(Here’s an advanced look at my next Family Foundations column).
The dignity of women is under assault like never before. Thanks to the internet, pornography is more accessible than ever. Young women, especially, are buying wholesale into the porn culture. It’s become so pervasive that, surprisingly, many secular publications have recently been complaining about the negative effect pornography has had on relationships from a man’s perspective. Men are beginning to report feeling put-off, intimidated, or even turned off by the behavior of women who have been “socialized” by porn. One recent article in the London Telegraph decried the “striptease culture” we are living in and advocated measures that could encourage young women to discover their dignity. According to a recent Reuters report, 30% of young adults have sent nude pictures of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend . In fact, some studies show that among those who engage in sexting, women are almost as likely to ask for a nude picture of their boyfriend as they are to send a nude picture of themselves.
NFP: Challenging the Culture of Use
In light of all this, is there any more prophetic way to engage the culture than to promote Natural Family Planning? At the beginning of the sexual revolution, women were told that the key to overcoming male oppression and gaining power in relationships was to “embrace their sexuality.” The problem is that this phrase is deceptive. The secular vision of embracing one’s sexuality is allowing oneself to be viewed and used as an object and the more one does this, the less power one really has. The more one embraces this attitude, the more used, lonely, and powerless one is likely to feel.
But NFP promotes a vision of sexuality that is worthy of embracing; a vision where the body is a gift; a vision that believes men and women are first and foremost sons and daughters of God; a vision that understands that sex is not merely recreation, but a re-creation of the promises a couple makes on their wedding day to spend their lifetime together creating and celebrating a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful.
As with most things worth doing, NFP isn’t easy. It requires sacrifice and struggle. It can be helpful, though, to remember what we are sacrificing and struggling for. I would never want my wife to think that she was anything less than my partner, my best friend and my equal. In my mind, those things are worth fighting for. If NFP is a struggle, it is only because I must sometimes struggle against those fallen aspects of myself that want to make me treat her as something less than my partner, my best friend, my equal. The challenge of NFP is a challenge worth taking up because it asks me to consider whether or not I am truly approaching my wife in love.
Likewise, for the woman, the challenge of NFP asks her to embrace her dignity. Charting her signs helps her get in touch with how wonderfully she is made (Ps 139:14). It helps redeem the dignity of her body in her mind. It helps her assert her dignity to herself and to her husband by giving her the vocabulary she needs to articulate her physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual needs to her husband in a way that is virtually impossible without NFP. It gives her a way of embracing her sexuality in a manner that doesn’t objectify her, but rather, sets her free to be loved as a person.
The most famous line from the Theology of the Body is that “the body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it.” NFP promotes the dignity of women by empowering them to know and respect their body and see that body as a sign of who they are–persons deserving of love.
Dr. Greg Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to providing marriage, family, and individual counseling services by telephone to Catholics around the world. He can be reached at www.CatholicCounselors.com or by calling 740-266-6461 to make an appointment.