My Take On Sex

I was recently approached by a student who saw me speak this summer.  He was responding to my posting of some amazing comics on sex and consent that I had posted on Facebook, and he asked me if I’d be willing to share my take on sex.  He expressed that he comes from a community that seems to only tell the story that sex should be saved for marriage, and he wanted to know another perspective.  After writing out my response, I realized that many of my readers (particularly my younger readers) might like to hear my take on sex.

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I was raised in a Catholic household and Catholic community where it was preached that sex (in any form) should not exist outside of Marriage and that anything relating to sex outside of Marriage should be treated with shame.

I take a very different tact. Sex is one of the most beautiful, complex, and vital aspects of human existence (and I suspect that those that preach abstinence until marriage only would agree with me). As such, we should experience as much of it as possible so long as we are responsible.

In my opinion and experience, sex is best experienced within a committed relationship where two people have agreed to be exclusive with one another and to explore their sexualities together. This doesn’t have to be within marriage. However, in my opinion, relationships should not exist solely to provide a means for sex. Relationships should be a beautiful tapestry, of which sex is one piece. And within that relationship, sex should only exist with an incredible amount of communication. The communication should be about when people are ready for different stages of sex, what people like and dislike in sex, and at the core of all this communication should be Consent. Our society talks about and does consent VERY poorly (which is why we have such a high rate of sexual violence). That is what the cartoon I posted was getting at.   I very much respect my friend who runs The Consensual Project, which I encourage you to check out. I have learned the most about myself and about sex when I have committed myself to a partner and where we have communicated extensively as we explored each other and our sexuality together.

Sex, though, doesn’t always (and perhaps shouldn’t always) exist in a relationship. Masturbation, for instance, is one aspect of sex that people should experience and not be ashamed of. It is natural, and it helps you to understand your body and your likes and dislikes. That being said, porn and masturbation are often linked, and in my opinion, porn tends to be a very destructive thing. Unfortunately, porn is usually created by men for men, and as such, tends to be really sexist and gives men unhealthy understandings of sex and relationships. I really like the approach of MakeLoveNotPorn. They help people to understand that porn is not sex that we should replicate in our relationships (at least not necessarily). That being said, don’t be ashamed if you have used or do use porn. There is even Feminist Porn out there, though it can be tough to find.  It is natural to want to explore porn. Just remember that it is not often a healthy depiction of sex or relationships.

Also, sex can and often does exist outside of committed relationships. I would be lying if I said that I have only explored sexuality in a committed relationship.  Sex outside of committed relationships can be a great way to connect with another person on a unique level, it can be fun, and it can be another great way to come to know oneself and one’s like and dislikes.  There are risks in sex outside of committed relationships (like there are risks to sex inside of committed relationships).  That is why sex, both in and outside of committed relationships, should be approached with a mind to safety. It should be safe with regards to the use of birth control and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention, but it should also be safe with regards to consent. I cannot stress enough how much consent needs to be a part of sex, particularly as people are first getting to know each other and don’t know what the other person is as comfortable with or what they like or dislike.

Growing up Catholic, I also had drilled into me that sex should only occur between a man and a woman. However, I understand sexual attraction much the same way that researcher Alfred Kinsey understands sexual attraction: It is a scale. Some people (though few) are only attracted to one gender. Most people, though, are attracted to many genders.  This is okay! This is natural (there are over 500 species in which homosexuality is found)! If part of your sexual exploration means exploration with people of different genders, that is great and nothing to be ashamed of (so long, again, as it is safe).

Lastly, I think that people should wait to experience sex for as long as possible and as they feel comfortable.  That’s why if people wait for marriage, that is totally great, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.  Sex, for better or for worse, comes with a lot of adult responsibilities (potential for babies and STIs and the connection between sex and one’s very complicated human emotions), and as such, people should try to experience sex once they know they are ready for those responsibilities.  Also, the first time someone has sex, it is best (again) when experienced in a committed, loving relationship.

For more resources, I encourage you to check out The Good Men Project!  They post all sorts of articles relating to being a man and to sex, and they have some great stuff on the topic!

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I’m not the be all end all, though, so I encourage my readers to add to, disagree with, or offer their own perspectives on sex in the comments below so that the young man who approached me can benefit from our common wisdom!!

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31 thoughts on “My Take On Sex

  1. I grew up in a very similar household- sex was for marriage and procreation ONLY. It took me a lot of years to let go of that, too. I think that what sometimes we miss is the emotional aspect of sex. It’s a physical act but especially for women, the emotional part is huge. There have been studies that show women’s brains bond to men they have sexual encounters with. I think having a good understanding of that part (and knowing yourself individually) is just as important as being sexually safe.
    Also, I appreciate that you did not just limit your view to opposite-sex relationships.

    • Thanks for including something about the emotional aspect of sex! Now I am looking back at my post and realizing how I didn’t say much about that despite it being a very important part of my sexual experience!

  2. I’d be especially interested to hear a male perspective of the emotional part of it because I feel a lot of times it’s more focused on the ladies.

    • Though I don’t know that this is the same for all men, I have never been able to separate the emotional aspect of sex from the physical. I truly feel that I have an emotional bond with each person I have connected with on this level. Obviously some of these connections are stronger than others, but the connection is there.

      From my understanding of human sexuality, I think there is a strong connection between emotion and sex for a reason. Perhaps it is evolutionary (an evolutionary process to bond parents together to better raise offspring) or perhaps it is a gift from a higher power. Regardless, though, there is a tremendous emotional power in sex, which is one of the most beautiful aspects about it for me.

  3. Jamie,

    I’m always impressed with how well laid out your thoughts are. Your honesty comes through in your writing very vividly and it makes for a great blog! (even if I don’t agree with most of it lol)

    I too grew up Catholic and was taught that sex is supposed to be reserved for marriage. I was taught that sex outside of marriage was sinful. It clearly states in the Bible that fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God (i.e. go to hell). And I took it seriously and believed it. But, unfortunately, all that didn’t prevent me from fornicating, masturbating and indulging in copious amounts of porn throughout my teen years and for much of my twenties. I thought that being Catholic was about following a predetermined and rather arbitrary and patriarchal set of rules, many of which repressed the very things that I wanted to indulge in, with sex being in the forefront. So you can understand why it didn’t hold much weight even though i claimed to believe it. My animal instincts were just a little too overwhelming for my will-power.

    It wasn’t until late in my twenties when I had to face my own mortality that I was forced to take a serious look at what it was that I really believed. I ran across the teachings of Pope John Paul II which he laid out in the early years of his pontificate. The teachings were given in the form of a short talk every Wednesday for about 4 years between 1979 – 1984. It was nicknamed “The Theology of the Body”. He took much care to unfold the Catholic sexual ethic by going back and meditating on what it means to be truly human. What does it mean that we are male and female and how does this affect our lives, should it affect our lives? His thesis matches the nickname that they gave to his talks (Theology of the Body), that If there is a creator God and he created us male and female, then studying our bodies can give us great insight into the creator of our bodies. Just like studying a painting or sculpture can give you a glimpse into the soul of the artist. Catholics would agree that humanity is God’s greatest creation so it would seem fitting that it should be studied.

    With that being said, not only should the human person be studied to learn about God, the human person, being the greatest creation of God and set apart as the only thing created by God for its own end, should be treated with dignity and respect at all times and in all places. This is where we would agree very much on what you’ve written in your first couple of paragraphs on sex. it is a beautiful and precious thing and it is always to be respected because misuse of sex will ultimately mean the undignified treatment a human person.

    There is no way to unpack the totality of Catholic teaching on this topic in one comment section since it would take an encyclopedic level of information. I will say though that we are created to love as God loves. God (in our understanding) is a union of three persons engaged in an eternal exchange of infinite love. This love, by its very nature is life-giving and life affirming type love. it’s what the Greeks like to call “agape”. We are ALL called to share in this love and nobody shares in this type of love more profoundly that a husband and wife engaged in the act that brings new life to the world. If sex is cut-off from its life-giving nature, it quickly delves into areas that do not reflect the love of God and threatens the dignity of those who are partaking in it. Even Freud, who was no friend of the Church, concluded that separating the act of sex from its reproductive purpose is the root cause of all sexual deviancy.

    I have to cut my comment short even though there is so much more that I could write about it. I hope to continue the conversation soon.

    As a closing note, I’m surprised that you would use Kinsey as a reference since he was pretty sexually screwed up by most people’s definitions. Most of his research was aimed squarely at justifying and making sense of his own sexual deviancy.

    • I struggle with this. As someone who is a Christian and has made God a daily part of my life, I think it’s important to have a discussion about forgiveness and grace as well to go with the above post. We as humans are made in God’s image and I completely agree that humanity is God’s greatest creation. God also created sex to continue his creation but I think it’s important to note that God created sex to be pleasurable too. Why else would it be so tempting? Why else would it be so beautiful and bonding?

      The bible does say that sex outside of marriage is a sin. But it also says to not wear mixed fiber clothing, not lay with your wife when she has her period, etc. And still today, may people argue that homosexuality is wrong. My point being that despite whatever you label as a sin, Jesus still says that is grace and love are all engulfing. All sins, all people. At the end of the day, God is love. Period.

      And lastly, George do you mean to say that married couples are not to have sex unless to they are intentionally trying to procreate? Just curious.

      • As Catholics we believe that God created sex and that he also created sexual pleasure. Sex is supposed to feel good because he made it that way. Catholic teaching also states that sex is reserved for a couple that has been joined together by God in matrimony with the intended reason of raising a familial unit to partake in the earthly community and ultimately in the heavenly one as well. Sex is a big deal and should be treated as such. The problem is that people say things like, “hey what’s the big deal, it’s just sex”. That is exactly the problem, they don’t treat it with the reverence that it was created for. What ends up happening is that it cheapens the act along with people that partake in the act if not treated with the dignity that was intended for it. All sin is simply a twisting of something that is inherently good. Sexual sin is no different. It takes the beauty and majesty of sex, devalues it by treating it as recreation or a stress re-leaver or simply a way to take a relationship “to the next level”..

        The secular humanist would argue that sexual pleasure is just the body’s way of making sure that we want to engage in sex so that we can procreate and since it feels good that we may as well enjoy it in
        whatever way we see fit as long as the two parties are consenting. This would include masturbation, pornography, multiple partners, committed relationships, uncommitted relationships, same-sex, different sex, some combination of the above, etc. This is obviously an easier position to take since it puts little restriction on your own sexual activity and even less on the sexual activity of others and everybody just gets along theoretically.

        Looking at these two vantage points, one can begin to understand that an individual’s view on sex will be based on their perception of what it means to be human. Whether there is an objective purpose to life outside of one’s self or whether the self is the only thing there is and it dictates appropriate actions. if one is to believe that God created us to live and love in imitation of him, then we would never render our love sterile by blocking the possible transmission of life. And if life is to be transmitted, it should be done as part of a family unit that God established for that sole purpose. For a couple to engage in sexual activity and then purposefully render the act sterile themselves is by its very nature dishonest. This does not mean that a couple doesn’t enjoy sex but a couple that simply wants to enjoy the act and looks upon children as a curse rather than a blessing is not being true to themselves and what they were created for. Of course if you don’t believe that we were created for any specific purpose, then the above argument won’t be very convincing for you. Or if you’d like to believe that you were created for a purpose but would still rather just treat sex on your own terms, then the above argument will still be rather unconvincing. I know what that feels like.

        In regards to same-sex attraction, I am unfortunately unqualified to speak extensively on the subject. I will say however that those who are attracted to individuals of the same gender are still children of God and are created to live and love in his image just as much as any other human person. Their dignity should be defended. As we understand sex from a Catholic perspective, it doesn’t leave any room for same sex genital contact to occur while still maintaining the dignity of the individuals involved so I can’t in good conscience support the act. The argument will naturally arise that if God didn’t want people to be attracted to those of the same sex then he wouldn’t have made them that way. We of course acknowledge the fact that people have these desires but do not support the idea that God intends for them to engage in same sex genital contact. That He would make it so that this would be an acceptable alternative doesn’t fit into any rational theological or philosophical argument. That being said, the meat and potatoes of the situation is that there are people who have these desires and they are given the freedom by God to engage in whatever activity they see fit. Nobody should be allowed to take that freedom away because we are created as free individuals. Even if I cannot rationally defend the act and must acknowledge it as an inherently sinful one, I still cannot force anyone to do or not do anything nor should I. My job is simply to love them and try to empathize with them as brothers/sisters in a common humanity.

        One last point. You referenced the Bible to support your arguments however you are confusing two very different things. You are pulling Jewish kosher laws out of the old testament and making the case that there are some things in the Bible that are irrelevant and so the whole scripture become subjective to you. You need to understand that the interpretation of the Bible needs to be taken as a whole. And the interpretation of the Bible is not a subjective thing. I would elaborate on the error you presented but it would take at least 3 more paragraphs and I’m awfully tired right now.

        Peace.

    • Unfortunately we diverge on most of our understandings of sex aside from the emotional power and the responsibility that must accompany it.

      While I think that Pope John Paul II wrote beautifully about the exploration of the human body and its connection to the divine, I have a hard time lauding him as a model for a sexual ethic. After all, he referred to anything having to do with divorce, homosexuality, birth control, and sex outside of marriage as “the culture of death.” Such language only bears shame and fear, and as such, does not have a place in my sexual ethic of positive, uplifting sexuality.

      After all, I think that sexuality does bear weight and should be treated carefully. However language (like that JPII and you use) that condemns those who choose to explore their sexuality in healthy and responsible ways only serves to further stigmatize and shame people who experience enough of that in our society.

      On a separate note, I take issue with the way you describe Freud and Kinsey’s work. After all, you are correct in saying that Freud concluded that separating the act of sex from its reproductive purpose is the root cause of sexual deviancy. However, you don’t follow this to his conclusion, which is that this is a good thing. Freud, unlike the Catholic church, thinks much like I do – sexual “deviancy” is actually a good thing, as all it does is push the artificial boundaries that are created by societal norms and mores. Thus, sex outside of a desire for procreation is a good thing!

      Also, I’m not sure whose definitions you are using to judge Kinsey’s sexual life. Basically, Kinsey was a polyamorist who had sex with men, women, and experimented greatly. I think it’s a pretty liberal understanding of his research to think that it was aimed at doing little more than justifying his sexual deviancy. He did some incredible research that found that the understanding of normative sexuality that you seem to be working from is actually not normative at all. Most people stray greatly from that normative center!

      • It’s become clear to me that we have very different role models.

        You stated that, “After all, I think that sexuality does bear weight and should be treated carefully. However language (like that JPII and you use) that condemns those who choose to explore their sexuality in healthy and responsible ways only serves to further stigmatize and shame people who experience enough of that in our society.”

        Neither JP II nor myself aim to condemn anybody. That’s not a Christian thing to do. It’s also not very Christian and not very loving to speak a lie to someone. If we are to say that sex outside of marriage is ok, that divorce is ok, that same sex genital contact is ok, that masturbation is ok, or that intentionally sterilizing the sexual act is ok, then I’m sure the Church would gain many friends, but it would only do so through a profound lie. The understanding of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God that bears a dignity that is sacred, cannot be subjected to these types of acts while still maintaining the dignity for which it is created. This has been established since the beginning of written history and built upon through thousands of years of theological and philosophical exegesis exploring the human condition. So I can’t really apologize for not taking Kinsey seriously.

        It would be more loving to speak truth as we understand it, than to simply allow people to believe that things are “safe and healthy” when in fact they are not safe and healthy. If that is perceived as shaming people or condemning people, it is missing the mark. The purpose is to direct our senses to the divine ends for which they were created. The Church is the only institution that will take this stance while at the same time welcoming those who are engaged in these types of actions and offering them an alternative to the lies being perpetrated in our culture. It is a very difficult position to be in. it would be much easier simply to condemn. I understand that there are people who hold signs up saying “god hates fags” and the like during protests and counter protests, etc, but these people do not speak for the authentic teachings of the Church.

        When JP II speaks of a culture of death he simply aims to address what we all already know. That an inherent selfishness when it comes to the sexual act, that cutting off sex from its procreative nature (regardless of the emotional attachment you may feel) will lead ultimately to the death of a culture. We see this in our own society where an inherent selfishness in sex, cutting sex off from procreation (like you would have people do so that they can experience a “healthy” sexuality) leads to people intentionally sterilizing the act. When that doesn’t work, we’ve sanctioned the ability for a mother to have the baby inside of her destroyed. So far since Roe v Wade, we’ve had the death of 54,000,000 human beings that were killed inside what is supposed to be the safest place on earth, a mothers womb. Does that fit your definition of a positive, uplifting sexuality???

        This is the result of your sexually liberating dogmas. it doesn’t lead to sexually liberation at all, it simply leads to a culture which is now enslaved to sex, so much so, that you can’t even tell people not to have sex anymore, all you can do is offer them Planned Parenthood’s phone number when things go wrong.

        I know that you care very deeply for the wrongs being inflicted upon people. That you speak out against the slaughter of those in caught in ethnic cleansing in Africa and the oppression of those in Palestine, but will you turn a blind eye to the slaughter of the millions of unborn children that are killed in this country?

        Or will you continue to promote the same type of sexual license that facilitates the need for abortion in the first place?

  4. Jamie,

    I always love it when people sit down to grapple with consent and the role it plays in relationships. This post is certainly no exception! I’m definitely honored to have been mentioned. Thank you!

    Keep it up!
    Ben

  5. Dear Jamie,
    Although I do not agree fully with most of your views on sex and sexuality I do not want to spend a lot of time arguing something I am definitely not qualified to speak on. I am a graduated High School senior spending a year in Mozambique Africa and have felt the freeing power of defeating my porn addiction and seeing how that has change my view of women as well.
    What I really wanted to talk about is not only something I am qualified to speak on but something I hope to help other readers consider in more depth, than I believe you stated. It is the issue of using pornography to satisfy one lusting desires. Although I know many of my overriding principles and ethics will show by my view I pray people can consider my experiences without judgment. I was just like most any other boys my age starting to view porn in middle school and as time passed my desire became greater and greater and grew to an addiction. It became something that I thought about more and more and then it started affecting my life in a number of ways. I speak about this in such a serious tone not because I think my experience is all that much more intense from anyone else’s, but because I believe it is a serious issue.
    Because of my viewing of porn I started to look at women in a different way treating them like objects rather than equals. I did not change in how I interacted with women from an outside viewpoint but how I viewed women did change. I know you mentioned that most porn is sexist, but I feel you understated the devastating outcomes it can have on an individual and relationships. I am not going to quote any studies but from personal experience “Porn is Addictive.” Even porn that is not sexist still causes the male mind to view a female as an object there for the sole purpose of inducing pleasure. It completely takes the relationship aspect out of the picture and men enjoying only part of what God created women to be. (The reason I speak in terms of a heterosexual man is simply because that is what I have experience in. I do not think these issues only pertain to men to women but that is my only experience.)
    The gap that porn creates in relationships because of its ability to skew a man, or women’s view of sexuality in general can be and often is devastating. I have seen wives profoundly hurt by their husband’s secret or open porn addictions and being treating like objects and even more so by the feelings that they are not good enough and that is why the husband continues to look at porn. But it has nothing to do with how good or pretty the wife is it is the fact of porn does not easily relinquish its hold on someone who has been under its influence for a long time. And marriage or a committed relationship (as I can speak for the latter) is not magic occurrences that cause you to no longer depend on porn. So if you don’t think porn is “big deal” please reconsider and hopefully it is not something you can’t live without yet.
    I’m worried that my reasoning however clear in my mind has not fully and sensibly been laid out here but I’ll try and recap. I think porn is a very big deal, as it dramatically influences my view of women well I was viewing it and even now causes me to at times view women as more objects than equals. I know Jamie, that you are a strong promoter of acceptance and not judging people as well as yourself and don’t want people to feel bad and ashamed of what they are doing and I completely understand. But I also feel that it is important to let people know how destructive some habits can become if unchecked. And encourage if possible the giving up of such habits for a better and more complete view or sexuality and women.
    I encourage anyone that does not think they are addicted to porn go a month or two without it and see if you can and see if your view of men or women changes at all. I know for me it is much easier for me to now see my girlfriends in a more uplifting and equal light since I have stopped viewing pornography.
    I also want to state once more that any sexist language as I wrote was not intended and I do not believe porn addictions only happen in males and toward females. That is just my experiences. Also I believe the same general warning about porn are still accurate in any direction.
    Once again I am sorry for my lack of eloquence on this subject but it is 1:00am where I am and I am driving to South Africa in the morning, but thought it worth the time to respond (which almost never happens.)
    I will reply to any comments on what I have written as soon as I have internet again.
    Garrett
    P.S. Jamie I still have my two pieces of the Wall that you did at Hoby WA a couple years back in my wallet here in Mozambique.

    • Hey, Garrett,

      Thank you so much for your incredible post on the negative effects of porn!

      I want to be clear. As I said in the blog, “porn tends to be a very destructive thing.” I say tends to because I diverge from you in the idea that it always has to be destructive. I think that there are people out there who are working to make loving, intentional, feminist porn for individuals and couples to enjoy. Undoubtedly this is problematic on many levels, but I think it is moving in the right direction in how it discourages objectification and unhealthy sexual obsessions (as is addressed in the MakeLoveNotPorn site).

      I do think porn is a “big deal,” but at the same time, in my opinion, any response that condemns or shames people who have used or do use porn only is likely to lead to hidden porn use or addiction rather than accountable conversations about the topic. Not all porn users are addicts, but most (if not all) porn users are affected by the terrible and degrading depiction of women or by the destructive sexual practices.

      For those who are struggling with pornography addiction, I encourage you to check out this site about the topic:

      http://www.sexualrecovery.com/pornography-addiction.php

      And this community of porn addicts who are working to overcome their addictions:

      http://www.no-porn.com/

      I am proud of you, Garrett, for courageously addressing this topic with such honesty.

  6. I just read your blog on “Sex.” I liked it and I agree with you on a lot of levels, such as a relationship beinga tapestry and not a means to have sex. For instance, I’ve met a man, Dr. Lloyd C Williams. He’s a Doctor of anthropology, theology and psychology. When talking to him about relationships he communicated that many people forget, or don’t realize, that every relationship we have has 5 different components.

    Social
    Emotional
    Intellectual
    Spiritual
    and Sexual/Physical

    What people often do is focus on only one or half of the components of a relationship and neglect the rest. yet, for a healthy realtionship all five of these components must be considered. When two people have been in a long term relationship, but have yet to explore a sexual level they may find that when married they cannot connect on a very important part of their relationship. Hence, sex should be shared between two very commited individuals, but even before marriage: a relationship must be fully explored before the (lack of a better expression) the papers are signed.

    Additionally, people can work the opposite way.When people enter a very physical relationship (buddies with benefits), they have a tendency to create an illusion of emotional and spirtual connection, without every properly developing those levels of a relationship. This ultimately creates a lot of heartache.

    I wanted to also say that i loved your take on porn. It’s something i’ve never considered before. For a long time I’ve believed that masturbation was healthy, but thought of porn as only a means to release that sexual frustration. But the point you made about porn developing a very negative and false idea of proper sexual relationships is very true. Looking back on it — and being quite honest with myself — I can see how porn may have affected my fantasies of what i believe/want of a healthy sexual relationship.

    I wanted to say it’s a very good point you made. Thank you. as well, I love the work you’re doing Jamie. Keep it up!
    ..

  7. Jamie, I think what I appreciate most about this post is the overarching theme of commitment to self-analysis. We, as sexual beings, have choices to make about the ways we take care of ourselves and others. A consensual sexual experience is one that both individuals are able to choose, and I agree with your assessment of the critia: mature, committed, safe, and consensual choices are the best ones.

    Of course, we exist in world that is rife with sexual experiences that are not consensual. People with power often use it to hurt those without it. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where the church can protect us from evil. Evil tends to take power; that’s the whole point of #Occupying, isn’t it?

    I want to live in a world where I choose for my own body what I know it needs. I want everyone to live in that world.

  8. George ~ allow me to clarify something – according to your logic, you don’t take any research seriously that doesn’t have thousands of years of theological and philosophical exegesis behind it. Does that mean that most of the modern scientific and sociological movement is a farce to you? Is global climate change a joke? How about the educational research on which you base your pedagogical practice? As far as I can tell, you don’t like Kinsey’s research not because it is not legitimate but because it doesn’t fit inside the very small box in which you place sexuality (that it should only exist in the context of marriage between a man and a woman and only for the express purpose of producing offspring).

    I am also troubled by your logic: Abortion should be illegal, but birth control should also not be used. I am not wholly sure where to begin in your comparison of African Genocide to abortion and abortion rights. First, let’s be clear – genocide is the murder of countless sentient human beings beings (who are living lives outside of the womb) with the express purpose of destroying a culture. Abortion, on the other hand, is the single act of a woman choosing to terminate a pregnancy. Though it is a harsh reality, the reality is that a fetus (at least until a certain point) is a potential human, not a human. It cannot exist outside of the the mother’s womb and cannot live without drawing life force from the mother.

    Beyond that basic argument, though, one of the most frustrating aspects of the comparison is the suggestion that with all of the children currently living in foster care and in neglectful home environments, that adding 54,000,000 unwanted children to that reality would be just fine. “There’s always adoption!” That is the line touted by those who oppose abortion rights. However, adoption is not always an option, particularly if you are a Black or Latino child. Black and Latino make up nearly a majority of the children in adoptive-waiting foster care, yet they are significantly less likely to be adopted than White children. The point here is would our society be better off with 54,000,000 (if that number is even accurate, as it is difficult to find accurate numbers) people who are either forced into a foster care system that would be crippled under their weight (especially considering the pathetic way we already fund foster care) or in families where, to be harsh but clear, they weren’t wanted. I mean, consider that children who are raised in foster care are significantly more likely to drop out of school, significantly more likely to end up in prison, and significantly more likely to struggle economically.

    Now, aside from my impassioned defense of choice, I want to be clear. I don’t know anyone who sees abortion as a de-facto form of birth control. There may be a few of those folks out there, but everyone I know treats it with the weight it deserves. As such, my sexual ethic is not one that encourages willy-nilly sex and abortions handed out like candy! It is one of responsible, healthy sexual choices that encourage one to know oneself and other people at a deeper level.

    • Jamie – what was I thinking. You are absolutely right! If a child is not wanted, it would be better off dead. By that logic, we should just round up all the kids that are not wanted by their parents but had the misfortune of making it to birth just put out of their misery. Especially if they’re black or latino, I mean, who wants more of those people around really. Another black mouth to feed, nope let’s nip that in the bud.

      I’m not sure where you get your scientific information from but I’d hate to be the bearer of bad news that once the sperm fertilizes the egg, what you have is a unique member of the human species with all the DNA that they would ever need to be a human being. If there’s something inaccurate in that statement, let me know. What happens when a “pregnancy is terminated” is that a member of the human species dies.

      It’s very simple Jamie, if loving couples who are prepared to have a child are the ones having sex, then there will be no unwanted children. You can say that sex should be used to get to know yourself and others at a deeper level, but that’s not what it’s for. It’s for making babies and for the edification of the spouses. You want to get to know yourself and someone else at a deeper level, I can provide you with thousands of activities that don’t put women in a position to “choose” whether the new human growing inside of them lives or dies.

      Lastly, I don’t pretend to assume that you are a big fan of abortion, I don’t know anybody that is. Just because it’s a tough decision for people, ending a life is ending a life.

      I’m sure glad that our mothers chose to have us because I’m really enjoying this debate 🙂

      • I’m not saying that if a child is not wanted, it would be better off dead. I am saying that if a parent is not ready for a child, that child should not be born, and we should focus on caring for the countless children who need good homes. By that logic, if someone is not ready for a child, they should either: not have sex or use effective birth control. If, due to unfortunate unforeseen circumstances, a woman gets pregnant, she should have the option to choose (just like our mothers did) to have the child or to terminate the pregnancy.

        While a fertilized egg may represent a unique DNA iteration of the human species, it is biologically little more than a parasite (sorry to use the harsh terminology, but it is true) until it can survive outside of the mother’s womb. That is my point in arguing that until it can survive outside of the mother’s womb, it is her choice as to what to do with the fetus.

        It is frankly unrealistic to assume that everyone is going to agree with your logic (in fact, about 90% of people disagree with your view of sex – http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2006/12/19/index.html). The vast majority of people believe that there is nothing particularly wrong with sex before marriage. This is not to say that the majority is always right. However, to legislate otherwise would be to exercise the tyranny of the minority. Additionally, to hide this reality from all children because a minority think sex should exist in a tiny box is also exercising tyranny of the minority. I (and many others) disagree with you when you say that sex is not for anything except for a loving couple to procreate. Not sure that we’re going to get any further on that point.

        However, I do think that there are thousands of ways in which people can get to know one another at a deep level. Sex is one of those, particularly when done responsibly and when using proper forms of birth control.

  9. I can’t believe that you would reply to my comment and not wish me a happy birthday!!! … I’m so disappointed that I’m not responding to your comment until my birthday is over.

  10. Jamie

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I hope you had a great thanksgiving.

    You stated, “I’m not saying that if a child is not wanted, it would be better off dead. I am saying that if a parent is not ready for a child, that child should not be born”. Do you feel that it is ok for a new created life not to be born because it would inconvenience the parent or society? I’m very surprised that a professed humanist would take that approach. Since when did you weigh the value of a life based on convenience? You go so far as to call a child growing inside its mother a “parasite”. Are you really willing to use that kind of ultra feminist language? I knew you drank the kool-aid but I didn’t know that they spiked the kool-aid before hand.

    You may have thrown off the shackles of your Catholic upbringing, but it seems to me that you’ve simply hitched your wagon to a problematic set of ideologies. One that allows you to determine for yourself whether a life is worth living or not. It wasn’t too long ago that the highest court in this land determined that it was ok for people to own slaves because black people weren’t “fully human” and didn’t bear any protection under the constitution. This same court, apparently suffering from amnesia, determined that unborn children also do not have any rights since they are not “fully human” contrary to all the scientific evidence against this stance. The first step in trying to justify the mass slaughter of a people is to dehumanize them. If you can just talk yourself into believing that an unborn child is not human, then you can sleep well at night supporting your view on abortion. if we can call a new human life a “parasite”, then we can be a nation that allows mothers to decide whether the new life inside of them is worthy to be born (as long as it’s not too much of an inconvenience). It would be inconvenient for people to abstain from the very act that creates new life, so we’ll go ahead and let them play god when this act does what it’s supposed to do.

    Furthermore, I’m not advocating that sex before marriage become illegal or that any sex (outside of that which involves minors and that which involves the unwilling participation of the parites) be illegal. So I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you say “to legislate otherwise would be the tyranny of the minorty.” And if you’re talking about legislation about abortion, you should know that a majority of the nation is pro-life, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-menin/are-we-a-pro-life-nation_b_204465.html.

    Also, how can you speak of the tyranny of the minority when you’d be on the front lines of the same-sex marriage debate? I would really expect you to use better reasoning than “well, most people would disagree with you so you’re stance is wrong” approach.

    but maybe I should start think outside of my “tiny box”

    • My friend,

      Let me start by clarifying a misunderstanding. When I was said “to legislate otherwise would be tyranny of the minority,” I was referring to legislation that comes from the idea that sex has only one function: child creation within marriage. A tiny minority of people believe that to be the sole function of sex. As such, when we have, for instance, legislation or executive orders that restrict sex education to abstinence-only approaches or that restricts birth control availability, it is tyranny of the minority. When a contentious issue is at stake (like abortion or same-sex marriage), there cannot be any real tyranny of the minority, as the debate is too evenly split to create such a tyranny.

      I do not pretend that a vast majority of people support abortion, but it is not as simple as to say (as you claim) that “a majority of the nation is pro-life.” Depending on how you ask the question, a majority can be found to support abortion rights or oppose abortion rights. For example, most oppose the “partial-birth abortion” procedure in almost all cases, but a majority seem to support the right of a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy in the first few months of the pregnancy. http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm

      As for the rest of your points, I will start by saying that it is pretty absurd that you would use the term “ultra-feminist” like it is some kind of insult. If I am an ultra-feminist, I am proud to be one. However, supporting a woman’s right to choose without restriction is not particularly “ultra-feminist” when you can find that a majority of people will support that right within the first three months of a pregnancy. My point is this: scientifically, a fetus that cannot survive outside of a womb is not a person, it’s a parasite, as the definition of a parasite is as such: “An organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.” You claim that all scientific evidence argues that a fetus is “fully human.” My reading of the scientific evidence say something very different.

      That language is harsh, but it speaks to the heart of the issue. If the fetus cannot survive on its own, it is the choice of the mother as to whether or not that being that lives within her should continue to exist. It is not my place to judge whether she is terminating a pregnancy out of convenience or because having a baby would crush her financially or because she was raped or because she would endanger herself if she carried the pregnancy to term. It is not my place to judge why she is terminating her pregnancy. It’s my place to protect her right to do so.

      In your comment, “It would be inconvenient for people to abstain from the very act that creates new life, so we’ll go ahead and let them play god when this act does what it’s supposed to do,” you seem to assume that I don’t think abstinence should be part of the equation. If you read my blog above, I encourage abstinence outside of committed, loving relationships. However, I recognize that sex occurs in lots of contexts, as such, all forms of birth control should be available to people, and in the event that an abortion is needed for any number of reasons, it should be an option that the mother can choose from.

      I will end with this. It is downright offensive to compare the chattel slavery of millions of Africans and Indigenous people to whether or not a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy. In no way are these issues comparable. One is referring to whether or not fully realized humans should be enslaved under an oppressive economic system. The other is referring to whether a woman should have the right and ability to control her own medical care. The issue at stake in Roe v. Wade, if you read the decision, was not a judgement on the morality of abortion. It was a judgement on whether or not the state has the right to dictate to a woman the terms of her medical care and her privacy.

      Frankly, it is wildly racist to compare these two things, and it comes from a tremendous place of privilege.

      • Wildly racist? Offensive?

        The supreme court couldn’t rule on whether or not abortion is morally right because that would be an open and shut case. They had to use the privacy angle as the only way to push the legislation through. It was a raw display of power by the Supreme Court in which some of its very own justices wrote emphatic dissents about the ruling. Contorting the 14th amendment and interpreting it in such a fashion as it could have never have been meant to be read by the drafters of the document was at the very least an imprudent move by the court.

        We can go back and forth about this topic and rehash all of the arguments for and against, but the need to even have this debate stems from our view on what healthy sex is. And really what it means to be human. And that is something that we are just not going to agree on anywhere in the near future.

  11. George,
    I can appreciate that you view an unborn fetus as a living being, and I think that any debate surrounding that is futile. Individuals who insist on viewing a fetus as a human have already ignored the decades of scientific research that proves otherwise, so I have little hope that I could change your mind, especially as a proud “ultra-feminist”. So, if I were to play along with your idea that a fetus is a person, I’d pose this question: Which person is more important, the fetus or the mother? Which person is more deserving of a future, a fetus or a woman? Because, the sad fact of the matter is that when you fight to take away reproductive freedom, you are privileging one life over another; you are privileging the life of the fetus over the life of the mother. As a woman, that offends me to no end. You think that the life of a fetus, a parasite as Jamie aptly stated above, is more important than my own life? My own experience of hopes and dreams and thoughts and fears and everything else? From my experience as a social worker on a maternity unit that an unwanted pregnancy has the potential to absolutely ruin a woman’s life, her future, her goals, her sense of self, etc., and even the most wanted pregnancy has the potential to seriously jeopardize a woman’s health. But yet you believe that the life of a fetus (who is NON-VIABLE FOR THE FIRST 24 WEEKS OF PREGNANCY) is more important than my own? Well, you should be embarrassed about that. And you should probably warn the women in your life that you consider them to be inferior to a parasite.

    • Sarah,

      What scientific evidence are you pointing to when you claim that a fetus is not human? What is it, a cow?

      • She is referring to the evidence that I presented above that you refuse to respond to, the evidence that says that a fetus is, at best, a potential human and more realistically, a parasite. Until it can exist on its own, it is not a person, just like I would not call a cow fetus a cow. It’s a potential cow at best, but really, it’s a cow fetus.

  12. You claim that since a fetus cannot live outside the womb that it is not a person and thus not a human but a “potential human”. I’m claiming that a new human life has been created once conception occurs and that that new human life has the right to be born just like you and I. The only way you can justify abortion is to devalue the fetus as simply a “parasite” who eats away at the mothers’ nutrients. If you treat it in that light, I suppose that you can sleep well at night holding your views. The difference between you and I is that most credible science would agree with me.

    The following is the tip of the iceberg of the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing to the individuality and person hood of the new life created once conception has occurred:

    Dr. Keith Moore’s text on embryology: “The cell results from fertilization of an oocyte by a sperm and is the beginning of a human being.” he also states that “Each of us started life as a cell called a zygote.”

    Doctors J.P Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, in their work on biology and obstentrics state, “The zygote thus formed represents the beginning of a new life.”

    Dr. Louis Fridhandler, in the medical textbook Biology of Gestation, refers to fertilization as “that wonderous moment that marks the beginning of life for a unique individual.”

    Doctors E.L Protter and J.M Craig write in Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, “Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.” – (maybe one of those conditions is the suction tube of the abortionist)

    Time and Rand McNally’s Atlas of the Body states, “in the fusing together, the male and female gametes produce a fertilized single cell, the zygote, which is the start of a new individual.”

    In an article on pregnancy, the Encyclopedia Britannica says, “A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg.”

    In addition to all of those secular sources that support the claim of new human life, you also have several highly credible scientists and doctors testifying before congress that human life begins at conception. I’ll only give you one example here, let me know if you want more:

    Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth from harvard university medical school: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…it is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception….Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.”

    And Sarah, i value all human life, the mother and the child and believe that they both have a right to live. You apparently get to pick and choose which life is more valuable and justify ending a life for the sake of convenience. I’m not the one that should be embarrassed here. While Jamie justifies ending a life for the sake of sexual “liberation”. But hey, if the condom doesn’t work, what are ya gonna do right???

    • George, there is no scientific weight that stands firmly behind one side or the other as you claim. If you want to flap our scientific evidence in the wind, though, here’s my response to your parade of science.

      You cite people like Dr. Keith Moore (an an anti-abortion anatomist). You cite Dr. JP Greenhill and E.A. Friedman – both Christian doctors who act in the political realm to end the practice of abortion (thus, this is not a “secular source” as you claim).

      My point in bringing this up is not to say that these doctors are dumb or that they have a very specific political cause for which they push. On the other side of the debate, though, we have the following professional medical organizations, not individual doctors, who think that Abortion should be available to women until (at least) the 24th week because until that point, the life is not viable to live outside of the mother and, as such, is dependent on the mother’s nutrients. As such it should be her choice to continue or terminate the pregnancy:

      American Medical Association
      British Medical Association
      Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
      The Royal College of Nursing
      American Nurses Association
      The American Psychiatric Association

      Though they do not use the harsh language of “parasite,” their argument is the same. Until a life can survive on its own, outside of the womb, it is not a viable “person.”

      Which brings me to the argument of human life vs human being. These organizations all make the same case that a human “life” exists at conception, meaning that something is alive that is human in its genetic code. However, they are clear that it cannot be considered a “human being” until it can live viably on its own.

      Lastly, you didn’t respond to Sarah’s very important point. You are correct in saying that you value all human life, but you are indeed implying that you value the life of a potential “human being” (if you will follow my above logic) over the living, viable life of the mother. To that I do not hear your response.

      Sincerely,
      A proud “ultra-feminist”

  13. Jamie,

    I have a few responses to your arguments.

    You claim that there is no scientific evidence that can determine whether the life inside a woman is in fact a “human being”. Under different definitions of what it means to be human, I will concede this point to you. My response is that, if we can’t know for sure scientifically one way or the other, why risk killing a human being? Wouldn’t it be prudent to allow whatever if growing inside the mother to live since we can’t know for sure what it is yet? What if it is in fact a human being and the philosophical arguments against this are wrong? Wouldn’t we be in effect causing the genocide of tens of millions of human lives by clinging to a philosophy of what is a human being that could potentially be wrong? Or would you go so far as to say that there is no way your philosophy could be wrong?

    Secondly, I do value the life of the mother very much. In fact, in my view, motherhood is the apex of all human existence. I would not like to live in a society that pits mother against child. That tries to determine which life is more valuable. I know many friends that work with post-abortive women at places like Project Rachael and I’ve heard all of the heartache that goes along with having an abortion. I am not trying to be insensitive to the pain that a woman feels when contemplating this decision. I know that making abortion illegal will not stop abortion, but at the same time, I do not feel that the state should support such a practice.

    And I think it is largely insensitive on your part to classify ending a new life inside of its mother as “Health Care”. How can you value the new life of your friend’s baby so much while at the same time being ok with the idea that this new life could have been ended before it was born? Especially since the life growing inside the mother and the baby which you now get to hold and love do not look all that different from each other if you’ve ever seen pictures of an aborted baby.

    You continue to hold on to this idea of viability, but I strongly disagree with the philosophy that since the new life cannot survive on it’s own, that is somehow less valuable that your life or mine. I highly doubt that a newborn baby would be very viable either without someone taking care of it, so would you suggest that it be ok to kill newborns because they require us to take care of them? Would it ok to kill people on welfare because they are parasites on the economic system? I highly doubt that you would hold this view of a newborn baby being killed even though it needs to be taken care of to survive or that a poor person who needs help should be killed even though they would not survive if not for the welfare of those around them.

    By your definition, we are all a kind of parasite as was implied in the movie “The Matrix”. I cannot survive without others or without the earth and its resources. That’s the danger we run into when we try to make exceptions for human life. It ultimately devalues all human life and treats it in a basic utilitarian fashion.

    You can fight for women’s rights and fight for the life of unborn children at the same time. You don’t have to sacrifice one life for another. Let’s try to come up with the right answer to the problem of unwanted children instead of the answer being abortion in some cases. When we value the life of even the unborn, then all human life will be valued. When we devalue the life of the smallest and most helpless of all creatures, the unborn child, then we devalue all life.

    When we tell young women that terminating a pregnancy is an acceptable practice, we devalue woman hood and motherhood.

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