Humanae Vitae vs The Harkness Test

Continuing on my last sci-fi related tirade, I found myself looking for a version of the Harkness Test as an example of a sign that you know Catholic moral teaching on sex is bad. You know it is bad when possibly the second worst teaching I’ve seen is not quite as bad. Also, it does plan for future eventualities.

Here’s my problem with Humanae Vitae in a nutshell. It has a lot of words and it is quite elegantly written, but it somehow never gets around to acknowledging that women are human beings too, and that there are at least two people involved in any sexual act, and that said act might be viewed from any lens except what we in modern parlance would term “the male gaze.” To the extent that the document says anything even remotely related to useful advice for when not to have sex with someone, such advice amounts to a highly-erudite version of okay gents, think before you put your dick in it.

I am not kidding. Women might be able to get something out of it too. I like beautiful prose, so I got that out of it. But otherwise, I stare at it and I go … what? You cannot possibly be serious. That was actually my first thought on reading it. That whoever wrote this could not possibly intend for the people reading it to take this thing seriously. I want someone to give me back that half hour of my life – or however long it took me to read it.

I assume it might read differently if you are a guy. Not all men, I know, but many men are pigs. They sometimes need to be told – at bare minimum – if you are going to commit rape (including marital rape, which is a thing) at least pause and pray about it first? Take the woman’s enjoyment into account a little first? It’s optional – but preferred.

By giving almost no useful advice for anyone outside marriage, Humanae Vitae appears to imply that if you’re not married to someone almost anything goes. You’re going to hell anyway, might as well have fun on the way. If you are married, it appears to imply that as long as pregnancy could theoretically result from what you’re doing, almost anything goes. Because – as has been pointed out to me numerous times by people looking to defend it – the text is revolutionary in acknowledging that sex might also serve the purpose of strengthening the marital bond. Like I’m supposed to be impressed by this.

I haven’t read Humanae Vitae in a while. I have no intention of doing so again. Because honestly – and here’s the other thing – the entire piece feels like the intellectual equivalent of rape. It is clearly being presented for my belief by guys who have zero interest in my thoughts on the matter. They assume that either I will take everything they say as Gospel truth or I don’t really love them – I mean God – I mean them. Life is short. I have already spent too much time saying what should really amount to one word: No.

And no means no. Also #MeToo. (Making a mental list of superior teachings when it comes to sexual ethics.) Every sexual harassment class I have ever been forced to take because someone said something to someone at work. Sex ed in school. That conversation I had with a friend in fifth grade.

We can do better. If we really wanted to. Just saying.

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