Don’t mention the Bible

I was quite flattered in a seminar the other day to be asked to explain the Catholic position regarding the Virgin Mary. Whilst I have been explicit that I am a practicing Catholic to my fellow students and tutors and corrected a few misconceptions regarding the faith, whenever they have cropped up, I have tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Though one could argue that Christians should grasp every opportunity to evangelise, effective evangelisation needs to be appropriate and given that I am attempting to build up friendships with fellow students, this isn’t going to work if they feel wary that every conversation is going to lead to a lecture involving Jesus and the Bible. None of them know, as far as I am aware, that I blog. Also seminars are a time to be discussing that week’s reading and the exchange of ideas and information thus it would be inappropriate and inconsiderate if every single session were hijacked by a tiresome Christian on a mission to convert. I don’t want to garner a reputation for being the class Dot Cotton. I remember the two Evangelical pilots everyone used to dread being rostered with in my flying days. One used to come down to the bar in the evening clutching a copies of various books with rainbows and doves embossed on the front cover and use every pause in the conversation to introduce a Christian theme. Dodging the inevitable “have you asked Jesus into your life” lecture was not the most relaxing way to spend the evening or wind down following nine hours of self-loading freight. The other overtly Christian pilot was summoned to tea and biscuits with the management, after his praying on his knees in the front galley during turnarounds put the wind up the junior crew as did his enigmatic statements such as “sometimes, I just want to point the aircraft in the direction of the Sun, take my hands off the controls and let the Lord take over”

I tend to find that simply living a life of witness, being myself and trying to be faithful, is more effective than real-life hectoring or lecturing. If people find you an interesting and engaging person (not that I am) then they are much more likely to be open to what you might have to say, rather than if they feel that you constantly have an agenda to push. There’s nothing I can say or do, to force or impose conversion upon anyone in any event. That’s entirely down to the Holy Spirit, but what I hope to do, albeit unsuccessfully judging by some of the blog comments, is help people to remain open, to want to search a bit further or simply to see that Catholics aren’t ignorant or brain-washed, that actually what we have to say, even if one vehemently disagrees with it, is thoughtful, intelligent, cogent and coherent.

In the case of explaining Our Lady to a class of mainly 18-19 year olds, I was trying to communicate that she is not, as had been suggested, revered purely because of her virginity. A student had made a connection between a literary character and suggested that she could be seen as “a religious extremist like a Catholic” because “like Catholics she thinks sex is dirty and was attempting to be pure like Mary who is important to Catholics as she is a virgin”. Quite a bit to unpick there, hence my tutor handed it over to me.

After explaining the reasons aside from virginity as to why Mary is important to all Christians, not just Catholics, I made the point that Catholics don’t actually view sex as dirty, quite the contrary, it is something that we are encouraged to enjoy, but it should be in the appropriate context. I deliberately caused both amusement and controversy by highlighting the fact that the previous Pope, Blessed John Paul II had specifically stated (in his book Love and Responsibility) that husbands should ensure that their wives reach orgasm and not be selfish in bed. Hardly the words of a misogynist! “I will have no prudery” he wrote, “I’m dealing with God’s creation”. Cue many aghast expressions and laughter, in amongst which someone stated that it was a load of nonsense, Catholics didn’t want anyone to like sex, due to their opposition of both contraception and abortion. The tutor pointed out the non sequitur, and then asked me to briefly explain further, whereupon I elaborated the reasons behind Catholic social teaching on sex and philosophical reasons for choosing NFP or fertility awareness over contraception.

“That was a very thorough, detached and academic explanation” she said, “well done”, no doubt noticing that my face had gone beet-red. I went for a coffee with some of the class afterwards, when the subject of sex was brought up again. It’s quite a tough one, because whilst I don’t want to be encouraging a group of young people to be sleeping around, suffice to say I remember all too well what it is like to be 18, and a lecture, be it on abstinence or use of condoms is going to prove off-putting and counter-productive, especially to non-Christians, who are expecting me to be quoting the Bible at them every two minutes. So whilst keeping my counsel, one of them said to me “do you mind me asking, you’re really religious and stuff, but you never ever mention the Bible, it’s really weird”. To which my response was, how would she react if I were to mention the Bible. “I’d find it really boring to be honest” she said. “I don’t believe in all that stuff, so I’d think what’s that got to with me? Why should I do what a primitive book written thousands of years ago tells me? I think the Bible is a load of cr*p personally”.

That’s why I don’t mention the Bible, I said. I’m sure I probably should and I’m sure there’s loads of Christian who would insist that it’s a dereliction of duty, but I don’t think it really helps if I’m trying to convince you of something. I do recommend that you should read the New Testament at the very least, because so much of what we are doing is based upon the Bible and you’ll be missing out so much if you don’t read it, but it’s certainly great as background reading and general knowledge if nothing else.

We then moved onto a historical conversation about the content of the Bible and did I think that everything in the Bible was literally true and what parts did I believe and why. Before moving onto an entirely different topic, someone said “but all that other stuff you said, it did make sense. To be honest, I know you’ll probably think I’m really ignorant, but it’s much more interesting cos you don’t bang on about the Bible when you’re explaining things. I found the stuff you were saying about sex and contraception and fertility really interesting. And you obviously like sex a lot and are really experienced and stuff”…

Intuitively it feels like a betrayal not to be mentioning the Bible and no doubt it will be one of the things that I shall be called to account for on the terrible day of judgement. Equally it seems to me that unless one is talking to someone who has at least some scriptural knowledge and/or faith, using the Bible as a basis for arguments or debate, is a total minefield for Catholics. One is either met with “well that’s got nothing to with me, it’s a load of old bunkum” or else people chose to quote mine, my pet hate. Generally when people quote-mine from the Bible, it’s either an attempt to prove what a load of old nonsense the Bible is, full of contradictions, nonsense and a God who likes to smite people at random, or an attempt to prove personal hypocrisy or inconsistency. Deuteronomy and passages pertaining to Mosaic dietary laws being the perennial favourites. Catholics then need to explain that they are not fundamentalists and get into discourse about the magisterium versus sola scriptura, followed by detailed and contextual exegesis as well as explanations on typology and covenantal interpretations, by which time your audience is fast asleep and wishing they had never brought up the passage on shellfish.

If Catholics and Christians want to be taken seriously in the public square in what seems at times to be an aggressively secular culture, then we need to appeal as much to philosophy and ethics as we do the Bible. Of course the Bible must not be ignored and the Biblical case must be made, but only to those who are open and want to hear it. Making biblical arguments for issues which are of crucial importance to society, such as social justice,  euthanasia, abortion and marriage to name but a few, means that many will sadly write them off as irrelevant, illogical and ignorant, why should they be dictated to by a religion that they don’t share? The Bible must be defended as must the fact that one’s faith is grounded in it, but it seems to me that making a case which stands up on its own philosophical and ethical merits is every bit as important and more likely to ensure that one’s voice is heard and listened to. People may disagree, but they cannot doubt the inherent logic in a certain position; when they resort to a “well you believe xyz because of the Bible which is proof you are illogical/stupid/ignorant/brain-washed”, it shows that the case is being put coherently.

The sad thing is that Dot Cotton has a heart of gold and has won the affection of the TV viewing public, her piety cannot be in any doubt. But in terms of evangelisation, they are far more likely to empathise with and emulate the Vicar of Dibley, a Sean Bean loving chocoholic, not averse to a bit of pre-marital bed-hopping. That doesn’t mean we should emulate her behaviour or attitude. As my father always taught me, we should level up not down. But if we need to meet people where they are, we need to accept that sadly for many, that the Bible is an alien text.  The way to introduce it is by the witness of our actions and words, which may then in turn lead people to those of the Holy Spirit.

It’s not just the men

Just want to be explicitly clear about something if I have not been already.

I receive all manner of threats and verbiage in the comms box, which is why, if you have the inclination, if you trawl back through the archives, you’ll see I was asking for advice on setting up the spam filter.

I do get what seems to be an inordinate amount of sexual abuse, which I thought was the norm. Is it because I’m a female, or is it because I very deliberately have a photograph of myself on this site, in order that people may put a face to the name. One of the reasons I am not anonymous and believe me I’ve dallied with the idea on quite a few occasions, is in order to take ownership and responsibility for my words. When I make mistakes (like referring to Evan Harris in less than complimentary terms, I publicly apologise and try to move on).

I spoke to Helen Hasteley Lewis because she was specifically looking for a right-wing blogger and and my name was suggested to her. I oscillate wildly between left and right, but I think it’s certainly fair to say that I am conservative with a small c. Helen wanted to show that it was not just people like Laurie Penny who were subject to online sexual threats. This was then followed up by Richard Roberts in today’s Observer.

As I said in my previous post, in some ways, perhaps because I’m hardened, I don’t know, but though I find the stuff vile, (I had no idea what some of these terms meant) for a multitude of reasons that Freud and every single pop psychologist could have a field day with, I find the sexual stuff easier to deal with. I had one hilarious comment from a chap who gave the impression that he was in his late 70s who suggested that I implement a “spanking contract” with my husband. Yes, apparently there is such a thing, there are whole reams of websites devoted to domestic spanking and being “taken in hand” and he suggested that this might be the best outlet rather than blog and would ensure “ruddy good sex”. It was a scream.

Why do I get this stuff? Let’s be honest, it’s because I’m an attractive sensual woman with a certain joie de vivre. Or at least that’s what I’d like to think anyway.

But when I periodically check the spam filters which are programmed with certain words to catch these sorts of comments, I am shocked by the sheer volume and at times, yes it does shock, frighten and intimidate me. I am bawdy, but not coarse. I don’t tend to swear unless really pushed and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m often a bit “naughty” but never ever sexually explicit. I hate expletives and rarely use them, so it’s quite nasty to see that level of stuff. It’s not even “comment”, it’s just people with their own issues.

I am not a feminist by any contemporary definition, but I am what I would consider to be a feminist. I believe that true emancipation lies in men accepting women’s fertility and not attempting to suppress or override it. I think women have been sold an absolute lie in terms of myths about contraception and abortion, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Some of the nastiest, most insidious, most hurtful comments have been from women. The two people who have caused me the most online grief over the past year have been women. Their motivations are complex, but the stuff from the woman has been more threatening (the death at the hands of the rusty scissors comment was a woman) and more personal. It is WOMEN who have been spiteful, it is WOMEN who have threatened to carry this forward into real life and  it is WOMEN who have thought it acceptable to drag my children into this debate. It is WOMEN who have said “your baby makes me want to be sick” and WOMEN who have gone off on crazy vendettas.

The men tend to tell me how much they would like a good f*ck and then move on.

When I have blogged about the women, I have been accused of being on a pity fest and writing long rambling “woe is me posts”. Now I’ve added my voice to the getting in the neck from the men brigade, those who  have accused me of being full of self pity are suddenly the epitome of  concern and those on the other side are either disbelieving of me or think that all of us women who complain about this should “grow up”.

My faith and my husband help me to cope with all of this.  Other people perhaps do not have the same support structures. I’m able to put the sex stuff into perspective partly due to my marriage, but my husband is a protective chap and it breaks his heart and deeply offends him when he sees the sort of stuff that falls below the line. How would men feel if that were their wives or partners being sexually threatened by complete strangers? No-one should have to put up with it.

I don’t think it’s because of what I say necessarily, although that’s the hook. I think it’s because of the following

  • I’m a woman blogger
  • I promote orthodox Catholic views
  • I’m outspoken, there’s a perception I can take it
  • I’m attractive
  • I’m a (former) vicar’s wife thus “interesting”
  • The internet is full of dodgy perverts

Sexual threats are uniquely awful and unacceptable. But so are other kinds of threats, such as death threats, threats to publicly libel your family and attempt to put your husband out of a job . They were all equally vile and horrible and caused so much hurt and distress.

In January, my father had a massive heart attack which very nearly killed him. My mother was struggling to cope with caring for my father and her 98 year old mother who had lost the use of her legs and required 24/7 nursing. My daughter was suffering from a neurological condition which we still haven’t got to the bottom of. We had moved to a completely different area and lost our main social point of focus and community. My husband was in a temporary job on minimum wage. I’d had to defer my degree because of pregnancy related illness. Our house was a mass of unpacked boxes. Meanwhile life had to go on, I had a then 6 year old and a 14 month old. We didn’t know what the future held. Looking back, I am not quite sure how I managed to hold it all together.

In the midst of all this disruption came streams of  threatening unsolicited email and libellous blog posts. The women concerned were well aware of my circumstances, I explicitly outlined this in an email to one, begging her to leave me alone. You would think that a feminist would exercise pity and compassion and leave a struggling heavily pregnant woman alone. She did no such thing and later alluded to the fact I’d had a hard time as being definitive proof of how very ill I allegedly am.

But that doesn’t fit the narrative so well does it? Women being nasty to women? Feminists determinedly going for the jugular of a heavily pregnant woman, because they think she hates gay people and because they don’t like her religion or her support of it.

For those who are cross with me for perpetuating what they believe is a myth, all I can do is relate my experience. I don’t want to go into the realms of misandry but yes, I do identify with Laurie Penny and anyone else who attracts vile sexist comments. It feels like a verbal assault.

I don’t want to legislate for sexism as being yet another specific hate crime –  our freedom of speech is under enough threat as it is. There is no such thing as a right not to be offended, and I also believe that current anti-stalking and harassment laws are sufficient.

I don’t want to make this out to be a purely man versus women issue either. As I’ve said repeatedly, women have been every bit as vicious, but it’s a narrative none have wanted to hear.

Toby Young had a brief twitter spat that he blogged about last week. During the course of it he was called every expletive under the sun and jokes were made about his appearance. In response to a tweet from John Prescott that corrected his grammar, he jokingly suggested that he would “kill himself”. Some tweeters expressed disappointment that he would not take them up at their word and said that they were likely to urinate and dance on his grave.

Because it’s Toby Young, who is a man and therefore perceived to have a thick skin, those sorts of comments were deemed just banter.

We’re all human. When pricked we all bleed. What have learned from all this? That Satre had a point. None of the abuse has been pleasant, wherever it has emanated from. Let’s not get into pity-wars. But let’s also be clear, that those responsible for causing additional stress to a heavily pregnant, low-rent, non professional blogger, those who were threatening to take things into real life, who couldn’t get things into perspective and who were endlessly spying on my twitter feed, were women.

Let’s all play nicely. You wouldn’t greet a real life person with “you’re an ugly cow who needs a sh*g”, or “you’re a moron who knows very little about anything”. So don’t do it on the internet either. Proprietors and editors of the national press have their part to play as well. As long as Johann Hari stays on board at the Indy, we know that they don’t take online abuse seriously.

Logs and beams. It’s very easy to announce that online abuse should not be tolerated, so make sure your own house is in order. Ensure sites are swiftly moderated in order that abuse may be promptly removed and don’t employ columnists who are happy to endorse bitching, trolling and sniping, just so long as it’s not done by men.

If I loved my children

Helen Lewis-Hasteley of the New Statesman asked me to contribute to her article on the hate mail and threats received by female bloggers, as we seem to be particularly prone to receiving threats of a sexual nature.

The article is here, but the one thing I did note, is that although I do receive a fair amount of threats relating to sexual violence, threats of general violence are by no means limited to men. Some of the most hateful stuff has been written by women, but women by and large tend to articulate their violent reaction in a different way.

Whereas men seem to want to express their rage in the form of sexual violence, women articulate in it a way that often seems more carefully crafted. Using the metaphor or analogy of a missile, the comments that allude to rape and sexual violence are the equivalent of being at the receiving end of a boulder pushed off a cliff, as depicted in cartoons. Like Wile E Coyote, the sexual jibes knock the stuffing out of you, you are flattened, crushed but spring back into shape pretty quickly, ready to carry on. There is a comic element to men who are obviously so sexually inadequate and insecure that they seek to project the contents of their twisted fantasies onto you, and though desperately unpleasant to read, I wonder if it’s the emotional equivalent of a safety valve, perhaps that’s how they get their jollies, dishing out sexual abuse in a purely anonymous fashion. The worry is always that they won’t be able to keep their fantasies in perspective. If describing how they would like to commit sodomy or other vile acts (I confess to having to reach for the dictionary on occasion, not understanding what noodles had to do with anything) means that I save someone else from receiving the filth, who is less able to take it, that’s all well and good. I’ve set up a pretty effective spam filter in any event, which means that I’m no longer subject to it on a daily basis.

I wonder whether or not I might be hardened to it by my time spent as cabin crew? I remember once a customer filled out a comments card with the following immortal phrase:

“I thought that air hostesses were supposed to be good looking but that Caroline is a complete dog”

My manager suggested that I didn’t submit the card to head office, and checked I was alright, but I was happy to let it go through. The passengers on that particular route were known to be an unruly bunch (Ibiza charter, taking off at midnight on a Friday & Saturday night, giving the young revellers the opportunity to spend all night in the airport pub) and I wanted management to see the level the grief that the crew was subjected to.

I remember recording the following on a flight report, after an incident which had culminated in the Spanish police (who incidentally take no nonsense whatsoever, on they charge with batons aplenty) coming on board to arrest an unruly passenger.

“I asked the passenger if he could put his shoes on for take off , as he was sat next to the exits in an ABP seat. He replied in the negative and told me to get f*cked. I politely explained that if he didn’t put his shoes on, I would need to move him due to safety regulations, but that he could take his shoes off again immediately after take-off. The rule was, I said, for his own safety, whereupon he kicked me in the face and said “suck my toe b*tch”.

Ironically one female commenter felt the need to make the following comment in relation to my post. I have tried to respond, but the New Statesman seems to have a problem with its comments facilities.

I wouldn’t wish for one of your children to turn out to be gay – their sexual orientation will be what it will be, and with a homophobic parent like yourself, a child who’s lesbian or gay will have a much unhappier adolescence than any child should have. But it’s possible, if you love your child, that your love for your lesbian or gay child might just change you so that you were no longer homophobic.

Or less so, anyway.

So, surprise surprise, I am “homophobic”. Yawn. She has clear and concrete evidence that I wish to inflict hurt, harm and hatred upon people with same sex attraction as well having a deep-seated terror.

She knows exactly what my reaction will be if my childen express any tendencies towards same-sex attraction when they are younger. I suspect the reality is that my attitude would be infinitely more open-minded and compassionate than hers. For the record I will be encouraging my children to abstain from sexual activity until they are married and I will try my hardest to prevent them from engaging in any underage sexual relationships regardless of sexual orientation.

Furthermore if any of my children profess to having a crush on another woman, I wouldn’t encourage them to jump to any conclusions about what their sexual preferences might be, as my understanding is that adolescence is often a time of conflicting sexual feelings and emotions. I certainly wouldn’t be in any rush to pigeon hole them into any particular category, because there is a lot more that defines us as people than our sexual preferences. I would encourage them to wait until they are older and have had more general life experience before jumping to any hasty conclusions or doing something that they may later regret.

I would not tell adolescents who thought they might be gay, that they were evil, but would advise about not allowing oneself to be driven by or indulge sexual feelings. I would encourage my children to wait until adulthood before coming to any conclusions and hopefully, if they share my faith, help them to find ways of finding comfort and support. If they reject my faith, they will still be my children and I will still love, support them and be there for them, even if I cannot condone or sanction the decisions they make as adults. Pretty standard parenting stuff all in all.

But no, if I really loved them, I would change my attitude. Sexual satisfaction and romantic relationships are the only path to happiness. Encouraging appropriate sexual behaviour will deny adolescents of their rights to be happy which may only be found via sexual relationships and sexual confidence.

It’s possible that I don’t love my children, and even if I do that won’t be enough and I’ll still have this abhorrent attitude that needs to change. Who said tolerance was dead and who said that the only kind of damaging comments were threats of sexual violence? And just about everyone missed the point that homosexuality was being used as a weapon in the threat to which I referred. Ouch.

A misogynist’s dream

The Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones has come in for a hefty amount of criticism for her shocking revelation that in two different relationships she resorted to desperate measures to conceive, i.e. nipping to the bathroom immediately after proceedings, to retrieve the used condom and impregnate herself.

Whilst no-one should condone the deceit implicit in her actions, it seems hard-hearted not to have some sympathy with her predicament. Catholic teaching on sex is highly controversial and misunderstood, but what lies at the heart of it is that the covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man. “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love”. CC 1639

The sexual act is ordered towards procreation. Not every sexual act will result in procreation, but this is its primary purpose, ordained by God. To exclude fertility from the act of sexual intercourse is in effect to kick out God.

John Paul II observed that contraception not only violates the procreative aspect of sex, but also the unitive aspect. (Sex should be unitive and procreative, for bonding and for babies). Sex should be a giving of the whole self to the other, which includes fertility. Janet Smith compares it to someone asking their partner to have sex with them but to put a bag over their head during sex because their partner’s hair is causing them annoyance. “I love you, but I don’t want a very important part of you here, something which would naturally belong”. To contracept, is to withhold something back from your partner.

The tragicomic and rather pathetic image of Liz Smith surreptitiously attempting to impregnate herself using sperm from freshly used condom is a physical embodiment of the perils of attempting to separate sex from procreation. Not only do we see her trying to regain something that she believes is rightfully hers, a natural gift or product of sex as opposed to an organic payment for an M&S ready meal, but we can also see how condoms can also be used as a tool of misogyny and to oppress women. Liz Jones is far from the only woman I know who is desperate to conceive a child, but whose partner refuses to countenance the idea, in many cases because he believes that the couple already has a sufficient number of children.

There something inherently cruel and not to mention selfish and misogynistic about denying a woman her innate and instinctive desire for a child. It treats a biological and entirely natural urge as if it is something unpleasant and nasty, a whim that is not going to be indulged. Of course this goes both ways, there are scenarios whereby a woman takes the pill in secret or against her partner’s wishes, but in either case it highlights the selfishness inherent in the act of contraception. I don’t want to have a baby, I’m going to keep that part of me to myself. I read with mounting horror a series of tweets suggesting that she ought to be prosecuted for stealing his property. It served to highlight the dangers of thinking that contraception is a failsafe method and how we seem to have cast aside the natural consequence of sex, the thought that someone could get pregnant without another’s explicit consent – how very shocking! What was her “crime”? Being prepared to do almost anything to fulfil her dreams of becoming a mother? Or using the sperm of her partner without his consent? Catholics are used to oh-so-witty renditions of Every Sperm is Sacred, criminalising a woman for using semen without consent takes that sentiment to a whole new level. If sperm remains the property of a man’s body at all times, it raises troubling questions for women about pregnancy and abortion.

That was also another worrying aspect. That fathers who may be deceived in this way, ought not be obliged to take any sort of responsibility for his children. Why should a man have to pay for a child that he didn’t want to have, tweeted one Lib Dem in outrage. Because it’s called “taking responsibility”. Time was it was universally agreed that sex is likely to result in children. Contraception seems to have lulled society into a false sense of security and thus when a child is conceived without express consent, it is viewed as an outrage, a burden, one that ought not to exist.

Many women were outraged by Liz Jones’ deliberately provocative statements, in which she implied that all women were deceitful liars prepared to go any lengths to have a baby and that men had better beware. All childless women in their late 30s and early 40s are possessed with a fervour to conceive according to Jones. It was an exaggerated caricature, but according to the 2001 study quoted, a significant proportion of women (42%) stated that they would lie to get pregnant against their partner’s wishes.

Contraception has enabled society to dictate expectations and conventions of ideal family size to women. To have more than 2 children is seen as either terribly vulgar and a feature of the lower-classes or as an upper class badge of wealth. Children are apparently expensive, so to be able to have lots of them, one must either rely on state benefits or an extensive private income.

Though I share women’s exasperation at the sweeping generalisations contained within Liz Jones’ confession, the resulting outrage proved that she had touched a nerve. What saddened me was the misogyny on display by women who would otherwise be passionate advocates of a woman’s right to her own fertility. Presumably the acceptable course of action would have been for Liz to have left her husband and embarked upon a costly course of sperm donation which stood an equally slim chance of success and would by it’s very nature excluded an involved biological father. The woman wanted to have a baby with her partner. That seems wholly natural and understandable, I don’t see the need to berate her for that. Of course he should not have been deceived, but it seemed that he was equally unwilling to compromise and perhaps rather heartless and selfish, not prepared to make the sacrifice required for either his wife, supposedly the most important person in his life, nor indeed for the new little baby.

It was saddening to see her described as a “mad bitch” by those who would normally condemn misogyny. Previous columns in which she detailed her struggles with over-spending and eating disorders were dredged up without anyone drawing the obvious link between the overspending and childlessness.

If any other female columnist mentioned a previous history of a struggle with anorexia or even self harm, which was subsequently used against them to prove current fragile mental health there would be uproar. There is nothing mad about being overwhelmed by a biological urge. Many many women testify to a sense of urgency to conceive in their late 30s, they are responding to a biological and hormonal stimulus. Liz Jones was responding to her body’s calling. It happens. Women who are desperate to conceive go to desperate lengths.
Had her attempts not involved deceit then no doubt this longing for a baby would have been lauded as evidence of how deserving she was of a child.

Perhaps Liz thought that once she presented her husband with a fait accompli he would come around? A baby should never be proposed as a solution to a marriage in difficulty as the demands of a newborn can place considerable strain on a marriage, but a baby can also prove to be an adhesive in marriage and a cause of deeper bonding, shared joy and intimacy.

It takes a heart of stone not to be moved by one’s own newborn child and to leave a woman because she has become pregnant by deception, is an act of cowardice. To forgive and courageously give, to accept life as it is and to do the best by one’s child, whether conceived on purpose, by accident or even deception is the mark of a real man.

Ideally a child should be conceived with the consent of both parents, but the amount of hate to which Liz Jones has been subjected for attempting to conceive minus the consent of her partner is disproportionate and concerning. Contraception was supposed to free and empower women but the inevitable flip side is that condoms put men firmly back in the driving seat. In a situation like that of Liz Jones, a husband may legitimately deprive his wife the chance of a child and she is vilified and penalised for disobedience. If a woman wishes to contracept against the wishes of her husband that is perfectly acceptable due to bodily autonomy, but she is denied the opportunity to conceive without express male consent.

Some might argue that this is a good thing, the child must be put first and it is better for a child not to exist at all if it is not wanted by its father. If that isn’t misogyny, if that isn’t an example of selfish control of a woman’s fertility, then I don’t know what is.

Contraception and abortion are a libertine’s dream. By stripping the sex its procreative ability, he strips it of any long-term commitment and convinces himself that his desire not to have children exonerates him from any responsibility should one accidentally result without his express consent.

A woman’s sole right to choose and determine her fertility should logically encompass her right to determine when to have a baby. A woman is considered mentally competent to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy but a determination to create a baby at any odds is universally condemned by men and women alike as proof of mental illness and selfishness.

That a woman can be the target of so much vitriol for nothing more than wanting to have a baby with her husband is stunning in a so-called age of liberation. That many women have reacted quite so angrily and protested so vehemently that Liz Jones is not representative, is very telling. Methinks they do protest too much. Children are never far from the thoughts of most childless women in their late 30s and 40s. Most would not lie or deceive their partners, but the potential is there nonetheless. Perhaps Liz Jones betrayed the sisterhood by pointing this out?

All in all a very sorry tale and one that has me counting my blessings for an authentic marriage, one that accepts and works with the natural order.