Natural Family Planning and the Dignity of Women

(Here’s an advanced look at my next Family Foundations column).

The dignity of women is under assault like never before.  Thanks to the internet, pornography is more accessible than ever.  Young women, especially, are buying wholesale into the porn culture.  It’s become so pervasive that, surprisingly, many secular publications have recently been complaining about the negative effect pornography has had on relationships from a man’s perspective.  Men are beginning to report feeling put-off, intimidated, or even turned off by the behavior of women who have been “socialized” by porn.  One recent article in the London Telegraph decried the “striptease culture” we are living in and advocated measures that could encourage young women to discover their dignity.    According to a recent Reuters report, 30% of young adults have sent nude pictures of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend .  In fact, some studies show that among those who engage in sexting, women are almost as likely to ask for a nude picture of their boyfriend as they are to send a nude picture of themselves.

 

NFP:  Challenging the Culture of Use

In light of all this, is there any more prophetic way to engage the culture than to promote Natural Family Planning?   At the beginning of the sexual revolution, women were told that the key to overcoming male oppression and gaining power in relationships was to “embrace their sexuality.”    The problem is that this phrase is deceptive.  The secular vision of embracing one’s sexuality is allowing oneself to be viewed and used as an object and the more one does this, the less power one really has. The more one embraces this attitude, the more used, lonely, and powerless one is likely to feel.

But NFP promotes a vision of sexuality that is worthy of embracing; a vision where the body is a gift; a vision that believes men and women are first and foremost sons and daughters of God; a vision that understands that sex is not merely recreation, but a re-creation of the promises a couple makes on their wedding day to spend their lifetime together creating and celebrating a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful.

As with most things worth doing, NFP isn’t easy.  It requires sacrifice and struggle.  It can be helpful, though, to remember what we are sacrificing and struggling for.  I would never want my wife to think that she was anything less than my partner, my best friend and my equal.  In my mind, those things are worth fighting for.  If NFP is a struggle, it is only because I must sometimes struggle against those fallen aspects of myself that want to make me treat her as something less than my partner, my best friend, my equal.  The challenge of NFP is a challenge worth taking up because it asks me to consider whether or not I am truly approaching my wife in love.

Likewise, for the woman, the challenge of NFP asks her to embrace her dignity.  Charting her signs helps her get in touch with how wonderfully she is made (Ps 139:14).  It helps redeem the dignity of her body in her mind.  It helps her assert her dignity to herself and to her husband by giving her the vocabulary she needs to articulate her physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual needs to her husband in a way that is virtually impossible without NFP.  It gives her a way of embracing her sexuality in a manner that doesn’t objectify her, but rather, sets her free to be loved as a person.

The most famous line from the Theology of the Body is that “the body, and it alone,  is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it.”   NFP promotes the dignity of women by empowering them to know and respect their body and see that body as a sign of who they are–persons deserving of love.

 

Dr. Greg Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to providing marriage, family, and individual counseling services by telephone to Catholics around the world.  He can be reached at www.CatholicCounselors.com or by calling 740-266-6461 to make an appointment.

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About Dr. Greg

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit www.CatholicCounselors.com.

  • Nathaniel Winer

    Please define human dignity in a way that isn’t a vague set of principles, but a set or rules or definitions that can be clearly be applied to different sets of behavior in a non question begging way.

  • swbarnes2

    You picked a hell of a week to argue that the Catholic church respects women. The whole world knows that if Beatriz in El Salvator dies, it will be in large part because the church insisted that her function as an incubator for a doomed fetus was more important than her life.

  • Sven2547

    The secular vision of embracing one’s sexuality is allowing oneself to be viewed and used as an object

    How did you come to this wildly untrue conclusion? Would you like it if I came in here and started lying about the Catholic vision of sexuality?

  • KarenJo12

    “Likewise, for the woman, the challenge of NFP asks her to embrace her dignity. Charting her signs helps her get in touch with how wonderfully she is made (Ps 139:14). It helps redeem the dignity of her body in her mind. It helps her assert her dignity to herself and to her husband by giving her the vocabulary she needs to articulate her physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual needs to her husband in a way that is virtually impossible without NFP. It gives her a way of embracing her sexuality in a manner that doesn’t objectify her, but rather, sets her free to be loved as a person.”

    Every sentence in that paragraph is an unsupported conclusion. You have not stated one single fact. To use one example “It helps redeem the dignity of her body in her mind.” How do you define ” the dignity of her body?” What facts about NFP redeem this? How does that contrast with artificial birth control? and please state facts about birth control in that discussion. What concrete and objective evidence do you have to support your assertion?

  • KarenJo12

    Please define “the dignity of a woman’s body?” State specific and object facts to support your conclusion

  • Bucky Inky

    Whew! It’s a good thing that, unlike the dignity of women, we have the dignity of men all figured out and that everyone recognizes and accepts it. If not, we’d really have some work to do!

  • Kristin D

    I’ve been involved in several conversations lately about how stark the difference is between the contraceptive culture and NFP. The secular culture is saturated with fear tactics and threats claiming we must “protect” ourselves and be “safe”. How different it is when we look at NFP. Here we are lifted up with a truly holistic vision of our selves. We are taught about ourselves, and helped to understand how we were made, not told we are broken if we are fertile and medicated to save us from ourselves. Thank you for all that you do Dr. Greg!

    • Pofarmer

      Kristin, I’ve used NFP. My wife and I have a recessive genetic condition called Hurlers syndrome, and have one child with Hurlers. We used NFP for a while after our 3rd child. I can tell you that it’s nerve wracking, inconvenient, and generally stressful. Especially when you are taking a 1 year old in for a bone marrow transplant, the best time might very well be unavailable. It is a nice concept, but, in the real world, it just isn’t the best option for an awful lot of people for an awful lot of very good, very personal reasons. Being fertile is not being “broken”. What’s being broken is not understanding that we, as humans, can make choices.


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