Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Women, Sexual Pleasure, and Contraception

Posted by Tony Listi on August 27, 2012

Conservatives seem to be ignoring or dismissing the fundamental and apparently somewhat persuasive “pleasure argument” made by sexual egoists to women about sex and contraception.

The egoists tell women that vanity, independence from men, and sensual pleasure and self-indulgence are the sources of happiness rather than love, sexual joy, commitment, and lifelong marriage to a truly loving husband at their service. Therefore, they celebrate and worship contraception, which “empowers” women to get a lot more sex and a lot more physical sexual pleasure than ever before without the “burdens” of  men, marriage, and/or children. The egoists want women to have the same qualities as the worst kind of lustful men.

Conservatives often seem to assume that women don’t fall for this, assuming that women are less attracted to sexual self-indulgence than men. But many women, including many young liberal and libertarian women, have accepted that logic and those values. Increased pornography use among women is also indicative of this problem.

At the very extreme, some conservatives seem to forget that women can get just as much physical and emotional pleasure from sexual activity as men, if not more so.

The image of very lustful and vain women is indeed very repulsive to the conservative mind (as is lustful and prideful men), but it’s an image of reality in a great many women and needs to be recognized and confronted. (Though of course, it is more important to recognize and confront it in men, who typically initiate sexual behavior.)

So today, conservatives unfortunately have to re-establish the fundamentals, especially those about happiness. They have to argue the case that love brings real, lasting happiness and is better than use, than mere self-indulgence in vanity and pleasure. We should not assume that women today understand this truth better than men and embrace it more often and more strongly than men.

As a whole, women’s values and demands regarding sex have changed over time. Many women are not demanding marriage, commitment, and love anymore; they are satisfied with vanity, pleasure, and independence and reject commitment and responsibility.

If one wants to be harsh and cynical, one could say that women’s values (like men’s) haven’t changed at all,  that women (in their fallen nature) have always desired vanity, pleasure, and independence rather than commitment and responsibility, and that contraception has merely lowered the personal cost to women of pursuing those egoist values. Before contraception, the costs were just too high. A woman may have wanted to indulge in sexual pleasure and vanity (in or outside of marriage), but she knew the consequences were more children and the sacrifices necessary to care for them.

Contraception in itself, like all technology, is not the source of hedonistic, self-centered values. It merely allows people to act on pre-existing values or tendencies (good and bad) at a lower cost.
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7 Responses to “Women, Sexual Pleasure, and Contraception”

  1. fg said

    “egoists want women to have the same qualities as the worst kind of lustful men.” Spot on TL.

    Women (and Men) pre-contraceptives knew the consequences; said consequences tended to be viewed as blessings by the righteous mind, i.e. ordered in thought and deed toward God.

  2. I think you’re oversimplifying the problem.

    • Tony Listi said

      How so?

      • Answering that could be a blog post of its own.

      • Tony Listi said

        Well, a summation would be welcome. This blog post was not meant to be all-encompassing; it was meant to address one specific problem that conservative Catholics seem to ignore or be ignorant of when they try to explain and condemn contraception.

      • Point 1. Women do not experience the sexual urge the same way men do. You are right that its wrong to assume we’re less tempted to lust. You are wrong to conclude that women are learning to lust just as men do.

        2. The increased pornography usage by women says more about the industry finally learning how to market to women in a manner that will appeal to them. My understanding is that this is by offering more than just imagery. It would be like if men started buying more erotic fiction because the publishers inserted pornographic pictures along with the text.

        3. Women do not lust after anonymous sexual encounters with random men. They lust after being so sexually desirable/powerful, that the man falls to his knees, his personality changes and he no longer notices other women. As such, we tend toward behavior that tempts men to their own sexual sins, we get used and suffer from low self esteem because in our minds it can feel like we’re just not beautiful or attractive enough. The only drive to promiscuity for a woman is a low self esteem. At that point, at least we’re desirable enough for men to want us. God forbid we become so ugly that we don’t turn any man’s head.

        4. The desire for contraception is not the desire for more frequent sex. It is the desire to protect spontaneous sex. Then there is also the fact that pregnancy is very hard on our bodies, and that NFP contradicts what we’ve been taught about ourselves since we were little. It can sound like pseudo science. Many of the claims about NFP protecting marriages from divorce sound sensational and too good to be true.

        5. The condemnation of contraceptives often sounds like it is a condemnation of sexual pleasure — that its some evil that must be tolerated for the sake of continuing the specie. This is not what the Church teaches, and getting people to understand that is very difficult.

      • Tony Listi said

        Thanks for your comments and insights. I certainly agree with most of what you said.

        “You are wrong to conclude that women are learning to lust just as men do…. The only drive to promiscuity for a woman is a low self esteem.”

        Only?? How steeped in our decadent culture are you? You probably think I’m just being a man and projecting male struggles onto women, but have you observed very young (18-22 yrs old) feminists today as I have?? Feminism is not about low self-esteem! It’s about power, control, ego, self-indulgence, aggression, etc., i.e. very HIGH “self-esteem.” And these are struggles traditionally associated with men. Are you sure that you are not just projecting your own struggles (and those of your female friends) onto every other woman?
        The number of women who are learning to lust just as men do are almost certainly much fewer compared to the number of women who fall into lust from low self-esteem as you describe, I’ll grant you that (for the inroads of decadent culture can only burrow so deep into human nature). Not every woman is falling prey to what my blog post describes, but my blog post is meant to urge people like yourself to recognize the reality that feminism exists and is working on many women.

        “My understanding is that this is by offering more than just imagery. It would be like if men started buying more erotic fiction….”

        I’m sure this is true to a great extent. One need only look at the disgraceful 50 Shades of Grey series or all the crappy “romance” novels that many women devour and fill their heads with. But you know what? Even those crappy “romance” novels have bare-chested muscular Fabio-looking men on the covers. So there’s a visual element, even if it’s not the focus of the porn. Moreover, we all know well written words on a page can stimulate the visual imagination. The visual element certainly comes later or builds more gradually in the long process of sexual attraction and stimulation for many, if not most, women, but it does exist and can come to be just as powerful a force in women as in men, I think. What do you think?

        “Women do not lust after anonymous sexual encounters with random men”
        I’m sure this is true for almost all women. And my blog post didn’t say otherwise; my post didn’t deal with the factors of anonymity or randomness with regard to women’s sexual preferences.

        “They lust after being so sexually desirable/powerful”
        Women with low self-esteem merely want to be desirable; the feminist women that I’ve been referring to here and in my post want to be powerful, want to use their desirability as a powerful tool to indulge their vanity, ego, pleasures, etc. And using desirablity as an instrument of power is a characteristically male vice.

        “The desire for contraception is not the desire for more frequent sex. It is the desire to protect spontaneous sex. Then there is also the fact that pregnancy is very hard on our bodies….”
        I think you’re right that frequency is not the primary driver for most women and that the desire for control over the circumstances surrounding sex (i.e. spontaneity, their timetable) and the results of it (i.e. pregnancy) are; I got that wrong. But if women feel like they have no control, will not engage in sex without that control, and want to be sexually active, then they won’t have sex as often as they want.
        So the pleasure and convenience factors are definitely involved.

        “NFP contradicts what we’ve been taught about ourselves since we were little”
        I’m very curious to know what you are referring to here.

        “The condemnation of contraceptives often sounds like it is a condemnation of sexual pleasure — that its some evil that must be tolerated for the sake of continuing the specie. This is not what the Church teaches, and getting people to understand that is very difficult.”

        Totally agree. It’s not the pleasure in itself that’s wrong; it’s the context of that pleasure and its relation to the primary goods of love and the dignity of the person. Contraception places pleasure/convenience above love and the dignity of the person. But it’s hard for most Catholics to get others to understand what true love and the dignity of the person really are, especially without appealing to faith/religion. It can be done; most Catholics just don’t know how to do it, how to speak a language that non-Catholics can understand. The distinction between love vs. use/market transaction is absolutely crucial in explaining the true reality of love. The distinction between the human person/body vs. a consumer product is absolutely crucial in explaining the true reality of the dignity of the human person/body. These are the distinctions we need to speak about if we want to reach beyond our Catholic bubbles.

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