Sexuality in later marriage
in The Pope and the pill
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This chapter explores the sexual experiences of Catholic women during ‘later marriage’ – broadly defined as the years of sexual activity that came after the daily demands of childrearing had diminished. The parameters of this life-cycle stage varied from person to person, but generally ran from the interviewees’ mid-thirties to sixties for those married in the immediate post-war years, beginning a little later for those married after the 1960s. It explores how and why ‘liberal’ Catholic women rejected the Pope’s prohibition of the pill, uncovering how these decisions were underpinned by a re-categorisation of the religious and the sexual. The memories of Catholic women indicate that that it was often not until the busyness of early marriage had diminished that they had the time and space to consider these decisions. The chapter also examines ‘orthodox’ Catholic women’s critique of the concept of ‘female emancipation’. The chapter moves on to explore Catholic women’s changing views of the Church’s moral authority in matters of sex.

The Pope and the pill

Sex, Catholicism and women in post-war England