The Privileged Cruelty of Religious Right Sex Rules

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Source:valerietarico.com

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

Sexual intimacy and pleasure are some of humanity’s most cherished experiences. The so-called “best things in life” include natural beauty, fine dining, the arts, thrilling adventures, creative pursuits and community service. But love and orgasms are among the few peak experiences that are equally available to rich and poor, equally sweet to those whose lives are going according to plan and to many whose dreams are in pieces. (N.B.: in 20th century America African Americans utilized human sexuality to compensate for what was denied them elsewhere.)

Religious conservatives think that these treasured dimensions of the human experience should be available to only a privileged few people whose lives fit their model: male-dominated, monogamous, heterosexual pairs who have pledged love and contractual marriage for life. Some true believers—especially those in thrall to the Protestant Quiverfull Movement or the Vatican—would further limit sexual privileges even within hetero state-licensed, church-sanctified marriages to only couples who are open to intimacy producing a pregnancy and a child. Take your pick: it’s either reproductive roulette or no sex—although you might be able to game God by tracking female fertility and then bumping like bunnies during the low risk times of the month.

Why Christianity is Obsessed with Sex

To be clear, I’m not saying that Christianity’s sex rules are only a function of patriarchal Christian privilege. During the Iron Age, from whence Christianity’s sex rules got handed down, society was organized around kin groups, and the endlessly-warmongering clans of the Ancient Near East were more at risk of extinction than overpopulation. Legally-enforced monogamy created lines of inheritance and social obligation, clarifying how neighbors should be treated and who could be enslaved.

Also, hetero sex necessarily carried the risk of pregnancy, which made it adaptive to welcome resultant pregnancies. Children do best in stable, nurturing families and communities, and in the Ancient Near East, “No marriage? No sex!” may have served to protect the well-being of mothers and children as well as the social power of patriarchal men. But in today’s mobile, pluralistic societies with modern contraceptive options and social safety nets, God’s self-appointed sex police have little credible excuse save their own compelling need to bully and boss and stay on top.

It should come as no surprise that Church authorities want an exclusive license to grant “legitimate” sexual privileges. Over the centuries, religious authorities have sought to own and define virtually all of the experiences that touch us deeply: the birth of a new person (christening, bris), art (iconography), music (chanting and hymns), eating, morality, mind altering substances, community, coming of age, family formation, and even our dying process. In each case religious authorities seek to legitimize some forms of the experience and denigrate those that don’t fit their model. Powerful people and institutions want to control valued assets so they can leverage those assets to get more power. And controlling sex is powerful!

The Egotism and Cruelty of God’s Self-Appointed Messengers

Religious authorities like Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Evangelist Franklin Graham or Religious Right icon Pat Robertson quote the Bible and talk as if their self-righteous sex rules came straight from God, which of course is hooey. Set aside for the moment the fact that declaring oneself a spokesman for God is stupefyingly egotistical. Anyone who claims to know the mind of God is simultaneously making a rather bold claim about the superior infallibility of his own mind. The same can be said for anyone who boldly declares that the Bible is literally perfect and that he knows what God was trying to say.

But beyond egotism, telling people they can’t have sex based on Iron Age rules collected in the Bible or medieval rules pontificated by some kiss-my-ring Pope is just plain mean. It’s cruel and selfish and heartless, because the sex rules that served Hebrew patriarchs 2500 years ago and that helped the Vatican breed more tithing members 500 years ago deny sex to a whole lot of people who would otherwise find sexual pleasure and intimacy precious.

No Sex for the Weary

Who would men like Dolan, Graham and Robertson (or their predecessors like the Apostle Paul, Augustine, or Martin Luther) exclude from the privilege of sexual intimacy? Most of humanity—including, probably, you and a lot of people you love. The list is limitless:

  • College students who face long years of study before being ready for partnership and parenthood.
  • Parents who want to commit their finite emotional resources to the children they already have.
  • Young singles whose bodies are at peak libido, but who aren’t ready to form families.
  • Queer folk.
  • Those who, whether married or not, want to commit their lives to some form of calling that isn’t parenthood.
  • People who perceive balance within the web of life as moral or spiritual imperative, whose conscience guides them to limit childbearing for the sake of other species and future generations.
  • Poor people who want to get a step ahead instead of (or before) having a child.
  • People who are saving up for marriage.
  • Cohabiting couples who don’t buy into the traditional marriage contract.
  • Empty nesters who are rediscovering why they like each other.
  • Travelers whose mobile lifestyle makes it impossible to offer a child a stable nurturing community and whose opportunities for intimacy flit past.
  • Unmarried soldiers.
  • Loners and eccentrics whose personal qualities or desire for solitude make partnership and/or parenthood a poor fit.
  • Puppy lovers.
  • Elderly widows and widowers for whom remarriage doesn’t make sense.
  • Famine-plagued women whose hungry bodies can ill sustain the risks of pregnancy or demands of incubating a healthy child.
  • The ill or those at risk of illness, who must navigate love in the time of chemo or love in the time of Zika.
  • War zone civilians and refugees who may not know whether they’ll survive or how, but know there is comfort in each other’s arms.

I could go on but I suspect there’s no need. Under what set of delusions is the world a better place because people like these are denied the pleasures of intimate touch, or the respite of a sexual interlude, or the acute pleasure of orgasm?

What The Sex Police Really Want

Wait a minute, a reader might say. Don’t overgeneralize. A minority of lay Christians believe that married couples must give up sex if they don’t want a(nother) baby —even if that is the official word from the pulpit for Catholics and some Protestants. So, this fight is really about people who want sex without marriage.

True. Well, partly true.

It goes without saying that conservative Christians want above all to deny sexual intimacy and pleasure to people who are single—especially girls and women. That is because the Bible’s Iron Age Sex Rules were meant, first and foremost, to ensure that females, who were economic assets belonging to men, produced purebred offspring of known paternity, who were also economic assets belonging to men. The Bible sanctions many forms of marriage and sexual slavery but all converge on one point: they guarantee that a man can know which offspring are his. That is why, after the slaughter of the Midianites in the book of Numbers, only virgins can be kept as war booty. It is why, in the Torah’s legal code, a rapist can be forced to buy and keep the damaged goods.

The Old Testament prescribes death for dozens of infractions (you yourself probably belong on death row). But when it comes to sex, the death penalty is for females who voluntarily give it up (or who don’t scream loud enough when they are being raped). The meanest, sickest part of this archaic and morally warping worldview is the idea that, for women, sex itself should be a death penalty—or at least a roll of the dice. It’s simply divine justice that sex should sooner or later lead to the pain and potential mortality of childbirth, because that’s the punishment God pronounced on uppity Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16 NRSV.

There you have it. Female sexual pleasure and intimacy without the risk of labor pain and death is cheating God—as well as the male who rules over her.

Control at Any Price

The ways in which God’s Self-Appointed Sex Police try to obstruct intimacy and orgasms are legion. Denying young people information about their bodies, promoting sex negativity, fostering a cult of virginity, spreading lies about masturbation—and above all shaming, shaming, shaming anyone who might dare to have sex without their approval. But the surest way the sex police can stop single females from cheating their way out of Eve’s curse is by making sex risky, which is why the religious right is obsessed with denying women access to birth control and abortion.

Globally, today 215 million desperate women want modern contraception and are unable to get it, thanks in part to American Religious Right politicians who explicitly excluded fertility management services from international HIV prevention. Church induced hang-ups about sex mean that reproductive empowerment gets left out of conversations where it is fundamental to wellbeing: family prosperity, early childhood development, mental health—even education of girls and career advancement of women.

At home, the U.S. squandered almost two decades and 1.5 billion dollars on abstinence-only “sex ed” that was an abject failure. Over the last three quarters of a century, conservative Christian obstruction of sexual literacy and family planning programs has driven humanity to the verge of collapse and has devastated families, condemning desperately poor people—like those who trusted Mother Teresa (who in turn trusted the Pope)—to lives of even deeper desperation.

Righteous men with access to the halls of power thwart sexual agency and then make criminals of women who abort the resulting ill-conceived pregnancies—all for the sake of maintaining their own authority and that of their institutions. And if the campaign to stop single women from having sex makes things hard for some married folks—the refugee couple, for example; or the poor parents trying to take care of the kids they already have; or those facing the prospect of a Zika baby with calcified and deformed brain structuresso be it.

The Small and Large of It

Think of the suffering as collateral damage— a form of collateral damage that is relatively benign by the standards of ecclesiastical history.

During the peak of Christianity’s political power, the Dark Ages, the Vatican launched a crusade against a sect of French Christians, the Cathars, who the Pope had declared heretics. When the crusaders arrived and began their slaughter, local people fled into churches, and sorting out who counted as a real Christian got confusing. So an inquiry was sent to the abbot, asking who should be killed and who spared. He replied by messenger: “Kill them all, God will know his own.”

By contrast with medieval butchery, collateral damage in the form of intimacy denied, or lives burdened with shame and stigma, or unwanted children born into the world with the odds stacked against them, seems minor.

But that is the only standard by which denying people sexual intimacy and pleasure is trivial. As I said, these are among humanity’s most treasured experiences. There are few freedoms that we value more than being able to form the love bonds and families of our choosing. In Islamic theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—and even among immigrant Muslims in the West—young people risk and lose their lives for love.

Going for Broke

Religious authorities fight to maintain monopoly control over sexual privileges precisely because these privileges are so valuable—so to the heart of who we are as human beings. Sexual pleasure sweeps over us; it can bring us to our knees. Sexual intimacy allows us to transcend the boundaries of time and space, body and psyche—to lose the self in the other.

If these seem like religious terms, they are. It is no accident that vocalizations during carnal ecstasy sounds a lot like prayer or that erotic music often has religious overtones: Take me to church; I’ll worship like a dog. . . . In your temple of love . . . halleluja (Hozier; Rod Stewart; Leonard Cohen). Or vice versa: You hold my hand and hold my heart; I give it away now, I am on my knees offering all I am (Parachute Band).

The Church hierarchy’s determination to define and control “legitimate” sex may be cruel and transparently self-serving. But it is smart. Sex endlessly attracts and compels us, making sexual guilt the perfect currency for institutions trafficking in sin and salvation. When religious authorities hold exclusive power to forgive sexual transgressions and then dole out (or deny) sexual privileges, they can redirect sublimated love and loyalty and yearning and passion into the kind of peak experiences that religion itself has on offer—experiences like spiritual ecstasy, selfless service, or mystical union with the Divine—all scripted and doled out by the very same religious institutions and authorities, of course.

But God’s self-appointed spokesmen are losing their grip. If their proclamations seem crazier and their political maneuvers seem transparently cruel—as in recent bullying of transgender kidsthat is because they are desperate. People are noticing that the cage door is open and that the world outside offers a rainbow of possibilities.

Sex and love that are not controlled by the Church compete with the Church. If individuals who are young and elderly, stable and transitioning, queer and straight, partnered and single, parenting and childfree, claim the right to pleasure themselves and each other and to form intimate bonds based on no authority save their own mutual consent and delight, the Church is screwed.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

 

See:https://valerietarico.com/2016/05/27/the-privileged-cruelty-of-religious-right-sex-rules/

How Limiting Women’s Access to Birth Control and Abortions Hurts the Economy

Source: AlterNet

Author: Michele Gilman/the Conversation

Emphasis Mine

Reproductive health isn’t just about abortions, despite all the attention they get. It’s also about access to family planning services, contraception, sex education and much else.

Such access lets women control the timing and size of their families so they have children when they are financially secure and emotionally ready and can finish their education and advance in the workplace. After all, having children is expensive, costing US$9,000 to $25,000 a year.

And that’s why providing women with a full range of reproductive health options is good for the economy at the same time as being essential to the financial security of women and their families. Doing the opposite threatens not only the physical health of women but their economic well-being too.

The Supreme Court acknowledged as much in 1992, stating in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey:

The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.

However, it seems that state and federal legislators, certain politicians running for president as well as some conservative Supreme Court justices have forgotten the meaning of this sweeping language.

As a consequence, the right to control their reproductive health has become increasingly illusory for many women, particularly the poor.

The Economics of Contraception

With some conservative politicians dead set on limiting access to abortion, you’d assume that they would be for policies that help women avoid unintended pregnancies. But conservative attacks on birth control are escalating, even though 99 percent of sexually active women have used some form such as an intrauterine device (IUD), patch or pill at least once.

In addition to its widely recognized health and autonomy benefits for women, contraception directly boosts the economy. In fact, research shows access to the pill is responsible for a third of women’s wage gains since the 1960s.

And this benefit extends to their kids. Children born to mothers with access to family planning benefit from a 20 to 30 percent increase in their own incomes over their lifetimes, as well as boosting college completion rates.

Not surprisingly, in a survey, 77 percent of women who used birth control reported that it allowed them to better care for themselves and their families, while large majorities also reported that birth control allowed them to support themselves financially (71 percent), stay in school (64 percent) and help them get and keep a job (64 percent).

Still, there is a class divide in contraception access, as evidenced by disparities in the 2011 rate of unintended pregnancies. While the overall rate fell to 45 percent (from 51 percent in 2008), the figure for women living at or below the poverty line was five times that of women at the highest income level (although also decreasing).

One reason for this disparity is the cost of birth control, particularly for the most effective, long-lasting forms. For instance, it typically costs over $1,000 for an IUD and the procedure to insert it, amounting to one month’s full-time pay for a minimum wage worker.

These costs are significant, given that the average American woman wants two children and will thus need contraception for at least three decades of her life. Unfortunately, publicly funded family planning meets only 54 percent of the need, and these funding streams are under constant attack by conservatives.

Not surprisingly, health insurance makes a difference, and women with coverage are much more likely to use contraceptive care. The Affordable Care Act is responsible for part of the drop in unintended pregnancies—it expanded contraception coverage to around 55 million women with private insurance coverage.

Yet this coverage is also at risk for millions of employees and their dependents who work for employers claiming a religious objection. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court concluded that a for-profit company cannot only profess religious beliefs but also impose those beliefs on their employees by denying them certain forms of contraception. The Obama administration has issued regulations allowing religious employers to opt out of offering contraceptive coverage. Affected employees are then covered directly by their insurers.

This is not enough for some. In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in which several religious nonprofits assert that even the act of seeking an accommodation from the law burdens their religious consciences.

These religious groups argue in part that women can get their birth control from other sources, such as federally funded family planning centers. Yet at the same time, conservatives are on a mission to slash that funding, particularly for Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual and reproductive health care to almost five million people a year.

This makes no economic sense. Publicly funded family planning programs help women avoid about two million unintended pregnancies a year and save the government billions of dollars in health care costs. The net savings to government are $13.6 billion. For every $1 invested in these services, the government saves $7.09.

Sex Education and the Economic Ladder

Another key to reproductive health—and one that isn’t discussed enough—is sexual education for teenagers.

For years, the public has spent over $2 billion on abstinence-only programs, which not only fail to reduce teen birth rates but also reinforce gender stereotypes and are rife with misinformation. Low-income minority teens are particularly subject to these programs.

Teens without knowledge about their sexual healtare more likely to get pregnant and less likely to work, spiraling them to the bottom of the economic ladder.

President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget would eliminate federal funding for abstinence-only sex education and instead fund only comprehensive sexual education, which is age-appropriate and medically accurate. However, Congress has rejected the president’s prior proposed cuts and the same result is likely for 2017.

Access to Abortion

Then there’s the issue of abortion. Let’s start with the cost.

Half of women who obtain an abortion pay more than one-third of their monthly income for the procedure.

Costs rise significantly the longer a woman must wait, either because state law requires it or she needs to save up the money—or both. Studies show that women who cannot access abortion are three times more likely to fall into poverty than women who obtained abortions.

In addition to the financial burden, many states are enacting laws designed to limit abortion access. These laws hit low-income women particularly hard. From 2011 to 2015, 31 states have enacted 288 such laws, including waiting periods and mandatory counseling sessions.

Moreover, 24 states have enacted so-called TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), which medical experts say go far beyond what is needed for patient safety and impose needless requirements on doctors and abortion facilities, such as requiring facilities to have the same hallway dimensions as a hospital.

In March, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a Texas TRAP lawWhole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. If the court upholds the law, the entire state of Texas will be left with only 10 abortion providers.

lower federal appeals court stated in the Texas case that travel distances of more than 150 miles one way are not an “undue burden” and are thus constitutional. This, I would argue, shows a complete lack of understanding regarding the difficulties that poverty—especially rural poverty—imposes. Traveling long distances adds additional costs to an already expensive medical procedure.

The court’s decision is expected in June. Observers fear that the court could split 4-4, which would leave the Texas law intact.

The Hyde Amendment

Another way in which U.S. policy on abortions exacerbates economic inequality, especially for women of color, is through the ban on federal funding—which some aspiring politicians seem to have forgotten is still in place.

It has been so since the 1976 enactment of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. The Affordable Care Act does many wonderful things for women’s health, but it also extends the Hyde Amendment through its expansion of Medicaid, and it allows states to ban abortion coverage in their private exchanges.

Denying poor women coverage under Medicaid contributes to the unintended birth rates that are seven times higher for poor women than high-income women.

Economic and Reproductive Health

Politicians cannot promise to grow the economy and simultaneously limit access to abortion, birth control and sexual education. Our nation’s economic health and women’s reproductive health are linked.

And as Hillary Clinton correctly noted recently, it’s an issue that deserves more attention in the presidential campaign—and hasn’t received enough.

Michele Gilman is a venable Professor of Law, University of Baltimore and is affiliated with the ACLU of Maryland and the Women’s Law Center of Maryland.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/gender/how-limiting-womens-access-birth-control-and-abortions-hurts-economy?akid=14217.123424.vApA3m&rd=1&src=newsletter1055746&t=18

Why the True Definition of ‘Pro-Life’ Makes Anti-Abortion Republican Heads Explode

Source: AlterNet

Author: Leslie Salzillo

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: it might be noted that the ‘pro-life’ stance does not have, and never has had, anything to do with life: it is all about SEX.)

In one simple quote, Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. sums up the hypocrisy in the ‘pro-life’ movement:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

This quote applies well to many Republican lawmakers and anti-choice extremists who continue to introduce/pass misogynist laws restricting a woman’s reproductive rights, as they work to shut down women’s health clinicslike Planned Parenthood. You don’t hear of these same extremists adopting children from unplanned pregnancies. But you do hear of these extremists cutting simple programs like schools lunches for children, cutting aid to families who are homeless/in need, and blocking free college tuition. No, the goals of these hypocrites seem to be to control women, their bodies, their families, and their futures. It’s good to hear a Catholic nun define the GOP double talk so well.

An outspoken advocate for women, Sister Joan Chittister is an author of 50 books and a lecturer. Holding a Ph.D. from Penn State University, she is also a research associate in a division of Cambridge University. Other subjects of her writing includes women in the church and society, human rights, peace and justice, religious life and spirituality. She has appeared in the media on numerous shows including Meet the Press, 60 Minutes, Bill Moyers, BBC, NPR, and Oprah Winfrey. You can visit Joan Chittister’s website at Joan Chittister.org.

 

Excerpts of this story were taken from an earlier Daily Kos diary: ‘Anti-Choice Extremists Shut Down Planned Parenthood Website’

See: http://www.alternet.org/gender/why-true-definition-pro-life-makes-anti-abortion-republican-heads-explode?akid=13342.123424.WcgKs8&rd=1&src=newsletter1040127&t=7