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Why on earth do Catholics believe *that*???
and since I'm promoting lately, I may as well pose a question... 
5th-Mar-2007 09:23 pm
schneckerock
this came up in one of the recent catholicism discussions, but was never really addressed.

what forms of affection are allowed, and what not allowed, during the abstaining period of NFP? I'm thinking a lot of people have the idea that anything goes, as long as it isn't intercourse (that could get you pregnant), and doesn't involve something artificial...
Comments 
9th-Mar-2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
Well, I'll admit I've not actually read either version of Theology of the Body, but I still have a problem with this. The only acts that are conducive to procreation are those that involve genital contact. Intercourse isn't necessary per se, but there's a fine line between genital contact with and without intercourse.

Expecting people to abstain from any act that can't result in pregnancy is essentially boiling it down to "sex is only for procreation." And expecting people to abstain from all acts when abstaining from genital contact (just because they also do them along with genital contact at other times) is pretty much the same thing.
9th-Mar-2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
I've not read the theology of the body either, just the catechism on this topic. I'm going from memory here, so it may be a bit sketchy. I won't try to claim anything I say is directly quoted :P mostly, I just think it makes sense.

I'm not even sure we're talking about all the same "other acts", though. the whole point of NFP is that all sex acts *aren't* for procreation, otherwise complete abstinence at all times, rather than just fertile times, would be required for those wishing to avoid pregnancy. I see a big difference between a time when it's impossible for me to conceive (and therefore not God's will that I conceive through any marital relations which take place during that time) and the times when it is possible for me to conceive. during the latter, I have no problem with feeling I should either be open to life, or avoid anything that offers the same kind of pleasure as an act that could result in new life. engaging in other sexual acts while avoiding any act that could result in pregnancy would just seem, well, contraceptive. I won't say it's easy, but I can see it as a sacrifice to be made in exchange for avoiding pregnancy for whatever reason I have seen fit for the time.

now I'm getting all wordy again, and I still don't know if I've clarified what I mean, and whether we're talking about the same thing :/
9th-Mar-2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
I think we are, and your response here leads back to the original question: what, exactly, is okay during an abstinence period?

I'm going to apologize in advance for the bit of vulgarity below; I'm trying as hard as I can to keep it clean, but...

Here's an example. If my spouse and I engage in oral sex as well as vaginal intercourse during the infertile periods, does this really mean there's an expectation to avoid oral sex during the fertile periods, just because we do it along with vaginal intercourse sometimes but not this time?

This is what I consider impractical and, on a spiritual level, possibly detrimental to the unitive aspect of the relationship. With respect to the abstinence period and menstruation, that's nearly half of every cycle that's "off limits." While I have no issue with celibacy among single people, that's expecting an awful lot of a married couple. Surely God doesn't intend that couples do such damage to their unitive relationships, just because they're avoiding conception!

(Okay, yes, I know menstruation isn't technically off-limits, but let's be practical here...)
9th-Mar-2007 08:13 pm (UTC)
does this really mean there's an expectation to avoid oral sex during the fertile periods, just because we do it along with vaginal intercourse sometimes but not this time?

yes, actually. I've read about that (oral sex) specifically, not in the catechism but in a NFP taching manual (I babysat a family where the mom taught NFP classes and I picked up and read one of her supplies while she was out). I mean, it's sex during fertility, but without fear of pregnancy. basically, what contraception is.

I don't see it as a detriment to unity. NFP is something a couple prayerfully decides to do, for whatever reason. you weigh your reasons against your desire for unity at that precise moment, and decide which wins out. having sex every day or even every week isn't a requirement for marriage, but neither is practicing NFP at all. physical unity is important, but avoiding it is temporary. other unity is important, too, like praying about whether to abstain or accept a (possible) pregnancy, being on the same page with your spouse as to whichever you ultimately decide, and together making the necessary sacrifices.
9th-Mar-2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
I'm going to have to agree to disagree with the teaching manual, then.

To place oral sex between consenting spouses on the same level as contraception is, IMNSHO, completely misunderstanding the need for a unitive sexual aspect in a marriage, and I also personally find that concept offensive*. The fact that not all married couples have that need at the same level (or at all) doesn't mean that those who do are doing something "wrong."

God doesn't mean for us to deliberately self-flagellate via sexual frustration. We're not animals to let it rule us, but sexual feelings in and of themselves are neither disordered nor shameful.

Asking someone to accept such a high level of sexual frustration is essentially asking them to give up part of the marriage. In many marriages -- I'd even dare to say most -- physical expressions of love are an intrinsic part of the relationship. I don't see what's so terrible about that.

* This does not mean I am offended by you or this conversation.
9th-Mar-2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
can't make you agree ;) just stating what I've read, have always been to the understanding of, and incidentally, makes sense to me.

a lot of people would disagre that condoms distort unity in any way, either, but that doesn't make their use licit.

the fact is, need/desire/want/whatever aside, sex also makes babies. I don't think it's my place to try to come up with loopholes to this fact. and that's what I feel an oral sex exception would be..

though I also feel, personally, that that by iteslf would be, well, not very unitive. I tend to think "embrace" when I think unity, and other things are just foreplay or what not.
9th-Mar-2007 10:46 pm (UTC)
To place oral sex between consenting spouses on the same level as contraception is, IMNSHO, completely misunderstanding the need for a unitive sexual aspect in a marriage

I don't think it's that hard to see a link. Certainly you know that many people take advantage of oral sex's lack of conception powers.

What does the consent of the spouses have to do with it?

I think you're a little close to isolating the 'unitive aspect' in sex. If we're morally avoiding the procreative, I don't see right away that we can still demand the same level of unitive pleasure. Do you? As an informal rule of thumb, as it were, I would consider that any act that is intended to lead to an orgasm should probably be off-limits during the time that we're abstaining from sex. I don't see a reason to think that we're just abstaining from procreation itself, and not from the whole act of sex; so by extension, I would say we're abstaining from the 'other' side of sex, the "unitive" or the pleasurable. Remembering that these are only abstracted distinctions and don't (or shouldn't) really exist in a couple's sex life.

I partly base this on another idea I have, that any act that leads to an isolated orgasm of one person of a couple, and not the other, is not a good idea, at least as a continued habit. Engaging in, say, similarly-pleasurable acts like oral sex during the time we're morally avoiding sex itself seems like this same principle, multiplied by two. Do you agree with that or is this unfounded?
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