Watch All the Nasty Beasties Crawl Out From Under the Rocks

Although you’d think the Right couldn’t do anything to surprise me any more, I have been unsettled by the visceral disgust of female sexuality that’s spewed forth from the Right in the past few days. In tweets, on blogs, in most of the usual quarters, the monster being revealed is something terrible to behold.

But let us not forget this is an old beast that’s been with us all along. It’s just that recent events have coaxed the creature into the light of day.

That right-wing extremists see women as a substandard Other is a given; it is, in fact, a universal characteristic of reactionary politics and religions, in all their many forms. But it’s been fifty years since The Pill became available, and wingnuts still can’t handle the thought of women as sexual free agents. Male sexuality is fine with them, of course. I don’t see objections on the Right to Viagra, or the idea of health insurance paying for Viagra, even though its primary application is to allow some men to have more sex. But The Pill, which has a variety of medical applications beside contraception, is Evil and Immoral because it allows women to have “consequence-free sex,” a condition not placed upon Viagra-enhanced men. And Erick Son of Erick is not the only troglodyte spouting that line.

Even though religion is the most common excuse given for this sick view of women, there is nothing in the Bible that forbids women from using birth control. I don’t know enough about the Q’ran to comment on that, but it appears opinions against birth control are coming only from the most conservative parts of Islam.

I’ve never heard of objections to birth control coming from Buddhism or any other Asian religion, even though Asian cultures often are as patriarchal as cultures get. However, these cultures generally are less hung up about enjoying sex.

Some religious traditions, such as Orthodox Judaism (although not Conservative or Reformed), point to the “be fruitful and multiply” line from Genesis to declare that God forbids birth control. But notice that nobody’s running around demanding restrictions on the sale of condoms. This is because of deeply entrenched sociocultural values, not religion. Those values say “consequence-free sex” is a birthright for men. It’s only when women are given some power over their own sexuality and reproduction that alarm bells go off, and the sickos grab frantically for anything they can grab to support their bigotries. And some grotesque misapplication of religious dogma is about all they’ve got, although I have seen some other even more bizarre and fact-free appeals to “science” and “nature.”

If you’ve read my book (Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World), or if you’ve read up on current research in sociology, you know that our moral views are mostly dictated by our emotions, and the “moral judgments” we create in our rational minds are all post hoc. See, for example, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (Pantheon Books, 2012).

Why is this craziness apparently coming from right-wing Abrahamic religion? This is from my book —

… Haidt says that’s basically what we’re all doing — allowing our rudimentary emotions to dictate what we think. And the rudimentary emotions come from our cultural programming and many other influences, such as the groups we hang out with. Researchers have found they also can influence people’s responses to moral questions by exposing them to foul odors, giving them something pleasant or unpleasant to drink, or even keeping a hand sanitizer within view. Reason actually has little to do with it, however much we might want to think otherwise.

When you understand that much of “morality” is about rudimentary emotions and biases, you might also understand why conservative and dogmatic religions of all persuasion tend to get hung up on sex and on keeping women under control, often going way outside the teachings of revered founders as they do this.

For example — going by the Gospels, Jesus said very little about sex and nothing at all about homosexuality, abortion, or birth control. And we know that there was homosexual sex, abortion, and attempts at birth control going on in his time, and he must have been aware of these things. But it appears he didn’t bother to address them.

Instead, he went on and on about loving God and everybody else, including your enemies. He was also big on feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and visiting prisoners. The episode with the money changers in the Temple suggests he was not keen on people trying to make themselves wealthy on other peoples’ piety. For a man of his time and culture he was extraordinarily courteous to women, sometimes speaking to them in public (which was a tad scandalous, I’m told) and telling Martha that Mary didn’t have to go to the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches if she’d rather listen to his sermon.

Flash forward to today’s right-wing Christianity. See the difference? Do I really have to point it out to you?

The obsession with sex and repressing women and their tempting ways is one of the most common features of conservative, dogmatic religion, whether we’re talking about Christianity or Islam or any other major spiritual tradition. Currently factions within Islam are going to unprecedented and grotesque extremes to subdue women. But I say there are factions within many other faith traditions that differ from the Taliban only in degree, not in kind.

And this tells me that the men in charge of things are channeling their own anxieties about sex and women and projecting them into their scriptures. In doing so, they sometimes wander quite a distance from what their scriptures actually say, revealing how pathologically deep those anxieties are.

Ultimately, all this flap about birth control has nothing to do with genuine religious devotion. It’s coming from sick, neurotic weenie-men (and some women, e.g. Ingraham and Coulter, who notably are unmarried and childless, although Ingraham has adopted children) who are terrified of female sexuality and can’t deal with the world unless women are kept under control. They are using the authority of religion — with assistance from conservative men in the courts — to impose their bigotries and emotional pathologies on the rest of us.

So let us be clear that the Great Divide in the birth control issue is not between the secular and the religious; it’s been the emotionally healthy and the deranged.

See also:

Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control — And Why We’ll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now

Rape Victims At Christian College Told To Repent For Their Sins

Clergy Pass Out Condoms at Hobby Lobby in Protest

Biblical birth control: The surprisingly contraception-friendly Old Testament

10 thoughts on “Watch All the Nasty Beasties Crawl Out From Under the Rocks

  1. “So let us be clear that the Great Divide in the birth control issue is not between the secular and the religious; it’s been the emotionally healthy and the deranged.”

    It’s all about controlling da women-folk.

    Here’s my $0.02 on religious psychology:
    As we changed from hunter-gatherer’s and started to form agricultural communities, early human males hated the idea of “Mother Earth,” so they worked to replace her with a single male Deity.
    Sadly, they succeeded…
    I could write a ton of word-turds on this subject, but I’ll spare you.

    And, btw, as far as contraception goes, lambskin condoms have been around for thousands and thousands of years – long before Jesus was a even a non-sexual gleam in his father’s – “God’s”- eye!

    And guess what?
    They’re still around now:

    Most of our major religions, are based on misogyny.
    All, because men hate the idea of a fertile “Mother Earth,” and the supremacy that that might connote for women.
    Also, too – that may be another reason that many religious people don’t care about global warming/weirding – F*CK MOTHER EARTH!
    We men will figure it out, and we’ll handle it!

    Luke 23:34
    Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

    Maybe it should say, “Mother Earth, forgive them, for they know not what they do…”

  2. Judging from the tweets, blogs, etc, you nailed it.

    Misogyny seems absolutely necessary to hold some of the opinions. For example, everyone should take responsibility and make informed decisions, BUT, if you decide to take precautions and take birth control pills, then suddenly the informed choice is “consequence free sex.” Horrors!!

    To complicate matters, good, fundamentalist Christians are evidently often duped by the Devil or “overcome by the spirit.” This results in higher teenage birthrates in the good christian states as opposed to evil places like Vermont or Massachusetts. But the evil of “consequence free sex” is handily avoided by limiting sex education. This is usually less effective on males, but as God said, “Boys will be boys!!”

    Truthfully, if I were a woman, I think I would have a lot of trouble being in the company of men for a while. I think I would start contributing money and effort to research like this:

  3. When I read Erick Erickson’s comment about “consequence free sex” I wondered if he was serious in making such a stupid and misogynistic statement or whether he was doing an Ann Coulter. Just making an outrageous statement to garner exposure regardless of how stupid a comment it is.
    If he was serious— and I suspect that he is —then he is obviously in possession of a sick and demented mind. What he is essentially saying is that women are nothing more than a receptacle for the male seed. And that they shouldn’t be considered as worthy to enjoy or express any of the experiences of human sexuality.
    If all of the egotistical and self absorbed characteristics of male chauvinism and misogyny present in Erick’s character were condensed into one mass, he’s be a black hole.

  4. Here’s a comment from The Other McCain’s blog. Commenter Cactus Ed provides some useful information for you women folk.. Read it. Maybe you women might learn something.

    Cactus Ed

    Indeed, because in one method of “natural” birth control, the woman must have very regular, predictable cycles and must keep a very accurate, daily record of her body temperature (first thing in the morning before getting out of bed) and condition of her cervical mucus in order to determine when ovulation is occurring. The couple must, then, cooperate in being willing to forego a few minutes of pleasure within several days of ovulation, and instead, show their love for each other in some other way, in the interest of building a strong, long-term, loving relationship. Since many women’s cycles are not that predictable and/or many women do not wish to keep such detailed records and/or many couples would rather not have to consult a calendar, a variety of other methods of preventing ovulation or preventing sperm from reaching the egg are available. Some of the hormone pills prevent ovulation (but many of those also prevent implantation), and many of the barrier methods attempt to prevent sperm from getting up into the uterus, either by introducing a physical barrier between the penis and the uterus (cervical cap, diaphragm, condom) or by killing the sperm (spermicidal chemicals inserted into the vagina). However, none of these methods is a substitute for willpower and personal responsibility, and will not prevent conception if the people involved do not choose to discipline themselves to “make it work.”

    In truth, the only totally effective method of preventing making a baby (short of sterilization) is abstinence, yet in our culture, we’ve brought up whole generations of young people taught that they couldn’t possibly be expected to have the personal willpower and responsibility for their actions to make that work.

    • Swami — Thank you. Yes, I learned a lot. But why is it that so often it’s (presumably) non-celibate men who are eternally lecturing us about willpower?

  5. maha ..That’s because it was through Eve’s lack of willpower in the Garden of Eden that sin came into the world.. It’s a known fact that women are weak to temptation.

    Glad you liked Cactus Ed’s informative exposition. .I put him on my favorites list hoping that in the future he does a dissertation on post partum blues.. Now that’s a subject that could use a man’s perspective.

  6. Swami – That wasn’t _lack_ of will, it _was_ free will! I say Eve was heroic. She took a risk and paid the price, so that we all may know right from wrong, and so be free to choose. Honor Eve!

  7. This subject is one that really angers me because I do know my Old Testament pretty well.

    Re. the article:”Biblical birth control: The surprisingly contraception-friendly Old Testament”, points out, the reason why that King wanted his many wives to use those contraceptive herbs for a year was to both insure they weren’t already pregant by other men, and to abort those fetuses if they were.

    After all, when you’ve taken dozens of wives from different places and married them at different times, it makes sense to take precautions. A King wouldn’t want any bastard children running around the palace plotting to inherit his Kingdom.

    The other biblical story besides Esther, were a woman is the hero is the story of Tamar. She was the wife of first Er and then Onan. Er was considered a very bad man and thus he was dispatched by G-d. Onan suffered the same fate because he wouldn’t impregnate her. The “Law” at the time required him to marry his brother’s wife so that the first child would carry on Er’s name and inherit his share of property. That would have benefitted Tamar as well as the child.

    His sin was his stinginess with his “seed”: his refusal to do his duty. So G-d smote him too. That only left Judah’s 3rd and youngest son and he refused to let him marry Tamar which left her 2x widowed, poor and childless. A desparate situation for a woman of those times and not what G-d or the law intended.

    She eventually tricked Judah himself into impregnating her and after much ado and nearly being stoned to death, gave birth to twins. That satisfied the law that both brothers got their due and so did she: she did not have to suffer being a penniless, childless widow. She became a hero for her honor, bravery and being the master of her own fate: you have to read the story to find out the details.
    What is more:
    “Tamar is one of the four female ancestors of Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel. All four had irregularities in their marriages/sexual relationships. For more on this see The Ancestors of Jesus… ”

    It’s funny that those religious cranks leave her story out of their version of events in the Old Testament.

    Genesis 38:1-11

  8. Go, sister Maha! The beasties are even under rocks in yr comments section, but rock On! In gassho..

  9. His sin was his stinginess with his “seed”

    Gee, I always thought Onan’s sin was his recklessness with his seed. Didn’t the Lord reprimand him for leaving them all over the Negev?
    “And the Lord spoke unto Onan saying; Tis better to cast thy seeds into the belly of a whore than to cast them into the wind”.

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