This post is going to be awkward.
You have been warned…
Why so awkward, you ask? Because nothing makes people more awkward than women’s bodies, particularly how women’s bodies do that thing where we start bleeding once a month.
I mean, we women find it weird enough so I can only imagine what all the poor men of the world are thinking. Oh don’t mind me, darling, I’m just bleeding out the lining of my uterus because I’m not growing a human being inside me at the moment! Also, this will make me (even more) moody, irritable, and teary and I will triple my consumption of chocolate. But don’t worry, it’s completely normal!
It’s also completely normal and healthy and if we don’t have our periods, something has gone wrong. Also, if no women did we wouldn’t have life on this planet so there’s that.
On that note, NFP anyone?
NFP stands for Natural Family Planning and covers several methods of determining a woman’s natural fertility for the purposes of planning a family. If you seeking to conceive, you try to have sex during fertile times but if you know that now would be a really bad time to have a child, you do it at infertile times.
Yeah… it’s something like that.
Honestly, I don’t know much about it. I’m not sure I really want to know much about it. My body and I have, at best, an ambivalent relationship. She drives me around and I try to not get too annoyed at her when she breaks down.
Ooookay, I just compared my body to a car… Something has gone seriously wrong here. Because my body isn’t a car. It isn’t merely a vehicle or a vessel. It isn’t a thing out there as opposed to the real me which is in here.
That would be Step One on the road to dualism, Gnosticism and Manicheism. Those heresies all viewed the body as degraded and all matter as evil. When that happens, two things happen: we begin to simultaneously indulge our bodies and to despise them.
Is that ringing any bells?
A heresy that hates bodies but also indulges them? A society where eating disorders are endemic and where billions is spent on makeup, diets, gyms, and plastic surgery? But also a society where indulging our appetites for food, alcohol, drugs and sex is completely normal? (It’s not like what you do with your body, particularly sexually, actually matters – don’t be such a prude!) Yeah, that’s us, isn’t it? A culture that makes an idol of the human body and in the process, degrades it to a thing to be used for self-gratification.
But what does that have to do with NFP and the Catholic Church being all medieval about not allowing contraception?
In a word: EVERYTHING.
The Church teaches that such dualism – and it’s consequences of body-hate and body-worship – is wrong. Instead, we are our bodies just as we are our souls. Our bodies matter and the way we treat them has a profound impact on us as persons. As such, the Church also teaches that all forms of contraception are sinful because sex is a union of a man and a woman as whole persons. A woman’s fertility is as much a part of her as anything else.
Sex is that act which says ‘I love you and I want to give myself completely to you’. Contraception is that act which says ‘I love you and I want to have sex with you but I don’t want to deal with that icky thing you do where you start growing new human beings as a direct, healthy and normal result of us having sex. Eww.’
That’s why contraception is fundamentally dualistic. It severs the spiritual from the bodily by ignoring the good, natural, and right processes of the human body, particularly the woman’s body. Like all dualisms, contraception rejects the female body as good (by stopping it doing what it’s supposed to) and at the same time, treats it as purely there for pleasure.
That’s ultimately what it comes down to. We want the pleasure of sex without the results of sex (i.e. human beings!) and we don’t want to have to deal with the complex reality that a woman’s fertility is as much a part of her as her fierce mind, her tender heart, or her sexy ankles (that’s right, I know what you 19th Century gents are going crazy over!)
Call me crazy (actually don’t, I get called crazy often enough) but I think men who don’t use contraception are loving their whole wives. And I think women who don’t use contraception are loving their whole selves.
This is why I want to learn more about this NFP charting business. Because no woman should refer to herself (or let herself be referred to!) as a car like I did without even realising it. That’s messed up. Like ten different types of messed up. No, make that Fifty Shades of messed up. (Yep, I went there.)
I deserve better than that.
I deserve to understand my body as the beautiful and complex creation it is.
I deserve to honour my body, not to hate it or indulge it, because my body and my fertility and yes, my weird, stupendous ability to make new human beings, is as much me as anything else.
I deserve to love my body.