Misunderstanding Sex

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One lens that is useful in viewing this problem is the normalization of pornography into the mainstream, and in December of 1953, Playboy released its first issue

Research time and again confirms better educational and life outcomes for children who enjoyed stable upbringings.

As a Catholic speaker and informal spiritual adviser, who frequently addresses young adults in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I have observed quite closely the transforming perceptions of sex in this modern era. Increasingly, sex is being viewed more as recreation than as a sacred bond between a married couple.

In conversations with young adults I work with, I often trace this conception of sex to the Book of Genesis in which God instructs Noah “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.” And by doing so, God will be able to share his love with humanity forever as each new generation fulfills this God-given mission. In order to accomplish this objective, God devised a master plan.  

A man and a woman will be bonded together in a special way called marriage. This is a union which can never be broken. The married couple is responsible for producing offspring, who will repeat this cycle. They do so through a sexual act of love, which not only produces children but also unites the couple more deeply. When a man engages in a sexual relationship with his wife, he is telling her in an extremely special way that he is giving himself to her in both body and soul.

However, through an observation of the change in values in our society, it is clear that a culture of promiscuity and sex-on-demand has replaced the ideal of sex as primarily a means of creating and preserving the family unit.

One lens that is useful in viewing this problem is the normalization of pornography into the mainstream. In December of 1953, Playboy released its first issue. There is perhaps no clearer indication of the change in mindset of sex than pornography. Sex became no longer sacred union between a man and a woman but rather a public spectacle for the entire world to view. Pornography and the accompanying attitude of promiscuity seemed to all but suggest that it is acceptable to have sex with whomever a person desires, whether this person is a spouse or not. But, perhaps the even more fundamental problem concerns the treatment of the human body as a mere object rather than an entity to be treated with tremendous dignity and respect.  

As the argument goes, it is not so objectionable to view pornography because “it’s only some pictures” and no one is being hurt. The participants are posing freely and consensually. But even if this starts innocuously enough, viewing pornography causes a change in mindset where one starts to view a woman not for her inner beauty but for her body alone. According to God, the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and pornography, which trivializes a person’s body, is a desecration of God’s temple. This normalization of pornography is directly related, causally or otherwise, to the expansion of a culture of promiscuity.

Sex is increasingly viewed no longer as the manifestation of a loving and self-giving relationship but merely as a recreational activity in which people can have sexual relationships with an infinite number of people, and thus, any one relationship can be terminated when it is no longer desirable. And even when people do get married in a society with these values, this mindset transfers even into married life, and many couples enter into marriages thinking that they can get divorced if it begins not to work well. This is partially the reason why estimates suggest that the likelihood a first marriage will end in divorce is somewhere close to 50%. The statistics get more dismal for subsequent marriages. Divorce results in emotional wounds that often never completely heal, especially for children. These children are often split between two parents who may live miles apart. Obviously, there are other reasons for divorce, some of which are more legitimate than others, but a significant problem is this mindset of promiscuity carried over from single life into marriage.

Critics may argue that there is nothing wrong inherently with using one’s own judgment to determine what is moral. However, this logic has never persuaded me. Imagine a sporting event with no referee and no shared set of rules. What will happen when players attempt to play a game making up the rules for just himself as he goes along? Just like sports need referees to make sure the game is played fairly, our society needs God to remind us of the proper ways to conduct ourselves.

One frequently hears whenever the subject of sex arises that having a strict set of rules which govern sexual morality restricts individual freedom: nobody has the right to tell someone else what to do in the bedroom. However, this line of reasoning fails to recognize that God’s law is not just an annoying rule meant to restrict our ability fully to enjoy ourselves. Rather, this is a plan devised in infinite wisdom to give individuals a greater sense of peace and the true freedom that is only possible when we are liberated from our most base instincts. Just as a mother tells her son not to play in the street because she wants him to be safe and live a long and productive life, God gives humanity His law because he knows what is best for our flourishing.

American society must urgently resume a proper respect for the appropriate use of sex. Sex is not a recreational activity to be shared with as many people as one wishes. It is a sacred gift from God meant to produce children and draw a married couple deeper into union with one another. A proper respect for sexual propriety and the importance of strong families will result in more children being raised in stable two parent households. Research time and again confirms better educational and life outcomes for children who enjoyed stable upbringings. There are no guarantees that life will ever be even close to perfect even when we follow God’s teachings. However, we all have a much better chance of finding and maintaining true happiness when we follow God rather than when we do whatever we please in a given moment.

Thomas Nordeman is a pro-life activist and Catholic campus minister. Mr. Nordeman has spoken at numerous engagements throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the subject of maintaining faith when confronted by physical disability. His advocacy has been profiled by The Catholic Standard & Times.

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