A man sitting inside a woman's ovaries, reading a book.
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In the early ’80s, my mother — barely 30, but already divorced — took a children’s lit course at community college. We were living at the time in a rented house next to an old tuberculosis sanatorium that had been turned into a home for the developmentally disabled, and every night, while the old buildings on the hill above us were lit like spaceships, my mother read in a small pool of light, her feet tucked beneath her, occasionally hooking a fallen strand of hair behind her ear. My brother and I read with her: Watership Down and Charlotte’s Web and Where The Wild Things Are. More… “Are You There God? It’s Me, Crenshaw.”

Paul Crenshaw’s essay collection This One Will Hurt You is forthcoming from The Ohio State University Press in spring 2019. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by Houghton Mifflin and W.W. Norton, Oxford American, Ecotone, Brevity, North American Review, and Glimmer Train, among others. @PaulCrenstorm

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The Catholic Church has long enjoyed involving itself in the most intimate details of the conjugal bedroom, although its motives took a radical turn in the Middle Ages.  Early thinkers often looked on sex-free marriages as the Christian ideal, celebrating the saintly couples who abandoned the pleasures of the flesh and lived like sterile hermits. But after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, theologians decided that procreation was the sacred purpose of all conjugal unions. While divorce was still impossible without a special papal dispensation, Church lawyers became open to legal annulments of if one spouse was unable to carry out their holy marital duty. Courts needed to be au fait with the minutia of male performance, so in 1570 the Spanish intellectual Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva wrote the learned text De Frigidis et Maleficiatis to help distinguish the five categories of impotence that might affect the bonds of… More…