Blogs,  Vic Stanley

The Problem With Sex: How Birth Control Damaged the Family

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

 

In two previous articles, The Problem With Sex… and Why Marriage Matters I deal with, in brief, the negative impact of birth control on marriage and family, and the importance and purpose of marriage. In this article I address in detail the problem with birth control and how it has effected the family, as well as its direct link to abortion rights and same-sex marriage legislation.

Introduction

In 1968 Pope Paul VI handed down the papal encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae. The western world was in the midst of the sexual revolution at the time, and this document was very controversial. It was shunned by some Catholics, and outright ignored by the majority of most Protestants and Evangelicals. President of Southern Baptist Seminary states it quite clearly when he says that “Most evangelicals seemed to think that birth control was a Roman Catholic preoccupation and that evangelicals should not understand contraception to come with any urgent theological or moral questions.”[1] Mohler points out in his book We Cannot Be Silent that this assumption was a false one. Mohler emphasizes that the degradation of marriage started with four issues, the first of which is birth control and contraceptives.[2] In looking at the breakdown of the family in the west, especially from a Christian perspective, one must consider the central issues that led to this breakdown, and many Christian scholars agree that the birth control laid the ground work for the sexual revolution and its disruption of the family.[3] Three consequences arise from the widespread use of birth control, and in turn do immense damage to the family, these are: marital infidelity, the objectification of women, and the proliferation of abortion and same-sex marriage.

 

Marital Infidelity

Marital infidelity has always been an issue for people, there was never a time in human history where infidelity was not present. Thus, no one should think that an argument is being made to put forth the idea that birth control spawned marital infidelity. Rather it is being posited that birth control lowered the stakes and made the decision to commit infidelity an easier one as the main risk connected to infidelity was seemingly removed. Pope Paul VI puts it this way:

Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human being—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.[4]

With the possibility of a pregnancy occurring as the result of an affair being removed, the door was opened wide for both men and women to not only engage in extramarital sex, but also for single people to engage freely in sex outside of marriage. Unfortunately, birth control did not decrease the number of births occurring among unwed mothers, those numbers have actually increased dramatically since the 1960s. “Rates of contraceptive usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously,” (author’s emphasis).[5]

There is a false belief that one will not get caught having an affair because the most obvious consequence has been remedied. This rise in infidelity leads to broken families and children being born into complicated familial situations. “Peoples’ families now consist of stepbrothers and sisters, step-moms and dads, step-grandparents, half-brothers and sisters, and various other relations from step-uncles to step-cousins. The traditional family—that is a mother, father, and children—is no longer the norm, and has been replaced with blended families. Kids have no fathers or mothers, or they have numerous fathers and mothers, and this results in lack of identity, stability, and direction.”[6]

When sex is divorced from its function as a loving and unitive act between husband and wife that expresses the two becoming one, a rift is created. This fissure in the very foundation of the family, namely the covenant of marriage, makes it so the family as a whole is built on unstable ground at best, or has no footing at worst. Birth control leads to such a division because it redefines the meaning and purpose of sex, “…sex became redefined as an activity that did not have any necessary relation to the gift of children.”[7] So no longer is sex, and marriage by extension, about procreating and raising up the next generation, instead the biblical mandate to raise up families is lost and forgotten with the casualties of this product of the sexual revolution scattered across the marred landscape of our society. Fatherless children, aborted babies, broken homes, single parents, multiple marriages, and so on. When sex shifts from an ultimate expression of love between husband and wife with the potential to produce offspring, to an activity meant for pleasure other problems arise. One of those problems is the objectification of women.

 

The Objectification of Women

In the beginning God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV). God goes on to say that everything He made was good. From this it is understood that both men and women have inherent dignity and worth; they are not things or objects to be used and abused. In his book Theology of the Body for Beginners theologian Christopher West offers the following:

Authentic Christian morality is not against us. It is unstintingly for us. The first line in the Catechism’s [The Catechism of the Catholic Church] section on morality speaks volumes. It is not, “Give up everything you really want and follow all these miserable rules or you’re going to hell.” It is “Christian, recognize your dignity,” (author’s emphasis).[8]

This recognition of man and woman’s dignity has been lost following the sexual revolution, especially for women, and birth control has been a contributing factor. As sex became separated from its primary functions, to unite husband and wife and to produce children, it began to take on a different primary purpose, pleasure. Seeking self-satisfaction now stands as the goal of sexual encounters with little care or concern for the other person with whom the act is committed. Evan Lenow shows in his article Protestants and Contraception that the use of birth control brings about this separation of sex’s functions, and starts to cause married couples to see each other as a means for sexual satisfaction rather than partners in a covenant meant to bring new life into the world.[9]

For the woman more so than the man her dignity begins to be lost as she is reduced to an object meant to bring pleasure and gratify a man’s urges. Any concern for her emotional and physical needs is cast aside because the effects pregnancy and childbirth have on her body are no longer considered, birth control supposedly eliminates this potentiality, and abortion solves the problem if birth control fails to accomplish the task for which it was designed. Humanae Vitae rightly predicted that this would become an issue if birth control were to gain widespread use. Pope Paul VI puts it plainly, “…a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desire…”[10]

Mary Eberstadt details how women and the culture have been reshaped by the movement of sex-for-procreation to sex-for-pleasure. With the most recent film in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise just recently being released Ms. Eberstadt’s is speaking directly to current events when she points out that the books and films’ popularity “signal an extraordinary commercial demand by women for the tale of a rich and powerful man who humiliates, bullies, and commits violence against a woman, over and over,” (author’s emphasis).[11] She goes on to point out how violence against women “implied and overt” permeates video games and pornography as well, and in addition to this “the sadomasochistic look has become widespread in popular music, too; the number of globally recognized female singers who have not paid homage to pornography and sadomasochism is vanishingly small.”[12]

The top porn categories in the world include incest, young girls (women depicting young high school girls), and things that fall into what is called hardcore porn which depicts rape like situations.[13] With over twenty-two million registered users on the most popular porn site and some eighty-one million visits to the site a day with twenty-eight billion visits per year, it is clear that this is a culture where sex is god, sex-for-pleasure is an act of worship, women are tools to be used in that worship, and birth control makes it all possible.

This is an environment in which the family suffers because it is viewed as an inconvenience that is easily avoided. Women are not viewed as mothers, wives, or partners in a covenant union, but rather are objects of pleasure to be used as seen fit. If a pregnancy occurs as a result of this then it is the woman’s problem, it is her choice of what to do with the child, keep it or kill it. Economists George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen, and Michael L. Katz put forth the following twenty-two years ago in the Quarterly Journal of Economics:

Before the sexual revolution, women had less freedom, but men were expected to assume responsibility for their welfare. Today women are more free to choose, but men have afforded themselves the comparable option. “If she is not willing to have an abortion or use contraception,” the man can reason, “why should I sacrifice myself to get married?” By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.[14]

Family becomes an afterthought that is subjugated to the sex-for-pleasure culture, people’s inherent worth is forgotten and their dignity lost. A hedonistic and humanistic attitude reigns in which man’s chief goal is his own satisfaction and fulfillment, his responsibility to family and friends is inconsequential when his own desires are considered. Thus, as Mohler argues when speaking of the connection between birth control and divorce, if personal fulfillment is not achieved in marriage, then there is always opportunity to exit the marriage.[15] When this happens a woman is left alone to raise the children produced by that marriage, a family is fractured, and both the man and the woman are likely to enter into new sexual relationships that have the probability of treading the same path as the one from which they have just exited.  When birth control does not do its job a failsafe is put into action, and when marriage is torn from its biblically mandated purpose anything can be labeled as marriage.

 

Abortion & Same-Sex Marriage

In 1965 the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the Griswold v. Connecticut decision. This decision “declared that married Americans had a right to access to birth control under the right to privacy, claimed to be assured by the Constitution.”[16] This decision overturned what were known as Comstock Act laws that prohibited the sale of contraceptives even to married couples.[17] In 1972 the Supreme Court handed down the Eisenstadt v. Baird decision which overturned a law in Massachusetts that made it illegal to prescribe or sell birth control to unmarried couples. Finally, in 1973 the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade and granted the right to abortion. In both the 1972 and ’73 cases Griswold is cited as a basis for the rights granted in Eisenstadt and Roe.[18]

There is no question as to whether or not a clear line exists from birth control to abortion, and it must not be ignored that Griswold was also cited in the majority opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.[19] Mohler points out that birth control and contraceptives are simply thought to be products of the modern age that can be utilized “without much moral or biblical reflection.”[20] However, this is simply not true, nothing is neutral, and everything carries with it socio-cultural implications.

Evan Lenow offers thoughts from Mary Eberstadt: “By giving benediction in 1930 to its married heterosexual members purposely seeking sterile sex, the Anglican church lost, bit by bit, any authority to tell its other members—married or unmarried, homosexual or heterosexual—not to do the same.”[21] At the 1930 Lambeth Conference the Anglican Communion allowed for use of birth control among its married members, and the Southern Baptist Convention had done the same by the 1970s.[22]  According to West, “When the Pill debuted in the early 1960s, the Catholic Church was the only Christian body retaining what in thirty short years had come to be seen as an archaic, even absurd position,”[23] namely an outright prohibition of the use of birth control among Christians.

Reflecting on all of this one can see that two things have taken place, first birth control laid the ground work for abortion and same-sex marriage as seen through the Griswold decision being used in the cases granting those rights. Second, with pretty much all of Christianity allowing and affirming the use of birth control without restriction, marriage loses one of its main functions, procreation, and can thus be redefined. Evan Lenow poignantly states that:

The natural law argument that sex should be reserved for marriage because marriage is the best context in which to rear children loses its force when contraceptive sex is the norm. Same-sex marriages cannot be procreative by any natural means, but many Protestants no longer see this as a convincing argument against same-sex marriage because their own marriages are not procreative.[24]

Abortion is seen as just another means of birth control, albeit a more extreme form, but nonetheless simply a form of birth control. Same-sex marriage is okay because marriage is about two people loving each other and gratifying their own sexual desires; having children and raising up families is not even a secondary function, it is optional. Other technologies such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy options make it so couples can decide not only when they want to have children, but can also decide the type of kids they want to have through various genetic technologies. One no longer even has to be married to have children, thus why limit marriage to one man and one woman. The value, worth, and dignity of life, and especially the lives of babies, is lost and family is unimportant.

 

Conclusion

Birth control greatly contributed to, and one could argue even encouraged, marital infidelity. It fueled the objectification of women and the degradation of sex into self-centered and self-gratifying act. And birth control provided a basis for abortion rights and the right to same-sex marriage. Ryan Rush in his book Walls speaks of how parents, through the influence they have on their kids, leave indelible marks on their children that will last a lifetime.[25] Christians would do well to speak to their kids now about the implications birth control has within the culture, and how it has effected the family over the last eighty something years. Albert Mohler lays the blame right where it belongs:

Conservative Christians far too quickly accuse the proponents of same-sex marriage for being the enemies of marriage, believing that marriage was in great shape before same-sex couples started clamoring for the legal recognition of their unions. This is intellectual dishonesty, and the record must be set straight. The previous damage to marriage can be traced to the intellectual, sexual, legal, and therapeutic subversion of marriage by heterosexuals (author’s emphasis).[26]

The sexual revolution has forever changed the cultural landscape of the West, but Christian homes and communities do not have to continue to allow their families to be eroded and reshaped by the products of the sexual revolution, least of which is birth control.

 


[1] R. Albert Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong (Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2015) 20.

[2] Mohler, 17.

[3] Mohler, 17. See Also, Lenow, Evan. “Protestants and Contraception.” First Things 28, no. 279 (January 2018): 15–17. And, Browder, Sue. Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015).

[4] “Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) | Paul VI,” accessed January 16, 2018, http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html, p. 8-9.

[5] Mary Eberstadt, “The Prophetic Power of Humanae Vitae,” First Things 28, no. 282 (April 2018): 34.

[6] This is a slightly altered paraphrase from a piece I wrote for Hebrews4.org. The Double Edge, “‘Til Death Do Us Part,” accessed February 15, 2015, https://www.hebrews4.org/blogs/marriage.html/.

[7] Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent, 20.

[8] Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to Pope John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution (West Chester, Pa.: Ascension Press, 2009).

[9] Evan Lenow, “Protestants and Contraception,” First Things 28, no. 279 (January 2018): 15–17.

[10] “Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) | Paul VI. ” p. 9

[11] Eberstadt, “The Prophetic Power of Humanae Vitae.” p. 37

[12] Eberstadt, 37.

[13] This information is taken from a report done by the largest and most popular adult entertainment site in the world, it is owned and operated by MindGeek Holdings SARL. Numerous media outlets and reputable organizations reference this porn site’s annual “Year-In-Review” report that provides a detailed analysis as well as raw data on worldwide porn consumption. Because this report is only available in full on the actual porn site I have decided not to provide the actual citation. If the citation is needed I can provide that via email.

[14] Qtd. In, Eberstadt, “The Prophetic Power of Humanae Vitae.” p.34

[15] Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent, 88.

[16] Mohler, 20.

[17] Eberstadt, “The Prophetic Power of Humanae Vitae.” 34

[18] “Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972),” Justia Law, accessed February 9, 2017, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/405/438/; And, “Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973),” Justia Law, accessed October 12, 2016, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/410/113/case.html.

[19] “14-556 Obergefell v. Hodges (06/26/2015),” 2015, https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf.

[20] Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent, 18.

[21] Lenow, “Protestants and Contraception.” 16.

[22] Lenow, 15.

[23] West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, 110.

[24] Lenow, “Protestants and Contraception.” 16-17.

[25] Ryan Rush, Walls: Why Everybody’s Stuck (and Nobody Has to Be) (Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2011) 224.

[26] Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent, 89.

One Comment

  • Dighton Head

    While I agree with the research findings correlating birth control and downward-spiraling morality, I take exception to the suggestion to ban it from marriage.
    The cause of promiscuity is the sinful heart of man, not the physical availability of birth control. Sinful men at one time used pregnancy as a means to control wives. “Keep ‘m barefoot in winter and pregnant in summer” was a common saying in rural America when our country was still largely agrarian.
    To tell a loving, committed couple that they must not use birth control when the wife has extremely difficult pregnancies is preposterous. A young seminary graduate looking for his first pastoral assignment with 7 beautiful children recently confided that he chose vasectomy over placing further burden on the wife for whom he cares so deeply.
    Yes, contraception has made it easier for people to have promiscuous sex, but the reason people do so is because of sinful attitudes, not the contraception.
    Alcohol is bad when abused, but Paul recommended its beneficial use. The same recommendation should apply to contraception.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.