Conservative logic

Women: “Can I have birth control?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I couldn’t get birth control so I got pregnant. Can I have an abortion?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I had the baby, but I’m out of work. Can I have WIC and food stamps until I get back on my feet?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I found a job, but it doesn’t offer me insurance. Can I have government guaranteed insurance?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “My kid got sick and I got fired because I missed time caring for him. Can I get unemployment?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: “I’m having a hard time getting my kid from school consistently. Can we fund after-school programs?”
Republicans: “No.”

Women: I’m prepared to work to support my family. Can you make sure that a full-time job’s minimum wage is enough to do that?
Republicans: No. But what’s the matter with you and your family, that working two jobs can’t lift you out of poverty? And can’t you keep your kids off the street? Oh, and make sure they’re doing well in school.

The Sex-Negative Message in the Virgin Birth—It’s Worth a Family Conversation

The birth story of baby Jesus celebrates the promise of new life, but for girls it also sends a harmful message. How can we acknowledge this without spoiling the rest?

Most Americans, even many who are not very religious, look forward to Christmas as a time to celebrate warmth, friendship, generosity and good cheer. Familiar festivities weave together stories and traditions from many cultures, which makes it easy to find something for everyone. But maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the Christmas story itself.

The birth story of the baby Jesus is heartwarming and iconic—the promise of new life and new hope in a time of darkness. It has inspired centuries of maternal art and is the best loved of all Bible stories. It also has a darker subtext, especially for someone like me—the mother of two daughters.

In the story, an angel appears to a virgin girl, announcing that she will conceive a baby boy. Her fiancé Joseph decides to stick with her only because her baby bump is of divine origins. The author of Luke makes a point of telling us that he refrains from sex with her till after the baby Jesus is born. All of this emphasis on Mary’s sexual history, or rather lack thereof, sends a message that can be shaming and harmful: Only an unbedded, unsullied, unused female—a virgin—could be good enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.

Virginity Equals Purity

Girls who have sex are soiled. That may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we see a picture of Madonna and child or hear a Christmas carol, but the message is clear all the same, and the fact that it is subtext may make it all the more insidious for young women.

Mind you, Christianity is not the only religion that has assigned such extraordinary status to the pristine vagina or, conversely, treated female sexuality as something lesser or tainted. For example, Buddha’s mother Maya, called the “best of all women,” becomes pregnant after a god in a dream enters her womb from the side. Adding insult to injury, Buddhism tells us that a

“Bodisat leaves his mother’s womb erect and unsoiled, like a preacher descending from a pulpit or a man from a ladder, erect, stretching out his hands and feet, unsoiled by any impurities from contact with his mother’s womb, pure and fair, and shining like a gem placed on fine muslin of Benares.” — Mahapadana-sutra, Digha ii. 12

In the Ancient Near East, the birthplace of Christianity, some cultures saw the woman’s body as a vessel for a baby, which grew from the seed of a man or sometimes a supernatural being, much as a seed might grow in the earth. In this way of thinking, heroes and powerful men must have come from divine seed, and claims of a sexless conception underscored their supernatural origins. The Pharaoh Amenhotep III, Perseus, Romulus . . . even Augustus, Pythagoras, and Alexander the Great all were the subject of miraculous birth claims.

Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe

The enormous value that patriarchal cultures and religions place on female virginity has roots in biology. We’ve all heard the saying, “Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe.” From time immemorial men have sought to control female sexuality to ensure that the children in which they invest their time, money and life energy are their own; and also to maximize their own offspring. Male animals of some other species do the same. For example, when a new male lion comes into a pride, he may kill all of the cubs from the previous male, which brings the females into heat so that he himself can mate them.

Man’s Instincts Become God’s Edicts

In the tribal, herding cultures of the Near East a young woman’s sexuality—her ability to produce purebred offspring of known origin—was an asset that belonged to her father. In the Hebrew Bible’s legal code, a rapist can be forced to purchase the goods he has damaged and to then keep her as a wife. A girl who voluntarily destroys this family asset by having sex before her wedding is to be stoned—the same penalty that persists in Islam today.

A woman’s reproductive capacity is also valuable booty of war. In the battle between the Israelites and Midianites, for example, God’s messenger instructs that the Israelites are to kill all of the women who have been with a man but to keep the virgin girls for themselves. (These and other horrible references here.)

Culture and religion transform biological urges into legally binding prescriptions from God himself. Once that happens, patterns that may have started for practical or biological reasons take on a momentum of their own, and we see this in the history of the Virgin Mary.

The Sexless Union of Israel and Rome

The earliest sects of Christianity disagreed with each other about when and how Jesus became uniquely divine. Some believed that he was adopted by God at the time of his baptism or resurrection. But as Christianity, with its Hebrew roots, adapted to the cultures of the Roman Empire, the story of a supernatural, sexless birth won out. It beautifully merged the god-man tradition of the Empire with Judaism’s obsessive and multifaceted focus on purity—pure bloodlines, pure foods, unblemished bodies, monotheism, unblended fabrics, and, of course, virginity.

The Roman Catholic Church took the last of these new heights, turning Mary into a perpetual virgin for life and then for all of eternity, and eventually making vows of sexual abstinence a requirement of monastic life and the priesthood.

Actress Julia Sweeney, in her funny, tender monologue, Letting Go of God, describes an encounter with two fresh-faced Mormon missionaries. Finding herself incredulous at some their beliefs, she pictures door-to-door Catholics enthusiastically endorsing the faith of her childhood:

If someone came to my door and I was hearing Catholic theology and dogma for the first time, and they said, “We believe that God impregnated a very young girl without the use of intercourse, and the fact that she was a virgin is maniacally important to us . . .” I would have thought that was equally ridiculous. I’m just so used to that story.

Aphrodesia or Death

“Maniacally important” may be a quirky Julia Sweeney turn of phrase, but it contains an oversized grain of truth. The Catholic pantheon of saints and martyrs is peopled with females who, with Mary as their model of virtuous womanhood, valued their virginity (and their chaste yet semi-sexual devotion to Jesus) more than their lives: St. Agatha, in an attempt to break her virtuous resolve, was handed over to Aphrodesia, “an abominable woman, who, together with her daughters, publicly professed immodesty.” St. Lucy, “was yet very young when she offered to God the flower of her virginity.” St. Barbara’s “father, carrying out her death sentence, beheaded her himself, and in turn, legend says, was consumed by a fire from heaven;” and St. Ursula, was martyred on a prenuptial pilgrimage with 11,000 other virgins!

The glories of female virginity have spawned tributes ranging from paintings to pilgrimages and poetry to place names. Christopher Columbus christened the Virgin Islands in honor of St. Ursula and her untouched entourage, while the State of Virginia was named after England’s Elizabeth, “The Virgin Queen.” Virginia remains a popular girl’s name in the U.S., along with a host of variants such as Ginny, Ginger, Gina, Lagina, and Gigi. All of these mean chaste, fresh and maidenly—virginal.

Promise Rings and Purity Balls

Protestant Christianity is a rebel offspring of the Vatican, and even though the Protestant reformers rejected the cult of Mary, Catholicism’s supreme value on female chastity was deeply imbedded in their DNA, where it persists to this day. Among the more quixotic manifestations are purity balls and promise rings through which a young girl can pledge her maidenhead to her father for safekeeping until such time as he should hand it over to a mutually agreeable young man.

The image of a girl in a white dress dancing with her daddy, like a beautiful painting of Madonna and child, may evoke a feeling of sweet nostalgia. But rituals and icons like these are artistic residual of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which women (along with children and slaves and livestock) were literally possessions of men. As writer Jessica Valenti outlines in her book, The Purity Myth, they are the bright surface of a dark, deep cultural current that denies and shames women’s sexuality.

A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop. A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.

Beyond Virginity

How can sex-positive people who also enjoy Christmas affirm what it means to be fully female, including the physical pleasures of the female body, not merely its reproductive potential? How can all of us teach our daughters that their bodies are wholesome and beautiful, whether or not they have been molested or assaulted or have had sexual experiences of their own choosing? How can we help to break down the harmful virgin-whore dichotomy, with the only alternative being asexual motherhood?

Some Christian theologians have returned to emphasizing the earliest Christ birth narratives, in which Jesus came into the world in the normal way. Two Church fathers, Origin and Justin Martyr, mention sects of Christians who believed Jesus was the natural son of Mary and Joseph. The Apostle Paul and even the writer of Luke appear to have held this perspective, and the virgin birth is now thought to be a late addition to the gospel narratives.

Episcopal priest, Chloe Breyer summarizes the long history of Christian debate over the virgin birth in her article, “The Earthly Father.” Even after virgin birth stories emerged, a countervailing illegitimacy tradition persisted for centuries. By the time the Bible congealed in the fourth century, such perspectives were considered heretical, but they have been revived in recent years. Such arguments admittedly go against the current, but they show that belief in a virgin birth—with all that implies about female sexuality—is not necessary to Christianity or to appreciating many kinds of symbolism in Christmas story.

Progressive Christians, do not treat the Bible as the literally perfect word of God but instead understand it as a human-made set of documents containing moral and spiritual insights (and failings) of our ancestors. Secularists, though they may not prize the Bible, understand all sacred texts in this way, which allows us to glean through, keeping the parts that fit and treating the rest as a window into human history and psychology.

For those who share this mindset, whether or not they retain some belief in the supernatural, the Christmas story and season offer valuable opportunities to open up conversation with young people about many aspects of humanity’s long moral arc, including perspectives on the female body. Simply leaving youth to internalize negative messages about sexuality or waiting for them to bring up awkward topics is asking them to do our job. The wise parent or aunt or friend tunes in to readiness and explores ideas and values as opportunities arise. Perhaps one of your gifts during this holiday season could be the gift of a conversation.

Originally published at Valerie Tarico.com

42 Splices and Counting: Nine Facts You Should Know About the Planned Parenthood Smear Campaign

Imagine that someone hated you (or your company) and wanted to make you look bad. So, he pretended to be a friend or colleague, went to your events, repeatedly asked you to meetings or lunch, gained your trust, and then spent two years recording private conversations. Could he find stuff that would make you sound like a heartless monster? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s no way it would take years.

Like me, you probably can think of five things you said in the last week that you would cringe to hear on the evening news. But would a selectively edited patchwork of your worst (or most easily misinterpreted) moments accurately reflect who you are? Almost certainly not.

The scraps of conversation with Planned Parenthood employees that were recorded and released by fundamentalist Christian David Daleiden and his front organization, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), sounded shockingly nasty. But as details of the smear campaign emerge, we probably should be surprised that they didn’t sound worse.

Here are nine facts that put what you heard in context:

42 Splices – According to forensic analysis by Fusion GPS, the first five videos released by Daleiden and CMP, contained 42 splices where sentences were cut and patched to create the appearance of a seamless conversation. By design, these edits changed the meaning of individual sentences as well as the overall conversation. In one example, a Planned Parenthood staffer’s comment about lab protocols was edited to sound like she was talking about abortion procedures. Her words got echoed repeatedly by mainstream media who falsely assumed they knew what she was talking about.

Contradictory Evidence Omitted – In a Colorado interview, a Planned Parenthood employee said 13 times that all fetal tissue donations must be reviewed by attorneys and follow all laws. All 13 times were omitted.

Edits in “Unedited Videos” – The “unedited” videos released along with shorter excerpts were themselves edited, rendering them useless as evidence in legal cases or regulatory hearings.

Thousands of Hours of Recordings – To shock audiences and create the appearance of callous wrongdoing, abortion foes selectively released less than one percent of their recordings, compiling even smaller fragments to create viral videos. By Daleiden’s own report, CMP agents recorded “thousands of hours,” from which they selected the ten or twenty hours of (moderately edited) recordings to obtain a few minutes of (heavily spliced) inflammatory sentences.

Expensive Taxpayer-funded Investigations Find No Wrongdoing – A growing list of government committees in states including Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia and Pennsylvania have now cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, and in California and Texas lawmakers have also called for investigation of fraud by the Center for Medical Progress.

Yuck Factor – Rather than seeking to expose wrongdoing, the campaign appears optimized to trigger a frenzy of disgust among religious conservatives, activating them for the upcoming campaign cycle. Research suggests that, in contrast to liberals (who base moral judgments primarily on questions of fairness and harm), many conservatives fail to differentiate between physical disgust and morality. Conservative campaigns leverage this fact. Homophobes wielded the “yuck factor” effectively for decades to block gay rights and are deploying the same strategy against reproductive rights. Repeated reference to fetal remains functions as a powerful arousal trigger for the Religious Right.

Gallows Humor – Because black humor is a way people deal with stress, CMP was virtually guaranteed to catch shocking “callous, inappropriate” comments if they recorded long enough. Gruesome humor is particularly common among soldiers, doctors, EMT’s, medical researchers, farmworkers, nurses and others who work around bodily fluids and death. One friend commented that her nurse colleagues will joke rudely about their patients at one moment and then will be crying for the same patients an hour later.

Letting Down – From a psychological standpoint, things we say and do in private (or among trusted, like-minded friends) are particularly vulnerable to being distorted by people with ill intent. That is because we rely on the other person to interpret any given statement within their experience of us. For example, after my bike is stolen, I can safely rant among friends about capital punishment for bike thieves only because my friends and family already carry the rest of the context: they know I oppose capital punishment. A Planned Parenthood employee joking about wanting a Lamborghini relies on the same unspoken understanding.

Not About Abortion – The CMP smear campaign was designed not to reduce abortion but rather to control who has sex, by heightening the threat of pregnancy and STI’s among young women. Secondarily, it was timed to feed Tea Party Republicans fodder for election campaigns . Since public dollars pay for no abortions, defunding Planned Parenthood would eliminate only their preventive care services, including birth control, with the ironic effect of driving up need and demand for abortion. It is part of a broader anti-birth-control campaign aimed at protecting biblical (Iron Age) family structures and gender roles.

Don’t be deceived: The religious conservatives behind the Planned Parenthood smear campaign have shown repeatedly that they are willing to harm women and families and even drive up abortions in order to control the sexuality of females and youth. This isn’t about their hatred of Planned Parenthood, the healthcare nonprofit, it is about their hatred of planned parenthood, with two small “p’s.” It’s about their hatred of the changes in society that allow young people to create the lives and families of their choosing, free from the biological constraints that for most of human history have made pregnancy the price of sex.

Speaking of young people, online youth collective, Ultraviolet, has done a little selective splicing of their own. They just released a video in which Sean Hannity interviews Deleiden about Mike Huckabee’s sale of fetal squish. It is not to be missed.

Originally published at ValerieTarico.com

The Yuck Factor — What Planned Parenthood Smears, Homophobia, and Middle School Jokes Have in Common

Blood and GutsMedical procedures and research are yucky. Good healthcare means getting over it.

If religious conservatives have their way, reproductive healthcare will be dictated by the same psychology that drives middle school jokes about genitals, dead babies and poop—our instinctive squeamish reaction to things that are disgusting and shocking, especially if they relate to sex. Good thing public health advocates and medical providers have a higher set of priorities.

Each year in America, 650 women die from pregnancy, many leaving behind motherless children. Thousands more survive and thrive only because of “yucky” medical procedures like cesarean sections, hysterectomies, transfusions, and abortions. Given the latest deceptive smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, it appears that religious conservatives would rather some of those women died.

Blood, Guts, and the ‘Yuck Factor’

Most of us have little stomach for tasks, however important, that require cutting people open, removing body parts, or dealing with squishy tissue and bodily fluids. That’s why blood and guts are the stuff of horror movies. That is also why the Religious Right wants our national conversation about family planning to stay focused on “the yuck factor” of abortion surgeries rather than on the chosen lives and flourishing families empowered by well-timed, intentional childbearing.

Disgust evolved as a way to protect us against eating and touching things that might make us sick. Swamp water, decaying flesh, putrid food, feces . . . all of these carry pathogens that our ancestors needed to avoid long before people understood germs. Nature’s way of protecting our species was to make certain sights and smells disgusting. We have a similar instinctive revulsion for human forms that are damaged, disfigured, dying or dead. Our instinctive horror makes a mutilated body riveting.

An image or idea that triggers the yuck factor is “sticky” and viral, meaning it sticks in our brains and we are likely to describe or show it to others. The more disgusting something is, the more it rattles us out of the mindless routine of everyday living and creates a strong memory imprint. That is because paying attention to disgust had—and sometimes still has—survival value. As with every other sensation or emotion that grabs our attention, people have learned to take advantage of that.

Turning Instinct into Financial, Religious or Political Gain

Storytellers long ago figured out how to cash in on the yuck factor, turning disgust into gold at the bookseller or box office. From Homer’s Medusa, to Shakespeare’s witches and their brew, to Stoker’s Dracula, to modern zombie movies, the horror artist compels our attention by playing with gruesome details. Halloween merchants sell slime and goo for haunted houses or fake severed limbs and gashed faces because the instinctive disgust reaction is malleable and doesn’t differentiate between substances and situations that are truly dangerous and those that merely look so.

Religions capitalize on disgust by blurring the difference between cleanliness and godliness—in other words by giving disgust moral and spiritual significance. In the Bible, for example, a woman is spiritually unclean while she is menstruating or after delivering a baby, and people with handicaps including crushed testicles are banned from the holiest part of the temple. In Islam, dogs are spiritually, not just physically dirty. In the Hindu tradition, holy men wear white, and spotless clothes represent spiritual purity. In Western Christianity, white wedding dresses have similar significance.

When disgust gets triggered, people may build a cognitive rationale to explain to themselves or others why the disgusting something is bad for other reasons, layering a veneer of rationalizations on top of what is really a gut feeling.

The boundary between disgust and morality is particularly blurry for self-identified conservatives. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies cognitive differences between liberals and conservatives. He found that liberals tend to base moral judgments on questions of harm and equity. Is it fair? Does it hurt anybody? Conservatives value fairness and non-harm too, but they also give moral weight to three other factors: loyalty, purity, and authority. What does my tribe want? Is it disgusting? What do authority figures say? In other words, conservatives are more likely to think something that triggers the yuck feeling is morally wrong, independent of other factors.

Practical and Moral Limitations of Yuck

Disgust works as a reasonably good shortcut to protect us from the dangers it evolved to avert, meaning pathogens and toxins. But even there, it has some real limitations. For example, in Ebola-stricken Africa, culturally-prescribed burial rituals trumped the instinctive aversion to touching dead bodies, which caused the virus to spread. On the other side of the equation, people with non-contagious physical deformities, like the Elephant Man, may face horrible cruelties and rejection.

When it comes to modern medical procedures and emerging technologies like GMO’s, or potable water from sewage, disgust correlates badly or not at all with real risks.

Likewise, moral disgust can arise from religious taboo violations, like eating cheese and meat from the same plate, that have little rational relation to humanity’s shared moral core or threats against wellbeing.

Homophobia and the Yuck Factor

For decades, people seeking queer equality found themselves up against the power of the yuck reaction. Any kind of sex that we ourselves don’t find titillating tends to arouse disgust; and so as long as the thought of queer people evoked images of anal sex between two men, the yuck factor created an almost insurmountable barrier to equality. But as a critical mass of queer people came out of the closet and advocates made the fight about families and love, other moral emotions like empathy and a sense of Golden-Rule fairness moved to front and center, and culture shifted.

Some years back I got schooled on disgusting sex by my middle school daughters. I had broached a conversation about their gay uncle and evangelical relatives who would soon be visiting us. I explained the yuck factor and said, “I might think about gay sex and say it’s not my thing, but they might think that its gross and so morally wrong.” One of the girls responded, “First off, Mom, the word isn’t ‘gay’ it’s ‘queer,’ and secondly, you know what kind of sex we think is really disgusting? Parent sex. That’s why we’re so glad you and Dad haven’t had any in 13 years.”

I chose not to enlighten them.

Today when most Americans think about queer people they think about loving couples, two moms or two dads raising kids, extended families, “sweet” members of the church choir, brave young soldiers, elderly partners making medical care decisions, and more—or they think about their own beloved relatives and friends who are queer. Although some members of the Religious Right may alternate between disgust and arousal (and disgust at their own arousal), conservative sects like the Southern Baptists are struggling and failing to keep disgust front and center even for their own members.

Reproductive Empowerment and the Yuck Factor

The culture shift toward equality for queer people, stands in contrast to the stalled progress around reproductive rights and chosen childbearing.

When it comes to reproductive empowerment for women, the Religious Right has been able to make disgust the dominant emotion by keeping the focus on sexual shaming and on abortion procedures, which are medical and messy. Those of us who see well-timed childbearing as fundamental to gender equality and flourishing families have gotten suckered into fighting on their terms.

Consequently, we are not creating the culture shift needed to make intentional childbearing the new normal, with all of the individual and family and community benefits that would bring. Half of U.S. pregnancies are unsought—either mistimed or unwanted—which makes American rates of teen pregnancy and abortion the highest in the developed world. Chosen pregnancy has been stalled around fifty percent for almost fifty years.

Recently, women have been exhorting each other to come out of hiding and talk about their reproductive decisions including abortions. Like queer people, women and allies understand that a culture of secrecy reinforces shame and stigma. We understand that if mothers and grandmothers stay silent, religious conservatives will control the conversation and hence the options available to our daughters, nieces and granddaughters. Several storytelling projects have sprung up to help women or couplesdefy taboos and break the silence, and brave celebrities, including men, are leading the way as they did prior to Roe vs. Wade. High-integrity electeds like Lucy Flores in New Mexico and Wendy Davis in Texas have risked their political careers and told their abortion stories so that other women may one day do the same.

I honor their courage and think their candor is a step forward. And yet, the drama around abortion has so captured center stage that even brave personal stories may inadvertently reinforce the Religious Right’s framing. We talk about the circumstances of an unsought pregnancy and the medical procedure the rather than the life made possible by access to contraception and care. In doing so, we keep the focus right where the power of yuck is the greatest.

Surgery – What’s the moral story?

Through much of this year, I have been consulting with people who want to communicate more effectively about abortion care, and I sometimes use my experience with knee surgery to illustrate how we can move beyond the yuck factor:

Two years ago, I was using a brush mower to clear an overgrown trail. The mower got stuck on a root and, unthinking, I walked around in front of it and yanked without disengaging the three foot blade. As the wheels hit the root and the front of the mower tipped up, my leg slipped under it.

I will be forever grateful to the surgeons who reassembled my kneecap and sewed up the horror movie gashes.

So, what’s the story of my surgery? Well, certainly one could wax eloquent about the gruesome details of the accident or repair. But for me the real story is this: I can walk again, and even run. I can bicycle downtown. I can sit for long periods writing, and afterwards my knees don’t hurt any more than most do at my age. This winter I even got back on cross country skis with my two daughters and husband in Yellowstone and skied to a frozen waterfall.

Smart, kind doctors and allied health professionals gave me an unspeakable gift. Their day-to-day work may get their hands dirty. It may involve goo and guts and it may even produce human remains that get donated for further medical research. But that is the climax of the story only for juvenile thrill seekers. For me as the patient, my children, my husband, and even my community, the real story is the precious gift of a second chance. It is a story about grace and compassion, love and laughter, beauty, and dreams fulfilled.

The same can be said about my abortion and many others.

Far too often, the fight to protect abortion access focuses on the procedure itself or surrounding circumstances, rather than what comes after. As abortion counselor Charlotte Taft has put it, “I wish that we talked about ‘choices’ instead of ‘choice.’ Because when a woman has an abortion, she isn’t choosing the abortion itself, she is choosing an education, or military service, or her loyalty to the family she already has.” Or to the family she will have, when she’s ready.

Rising Above the Juvenile Fascination with Eew and Goo

In the coming months, with Hillary Clinton as the most viable female presidential candidate in American history, Democrats are queuing up a vigorous conversation about family friendly policies, policies that help children to flourish and that allow women to fully participate in our economy and our democracy. Their aspirations include paid maternity and family leave, more flexible work hours that accommodate parenting, affordable childcare, and better wages for working people at the bottom of the income spectrum (mostly women). But this policy agenda has a glaring omission: to fully participate in our economy and democracy, a woman must be able to manage her fertility.

I have said publicly that I am pro-abortion, not just pro-choice, but I also believe that when advocates think about reproductive empowerment, our minds too often jump to abortion. If we want a future in which children get created when couples feel ready, one in which empowered young women and men can invest in their dreams and stack the odds in favor of their kids, abortion care is just one small (and hopefully shrinking) part of the mix.

Abortion may be minor compared to many routine surgeries, but it is still an expensive, invasive medical procedure that can be emotionally and morally complex. Why mitigate harm if we can prevent it? For the price of one abortion, a woman can get a state-of-the-art IUD or implant that drops her annual pregnancy risk below 1 in 500 for up to 12 years. Access to top tier long acting contraceptives like these dramatically dropped the teen pregnancy and abortion rates in Colorado recently. But better birth control is also just one part of reproductive empowerment.

As I view it, people are trying to get from Point A to Point B in their lives; and abortion is like the guardrail that keeps them from going off the cliff when all else fails. Guardrails save lives. We definitely want them there when people need them. But we also want well-designed roads with lines down the middle, and cars with excellent brakes and steering, and well-trained drivers who have a clear idea of where they want to go and how to get there.

On the road of life, we all get by with a little help from our friends, and strangers, and sometimes even professionals. Most of us don’t need to be reminded how icky life can get when thing go wrong. What we do need is people who will be there regardless, who live by Planned Parenthood’s motto: Care. No matter what.

Originally posted at ValerieTarico.com

Aging liberals have way more sex

Another reason to be liberal.

According to 75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life,

With regards to sex lives, one of the most fascinating discoveries is that aging liberals have way more sex.  Political ideology had no bearing on overall life satisfaction, but the most conservative men on average shut down their sex lives around age 68, while the most liberal men had healthy sex lives well into their 80s.  Vaillant writes, “I have consulted urologists about this, they have no idea why it might be so.”

Who Aborts the Most Fertilized Eggs? Families Like the Duggars

blastocystA woman who values fertilized eggs or who believes her deity does should use the most highly effective contraceptive available.

Most fertilized eggs spontaneously abort during the first weeks of life. Estimates of death before implantation range as high as 80 percent and bottom out around 45. More than thirty percent of those that do implant later die on the vine. This means that unprotected sex produces more dead fertilized eggs than live babies. Reality TV’s Duggar parents are fundamentalist Christian opponents of contraception and abortion who have produced “19 Kids and Counting.” Based on the live births that Michelle Duggar delivered, we might estimate that Michelle and her man-on-a-mission flushed somewhere between 17 and 75 precious little bundles of joy in order to get the herd they have.

Any woman who leaves family planning to chance or her deity probably has a fertilized egg in her Diva Cup most months. Gross image, I know. But you know what’s really gross? The cup of righteous ignorance that fetus advocates are asking us to swallow when they claim that every hollow ball of human cells is sacred to whoever or whatever created the universe.

The Reproductive Funnel

The fact is that nature’s god designed reproduction as a big funnel. A lot more eggs and sperm get made than will ever hook up with each other. Many more eggs get fertilized than will ever implant. And more zygotes implant than will ever grow into babies. The world’s major religions, including the most extreme forms of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, tacitly acknowledge that these reproductive false starts are not people by declining to name or baptize the ones that women’s bodies expel on a regular basis.

If we are honest, even the most conservative Baptist or Bishop claims personhood status for the human embryo only when the decision making of women is at question. No religious sect, even Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, argues that we should save as many embryos as possible among the hundreds of thousands that die daily. No religious hierarchy dedicates its formidable financial resources or political clout to making this a global priority on par with, say, ending starvation.

In his now classic Discover article, “The Good Egg” science writer Stephen Hull lays out what is known about the process of conception, and he points out the difficulty that biology poses for those who want embryonic life legally protected:

The high failure rate begs challenging ethical questions. If life begins at conception, as many believe, why are so many lives immediately taken? If, as some ethicists argue, nascent life must be protected, how do we assess the degree of moral entitlement due a nascent entity that fails to pass nature’s own muster perhaps 80 percent of the time? And if the fate of an organism is indeed inscribed in the earliest biological inklings of an egg, does life begin with the gametes [the egg and sperm]?

Ethicist Toby Orb at Oxford says that if embryos have the same moral standing as persons, then spontaneous embryonic death should be the most horrendous moral problem of our time. He compares it to a plague that he calls The Scourge:

The Scourge struck swiftly and brutally. This terrifying new disease, more deadly than any before it, left no part of the world untouched. From the poorest countries in Africa to the richest countries in the West, it killed with equal, horrifying efficiency. It struck quickly, killing most of its victims within a few weeks of onset, and silently, for there were no detectable symptoms prior to death. Before the Scourge, the global death rate was 55 million per annum. That is, all causes of death—old age, war, murder, disease, and so on—conspired to take 55 million lives each year. The Scourge changed this dramatically. It alone killed more than 200 million people every year. . . . . Compared with the Scourge, all other problems seemed insignificant. . . . Other projects had to be put on hold and a major international effort directed toward loosening the Scourge’s grip upon humanity.

Religious groups that claim moral equivalence between embryos and persons and then fail to treat spontaneous embryo death as The Scourge are hypocritical, at best. That said, there is wisdom in their failure to walk the walk.

The Wisdom of Abortion

The processes that knit together the beginnings of life are incredibly effective in the long run, but at least at the start, they optimize for quantity over quality. Fertilized eggs and multi-celled blastulas and even more complex embryos wither for many reasons, not the least being that reproduction is hugely imperfect and a lot of egg-sperm mergers are defective. Alternately, they may flush out because the slow journey from fallopian tube to uterus got interrupted, or the mother’s womb wasn’t quite ready, or her immune system treated the embryo as a foreign invader; or for reasons yet unknown. Contraception researcher Dr. David Grimes describes the fascinating beginning stages of human life, how things go wrong, and how impressively nature eliminates most of the faulty embryos in his book, Every Third Woman.

Virtually all sexual reproduction, whether of plants or animals, follows a similar pattern, with lots of false starts built into the equation and a fertility rate that compensates. No farmer expects every seed to grow. Somewhat ironically, the Christian Bible reminds us of this in a story known as the Parable of the Sower:

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain. (Matthew 13: 3-8 NRSV)

How Contraceptives Prevent Conception And Spontaneous Abortion

The fact that fertilized egg death is so common means that all birth control methods available today reduce the rate of embryonic hari-kari, and the more effective the contraceptive the more this is true. Top tier contraceptives, including the IUDs so hated by the Hobby Lobbyists, prevent more egg death daily than every pro-life picketer in America combined. And that’s not even counting how much therapeutic abortion decreases when women have access to better birth control.

Here is how they actually work:

  • The etonogestrel implant (Nexplanon) categorically shuts down ovulation. It has a published annual pregnancy rate around 1 in 2000 but in reality every pregnancy that occurred during clinical trials was conceived after the implant was removed. No egg, no fertilization, nothing to implant or abort. The fact that it also thins the uterine lining and thickens cervical mucus is largely irrelevant because women on the implant basically don’t ovulate.
  • The levonorgestrel IUD (Mirena, Skyla) thickens the mucus plug at the entrance to the uterus, so that sperm can’t get through. No access, no fertilization, nothing to implant or abort. Once settled into place, it has an annual pregnancy rate around 1 in 800. Secondarily, a hormonal IUD also thins the endometrium, which is why periods decrease by 90 percent over time—which, incidentally, has some serious health benefits. A sperm that managed to get through and fertilize an egg would meet an unprepared uterus, but preventing implantation is not the big way this IUD prevents pregnancy. We can be confident that fertilized egg death in this case is less common than it would be without the protection—or with less effective protection like the Pill, which in real world use, has a 1 in 11 pregnancy rate.
  • The nonhormonal copper IUD (Paragard; annual pregnancy rate 1 in 500) releases ions that act as a spermicide impairing a little egg-seeker’s ability to swim. They may alter the surface of the egg as well, preventing penetration. In other words, the primary and intended mechanisms of pregnancy prevention—despite all squawking to the contrary—are anti-conceptive aka contraceptive not abortifacient. IUDs may also heighten an immune response in the reproductive tract. Lastly, of the top tier birth control methods, the Copper IUD is least effective and most likely to end up with a situation where a fertilized egg might bump up against the IUD itself and then flush out. But this happens far less often than when a women is not contracepting or is using a less effective family planning method. That includes the Pill, the condom and especially—Are you listening Hobby Lobby?—the rhythm method or “let go and let God.”

So, for the record let me say it again. A woman who values fertilized eggs or who believes her deity does should use the best birth control available. She also might want to do a little reading on the biology of beginnings.

Originally published at AwayPoint

Orgasm, Inc. The Strange Science of Female Pleasure

Orgasm, Inc.

This humorous documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look into the ploy by pharmaceutical companies to create a new disease for profit – “female sexual dysfunction.” It illustrates how people are manipulated into thinking they have a physical problem to increase revenues for Big Pharma.

Open discussion will be kicked off by Susan Traff, a licensed mental health counselor, who is passionate about bringing awareness to this issue.

Friday, August 8, 7:00pm
Snack plate with vegan option at 6:30pm for $7.00 donation. Door donation $2-5.

New Freeway Hall, 5018 Rainier Ave S., Seattle
On the #7 busline or six blocks southeast of the Columbia City light rail station.

Sponsored by: Radical Women

For information, rides or to reserve childcare: 206-722-6057 RWseattle@mindspring.comwww.RadicalWomen.org

Nice work if you can get it

There’s a clever Gershwin song Nice work if you can get it which contains the lines:

   Holding hands at midnight, beneath a starry sky.
   Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try.

What’s funny to me about the lyrics is the suggestion that romance is work.

Of course, it often is.

It’s work to court someone, to keep them, and to maintain love and the passion.

Moreover, making love is often a lot of work, for both the man and the woman.

Most guys can usually climax fast.  But most women have some trouble climaxing, and it often takes a lot of care, skill, time, patience and love for a partner to help the woman cum.  A male partner has to maintain an erection, postpone his pleasure somewhat, and give the woman the attention she needs to help her climax.

I’m concentrating on heterosexual sex in this little article, but I’m sure that lesbian couples have to deal with similar issues. I bet, though, that women are more patient and skillful than a lot of men, and this may be part of the reason why some ladies prefer ladies.

Likewise, sex between gay men probably has quite different dynamics because of the ease with which most men climax.

Of course, women vary in the difficulty they face in reaching orgasm.   Some women come easily.  Only about 25% of women can climax from penis-in-vagina intercourse alone; most women need manual or other stimulation. From 5% to 10% of women never experience orgasms.

On average, women require at least 20 minutes of sexual activity to climax (source).  Some require much more time.

So, love-making sessions usually require the man to postpone his pleasure and give attention to the woman.  Some men are selfish jerks, or clueless, and leave their ladies unsatisfied.   Other men are knowledgeable, love their gals, and  are obsessed with women’s bodies and so don’t mind doing the work required to please the woman (or women) they love.

Nice work if you can get it. But still work.

It’s often a lot of work for the woman too.  I don’t want to suggest that the responsibility for the woman’s pleasure lies entirely with the man.

In addition, the time required for a woman to climax varies depending on her mood, her health, the time of month, and the situation. Some women come more easily in novel locations or positions.   (I knew one gal who came almost immediately  in a car but who took 20 or 30 minutes in bed.)

Nor do all women require orgasms in order to feel satisfied.  See Do women enjoy sex without orgasm?.

Most women need to learn to enjoy sex and have an orgasm. Partly, this involves being relaxed and comfortable with their bodies. Apparently, it’s also a matter of practice.   The number of women reporting that they climaxed during the last time they had sex increases from 61% to 65% to 70% as their age increases from the 20s to the 50s. (Source: 10 Surprising Facts About Orgasms.)

In Woody Allen’s movie “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask”, there’s a skit “What Happens During Ejaculation?” in which a man is seducing a woman and we watch the goings-on behind scenes in the man’s body. In ‘control central’ in his brain we see engineers adjusting breathing, blood flow and hormones. We watch Woody Allen playing a sperm ready to be ejaculated. And we watch sweaty, muscular men cranking up the penis into a successful erection.  They sing a work song. After the man ejaculates, the workers in the control room celebrate with drinks.   We see the woman in post-coital bliss say something like “That was nice. Let’s do it again.”  That causes the head operator in the control room, played by Tony Randall, to do a double-take and make an expression of surprise and exasperation. The point is that the man has to get it up again.

There’s a joke that makes the same point.  What do you call the Jewish impotence drug?

Oy-Viagra.

Knowing how difficult it is for many women to climax, one wonders: does their difficulty make them unhappy? Does their difficulty cause problems with their relationships? Does it annoy their partners? Does it affect the rest of their lives?  Are there correlations between ease of orgasm and success at work or at staying married?  These questions probably deserve detailed research.

Biologically, it’s not clear what the purpose of female orgasm is.  It may be an accident of development, like nipples on men, or it may serve to select for  higher quality sperm, since there is some evidence that orgasm increases the chance of fertilization.  (For more about this topic, see this article.) One wonders whether the reason women have trouble climaxing has to do with the need for women to judge the suitability of men to raise offspring.  As one of the anonymous commenters says in Do women enjoy sex without orgasm?:

I think Divine Source wired us so that Mother nature protects us women: the men that deeply care about our pleasure and happiness get repeat business, increasing the chance of offspring. The men who are all about themselves can’t protect the women and family and probably won’t get the chance. Hopefully, more women will stand up to men that don’t care if they please anyone but themselves, and refuse to create children with a jerk. Ive had it both ways, Ill never put up with a man who doesn’t care if I’m satisfied. Life’s short!

Whether this argument is convincing, from an evolutionary point of view, depends in part on whether women in the past had the chance to choose men. Or did the women get pregnant before they had the chance?  That question, in turn, depends on how fertile men and women were in the savannahs of Africa, or whereever our ancestors evolved.    I read that evolution happens faster than you might think, so it’s possible that in human sexuality was quite different 10,000 years ago from hot it is now.

What drove me to write this article was the realization that the difficulty that women have in reaching orgasm is a central fact in human sexuality and in the war of  the sexes.   Not only do men typically dominate women in physical strength, as well as economically and legally,  in most societies. But to add insult to injury, men get to come more quickly.  It’s not fair.  On the other hand, men are expected to work to take care of women, both economically and sexually.   Maybe that’s not fair either.

Testimony Given at WA Health Dept. Hearing on Certificate of Need Rules – Nov. 26, 2013

There were probably 80 – 100 people at the WA Health Dept. Hearing on hospital mergers including reps from the SEIU, ACLU, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Secular Humanists, Catholic Watch, etc, along with 30+ of our MoveOn.org petition signers, a Hospital Administrators Assoc. Rep. and the general public.

Of those testifying, at least 90% expressed that the proposed rules didn’t go far enough in requiring transparency of a hospital’s contraception and end of life policies, given patients’ need to know. Also that the whole issue of the denial of legal health care due to the Bishops’ Directives (ERDs) when Catholic hospitals affiliate and merge with secular health care facilities was inadequately addressed in the proposed rules.

The Hospital Administrators Assoc. expressed that the proposed rules were not only not needed but counter-productive and too expensive to implement.  Others expressed that the Catholic hospitals have provided significant health services in our state for decades and shouldn’t have to yield to another set of government regulations, that abortions and Death with Dignity were red herrings.

Other testimony:

Hospital mergers and affiliations often result in staff reductions, changed staffing patterns, pay freezes or pay reductions, elimination of some legal health services and emphasizing others, all designed to turn the acquired facilities primarily into profit centers rather than primarily health care centers.

Health Care Best Practices should always be primary and not be subject to profit motives.

Catholic Bishops’ policies refuse to honor certain provisions of Advanced Directives, so without the patient, patient’s family or transporters (EMTs and ambulance drivers) knowing in advance what a particular secular hospital’s policies are (Catholic Bishops’ policies?), some patients end up inadvertently at the wrong hospital where their legal final wishes are denied due solely to religious dogma. Communities need to know what a facility’s policies are so patients don’t spend their final days in pain and embarrassing condition, unless they choose to.

Doctors and other health care workers are required to sign allegiance to the Catholic Bishop’s Directives (ERDs) to be able to have privileges at Catholic hospitals and this allegiance also applies to their private practice, further restricting legal health services to residents of their communities.

 

In some parts of the state, due to the Catholic Bishops’ Directives, there are no family planning services and there is only skewed end of life care within a 100 miles.

 

Patient Rights should always come first before religious ideology or insurance company and hospital profits.

 

MoveOn.org Testimony by Chuck Bean at WA Health Dept. Certificate of Need Hearing  Nov. 26, 2013 on behalf of 5,100 signers of a MoveOn.org Petition to ” Prohibit the Denial of Legal Health Care Services in WA State”  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/prohibit-denial-of-legal?mailing_id=17577&source=s.icn.em.cr&r_by=378069  and on behalf of the Seattle Chapter of American’s United for Separation of Church and State:

 

As more secular hospitals merge and affiliate with religious ones, nearly half of WA state hospital beds are now controlled by Catholic ideology that prohibits contraceptive counseling and contraceptive methods including condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, vasectomies and tubal ligations; and that prohibits fertility assistance, abortion and end of life “death with dignity” & “advance directives”, all of which are legal in WA State.

Non-Catholics and Catholics alike increasingly find themselves in situations in which the only health care available is limited by these restrictions, dictated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs).

WA State has the highest percentage of religious control of hospital beds in the U.S. and it is continuing to increase (26% in 2010, 45% so far in 2013).

Hospitals receiving payments from Medicare, Medicaid, direct subsidies from public funds or tax breaks, should be prohibited from denying legal family planning and end of life “death with dignity” services based on religious ideology.  The majority of WA voters created the rights to those legal health services and expect WA State government to guarantee that they will be available to all Washingtonians.

The WA State Dept. of Health and County Public Hospital Districts need to ensure that, if a healthcare system is allowed by law to not provide certain family planning and end of life services directly, that that system finds another way for citizens to get those services nearby and refers them to the appropriate place to receive them. The refusing healthcare system needs to pay for all costs of their being provided by another.

Regarding transparency, and in the interest of a patient’s need to know, we support the recommendation that a checklist of key reproduction and end of life services be required to be prominently posted by all hospitals on their websites, but not just on their websites which is a limited and specialized window, but also prominently posted in hard copy in their waiting rooms and near their admission desks so folks entering their facilities can also be informed.  This posting should be in large print and in lay persons’ language clearly indicating the hospital’s policies and where any denied services can be obtained, nearby.

Making Marriage Last – Do Atheists Do It Better?

Conservative Christians think of themselves as the last line of defense for a time honored and holy tradition, marriage. In the conservative Christian view, marriage is a sacred union ordained by God. It binds one man and woman together so that the “two become one flesh” until they are parted by death.Old couple cartoon

This view of marriage is unbiblical, to be sure. See Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like If We Actually Followed The Bible. But hey, who actually reads the Bible? Surely, what God meant to say, is that marriage should take the form that is most familiar and traditional to us: One male plus one female who is given to the male by her father–that part is biblical–for life.

In this worldview, Christian marriage is under assault by an anti-trinity of powerful and dark forces: feminism, homosexuality, and godlessness. Faith, on the other hand, saves both souls and marriages. When I was young, a slogan made its way around my church, The family that prays together stays together. Dr. Tom Ellis, former chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on the Family boldly claimed that “…born-again Christian couples who marry…in the church after having received premarital counseling…and attend church regularly and pray daily together… experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages.”

But then came data. According to Barna research over a decade ago, American divorce rates were highest among Baptists and nondenominational “Bible-believing” Christians and lower among more theologically liberal Christians like Methodists, with atheists at the bottom of the divorce pack. When the findings were made public, George Barna took some heat, and Ellis suggested that maybe he had sampled badly. Perhaps some people who called themselves born again had never really devoted their lives to Christ. But Barna held his ground, saying, “We rarely find substantial differences” [in the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians].

Fancy that.

In 2008, Barna again sampled Americans about divorce rates. The numbers fluctuated a bit, but once again atheists came out painfully good from a prays-together-stays-together perspective. Thirty percent reported being ever divorced, in contrast to thirty-two percent of born-again Christians. Slicing the U.S. by region, the Bible belt has the highest divorce rate, and this has been the case for over a decade, with the institution of marriage faring better in those dens of blue-state iniquity to the north and west.

What is going on? Even some secularists are puzzled. Churches provide strong communities for families. Many offer marital counseling and parenting classes. Love, they say, is a commitment, not a feeling. God hates divorce. They leverage moral emotions in the service of matrimony: a righteous sense of purity rewards premarital abstinence and post-marital monogamy—replaced by guilt and shame when nonmarital sex is unveiled or a marriage dissolves. Couples who split may find themselves removed from leadership positions or even ostracized. On the face of it, even if there were no God, one might expect this combination to produce lower divorce rates.

The reality, however, appears complex. Churches do honor and support marriage. They also may inadvertently promote divorce, especially—ironically—those churches which most bill themselves as shining lights in a dark world.

To prevent that greatest-of-all-evils, abortion, such communities teach even high school students to embrace surprise pregnancies as gifts from God. They encourage members to marry young so they won’t be tempted to fornicate. But women who give birth or marry young tend to end up less educated and less financially secure, both of which are correlated with higher divorce rates.

After marriage, some congregations, like those in the “quiver-full movement” encourage couples to leave family planning in God’s hands. Leaders echo the chauvinistic beliefs of Church fathers like St. Augustine and Martin Luther or the Bible writers: Women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (1 Timothy 2:15). Such teachings grow congregations, literally, from the nursery up, but the very same attitudes that help to fill church pews can erode marital bliss. Ample research shows that for couples under age 30 marital satisfaction declines with the birth of each child. (Parenting tends to make couples happier only after age 40, when kids become more independent, and only in countries with comparatively weak social supports for aging adults.)

Secular couples increasingly see both marriage and divorce as personal choices. Overall, a lower percent get married, which means that those who do may be particularly committed or well-suited to partnership. They are likely to be older if/when they do formally tie the knot. They have fewer babies, and their babies are more likely to be planned. Parenting, like other household responsibilities, is more likely to be egalitarian rather than based on the traditional model of “male headship.” Each of these factors could play a role in the divorce rate.

But a bigger factor may be economics, pure and simple. In the words of some analysts, marriage is becoming a luxury good, with each partner, consciously or subconsciously looking for someone who will pull their weight financially and declining to support one who won’t. “The doctor used to marry the nurse,” says Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. “Today the doctor marries the doctor.” Sixty percent of college educated women get married, as compared to fifty percent of women who hold only high school degrees or lower. Couples who stay married also tend to be wealthier than those who divorce. In Barna’s 2008 sample, couples with an income of less than $20,000 a year broke up almost twice as often as those earning $75,000 or more (39 percent vs 22 percent). Advocates who want to promote traditional marriage might do well to foster broad prosperity.

Even if they did, though, they might be swimming upstream. In 1960, almost three quarters of American adults were married; by 2008 that number had fallen to a half. The difference came from a combination of two factors—more divorce and more people who had never married. The concept of family isn’t becoming less important, but Americans are more and more flexible in how we define  the term. Over 80 percent say that a single parent living with a child or an unmarried couple with a child is a family. Over 60 percent say that a gay couple with a child is a family. A growing number say that marriage is obsolete.

In one of those peculiar twists of fate, conservative Christian obsessions with abortion and sexual purity may be accelerating this trend. Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, authors of Red State, Blue State, propose that Bible-belt opposition to abortion has increased the non-marital birthrate and acceptance of single parent families:

The working class had long dealt with the inconvenient fact of an accidental pregnancy through the shotgun marriage. As blue-collar jobs paying a family wage have disappeared, however, so has early marriage. Women are then left with two choices: They can delay childbearing (which might entail getting an abortion at some point) until the right man comes along or get more comfortable with the idea of becoming single mothers. College-educated elites have endorsed the first option, but everyone else is drifting toward the second.

Conservative Christians thought they could have it all by promoting abstinence until marriage. But virginity pledges and abstinence only education have failed. If anything, they have once again accelerated the trend, leaving Christian leaders fumbling for answers. Some hope that more flexible, egalitarian roles for Christian wives and husbands may be the answer. Others think that doubling down on traditional gender roles is where it’s at. Either way, gone is the bravado that once proclaimed marital salvation by faith alone. “Marriages and families within faith communities are no healthier than in the rest of society,” concedes Christian author Jonathan Merritt. “Faith communities must provide support systems to salvage damaged marriages.” Whether the institution of marriage itself can or should be salvaged is, perhaps, a question none of us are prepared to answer.

Do atheists do it better? That is unlikely. Divorce rate differences between theists and nontheists tend to depend on how you slice the demographic pie, and for both groups, the shape of marriage itself is changing. As culture evolves, we’re all in uncharted territory together.   ——————–

Related:
Losing Your Religion – Keeping Your Spouse  (Youtube)
15 Bible Texts Reveal Why “God’s Own Party” is at War with Women
Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like if We Actually Followed the Bible
What Christianity and Kink Have in Common