Sexuality in early marriage
in The Pope and the pill
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Early marriage is defined as the years between marital engagement and the end of childrearing. The interviewees’ memories of early marriage were defined by a tension between the physical desires of sexuality and the transcendent codes of religious beliefs. The most pointed example of this was in attempting to grapple with Natural Family Planning (NFP) – the only form of birth regulation endorsed by the Church. The second section of this chapter uses the interviewees’ testimony alongside contemporaneous letters sent from newly married Catholics to doctors and Catholic Marriage Advisory Council (CMAC) counsellors to reconstruct Catholic women’s everyday experience of using NFP. It offers an insight into the range of creative tactics that Catholic women used when trying to abstain from intercourse, including masturbation, oral and anal sex, prayer and positioning large teddy bears as bedtime barriers. The chapter also addresses the understanding of female sexuality that was constructed by the CMAC.

The Pope and the pill

Sex, Catholicism and women in post-war England