So this is kind of a heavy topic for me, hard to talk about and painfully personal. Marital rape was outlawed in the 1990’s although that certainly doesn’t stop it from happening. However, in the Quiverfull movement there seems to be no such thing. The woman has to say yes. The man has to say yes. Nobody can say no. Nobody can even say they are following the periodic abstinence of natural family planning. It is not your decision. You are a “living sacrifice.” Your body is bound by God’s rules of procreation and it is not your own. If you are married you should be having regular sex and God will probably give you lots of babies. If you do anything at all to prevent them, you are rejecting stuff directly from God, being immoral, and may be unwittingly aborting fetuses. Certain groups are even disseminating this anti-birth control message as “information” to teenagers. Bad science notwithstanding, it’s certainly a mixed message to tell people there are “natural” pregnancy prevention methods, but that people should not be opposed to pregnancy, that they should abstain and ignore all sexuality, including masturbation, until marriage, then use their level of sex drive as the primary indicator of what’s “right” and “natural.” Yet other people within the same movement are saying that the marriage vow is the primary indicator of whether or not to have sex. That if you are a married woman who just isn’t in the mood and you tell your husband “not tonight, honey – I have a headache,” you are disobeying God, inviting your husband to “sin,” and as such, your husband has a duty and a right to convince you that you should be up for his advances and God’s “blessings” of little ones.
So yeah, in addition to the prevalence of male and female sexual dysfunction due to this craziness, coercive sex and marital rape are a serious problem in this movement. The unprotected sex isn’t happening simply because sex is a fun, hot thing to do with someone you love. It’s a duty, a requirement, an obligation to God. The husband is just doing his job guiding his wife into “acting right.”
What this rampant reproduction and lack of control does to women and men is ugly. It leads to intense strain on idealistic young marriages. It turns too many men into selfish, sex-demanding weirdos who then don’t feel all that “manly” when they end up economically and socially struggling, with too many kids to financially provide for. They often make up for these unmanly feelings by withdrawing from family life, or asserting sexual dominance over their wife and ruling over their kids with an iron fist.
What it does to women is often make them become sexually disinterested, loathing sex, or at least the person they’re having it with. It also means they end up like my Mom, who I caught sitting at the kitchen table at 2am once, giant pregnant belly again, eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich and crying. I asked her what she was crying about and she said “You know, I believe God knows best and I am not trying to reject his blessings, it’s just that I don’t feel supported by your father. I don’t feel he understands, and I just don’t know how we’re going to make it with yet another one. I know I have to trust God to provide but this is sometimes not easy, not easy at all.” My Dad would always dismiss these worries as “hormones.” They weren’t. We were often in abject poverty and even when my father’s business was doing well, we all struggled financially and emotionally with so many kids to care for.
My parents’ divorce was finally brought about by my Mom doing something desperate, something pretty radical and far removed from her usual state and her beliefs. She decided she didn’t want any more babies with him and started sleeping on the couch. She waffled a little in her resolve, ended up pregnant again, but ultimately decided she liked life better without “submitting” to him in bed. So rather than endure a sexless marriage, he left her while pregnant, married someone else, and had another baby. His second wife wasn’t Quiverfull and she only had one child because she chose to. Because it was her body to do with as she wished.
I think back on these things and others that I saw growing up, how unspeakable and inappropriate it seems to even be writing this little bit down for people to read, how shameful, but I think people need to know what it looks like. I have faced the fact that me and my siblings were conceived and raised with something that looked a lot like duty, requirement, and obligation, and a lot less like actual love. I love my siblings immensely (and myself also, obviously) but think the way we were brought into this world is wrong, wrong, wrong, disrespectful of humanity and life, and I will never, ever vote for a politician that tries to make life look anything like it did for my Mom, or for my Dad for that matter. I believe in parenthood being an informed choice between a couple, and also that ultimately a woman should decide when, if, and how she becomes “expecting,” or “with child.” It’s just happier for everybody that way.
Thank you for writing about this topic so clearly.
I definitely think the quiverfull movement is crazy.
Using Paul’s teaching to say no one can ever refuse to engage in sexual relations is crazy—Paul’s message there is “telling your spouse they will never have sex again, withholding sex as a tool of power in your marriage, saying celibacy is more spiritual, etc, is wrong. You are the only legitimate source of sexual pleasure for your spouse, so fulfill each others needs.” That is a far cry from “any time they ask for it you have to, you can never opt out, etc.”
That said, I also believe _some_ methods of birth-control are a form of abortion. If they prevent pregnancy (often by preventing implantation) _after_ conception, then in my view that is abortion. If they prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm and egg from exposure to one another, preventing ovulation, etc, then it is not abortion. We do need to be cautious about taking hormones on a long-term basis though — there are health concerns, not to mention emotional ones (some people find it really changes them). But those issues are not Biblical issues, but practical ones.
So rather than an “anything goes” mentality, investigate the method(s) you want to use carefully.
Sex is much more than a “fun, hot thing to do with someone you love,” but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a fun! I also think making choices based on what is “happier for everybody” is a poor basis for decisions that can certainly lead to self-destruction, but parenthood being something a couple agrees on certainly isn’t anti-biblical in any way.