Saturday, July 14, 2012

1Flesh: 1Fail

Are you not satisfied with the wildly inappropriate level of interference by the Catholic Bishops in this year's debate over insurance coverage of birth control? Do you wish there were a slick marketing campaign and social media presence which could spread lies about modern contraceptive methods so that those women who won't have coverage anyway won't feel bad about experiencing structural inequality at the hands of a Church that claims to care for women?

You are in fucking luck!, a project of Marc Barnes, an eighteen year old blogger for Patheos and a group of other "college-age kids," is focused on making not using birth control seem hip. With a library of cool graphics that contain total lies about contraception, the site proposes a "better way" than birth control that they call a "revolution against contraception in marriage" [because you're waiting until marriage to need contraception, obvs]: the Creighton Model.

The Creighton Model was developed by a Catholic physician at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, which terrifyingly, really exists. The method is described as not a contraceptive method, because contraception is not okay for Catholics. It is a method of "true family planning." The Creighton website differentiates between "periodic abstinence," which those other natural family planning methods rely on, and "selective intercourse," which means that couples "actively choose" to have sex.'s probably better if you read it for yourself. Using Creighton, a couple is:
selecting, in a responsible way, the very best time to have intercourse. Perhaps even more importantly, they are mutually selecting that time. Thus, spontaneous intercourse involves the submission to emotional impulses while selective intercourse submits itself to choices evaluated and implemented through the incorporation of the intellect, the will and the values that the couple shares.

All italics in the original. The Pope Paul VI Institute also designed something called NaPro Technology, which seems to be a "medicine" based on...not doing anything about women's health problems that are usually treated using hormones. Curiously, 1Flesh also promotes NaPro Technology even though it's not really related to "bringing sexy back" to Catholic marriages.

Whether or not natural family planning is effective or a valid choice isn't relevant--for the record, I'm in favor of people having non-hormonal choices and I've written positively about CycleBeads on this blog for years. I wish more people who had bad experiences using hormonal methods--because I talk to women like this all the time--had other choices that physicians understood. But trying to trick people into thinking that birth control causes breast cancer, kills fish, that condoms ruin sex, and that semen cures depression and infertility (!) is fucked up.

Reading scholarly articles: ur doin it rong. 

Claiming that the pill causes cancer and that sex should be saved for marriage isn't new for Catholic anti-abortion groups, obviously, but this site is conspicuously lacking any mention of abortion. One of the graphics says, "We are the 37%," referring to a 2010 study that found that 64% of married women didn't have an orgasm at their last sexual encounter. For one, learn math. For two, sdfkasd;lfkhads;lkj!

The difference between Creighton, Billings, and Sympto-Thermal as taught by the Catholic church in mandatory pre-marital classes and, say, CycleBeads, is that those methods prohibit the use of other forms of contraception during fertile times and don't acknowledge that humans are pretty bad at not having sex when they are fertile. We didn't get to 6 billion people for nothing. CycleBeads explicitly makes clear that, if you want to have sex during fertile days, another form of contraception must be used in order to prevent pregnancy.  It may seem like a small point and like it would be super obvious, but if I've learned anything doing sex education in Texas it's that I can't take for granted that women who have been taught from birth that sex is bad and knowing about sex is worse actually understand things like the menstrual cycle. They don't.

Look, I get it. Bedsider makes birth control seem so *cool* and you guys wanted to have your own website. You don't want to feel excluded just because you're waiting til marriage for sex. You want to be considered "rebellious." But guess what: no one cares that you're waiting for marriage. Wait all you want! Use whatever natural family planning method you like. I'm sure my grandmother, who goes to mass every day and had eleven children, would be happy to tell you which one worked for her. But to claim that condoms ruin sex and that birth control causes cancer--well, now you're in my house.


Conspiracy Theory Corner: I just heard about NaPro Technology a few weeks ago from a nurse friend who had a patient that was seeing a doctor who "uses" NaPro here in Austin. I had never heard of it, nor had I heard of the Creighton Method. For someone who isn't Catholic I think I'm pretty well versed in natural family planning methods so I am surprised that all of a sudden this slick web campaign has emerged to promote a method that no one teaches outside of pre-marital classes at Catholic churches.

I can't find any indication on the 1flesh website that they are funded by the church or the Pope Paul VI Institute, but I believe that they are. The website design is credited to a Matt Sich who works for a company called Petros Media, which bills itself as "Rock Solid Communication for the 3rd Millenium Evangelization" and whose portfolio is all church-based apps and other projects. Their Facebook page has this status update: "Our latest project is almost out. Married couples wanting to start a family could get a lot of use out of it." A Creighton Method iPhone app, perhaps? Will keep you posted.


  1. Keep women pregnant and out of the clergy! O_o

  2. I find the prohibition on contraception not compatible with the belief in an omnipotent god. In particular, in the context of Christianity, I think what are acknowledged as some of god's greatest hits include making people without benefit of sex--not even just Jesus, but also Adam and Eve. (Not to mention bible stories in which women who believed themselves infertile became pregnant, as in the case of Sarah.) So honestly, what would god care about our puny human efforts to prevent pregnancy?

  3. Really?

    You're defending CycleBeads (the rhythm method!) over Creighton, Symptothermal, and Billings?

    Billings is used all over the world, and is taught by the communist (i.e. non-Catholic) Chinese government. Creighton is a major component of the secular Justisse Method. And Symptothermal is the "Fertility Awareness Method" taught in the popular women's health book Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

    The methods are all solid science.

    Second, if 1Flesh were an official Catholic site, it would say so. Marc Barnes speaks for himself on the matter. There is no conspiracy.

    (Compare to, which was started by a young Catholic medical student and her friend as another "cool natural method" site.)

    But other than this, the article has a good criticism of Catholic promotion of natural methods. The science is shaky, and, since it comes from unofficial sources, the theology is often just as shaky. Catholics don't like junk science, bad theology, or being tricked either.

    Everyone, Catholic or not, would be better served by keeping the theology separate from the biology.

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