Sustainable Sex

I wrote this post for the wonderful Anglicans over at The Hipster Conservative. It’s not safe for work, or school, or anywhere.

Our culture is sexually schizophrenic.

On the one hand, it has become acceptable to purchase torture porn at Barnes & Noble. On the other, as the Daily Mail reports, “around one per cent of the world’s population [approximately 70 million people] are ‘asexuals’ who feel no sexual attraction at all,” a growing group seeking recognition as the fourth sexual orientation.

On the one hand, anal sex is more popular than ever, sex shops are reporting massive increases in the sale of nipple clamps, and the average age a boy is exposed to hardcore pornography is 14, all to which we applaud: Sexy stuff indeed. But on the other — as a 2011 article published in Psychology Today concluded — the use of internet pornography has created a generation of men who cannot be aroused by their actual, real life partners, and that “many are becoming convinced that [erectile dysfunction] at twenty-something is normal.” Not so sexy.

We talk more and more about the marvelous act of coitus, and we’re happily exposed to every arousing portion of the human body that can be used to sell us beer, cars, and deodorant — yet sex itself seems to be less and less fun. Only 64 percent of women report having an orgasm in their last sexual encounter (despite 85 percent of men thinking their partner had an orgasm), and in a recent survey, it was shown that 63 percent of married women would rather “do something else” than have sex with their husbands — watching a movie being the most popular alternative.

All in all, we cannot make up our minds between getting our freak on and collapsing into an armchair, bored and dissatisfied.

There is a parallel we might draw with this phenomenon of both inaction and inaction, of the simultaneous whittling of sex into an boring, unimportant non-thing and the hyping up of sex into an ultra-eroticized idol: Death.

In their death throes, humans fade into nothingness while flailing in fits of energy. At the end of all action, there is a panic of action. This saddens me to no end, for sex is awesome, beautiful, unifying, and life-giving, and yet we see mirrored in our sexual culture what we see in death — grotesque action on the way to final inaction. Is sex dying?

Read an interview by The Guardian entitled “Why sex could be history,” and you’ll find that the answer — for some — is a happy affirmative. Here author Aarathi Prasad points out that science has made it possible to divorce sex from reproduction, and that we should no longer view the two as intertwined. Sex is no longer strictly necessary to human beings.

Or look at the general “Christian” response to the sexual culture, incarnated in abstinence-education programs: Sex is dirty thing, a dangerous thing, an evil thing. Perhaps this is not intention of those running such programs, but it is another affirmative response to the death of sex.


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  • kaneblaise

    Got a few grammatical errors there. “Both inaction and inaction” ”
    Perhaps this is not intention of those running such programs”

    • Lisa DellaVecchia

      That would be a typo. And the number of said typo would be one, not “a few.” Pointing out a typo rather than commenting on or praising a fantastic article…I mean really? Did that make you feel good getting corrected? Is that really all some people have to do with their time?

      • Poundcake

        it’s alright lisa, it’s good for marc to have someone pointing out his grammatical errors cause he doesn’t always catch them. it’s better for someone to point out mistakes politely than for them to go unnoticed.

  • chris

    bulls eye

  • MEC88

    Why the slam on abstinence-education programs? That’s not intended to be a confrontational question, I really would like to see the reasoning behind that short paragraph. I have never been to one/seen the materials for one, but it seems on the surface of it like an unfair assessment. I was hoping you’d link something! Others may not like to talk openly about sex in quite such explicit terms (it’s ideally supposed to be a hidden, beautiful expression of marital love) but that doesn’t mean they think sex is evil or dangerous.

    • Elizabeth

      There was a pretty eye-opening blog post about this recently by Simcha Fisher, “Is THIS What Abstinence-Only Education Looks Like?” ( She relates some testimonials she found from women who went through this type of sex ed, things like this:

      [G]irls were given two glasses of water and told to chew up food and spit it into one of them. Their teacher — a guest speaker from an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy” group, then asked them which glass they’d rather drink. The lesson, in case you haven’t guessed already, is that premarital sex makes you a gross glass of regurgitated food.

      I’m sure there are plenty of educators out there conveying a better message, but apparently this type of thing is rampant…?

      • musiciangirl591

        there’s jason and krystalina everett, they are chastity speakers and very non-confrontational

      • Gail Finke

        My daughter’s program did a similar thing. The message is not that premarital sex makes you a gross glass of regurgitated food, it is that 1) you can get diseases from a person who looks “nice” because diseases travel from person to person to person to person and b) promiscuity (not sex itself, or even premarital sex itself ) is gross.

      • MEC88

        Wow. I read Simcha regularly and had never come across this. There is evidence that *some* abstinence-only programs have high success rates (see Wikipedia), but it would be interesting to see a study of the approach used. Marc is unfairly painting all approaches as sex-is-evil-be-very-scared, but that was not my experience at all. Also, notice that Simcha doesn’t say it’s abstinence education itself that’s the problem, just the approach she was finding evidence of.

    • RavenOnTheHill

      (In passing.) They don’t work. Young people in such programs on average. have sex earlier than in programs which take the possibility of sex into account. IIRC, that earlier sex is more often without contraceptives or protection against STDs.

      I checked, and I was wrong. In fact, the programs have been found to not affect teen sexual behavior. Study.

      Reuters article.

      “In short, American taxpayers appear to have paid over one billion federal dollars for programs that have no impact.”—Representative Henry Waxman.


    Catholics have been equally guilty of presenting sex as a dirty, evil necessity, so it’s not just some vague fundie Christian attitude. Women were unlawfully held captive, enslaved and dumped into unmarked graves in Ireland merely for being too flirtatious or tempting to boys — and this was done by the Church itself, not Catholics who didn’t understand Church teaching. This was done by a politically powerful Catholic Church. Not so different from a politically powerful Muslim hierarchy, eh?

    Will a hypersexual culture go out of fashion? Sure. These things tend to swing back and forth from one extreme to another, with the majority of people remaining in the middle, quietly having normal sexual lives.

    The sexual revolution was the result of Catholic/Christian views on sex — that it was dirty and bad, that it was something necessary but not to be enjoyed too much, that women were essentially dirty and unclean, and that celibacy was a better state than a normal, healthy sexual state. Without acknowledging the damage such thinking did, that this sort of thinking led to the pendulum swinging to the other extreme, you cannot make any sort of honest, complete commentary on sexual history and trends.

    • musiciangirl591

      so placing value on sex made everyone want to rebel? :P

      • LTNSP

        No, teaching that sex was dirty and bad made everyone want to rebel. Can you not read…? Or are you another silly little girl who wasn’t even alive when those attitudes were regularly promoted by Catholics/Christians? How old are you — 12?

        • musiciangirl591

          19, by the way

          • LTNSP

            Then you have no excuse for your ignorance. Educate yourself.

          • musiciangirl591

            i didn’t know your age… jeez, you sound like my mother…

          • LTNSP

            Why are you using your mother in an attempt to insult me? Do you not realize you’re insulting her as well? Is this an example of the Catholic teaching you were brought up with? Explains a lot.

          • musiciangirl591

            she just says that alot :P and i love my mother :)

          • Frances Uhomoibhi

            Wow LTNSP I am sorry for the experience that you had of the Church in the sixties, but please know that just because a group of people from a certain group portray certain beliefs does not necessarily mean that those are representative of the true beliefs of that group as a whole. The Catholic Church’s teaching and beliefs about the sexual act is that it is beautiful and symbolic of our desire to be in communion with God and each other. For more information on this I would highly recommend Blessed John Paul the second’s teaching on Theology of the Body.

          • LTNSP

            Yes, dear. I’ve read it. But actions speak so much more loudly than words.

            Please spare me the usual “that was just some people” nonsense. Either all human life counts, or none of it does. You can’t pick and choose which life counts and which doesn’t as suits your purposes.

          • musiciangirl591

            does the some people apply to other things? my boyfriend’s best friend is a muslim, should i group him with the suicide bombers because they are the same religion or no?

          • LTNSP

            You are quite spectacularly stupid and annoying, aren’t you, you little troll? Piss off.

          • musiciangirl591

            i’m not a troll, i just had a legit question, should i group qais with the people who planned 9/11 or not? just wondering because of that some people thing :P

          • LTNSP

            No, specific people and specific organizations should be held responsible for their actions. When an official from an organization engages in crimes in their capacity for said organization, then, yes, the organization is culpable.

            If your friend is not a member of Al Qaeda, then why should he be held accountable for their crimes?

            If a member of the Catholic hierarchy commits crimes with full knowledge and approval of the Catholic Church, then both that individual and the organization he or she was acting for are culpable.

          • musiciangirl591

            just saying, you said that some people means all, and thats what i figured….

          • pagansister

            Members of the Catholic hierarchy already have committed crimes with full knowledge & basic approval of the Catholic Church—hiding and ignoring the priests that molested how many children? Too many to count.

          • Eve

            um I vote LTNSP is banned….such language is deplorable, i agree with my father who told me “once you start calling names you’ve already lost”

          • musiciangirl591

            my motto is once you start calling names, i lose respect for you (if i had any)

          • GoodCatholicGirl

            My goodness, you have one heck of a toxic personality! There is no need to call people names nor to be so dispicablely nasty. A little elegance and a lot less bile, please!

          • LTNSP

            Well, see, that’s what happens when one of you cold, dead, stony-hearted “intellectuals” informs me he’s having a good laugh at the expense of mine and other people’s suffering, even deaths. I’m bitchy that way. I learned from you people.

          • musiciangirl591

            you people…. you love that word don’t you… people

          • De Gaulle

            You’re going to pity yourself to death. God help anyone that has to listen to you.

          • LTNSP

            Dude, I save this shit for motherfuckers like you. Deal with it. Or not. I honestly don’t give a fuck.

          • pagansister

            Good Grief, LTNSP, Your language doesn’t make your points any more pointed—it just makes folks think you have a very limited vocabulary.

          • GoodCatholicGirl

            Why do you assume I’m a cold, dead, stony-hearted intellectual? I’m not laughing at anyone – that would be cruel and dare I say, not very Christian. You learned nothing from me but perhaps you should have. Be kind, for goodness sake and stop calling people names!

          • Frances Uhomoibhi

            I believe all life counts.

          • Frances Uhomoibhi

            And so does the Church.

          • De Gaulle

            But you’re insulting everybody.

          • LTNSP

            Now? Yep.

          • musiciangirl591

            for just engaging and not doing anything?

          • pagansister

            As a 19 year old, do you agree that the Church is still right in saying that no ABC is to be used (not even condoms) because the only acceptable way to try and prevent a pregnancy is
            NFP? Or do you feel that you as a woman should be able to prevent a pregnancy by other means and that you, not the Church, should be able to decide whether or not you become a mother at all?

          • musiciangirl591

            well, ABC is never morally permissible and my boyfriend and i are going to be chaste until marriage…

          • pagansister

            OK, if you and your boyfriend actually “remain chaste” until you marry, that will obviously keep a pregnancy from happening. However, you really didn’t answer my question—Does the Church have the right to tell you that the main purpose of marriage is to have kids or should YOU as a woman be able to decide when or IF you will bring a child into the world?

          • musiciangirl591

            well… i’m Catholic so i try to guide my life from the guidepoints of the Church, i want children… i plan on having 5 of them

          • pagansister

            As I’m old enough to be your grandparent, I will try and not put a damper on your wish to have 5 children. It is my sincere hope that you and your husband make very good salaries in order to feed and house those 5 children. If you are part of a large family, then perhaps you can continue that tradition. Having taught in a Catholic school for 10 years, I found that “accepting all the children God gives you,” IOW the tradition of the large Catholic family was fading fast. ABC as far as I could tell was obvious, among the teachers as well as the families. The largest family in the school was 8 kids and they couldn’t afford to continue to attend the school. The family had to put them in a public school. Most of the families were no larger than 3. Good Luck.

          • musiciangirl591

            my theology teacher was the youngest of 13, all of them were Catholic school educated, he’s a priest, so is his twin, i really don’t know what the point of you trying to lecture me was, “grandpa” wait no not calling you that, both of my grandfathers were fine upstanding gentlemen (one a marine, one a wonderful family man), so before you lecture me and berate me because of my age, think twice

          • pagansister

            No lecture intended—just a reality check. The fact that your theology teacher was the youngest of 13, and he and his twin are priests, might tell you something—neither wanted to have children. The Church will take care of them for the rest of their lives. And since priests are supposed to be “celibate” , their chances of having a child are slim, but not impossible. I would say that there are few Catholic families that have 13 children anymore—if for no other reason than economics. Have often wondered how unmarried MEN can tell everyone what marriage should be etc. Somehow being Married to the Church isn’t the same thing. Time will tell if you can fulfill your wish for 5 children—-BTW, not berating you at all—the dreams of youth should be admired. Glad you had upstanding grandfathers—-always a plus. Children, as wonderful as they are (I have 2 grown children and 1 grandchild), they are expensive—and no matter how much they are loved, love doesn’t pay for clothes etc. But as I said above—Good Luck.

        • aj7690

          I have to disagree with you. As a young teen having grown up in the Catholic Church, the value placed on sex is that it is a god given, beautiful, full expression of love between a married man and married woman. Healthy sexuality is expressed within the covenant of marriage as a gift from God, not random sexual encounters and pornography that help millions fill a void. While I can’t rewrite history and the church’s leaders have made missteps along the way, my experience of learning about healthy sexuality was completely positive

          • LNTSP

            And as someone who grew up in the Catholic Church in the sixties, that was not my experience. You cannot “disagree” with an experience. You merely had a different experience than I and many of my contemporaries did.

            Calling the filthy, hideous crimes of the Magdalene laundries “missteps” is pretty darned dehumanizing to the women and children destroyed by the Catholic Church — destroyed and and dumped in mass, unmarked graves, at that.

            Please educate yourself instead of denying and demeaning the experiences of other human beings.

          • musiciangirl591

            not trying to do that, just trying to express a different viewpoint… just because of our ages, we aren’t allowed to do that?

          • De Gaulle

            I take it you’re Irish, like myself, but you obviously missed the ‘good manners’ lessons we all got. Rather than engaging in persistent ad hominem attacks and the launching of absurd exaggerated accusations about “…dehumanizing to the women and children destroyed by the Catholic Church”, which, though regrettable, was simply the result of dismal human inadequacy combined with a failed state, rather than the pitiable pseudo-holocaust you describe, I suggest you abandon your self-pitying victim-glorification you describe, and get over yourself. Most people are, frankly, quite bored with it all.

          • LTNSP

            Oh, it’s just…regrettable. Oopsies! Our bad! Doesn’t count anymore, whatevs!

            You get the fuck over YOURself, cocksucker. Fuck you.

          • jojosmom

            For anyone like me who was confused as to what LNTSP was talking about, here’s a wikipedia link to the Magdalene Asylums:
            Yes, horrific. However you do leave out several facts, such as that the first institutions of this type were Protestant, that the original intention was to be a place where former prostitutes could come if they wanted to leave prostitution and get their lives together, and that the Irish government is/was horribly complicit in perpetuating this and has even blocked efforts to look into them.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And as someone who grew up in the Catholic Church in the sixties,”

            I don’t consider any American, of any religion, who grew up in the 1960s to be sexually healthy.

            I strongly doubt the Irish are any better.

          • pagansister

            Did they also teach you that preventing impregnation is against the rules and that the basic reason for sex is to have a child? NFP is supposed to be limited in it’s use as God is supposed to be able to “give” you kids when she/he wants. Just be sure you don’t have sex just for fun! Oh, no sex unless you’re married AND do not use any ABC! Just wondered if all that was pointed out to you too.

          • Laura M

            I would believe all that was was pointed out to aj7690 (though you totally ignore the unitive function of sex between spouses) and I would also believe you find it patriarchally opressing, or close-minded puritanical or something equally silly.

          • pagansister

            Totally for the unity of the sex act, but IMO, it is not the Church’s basic reason for that unity. It wants more kids to populate the pews. That, however, in my experience is happening less as many are using ABC due to many reasons, not the least of which is economic. And yes, the Patriarchy of the Church tends to be a bit much—always has been.

        • Laura M

          Because if she was in fact 12, it would make her silly, not like your enlighted and full of insults comments. Roooooolls eyes

    • Mike

      A tidy little non-explanatory litany we’ve all heard a million times. Unfortunately, for those of us who read older books or are otherwise have a historical perspective to separate norm from anomaly and baseline from trajectory, also entirely absurd. A few minutes of reading Chaucer or a Shakespearean comedy should make that evident. That women are dirty and unclean would have surprised the builders of cathedrals of Europe dedicated to Our Lady. It’s especially amusing to make that accusation against the one religion that makes a point of saying there is no such thing as “ritually unclean” in the first place.

      Simply because a claim such as “Catholics think women are dirty and unclean” has been rather stupidly asserted and repeated as propaganda for some time, obviously doesn’t make it true. It just means that there are plenty of people willing to unthinkingly repeat stupid claims.

      The idea that things are self-correcting is also very naive: it begs the question of what the baseline ‘normal sexual life” we all oscillate around actually is. Is it normal to have concubines and sex slaves? Is it normal to be able to dismiss a wife if she does not satisfy the husband? Is it normal to allow sex with children? All of these have been considered “normal” in some time or place, and in those same places under a certain religion came to be abnormal. Why is that?
      When the Church recognized that Christ had elevated marriage to a sacrament, and bent every effort towards the protection and elevation of marriage, did they not know that the point was having intercourse and babies? Was it even considered a marriage if not consummated by the sexual act? Were their the normal ritual taboos and prohibitions around the menstrual cycle as in everywhere else in the world? (A hint: no.)

      That’s not to say that there weren’t always other strands of negativity. But a cross-cultural and historical perspective will show that those other strands *are the normal human lot*. The *trajectory* of the Church was always towards elevating the dignity of women and marriage. That is simply a matter of such deep historical fact that it blends into the background and is forgotten.
      We live in a complex historically contingent world in which nothing happens without some antecedent. Yet since we are human actors with free will, those are not sufficient causes to explain a new societal phenomena. Especially in the area of sex, which by its nature is creative and primal, to reduce any new development to a single simple reaction is nonsensical. Entire books have been written on the subject of the sexual revolution, a complex convergence of bad philosophy, marketing, family structure, technology, and economics, and now it is simply a “result” of other “views”?
      Thank you for a good morning’s chuckle and keep it coming. It’s about time this ridiculousness is skewered once and for all, but unless someone steps up to throw the soft-balls, it’s not going to happen.

      • LTNSP

        Thank you for dehumanizing and denying the suffering of your fellow Catholics. It’s clear Catholicism is merely a form of intellectual masturbation for you.

        For some of us, God is real.

        And for some of us, dehumanizing real human beings because they didn’t exist in large enough numbers or for long enough a period of time is indicative of seriously stunted and selfish thinking.

        Nice to know that other people’s very real suffering gave you a good chuckle, though. That must please God greatly.

        • musiciangirl591

          what exactly is intellectual masturbation? i’m interested in what you have to say… go for it

          • LTNSP

            Getting off on being an arrogant douche-bag.

          • musiciangirl591

            i see you indulged in some too :P

          • LTNSP

            Nope. You clearly are too young, ingnorant and stupid to understand and you’re clearly nothing but a little troll here to prove what twat you are. You’re on permanent ignore from now on.

          • musiciangirl591

            actually i read his blog whenever i get a chance… look on his last blog posts… and i don’t troll and i just like asking questions

        • Mike

          I’ll bite.

          I’m now an “arrogant douchebag” who “intellectually masturbates”?

          And yet, you’re against “dehumanizing real human beings”?

          If you want to convince people in a public forum, then be convincing. Calling them names and not dealing with the substance of what they say is not only quintessential dehumanization, but also not likely to get anyone to agree with you.

          It is doubly ironic given that you were just ascribing to others the notion that “women are dirty”. Do you not know that calling someone a “douchebag” is trading on that very idea?

          In any case, where thinking (using the “intellect”) versus emoting is unwelcome, it is time for thinking people to check out of the argument. I wish you the best.

          • musiciangirl591

            i’ve only heard that phrase used twice, so thats why i asked… lol

          • LTNSP

            I defined intellecutal masturbation for someone who is clearly a troll.

            Besides, you are an arrogant douche-bag.

            Calling you one isn’t the same as dismissing real people who suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church.

            Yeah, yeah…so pedantic. Douche-bag is a Jersey thing. Would it make you feel better if I called you a schmuck?

          • De Gaulle

            “Calling you one isn’t the same as dismissing real people who suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church.”

            You must be a barrel of laughs to be around.

          • LTNSP

            I treat Catholics the way they treated me. Isn’t that your rule, after all — do unto others? Blame yourself.

            When I’m with normal, kind, sincere people, I treat them accordingly. Catholics? Pfft… They’re an arrogant, ignorant, cruel, cold, and narcissistic lot.

          • Laura M

            Don’t worry, by making such ridiculous generalizations you prove that you’re not arrogant, ignorant, cruel, cold, or narcissistic…

          • Sarah

            Go on LTNSP, now tell us your opinions of Blacks, Jews, The Irish, Teagues and Lefties. Get all of your bigotry out of you at once, it will do you good.

      • Vision_From_Afar

        A few minutes of reading Chaucer
        or a Shakespearean comedy should make that evident.

        “That” being the idea, in context, that women had their place, whatever fantasies we built around them? Chaucer wrote ribald stories because it’s the kind of delightful escapism we find in “50 Shades…” today. Shakespeare’s comedies always involved women being kept in their place, or at least being forced back into it by the end of the play. Have you actually read “Taming of the Shrew”?

        When the
        Church recognized that Christ had elevated marriage to a sacrament, and
        bent every effort towards the protection and elevation of marriage, did
        they not know that the point was having intercourse and babies?

        Actually, for the first couple centuries, most preferred celibacy and abstinence from both sex and marriage. You can thank the early (~100-400 CE) Christians for making the virginity of the couple a sacral issue in a delightful bit of counter-culture stubbornness.

        their the normal ritual taboos and prohibitions around the menstrual
        cycle as in everywhere else in the world? (A hint: no.)

        Surely you’re joking. Church doctrine dictating that women are “ritually unclean” due to menstruation, and thus unable to serve as priests and sacral roles, has been in effect since its founding. Christians in various stripes haven’t been immune to this shaming either: in the early 1800s, a British doctor claimed that having a menstruating woman in the house would purify any bacon nearby.

        That is simply a matter of such deep historical fact that it
        blends into the background and is forgotten.

        “As long as we say we’ve gotten closer to the correct answer after two millennium, we’re doing fine”?

        Your position of Historical Guru notwithstanding, I think you’re a little too quick to dismiss possible reasons for the current socio-sexual revolution. Occam’s Razor and all that.
        The idea that this mentality isn’t cycical is curious, how else to explain the 20-year cycle from the “free love” 60s, to the repressed “keep it to yourself” 80s, back to our “out and loud” 00s?

        • Mike

          A civil response; thank you.

          (Quotes are summaries)

          1) ”Chaucer & Shakespeare”: The point I was specifically addressing here is whether it is core to Catholic culture that women are unclean and sex is bad, not about the proper role of women. You concede my point that the stories were “ribald”, — obvious evidence against the notion that sex was in the closet . (And for what it’s worth, yes I have read Taming of the Shrew just this year. So please tone down the rhetorical “have you even read…” questions).

          2) “Actually for the first couple of centuries…”. Please explain yourself on that one as it’s not clear what you’re saying. Whether people preferred abstinence or celibacy can (obviously) be orthogonal to whether sex is denigrated or women thought of as impure so your point as expressed doesn’t bear on our discussion. Also, again I’ll note that historical judgements must take into account “the background”; if late antiquity as a whole had certain prejudices toward women and sex (it did), then that *must be adjusted for* when trying to determine the flow of causes. This is the opposite of a cop-out, and instead essentially the same thing sociologists do in modern studies to arrive at “significant” differences.

          3) “You must be joking: that women are unclean is the reason they cannot be ordained”: Please show me anywhere an authoritative doctrinal statement to that basic effect -”because women menstruate, they are unclean, and because they are unclean, they cannot be ordained”. Not a second-hand recounting by someone with an axe to grind, not something that “looks like it” (like an argument from the idea of a natural inferiority of women, an odious but different concept) but a primary and authoritative source on that actual point of menstruation and uncleanliness.

          If it was “doctrine” you’d be able to find that quite easily as Christian doctrine is public, spelled out, and not hidden. Since it is instead a naive slur, you won’t be able to find it. Consistent Christian teaching from the beginning is that ritual uncleanliness has been done away with – the point of Jesus touching the hemorrhaging woman. This is not a matter of defending the Church (you can find plenty of other true things with which to malign the Church) but of keeping the facts straight. If anything, I should accuse you of joking since such a claim doesn’t pass the sniff test, except I know how easy it is to be taken in by such “common knowledge” that confirms our bias as it happens to all of us.

          4) “Dismissing reasons/Occams Raxor”: If you read my post clearly, I am arguing *against* dismissing “possible reasons” for the sexual revolution and *for* a balanced, nuanced approach that accommodates actual reality. The most well-known formulation of Occam’s Razor is “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”. The key phrase is “beyond necessity” – so complex human affairs deserve equally complex answers, not simplistic slogans.

          5) Historical Guru – hey, I started the snark on that one so I deserve it :-)

          6) “Cyclic history”: Of course it’s somewhat cyclic and that’s not the point I made. My question was: what defines the baseline/hub around which it cycles? This is an important question to answer if you are accusing someone of an extremist position (as Catholics were being accused) because extremes are obviously relative to the center.

          I am not arguing that you will not be able to find negative views of women or sex within the historical Church (that would be silly as you can multiply cherry-picked quotes all day). I am arguing that to simply characterize those views as Catholic in origin is false; they have always been there in human culture. It’s a simple enough exercise: look around in the historical record and outside the Church and you will find examples galore.

          But the basic historical effect of the Church has been to elevate the dignity of women – most obviously through making divorce law symmetrical, which was a historical revolution that we take for granted. Less obvious to us but more profound is the hidden revolution of how the Church permanently elevated the notion of the human person as the image of God, no matter how little in status, and recognized a woman from Palestine as the greatest of all creatures, a model not for just women but all Christians. It is this implicit and entirely mystical idea in the background of our culture that serves as the basis for even being able to critique the Church in the first place. This is *without* diminishing or denying real historical injustices towards women that are our common inheritance across all cultures and times – indeed it is *why* we can recognize them as injustices at all.

          Now, I’m going to rather unfairly permanently bow out as this is my first and last exchange on the Internet because I was procrastinating on other work. If I continue I will get in big trouble with my wife. So the last word is turned over to you and thank you for engaging with my points.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            Civility does seem in short supply on Patheos some days, I admit. Thank you in kind for continuing it.

            1) I guess I mis-fired in my return volley here. My attempt was to point out the dualistic and contradictory nature of sex in public and sex in reality. Chaucer and Shakespeare were like SNL skits of their day, where they were laughed at and enjoyed with caveats that they not be taken too seriously, lest we devolve as a society into that stereotypical (but no less slanderous) “Roman orgy” motif.

            2) I guess that here I was trying to point out the contradiction of early Christianity’s emphasis on celibacy and not actually getting married with the current focus on marriage. A vague and off-target comment, I admit.
            Late antiquity as a whole did have prejudices, but I would argue that they were related to the primacy and dominance of the Christian worldview, but that’s a different argument altogether.

            3) True, I cannot find a direct, “lift from quote” doctrinal statement, but I turn around and ask for clarification on the following statement from the 1976 Doctrine of the Faith’s Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Preisthood, which included not only the reasons of tradition and claims of Christ’s will, but also the idea of male representation being paramount due to the “sacramental nature” of the preisthood. If that’s not a “women cannot be sacred” due to some unexplained and unclaimed uncleanliness, then what is it?I would also argue that while Christian teaching may have done away with ritual uncleanliness, there are many examples of failing to follow said teaching. Perhaps my rhetoric was a bit caustic, but I think my point was not completely unfounded on this matter.

            4) I think we differ on what may be considered a “necessity” in this examination. True, society, technology, governments, and culture all play a role in the shifts of sexual expression, but I think they play a secondary role, amplifying what shifts would occur (swinging from the one extreme to the other), rather than being an impetus for the change.

            5) Snarky snark snark. All’s well. :)

            6) I would argue not that we do not have a well-defined center. Much like political expressions, the societal view of sex has it’s two extremes that swing about a shifting center, pulling that center first towards one, then the other. The metric for extremes in this case, as in modern political ones, must be a simple comparison with agreeing positions. It’s a simple question of “Who goes the farthest down their respective rabbit hole?”

            7)”Divorce law symmetrical”
            Last I checked, divorce was still not possible within the Church. Did I miss something? There were other cultures that had equivalent divorce settlements before Christendom got around to it (the Celts and Norse come to mind), so I don’t think you can claim this as an original Church idea.
            8)”Elevation of Mary”
            While I applaud the action, I would attribute it more to synchronicity with European and Mediterranean pagan traditions than a Church effort. The idea of saints as intermediaries with God also has a profound similarity with local spirits and famous heroes from pagan lore (it’s delightfully reverse-engineered in religions like Voodoo and Santeria).

            It is unfair of you to quit now. I’ve posed questions in my reply in desperate hopes your wife can see you’re having an actual discourse and not a flame war (mine constantly berates me for feeding flames in comboxes), or that some other polite sould will pick up the narrative. In any case, it’s been a pleasure.

          • jojosmom

            I might only have time for one comment too but wanted to pick up the torch here, regarding women’s ordination. The idea of a sacrament, in Catholic tradition, is that a sacrament both symbolizes and causes a certain spiritual effect. So Baptism, the washing of someone with water while speaking the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” both symbolizes the washing of the soul from original sin and God’s sanctifying grace coming to dwell in it, and actually causes it to happen. (Not that the water and the words can force God to do anything, but that it is the mechanism by which God has chosen to act.)
            The sacrament of Holy Orders, that is, ordination the priesthood, also symbolizes something. The priest, when acting in his capacities as priest to say Mass, hear confessions, etc, is acting in the person of Jesus Christ and has been given his authority to be able to say truly “this is my body” and to forgive sins. The priest is acting not just in the role of God, for God is neither male nor female, but specifically in the person of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, who was an actual human male.
            Just as water must be used in baptism for the spiritual effect to occur, or the symbolism doesn’t work and the sacrament doesn’t either, in Holy Orders it must be a man who acts “in persona Christi”. Catholic teaching says that if you used, say, oil to pour over a baby’s head while speaking the words of baptism, nothing (spiritually) would happen. There would be no sacrament. Likewise, if a bishop tried to ordain a woman, laying hands on her and speaking the words of ordination, nothing would happen.
            It cannot be concluded that this is because women are seen as unfit for spiritual things or somehow not holy, any more than you could conclude that oil is seen as less holy than water. In fact, oil is used in other sacraments – Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. So clearly excluding it from one sacrament doesn’t mean it is somehow unfit for sacramentality. It’s just that in the particular application of baptism, it doesn’t work because the symbolism doesn’t work.
            Does that help?

    • TheodoreSeeber

      What is “the church itself” to you? A lot of Irish priests between 1400 and 1900 became priests merely to escape grinding poverty, they were not exactly the best educated of men.

      • LTNSP

        They still aren’t. Most priests are clearly emotionally and socially stunted men, as well as sexually stunted. I’ve yet to meet a priest who was a normal, sexually healthy male. You can just tell something’s not quite right as soon as you meet them.

        • musiciangirl591

          what do you mean by sexually healthy?

        • jojosmom

          Beyond your initial subjective impression, how would you know if a priest was a normal healthy male?

        • Andrew J. Patrick

          O RLY?

          Reading this man’s posts are staggeringly entertaining. The rage. The promotion of prejudice to fact. The grand sweeping generalizations directed at everyone combined with the accusation of trolling. Oh, Internet.

    • De Gaulle

      The ‘sexual revolution’ was due to Albert Kinsey, and all you need to do is to study his ‘Table 34′ to see where the whole view of sexuality has gone wrong.The story you describe of my country, Ireland, is merely a fabrication of half-truths.

  • Paul O’Brien

    The abstinence programs I’m aware of stress the value of sex. Are there some sources that will let me figure out which one of us is suffering under the fallacy of anecdotes?

  • Obliged_Cornball

    Aside from your misuse of the term “schizophrenia” (which is not entirely your fault given its misportrayal in popular culture), this was an intelligent and well-written article.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    So you tout a statistic that 64% of women don’t get orgasms and that 63% would rather do something else as two separate, un-related statistics? Do you get dizzy from that much spin?
    Also, you can throw the “85% of men don’t know what they’re doing” statistic at the feet of the Patriarchy. For decades, the sexual conquest focused solely on the power and success of the man. After all, an female orgasm isn’t necessary to make a baby, so why care?
    I think what we’re really seeing here is the result of a generation who were given zero guidance on what to do (in terms of both sexes), and now have collectively thrown up their hands in defeat or buried their heads in the Sands of Denial. I think jumping to the conclusion that this is leading to the Death of Sex is a bit extreme.
    What I see is a re-imagining of what sex can truly be. This isn’t death throes, all undirected energy and sweaty flailing at futility and nothingness. This is metamorphosis, struggle and sweat and tears and growing strength of something wholly new emerging from the old. This is growing pains. This is the natural and painful shift that is the End Game for the feminist liberation movements of yore. This is where we learn that everyone deserves to enjoy themselves, in whatever bounds they choose to place for themselves (this includes the bounds of matrimony, you know). I, personally, can’t wait to see where we go next.

    • ColdStanding

      Culture of Death would seem to have the greater weight of evidence than your fanciful caterpillar self-dissolving to metamorphisize into a butterfly motif. There is no evidence of higher animals undergoing such transformations. There is a much better theme available.

      You need some Baudrillard:

      • Vision_From_Afar

        So your response is dismissal and freakishly dense doctorate-level philosophical treatise? How cute.
        Re: Evidence of higher animals:
        So a spiritual or philosophical transformation of the human mindset is equally invalid? The born-again Evangelicals will be sad to hear that.

        • ColdStanding

          Umm, dismissal? Well, (pauses, scratches head) I generally like to see some prospect of evidence to support an assertion. So, gosh, I feel just horrible that you feel dismissed (do you believe that?), but I can’t think of any higher animal that metamorphisizes. Don’t blame me, blame biology.

          Articles not to your taste? I would encourage you to try again. There is gold in there. Nobody beats Baudrillard, save Zizek, for density of reference. It’s been awhile since I read his stuff. Nice to get back to it.

  • Lone Star

    pornography = unrealistic expectations when the real thing comes along.

  • dgriffey

    Well, nice little gratuitous dig at those taking the slings and arrows for trying to promote abstinence. I’m sorry, but I hope Catholics understand that the stereotype that fundamentalists think sex is dirty obviously don’t hang around with modern fundamentalists. And there’s nothing more helpful than fighting the powers and principalities of this world than having fellow Christians run up to stab you in the back by advancing stereotypes that are being promoted by those against the faith.

  • Serena

    I don’t know what abstinence program you refer to as teaching that sex is “an evil thing,” but the abstinence programs I know about teach that sex is sacred, a gift, and therefore to be treated with reverent care.

    • Guest

      Catholics believe sex is sacred! Exactly.! But a lot of Christian absitnence programs fail to mention that sex is good and beautiful, and it is portrayed that Christians believe sex is evil and bad and dirty; which we all know that sex is a beautiful gift in the right context!

      • dgriffey

        Perhaps decades ago. But I don’t know of any in recent years who portray sex that way. Typically, those are opponents of traditional sexual ethics invoking stereotypes of how Christians treat sex. I’ve seen the materials used in abstinence education programs, and nowhere does it say anything but how wonderful sex is, as long as it is within a certain context. Again, join up with the 21st century, and believe that ‘sex is dirty’ went out with most people about the same time folks stopped using butter churns.

  • Micaela

    Marc, I have no idea how the comments degenerated into such degradation (ok, I do have an idea). But I wanted to get back to the point of your article and give you a giant virtual high five. Thank you for being a young voice for Truth.

    By the way, if anyone feels a comment is, ahem, inappropriate, click on the drop down arrow to the right of the comment and select “flag as inappropriate.” If enough of us do it, hopefully the site managers will do something about posters who use bad language, etc.