sign up for marriage, they are part of the package. People are constantly asking us if we are “done” having kids or asking us when we are going to “try” for some more kids. The default understanding should not be that married couples are actively and purposely avoiding pregnancy. Instead, the default should be to think that they are probably having a normal amount of sex and, God willing, will get pregnant because that is what happens. Then no couple will ever have to say whether or not they are “trying” or when they are “done” because, truly that decision is way above our pay grade.

“[Having an abortion] was the sacrifice that had to be made to prevent women from becoming victims of unwanted pregnancies…I thought of unplanned pregnancies as akin to being struck by lightning while walking down the street.”

I know that there truly are “victims” of unwanted pregnancies — women who are raped, women that are trapped in abusive relationships, etc. If the phrase “victim” was used just for these women, then fine, but it’s used for anyone who gets pregnant and didn’t plan on it. People treat pregnancy as if it were this ambiguous entity just waiting to land on its random prey. If a woman chooses to have sex, she could get pregnant. It might be unplanned but should not really be unexpected.

People feel “entitled to the pleasure of sex while loathing (and perhaps trying to forget all about) its life-giving properties.”

In general, society tells us to do whatever gives us the most pleasure. And there is nothing wrong with pleasure. Sex should be pleasurable but that can’t be the one and only goal. We have to be open to all that sex brings including pleasure, unity, and babies. We may be entitled to do what we want because God gives us free will, but we are not entitled to pick and choose what happens as a result of our free will.

“Terminating pregnancies simply had to be acceptable, because carrying a baby to term and becoming a parent is a huge deal, and society had made it very clear that sex was not a huge deal.”

This is so succinctly said. Because society has told us that sex is only for pleasure and not babies, we have come to believe that sex is not a big deal at all. But everyone knows that getting pregnant is a big deal and becoming a parent is a huge deal. We need to teach kids that sex is a really big, enormous, gigantic, life-changing deal. Because it is.

Usually arguing about word choice is not my cup of tea but I believe that the way society talks about sex is harmful. Most kids learn sexual morality from TV, music, and movies. How can we really expect them to get it right? How can we expect them to be open to life? These medias hardly ever convey a healthy relationship or a true understanding of sex.  I know that there are a lot more reasons that people have abortions than the type of language that is used to talk about sex in society but changing the way we speak about sex could really make a huge difference. If we could make that connection between sex and babies in kids’ heads then it could re-shape the way society as a whole thinks about abortions.