Today I was looking at an online ad for Walgreens, and noticed a section of it was for “Sexual Wellness.” It said, “Save on products to enhance intimacy and plan a family.” The products in this category are:
- Condoms & Contraceptives
- Lubricants & Moisturizers
- Vibrators & Adult Toys
- Mood Setters
- Sexual Wellness Supplements
- Intimate Care (douche, medications, tampons, waxing)
I am trying to figure out how one could use most of these items to “enhance intimacy” or “plan a family.” Of course lubrication is helpful for couples who need it, and treating a yeast infection could theoretically enhance sexual satisfaction or fertility. But the fact is, 95% of what is listed in this category is aimed at reducing sex to recreation, or reducing people to their parts. Where are the pregnancy and ovulation tests? Where are the…wait…I can’t really think of anything else a married couple might need to plan a family, except of course for the important stuff that you can’t buy.
If theoretically you could shop for stuff that would help you plan a family, this is what I’d hope to find stocked:
- A strong commitment to staying married, even when things really suck.
- An understanding that both your body and your spouse’s body were designed by God and are therefore holy. Sex is holy.
- A willingness to sacrifice for each other, both in terms of submission and patience.
- An openness to children, even if it’s not a good time. Couples using NFP will sometimes conceive when they were trying not to, and it’s important to remember that marriage and sex are all about children. Conceiving while using NFP to avoid conception isn’t a sign that it “didn’t work.” That would imply that the whole point of NFP is to perfectly control the timing of children. It’s not. The point of NFP is to cooperate with God’s will.
- A sense of humor. Because sometimes, especially when you’re pregnant, sex is very funny.
- A deep respect for your spouse as a person and not as a means to your end.
- Generosity in the bedroom. Let’s be honest…nobody healthy wants to be married to a prude. I know more than one Catholic couple who figure, “There’s no way we’re committing sins against chastity because we’re not going an inch beyond what an Anatomy & Physiology book says is required for conception.” I think there are a couple of sins wrapped up in this way of thought, one of which is a lack of trust in God. Should we really fear that God, despite having given married couples the go-ahead for sex, is actually waiting to throw ardent lovers into the cosmic bug zapper? Or should we trust that what He has made is good, and our job is to respect His role in creation, our role in procreation, and our spouse’s innate dignity?
Of course, one can’t buy any of these things, and in our culture, one can rarely hear about them. This is one reason why it’s important for Catholic (and other Christian) women to burn brightly for Christ, and their spouses. Noooooobody is attracted to the frumpy prairie type, and if we’re not attracting people, we’re distracting or dismaying them. When I dress nicely, people are more apt to look at me and accept me. If they accept me, they’re more likely to accept the validity of the things I might say. If I want to be a witness to the Gospel, that’s important.
Similarly, since we live in a culture that promotes fornication, adultery, contraception, abortion, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce, it is extremely important for Catholic couples to burn brightly with the love of Christ and the joy of Christian marriage. If we want to attract people who have been deadened to the true power of sex, we need to glow with the beauty of chastity and faithful love.
Sex is a magnetic thing and we can use that to our advantage in evangelizing. I know couples with large families who are a powerful witness to the young people around them, not just because they are open to life, but because they are deeply in love with each other and unashamed of it. I know that in my own life people have been attracted to me because of my chastity (real and attempted). In college, I was asked out frequently, despite living in a college culture where most people didn’t officially date. I had really gorgeous guys, deadbeat guys, normally-quite-shy guys, badass bachelors, etc. ask me out and continue to pursue me even after I used my “no sex before marriage” man-repellent. My husband was one of these guys.
Fierce actually broke up with me because he was so frustrated, but confessed that he loved me in the same conversation. Had we been sleeping together in college, I have no doubt we would not be married today. We needed a good long time to work out our differences, and having a sexual relationship would have put a lot of pressure on us to simply pretend we were already on the same page.
In short, the things we need in marriage are things that we develop before marriage. Anybody who wants to sell a product that promotes intimacy probably doesn’t understand what real intimacy is. Anybody who wants one to plan a family by buying some product doesn’t understand what families are for, where they come from, or who gets to plan them. Those of us who know better need to do better to communicate the truth better.