on contraception

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

14 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    Isn’t choosing celibacy (as priests do) a similar case of an exercise of power vis a vis breeding?

    That was my first reaction as well. I suspect that the standard defense of Lewis’ point would be that marital intercourse is the natural state of things, with which contraception interferes, and that we should interpret his views on contraception as referring to its use in marriage.Report

  2. Dan Summers says:

    I love Lewis, but I think this is pretty nutty. Future generations do not “exist” in any meaningful sense. They have, if you will, no standing to claim the “right” to exist. Either they will exist, or they will not. They are not “men” in the same way that actual, living, deciding people are, and I disagree with the equivalence.Report

  3. Tony Sifert says:

    “Maybe I’m simply not theologically savvy enough to understand the Catholic arguments against fully.”

    I don’t think it’s a question of whether you’re savvy–it’s more what you’re capable of doing with the word “power.” Celibacy and contraception don’t seem to have much to do with each other. In terms of power, it might be better to attack chastity and natural family planning as effectively contraceptive rather than clerical celibacy.

    But you have to understand–and this is in response to Dan Summers as well–that Catholicism, especially, does believe that future generations have a kind of existence and that this existence is very much at issue in the sexual act (to assume that this detracts from the “physical” is to assume the poverty of the human imagination) . Even nonCatholics have such existence in view–for example, secular progressives generally have future generations in view when they espouse certain policies. You also don’t have to read too far into Bacevich’s Limits of Power to understand a different kind of generational power-relationship. Neither view is really equivalence.

    Is an analysis of history and generation based on contraceptive behavior objectionable because it seems more metaphysical than other kinds of analyses? It seems to me that it is, in fact, less metaphysical, less prone to equivalence.Report

  4. E.D. Kain says:

    Good points, Tony. And I do understand this – I understand the need to be stewards of the earth and civilization for our future generations. But I suppose what I don’t see is that – say my wife and I plan on having three kids. We go about this by either using contraception or by “being careful” or however you want to look at it. We end up having three kids. (well, we don’t, we have only one now, but you get the drift…) How have we effected a future generation. If one way or another we planned only on having three kids; we never have an abortion; what is it about contraception that has changed the scenario in any meaningful way?

    That being said, I still don’t particularly like medical contraception (pills, IUD’s, etc.). It has side-effects that seem unnatural.Report

    • Tony Sifert in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      “How have we effected a future generation? . . . what is it about contraception that has changed the scenario in any meaningful way?”

      I can’t really answer either question, partly because it depends upon what is acceptable as “meaningful,” but maybe more because it seems incapable of prosaic articulation (to the question, “how have we affected a future generation,” I would want to say, with Frost, “elves . . . but it isn’t elves exactly”). It certainly has a lot to do with what you recognize as the problematic conflict of contraceptive pills with that which is “natural” (which also has an effect on the natural body politic–the “contraceptive mentality”). That recognition is part of the care with which you attempt to live in the world, but it is also, for some, a kind of stepping-stone toward a (possible) full meaning of sex and procreation (which, as Mike points out, includes the Catholic prohibition of the “spilling of seed”).Report

      • Krauthammer in reply to Tony Sifert says:

        I’m all for considering future generations, but couldn’t it be said that contraception is actually a benefit for them against the evils of overpopulation?Report

        • If we’re considering future generations in the way I mean here, then no. At least, the “them” you refer to is only a subset of “future generations.”

          Of course, it can “be said.” But saying it has nothing to do with the recognition that there is something fundamentally wrong with contraception. If the issue is interpreted as a matter of necessity, it is only because “we” are, as a public, willing to accept certain kinds of destruction of what it means to be human. But that’s just another way of making present the fool’s bargain with history that the “Americanist heresy” has already made.Report

  5. E.D. I may misunderstand your question, so if so, please ignore my reply…

    Theologically speaking Catholics believe it is a sin to ‘waste one’s seed’ in a sex act that does not at least have the possibility of pregnancy. Some take that rule very seriosuly. When I was growing up my church had at least 10 families with 8 or more kids.Report

    • I get that. I guess. I’m from a Catholic family. My mom’s parents had eight kids. I have tons and tons of cousins because of this. But I suppose, in the end, I have to weigh out other sins – like abortion – which I do think are limited by the availability and use of contraception.Report

      • I tend to think it depends on your idea of how God is. If he’s big on willpower, then he will say we should exercise control. If he understands that he made sex groovy and fun and pretty hard to say no too, then I think he would be okay with condoms or the pill.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    This is one of those cases where the past is another country.

    We read Lewis’s paragraph from a world where sex has been divorced from reproduction for our entire lives.

    Keep in mind that, as he was writing that, he was writing it from a position where sex meant that pregnancy followed and the idea that one could, with 99.5% efficiency, prevent pregnancy was one that had yet to have its unintended consequences even scratched.Report