Sunday, March 29, 2009

Christopher Pearson, condoms, abstinence, monogamy, and putting a layer of latex or polyurethane on the pestle

(Above: the simple, humble condom. What is it about this simple, humble device that gets old, white, sexually abstinent men so excited?)

It's funny, isn't it, that some people listen to an old white man on sexual matters, even though he's sexually abstinent (one hopes, for his faith, and excluding any uncontrollable nocturnal eruptions). Amazing really that people kiss the ring of the theologically conservative Pope Benedict XVI, celebrating his passage from Hitler Youth to becoming the infallible head of the Catholic church, and giving enormous attention to his views on AIDS, birth control, and homosexuality. You see use of condoms is a sin requiring penance if you follow the Church's teachings, and an attempt to get a more enlightened policy fell by the wayside a couple of years ago.

All well and good I suppose, if you want to breed like a rabbit, as good Catholics are supposed to do, as a kind of Ponzi scheme to grow the church, but I mean, what the fuck does the Pope know about fucking? Except its jaundiced absence.

I suppose others might read Christopher Pearson - a self-outed gay who also practises sexual abstinence as a way of avoiding conflict with his Catholic faith - for some kind of practical or theological advice, though lord knows why, when you read his latest outburst Arnold's job scheme may get results.

The first half of the column is a massive suck job regarding ex-premier Lynn Arnold's Anglicare job scheme  for the down and out in the northern suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia. Tagged on to the end of that celebration of the charitable impulse is a celebration of the Pope's position on the condom in Africa, and by implication a feral assault on the humble condom and its evil implications for humanity.

Of course citizens in the west can have it both ways. It's been estimated that 75% of married Catholics in richer countries use the contraceptive pill - ostensibly a sin requiring penance - while Italy has the lowest birth-rate in the European Union. And that hasn't come about because Italians suddenly gave up sex.

Even a few cardinals have folded when confronted with the question of whether a HIV person wanting to have sex should use a condom: ... if people are set on intercourse they at least have an obligation of not passing on disease and death, even if the only possible means to them is the use of a condom. This seems to me common sense.

Well it might be to the late cardinal Basil Hume and his then assistant bishop of East London Victor Guazelli, but it makes little sense to the current Pope or his acolyte Christopher Pearson.

How's this for a sanctimonious, pious lead sentence:

Since the 1980s, I've spent a fair bit of time helping to look after friends with HIV and going to the funerals of men in their 30s, so I have an interest in keeping the debate on the disease firmly based on empirical evidence.

Which is why I'm going to lead with an image of men dying all around me, and foreswear emotion for empirical evidence, and then go on to a discussion based firmly on the emotional incoherence of the Catholic church rather than on individual needs or desires?

Well played Christopher. Jolly good stroke.

It seems however that Pearson almost might accept that, in Australia, for some gay men (at least those in the thrall of some kind of addiction) the only form of behaviour modification possible is to encourage the use of condoms or clean needles. 

Well I guess that's about as much as you can do for gays on Oxford street. They're lost and damned to hell anyway, and no way can they be monogamous, so why not use a condom? That way they can sin a little more in relative safety before being carted off to hell.

But what about if you happen to be a heterosexual? What about the church's general ban on condoms? What about the piety of half-baked rationalizations that say it's okay for deranged gay drug users, but not for others? 

 Well no, no, no, you naughty sinning people, consistency or logic isn't required. It's just straight to hell for you, and no choice about it.

Yep, Pearson's musings are an elaborate justification of the Pope's attitude to the promotion of condom use in Africa. And the benefits of a strict interdiction of any usage thereof, in preference to monogamy and 'behaviour change'.

The Church of course continues with its bizarre view that the use of condoms is somehow evil because it prevents life. In the west we have the luxury of ignoring this bit of pontifical loonacy. In Africa, aid has often been delivered on the proviso that condoms or other contraceptive devices weren't part of the package.

Catholics of course argue that condoms just lead to sin, that abstinence or monogamy is preferable, and that the use of condoms increases risk-taking, and that indeed condoms might have increased the African AIDS epidemic. Pearson even wheels in expert Edward Green as proof that condoms don't work, monogamy does, and the Pope is right. 

There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded demographic health surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher - not lower - HIV-infection rates.

Dearie me, so in fact the humble condom is to blame for everything, and not just the decline and fall of civilisation and morality in the west. Thank the lord it has nothing to do with the Catholic church continually undermining, reviling and rejecting condom use within and without its constituency.

Pearson manages to dig up a conspiracy by UNAIDS to hide the truth about condoms by wanting to alter, refusing to publish, and then deny the results of a study commissioned by UNAIDS. Pearson's conclusion:

Why, you may be wondering, would UNAIDS want to bury these findings?

It seems the answer is that they hold the view that condoms, rather than more demanding behaviour change, are the key to preventing the spread of the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. So it is a triumph of ideology over epidemiology.

Which is a master stroke, really Christopher, since the point of the view of the Catholic church is a triumph of theology (okay call it ideology) over the rights of others.

You see, I don't think anyone sensible would argue that handing out condoms implies a sudden suggestion of the need for an ongoing, unceasing and risky sexual orgy. Or that people wouldn't be better off with a partner enjoying sex in a loving relationship (and still use a condom as a birth control device). 

Men keep on whingeing about how condoms aren't nice to use - like having sex in a raincoat - while some women (trained by vibrators?) don't have a problem. But there you go, between getting infected or staying safe, who cares what men want. Let them wear raincoats.

Indeed I don't recollect anyone saying that condoms are the answer to it all, the solution to everything, when all they offer is relative safety, which is still a heck of a lot better than no safety at all (or the delusion on offer from the church that monogamy or abstinence are feasible life style choices. Check out the rampant amount of fornication and adultery in the west for starters).

At least if a condom is to hand, it means that the participants are empowered to make their own choices. That's why when men go into any country town pub toilet or road stop toilet in this wonderful land of Oz, they'll likely find a condom dispensing machine. Where's the harm, where's the problem? Why should we have that right, and Africans not? Because the Pope says so?

In the end, the Church regularly adopts an anti-sex, anti-life, anti-choice, anti-rights, anti-human, pro-death and disease stand. Not to mention a desire to see unwanted children ushered into the world, on the basis that you can't use birth control and you can't use abortion. And it thinks nothing of sentencing a woman to having a child, even if she doesn't want one, for having sex. And by banning or undermining condoms, it removes the choice a woman might have to demand some form of protection from a partner. 

You can take your conspiracy theories, and your unpublished studies, and your musings, and shove them where the sun don't sun. It's anybody's right to have access to contraceptives and protection, and it's wrong to deny them on the basis of peculiar teachings by old white men, and it's even worse to insist that the rights and privileges enjoyed by the west can be refused to blacks in Africa simply because we can. 

Follow the example of the west? Oops, that means you'll fuck like cats on the roof tops, with the added bonus of no protection? Sorry 'bout that. Guess you can experience the slow living hell of death by AIDS without bonus helpful expensive medication.

Yep, we can tie aid into convoluted theological knots, which says we can fornicate freely, and you black brothers can get fucked.

Or not, as the case may be, since if not monogamy, then it's abstinence for you my lads and ladettes. 

The bald, po-faced cheek of Pearson and his brethren.

Sex is about the best fun you can have when you're poor and down and out (excluding a really good meal). "Demanding behaviour change"! Thank the lord, the desire to fuck will always beat the pious bleatings of sexually abstinent clerics who've never enjoyed a good fuck in their lives.

Or maybe not. I've always thought there was more work done with the pestle and the mortar in the Catholic church than was ever official policy - and not just between priests and young boys - and that Boccaccio's work in The Decameron back in the fourteen century captured a lot of what remains true to this day. 

You have to read the original to get the flavor of his story of the priest making off with the wife (the grinding being far better because so intermittent), leaving behind a cloak, and sending off a mortar as an exchange to force the wife to give the cloak back, with the sex disguised by wordplay. Master Priest: Tell her, when thou next seest her, that, so she lend us not the mortar, I will not lend her the pestle: be it tit for tat.

Actually, just make sure you've got a condom on the pestle. Who knows where it's been or what it's been up to, whether belonging to a priest or no. And please explain to me again why condoms can't be deployed, and why women in Africa are denied the right to demand a condom be used (along with any other precautions they deem necessary) because an old white man in Rome says it must be so and thus?

A pox on the church that cheerfully allows the pox to spread as a matter of theological principle. And now we pause for a sponsor's message:

By the way Christopher, still no deep ultra vires explanation of why the church thinks it's a good idea to excommunicate doctors for aborting a nine year old girl of twins after years of alleged rape by her step father? And speaking of Brazil, how about that funny old Archbishop Dadeus Grings saying that Catholics and gypsies were much more persecuted than Jews during World War 11. Ah it's a Grand Old Church, no doubt about it, with such a wonderful plurality and diversity of views ...

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