These two Catholic countries fascinate me, because, like Ireland, they are leading examples of how once-theoconservative nations have moved into modernity. The process is not linear, but it seems clearly unidirectional. The Catholic church has seen its influence collapse under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and, like rebellious teenagers, the countries have occasionally gone overboard in rejecting their clerical and theocon past. At some point, a new equilibrium will surely arrive, when the right to abortion is allied with serious attempts to prevent it occurring, where gay people are integrated into socially responsible institutions like civil marriage and civil unions. In Portugal, there is an attempt to reform its abortion laws to make them more humane, a function of being what one Portuguese woman describes as a "soft Catholic country". In Spain, the explosion of sexuality and pleasure after decades of Francoite repression has its triumphs, excesses as well as its funny side. This report in the NYT today has this pricelessly Catholic quote:
Dr. Fernández recalled that a woman recently urged her husband to seek Viagra but that the husband later begged him to stop writing prescriptions. "My equipment works fine with my mistress," the man said. "It's my wife that's the problem."
Then there's this from the other side of the gender war:
One such woman is Carmen, a chic, twice-divorced 45-year-old information technology executive and Sophia Loren look-alike, who complains that her sexual ardor intimidates most Spanish men. Frustrated by her boyfriend’s sexual performance, Carmen insisted that he take Viagra, which he obtained by making a fake prescription on his home computer.
The Viagra worked, she says, but she decided anyway to leave her boyfriend, an urbane 55-year-old psychologist, for a 32-year-old unemployed student athlete.
"Viagra is not the solution many Spaniards think it is," said Carmen, who declined to use her last name. "I came to realize that the problem wasn't my boyfriend's sexual prowess. The problem was him." Now, she added, "I have sex six times a day, but I do miss going to the opera."
There's always a catch, isn't there?