“The subject of sex preoccupies us. It's the source of our most intense pleasures. Often it's also the cause of misery, much of which arises from built-in conflicts between the evolved roles of women and men.”
Sex and sexuality are hot topics. Cheap trashy newspapers are full of it, rumour and gossip centre on it, lawmakers deliberate over where the limits of expression are, and sociologists try to get as much of it into their studies are possible wherever there is the slightest link to it in their research. The porn industry is the oldest enterprise known to mankind, and it fuelled (and largely paid for) the expansion of the Internet. Debates have raged about acceptable differences between partners in terms of age, race, height, education and social status. Some people are very much concerned with other's sexualities: only in the last few decades has homosexuality found itself with partial legal equality. Contests between religious interest groups and human rights groups are ranged across the battle lines of abortion, contraception, homosexuality, stem cell research and sex education (religious organisations being angrily opposed to all those things whereas human rights actors, scientists and medical industries being are in support of them all). These things all clearly get a lot of people very hot under the collar, and I haven't even yet mentioned masturbation, nudist colonies, female orgasms, fetishists, FGM, paedophilia or polygamy!
"Current research suggests that maintaining an active interest in sex and other aspects of life helps prevent the onset of senility and other problems in older individuals"2
The average man lasts a mere 4 minutes during penetrative sex3.
Shocking sexual fantasies can be surprising, but are normal. Sometimes people fantasize or daydream about sexual encounters that they would never actually act out. Thought crime is not a crime. They are only abnormal if they affect us or others in unwanted or harmful ways.4
"The more in love a woman is with a man, the more physically attractive she finds him (Price & others, 1974). And the more in love people are, the less attractive they find all others of the opposite sex (Johnson & Rusbult, 1989; Simpson & others, 1990)."
"Poor communication between sexual partners is one of the major factors contributing to an unsatisfying sexual relationship"7.
Because human sexuality is such an important part of our psychology and life drives, lots of people become gullible, desperately buying into cultural fads and commercial products that promise to aid sexual conquests. In "Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science" by Martin Gardner (1957)8 the author skeptically advises all that "methods for overcoming impotence have likewise been the object of considerable quasi-scientific investigation. An authority can be found for almost every folk belief about the sexually stimulating qualities of certain foods"9.
"A number of authors have begun to argue that masculinity is a burden as much as a source of reward. Much male sexuality, they add, is compulsive rather than satisfying" -- "Sociology" by Anthony Giddens (1997)10.
Human sexuality has been understood in widely different ways in history. It is only the current era that it is truly understand as a result of a mixture of genetics, upbringing and culture. In history, different portions of this have had prominence at different times. We have gone through periods of considering sexuality to be purely fixed by our genes - as being purely biological. The theory of evolution propelled our understanding forwards in leaps and bounds. Sigmund Freud ushered in an era where sexuality was mostly seen as a driving energy that we subconsciously channelled into various behaviours. Therefore, that most of the colourful variation in sexual practices in our species was the result of psychological processes12,13. Since then, evolutionary theory and genetics have worked hand in hand with social science to produce our current, much fuller, picture of sexuality: Our genes, upbringing and culture define our inner sexuality in about equal parts, but mostly, in ways that are beyond our own control; whereas our outward expressions of sexuality are mostly the result of upbringing, culture and personality.
In human history, the very concept of 'having' a 'sexuality' is modern, and is not universal across human cultures14. It results from the modern desire to catalogue and index human behaviours. There have been times and places where there was no sexuality: people had sexual encounters with other people, in different ways in different situations, and there simply was no worry about 'sexuality'. "The ways in which different cultures and different time periods have made sense of erotic pleasures and dangers vary widely", says the sociologist Veronique Mottier15.
Many cultures have come and gone without leaving clear records of their attitudes towards sexuality. We can see evidence of ancient practices, from brothels to sex toys, but we often have little idea of their opinions and concerns. The one famous exception is ancient Greece, where widespread literacy and a long record of social commentary have given us much insight into a culture where sexuality was understood in very different ways than in the Western world today. Everything was about social status, rather than about gender.
“... the classical world has been described as a world 'before sexuality' by historians such as Michel Foucault, Paul Veyne, David Halperin, or John Winkler. The ways in which sex was conceptualized and the cultural meanings that were attached to it were radically different from today. [...] For most Graeco-Romans, the idea of classifying people according to the gender of the person they have sex with would have seemed downright bizarre. [...]
Questions of sexual etiquette centred instead on penetration. Penetration symbolized male as well as social status, but it mattered little whether the penetrated was a woman or a boy. What did matter was who penetrated whom. Penetration was seen as active, submission to penetration as passive. It was considered unnatural and demeaning for a free-born man to desire to be penetrated, since that would reduce him to the socially inferior role of a woman or slave. 'Proper' objects of penetration were women, boys, foreigners, and slaves, all categories of people who did not enjoy the same political or social citizenship rights as the free Athenian male citizens. Social status was negotiated around the active/passive distinction, not on the basis of heterosexual/homosexual categorization, which only emerged much later in history. [...]
Attitudes on male-to-male sex were not homogeneous, however, and disputes on whether desire for young men or for women was superior abounded. Some argued that love for men was superior to that for women, since love between equals was preferable to that for inferior creatures. As the Erotes, an ancient Greek dialogue of uncertain authorship on the respective advantages of love for men and for women, puts it: Marriage is a remedy devised by the necessity of procreation, but male love alone must rule the heart of a philosopher. [...]
Given the importance of the penetrative role for male social and political status, relationships between adult men were a source of great anxiety, since one of the partners would have to adopt the submissive role. Relationships with boys solved this problem to some degree, since adolescent men achieved citizenship status only when reaching adult age. Classical culture had a sexual revulsion towards the idea of hair growing on a young man's cheeks or thighs. Boys were considered sexually desirable from the start of puberty until late adolescence, but stopped being so at the appearance of the beard and pubic hair. Athenians considered love affairs between adult and adolescent males as natural and honourable, on condition that sexual etiquette was respected. The term used to describe the sexual pursuit of adolescent males by adult males was 'paederastia'. In stark contrast to modern attitudes towards sex between teachers and students, paederastia was usually conceptualized as a pedagogic and erotic mentoring relationship between an adult male, the 'erastes' (lover), and a young, passive 'pais' (boy) called the 'eromenos'.”
It is hard to imagine such a society, being as it was, so different to our own. In modern Western society, sexuality is expressed between equals. Someone with authority and a duty of care (a teacher, for example) are judged to be grossly immoral if they engage with sexual activity with someone in their care. Likewise, we do not tolerate much of an age difference between partners. Nor do we even think that it is possible for people to move on from homosexual to heterosexual relationships based purely on changing social statuses! The main lesson that we should learn is that our current categorisation scheme for human sexualities is too simplistic. People don't have "a sexuality". Modern culture, in enforcing us to tie our self-identity to "a sexuality" is itself forming that sexuality. This is why, nowadays, we understand sexuality to be a mixture of genetics, upbringing and culture.
"Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity" by Bruce Bagemihl (1999)18
The best discussion of how the human set of two-genders evolved, and why the ratio between men and women is 50:50, is found in the groundbreaking "The Selfish Gene" by Prof. Richard Dawkins (1976)19. Many animal species share a common set of sexualities: heterosexuals, homosexuals and plenty of dysfunctionals, plus lots of situation-dependent behaviour. Monogamy, polygamy, polyandry and all those other social combinations of the basic sexualities are also present throughout the animal world (including Humanity of course). But although this may look like enough diversity, there is more, because all of these are variants of bi-gender behaviour alone. Throughout half of the history of life on Earth, living things reproduced asexually, through simple duplicative division, in a variety of ways. The ancient single-celled animal Tetrahymena thermophilia manages a total of seven different sexes20. Sexual diversity, like the rest of living complexity21, had to undergo a slow process of evolution, proceeding first through isogamy where there are no genders.
“Sex seems to have been invented around two billion years ago. Before then, new varieties of organisms could arise only from the accumulation of random mutations - the selection of changes, letter by letter, in the genetic instructions. Evolution must have been agonizingly slow. With the invention of sex, two organisms could exchange whole paragraphs, pages and books of their DNA code, producing new varieties ready for the sieve of selection.”
Even then, evolution did not simply jump straight to bi-gender heterosexuality of course. Sexual reproduction started out with cells that were no different to each other; there were no genders. The first sexuality in history was therefore isogamy, which we mentioned above. Isogamous species still exist today:
“In certain primitive organisms, for instance some funghi, maleness and femaleness do not occur, although sexual reproduction of a kind does. In the system known as isogamy the individuals are not distinguishable into two sexes. Anybody can mate with anybody else.”
All this should put human wranglings about the sanctity of the nuclear family, or arguments about what sexualities are 'normal' into perspective, because truly everything is natural in nature. We have to work out simply how to live in peace with the realities of sexual diversity in our own species.
A human foetus - like other animals, too - starts out with no particular gender. Although it (probably) has a set of chromosomes that determine genetic sex, the translation of these genes into physical reality is a complicated and tedious affair. 1.7% (more than one in a hundred) of us are intersexual24.
“Already in the eighth week of gestation the testes begin producing the steroid hormone testosterone, some of which gets converted into the closely related steroid dihydrotestosterone. These steroids (known as androgens) convert some all-purpose embryonic structures into the glans penis, penis shaft, and scrotum; the same structures would otherwise develop into the clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora. Embryos also start out bet-hedging with two sets of ducts, known as the Mullerian ducts and Wolffian ducts. In the absence of testes, the Wolffian ducts atrophy, while the Mullerian ducts grow into a female fetus's uterus, fallopian tubes, and interior vagina. With testes present, the opposite happens: androgens stimulate the Wolffian ducts to grow into a male fetus's seminal vesicles, vas deferens, and epididymis.”
There is much that can go wrong with these biochemical pathways, and much can be wrong with the genetic makeup itself, giving some people little chance of belonging simply to one gender or the other. Sometimes, boys and girls have odd combinations of the sex chromosomes; either gender can be born with extra X-chromosomes, some women have an extra Y24. All variations have effects on how our bodies are built and how our hormones behave. Prof Diamond continues:
“A long series of biochemical steps is required to produce all those other structures besides ovaries or testes. Each step involves the synthesis of one molecular ingredient, termed an enzyme, specified by one gene. Any enzyme can be defective or absent if its underlying gene is altered by mutation. [...] One type of pseudohermaphrodite looks like a normal woman [...] because 'her' breasts are well developed and 'her' legs are long and graceful. The problem isn't even likely to be recognized until the adolescent 'girl' consults a doctor over failure to begin menstruating. [...] The patient has no uterus, fallopian tubes, or upper vagina. Instead, the vagina ends blindly after two inches. Further examination reveals testes that secrete normal testosterone, are programmed by a normal Y chromosome, and are abnormal only for being buried in the groin or labia. In other words, the beautiful model is an otherwise normal male who happens to have a genetically determined biochemical block in his ability to respond to testosterone.”
Many other genetic abnormalities give rise to gender gray-areas at all levels, from genetic and phenotypical, to biochemical and hormonal. Some factors cause people to be prone to becoming criminal sexual predators; and the 'normal' range of human genders range from the stereotypically female to the stereotypically male with many steps in-between. All this arises as part of nature, and if you believe a God designed animalkind, then all these variations on the basic male-female gender spectrum that are found both in nature and in humankind, are all part of God's multicoloured plan.
Different religions have different attitudes towards sexuality, but in general, the major monotheistic religions have had very negative attitudes towards sexuality, leading to a statistically high number of psychosexual disorders as a result of suppression and abnormal teachings on sexuality. The scholar of comparative religion, Moojan Momen, attempts a comparison between the major world religions, opening with the forward statement that Christianity is the most negative:
“Of the major religions, Christianity is perhaps the most negative towards human sexuality. [...] there are several statements in the New Testament that advocate celibacy (with monogamous marriage being a second-best option) and condemn homosexuality. Such passages have formed the basis of the view of most Christian churches up to modern times.
[In Buddhism:] During the whole of [The Buddha's] ministry, however, he embraced a world-renouncing life which excluded sexual contact. The rules for the Buddhist monks reflect this example of the Buddha. Such rules are still applied in Theravada Buddhism, but married monks are found among Mahayana Buddhists. Of the major Indian traditions, however, it is Jainism that has the strictest attitude against any expression of sexuality among its monks and nuns. In Islam, the attitude to sexuality is, again, set by the example of the founder, Muhammed, who married some fourteen wives and had a number of children. There is thus a much more positive approach towards marriage, sexuality and family life. Monasticism is prohibited and the number of wives is limited to four. Homosexuality is again prohibited. The attitude to sexuality in Judaism is much the same as in Islam, except that polygamy was prohibited in the Middle Ages.
In modern times, the more liberal elements in Western Christianity have responded to social realities by relaxing the strict sexual morality that has characterized most traditional religion.”
Nearly all fundamentalist religious organisations reject human rights, and in particular, reject women's rights and are also hostile to homosexuality, transvestitism and any other sexuality that is not traditional patriarchialism. They "typically exclude women from the senior ranks of religious leadership. All or almost all express concern about control of female sexuality"28. But in history, all these things were not the preserve of extremists: they were the mainstream positions of mainstream Christian churches. There have been periods in history when there existed a determined repression of all overt sexuality. Such times were always the result of religious idealism dictating negative sexual morality and forming culture from the top down. Secular grassroots movements have tended to be relatively libertarian and accepting of the realities of sexuality. Although there are exceptions, in general religious expression has been the arch enemy of sexual expression. The psychological problems that such repression or oppression causes can be severe and sometimes even pandemic.
In "Abnormal Psychology29", the psychologists Davison & Neale write that "therapists with a psychoanalytic bent point out that in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the incidence of [some disorders] was apparently high in France and Austria, repressive sexual attitudes may have contributed to the increased prevalence of the disorder"30. Sexual dysfunction may be caused by religious orthodoxy31 and that "pedophiles and perpetrators of incest are often rigidly religious and moralistic"32. The philosopher and academic Friedrich Nietzsche points out that frequently, sexual repression is religiously motivated:
Suppression and distortion of sexual drives is a leading, and dangerous, cause of psychological dysfunctions. British Government statistics in 2006 on the prison population revealed "a strong tendency for prisoners who declare a religious faith to be serving time for sexual offences"34. Irrational and superstitious beliefs concerning sexuality are two leading causes of socially destructive behaviour, in particular when it comes to the rejection of human rights.
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Child abuse and paedophilia has been a particular problem for Christian institutions. Christian clergy have been under much scrutiny over the last two decades after a long series of immoral scandals involving child abuse. The cases have been shocking, wild, numerous, public, and they keep coming. It seems that the Church's teachings on sexuality lead to a development of sexual dysfunction amongst its priests. Christian Churches, the biggest example being the Catholic Church, have fought to conceal paedophile priests and move them from place to place when allegations arise. They have tried to deal with paedophilia by sending priests on sick leave or to rehabilitation centres ran by other Christians, but, it appears that Christian hierarchies are the last places you should trust when it comes to dealing with sexual abnormality. The scale of the scandals has led to various Churches declaring themselves bankrupt as they attempt to pay some of the court costs and settlement fees demanded of them. No other industry - even those closely associated with children such as boarding schools - has a rate of abuse anywhere near the rate found amongst Christian clergy. Counting is difficult, but, around 3% of all priests appear to be prone to recurring sexual indecency with children. Catholic Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi represented the Vatican before the United Nations Human Rights Council, and stated that Jews and Protestants have worse rates of child abuse, but still admitted that in the last 50 years "somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases". Police have called for routine checks of all priests, and a growing distrust of Christian religious professionals is finally beginning to become apparent amongst the general public.
The details of sexual abuse of children by professional Christians is harrowing reading. Sometimes, it is the sheer scale of abuses which hurts the poor reader. Other times, it is the specific comments made by the abusers, or the little lines of defence given on their behalf by their church superiors. If you can stomach it, read Organized Coverups of Sexual Child Abuse by Priests, Clergy and Christian Institutions.
Conservatives say that porn is unhealthy, damaging and causes crime, rape and misogyny. Liberals say that unnatural suppression of natural desires causes all those things. Feminists pour scorn strongly on the sexual objectification of women that occurs in porn and say the result is misogyny and deep sexual confusion of males and females. Clearly caution must be taken when evaluating such views, as the porn industry is large and old, and if such negative effects really were apparent, questions must be asked as to why society is not as broken as these ideas predict.
Soft porn is photography or imagery of semi-naked or fully naked skinny women who are there to be looked at and admired in a wholeheartedly shallow fashion, but who are otherwise striking natural poses, and not purely sexual poses. In the media, soft porn has become much more prevalent. Young men's magazines have proliferated in Britain, so much so that teenagers of all ages prize the latest easily-obtainable soft-porn magazines such as Zoo, the latest hot-seller that features naked and near-naked amateur models and professional models on every page combined with a complete sexual objectification of all women. Amidst the ubiquitous photoshopping and image editing, there is very little of the genuine woman left in the photos, worrying some that it leads entire generations of young boys into false expectations of what to expect of femalekind.
“The once-concealed symbols and attitudes of hardcore porn are now flooding mainstream culture. While the internet and mobile-phone services were pivotal in offering easy access, sex-trade terminology is standard even on primetime TV (Pimp my Ride, Wife Swap, Faking It), pop videos show rappers groping near-naked girls, and even shampoo ads address the product's orgasmic potential. All this is voraciously consumed by boys, and girls, who have only just graduated from the Beano. [...] My 12-year-old [...] like almost every other kid in his class, [watches] TV, he likes rap and when a mate sneaks a copy of Nuts into school he is ordinary enough to want a look. Consequently, they are all heading to an adulthood of deeply confused - and, potentially, deeply misogynistic - attitudes to women.”
Flic Everett (2005)
The year 2006 has seen a backlash against the increasingly explicit soft-porn magazine and trash newspaper industry. The Salvation Army has stopped stocking The Sun and various lads' mags (citing their religious principles)35, and the National Union of Students has make moves towards banning/obscuring them (based on their being demeaning to women), the same way as some supermarkets now do (for the same reasons). MPs have called "for them to be consigned to the top shelf", including magazines such as Zoo and Nuts. "MP Claire Curtis-Thomas introduced a bill to the House of Commons in July calling for magazines such as Nuts, Zoo, FHM and Arena, along with publications such as the Daily Sport, to be consigned to the top shelf".36
Television promotes an anti-human attitude and sexuality in Western culture. We have developed into a society where mass marketed media causes us to be biased towards overly thin women. This is bad for the self esteem of all normal sized girls, and causes an obsession with an appearance that is basically unhealthy and unnatural. The fitness and health of our bodies affects our mental health too. It does harm to our society. People yearn (for social reasons) for a body type that is unhealthy.
“Throughout history, the standards society has set for the ideal body have varied greatly (especially those pertaining to the ideal female body). [...] In Renoir's time, beautiful women were overweight by today's standards. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, the feminine ideal was considerably heavier than it became in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. [... A] large percentage of young women [...] although of normal weight, perceive themselves as fat. [...] As society's negative attitude about fat became stronger, the prevalence of eating disorders increased.”
The sexual objectification of women leads to young adults judging women almost purely by physical, shallow standards. Women are come to be seen as bodies, sexual bodies, not personalities or people with achievements, desires, feelings like they think of fellow males. A continual social talk of women purely as sex objects reinforces an abusive mentality towards women. The process is slow, and give the intense peer pressure, sometimes all-encompassing and the only education a male gets about women arises from the soft porn industries! This leads to young adults who are deeply confused and incapable sexual partners, with their aims and desire completely skewed from what they should realistically be looking for in a relationship.
Males end up needing to unlearn the behaviours they learned as a child in order to even start the journey towards being a satisfying partner; it delays sexual maturity and relationship maturity and some men never really grow out of the misguided habits and opinions taught to them whilst young. The ethos of much of the soft porn industry is a social travesty causing potentially long-lasting psychological damage. Even if the images themselves are harmless, the culture surrounding them is not.
Women, too, suffer as a result of the objectification of women in the mass media.
“Girls at school bear no resemblance to these full-bodied, wet-lipped, Photoshopped images. But a recent survey discovered that the profession of choice for teenage girls is glamour model. In their short lives, they have learned that the greatest female achievement lies in allowing men to judge their breasts [...] while they writhe round a pole. [...] The old argument that no one's being exploited - we're all adults - no longer works, chiefly because we're not all adults. Most consumers of pop culture are children.”
Flic Everett (2005)38
The body-image of a female, important to female psychology, is damaged and harmed by the prevalence of soft porn in popular culture. Where cultural options do provide more holistic and sensible depictions of women in film and elsewhere, these are rarely the forms chosen by the young who become addicted to the simpler and more shallow women that the soft porn industry supplies us with.
“Attraction is not all hard-wired. What's attractive to you also depends on your comparison standards. [...] To men who have recently been gazing at centerfolds, average women - or even their own wives - seem less attractive (Kenrick & others, 1989). Viewing pornographic films simulating passionate sex similarly decreases satisfaction with one's own partner (Zillmann, 1989). Being sexually aroused may temporarily make a person of the other sex seem more attractive. But the lingering effect of exposure to perfect "10s,", or of unrealistic sexual depictions, is to make one's own partner seem less appealing - more like a "6" than a "8." It works the same way with our self-perceptions. After viewing a superattractive person of the same sex, people feel less attractive than after viewing a homely person (Brown & others, 1992; Thornton & Moore, 1993).”
It isn't appropriate or healthy to try and eradicate porn; nor is it appropriate to allow teenagers to immerse themselves in it before they learn how to treat people in a more complex way. Boys need to learn to treat women as they are, not as soft-porn potential, and girls need to know that the models they see lusted after are only shallow, semi-unacceptable caricatures of what it means to be a woman. The liberalisation of the soft porn ethos has gone too far, so that a mass re-education of boys and girls is required. Trash culture has infringed too far upon mainstream culture to the point that the mainstream is no longer sensible, or balanced, and a redress needs to be found.
Despite the superstitions spread by religious groups, masturbation is clearly natural, normal, completely safe and beautiful. It is a required release which Human beings find comforting and necessary for their emotional well-being. Masturbation teaches us about our bodies and how we can feel pleasure. Lack of masturbation in women may cause an inability to orgasm40. Nearly all people masturbate, whether they are in a steady sexual relationship or not. Also, it is common throughout most species wherever it is physiologically possible. It is natural and normal across all of nature. It also confers health benefits and prevents certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer in males41,42. The New Scientist (2004) reported that "a large study by the National Cancer Institute in the US has found that frequent ejaculation - either through sexual intercourse, masturbation or nocturnal emissions - protects men against prostate cancer, backing the result of an Australian study reported by New Scientist last year (19 July)"41. Also, abstinence from sex for more than three days harms semen, as revealed by analysis of fertility treatment sperm donation centres43. There is clearly a health benefit to male masturbation, for both productive health and continued normal physical health. It is a relaxant, provides pain relief (especially for women at certain times of the month, from headaches, stomach ache, vague lower back pain), allows you to learn about your own body, teaches you to be better at sex and control, it is free, safe and personal.
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Homosexuality is thoroughly natural. It occurs in a massive range of animal species, including humans, so appears to be part of the genetic makeup of life in general. The colourful and varied ways that wild animal species find to express intentional same-sex sexuality with other is surprising and sometimes ingenious, like the male dolphins who penetrate each other's blowholes. Biological causes of homosexuality have been found in Human beings. All this points to the fact that homosexuality is a part of the design of nature. If nature was designed by God, then watching Bonobo Apes for a while is convincing proof that God certainly does not mind gay sex! But explicit homosexuality in most cultures has faced a prolonged period of general dislike, outright oppression, arbitrary criminality and mass-misunderstandings. Dishearteningly, even the World Health Organization categorized homosexuality as a mental illness until 199244. Homosexuals still are, persecuted by religious bodies throughout the world (who are by far the greatest and most bitter enemies of LGBT tolerance). They are discriminated against by Christian and Muslim organisations in Western countries, and imprisoned and criminalized in others. Thankfully modern religions such as Paganism and the New Age are accepting, as is the rest of society in general.
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Few people doubt the severity of the problem that overpopulation presents for this planet. Its consequences are poverty, famine, disease and death, sometimes on very large scales. Minor problems include overcrowding, strained infrastructure and social instability. By facilitating contraception and women's medical services we enable family planning. "Allowing women to plan their pregnancies also leads to healthier outcomes for children. A recent study showed that if all births were spaced at least two years apart, the number of deaths among children younger than five would decline by 13%. The number would decline by 25% if there were a three-year gap between births"45. Making birth control accessible to all is a moral requirement for anyone who has the power to help. It is inconsistent, for example, to say that contraception and abortion is "murder" whilst ignoring the fact that poverty and overpopulation are far bigger killers.
Aside from population control, "the health benefits of contraceptive use are substantial. Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth"45. The numbers of abortions that are prevented by contraception is staggering. A Guttmacher Institute report on the developing world predicts that "in 2012, use of modern contraceptives in the developing world will prevent 218 million unintended pregnancies, which, in turn, will avert 55 million unplanned births, 138 million abortions (40 million of them unsafe), 25 million miscarriages and 118,000 maternal deaths. It will also prevent an estimated 1.1 million neonatal deaths (those within 28 days of birth) and 700,000 postneonatal infant deaths (those from 28 days to one year of age)"45. Condoms help prevent the spread of disease - their effect is strong enough that long-term use by a community can gradually eradicate strains of sexually transmitted diseases from the community. Venereal disease causes unimaginable suffering and can affect the purely innocent. Babies are frequently infected with the diseases of the parents; in this way, the prevention of disease with contraception is vital because once women in a local area are infected with a disease, children will also be directly infected. In the case of incurable diseases, such an event can lead to unsurmountable suffering. Such a terrible state of affairs is prevented by the correct use of contraceptives such as condoms. The number of women with unmet needs for contraception in the developing world is still increasing - between 2008 and 2012 the figure rose from 153 million to 162 million45. Those 69 countries are the ones that are least able to support growing populations.
“Some of the religious traditions have presented recurring obstacles to open discussion of certain kinds of birth control at UN population conferences. These religious groups are associated largely with Islam, Roman Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity.”
"Religion and Ecology"
Mary Evelyn Tucker (2011)46
Religious opposition to abortion, birth control and contraception: Despite the practical necessity of birth control, the benefits of disease prevention, the moral responsibility we have towards the future of our children and the responsibility we have with regards to the stewardship of our planet, many religions have opposed birth control for various superstitious reasons. On the other side of the fence, it is worth knowing that all of the pioneers of contraception were freethinkers47,48 (that is, people who are opposed to the influence of organized religion on people´s opinions and beliefs). Why have religions determined to prevent family planning? The answer is in a kind of survival of the fittest amongst religions themselves. As most religious people simply abide by the religion of their parents49, religions that encourage parents to have more children will attain a stronger and longer-lasting base of adherents. Barber (2011) notes that religions promote fertility by encouraging marriage at a much earlier age than amongst the non-religious50.
Bearing this out is Catholicism, which has an infamously strict suite of dogmas that forbid all kinds of birth control. The Roman Catholic Church is the most notable, powerful and active organisation that lobbies against birth-control wherever it can, internationally. Thankfully Most Catholics routinely ignore the Church on this issue, especially in educated and developed countries, but there are still plenty of fast-growing countries where the Catholic Church is still prospering the old-fashioned way. It took the government of the Philippines 13 years to force through legislation to allow government-funded contraception and for sex education in schools because of the strength of the opposition of the Catholic Church there - in a country where 11 women die of pregnancy-related problems every day. The Catholic Church "ferociously" opposed it, warning of moral and social collapse, the destruction of family life, and divine wrath, if it was passed. The bill is considered "a major step toward reducing maternal deaths and promoting family planning in the impoverished country, which has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations. [...] The United Nations said early this year that the bill would help reduce an alarming number of pregnancy-related deaths, prevent life-threatening abortions and slow the spread of AIDS"51.
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