Spiders Don’t Eat Steak

Recently I’ve heard from a lot from people up in arms about ending the “stigma” of various things.

The latest “stigma” that activist millennials and oddly presumptuous older “intellectuals” want to end seems to be the “stigma of pornography.” The particular article I read is so bad I considered not providing the link as I respect my readers enough to not want to waste their time and worried half of them would read it ironically and mistakenly think the author was joking. Unfortunately, however, his opinions are fairly common and I’ve heard many of them before so I wanted to address it.

There are essentially 2 parts to the argument:

  1. The Church views sex in an unhealthy/repressive way.
  2. It is healthy and natural for men to want to have sex, and viewing pornographic material is a natural offshoot of that natural desire.

We are going to address the second part of the argument first because I am so exhausted of hearing this fallacy.

Spiders may or may not have the capacity to eat a steak, but regardless they never do and they never will because they are truly slaves to their natures. They spend their lives spinning webs, eating insects, and in some cases frightening humans, but they do not dream like a human does. They never stop and think that there is a whole host of options beyond insects to consume. They never dream about having a family or what career is the best fit for their personality. They are never tempted to give up spinning webs. They exist on a natural level of instinct and nature, never deviating from either. To claim that we are slaves to our desires like an animal is a false comparison because animals have no desire. Desire stems from will and animals do not have the capacity to choose or will for themselves anything beyond what their nature demands for survival. Therefore they are not able to be tempted because all temptation involves choice. In other words, not only will the spider never eat the steak, he will not even be tempted to eat the steak in the first place so there is no virtue in him never eating it at all.

What separates man from animals, and why it is not a sin to kill an animal like it is to kill a man, is twofold. First, that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Second, that man has free will. This means that man has a choice in what to eat, how to act, where to live, and in what to dream.

As usual, G.K. Chesterton says it best:

“Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.”

The freedom of choice is a term that is thrown around all the time and to promote the power of choice when supporting abortion while denying the existence of choice when one chooses to view pornography is a grave hypocrisy at best. It is weak to say that one simply has no choice in choosing to view pornography because his nature points him in the direction of wanting to have sex. This is hinged on the idea that only way a man will appease that temptation is if he gives into it in some capacity. That argument for sin is like the argument of the blackmailer who claims that the way to get beyond the problem is to pay once and get it over with. However, time and time again nature proves this line of thinking to be the opposite of what is true, when the payment to get it over with becomes prolonged and the blackmailed or the sinner gets drawn in deeper.

The reason people often don’t understand the Church’s teaching on temptation, sexual purity and a call to avoid pornography is because they often prefer to view nature as a singularly positive, organic, and “natural” thing. It adopts an overly simplistic view of nature, equating the complex human experience to a mere animal subsistence in order to diminish the significance of free will and choice. This is a problematic view to hold because reducing everything in our world to something explainable as part of a purely mechanical material reality ignores the spark of divine present in every human being. If man is a mere animal who is a slave to nature and lives in a purely natural world then how do we explain the most definitive characteristic of man, his thirst for the infinite?

Moreover, this limitation makes anything associated with nature (the “good”) seem inevitable while ignoring or refusing to explain the problem of evil, the choice and temptation to do things that are bad and that have the potential to harm oneself, others or one’s relationship with God. (In my mind to deny the existence of evil is like denying the existence of water, a bold and futile endeavor when the evidence of both can be found everywhere on earth.) In spite of what modern psychology would have you believe evil is inextricably linked to choice and free will as evidenced by the fact that evil remains a problem only among humans and not at all among animals who, as we established above, have no freedom of choice and can do nothing good or evil. 

Consequently, I reject the conclusion that porn is an inevitable desire that stems from a natural desire for sex because I do not view pornography as the result of a natural sexual desire. Instead, I view it as the result of a desire for pleasure, which would explain its prevalence in a society like ours dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure and the primacy of the self. Sex can be healthy and natural when it serves the purpose it was intended to serve, but that purpose is not mere pleasure (as many would have you believe). Pleasure strikes me as the root of pornography because the justifications that rise in defense of pornography are a rationalization of a behavior which I believe would not be necessary if there was no guilt associated with the act. For example, I can give you a lot of compelling reasons as to why I eat peanut butter m&ms but I have never once justified my choice to eat a zucchini because regardless of what I say I know in my soul which one is better for me and which one is truly natural.

If you’ve managed to agree with me thus far you might find yourself thinking okay so pornography might be rooted in pleasure which isn’t part of the natural order per say but which is part of the universal human experience and shouldn’t we have the right to seek pleasure at our pleasure? Does it really do any harm to eat peanut butter m&ms and/or view pornography? Are you really so Catholic that you regard eating peanut butter m&ms as a sin on par with pornography, as in one that could send you to HELL? Wouldn’t you really be better off “freeing” yourself from your oppressive religion which seeks to do nothing but ruin your pleasure and leave you wracked with guilt?

All of the above are excellent questions and kudos to you for your inquiring mind because asking good questions sets you on the path to wisdom.

However, since this blog post is already quite lengthy I am going to address all of those questions in my post next week.

Link will be posted here once the next article is published.





Shut up and take the pill

Hello all. I don’t know if you caught the article The Stigma of Abortion? but in that article I made you a promise, a promise that I would re-address the hot topic of women’s reproductive and contraceptive health care. Today is the day I make good on that promise, and I have to offer a special thank you to my amazing sister for sending me a wonderful article to underscore the necessity of writing about this misunderstood issue.

And instead of hitting you with statistics and insisting that you join me in my pro-chastity worldview (I’ll bet that just triggered some fun associations about really overdone camps with like overly peppy teens telling you condoms are bad, but hear me out. I never went to a camp like that and I have my own reasons for believing what I do) because it’s not as relevant to the major objective of today’s writing, which is this: I’m going to debunk the myth of the infallible doctor.

The myth of the infallible doctor is a tale we’ve all heard without hearing. From an early age we are subtly taught to give doctors our trust because of all the schooling it requires and all the fancy degrees they hang on their walls.

Now I have had some very good doctors in my day and I am greatly appreciative of them, but the thing that made them good was the fact that they do not subscribe to the myth of the infallible doctor.

The myth of the infallible doctor is a lie hinged on the idea that we know all there is to know in the field of medicine and treatment. Very few doctors would say they subscribe to this myth outright, but the real teller is in their treatment of you. If you have a doctor who subscribes to this myth, he will treat you as a one-size-fits-all patient.

What is a one-size-fits-all patient? Well, I am, for starters, and I am happy to share a bit of my story to illustrate my point better.

I was recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This condition is something of a hormone disorder that could potentially greatly affect my fertility/ability to have children. And gentleman, unlike most media outlets, I’m not going to insist that
because issues surrounding female health and birth control don’t affect you directly that you are incapable of having an opinion on them. I find that type of bias insulting and I would be insulted to be patronized by you in that way.

**But I will offer a disclaimer that I’m going to use words related to the female cycle in the coming paragraphs, so brace yourselves if you’re the shy type. **

Anyway,  around the age of 14 I went to the doctor about some hormone problems and they wanted to put me on birth control. Being naturally cautious of putting synthetic chemicals of any kind into my body (and thinking I was a bit young for that), doctors deferred to my wishes because the symptoms, while difficult to deal with sometimes, weren’t life threatening. When I was 18 the process repeated itself, but this time my cycle was proving so inconsistent that I was willing to try a low dose birth control. Because those were essentially the 2 options on the table, birth control or “just deal with it.”  Unfortunately, the low dose birth control made my symptoms even more erratic so I stopped using it with the doctor’s okay. bThey did a thyroid panel because of my family history, but they didn’t find anything and that was that. It was left unchecked until recently when a doctor wanted to put me on birth control yet again because based on what I told her it sounded like I might have something called PMDD (which is like PMS on steroids).  I told her (politely) that I would not start taking an extremely high dose birth control pill for an indefinite amount of time to treat something that it sounded like I might have based on my experiences in college. She and her colleagues, in essence, were comfortable leaving the root cause of these hormone issues for speculation and wanted to start treatment because it would most likely work and we could revisit the topic when I wanted to have kids. 

I don’t care if the “shut up and take your birth control” method is a convenient solution for women my age, a way to kill two birds with one stone in their eyes by treating my mysterious period symptoms and making me readily available for “consequence-free” sex. I have different priorities than most people my age to begin with, and I have no patience for people who offer band-aids while dismissing the root of the problem as something to be dealt with later. Because I’m not just some bubbly stereotypical 24-year-old who only cares about sex with hot guys, Pinterest desserts, and Cosmo magazine topics and who is willing to compromise her own health in the name of perpetuating the infallible doctor myth by taking the doctor’s advice unquestioningly and walking out the door with her prescription. I’m the type who strongly dislikes Cosmo, is neutral about Pinterest, and likes answers.

So, needless to say, I got a second opinion. I found a doctor recommended by a few friends who also prefer a more holistic approach to their health (but while still taking into account their safety- no Steve Job’s style deaths for us, thank you). This doctor was wonderful. She was the first doctor willing to go the distance with me. We used a Natural Family Planning method called charting (it is Catholic affiliated, so insult me if you want, and I admit it was a fun first visit because they were like “is your husband coming?” as it is usually a couples thing.) But once I explained my reasons they were happy to take me on and I was assigned a certified instructor to help me chart my cycle (many an awkward phone conversation, but she was always kind and professional) as well as an actual doctor who was a certified gynecologist. I learned so much about my actual health and body from those two women, so far beyond the “shut up and take the pill” attitude of mainstream medicine. It was like taking an actual class in addition to being treated, and I’ve retained what I learned there to this day.

Anyway, it was from this method we found out that I was not ovulating (as healthy women my age naturally do) and they believed that this could be the result of PCOS. We did bloodwork and an ultrasound (also an interesting experience sans husband) and the diagnosis was confirmed.

After all those years, that is what had been wrong the whole time, and nobody caught it. There might even be a corrective minor surgery I can have done to get my body doing what it should be doing naturally, so that I won’t have to take birth control indefinitely (and if I ever did need to take the pill as treatment to synthetically supply a chemical my body naturally doesn’t make enough of, I’ll be able to find one compatible to specifically treating PCOS.)

Sure that’s nice and all, but what does it have to do with the hot topic of women’s reproductive and contraceptive health care? I would argue it has everything to do with it. Because women’s health care is so easily reduced to shutting up and taking the pill and wearing pink while you go and get regular mammograms to check for breast cancer. And it is so much more than that. Women’s health care so easily falls prey to the infallible doctor myth because instead of finding the best solution they settle for the most convenient ones, like one-size-fits-all treatments and the pill. But the facts get lost in the heated political rhetoric, as they often do, and the debate gets shifted to who should pay and for what, forget about whether or not the treatment is even good or beneficial in the first place.

And what makes me sad is that so many women believe this myth and accept this lot for themselves as they rally around birth control as the end of the line, the most innovative and best thing for women because, while we can’t eat any synthetic chemicals in our food, we can easily ingest chemicals into our bodies through the birth control pill, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. It’s almost an expected right of passage until you want to have kids and it has become so first in line for treatment that equally beneficial, more holistic care such as the type I described is barely acknowledged, instead getting written off as inferior even though without it I would still have no diagnosis. And that strikes me as odd because I thought the whole goal of any women’s movement was for women to have options, so that women like me, who don’t even like taking Advil aren’t bullied into shutting up and taking the pill just because “that’s what other women do.” I confess it makes me wonder what the real goals of the women’s health care movement actually are; because if finally giving me a proper diagnosis, opening up a host of natural treatment options that will give me regular, healthier cycles (not laden with painful PMS for the first time in my young life),  and going a long way in saving my future fertility is not seen as a validation of the efforts of women’s reproductive healthcare rights then what exactly is the desired outcome of the services they provide?

I get tired of incomplete pictures, tired of the people limiting the function of the women’s healthcare system to simply enabling women to become sexualized objects who don’t get pregnant or mothers who do. I get tired of the silence, how doctors don’t want to be bothered with women whose bodies are giving them grief unless said women are trying to have kids and can’t. But what’s gets me the most is that women are expected to handle any issues related to the female body privately and quietly as if it’s something to be ashamed of, something we’re not supposed to talk about because the female body is a nuisance if it’s not providing pleasure or birthing a child. And we deserve better than that, we really do. 

And I’d like to thank my NFP doctors once again for not subscribing to the infallible doctor myth or treating me like a one-size-fits-all patient. Because not only have they made fantastic strides in restoring my health and given me a great network of doctors and friends to help me learn how to take care of myself (and giggle about charting with), they ended that silence and they listened to me.   

Are soulmates still a thing?

So I was hanging out with my single friends, I guess I could say we were hanging out because technically I’m single too, but they were on the prowl and I’m not (trust me there’s a huge difference) and they we’re talking about guys non-stop. I was mostly listening because with me not being on the prowl there was really not much I could add unless you count the fact that my kind-hearted, completely platonic male co-worker bought me a Panera chocolate chip cookie.

In short, my night was full of stories about crappy dating misadventures where they regaled me with tales of awkward encounters with the opposite sex.  It was entertaining as anything, don’t get me wrong, but I felt all adult-y because it was the first time I’d seen these old friends in a while and they are far more stereotypical twenty-somethings than I am (in that they go out on Friday nights and I like to be in bed by 11 because that is literally when I start to fall asleep.)

Yet with my premature adultness, I noticed a weird paradox about my friends as they were telling these stories that has bugged me ever since. And the paradox was this: they both really wanted to meet a nice guy and be in a good relationship while all the while dating these zeros/jerks/losers/whatever you want to call them. (I’ll go with non-gentleman.) Yet they still proceeded to man bash their dates like the more traditional feminists they are (calm down, I’m feminist too but of a different kind that I’ve already described in detail with Bad Feminism and Equality for All.)

But this cycle of the wanting and the compromising and the disappointment and the bashing really upset me, being the tenderhearted person I am, because I have the perfect solution to this problem, one that I wish more women would utilize. In fact, it even works for men too, just reverse the genders. The perfect solution to going on a date with a non-gentleman is this: don’t call him back, agree to go out with him again, or talk to him again ever beyond what polite conversation requires.

Every time I speak (or write I suppose) like that everyone tells me I’m oversimplifying things. Not at all. I think the truth is a very simple thing, it’s humans who make everything complicated. Because here’s the thing, all of my friends in attendance that night were very sweet, kind, and intelligent and I enjoy being their friend. They each have a desire to be loved, not even in a stupid Nicholas Sparks kind of way, but for who they are. Yet they, along with most of my fellow millennials, all seem to feel that they should compromise on this desire. Blame the media, blame the parenting, blame the scars of the divorce generation and lousy marriage statistics, blame the decline in religious morality, blame the skepticism that true love even exists, blame it on the millennials themselves for being self-centered, afraid/unable to commit, and having no clue what to do with their lives. However, the fact remains that many a person in my generation who reads Buzzfeed’s “Top 10 reasons why you should be in a relationship” or “Top 12 reasons why being single is the best” has become so overloaded with statistics and advice that something awful is happening, we’ve collectively made dating/relationships/marriage meaningless, just empty terms that can mean whatever you want them to mean.

Dating and relationships should be more than just a series of whatevers. And I would argue that relationships now are almost casual to a fault. Because the truth is if you meet someone who doesn’t even care enough about you to ask your last name before wanting to hook up with you, it is a clear signal that you are completely dispensable to that person, simply a means to their pleasure, because he or she is looking to use you for sex. You know that, the other person knows that, and if you proceed to hook up, you’ve made a terrible compromise. You settled for love’s cheap imitation, instead of taking the time to cultivate real and authentic love (which can be done even while you’re not dating as you learn to love and respect yourself). 

Justify it however you want to- say you enjoy sex or wanted to feel in control or didn’t want to be alone or you’re a slave to your passions and just had to have it. Maybe you don’t believe love exists anymore so why not? Maybe you didn’t feel like waiting. Maybe you didn’t want to take the risk. Maybe you’ve just plain been hurt before and wanted something “simple.” Maybe you believe the lie that sex is just pleasure and that it doesn’t mean anything or that it doesn’t count as being used if there were two consenting adults who each knew they were being used but wanted to do it anyway for any of the reasons I described above.

I point this out not to judge, but because in spite of those many reasons the truth still remains that you deserve better. I hope you know that. And I think my friends knew that deep down, because the point where they finished telling me their dating misadventures is precisely the point where the disappointment kicked in. That’s the place where the bitterness and the man-bashing began, where conversations of “there are just no good guys out there” and “screw this we don’t need them we’re just as tough, financially independent (etc)” started to happen.

It was an upsetting conversation for me to hear as their friend, but it ultimately brings us back around to my perfect solution, because by not dating or having any type of sexual encounter with a non-gentleman you spare yourself that entire cycle. I know the hookup roller coaster may seem fun at first, like you’re living a popular TV sitcom: the drama of being single and young and free and endearingly unlucky in love until one day that perfect person comes around the corner and changes everything (and that, kids, is how I met your father). And I hope for your sake that you’re right, but I’m more inclined to believe that that is a lie as fake as the sitcom set. Because the truth is when you waste your formative years dating the wrong kinds of people it is much more likely you will simply get sucked into the cycle I described and remain alone or much worse: in a bad relationship, instead of preparing to become the type of person who will be ready when the right person does come around the corner. 

And even though I am currently single (which always gets thrown in my face whenever I offer any sort of dating advice) the gentleman method, as I’m coining it from now on, has been extremely effective for me because even when the relationship didn’t work out with the gentleman, we usually remained friends and I could walk away with complete faith in the opposite gender and an appreciation for their complementary abilities. No bashing was necessary because the relationship was always based on a mutual respect for the dignity of the other, and that does not end once the romantic portion of the relationship is over. And unlike these disappointing hook-ups, this type of dating prepares me for future relationships, because they lead me not to a lifetime of casual and increasingly unsatisfying hookups, but to marriage. Maybe not everyone wants that to be the end result of their dating, but even people who are against monogamy or marriage usually want some form or imitation of it, someone to love them when they are not sexually attractive anymore (it’ll happen to all of us). But as for me, I think soulmates are still a thing, mostly because I refuse to believe I’m the only one who embarrassed myself by crying the first time I saw Disney/Pixar’s Up.

And also a little during the short film with the volcanoes…