Let Me Explain It More Slowly
Athol Kay is dead wrong.
Now hold on just a minute before getting too upset. Anybody who’s read this blog for any length of time knows that I have the utmost respect for Athol Kay, and I consider him personally to have done a world of good for my marriage, and I’m really glad that he’s finally able to support himself doing it. However, when it comes to Catholics and birth control he’s wrong: wrong on his advice, wrong in his approach, wrong in diagnosing the problem, and even wrong on the facts.
First, the situation:
If you write to me and say you’re a Catholic in a sexless marriage, primarily because your wife is terrified of having more children, that’s when I start experiencing a pain in my right temple that travels behind my right eye and makes it twitch a little.
Then I’m going to say something like “Ahhh… have you considered birth control?”
Not only is this wrong, it’s exactly opposite of the correct advice for this situation.
When I suggest birth control, please then don’t explain-to-me-more-slowly-that-you-are-Catholic-and-cannot-use-birth-control-and-need-a-different-answer-that-you-can-actually-use. I know that, I was purposely suggesting that you stop being miserable and start sinning a little.
Sinning a little is the wrong approach entirely.
Look being completely objective about this…
Athol is not being completely objective. He is giving advice from the perspective of an Atheist. It is logically incorrect to call that objective, as it is a perspective that very much has its own biases. Truly objective advice would consider that the couple in question is Catholic and adapt their situation, not try and push an Atheist and, frankly, Protestant-inspired answer on them. I love you Athol, but it’s true: Atheists are exactly 0% more objective than anybody else. That’s a big, fat, whopping zero. Also, while I won’t Athol of hating Catholics, for anybody to call his own perspective objective is insulting. Athol is better than that, usually, so I give him the benefit of the doubt of just slipping here.
if you have a religiously based cockblock stopping your sex life from being happy, then that’s the cause of the problem.
No, it isn’t. Athol’s commenters have diagnosed the problem more accurately. We’ll quote the earliest one on the list, Jason:
Athol, from the “red-pill” perspective, isn’t the wife’s refusal to use birth control/fear of pregnancy her “body agenda/rationalization hamster” saying to her husband “you don’t attract me enough to either want to have your babies or to otherwise lay you”? Wouldn’t the solution to the problem be less liberalization of religious practices and more “MAP”?
This is an excellent start.
The wrong facts:
Your options are either to do some fancy bible study to find a way to approve what you want to do sexually, dump that particular aspect of religious belief (which is exactly what 98% of Catholics in America do on the birth control issue), or dump the religion completely.
The 98% statistic is wrong. It’s been debunked in so many places that I’m not even going to bother to dredge up a link (commenters feel free to jump in). Google it. Please either stop quoting it in your arguments or stop expecting me to take you seriously.
Jason has hit the nail on the head here. If the unnamed man’s wife was into him, she wouldn’t mind the possibility of having more of his babies – at least not this the level of irrationality that swears off sex altogether. In fact, if she was really into him, she’d want it.
Let’s take the woman at her word for a moment and assume that she truly is afraid of getting pregnant, and hence he gets no sex. This is an irrational fear – there’s a reason I used that word before. Some actual facts:
- A woman can only get pregnant during a particular window of her menstrual cycle. Assuming worst case scenarios, this window is about one week out of four. The other three weeks of the cycle, her chances of becoming pregnant are statistically insignificant. Yes, it happens. But not to anybody you know [if you think it happened to somebody you know, it's almost certain that in reality there's some reason why it actually was during her ovulation window and they just didn't know it].
- Natural Family Planning is based upon using actual body symptoms to know when this window is, and it works. When used correctly it’s 99.86% effective.
- Natural Family Planning is approved by the Catholic Church.
The first response of many non-Catholics is going to be to deny that NFP is effective. This is neither objective nor evidence based nor correct.
Furthermore, Athol’s advice is exactly opposite of what this man should be doing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that in the situation he’s in, if he follows Athol’s advice, his marriage is doomed. He might as well file divorce papers and give it up. Note: his marriage is already in pretty bad shape, and it may not be salvageable; but following this advice guarantees that it’s done.
Being the religious head of the household is an alpha trait.
Wait, let me repeat that again – it’s important.
Being the religious head of the household is an alpha trait.
It’s a very alpha trait. Athol lives this in his own way, though it may not be obvious. His atheism gives direction to his household. They may not be atheists themselves (I recall reading on his blog some time ago that Jennifer was still quite Christian), but I guarantee you that his atheism tempers their religion and keeps it from boiling over. I guarantee you that they respect his atheism for its honesty, and for the fact that he won’t cave on what he believes just to make them happy.
Why should his unknown e-mailer cave on his religion to make his wife happy? Especially since if she’s honestly not using birth control, it’s because she’s tacitly accepted Catholic dogma as well. Face it: if she wanted to get it, she could – with our without his knowledge or permission. Birth control is cheap, it’s readily available, and it’s easy to get privately. Planned Parenthood will discretely mail it to you for $25 a month, or you can drop by and pick it up in person – no insurance required, no paperwork for anybody else to ever see.
Disagreeing with the church as an outsider is fine. This is America, it’s your right. Disagreeing with the church honestly as an insider is… well, I won’t say “fine,” but it won’t kill your credibility with your spouse. But doing it when you honestly believe church doctrine just so that you can get laid? You’ve just destroyed your religious cred, and failed a major shit test at the same time. No, birth control is not always a shit test – but if the man in question caved for the reasons Athol’s giving him, it would be failing a shit test even if the birth control situation wasn’t originally a shit test at all.
Pick up artists can get away with encouraging women to be sinful. The man in question could probably have gotten away with it if he’d done it very early in their relationship. But now that he’s established himself as honestly against birth control, he can’t do this and get away with it. If he does, he concedes all of his status as religious head of the family. After all, what good is the religious head of the family if he’s caving on questions of morality. It’s not worth arguing about whether it is or isn’t a question of morality: they believe that it is, so caving on it will have this effect.
Yes, I know – it’s fair for people (men and women both) to not want more kids. But to be frank, children happen even when birth control is involved. Birth control is seldom perfectly used - actual use failure rates on The Pill are around 15-20%. 40% of all abortions are performed on women who were using birth control at the time they conceived. I personally know a woman who got pregnant while using The Pill and condoms.
What should the man in question do? He doesn’t have very many good options. If things have reached this point, his marriage is already in trouble. Even at the most sexless point in my marriage, Hermione still wanted to have my kids. Indeed, our first son was conceived at the tail end of the most sexless point in our marriage. Furthermore, the fact that things ever got to this point implies that he made a poor choice in partner to begin with. If she’s an honest believer and is really that upset about having more of his children, it’s seriously time to wonder if the existing kids are his. If I were him, I would be discretely getting paternity tests done.
First, he needs to work even harder at the MAP. Second, he needs to make a re-dedication to his religion (let’s assume that he honestly believes it; if he didn’t, he’d have already taken the easy path and gone with birth control) and make a show of it. After those steps are done – and only after those steps are done, he needs to double down on the no-birth control rule. If she continues to deny him sex, rather than getting upset he needs to treat her with contempt – more than a true neg, he needs to make it clear that he actually believes that she is taking advantage of his religious beliefs in order to deny her own husband sex. It’s a contemptible, despicable thing to do, and he should treat her appropriately. This will be far more effective if he can believably flirt (and no more) with women who are more attractive than her while in her presence.
If, at that point, the situation persists he needs to prepare himself for the fact that she is likely to initiate divorce on her own in the near future. Being Catholic, I don’t recommend that he initiates one or threatens her with one. But he should probably make initial contact with a lawyer, hide away a bit of money so that she can’t empty it from his bank accounts, and otherwise prepare for the coming storm. In 21st century America he can’t stop her if she decides to unilaterally divorce him, so he has to be prepared for it, Catholic or no.