Dr. Susan Caldwell
Raising Our Standards: Men, Women and Sex
Widespread use of birth control was supposed to improve relationships between men and women by giving them more control over their fertility. Has it? Looking back at the past 50 years of history regarding marriage and relationships, I must conclude that we have believed a big lie. This may not be a popular opinion but what if it’s true?
Birth control has effectively disconnected the truth that sex and babies belong together. When this happens, sex is reduced to an activity that is ordered towards pleasure and selfishness rather than towards responsibility, love and life. The truth is, birth control is like a mirage in the desert that appears very attractive but in the end doesn’t deliver what it promises.
Before birth control, if a man was romantically interested in a woman and let her know that he was attracted to her, she could rightly assume that his intentions were noble. He was not just interested in casual sex but intended to make her his wife and he was ready to become the father of her children. The stakes (and our standards) were much higher before birth control. Today sex is usually expected very early in a relationship because the stakes are low. Birth control has lowered our standards for relationships, making sex cheap and easily available.
As a culture, by accepting the widespread use of birth control, we have allowed our general standards for relationships to hit an all time low. The question is, are we ready to raise those standards? If so, we will need to learn to say goodbye to birth control. We will need the courage to make tough choices and to believe that a better way is possible. We can do this! But it will take the efforts of men, women and medical professionals to join forces and raise the bar together.
Too often in my clinic, I meet teen girls whose parents put them on birth control “just in case”. Sadly, this appears to be the norm. Too often I meet young girls who believe that having sex in high school or college is expected behavior – by their parents and/or their peers. They have not been educated about the many risks of having sex before they are married and ready to parent a child. They are not taught about the proper ordering of our sexuality towards authentic life-giving love in marriage that will hopefully lead to the blessing of children. This is the order that leads to human flourishing, like an oasis in the desert. When we ignore this and try to figure out our own path to happiness (the mirage), this often leads to misery. Parents and teens (and doctors) may believe that teens/young adults are going to have sex anyway so we should be responsible and supply them with birth control so that at least they won’t get pregnant. I see many young women in my clinic who have traveled this path only to accumulate significant emotional and physical wounds from having no clear guidance regarding a healthy understanding of their sexuality.
Imagine what would happen if we had a similar attitude about teen driving and believed that teens had no ability to learn good driving habits so we just let them figure it out for themselves. In order for a teen to learn how to drive safely, they need proper education and time to develop good habits. In order to develop good habits on the road, they need to learn self-control and eventually self-mastery. It does take time and effort but this effort pays off when the young person becomes a confident, responsible driver. There are rules to follow while driving that must be obeyed so that everyone on the road gets to their destination alive and well. If we all get on the road and try to make up our own rules, we all suffer and will likely never make it to our destination.
Let’s be honest, look inside your mind and heart and ask – do you believe that self-control is possible in the area of sex? Or are we powerless and doomed to indulge our lust and selfishness? Which path leads to authentic happiness? Which path leads to broken hearts and broken families?
The only way we will raise our standards is by taking the time to understand our human nature and by discovering the path to virtue. It involves self-control that leads to self-mastery that leads eventually to authentic love, defined as willing the good of another through self-giving. This path to virtue is difficult and challenging but as Theodore Roosevelt said,