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Further Reading

Department: Camouflage

Calendar Girls

Natural Family Planning & the Pursuit of Relational Happiness

by Terrell Clemmons

"Sex is about to get a lot less fun," said Jill Filipovic, senior political writer for Cosmopolitan.com and editor of Feministe blog.

And why might that be? you ask.

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 40

Well, explained Ms. Filipovic in a December 1, 2016 CNN.com opinion piece,1 that's because the newly elected president, Donald Trump, tapped an anti-abortion and anti-contraception congressman to serve as director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Did you know, ladies and gentlemen, that the fun in your sex life may hinge on the political leanings of the head of HHS?

For the benefit of the unenlightened masses in flyover America, Filipovic, a 20-something Seattle native who is also an attorney (specialty: gender politics) and the author of the forthcoming book The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness, goes on to explain how women of lesser means—that "single mother stretching every dollar to feed her children, or a first-generation college student taking out debt and paying her own tuition for a chance to claw into the middle class"—now stand at risk of "going under" in the event of an unintended pregnancy, the reason being, there simply is no room in their budgets for contraceptives, let alone a child in the event of pregnancy.

According to Ms. Filipovic, this is all because of those callous meanies in Washington, D.C. They don't care "about 'life' or 'religious freedom' or any other right-wing buzzwords." They just don't want us women "to enjoy the unique and fundamentally human pleasure that sex creates [or] to tend to our relationships without the interruption and emotional devastation [of] an unintended pregnancy." Contracepted sex "makes women, men and children happier. It makes our relationships and our marriages stronger. It makes us better mothers and fathers. This, too, is an enormous gain, and a moral, social and political good."

But without a government-guaranteed supply of contraceptives, all these goods stand at risk, and "partaking in [the] full range of human enjoyment and physical experience isn't for women." Alas,she pines, "the future of women's health looks grim." Queue up the violins and commence your lament.

A Rational Point of View

But don't lament over any hypothetical women at risk. Rather, leaving aside the fact that a senior political writer and attorney appears to be utterly ignorant as to how her own government works, let us all, especially those of us who are women, lament that such a mishmash of sophomoric pouting is allowed to stand for a woman's point of view regarding sex and relationships. And following that, let us offer women of better rational (and relational) means a better way of partaking in this human pleasure.

Enter Natural Family Planning (NFP). Gerard Migeon and his wife Anna came to it quite by accident. After learning of it nearly twenty years into their marriage, they ditched the old ways of contraception and never looked back. Gerard says he wishes someone had told him about NFP twenty years earlier, and so he and Anna founded Natural Womanhood, a nonprofit dedicated to women's health literacy and empowerment through fertility charting.

A Natural Alternative

Whereas hormonal contraceptives involve the introduction of artificial drugs to alter a woman's natural body chemistry (and come with a panoply of side effects, ranging from mood swings to cancer and life-threatening blood clots), NFP involves summoning the mind and will of both partners to take charge of their fertility.

Fertility charting is simply keeping track of the natural biomarkers of a woman's cycle and then planning sex accordingly. These signs tell a woman precisely when she's fertile, when she's about to ovulate, when she has ovulated, and when she's past the time of fertility, so that a couple can pursue or avoid pregnancy as they choose. An added bonus is that, with a woman's body operating according to its natural cycle, a variety of common health disorders, such as infertility, cysts, or recurrent miscarriages, can either be avoided or more accurately diagnosed and treated.

The four basic methods of tracking, from the simplest to the most involved, are:

• The Calendar (or Rhythm) Method, which tracks the monthly cycle in days to determine the beginning and end of fertility;

• The Basal Body Temperature Method (BBT), which tracks the pattern of daily waking temperature;

• The Ovulation Method (OM), which records patterns of cervical fluids; and

• The Sympto-Thermal Method (ST), which combines all three, and is the most reliable.

NaturalWomanhood.org gives an overview of how this all works, as well as providing informational videos and links to follow to find a training class in your area. For those who prefer to learn on their own, the Institute for Natural Family Planning at Marquette University's College of Nursing has published a 21-page User Manual that goes into more detail. And for the super-sophisticated, Clearblue makes a touch screen fertility monitor, similar to the blood glucose monitors used by diabetics, for tracking daily hormone levels. It sells over-the-counter for about $100.

A Man's Point of View

Migeon compares making the break with contraceptives to leaving an inner-city existence, "confined, polluted, and unsafe," for "a country setting—or mountains, or the beach . . . a safer, better place to breathe." And since, in his observation, most men are conditioned to expect women to be on contraceptives, he gives twelve reasons why men should choose this form of family planning. Eight of them (yes, eight!) have to do with closer relational bonding between a man and woman.

Reason #5, "You become partners in family planning," encapsulates a lot. Fertility charting requires communication (Reason #6), because the man must necessarily learn about his partner and her body's natural rhythms (Reasons #3 and #4). There will be no passive expectation of consequence-free sex.

"You deepen your love relationship," he continues in Reason #7,

because during the times you choose (key word here) not to have sex because both of you want to postpone pregnancy, you have an opportunity to show how much you love her: that it's not just about 'having her tonight.' You can be romantic and loving just for her sake. Just like when you were dating. Believe me, she will notice and remember.

As a woman, I totally concur. She will notice and remember, which also connects with Reason #8, "She will feel more respected." All of this can add up to "Better sex" (Reason #9) and a good chance that "You decrease your chance of divorce by a ton" (Reason #10).

A Self-Respecting Point of View

Jill Filipovic said strong relationships are a social, moral, and political good, and she's certainly right about that. It's highly ironic, then, that she seems to hold such a low view of sexual relationships. Notice that, in her paradigm, the male half of the couple bears no responsibility for the outcome of the coupling. Ensuring that no babies get made (or live to tell about it) is up to her. What kind of partnership is that?

And since this may be too great a burden for her to bear alone, the federal government must be drawn into the equation to help her. By contrast, Gerard Migeon's approach is downright chivalrous. And, properly followed, NFP has a 95–99.6 percent effectiveness rate—higher than most contraceptives. What's not to like?

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for a woman when it comes to NFP is the delicate matter of, Will he bear this burden of responsibility for me? . . . or even with me? Could the fear that he will not do so be a contributing factor to the demand for contraceptives?

I don't know, but ladies, whether you ditch contraceptives altogether or not, you would do well to ditch the paradigm that tells you contraceptives are a prerequisite for sex. Better yet, make his commitment and willingness to share responsibility the prerequisite. It'll probably make sex more fun, too, and you won't have to worry about the changes in D.C. •


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