Redefining Safe Sex (Hint: It Has Nothing To Do with Contraception)

Redefining Safe Sex (Hint: It has nothing to do with contraception)

A few times in the past few weeks, I’ve heard married friends refer to the use of “protection” when having sex in a married context.

“Protection,” of course, is a euphemism for contraception. And since they’re talking about it within a monogamous relationship, presumably what they’re talking about being “protected” against is babies.

I naturally bristle at contraception being referred to as “protection,” since it has been my heart’s desire to have babies with my husband for the last five years. (So far, we’ve been blessed with one; and just very recently, another one on the way. After many, many months of waiting and hoping and praying). Contraception wouldn’t “protect” me against anything.

I understand that outside of monogamous relationships, contraception is referred to as “protection” in part because some forms (i.e. condoms) protect against the spread of disease. I get that. Protection against unwanted pregnancy is also implied. And I get that to a certain degree, too. Nobody really wants to have a baby with someone they aren’t committed to long-term.

But I find it problematic to refer to contraception as “protection” within healthy, long-term, monogamous relationships because it treats pregnancy as a disease and babies as a threat. This is not a very life-affirming attitude, in my opinion.

I wrote a blog post several years ago (on my old embarrassing blog) that argues we need to redefine safe sex: “safe” sex is that which occurs within the context of marriage.

And I still believe that to be true.

MARRIAGE is the protection. Marriage is what keeps sex safe.

Sex within a good marriage should always be “safe,” regardless of contraception use. It might still be fraught with difficulties — marriage doesn’t guarantee wonderful, problem-free sex — and couples may still want to avoid or delay pregnancy; but marriage should be a safe environment in which to share intimacy.

By getting married, a couple commits to caring for one another, and any potential offspring, for life. For better or worse. In sickness and health. That is protection.

When you make your marriage vows before witnesses, you make your intentions towards one another clear to a whole community, hopefully establishing a support system of friends and family to help and guide you through parenthood if any children should arise from your union. That is protection.

By getting married and remaining monogamous (especially if you have never been with anyone else before), you close the door to the spread of infection, so that sex is “safe” from disease. Again: that, to me, is protection.

In other words: the “safety”€ of sex is not established by contraception. It’s established by marriage.

Now, this isn’t an argument against contraception or any other kind of birth control. I just wish that folks would call it what it is, and not imply that when a married couple eschews birth control they are not “protected.”

Sex within marriage is protected. Sex outside of marriage is unprotected.

Updated to add:

A few people have made some really valid points in the comments about situations of extreme poverty, abuse, or STI’s within marriage. In these cases, they rightly point out, contraception can provide a layer of safety against increased poverty or abuse.

I want to point out that I did try to emphasize in my post that I was talking about strong, healthy marriages.

In the conversations I was referencing, my friends were clearly referring to pregnancy, saying things like, “Of course they got pregnant again! That’s what happens when you don’t use protection!” They were cheerful comments exchanged between happily-married women from middle-income families. We’re not talking about poverty-stricken, abusive relationships in these cases.

I doubt my friends were really thinking about the full implications of the language they were using; I’m sure they don’t really think of babies as a threat they need to be “protected” against. But the fact that they grabbed onto the word “protection” highlighted to me what a common euphemism it is. (In another conversation, a youth pastor told us about the time a student asked, “What kind of protection do you and your wife use?” Again, this just served to highlight how commonly we use this term when referring to contraception, even within safe, healthy marriages.)

So I do understand that contraception can be “protective” in some cases. I appreciate these commenters bringing this to my attention.

But ideally, there should be much better protection available for couples in trouble — financial aid for couples who can’t afford to feed another child; the support of a loving community in the case of abuse; etc.

Moreover, the examples my objectors offer are all examples of marriage not doing what it’s supposed to do. These are broken marriages, so of course they don’t provide the safety net they’re meant to.

I guess ultimately what I’m trying to say in this post is while contraception can be useful and helpful in some cases,  I believe relationships are what save us. Not birth control.

Image by Bre Pettis.

A Teeny, Tiny Update

Black-eyed Pea

I just wanted to let you, my dear friends and readers, know that after nineteen months of waiting, hoping and praying, I have a teeny tiny human growing inside of me — about the size of a black-eyed pea, I’m told. (Well, the internet said blueberry, but I didn’t have any of those.)

I understand that it’s customary to wait until the end of the first trimester to announce a pregnancy, but to be honest I don’t really understand that. I think it has to do with the higher risk of miscarriage within the first trimester; but if I did miscarry I would tell you about that either way.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you now because I can already foresee that it’s likely to get quiet around here over the next few weeks (or months). My bean-sized cargo has already all but flattened me. I have lost all enthusiasm for anything but sleep and Vietnamese pho. (We are fortunate enough to live within walking distance from a little Vietnamese restaurant that makes the best pho of my life. And for the last two days it’s been nearly the only thing I can eat.)

For a season, writing has been bumped down the priority list after survival. And when I have the energy, reading to my two-year-old, who doesn’t understand why I’m always laying on the couch these days.

As most of you know, having another child has been our heart’s desire for quite a long time. I’m only seven weeks along, so it’s still really early and I’m trying not to get ahead of myself too much. I’m still saying “If we have a baby in November . . . ” We’re excited but trying to tread gently.

I want to thank you all so much for your support and prayers. I know many of you have been praying for our family — particularly in regards to another addition — and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We’re both excited and terrified of where this may take us.

Blessings to you and yours.

Fried Beef Liver with Bacon, Mushroom and Sage: A.K.A. The Liver Recipe That Will Convert The Die-Hard Liver Hater


Fried Beef Liver with Bacon, Mushroom and Sage: A.K.A. The Liver Recipe That Will Convert The Die-Hard Liver HaterLiver.

Any Traditional Foods/Weston A. Price groupie worth her weight in raw pastured butter knows how incomparably valuable the stuff is. It’s practically nutritional gold. Organ meats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available to humans, and for that reason have been considered sacred to many traditional cultures. It’s especially wonderful for pregnant women or couples trying to conceive, as it’s packed with beneficial nutrients for growing babies (like folate, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, B6 and B12. It’s also a great source of protein, and contains riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, copper and selenium. In other words: it’s pretty friggin’ amazing.)

Liver is also a frugal choice — it’s usually quite inexpensive. And being able to use the whole beast reduces waste.

Just too bad it tastes so darn awful.

Or does it?

My Conversion from Liver Hater to Enthusiast

I have never like beef liver.

Now I am not a picky eater. I will eat just about anything. Exotic, spicy, sour, bitter, fermented . . . I just love food. Vegetables, seafood, meat, grains, dairy, all of it. Thai, Mexican, Lebanese, Greek, Italian . . . YUM. All different textures, all different flavours. You’d be hard-pressed to find something I wouldn’t eat. And I love trying new things and experimenting in the kitchen.

And I’m not particularly squeamish, either — I can eat other organ meats just fine. I’m actually quite fond of chicken liver, and I grew up fighting my siblings for chicken hearts and stomachs.

But I’ve just never cared for beef liver. I just couldn’t get past that bitter, metallic flavour and stringy texture.

My mom used to make a stew with liver, tomatoes, and corn, and I always wanted to cry when I heard it was for dinner. It was torture having to eat that stuff.

But I know how good it is for me. And I have access to more pastured beef liver than anyone could dream of wanting:  my parents raise their own beef cattle, and every year we get half a beef. It typically comes with a package or two of liver (as well as soup bones, tongue, and kidney, if we ask for it.)

This last year, I ended up with EIGHT packages of liver. Holy smokes!

But what to do with the stuff to make it edible?

I tried for years to like it, to no avail.

Until I tried (Not Your Average) Liver and Onions from Edible Aria.

This recipe changed my life.

Not only could I stomach it; I loved it! It was delicious!

Liver and Onions Frying

My husband and two-year-old daughter agree. I have made this dish three times in the last year or so, and each time we have all happily cleared our plates and gone for seconds. I could not believe this was the same thing I had hated for so many years.

The original recipe is rather vague in its quantities and instructions, so I thought I’d offer a more precise and thorough version (with minor tweaks).

If you eat it with an open mind, I think you will be amazed. Unless you don’t like mushrooms or bacon, in which case I can’t help you.


It is my opinion that every ingredient in this recipe is essential to making it delicious. But especially the sage, bacon (LOTS of bacon), fresh parsley (it MUST be fresh), and mushrooms. You just need them.

Also: In the past I have rinsed my sliced liver with water and then soaked it in a small amount of milk for about half an hour. Legend has it that this gets rid of the strong organ-y flavour. I thought it was really effective — it came out really mild-tasting. But then this last time I skipped the soaking, and couldn’t really tell the difference. But if you really want to avoid the strong flavour, you can always try it. It can’t hurt. Just be sure to drain it and dry well with paper towel after so it will fry well.

Also be sure to remove as much of the outer membrane as possible. As you slice, you generally can peel it off. It helps eliminate any funky texture.

Liver and Onions Ingredients

Beef Liver with Bacon, Mushrooms and Sage

Serves 6-8


  • 1 pkg liver (about 1 ½ lb), sliced
  • 1 cup flour (any kind)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 pkg bacon, roughly chopped (about 12 oz)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped (or a tsp of dried)
  • Small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Lard or tallow as needed


Mix salt, flour, and pepper in a large plate; set aside. (You will be dredging the liver in this, but you don’t want to do it too early.)

Fry bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add onion to pan and continue to cook in bacon fat until well browned. Remove with a slotted spoon (just add it to the cooked bacon you’ve set aside).

Add butter to the hot pan and combine with the remaining bacon fat. Add mushrooms and sauté until they begin to crisp on the edges. (Add lard or tallow as needed). Remove from pan.

Meanwhile, lightly dredge liver in flour mixture.

Make sure that the skillet is still good and hot, then add strips of floured liver and fry in batches until crispy. When it’s all fried, add everything back to pan along with sage and parsley. Cook until liver is cooked through.

Sprinkle with a little more parsley and be amazed that this fantastic dish contains more nutrients than you can count on your fingers.

Fried Beef Liver With Bacon, Mushrooms and Sage, AKA The Liver Recipe that will Convert the Die-Hard Liver Hater