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Categorized | Religion, Society

Women degraded, treated as objects

One of the arguments we often hear from anti-RH apologists is that if contraceptives are made widely available, women will be degraded and treated as objects. Take the following for example:

A sex act which is not open to the transmission of new life tends to treat the other partner as a source of physical pleasure, and nothing more.

…human nature being what it is, when contraception is available, men are more likely to treat women as objects of pleasure.

And here is a comment from a pro-lifer:

When we have seen our families crumble, our women degraded, treated as objects, our society disintegrate, then maybe, just maybe, we would really have something to think about.

They all echo what Pope Paul VI said in Humanae Vitae:

…a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

But why would contraception reduce women to objects? Are they claiming that the only sacred purpose of sex is procreation, hence, without it, the intimate act between two people deeply in love with each other becomes nothing more than carnal pleasure? More importantly, are they saying that women have no say on how they are treated and that the respect they get (or don’t get) is purely dependent on their men? Is this how they view women? Reading some passages from a book they deem infallible might shed some light:

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed – Exodus 21:7-8, (RSV)

If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and then spurns her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings an evil name upon her, saying, “I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her the tokens of virginity,”…if the thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.  – Deuteronomy 22:13-14, 20-21 (RSV)

And so it is of little wonder that fundamentalists are so concerned that contraception will degrade our women. A religion that commissions men to sell their own daughters into slavery and prescribes stoning to death as punishment for non-virgin brides surely does not think much highly of women. (And in case somebody blurts out something like, But that was only in the Old Testament, let me quote something from the New Testament: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16.)
And for a religion to own such scripture, what can we reasonably expect on how it will regard the women? I guess not much. They warn about the dangers of contraception to a woman’s honor, but what they fail to see is that they aren’t giving much honor to their women to begin with. To equate a woman’s honor to her virginity and ability to bear her husband’s children without enjoying sex too much lest she turn into a slut not only mocks her dignity but denies her womanhood. It actively refuses to recognize a big part of her nature – that she is made of flesh and blood and endowed with human passions along with the capacity to nurture these passions responsibly. And to deny these passions for the sake of chastity, to unfairly impose such denial by the authority of some religious dogma, that is a clear example of women being degraded and treated as objects, reigned in by the wills of men with double standards.
A group of eternal bachelors referred to by an ominously sounding acronym (at least to the ears of our politicians) has in a way institutionalized the degradation of women. Somehow they seem oblivious to the fact that women are thinking, breathing minds living in warm, sensitive bodies. Not surprisingly, the musician Billy Joel, who was married – and divorced – three times, seems to be centuries ahead in the evolution of moral standards, clearly manifested in his reverence and fascination towards a woman and her carefree, independent ways:
Oh–she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants
She’s ahead of her time
Oh–and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind

She is frequently kind
And she’s suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She’s nobody’s fool
And she can’t be convicted
She’s earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But she’s always a woman to me

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.