A Christian man considers contraception

The author of the blog Contraception and Christianity, who goes by the handle Contraskeptic, kindly emailed me a link to his blog, where I came across this post. It’s interesting. In his blog description, he says that his blog is intended for discussion about contraception in the context of Christian marriage, and that he’s trying to sort through his own views on contraception, as an Evangelical Christian. He supports birth control, but is sympathetic to the arguments against it. Shaping his perspective is his wife, who did not want to become pregnant after her second child, but did anyway, despite non-medical efforts at prevention. Before her third pregnancy, she was suffering from postpartum depression. She wanted to go back to work. She thought that having another child would be a “disaster.” She asked her husband to get a vasectomy, and he wouldn’t. She would only have sex with him once a month, the day after her period ended. She slept on the couch so that she wouldn’t be tempted into sex. And when she found out she was pregnant again, she sobbed, and was “devastated.”

After the birth of their third child, her husband went in to get a vasectomy, and was refused. Getting it at his wife’s request, his doctor said, was the wrong reason. It’s been 15 months since this couple has so much as cuddled, let alone had sex. They both want to — but the wife is so terrified of another pregnancy, another difficult delivery, another C-section, another long recovery — that it’s not worth it. Contraskeptic writes:

Here is the dilemma I face:

If I get a vasectomy, we’ll be sinning if we have sex, and unlike using a condom, the sin will be permanent (or extremely expensive if not impossible to reverse). Practically speaking, there’s no repentance if indeed contracepted sex is a sin.

But if I don’t get a vasectomy, and we have to abstain until my wife reaches menopause, we’ll be sinning by not having sex. Couples are only supposed to abstain briefly but to come back together to avoid temptation (see I Corinthians 7). And it seems that the NFPers and the Quiverfull folks would agree that abstaining for the purpose of avoiding children is also a sin.

Beyond the concern about offending God, if I opt for abstinence over a vasectomy, our marriage will suffer. Love will diminish because we’ll be avoiding physical affection and because my wife will be offended that I am not complying with her wishes.

This is not a trick question, this is not a hypothetical, this is not a rhetorical trap. This is a real-life dilemma. I have a real-life decision to make.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?

First, I’ll point out that Contraskeptic’s situation is probably fairly common among people who don’t believe in or lack access to contraception. It was certainly commonplace before the dissemination of the birth control pill. And it’s not healthy. Sex is part of what you sign up for when you get married. You certainly are not entitled to your partner’s body, and you don’t have the right to demand sex from them whenever you want it, but you do have a legitimate complaint (and grounds to terminate the relationship) if the marriage is sexless.

But this is a little more complicated. The marriage isn’t sexless because one party has simply lost interest; it’s sexless because the aftermath of sex is physically, emotionally and mentally traumatizing to one party. She is, justifiably, asking her husband to undergo a simple procedure which would solve the problem of unwanted pregnancy. He, just as understandably, did not want to undergo surgery (it’s his body, after all), and her (fair) response was to refuse to engage in the behavior which would have potentially devastating consequences. Which makes their situation pretty unhappy.

Many of their religious peers will argue that using any form of contraception, other than natural family planning, is sinful. Contraskeptic asks for their opinions, and I can already predict what they’ll say: Contra and his wife need to shift their mentality to one that regards children as blessings, not burdens; his wife should realize that pregnancy and childbirth are beautiful events which are natural parts of womanhood, and she should embrace them; she should not be so selfish as to think about her own desire to work, and certainly should not demand that her husband alter his God-given body to suit her demands; and they should consider the highly effective Natural Family Planning method if they want to avoid more children.

Those arguments are crap.

I can grasp the conservative Christian arguments against the contraceptive pill, even if I know that they aren’t medically sound. Their viewpoint is something like this: The Pill primarily works by inhibiting ovulation and thickening cervical mucus so that sperm can’t fertilize the egg in the first place. Some versions of the Pill also thin the uterine lining, making it inhospitable to a fertilized egg. So if, somehow, sperm does get through and an egg is released, and they join, the egg cannot implant. The medical definition of pregnancy begins at implantation, not fertilization, precisely because about half of all fertilized eggs don’t implant in the first place. Recent research further suggests that the Pill doesn’t have an effect on implantation, but there is some dispute. For a religious person who believes that life begins at conception, the Pill may not be the best option. That’s all fine and good — until they start trying to convince the rest of us that their belief equals science, and that they should have the right to impose it on others. But that’s another post.

Now, what anti-Pill Christians often ignore is the fact that using the Pill will actually cause fewer fertilized eggs to be flushed out than non-use will. The vast majority of the time, the Pill stops the sperm and the egg from ever joining. If, on the unproven off-chance that they do join, they will probably be flushed out. Any fertilized egg will be a fluke, and an extreme rarity. But if a couple has sex without using contraception, over the years far more of the woman’s eggs will be fertilized. More than half of them will naturally not implant. Of those which do implant, a significant number will experience problems in utero and result in miscarriage. A “non-contracepting” couple, then, will produce far more fertilized eggs and embryos which never reach birth than a “contracepting” one will. Their response to this argument is intent — the contraception-using couple intends to avoid pregnancy, while the non-contraception-using couple embraces new life, even if that new life never comes to fruition.

The Pill is not an abortifacient, in that there is no way it can cause an abortion (at least according to the medical definition of the word). Using the Pill will actually save the “lives” of more fertilized eggs than will having sex without contraception. But I can still understand the religious opposition to it, even if I think it’s silly and factually incorrect.

What I find less convincing is the religious opposition to vasectomies, tubal ligations, and condom use. The arguments against vasectomies and tubal ligations is two-fold: (1) altering your reproductive capabilities is doing damage to God’s gift of your body and ability to reproduce, and (2) couples should be open to children and not take steps to permanently avoid pregnancy. The alternative is Natural Family Planning, wherein women track their fertile days and have sex only on those times when they think they can’t get pregnant. The caveat, of course, is that if you get pregnant — which, given the fact that typical NFP use has up to a 25% failure rate, is a strong possibility — you embrace it and have another baby. NFP advocates say that their method doesn’t interfere with God’s natural plan or his creation of the human body. It forces couples to discuss their fertility, and negotiate about sex — if they’re horny but it’s a potentially fertile day, they have to talk about whether the sex will be worth it. Gathering the baseline data for NFP can take as long as six months — during which time the couple can either abstain or risk pregnancy. NFP also requires that couples abstain for 8-10 days out of every menstrual cycle, on the days when the woman is most fertile — and at the peak of her sexual desire. She can’t have sex when she wants it the most, and her husband can’t give her oral sex, either, if they’re following Catholic doctrine (sex must be centered on penis-in-vagina intercourse, and foreplay is only permissible so long as it leads up to the husband ejaculating inside of his wife’s vagina).

Obviously, I’m skeptical about NFP as a practice. But what doesn’t make sense to me is the idea that NFP is acceptable, but vasectomies, tubal ligations and condom use aren’t. Either interference with God’s plan for your life and His design of your body is wrong, or it’s not. But as far as I can tell, the only time that conservative Christians decry medical interference with the body is when it comes to reproduction. After all, cancer occurs naturally, but I don’t think that most Christians would argue that we should just sit back and let God’s plan take its course. We alter God’s design all the time — we cut out hair, trim our fingernails, put on make-up, remove our facial and body hair, get braces, pierce our ears. Perfectly healthy people give their blood, or their bone marrow, or even one of their bodily organs (like a kidney) to people who need those things to survive — people who, without human interference into God’s plan, would be dead. How it is acceptable to give up a functioning, healthy kidney — part of the body God gave you — but not acceptable to alter your reproductive system so that you do no further harm to your body or your partner’s body?

There isn’t an answer — at least not until the anti-contraception crowd admits that their perspective is more about control of women than it is about morality or health or God.

Anti-contraception people will argue that contraceptives, vasectomies, and other pregnancy-prevention techniques are bad because they screw around with a healthy reproductive system, unlike, say, an appendectomy or chemotherapy, which seek to correct disease. But, as I wrote above, we constantly take steps which alter perfectly healthy bodily functions so that our lives are easier, or so we fit a social standard of acceptable physical appearance (hence making our lives easier). And in using NFP you’re taking active steps to avoid the blessing of children — how is that less of an affront to God than using a condom?

It is simply not a consistent philosophy, and I don’t imagine that most NFP proponents will be able to justify medical intervention and altering God’s plan in some instances but not in others. They won’t be able to give Contraskeptic an answer other than “open your heart to children and use NFP.” They will have to ignore the plight of his wife because, as a woman, she doesn’t matter beyond her use as a breeding mare.

There are many good, well-meaning people who personally oppose contraception, and who don’t use it themselves. There are others who not only personally oppose it, but think everyone should make the same decisions that they’ve made, and are quick to condemn “contracepting” women. I do look forward to what they say in response to Contraskeptic’s situation.

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123 comments for “A Christian man considers contraception

  1. February 18, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    There is this neat little clear plastic ring that women can use as contraception — fits up into that place where a latex cap used to go. She should try it.


  2. Esme
    February 18, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    I assume she, like her husband, is averse to the idea of contraception that isn’t allowed by their religion. Honestly, I would recommend that they sit down, have a long talk, and either he can go get a vasectomy or she can get a tubal, because if you feel like they’re sinning every time they use a condom, it’s probably going to be easier to deal with if they’re not having to deal with the contraception every time they have sex.

    Frankly, if they follow the belief than Onan’s sin was spilling his seed, rather than spilling his seed in a circumstance where he was under a specific duty to impregnate the woman he was having sex with, then there’s no answer. Any contraception, including NFP, is an attempt to waste the seed. They have 2 options: recognize that contraception isn’t an option at all and have a sexless marriage, or recognize that contraception is being forbidden by people with no grasp on the reality of the modern situation and get some kind of contraception.

    They need to ask themselves WWJD, for real. Would their saviour want them to have a marriage without affection (where one or both are highly tempted to masturbate, also a sin) or a marriage where one partner is unhappy because of more pregnancies than her body or mind can handle, or would their messiah want them to have a marriage with love, affection, and two healthy parents to care for their three children

  3. February 18, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    I feel confused lately, but doesn’t the ring put out hormones or something?

  4. February 18, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    NIGEL: Couldn’t you have your balls cut off?
    DAD: Hohh, it’s not as simple as that, Nigel. God knows all! He’d see through such a cheap trick. What we do to ourselves, we do to Him.
    GIRL: You could have had them pulled off in an accident.
    DAD: No. No, children. I know you’re trying to help, but, believe me, me mind’s made up. I’ve given this long and careful thought, and it has to be medical experiments for the lot of you.

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  5. Sniper
    February 18, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Does he really think Jesus cares more about unused sperm than his wife’s mental and physical health?

  6. car
    February 18, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    They really, really need to re-read the Bible carefully, and note that there is nothing in the Bible against contraception. Anywhere.
    I’ve been in the place his wife is – it’s impossible to describe how absolutely terrifying it is to worry about getting pregnant every single time, no matter how you try not to, how awful it is to be scared to have sex with your husband because you know you can’t mentally handle getting pregnant again, period. They should not have to put up with this, and anyone who tells them they should is being abusive, plain and simple.

  7. Tiny
    February 18, 2007 at 8:58 pm


    In a word, yes.

  8. Bitter Scribe
    February 18, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    Stuff likes this makes me soooo glad I’m an atheist.

  9. Anne
    February 18, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Stuff like this makes me glad I live in the 21st century….

  10. evil fizz
    February 18, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    I firmly believe that if your God is omnipotent, (s)he can work out his/her plan for you regardless of what barriers you put into place.

    Having said that, I think the operative question here is whether you want to embrace a belief system that makes you and your beloved miserable and does agonizing damage to your relationship.

  11. Julie
    February 18, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    I agree with you wholeheartedly Jill. If Contraskeptic is reading this post, here is my unsolicited two cents: I am also a Christian and belong to a fairly conservative church, in fact much more conservative than I am, and birth control is a widely accepted practice. While there are families who subscribe to the quiverfull philosophy, they do so without pushing it on anyone else and usually acknowledge that they understand it’s not for everyone. I used the birth control pill for the first 2 years of my marriage, until we decided to have our first child. After she was born, we decided when she was 8 months old to have another one, who we unfortunately lost a few minutes after his birth. 4 months later I was pregnant with my third child, who is now 7 months old. I have given a lot of thought to the quiverfull philosophy, because I do love children and enjoy being a mom more than anything else. However, physically I just can’t have another child right now, I’m overweight, I’m out of shape and I need a break. I need to lose weight, I need to tone up, I need a break from being pregnant. Financially, we can’t afford daycare for a third child, we can’t afford the endless doctor appointments, the time off of work and all the other associated costs, not to mention the diapers, formula, wipes, clothes and all the other assorted costs once the baby gets here. Emotionally, I already don’t get enough time to myself and a third baby would not help that situation at all. The fact of the matter is that I believe God trusts me to know what I can handle and what I can’t. I believe that He gave us free will and the knowledge to prevent pregnancy to better our lives, not to fill us with guilt and despair. I know there are several people of faith who would disagree with me, but that is my personal take on it. My husband and I have already talked and when we are absolutely sure we don’t want another child, he will have a vasectomy. We too would carry an unexpected pregnancy to term, and while I am concerned about another pregnancy, the fact that I have access to and use highly effective birth control has had an extremely positive effect on my marriage and my sex life. I think this is a good thing and I don’t believe for a minute that God is angry with me for putting my family and my marriage first.

  12. lawbitch
    February 18, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    I’m so glad that I don’t worship a punitive god. Worrying what is a sin and will send me to eternal damnation sounds exhausting.

  13. February 18, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Man. That is so sad. I am just depressed now.

  14. February 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Actually, I think this is something that should be taken seriously, more so than thanking whatever-nothing out there that I’m an atheist. Obviously I think they should be on some kind of birth control, whatever works best for the couple, mostly because this is the stuff that ruins relationships, marriage, and mental health. Regardless, this is what pisses me off:

    After the birth of their third child, her husband went in to get a vasectomy, and was refused. Getting it at his wife’s request, his doctor said, was the wrong reason.

    Obviously vasectomy was a choice that was on the table and one that both members of this couple were willing to undergo, whether or not it jived with their faith. As a feminist I find it a rather equitable choice, considering that the wife has been through three c-sections, but that’s neither here nor there. The doctor took this option off the table and this couple is back at square one, abstinent within their marriage, at odds with their faith, and unsure where to go from here.

    This is one question I’m grateful I don’t have to grapple with, and I don’t think “be open to more children” is a fair assessment of the risks and odds at hand. It’s certainly not the only option.

    But yeah, I’m an atheist. Nevertheless, in my mind, the god that I always imagined as a child would recognize that life isn’t always black and white, and people make the best decisions they can with the best intentions they have, and God would forgive them even if it didn’t necessarily go with His or Her plan. God as watchmaker? Free will within intelligent design of the universe? If God is a god of forgiveness, well, I don’t know. I suppose it depends on your faith. The Methodist church I attended growing up never had an emphasis on “sin” as orthodoxy.

  15. Older
    February 18, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    You know, this is easy: They should see another doctor. That guy can’t be the only one in town. Or they could drive to another town.

  16. Sarah S
    February 18, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    I second whomever said see another doctor. I mean, the choices here blow but I think that the vasectomy is the least-sucky option here. And regaurdless, it should be the man’s decision, not his doctors.

    Maybe they could talk it over with their pastor/priest/reverand/I don’t know what to call it. That is always what is reccomended in advice columns to Christian type people with problems.

  17. j
    February 18, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Of course I think this whole problem is ridiculous and easily solved (solution: abandon religious doctrines), but I feel a lot of pity for a couple who is in such a bind and sees no way out. The fact is that they will not be able to resolve this conflict unless they modify their belief systems. And because I know how unlikely deeply religious people are to change in their faith, I am pessimistic that Contraskeptic and his wife will be able to find a satisfactory solution. I am filled with despair because I know that Contraskeptic cannot be the only evangelical Christian in the United States facing this kind of situation.

    Echoing some other commenters, I will say that I am so thankful no religious dogma interferes with my moral decisions.

  18. Jendy
    February 18, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    The thing that bothers me is that the doctor refused him because it was at his wife’s request. Perhaps I’m seeing this skewed, but to me there might be an element of machismo to the whole thing. There seems to be a lot of anxious masculinity tied up with some parts of evangelicalism. If so, maybe a (more painful, more difficult) tubal would be more palatable.

    Although I hate to be so cynical, since this seems to be a real dilemma for the poor guy. Maybe they could just do a lotta oral.

  19. Sniper
    February 18, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    I hear all these horror stories about people who wanted to get vasectomies or tubal ligations and faced uncooperative doctors, etc. We don’t have kids but when my husband went to a urologist and said, “snip me!” it was done within two weeks. I held his hand during the 15-minute operation (he was lucid, but loopy the whole time). Then we went home and spent the long weekend on the bed watching a whole lot of bad movies. There were no complications, hardly any swelling and the pain went away after two days of tylenol and ice-packs.

    It could be that easy for this couple. They could resume their affectionate sex life, the wife’s anxiety would likely disappear after the second sperm test, and their marriage could be saved. The way they’re going they’re headed for divorce. So damn sad.

  20. Jennifer
    February 18, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    But, Lauren, I am glad to be an atheist, especially when I hear of stuff like this. Thrilled, in fact. But I agree its a problem for this man… which is why I don’t believe the Bible can be authority on anything. There are too many writers saying too many different things to use it as a blueprint for life. For instance, as one of his comments said, god cannot expect you to follow everything he says at once, and [love your waife by getting the surgery]. This is probably the only advice I could offer to someone whose blueprint I disagree with entirely.

  21. Starfoxy
    February 18, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    My personal advice for this couple is that God has promised knowledge to those who seek it (see James 1:5)- this man and his wife should pray about the best course and follow it regardless of what others may interpret the Bible to mean regarding contraception. There is no higher authority than God, and if God inspires them to have a vasectomy then who are they to ignore that?

    To the general idea of contraception I have two thoughts:

    First- Abstinence is a form of contraception. An abstinent married couple is doing something to avoid having children that they otherwise would not be doing. If you go by the rationale that NFP is the most acceptable form of contraception because it allows God the most opportunity to bless you with a child (ie contraception is a sin because it interferes with God’s plans), then abstinence is the very worst form of contraception because it allows God nothing to work with. By that rationale a vasectomy would be better than long-term marital abstinence because there is a failure rate with vasectomies- some couples will still get pregnant.

    If NFP is the most acceptable form of contraception because it is the kind that demonstrates a willingness to accept children (ie contraception is a sin because it demonstrates an anti-children attitude), you may want to consider the idea that NFP requires daily diligence to guard against having kids. I’ve never had to be as committed and as fixated on not having kids as when I practiced NFP. The goal of avoiding pregnancy becomes a nearly all-consuming passion with NFP. I would have been most hostile to an unplanned baby that arrived while practicing NFP than I would have had the pregnancy resulted from a broken condom, or failed pill simply because of the frame of mind I had to keep myself in to practice NFP effectively.

    Second- Situations like this always make me think of cases like Andrea Yates, and her’s is just the most extreme example of how too many children and too little help can destroy a family. There are many more, less-extreme ways for too many children, or fear of more children to destroy a family. If thine eye offend thee then pluck it out. If continued fertility would cause a man or a woman to commit worse sins (divorce, abuse, suicide, neglect, murder), then just get rid of the fertility. There are worse sins than contraception- and in some cases a failure to contracept may lead you to those sins.

  22. j swift
    February 18, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    After the birth of their third child, her husband went in to get a vasectomy, and was refused. Getting it at his wife’s request, his doctor said, was the wrong reason.

    It is fucking time to find a new doctor

  23. February 18, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    You’re too kind to their pseudo-arguments. The consistency in anti-choice arguments is the more control a method gives to women, the more hostile they are to it. Abortion is really bad, the pill is almost as bad, the condom is just a little bad and NFP, which is the method that gives the male partner the most room to whine, cajole, and get his way is idealized.

  24. February 18, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    NFP is stupid – it’s just blindly guessing when the woman is ovulating, and goes off the assumption that all women have a 28-day cycle. If someone is really that anti-conception (i’m not, i’m just anti-taking hormones), they can do Fertility Awareness Method, which has women track and chart their waking temperature and cervical fluid. It’s actually scientifically based, and it actually works – though the pesky feritility days do come up anyway, so it’s either use protection or have another Duggar (ha! That poor woman is on her freaking 17th kid – 17!!!).

    Anyhoo, bottom line is FAM is legit, NFP sucks and frankly, I don’t buy any of the stupid non-contraceptive arguments either…

  25. Lindsay
    February 18, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Here’s a solution: Atheism. It’s definitely working for me.

  26. February 18, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Amanda, how does NFP benefit a man more than a woman?

  27. February 18, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Lauren Says:
    Actually, I think this is something that should be taken seriously

    Easier said than done.

    Here’s the solution.
    Become Catholic, sin as much as you want, confess before you die and bingo! You’re in paradise.

  28. February 18, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    Oh, and NFP comes from the Roman Catholic church. So doesn’t that mean it’s a tool of Satan from the evangelical POV?

  29. February 18, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Atheism is about as workable a solution as abstention. Someone who believes in God can no more adopt it than an atheist can adopt belief. I could solve a couple of problems by becoming a movement conservative, too, but it ain’t gonna happen.

    I agree that Contraskeptic is in a rhetorical trap that he can step out of simply by identifying the note that rings false. In this case, as Starfoxy pointed out, abstinence is contraception. If the desire is there, it’s no more natural than a condom is.

    If he must see himself as a sinner (which, for a Christian, seems like a surprising dilemma–I thought we assumed that…) then the question is, which one? There are plenty of reasons to keep the marriage together and happy. The two obviously love each other, and they have children, so some form of situational or permanent contraception seems like the logical choice.

    I also agree that he needs a new doctor. I can understand why a doctor would double-check motive on an operation with fairly permanent consequences, but it’s pretty obvious that a vasectomy, or something like it, is what’s going to put the bloom back into their marriage.

    I wish them luck.

  30. February 18, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    I’m a little surprised that contraception is an issue: my understanding was that most Evangelicals/Protestants were A-OK with birth control. Only Catholics and Quiverfulls are against it…. or at least that was my understanding.

    Few things highlight my dislike of codified religion more than this: the man is obviously conflicted, and so capable of some reasonable thought. And here he is, with one child more than he and his wife had intended, and the quick and easy solution to their problem is an impossibility because he thinks some boogieman is going to send him to hell for it. Pathetic.

  31. Caja
    February 19, 2007 at 12:08 am

    So is it only in the Catholic faith that sex without intercourse is a no-no, or is that common to other flavors of Christianity, too? Or is there just some weird discomfort for heterosexual couples in thinking of “sex” as possibly NOT involving penis-in-vagina at some point? Cause whenever I hear this kind of “We can’t have sex because we don’t want a baby,” stuff, whether in an NFP situation or not, I think, “But you don’t have to have -intercourse- to have a good time! You just have to stop defining ‘sex’ so narrowly. Hands and mouths, people. It keeps the semen safely away from the egg.”

    I do hope he goes through with the vasectomy. What a mess of a situation.

  32. MissPinkKate
    February 19, 2007 at 12:28 am

    They really need to find a new doctor.

  33. mythago
    February 19, 2007 at 12:34 am

    They do, but if Contraskeptic told his doctor “I want a vasectomy because my wife told me to get one,” then OF COURSE the doctor turned him down.

    I feel sad for the guy, because he’s obviously trying to do the right thing by his wife.

  34. February 19, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Pray on it, throughly examine your current beliefs, and get a new doctor.

    Also, I highly suggest a thoughtful (re)reading of the story of Onan. This is the most common bibically-based justification for artificial birth control.

    The part of the story where Onan acts selfishly, emotionally hurts his wife, deceives the people around him, and breaks promises relating to marriage are too often overlooked. The focus is often on the dude pulling out … which quite frankly is menial compared to the other lessons contained in this story.
    Two and a half cents.

  35. February 19, 2007 at 12:42 am

    justification *against* artificial birth control

    That part is important. Sorry.

  36. ellenbrenna
    February 19, 2007 at 1:00 am

    I do not think the doctor was entirely wrong. If a woman expressed serious moral and religious doubts when presenting for an abortion or any other medical procedure and revealed that she was only doing it because her husband wanted her to we would support the medical provider’s misgivings in that circumstance.

    This man has a serious dilemna. It is not one that we would ever have because our priorities are completely different but to him it is life and death. I think this reinforces the necessity of communicating what is important to us and why, not just what we object to in other people’s world views.

  37. myrtle dahlink
    February 19, 2007 at 1:02 am

    i can’t help but think about the homily of the man stuck on a roof during a flood. he was offered help from people in boats and helicopters and to all of them he said “no thank you, god will provide for me”
    and so when he dies he asks god where his salvation was and god said something to the effect of “i sent boats and helicopters and you refused”

    in my agnostic state i still feel a little like god has sent us the pill, the ring, condoms, vasectomies, etc. and that so many people are refusing perfectly good tools. this god also wouldn’t want a loving mother to die bearing yet another baby and leave those three (or even 4) kids *gasp* wthout 2 whole parents of opposite genders.

  38. piny
    February 19, 2007 at 1:24 am

    And it seems that the NFPers and the Quiverfull folks would agree that abstaining for the purpose of avoiding children is also a sin.

    Wait, what? I thought NFP meant abstaining a significant amount of the time so as to avoid having children. How is this different from abstaining even more of the time so as to avoid having children?

  39. February 19, 2007 at 1:30 am

    OK, so here goes. I’ve got a lot (perhaps too many) thoughts on this topic as a contracepting Catholic . . . eeks.

    So, first of all, one of my major critiques of the NFP-only policy is the whole “open to life” thing. Generally, it is accepted that NFPers can avoid pregnancy so long as they are “open to life.” To which I argue, well then, how is it any different if I use the Pill but am “open to life” (and I do consider myself as such)? I don’t think the intent or the practice is any different in that case.

    I also think that, conversely, some NFPers and for sure the Quiverfull types go off the deep end in this “open to life” thing. The official teachings of the Catholic Church say that avoiding/delaying pregnancy is morally acceptable as long as one has a “legitimate reason.” Since it’s not spelled out, I’m sure that’s up to the couple to decide. I happen to think that Contraskeptic and his wife (even though they are Evangelical Christian, my only NFP context is Catholic, so this is where I work from) certainly have a “legitimate reason” – her physical and emotional well being. There’s also a little known Catholic teaching that the spacing and limiting of children can be a moral good, when done so as to create a healthy family.

    I would also direct Contraskeptic and his wife to this brief fact sheet on various denominations’ positions on family planning. Many Christian denominations support family planning as a moral good.

    A thought, also, that Contraskeptic and his wife might want to investigate and be properly trained in one of the more effective forms of NFP. While NFP is not my bag, it can be used relatively effectively when one has proper training. There are different methods, such as CycleBeads, the Creighton method, Basal temperature, etc, each with different levels of effectiveness based on the regularity of a woman’s cycle and the level of commitment on the part of both partners. It sounds like they were using a scary crap-shoot method.

    If I was in Contraskeptic’s shoes, I’d be prone to tell the Nosy Parkers to MYOB, and consider what is the greater moral good – a healthy, solid relationship, and a solid foundation for the kids, and freeing my wife from the bondage of fear and the (clearly) unhealthy results of further pregnancy OR risking it all in the name of being “open” to some potential children that they aren’t particularly joyful about (who would want to be born into that situation)? Then, I’d go get a vasectomy.

  40. Tara
    February 19, 2007 at 1:36 am

    It’s a cruel world when a child is born but is not wanted, or only reluctantly accepted. That the couple tried their best to prevent their third child’s conception, but failed, puts the lie to the ‘teaching,’ espoused by the christianity these folks follow, about what’s in the better interests of the family, what is god’s will, what love is. That’s not loving to produce a child you didn’t want.

    After the birth of their third child, her husband went in to get a vasectomy, and was refused. Getting it at his wife’s request, his doctor said, was the wrong reason.

    Ugh. I’m sure this doctor would freely give this man a rx for Viagra without once worrying what his wife thought.

  41. February 19, 2007 at 1:48 am

    I went over to the link and read the whole story.
    What I don’t understand is why she didn’t have her tubes tied when she had the third C-Section — it would have been easy to do it then. In any case, she should do it now — even at this later date, its still just a half-day surgery, no big deal really — because he’s never going to have that vasectomy no matter how sensible this would be. He mentions in the complete post that he has made two or more appointments to get it done and missed it every time. He won’t admit it, but I think he’s one of those men who is just too freaked out by the idea of a doctor cutting him “down there”. That doesn’t make him a horrible man, nor even a particularly unusual one. But if she wants to have a sex life again she is going to need to take action herself to solve the problem.

  42. February 19, 2007 at 4:02 am

    James Says:
    Atheism is about as workable a solution as abstention. Someone who believes in God can no more adopt it than an atheist can adopt belief.

    Well, there is such a thing as losing fate when reality becomes overbearing.

    But if that’s not an option, how about they become Unitarians?

  43. mythago
    February 19, 2007 at 4:21 am

    Assuming she would, for some reason, want a sex life with a man whose attitude seems to be “Gee, sucks for you to have to risk pregnancy and a C-section at your age, but nobody’s touching my man parts”.

  44. Dianne
    February 19, 2007 at 8:07 am

    My honest advice to this man: get a new doctor and get the vasectomy before you kill your wife with another pregnancy or she goes insane from post-partum psychosis and kills one or more of your children. It happens and you’re headed there unless you start acting like a sensible person.

  45. Dianne
    February 19, 2007 at 8:15 am

    As a feminist I find it a rather equitable choice, considering that the wife has been through three c-sections

    Actually, it’s not. An average risk pregnancy is approximately 100X as risky as a vasectomy (death rate from pregnancy is about 1 in 10,000, from vasectomy 1/million.) This woman’s risk is, of course, substantially higher because of her history of needing c-sections and post-partum depression. Not to mention whatever caused the need for the c-section in the first place. So she’s probably at at least 1000X the risk he is. This wimp needs to get his resolve together and stop insisting his wife take risks that he is unwilling to take.

  46. Rhiannon
    February 19, 2007 at 8:34 am

    The thing that bothers me is that the doctor refused him because it was at his wife’s request. Perhaps I’m seeing this skewed, but to me there might be an element of machismo to the whole thing.

    Jendy: I don’t think it’s wrong for the doctor to refuse him. If a woman were to go to the doctor for a tubal because her “husband wanted me to” I would expect the doctor to turn her away. No one should be forced to alter their bodies, and when you say it isn’t your choice but someone else’s… well I fully expect the doctors to turn them down.

  47. wren
    February 19, 2007 at 8:51 am

    All right, I just read the original post. I was all set to express sympathy for their tough situation, but it… kind of sounds like he doesn’t care about his wife, so much: “We made good babies, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we made more, but I was content with the two we had.” It actually sounds like he’s blaming his wife for this. Ugh.

    Still, assuming he’s as spiritually conflicted about this as she seems to be, they should talk to their spiritual advisor (pastor, reverend, priest, whatever). I can’t believe that he (… yeah, probably) would agree with what they’re doing now, which seems to be leading down the road to marriage breakdown. Coming from him, too, the edict that birth control of whatever kind is preferable to a life of ignoring “God’s wedding gift” might be the only way they can really trust it.

  48. Rhiannon
    February 19, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Ugh. I’m sure this doctor would freely give this man a rx for Viagra without once worrying what his wife thought.

    Hopefully the same way a doctor would give a woman the pill without worrying what her husband thought. Though in today’s society.. who knows!

  49. preying mantis
    February 19, 2007 at 9:11 am

    At this point, if I were this couple, I’d look at it less as a contraception issue and more as a flat-out medical issue. The last thing a woman with more children than she wants already needs is to be looking at a late-life pregnancy with a guaranteed c-section delivery. It’s dangerous for her and for any fetus she’s carrying.

    I remember a slightly more extreme but similar case from back when my mother was still dragging me to church; the woman had congregation members begging her to get a tubal after her last child, seeing as it was a miracle she and the baby hadn’t bought it during the three-day labor. The pastor’s reasoning was that God provides, and God had provided her with a way to avoid a repeat of a very dangerous incident. It was viewed little differently than childhood vaccinations and chemotherapy. I wonder what his church’s attitude towards that sort of thing is.

  50. February 19, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Wren is right. Seriously, people, if you didn’t read the original post… go read it! What it boils down to is, shithead didn’t really care if his wife got pregnant again. In fact, it sounds like he wanted another baby, despite the fact that he knew she emphatically didn’t.

    Personally, I wouldn’t feel bad for him if he never got to have sex again.

  51. car
    February 19, 2007 at 10:05 am

    The excuse to the doctor seems to really sum up his problem: he went for the vasectomy because his wife wanted him to. It should have been because he loves his wife, and loves his family, and realizes that the best way to care for them is to hold stable on the family they have now, and he wants to step up and “be the man” (sorry, but that kind of phrase is the kind they go for) and head the household and take the responsibility to ensure the well-being of his family. But no. It’s because his wife said so. That indicates that he thinks it’s all no responsibility of his whatsoever.

  52. car
    February 19, 2007 at 10:10 am

    You know, it’s interesting. I mentioned earlier upthread, and commented on that guy’s site – I’ve been in the same place his wife is. I am scary fertile. I refused sex for almost three years because I was so petrified of getting pregnant again, and now that I think about it, never during that entire time was a vasectomy ever brought up. When I was having the last c-section I refused tube tying because at that point I wasn’t sure about having more kids, but after awhile I was pretty sure I didn’t want any more. I even seriously investigated the new tubal alternative (putting metal rods in the fallopian tubes to build up scar tissue), but a vasectomy seriously never even entered my mind, and my husband never mentioned it.
    So, was that patriarchal, because we never considered his responsibility, or was it profoundly feminist, because I considered my fertility to be my own business?

  53. February 19, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Also, he had appointments for the surgery which he didn’t keep. So, while he may have encountered resistance, he did not encounter a refusal from the doctor. It’s all him doing the refusing.

  54. February 19, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Actually, it’s not. An average risk pregnancy is approximately 100X as risky as a vasectomy (death rate from pregnancy is about 1 in 10,000, from vasectomy 1/million.) This woman’s risk is, of course, substantially higher because of her history of needing c-sections and post-partum depression. Not to mention whatever caused the need for the c-section in the first place. So she’s probably at at least 1000X the risk he is.

    You’re right — I take back my statement. This really isn’t a fair arrangement at all. I genuinely think the vasectomy is the best option at this point, and certainly better than breaking up a marriage for fear of sin.

  55. Penny
    February 19, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I need to put in a word for the Fertility Awareness Method, used intentionally as a way to conceive, for women who want to, and are having difficulty. After reading “Take Charge of Your Fertility” I was stunned by how much basic reproductive information I’d been missing. (And we managed to conceive a month later.) This stuff should be taught in junior high schools but I know why it isn’t – fear that girls would try to use it to prevent pregnancy, and possibly a condescending idea that they wouldn’t be able to understand the more science-y aspects.

    Thankful as I am for FAM, I would never rely on it to avoid pregnancy, and I’m thankful for this sad sad post to remind me what life was like for women before birth control was widely available.

  56. Cecily
    February 19, 2007 at 11:33 am

    I haven’t finished the comment thread yet, as I have to go to work, but in case it hasn’t been said — one of the reasons I love this website is this kind of careful and empathetic consideration of the life, beliefs and struggle of people who don’t share the author’s views. I find Feministe consistently intelligent, challenging, and ultimately, humane. Thank you!

  57. preying mantis
    February 19, 2007 at 11:36 am

    “So, was that patriarchal, because we never considered his responsibility, or was it profoundly feminist, because I considered my fertility to be my own business?”

    It’s one of those situations where it could be both. Him getting a vasectomy protects you as a couple from getting pregnant, but it doesn’t protect you personally from pregnancy. You taking it into your own hands and deciding for yourself that your fertility or lack thereof is going to be dependent only on your actions and not another person’s is certainly an independent and self-motivated step.

    It’s also possible that while you were taking power over your own body, he wasn’t offering because of a bedrock assumption that making sure that further pregnancies didn’t happen was your job, not his. Really, you’re the only one who’s going to be able to tease it out to your satisfaction.

  58. Chicklet
    February 19, 2007 at 11:40 am

    This is where the fundie shit hits the fan. Their brand of Christianity is about how everything is black and white, no gray areas. Problems like this show how rigid dogma does nothing in the face of nuance, gray areas and messy reality.

    I wonder when this guy will wake up and see that his religious leaders would throw himself, his wife and children under a bus rather than deviate from their dogma. They don’t care about his wife’s health or the stability of his family. Upholding their patriarchal fiefdom is the top priority.

    This guy’s dilemma is deciding whether or not this brand of religion is more important than his family. Once that choice is made, he’ll know what to do.

  59. Amanda
    February 19, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Actually, what no one has mentioned on here and would probably be the best option is Essure. It’s two tiny springs inserted into the fallopian tubes that cause the tubes to scar. It’s a fairly non-invasive procedure for the woman and requires almost no downtime.

  60. Frumious B
    February 19, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    typical NFP use has up to a 25% failure rate

    This is similar to failure rates for typical use of condoms alone. Are you as skeptical of condoms as you are of NFP?

    As many commentors have pointed out, NFP is comprised of many practices which a woman can use to chart her fertility. It’s not just counting days – it’s mucal consistency, basal body temperature, and a few others. It’s a shitload of work, but it can be much more effective than 75%.

    The reason abstinance based methods are acceptable is because they are methods of omission rather than methods of commission. It’s similar to the difference between refusing treatment for cancer (not a sin) and killing yourself when you learn you have cancer (sin). This omission vs. commission difference is found in many moral systems, and exists in our legal system as well. It’s worth understanding.

    Contraskeptic has a right not to have a vasectomy. It is, as Jill points out, his body. If his wife wants a permanent solution, she can have a tubal. I am aware that vasectomies are less risky than tubals. I agree that from a surgical perspective, vasectomies are a better choice than tubals. From a bodily integrity perspective, no one has a right to insist that someone else change their body.

    I’m in favor of atheism. I may not have a right to insist that someone else change their belief system, but I gotta say that a belief system that puts someone in this position sucks out loud. I hope they come out this questioning adherence to the dictates of invisible sky fairies.

  61. February 19, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    This is similar to failure rates for typical use of condoms alone.

    Sigh. No, Frumious, it’s not. Condom failure rate is about 15% in ‘typical’ use and 2% in ‘perfect’ use. ‘Typical’ includes things like not putting the condom on at all or using Vaseline as lube.

    It is entirely Contraskeptic’s right not to get a vasectomy, but he should be up front with his wife about that. Pretending to give a shit about her well-being, making appointments he (oopsie!) never keeps, and then whining she won’t put out is not exactly “my body, my choice”, don’t you think?

  62. February 19, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I replied and urged him toward vasectomy — but I think that between his super-sperm and her hyper-eggs, they should both be sterilized. They can go in together–make a date of it.

  63. Myca
    February 19, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    This is a tough post, because as much as I agree that ‘be an atheist’ isn’t a real solution for these people, neither do I think that there’s any lesser solution that will work.

    The problem here isn’t (just) sexism or (just) medical. the problem is that they believe fucking crazy-ass loony-tunes shit, and that has lead their lives into difficult and unworkable places. This isn’t a surprise. This is utterly predictable, because that’s what happens when you believe fucking crazy-ass loony-tunes shit.

    Yes, there are other religions that are less fucking crazy-ass loony-tunes, but once you’re saying ‘go be Unitarian,’ on some level, you might as well be saying ‘go be athiest,’ for all the likelihood it’s going to be a solution they’ll use.

    I really wish I had a solution, but if you believe:

    1) Sex without procreation is a sin.
    2) All forms of contraception are a sin.
    3) Sex is important to your marriage, and you want to keep having it.
    4) You desperately do not want more children.

    Then yes, you are in a situation that simply cannot be solved without altering one of your beliefs.

    Nobody has a good solution because there isn’t one, short of ‘stop thinking stupid things.’


  64. February 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Also, Frumious – I do rely on condoms about as much as I rely on NFP. In other words, they might be a decent adjunct method, but when I’m serious about not wanting to get pregnant (as opposed to “Well, now’s not the most convenient time.”), I don’t rely on either one alone to avoid pregnancy. I might, in a pinch, rely on a combination of the two – avoiding sex on fertile days, and using a condom on infertile ones – but even that would be only in the absence of other available methods.

  65. Ms. Clear
    February 19, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    That kind of rigid belief system is just a recipe for a life of misery. Women weren’t designed to have tons and tons of children. It’s hard work on your body. When the Bible was written, the maternal death rate would have been extremely high and women died much younger. Fundies today want just as many pregnancies as those days but talk about how it’s not dangerous anymore. It may not be dangerous, but it’s very hard work for a woman’s body.

    I don’t think there is a solution for this couple, except to change their rigid beliefs, perhaps by noting that there is nothing specific in the Bible re contraception.

    I know that this isn’t the sort of marriage that I would want. Sobbing on my couch, lonely and isolated. Terrified of having sex and sad about lack of intimacy.

    Showed this to my hubby today. It was a good conversation. He’s actually sort of excited about vasectomy after we have two kids because that means no more condoms! LOL

  66. elektrodot
    February 19, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    wow. i cant imagine actually being with someone that saw how much physical and mental pain it caused me to be pregnant, but then still care more about some ridiculous semi religious preachings (if they really beleived that shit, do you think she’d be having C-sections? those arent natural after all…let alone stuff like cough medicine and the like).

    i agree with amanda, i think your being too nice jill!

  67. togolosh
    February 19, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    On the one hand I have empathy for this fellow despite the fact that I think his religious beliefs are wrong, but on the other I can’t help a little snark.

    First of all, the problem is wasted seed, which says absolutely nothing about *her* pleasure. He can easily keep his wife sexually fulfilled by substituting oral or digital stimulation for PIV sex. As long as he doesn’t ejaculate everything is copacetic, right?

    Also he’s focusing on the wrong element when it comes to wasted seed. The key word is ‘wasted.’ If, after every sexual act leading to ejaculation, he was to carefully collect all his semen and freeze it so as to maintain viability, the sperm is not wasted. Only when it is no longer viable can it be truly considered wasted. Simply dropping the used condom into a Dewar of liquid nitrogen might be enough to comply with the letter of the law, as long as he keeps it topped up.

  68. February 19, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I don’t know. I don’t think it’s really fair of us to make light of their situation. He’s not going to have sex with his wife if she doesn’t want it, and whether she wants to abstain because she’s uninterested in sex or because she doesn’t want to have a child — I mean, that doesn’t seem to be the point. Lots of people abstain from sex because they don’t want to get pregnant, even people who have no objection to birth control.

    I just take issue to this whole, “Sex is part of what you sign up for when you get married” thing. Isn’t that the same argument that’s been used against married women who decide they don’t want sex for years? In sometimes really heartbreaking, marital-rape situations?

  69. zuzu
    February 19, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    I wonder if he’s the kind of guy who won’t get his dog neutered.

  70. ahunt
    February 19, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Uhhhhm…I’m just a little suspicious of Contraskeptic’s religious concerns here, and I’m saying this with all compassion.

    Vasectomy is the middle-aged BC of choice among our clan and peers, and even among the most progressive couples, it took YEARS to get around to it.

    And I don’t think it is unreasonable for men to have qualms outside of any religious issues involved. But at least be honest about those personal reservations. Coming to grips with whatever notions one has of “youth=fertility” is truly liberating.

  71. Katie
    February 19, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Shit, I wouldn’t have sex with the guy because he’s an asshole–never mind the kids.

  72. elektrodot
    February 19, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    “Lots of people abstain from sex because they don’t want to get pregnant, even people who have no objection to birth control.”

    if they were both happy with abstaining then there wouldnt be a problem. but they’re not. i think thats what the point is, they cant find a happy medium since pregnancy is dangerous for her and she doesnt want to risk it, but he doesnt agree with using birth control…tricky, i really dont think theres a solution other than changing their religious beliefs to something more practical. or just both be miserable (which i think is smiled upon anyway with catholics, right?)

  73. elektrodot
    February 19, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    *excuse me, christians.

  74. twf
    February 19, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    As others have mentioned, I don’t think the doctor is to blame. It sounds like this man is profoundly ambivalent about getting a vasectomy, and if the doctor saw that and said “you need to come back when you have a better reason than your wife wanting it” I think that’s within the scope of his duties. I would expect a doctor to say the same thing to a woman who wanted a tubal, was clearly conflicted about it, and wanted to put off the decision-making on the shoulders of her husband.

    The doctor probably would have provided the vasectomy if Contraskeptic had looked her in the eye and said “This is what I want.” I wonder if Contraskeptic felt that clear a statement would be more of a sin for him, and that by putting the decision on his wife’s shoulders, she would be accepting the moral responsibility for the choice.

  75. February 19, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    First of all, the problem is wasted seed, which says absolutely nothing about *her* pleasure. He can easily keep his wife sexually fulfilled by substituting oral or digital stimulation for PIV sex. As long as he doesn’t ejaculate everything is copacetic, right?

    Not according to Catholic doctrine. He isn’t Catholic, but if the Evangelical view is based on the same understanding of sex, then that probably wouldn’t be ok.

  76. twf
    February 19, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    I just noticed, in re-reading his post, that he and his wife have used contraception in the past, to “time their first two children.” So he’s not quite as full-on anti-contraceptive as I first believed. His objection seems to be specifically to a vasectomy, since that would be “a permanent sin.” I try to avoid reading minds across the intertubes, but this seems like it might be code for “keep your scalpel away from my precious jewels.”

    He needs to get a vasectomy. I don’t know any religion that thinks that condoms are a-ok in a marriage and vasectomies are not. He needs to stop missing his appointments, appearing openly resentful to his doctor, and generally being a passive-aggressive asshole in this important issue in his marriage.

  77. February 19, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I just take issue to this whole, “Sex is part of what you sign up for when you get married” thing. Isn’t that the same argument that’s been used against married women who decide they don’t want sex for years? In sometimes really heartbreaking, marital-rape situations?

    That’s why I followed that statement up with, “You certainly are not entitled to your partner’s body, and you don’t have the right to demand sex from them whenever you want it.” But I would say that if a marriage is sexless, and that makes one party to the marriage extremely unhappy, they have a right to terminate the marriage contract. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex for years, her husband has no right to force it on her or demand it. But in my opinion, he does have solid grounds to leave the marriage, unless the sexless aspect was something they had previously agreed on.

  78. preying mantis
    February 19, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    “I just take issue to this whole, “Sex is part of what you sign up for when you get married” thing. Isn’t that the same argument that’s been used against married women who decide they don’t want sex for years?”

    What it’s been used for in the past doesn’t necessarily mean the idea itself is wrong. Marriage has pretty much always presumed sexual intercourse, if only for the production of offspring.

    If a married couple arrives at a bilateral arrangment to be sexless, that’s perfectly fine for them, but a marriage where one or both partners still want sex and their needs are going unfulfilled is generally not going to be a happy one. Neither has the right to force the other to do something they don’t want to do, but both do have the right to leave the relationship if a mutually satisfactory compromise can’t be reached.

  79. Rhiannon
    February 19, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    If the man is uncertain that he and his wife will be together for the rest of eternity, etc and he thinks he may still want more children later on down the line then it’s really up to the woman to protect her interest and get a tubal.

    Course they CAN reverse a vasectomy, so it’s not as “permanent” as some would make it out to be. So it might be more chivalrous of him to get the less invasive snip.

    That’s my take on it, at a glance.

  80. February 19, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    The word “radical” means root. We need to get at the root of the problem which is the belief in fairy tales. Once this guy takes authority over his own life back from the church, he’ll be fine. If your religious beliefs put you in an impossible position, ditch them. They’re called “beliefs” for a reason. It’s called “faith” for a reason. There’s a reason it’s not called “truth” and “fact.” Those beliefs can and should be ditched.

  81. February 19, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    This is where the fundie shit hits the fan. Their brand of Christianity is about how everything is black and white, no gray areas. Problems like this show how rigid dogma does nothing in the face of nuance, gray areas and messy reality.

    Ugh…my childhood in a nutshell.

    Here’s what’s missing: reading the Bible as literature. Evangelicals have an amazing proclivity to pull out (oh yes, pun intended) snippets (and again: intended) here and there so as to further support their “us vs. them” mentality throughout life. If this poor, confused couple would look at the Bible as a whole, they would see that there are certain “rules” and guidelines in place (breaking of said “rules” of course, being “sin”…which is a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE THING THAT SHOULD MAKE YOU FEEL SO, SO GUILTY…AND TERRIBLE. AND HORRIBLE.), not so you follow thereof, but because the stringency of said rules is there to show the mercy of God and people in forgiveness. What is a more beautiful picture? The guy who steals, or the guy who forgives the offender (non-biblical reference being the priest in Les Miserables, whose mercy gives Jean Val Jean a new lease on life)? The Bible is full of these pictures, but they don’t seem to grasp those. And believe me, as awful as this guy’s dilemma sounds, following a set of rules in a blind manner is far easier than making rational decisions based on ideas of basic morality, rationality, oh, and just plain not being a jerk.

    Science aside, religion aside, it seems as though Contraskeptic is using the Bible and his sin-complex as a convenient front for not doing what would be best for his marriage, his wife and his family. It’s so much more simple to poll people on the internet than to make an actual decision.

    Time to grow a pair. Or not. That might get your wife pregnant.

    Um…apparently I’m still a little bitter about my childhood.)

  82. Aaron
    February 19, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Bloody hellfire. It’s probably not a fair thing for me to say, but shit like this makes me really, really, REALLY GLAD I fled evangelicalism at an early age.

  83. Aaron
    February 19, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Jill: …if the Evangelical view is based on the same understanding of sex, then that probably wouldn’t be ok.

    To the best of my understanding, the evangelical view of sex is basically that if it’s not intended to lead to a child, it’s sinful. (Granted, my understanding is maybe not as nuanced as that of a current practitioner in the sect, but from the outside it seems that that’s pretty much what they’re saying.)

    So, no, no oral sex, no digital manipulation, no masturbation, nothing at all but celibacy or procreation. No wonder they tend to go crazy so much.

  84. February 19, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Apologies for the meta, guys, but I’ve been trying to email the permalink for this post to a friend who uses Gmail. The mail bounces back immediately – it’s being rejected by the server itself, not going into a junk box or anything like that. I test emailed a different link and it did not bounce back. Does anyone know enough about spam prevention to know what is going on here? Could Feministe be on some list of links-that-are-not-allowed-in-email, for some reason?

  85. Old Guy
    February 19, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I’ve been trying to figure out the NFP acronym. First approximation: “No F***ing Protection” Second: “Not For Procreation”. I finally Googled & got “Natural Family Planning” Sheesh! Good luck with that.

    My vasectomy was 18 years ago. It was done on a Friday aftertnoon under local anesthesia – I turned down the Darvon & joked with the doctor all thru the procedure. I took it easy on Saturday. On Sunday I cut the lawn with a push-it-yourself mower. Back to work Monday with no sick leave used.

    The experience was a walk in the park compared to anything a woman faces at the end of a pregnancy – with the possible exception of a miscarriage so early that the pregnancy itself was undetected.

    Men who can’t / won’t get snipped when ‘the family is complete’ are wimps. If they hide their refusal behind some religious belief, then their tiny God is a wimp too.

    Just sayin’

  86. Luna
    February 19, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    I keep seeing people saying that it’s time to find a new doctor because the doctor won’t perform the vasectomy on the man because it was at his wife’s request. And they’re angry at the doctor. But I’m wondering if the situation were reversed, if the woman went to the doctor and said, “My husband wants me to get a tubal ligation” and it was pretty clear she didn’t want it, wouldn’t it be wrong for the doctor to perform it then too?

    I’m with the doctor on this one. If the man really doesn’t want one, he shouldn’t get one until he’s positive and is requesting it on his own volition.

  87. Azelie
    February 19, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    I don’t get the theological underpinnings of this guy’s religious beliefs. If he were a strict, pre-Vatican II Catholic, I’d get it. Catholics accept both scripture and the tradition of the church, drawing on the writings of Church fathers such as Augustine and the decrees of popes, church councils, etc. In that situtation, you do have the idea (from Augustine) that sex in marriage for purposes other than procreation is a sin (NFP would still be problematic). Then there is also the requirement to confess sins to remove the penalty of sin (though not the guilt). So in that context, it would make sense that the guy feels that permanent contraception would be out of the question because you can’t repent.

    But this whole thing doesn’t make sense for Protestants, for whom Biblical interpretation is most important, and, as has been noted here, certainly the New Testament says nothing against contraception (and if you want to be stict about it, the Onan thing would still suggest that any sex without the intent of procreation is at least problematic.) Furthermore, this whole elaborate set of rules about when you can and can’t have sex and under what circumstances trying to avoid pregnancy is OK and under what circumstances it’s not reminds me an awful lot of the whole attempt to gain salvation through your own works thing that Luther and Calvin, among other early Protestant leaders, were so critical of. In Protestant thought, good works may be a sign that you are saved, but they don’t gain salvation. In this belief system, God saves you despite your own sin and unworthiness by giving you faith. There’s also the idea that the clergy don’t have all the answers, and aren’t uniquely able to impose religious dogma on followers – all believers have that right and responsibility.

    So if this guy really wants to take responsibility for his own relationship with God, and is interested in the well-being of his wife and of their marriage and not in guilting her into having more children by appealing to some theologically inconsistant set of rules, he might want to read Mark 2:23-3:4, in which Jesus is criticized for picking grain and healing on the Sabbath, and he replied that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, when religious regulations get in the way of helping people, the people come first.

  88. February 19, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    If the husband said that he wanted more children but his wife didn’t (which seems possible) then the doctor was acting appropriately. When I had my tubes tied, the doctor asked me “What if your husband died?” and “What if your son died?” Because these are exactly the sorts of circumstances in which people who sterlize themselves change their minds.

    If this man’s wife died and he remarried, and he then wanted more children, well, then vasectomy is the wrong choice for him, and temporary birth control or tubal ligation is the right choice.

    Essentially, it’s a body-autonomy issue. It’s not good to get surgery on your own body because someone else wants it, whether that surgery is vasectomy, tubal ligation, abortion, or c-section. Ownership of your own body is the root of reproductive choice.

  89. Isabella
    February 19, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    I checked out that guy’s website. Very weird.

    I think the real problem is that on a fundamental level he is lacking in empathy for his wife.

    He seems to be getting at least a few thoughtful responses. Here is my favorite:


    You’re overthinking this. Birth control is not another version of Pascal’s Wager — it’s a gift to a marriage.

    God wants married couples to get it on. He doesn’t want married couples to enter into the marital bed scared or worried. He wants parents to love their children–not resent or regert them. Most importantly, He believes that children are entitled to both loving parents. And if we were all angelic and independantly wealthy pumping out babies wouldn’t be a problem (not to mentioned myriad other environmental issues that you might not want to gamble your kids’ lives on). But we don’t live in that world.

    In Psalms, you are exhorted to honor and protect your wife. Three C-sections is not protecting her. Exposing her to future risky pregnancies is not protecting her. Pregnancy is much more dangerous than we like to pretend — get the vasectomy. It will take a few months to “take,” and a bag of frozen peas will be your best friend for a couple of days, but think about all of the carefree, wonderful sex you’ll have afterward. It’s awesome. Dollars to donuts she’ll have an easier time reaching climax when she can enter into the marital bed without pregnancy looming over her.

    The other options is to continue abstaining, which as you’ve admitted has put a massive strain on your marriage. Do you think God is more OK with divorce than he is with birth control? What about the children you have together already? Are you willing to make them suffer watching their parents grow cold and distant to one another in the name of being better Christians?

    Don’t listen to the Quiverfuls and the fundamentalists — they are selling you a bill of goods. God is infintely more complex, infinitely more loving, and infinitely more forgiving than our feeble human brains could possibly comprehend. He loves you, He wants you to be happy, and He wants you to care for those for whom you are responsible. In this case, that means getting the vasectomy.”

  90. Julie
    February 19, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    I grew up in a conservative, evangelical Christian faith and no one seemed to ascribe to this crazy idea that sex was only for having kids. In fact I remember a sermon series on what women wanted from their husbands and vice versa and one of the things mentioned was “fun and exciting sex partner” and birth control was widely used, most families didn’t have more than 3 children. My family was one of the biggest, my parents had 5 and I know they used birth control, only one of us was unplanned. I’ve never come across a protestant religion that was anti-contraception, although I’m sure they’re out there.

  91. sealjoy
    February 19, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    I have to say this article does not encompass what the true christian view would be.

    To say that the only options we would give one of our own are staunch supporters of a man centered relationship is totally wrong an d BIASED.

    Truly if they are true Christians, they should be seeking a Christ centered relationship. This would amount to both of them seeking GOD’s will not their own personal agenda in their lives. Christianity seeks unity in a marriage, not to foster spite and regret.

    By having both the woman and the man let go of their personal agendas, it may help with bigger issues and lead to not only a decision on this matter that is satisfactory to both, but also to a more calm and serene environment for the mother.

    Please, before you condemn the man and go to his blog, REMEMBER, he is seeking a CHRISTIAN’s Point of view and advice as clearly stated in his first post, not a feminist or atheistic point of view.

    If you must post, please try to give encouragement to both and not create more of a rift then there already is.

  92. uberpatriot
    February 19, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    It seems to me that this guy needs to grow a pair before he can get them disconnected. He’s worried about ‘permanent sin’? He should be worried about permanently destroying his marriage and his family.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people can care more about something written centuries ago than the present and future well-being of themselves and the people around them. The bible was written at a time when high birthrates were required to offset hight mortality, but that is no longer the situation. In this modern world, ‘be fruitful and multiply’ should be regarded with the same reservation as ‘slaves, obey your masters’. Modern opposition to contraception has no legitimate (that is, logical, natural, or – dare I say? – divine) purpose, other than to perpetuate patriarchy and maintain church authority.

  93. Dianne
    February 19, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Two minor biology points:
    1. A problem with NFP that I don’t think that anyone’s mentioned here (I skimmed some of the comments) is that, besides not working very well, it forbids sex on the days when it is the most fun. Humans have “hidden estrus”, meaning that they don’t have huge, overt signs of when they are fertile (ie our bottoms don’t swell up and get red), but there are subtle cyclic changes in level of sexual desire, etc. Having sex only during the infertile periods sounds like a recipe for furstration to me. I’d almost rather have a sexless marriage–at least you don’t have the tease aspect (sure we can have sex–just not when it’s the most fun.)
    2. Sperm that is not ejaculated is recycled by the body every (IIRC) four days or so. So if you’re not planning to have PVI (because of no willing partner, NFP dictates, or any other reason) in the next four days, you might as well “spill it” as not because it’ll be “wasted” (not used for spreading your genes) anyway. Not sure that this helps clarify the issue, but there it is.

  94. Eva
    February 19, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Here is what can happen to religious couples who are forbidden to use birth control:

    As strict Catholics, my husband and I attempted to practice NFP after we married at age 22. We made it one year before I found out I was pregnant.

    Our daughter’s birth threw our lives into chaos. I suffered severe pelvic floor injuries that led to partial incontinence. I am only 25, but I feel repulsive and old before my time. We survive on student loans and WIC. We have nearly finished our degrees and are currently applying to medical and graduate school, but only at great cost to our mental health. We are also discussing divorce.

    In the meantime, since another birth would be physically disastrous for me, how did we solve the birth control problem? We renounced religion and I got a copper IUD. These were the two best decisions I have ever made.

    My heart goes out to Contraskeptic and his wife. As other posters have pointed out, they are facing a genuine dilemma. If they use contraception, they are disobeying God and facing an eternity in hell. If they don’t use contraception, they must choose between 1) a sexless marriage or 2) a traumatized, terrorized wife and more unwanted children.

    I am sad to say that from within the bounds of their religious beliefs, I see no solution for them.

  95. Kim
    February 19, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    After the birth of their third child, her husband went in to get a vasectomy, and was refused. Getting it at his wife’s request, his doctor said, was the wrong reason.

    So… what ethics system are all those doctors who give perfectly healthy women gigantic beach ball implants operating under? Cuz I’m pretty sure those puppies aren’t for her. (“No, doctor, I WANT to have to return for more surgery when they inevitably need removing, and the backache makes me feel SEXY.”)

  96. Mnemosyne
    February 19, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Truly if they are true Christians, they should be seeking a Christ centered relationship. This would amount to both of them seeking GOD’s will not their own personal agenda in their lives. Christianity seeks unity in a marriage, not to foster spite and regret.

    That’s part of the question here, from a religious point of view: do Contraskeptic and his wife believe that it’s more important for them to prevent another pregnancy, or for them to stay married.

    Because the risk of another pregnancy, which was both physically AND mentally damaging to his wife, is what’s destroying their marriage. It’s not “her personal agenda,” any more than her having cancer would be “her personal agenda.”

  97. Sniper
    February 19, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    If you must post, please try to give encouragement to both and not create more of a rift then there already is.

    If he doesn’t start empathizing with his wife the existing rift is going to destroy their marriage anyway, perhaps costing his wife her mental and physical health in the process.

  98. car
    February 19, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    I have no idea who this guy is, but this has been haunting me all day. He says that this is a real dilemma, that he has a real decision to make. His real decision is whether he loves his wife. Period. Full stop. Everything else is just window dressing. I just… I’ve been on the verge of divorce for a couple of years now, and it all started with that exact same problem of refusing intimacy because of not wanting to get pregnant again because of the stress and lack of support and everything else. (ok, not the weird anti-contraception beliefs, but the rest the same) I just can’t believe that this is even something that he would have to think about, knowing how it could and will end up. If he decides not to, the marriage is over. She may not leave him because she doesn’t believe in divorce, but their marriage will be an empty shell for the rest of their lives.

  99. February 19, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    In a neat little package, this story illustrates the problem with blind fundamentalism. It simply can’t accomodate all (or most) human experience, and ends up torturing devout people by making them put doctrine over compassion. If he were simply to do what is best for the person he loved, the answer is simple. Any doctrine that makes you act contrary to your conscience is suspect, and should be thrown out. Do unto others comes before do what the church says.

  100. February 19, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Apologies for the meta, guys, but I’ve been trying to email the permalink for this post to a friend who uses Gmail. The mail bounces back immediately – it’s being rejected by the server itself, not going into a junk box or anything like that. I test emailed a different link and it did not bounce back. Does anyone know enough about spam prevention to know what is going on here? Could Feministe be on some list of links-that-are-not-allowed-in-email, for some reason?

    Probably due to the word ‘contraception’ in the URL. Try converting the link to a TinyURL.

  101. Tara
    February 19, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    I’ve been thinking more and more about this post, too, and how it embodies the cultural belief that heterosexual reproduction is ‘god-given,’ socially sanctioned and valued, something that everyone needs to be concerned about. Because of this belief system, and the fundamentalist christian ideologies at work here, it becomes impossible for this couple to imagine ‘godly’ sex outside of the ‘missionary’ paradigm. That’s only part of the problem here. But, they both feel like they’re missing out — not to mention going against ‘god’s will’ — if they engage in other sexual practices and intimacies that don’t lead to the possible production of a fetus.

  102. February 19, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Amanda, how does NFP benefit a man more than a woman?

    As you can see from the above example, the vast difference between the suffering that can occur when a woman becomes pregnant against her will means that women are far more motivated to avoid sex if they will get pregnant when they don’t want than men. NFP creates a situation where there are a lot of days you can’t have sex. If you’re horny on those days, the men have a lot more reason to whine, cajole, or otherwise seek a way to break the no sex agreement.

    Considering that religious people who use NFP also, as a general rule, buy into the idea of male superiority. (Not all, of course, but couples I know who use NFP in an egalitarian way also use condoms on unsafe days. So they aren’t using the same NFP we’re talking about.) So a woman in a religiously mandated NFP relationship is also mandated to be subservient to her husband.

    So, you’re such a woman. You don’t want to get pregnant. Your husband is cajoling for sex. By your religion, you can’t just do it and use contraception. Nor can you say no, since that’s not proper submission. So you have to get pregnant when he says. NFP is a perfect birth control for male dominance, because it puts the decision to get pregnant in a man’s hand completely and the woman has no say, because she is a good Christian and submits.

  103. PhoenixRising
    February 19, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    How NFP is better for men than for women if nothing unexpected ever occurs: Men don’t have hormonal cycling, so they’re typically as interested in sex most days of the month. How is it not inherently oppressive to choose a form of pregnancy control that requires only the woman to abstain when she wants it most?

    Ladies, do you know when you’re ovulating? I do. If I couldn’t have sex during that 3 days each cycle without risking pregnancy, I’d have my tubes tied in a jiffy. (As it happens, I use Lesbianism ™, which is 100 percent effective as long as you use it every time.)

    If you don’t know, get a book on fertility awareness and figure out your cycle; you’ll be amazed.

  104. Ledasmom
    February 19, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    I do pretty much know when I’m ovulating, due to a quantity of mucus that puts a rhinovirus-infected nine-year-old to shame. Damn, what a waste it would be not to have sex for the three-four horniest days of my cycle. One of the lesser-remarked hazards of pregnancy: having one’s hormone cycle change.
    The whole story of Contraskeptic and wife interests me – I wonder why his wife didn’t go ahead and have a tubal while she was having her C-section; did doctors stop doing the two at the same time? I remember having that option offered when I had my first kid. But in the end I think it comes down to this: If his wife died or suffered injury due to another pregnancy, would it be sufficient to him that he had followed what he believed to be the promptings of his conscience in not using contraception?
    All of which makes me appreciate my own husband who is thankfully free of hangups with regard to surgical sterilization, and who happily went in for the vasectomy without a qualm. I believe I was more squeamish about the tiny little surgical incision than he was about the surgery.

  105. ECM
    February 20, 2007 at 12:26 am

    Finally – someone else mentioning how lusty they are during ovulation. I tell my husband when I estimate ovulation will happen so that he can plan his business trips so he’ll be home that week. I agree with the previous poster – what a waste to not be able to use that…energy!

    I also find I’m at my most energetic and positive that week – it’s the opposite of PMS for me. I find that it’s a great week to start new projects or try something adventurous or creative.

  106. February 20, 2007 at 9:33 am

    I came over from the lovely Shakes site.

    As a pro-abortionist, I appreciate these kinds of post. It’s useful to read about others views.


  107. February 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

    I flirted with anti-contraception views for a long time. I gave them up, and became enthusiatically pro-contraception (we’re a condom using household) after realizing that much of my focus was misplaced.

    Like many evangelicals, and many Catholics, I had a hard time seeing pleasure as a prima facie good. I had been so reckless with my preconversion sexuality that I adopted a strict Puritanism for a while after I became a Christian — I argued, as many in the church still do — that pleasure ought always be linked to openness to new life. To separate pleasure from that “open embrace” (to borrow a phrase from the title of a pouplar pro-NFP book by some friends of mine, Sam and Bethany Torode) was somehow sinful.

    I do believe that pleasure is linked to responsibility; in marriage, or in any committed sexual relationship, our right to pleasure never trumps our obligation to respect the needs of our partner. Sex is not a right. But I am convinced that when given and received mutually without exploitation or deception, pleasure itself honors God. It is enough to give unconditionally to each other — Christian sexuality does not also demand a willingness to be ever open to the possibility of pregnancy as well. A childless marriage is as good as a fecund one, because marriage is more than a vehicle for making babies; it is one particularly special way in which human beings can experience radical unity with each other.

    And even with the doors closed to new life, that can be a very good thing indeed.

  108. February 20, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Contrakeptic: I don’t think that taking steps to ensure that you and your wife have a happy, loving marriage is a sin at all. Especially given her PPD, I think it would be eminently wise to use contraception. Keep in mind, the passages the quiverful folks cite harken back to a time when most children didn’t live to adulthood and most adults died relatively young. Having lots of children was necessary back then. That’s not the case now.

  109. February 20, 2007 at 11:21 am

    After the birth of their third child, her husband went in to get a vasectomy, and was refused. Getting it at his wife’s request, his doctor said, was the wrong reason.

    This couple desperately needs a new doctor, one who takes into account the family as a whole.

    This doctor’s reaction was designed to protect a man who may have a divorce and want more kids.

    If this man is so worried about sinning that he’s willing to forgo sex for a year and a half, I seriously doubt that he would willingly get a divorce.

    If the couple keep popping out kids, or alternatively forgo sex until and unless they want another kid, their marraige may collapse. Seems the doc is rooting for that, rather than doing something that may save their relationship.

  110. February 20, 2007 at 11:44 am

    I think I’m astonished at this couple’s ignorance, in general, and their muddled logic.

    I did read Contraskeptic’s post, and a few things struck me:

    1) His wife’s lack of understanding about her own fertility cycle. If you subscribe to the belief that Fertility Awareness is an okay way to work within God’s plan for your family (I don’t, but let’s assume a couple that does), then it makes sense to find a sympathetic doctor to coach you in how to understand your body’s cycles, and you invest in a calendar and a thermometer and learn how to track the thickness of your cervical mucous, and do all that stuff, and you identify the “safe” days in a way that is more precise than simply having sex only the day after your period ends (also? Many women’s periods don’t “end” so much as “trail off”).

    2) The couple’s lack of understanding or maybe just his lack of explanation of his own religion’s take on marriage, contraception, and fertility. The Catholic position is not that sex without intent to reproduce is wrong. It’s that within the context of marriage (and only within the context of marriage) sex has both a procreative and a unitive function: a couple can have sex in order to express love and affection and strengthen the bonds of love and affection between them, as well as having sex in order to have kids, so long as they are not blocking god’s will by using contraception. (Whatever. If God’s omnipotent, He can overcome contraception, infertility, and, according to scripture, abstinence. But the Catholics don’t want you thinking that God’s gonna go scattering those types of miracles all the time, or something). So, technically, within Catholic doctrine, I believe (though I’d have to check this) couples are permitted to have oral sex, or to masturbate, or to do all sorts of other types of play (though I get the feeling the Church isn’t too big on anal sex) if doing so allows them to show their love and strengthen the bonds of their marriage. Why Contasceptic and his wife can’t just go down on each other is a matter for the two of them to discuss, and take up with their god, but it’s something they should at least discuss together and with their spiritual advisor.

    3) What’s with the contraceptive sponges? They’re not a very effective means of contraception, especially if used without a condom, but they are still artificial contraception, and subject to all of the condemnation that the church heaps on other methods of contraception. So you’re getting the worst of all possible worlds: you’re employing a device designed to thwart God’s plan, thefore sinning, and you run a serious risk of the method not working. Okay, sponges are, like condoms, easy to procure without visiting a doctor, but they’re really not recommended for use on their own. And if you need a condom to make the contraceptive method more effective, why not go with a foam spermicide, whch is easier to procure ? The whole sponge thing stands out as muddled on all possible counts: it contravenes the theology and it’s bad birth control.

    Seriously, Contraskeptic and his wife need to find a spiritual advisor who can help them navigate their issues as a couple, within the limits of their faith. They also need to visign a sexual health clinic in order to better understand their own fertility and the contraceptive options available to them—even if their faith precludes their understanding these methods, God doesn’t punish people for seeking to understand them. It may be that their church’s position is more nuanced than their understanding of it. It may be that if they understand how contraception works, they’ll find themselve better able to square it with their faith.

  111. Anne Freeman
    February 20, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    I find the excuse that “the doctor won’t do it” to be completely laughable. The doctor’s willingness to perform the procedure is dependant entirely on the information he was given. I’m assuming here that this man’s spouse wasn’t with him in the doctor’s office. If he had presented his wishes regarding the procedure as a joint decision to protect the health and welfare of his wife and his marriage, there’s not a doctor in the world who would have turned him down. Instead, I find it much more plausible that he went to his doctor and expressed his reluctance to do the procedure due to its conflict with his faith, and passed the buck to his wife.

    Though I can (sort of) understand the dilemma he faces, I find this man’s behavior to be selfish and cruel. I simply cannot understand how a devoted spouse would prefer to subject his wife to a pregnancy she’s not ready for, rather than re-examine a set of beliefs that are flimsy, at best.

  112. Frumious B
    February 20, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    within Catholic doctrine, I believe (though I’d have to check this) couples are permitted … to masturbate

    Nope, not even couples. No masturbation for Catholics, not for men, not for women.

  113. car
    February 20, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    It’s interesting that he hasn’t responded to this yet. Either he doesn’t update his blog often, or hopefully he’s been given something to think about.

  114. February 21, 2007 at 3:39 am

    It is a sad situation for both of them but it irritates me that this guy is harping on this. Contraskeptic is pissed because the evangelical Christian “rules” are not working for him; and now he wants advice?

    This goes hand-in-hand with folks who oppose embryonic stem cell research because of religion-yet if they had a child diagnosed with a incurable and debilitating disease they would throw the “killing innocent life” theory out the window.

  115. Lya Kahlo
    February 21, 2007 at 10:14 am

    “It is a sad situation for both of them but it irritates me that this guy is harping on this. Contraskeptic is pissed because the evangelical Christian “rules” are not working for him; and now he wants advice? ”

    Actaully, i think this could be a good thing. He’s recognizing that strict, nonsensical religious “rules” are destroying the wife and the marriage. Sure he’s still trying to work within that framework, but at some point he’s going to have to recognize that it’s working against him and that there is simply no way to adhere to this particular belief (anti-bc) and keep his marriage together or his wife healthy. All the options discussed are not going to fit with “god’s plan”. He’ll have to make a choice according to what is more important to him – the opinion of his fellow religious believers, or the health of his wife and marriage.

    Anything that frees people from suffocating, and in this case obviously harmful religious practices/beliefs, is a good thing.

  116. Aura Kitten
    February 21, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    ah, but anyway, white people should be breeding anyway ~ gotta outpace those brown folks. :P

    / sarcasm

    … you know, in skimming all of the comments i didn’t see anyone mention that penis-in-vagina intercourse NOT the only way for a couple to be intimate. (sorry if it’s there and i missed it.) it really irks me that this idea is so prevalent in our society, that the patriarchy has so completely instilled this idea into every corner of our mental worlds. why the hell can’t he at least snuggle / cuddle / touch / pleasure his wife without having the expectation that it must include SEX? arrrgghhh i hate men.

    and religion.


  117. Myca
    February 21, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    why the hell can’t he at least snuggle / cuddle / touch / pleasure his wife without having the expectation that it must include SEX? arrrgghhh i hate men.

    From his post:

    She told me later she didn’t want to risk getting turned on and having sex. Even cuddling and caressing were severely restricted, for the same reason.

    It sounds like that wasn’t his particular restriction, but more hers.


  118. February 22, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    These people are sick, sick, sick. Thank you, Jesus, for enabling this. And by the way, see Robert Stone’s A FLAG FOR SUNRISE; toward the end of the novel is this nugget:” Saint John the Divine, raving in the wildnerness, stuffing the luggage of future madmen.” Stone got it wrong only in that he was not sufficiently global in his attribution.

  119. Peter
    February 22, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    What is the real Christian answer to this dilemma?

    Seems to me that it is to realize that the real central tenet of Christianity is that whatever else might be true, Jesus didn’t die (or at least, didn’t stay dead when his body died.)

    That means that he has the option of shifting from a religious system that tries to base all its decisions on a (roughly) 2000+ year-old set of documents to one based on a relationship with Someone who is still around today and is up on all the changes in modern medicine, modern sexuality, modern gender roles, and all the rest.

  120. palamedes
    February 22, 2007 at 11:52 pm


    As a fellow Christian, and as someone who has a number of friends in more conservative Christian denominations who have been through similar and related situations like this, I think the choice is simple but painful.

    Sometimes people are left with having to chose the least uncomfortable of multiple options regarding a difficult issue. You both love one another very much, you both want an intimate relationship with one another, but you both are of a mind that more children in the family is simply no longer an option. You’re both willing to accept a vasectomy for yourself.

    So…pray to ensure that you have the strength to accomplish this task, no matter what obstacles present themselves, find a doctor who will do it, and be done with it.

    However, unfortunately, you should also be prepared, if your congregation finds out, to be treated unfairly for your decision by at least some people within it. You will then have a second difficult decision to make – whether you can rise above their lack of comprehension and their ability to “forgive” (I quote this because I personally don’t think you’re committing a sin by the vasectomy, but the guilt that might come with it may make you believe it’s something you need from your fellow congregants), relying on each other, your faith and potential supporters of your decision within your church, or whether you must transfer to a more accepting church.

    I know that this second decision could be as painful as the first, but I cannot believe that God means for you to be apart under the circumstances in which you now live, and that he wishes for you to suffer from the lack of intimacy that has resulted from this situation.

    Together, with God’s grace, you can see through this difficult time and be faithful to the core of Christianity.

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