Birth control and birthday cake | Bleader

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birth control and birthday cake

Posted By on 02.21.12 at 12:46 PM

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Ross Douthat’s weekend column in the Times is about the differing views on abortion held by “cultural liberals” and “social conservatives.” There’s some funny language in this piece. It’s not clear, for instance, why Douthat considers abortion a “cultural” issue—a divertissement on par with, say, a night at the opera—for east-coast communist gay elites, and a “social” issue for others. And I have to confess being brought up short by Douthat’s use of the phrase “artificial birth control,” by which he means “birth control,” only modified with a meaningless adjective. “Natural” birth control—that is, abstinence—would appear to be, in the context of the two modifiers being opposites, equally without meaning. For instance! My boss will be pleased to learn that I am, right now, practicing natural birth control. At my desk! And Ross Douthat will be pleased to learn that I find natural birth control quite easy to consummate. “Birth control” is only a cogent concept if you're actually talking about sex, in other words. In which case, “natural” styles of birth control range from the withdrawal method to various nonpenetrative tactics, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Douthat’s social conservatives have in mind.

Do people—non-Ross Douthat people—actually use the phrase “artificial birth control”?

I decided to try an experiment using the time-honored Google Autoresult Method for Determining the Populist Cachet of an Idea. To wit: how much of the phrase would I have to type in the search field before Google would suggest the answer I wanted? As it turned out, quite a bit: I got as far as “artificial bir” before I found what I was looking for, halfway down the list, following “artificial birds” and “artificial birch tree” but preceding “artificial birthday cake.” Artificial birthday cakes must be the ones that strippers jump out of. That these are less popular than artificial birth control is a result that cultural liberals and social conservatives are free to interpret according to their respective political agendas.


Clicking through, it appears that “artificial birth control” is used mostly by Catholic sources: the first result, entitled “What Does the Bible Teach,” is from, and nearly all of the initial results are from similar places. Actually, “artificial birth control” was in the Times again yesterday, in this instance in a column by cultural liberal Frank Bruni, who’s making a plea for gay marriage. On his way there he points out that some Catholics opposed to contraception have “broods much smaller than they likely would if they let nature have its way,” presumably because of artificial birth control. He thinks this is evidence of hypocrisy. But who knows! Conservatives might get down with the natural method, too. Wasn't it just the other day when Herman Cain ensured the country that Newt Gingrich would "pull it out"?

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