Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Fertility Blaming

I was out at a conference during the middle of this week, and one evening I found myself at a beer hall lifting one liter mugs of German-style beer with a couple of other attendees.

The fact that I have seven children came up, and one of the guys I was talking to (it was an all male group) choked on his beer. "Seven kids? Are you serious? I've got two, and that is enough. My wife asked about having more, but I told her: I've got a lawyer on speed dial. No more kids or I am out of here."

Now, one should take words after a liter or more of beer with a grain of salt, perhaps nice large salt crystals on a warm soft pretzel. One hopes that this fellow does not literally keep a divorce lawyer on speed dial. But the mentality, even if spoke of more boldly due to the alcohol, is worth thinking about.

One of the complaints that I've often heard about the use of NFP to space pregnancies among Catholics is that NFP ends up being "all the woman's job". The wife is left to track her signs and deny her husband sex if they want to avoid pregnancy, while the husband blames her for denying him and complains that it's all too hard.

As we've written on various occasions: if that's how NFP plays out, it highlights much deeper problems in the marriage. A wife is not simply a tool for her husband's sexual satisfaction, nor should decisions about any important topic in marriage me made and lived out in that kind of lopsided way.

It often seems that the grass is greener on the other side, and that if only Catholics could ease their way out of the Church's moral objections to artificial birth control, everything could be easy and happy. But as this conversation (hardly the only time I've heard these kind of sentiments expressed) blaming a wife for her fertility and making it explicitly her problem is hardly a vice which is peculiar to the practice of NFP. It's a wider human problem, which the use of birth control to some degree allows people to paper over.

However much the existence of birth control may allow people to imagine otherwise, having children is a natural result of having sex. (And goodness knows, over the years I've had plenty of work acquaintances whose children have been the result of getting pregnant even while using birth control.) If a man chooses to have sex, he's choosing to engage in an act which may (however unlikely it may be under current conditions) result in a child. When he gets married he's entering a relationship that could well result in children, and to pretend that this is somehow all the women's fault or responsibility is both hiding from reality and engaging in a selfish relationship dynamic.


Anonymous said...

The best insight I've ever heard about the whole "fertility is a woman's problem" is this: men are the ones who are fertile all the time. Women are the ones who get a break. Therefore, using natural fertility awareness methods, it's actually the man's problem that he is the one who is fertile all the time. If, of course, that's the way we want to think about it, which I don't recommend at all.

Agnes said...

I can only echo what you said before - a marriage where one of the couple blackmails/browbeats the other into decisions using the threat of a divorce is a tragedy. Perfect illustration to the fact that family planning isn't the real issue!