Two Terrible Ways to Have Sex

Eaton of Growing up Goddy has written a much needed jeremiad against a poisonous strain in our rhetoric about sex and consent.  From his essay:

In the world I was raised in, most junior high, high school, and perhaps even college students were unlikely to give explicit consent — even though they were willingly having sex. I don’t just mean girls, either — both men and women in that environment had the lessons of immorality, temptation, and so on drilled into them. Sex was treated as a dangerous thing that all people desired, but good people resisted. Falling into temptation was perhaps understandable, but planning for it or encouraging it? That was embracing sin and deliberately rebelling against God… A close friend of mine once explained without irony that using condoms was a more serious sin than unprotected premarital sex, because it implied premeditation.

…In that kind of environment, the idea of deliberately, actively, openly choosing sex — owning up to it and telling your partner that you’re ready — is practically unthinkable. Pushing boundaries, both your own and your partner’s, becomes the only way anyone gets laid, and over time it becomes normed. Protest, conflicted sex, and a veneer of regret functions as a sort of polite fiction, and many of the kids get what they want out of it. They have sex with their partner, and they don’t feel quite as much guilt because they can convince themselves that “It Just Happened.”

But inevitably, you get the dark side: some asshole learns “that’s how it works,” and date rapes a girl (or several) in his youth group, or goes on to college and does the same because — hey, that’s how it works! That kid assumes that a woman’s ambivalence — or even protest, depending on how deluded he is — is just part of the polite fiction “everyone” uses to avoid guilt and regret about their own sexual choices. In other cases, young women in the youth group culture are coerced into having sex, and understand that something terribly wrong has happened, but have no clear way of articulating how it’s different than what everyone else is doing. In some cases, they lack the language to explain how date rape is different from what they have voluntarily engaged in… The hardcore abstinence message of the conservative suburban youth groups I knew, and the poisonous atmosphere of normalized denial and rationalization, are basically training a generation of men and women who literally don’t understand what sexual consent looks like.

I blogged about this “sex as irresistible force” awfulness about a year or so ago, when I was creeped out by a Christian who would give his daughters an HPV shot but wouldn’t tell them what it vaccinated against.  In his mind, compromising any reason to not have sex was unthinkable; his daughters needed every defense they could get.  It’s fine to talk about when not to have sex, but, unless you’re the Shakers, you need to put at least as much effort, if not more, into explaining how to have appropriate sex.

Eaton (and Kevin Roose, back at “Call Him Voldemort!”) does a good job explaining how the extreme purity model of some Christians prevents reasonable discussions about consent.  So, while I’m linking you to him, I thought it would be a good time to call out one similarly destructive secular and sex-positive model.

If you watch a romcom, read a novel with romance, or listen to people talk, it’s easy to think that the best proxy for intimacy is one partner’s capacity for intuition.  We think that the measure of a partner is how well he or she anticipates our needs and desires, without having to ask.   This doesn’t just apply in the bedroom; we have scorn for a partner who doesn’t know what to get as a birthday gift and has to ask.  This is bizarre.  If you’re screening partners for how good they are at modeling future behavior, date statisticians.  If you’re looking for someone who cares more about serving you than about showing off their precision of their model of you, date someone who isn’t ashamed to ask about your preferences.

By promoting the spontaneous, intuitive model of sexual encounters, we’re not leaving room for frank discussions about consent and comfort.  When one partner says “slow down” or “I don’t want to do that” or even “Can you try x?” we think that points to a communication problem.  Why didn’t the other person know?

You’ll see this in movies or tv shows.  When one character tries to move from kissing to something else, s/he almost never pauses to ask the partner if they’d like to turn things up a notch.  And when one person in the scene rebuffs the new sex act, the couple almost never continue at the previous level of intensity, they sit up in their artfully draped sheets and try to figure out what went wrong.

This is a terrible norm.  The default is to keep pushing someone until they say no.  And it’s not always clear what counts as a clear no, since romances in popular culture tend to include a lot of girls that “need” someone to push them to loosen up and stalking that gets rewarded.  I guess the only thing that’s totally clear is saying, “No!” and belting your partner across the face.  (Oh wait).  So we end up with another group of people who, in Eaton’s words ” literally don’t understand what sexual consent looks like.”

It shouldn’t be this hard to tell desired sex from undesired sex.  We want a better diagnostic criteria for dividing real consent from coerced, impaired, or absent consent.  That’s what enthusiastic consent (coined by Antioch) is meant to do.  Instead of setting a high standard for what kind of no is a “real no,” people who practise enthusiastic consent assume the default is “No” unless they get an unambiguous and specific “Yes.”

A common objection to “enthusiastic consent” (which is sometimes glossed as “consent is the presence of a ‘yes’ not the absence of a ‘no’) is that having to talk about sex with prevent people from ever having sex.  To which I say, tough beans.  The intuitive model doesn’t mean that two partners are in sync, it just means it’s harder to notice when they’re going wrong.  Besides, Dan Savage and the BDSM community have shown it’s possible to have community norms of talking to your partner and then having sex.  And if you think it’s worse to have an awkward conversation than possibly coercing your partner, then no one should have sex with you anyway.

Bonus: Cliff from the Pervocracy has another excellent essay about how we use jokes and cliches to blur our norms about consent and respect in a way that makes it harder to know how to treat other people well.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Am I maybe missing something about this post? What does “sexual consent” look like?

    Um….doesn’t it look a lot like *marriage*?

    This post seems to focus on those who are un-married, or am I wrong on that?

    • leahlibresco

      Consent is still a live issue within a marriage. Partners can want/be comfortable with different things at different times. Use your words not your intuitions still applies.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Yes, I understand and agree with that–so then the content of the post is meant to refer precisely to married couples?

        • Qmwne

          Considering that unmarried couples – scratch that, unmarried *people* – often do have sex, for better or for worse, the content of this post ought to apply to anyone having sex. This doesn’t mean that Leah is endorsing sex outside of marriage, but if people are going to have sex outside of marriage (and they are), it is important for them to know they need consent.

      • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

        Within marriage you get beyond words pretty quick. Is consent still a live issue? It is possible. You should get into a rhythm. You should both understand your body does not belong only to you but to your spouse as well. You should both understand a lot. How do you get there. Mostly from awkward conversations. But you don’t need to keep having them.

        Your post shows how sex outside marriage is unworkable. This idea of consensual sex implies moral sex is simply not possible for humans to live. We are not wired that way. We want something other than awkward questions. We want intimacy. We can’t get there except in long term monogamous relationships. So we end up with abuse. We embrace sin and it leads to unhappiness. We think we can fix it. We can’t. We need to stop sinning. Nothing else will fix it. Everything other road leads to a gross violation of human dignity.

        • Josh Lyman

          It is not possible, and yet millions of people do it.

          Obviously they are magicians doing the impossible.

          • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

            It is not possible, and yet millions of people do it.

            You do realize that there already is a built-in response for this, right? “They are people walking with the sexual equivalent of a sprained ankle (or broken leg?) convinced that the difficulties above are something that is ‘normal’.” His argument is that these people are actively hurting themselves by their choices, regardless of how they feel about it. His argument is that the injury is an impossibility, not that the people are not capable of living (or, for that matter, enjoying the process) despite the injury.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

            I would say that but I would also point to the post. Leah says people are not doing it. They are trying and failing to find a coherent way to have a culture that draws the line between right and wrong at consent. The problem is not that we are incompetent. The problem is the nature of sex. It speaks the language of total self-giving. Consent to sex with less than that is going to be full of miscommunications some of which will be uncharitably interpreted by people driven by pleasure.

        • Unicorn

          I’m having sex outside of marriage. My boyfriend and I have gotten into a rhythm. We don’t get or give verbal consent every time we initiate sex. We have become quite intuitive about what each of us wants. We do talk about sex at other times, especially if we’re thinking of trying something new, and these conversations are fun, not awkward. We have intimacy. We have all these things, and we are not married. According to you, we don’t exist.

          Or maybe we do, since there is one thing you mentioned that we don’t have: this notion of shared ownership of our bodies. I find this an abhorrent idea and will never believe that my body “belongs” to anyone but myself, even after I marry. Nor will I ever have partial ownership of my partner’s or husband’s body. As Leah stated, consent is still a live issue within marriage.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

            Nobody says unmarried couples can’t have intimacy. Marriage takes many forms. You can have a relationship that is a pseudo-marriage that can have many of the benefits of marriage. But it can be missing some important parts too. Is you relationship forever? Is it open to life? Is it unconditional?

            I wonder why owning each others bodies is so abhorrent. If you are basically consenting all the time then you are pretty much living it anyway. Consent is really only important when things have broken down. Then it is important not to try and fix them by force. But when things are working not being in the mood beforehand can just make it better.

          • R.C.

            Regarding “belonging” to another:

            Be aware: This mutual ownership of one another’s bodies is a consequent stemming from the one-flesh nature of Christian sacramental union, in which God intervenes miraculously to join man and woman together with a sort of “I am her and she is me and we are all together” bond…and this bond is, in a fashion, the Incarnation or Sacramental Enfleshing of the divine union between Christ and the Church.

            Which makes it a high and holy thing! But it also makes it, from the point-of-view of persons who are (a.) contracepting, (b.) having sexual intimacy without benefit of a ’til-death-do-us-part union, (c.) inclined to use kink to spice things up after one’s sensitivity to sexual pleasure dulls over time, and/or (d.) not even thinking about God’s place in their life, let alone their bedroom and their progeny, a completely useless thing to talk about. It is less like trying to explain differential calculus to an elementary school student who’s struggling with multiplication tables, and more like trying to explain String Theory to a person who’s never studied mathematics even a single day, who hasn’t learned to count above twenty, who doesn’t know the difference between a dozen and a “baker’s dozen,” and who gets by simply handing the cashier a twenty hoping the cashier will make correct change.

            I do not in any way intend any disrespect towards persons who are currently in this situation: That is not the purpose of my analogy. Its purpose is merely to illustrate that the impossibility of making the mutual-ownership corollary of “one flesh” intuitive to a person who has none of the background/prerequisite understanding/frame-of-reference to make sense of it. A person hoping the cashier makes change will often be the worse for it; sometimes they will not even know it. If the cashier is in the same boat then there’s no telling which of them will be worse off. And if neither is interested in learning how to correct that problem, is there any point in trying to make them enthusiastic about matrix algebra?

            And it gets worse, because of word-associations: Because of the fallen-ness of our world, we are inclined to see “she owns my body” and “I own her body” as a pair of competing slaveries — and in this case, it would include sex slavery. A very nasty set of associations!

            But these associations clearly cannot be correct: If they were, we could expect nobody except a handful of psychopaths and sadists to extol the benefits of such a system. And they would extol it in terms of pleasure and excitement alone. Yet Christian marriage is not sold to us by that crowd at all, but by good people, who extol its virtues and beauty and freedom (!) and mutual comfort and friendship and joy. So clearly the associations are totally wrong; it is a confusion of words that leads us to associate such things with Christian marriage.

            Indeed “ownership” isn’t the best word; “one flesh” is better…but perhaps a bit mystical for the sensibilities of a person who isn’t even a Christian, let alone a saint and mystic, yet! How then to explain what the thing is really like, to someone who hasn’t the information nor the experience and may not be interested in acquiring either?

            The best I can do is try to say what it’s like, by analogy and with an appeal to imagination:

            In Christian marriage, obedience and ownership seem like entirely wrong words because they see the thing from the outside, not from the inside, and end up seeing it in photo-negative. From the inside, the thing is not like a drill, but like a dance. It is a dance in which, once one has learned the steps, one partner “leads” now, later the other, but neither is thinking about that because both are dancing the dance. At each moment they are dancing their part of the dance. If they do it fluidly enough then they achieve that state-of-mind in which each person feels that the other is an extension of their own body — like a master tennis player or fencer with his racket or foil, but this other part of one’s body is alive, is a person, and a delightful, interesting person at that!

            Of course when you’re still learning the dance one steps on the other’s toes a lot, and that isn’t so delightful. But there are those moments of promise that keep you motivated to work at it, dancing the steps together.

            In the end all the mutual obedience and honor and the commands to love and respect and the mutual belonging are like foam and shadows on wave-tips, out in the middle of the Pacific. You can see the shape and points of the waves from them, but they aren’t the ocean. That’s fathoms deep (and mysterious, and full of life, don’tcha know).

        • Blue

          No dude. A woman’s body does NOT belong to her spouse, and vice versa. Sorry.

    • Sofia

      Whatever you think of premarital sex, marriage does not equal sexual consent. If it did, there would be no such thing as spousal rape.
      Never mind that for decades there was no such thing legally, in part because of that marriage=consent confusion…

      • Sofia

        Oops, didn’t realize Leah had responded.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Sofia–marriage is the only legitimate context for “sexual consent”.

        God bless,

        Deacon JR

        • Sofia

          I’m not arguing about whether or not sex should happen only in the marriage context – I’m just arguing that marriage doesn’t mean consent. A wife can still withhold consent, and if she does so and her husband forces her anyway, that is still rape and a violation of her personhood.

          I’d even argue that that kind of sex within marriage is just as adulterous as pre- or extramarital sex, because it’s outside the context of a loving marriage. It’s a pursuit of the husband’s own desires without regard for the needs of, or potential physical or emotional damage to, the wife.

          But to answer the question, consent concerns apply to anyone who has sex, so in your rubric, yes, it applies to married couples too.

        • http://pslaplace.wordpress.com PS Laplace

          So…..since I’ve never been married, every time I’ve had sex I’ve actually been raping/being raped by my partner since I and he cannot sexually consent?

          That’s pretty cold of you.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            PS Laplace–that’s not what I said above–I said the only legitimate context for sexual consent is in marriage.

            What you describe above is not rape–it’s apparently consensual fornication.

          • http://pslaplace.wordpress.com PS Laplace

            I see. I suppose this is a Catholic thing? Because sex in common usage is not restricted to marriage.

            But fair enough, I will consensually fornicate away.

        • Alan

          No, it isn’t.

        • Ash

          DeaconJR, marriage is not the only legitimate context for sexual consent. It may be the only context that you approve of, but you are not all people, and your approval is not required.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Ash–it’s the “Catholic Channel” of Patheos. What I stated is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

            ‘nuf said, I think….God bless, JR

          • Custador

            So you don’t want to debate and expand your mind, you want an echo chamber? I’m shocked. Shocked, I tells ya.

        • keddaw

          I guess gay people are pretty screwed in your worldview then?

          • Sparki

            Opposite of screwed, really. No screwing allowed. ;-)

    • Slow Learner

      “What does “sexual consent” look like?”

      If you genuinely need to ask this question, please tell me you have never had sex.

    • Captain Obvious

      Sexual consent looks like this:
      “Would you like to have sex with me?”
      “Now?”
      “Yes”
      “Do you have protection?”
      “Yes”
      “In that case, yes, let’s have sex’”

      • Slow Learner

        +1 for being charitable and answering the question without snark. I confess I was unable to do so.

      • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

        But do you both understand what sex means to the other person? Are you both of sound mind? Not just are you sober but are you emotionally in a good state to make such a decision? Is there an equality of power between you?

        You just have so many ways this is inadequate. That is not even going into the fact that cold sterile sex is inherently wrong even if that is what both partners want it.

        So no, consensual sex is impossible. It assumes an intimacy of communication without an intimacy of persons. It just does not work. You connect strong desire for sex with no real concern for the others well being and then add poor communications. You end up with abuse much of the time.

        • Alan

          What a crock of…

        • ACN

          “So no, consensual sex is impossible.”

          Ridiculous.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

            How do you know? We see that communication often breaks down around sex. Often people feel used and abused. They don’t meet the legal requirements of rape but they feel trapped and manipulated. The culture says they are supposed to be able to do this. What if they can’t? What if that is the normal, healthy state of a human person? To be unable to engage in casual sex, unable to articulate why, and unable to rebel against a society that puts them in an impossible position over and over. OK, it might not be healthy to lack the self-awareness of your own sexual limitations. But if everyone has them and everyone is denying them because they are socially unacceptable then that is where people will end up.

          • ACN

            You’re claiming that no one can make rational decisions about their own bodily autonomy without third parties laying down rules for them.

            I think you’re being ridiculous.

        • Jake

          So no, consensual sex is impossible. It assumes an intimacy of communication without an intimacy of persons.

          Wait, do you actually think marriage is magic? I understand that the state of things can change quickly in Catholic doctrine (Baptism, Eucharist, Confession, etc.), but do you actually believe that the moment the priest declares you married, you level up your intimacy? Because otherwise, the separation of intimacy of sex-the-day-before-marriage and sex-the-day-after-marriage approaches zero. If intimacy is your standard of consensual sex, then marriage is not a solution.

          Oh, and saying that long-term monogamous unmarried couples engage in sex “with no real concern for the others well being” is… ignorant at best.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

            Marriage does go through some hard things to get to intimacy. Many of those pains are similar to rape. That is there are days when a person can feel quite violated. It is part of the pain you accept to get to union. Marriage gives the pain a different context. It is not just to give someone pleasure. It is to achieve the one flesh union a man and wife are meant to have.

          • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com smidoz

            Randy, please tell me you aren’t married.

          • Custador

            What smidoz said. I seriously hope you aren’t married, Randy.

            Meantime, address some questions for me:

            I was with my wife for six and a half years before we married. We lived together for about three and a half years of that time. We started being sexually intimate on our first date.
            We have a friend who is a devout Christian. She was with her husband for about a year before they married. Up until the wedding, they had never had any sexual contact with each other at all, and had never lived together. So tell me Randy, which couple do you think was more comfortably intimate on their wedding night? And which marriage do you think is the one that’s likely to succeed? The one where both parties knew exactly what they were getting into, what the other person’s likes, dislikes and foibles are? Or the one where every new aspect of the partners’ personalities will be a shock to the other one?

            Just as an educational addendum to this: The Catholic church had no involvement with marriage until after the 12th century AD. Up until that point, the church (and everybody else) considered marriage to be a civil contract, with no religious significance whatsoever. The more you know, eh?

        • http://www.thecrazyivans.com Kristen inDallas

          ” consensual sex is impossible. It assumes an intimacy of communication without an intimacy of persons”

          Randy, I have to assume you mean that CASUAL consentual sex is impossible??? Otherwise I’m as confused as the others. Meaningfully consensual sex is quite possible as long as they are consenting to all of it. Not just consent to the action right now… but consent to have you oxcitocin levels all f’ed up and develop a goopy attachment to this person, consent to the possibility that they may still be there in the morning, needing to number 2 in your bathroom, consent to be exposed to whatever STDs they might be carrying, consent to the possibility of changing your life for this person, consent to the possibility of having your heart broken, consent to the possibility of kids, and probably others I haven’t thought of…

          I’ll admit that most one night stands don’t include that level of consent, because ultimately the people don’t trust each other enough to put it all out there. Most consent at that stage has some unspoken qualifier in the form “I consent to this as long as you have told me the truth about X” where if X turns out to be false, they feel violated. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible at that stage. And it’s definately not impossible outside of marriage. There are people in long term, even permanent relationhips that aren’t married and may never be married for whatever reason that can still develop the level of trust necesary to consent to all those things. (Just like there are plenty of married couples who do not trust each other enough to consent to all those things).

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

            I am not talking about one instance. I am talking about a culture. Can men and women in any culture develop some notion of consent that works for casual sex? I don’t think so. We always end up hurting people, we always end up playing games and, yes, we always end up with people getting raped. That is not every couple. Some fall in love at first sight and end up having sex right away and having a wonderful marriage. Just like if you drive through a red light you won’t always get in a crash. Sometimes it will work fine. But is it workable as a moral norm for a society? No.

          • Alan

            Randy – please, the same thing is true for sex in marriage:

            Can men and women in any culture develop some notion of consent that works for marriage? I don’t think so. We always end up hurting people, we always end up playing games and, yes, we always end up with people getting raped.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            You are right. Consent to marry is a serious issue and one that has historically be problematic. But that just makes my point. It is much more intuitive to take marriage seriously yet there are forced marriages and marriages for all sorts of bad reasons. So when you drop it down to consent to sex then you will get the bad reasons multiplying. Proper reflection often does not happen. Improper pressure can be applied. The more extreme forms of that would be called rape.

          • Alan

            Sorry, I should have been more precise:

            Can men and women in any culture develop some notion of consent that works for sex within marriage? I don’t think so. We always end up hurting people, we always end up playing games and, yes, we always end up with people getting raped.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            Sure they can. When you say something works you don’t mean you have driven the rate of bad outcomes to zero. Marriage is not the end of your struggle for happiness. It can be an amazing source of joy if you meet the right person but your problems are not over. In fact it can lead to many bundles of joy but I digress.

            The truth is that sex is about forever. It is about children who define a permanent bond between sex partners. It also tends to create emotional bonds that are painful to break. Consent between singles does not really takes these into account. Marriage by its nature does.

            As soon as you talk about consent within marriage you are talking about a failed marriage. Not that that does not happen but it is not optimal. If you don’t already know your spouse wants to make love to you then asking the question won’t help much. Simple words are not enough for such a deep, personal truth.

            Unless you a really asking a question about their physical state rather then their hearts desire. Are you feeling well enough to make love? Even then you have to know that most spouses will err on the side of saying Yes unless they are feeling totally dead. Better to ask how they are feeling and judge yourself.

          • Custador

            “Can men and women in any culture develop some notion of consent that works for casual sex?”

            Yes. We can. As evidenced by the fact that rape occurs a good deal less during casual sex than it does during marital sex.

      • deiseach

        And the morning after…

        “You never told me you were married!”
        “You never asked!”

        or

        “Boy, that was just what I needed: a last fling before the wedding. Hey, thanks and all, but now I need to call my fiancé.”

        or

        “Wait a minute – what do you mean, you’re not eighteen?”

        or

        “But when you said ‘Yes’ to right now, I assumed you meant you were willing to wear the llama costume!”

        or

        “Crikey, I was so langers last night, definitely the last time I do fifteen Tia Maria and lemonades in a row – hey, who the hell are you and what are you doing in my bed?”

        There’s a bit more to “Yes” than just “Got a condom?”

    • Goldstein Squad Member

      The atheists will love this one.
      Now tell us, Leah, whose side is it you are on again?
      Two blogs I love…this one, and watching JT Eberhard talk about his copious drinking and descent into depression fueled by alcohol and hate mongering.

      Patheos Rocks!

      • leahlibresco

        I don’t delete comments, Goldstein, but I’m popping by to say I find this comment nasty and small.

        • Uncle Bobolink

          YEAH, IT IS…just like JT EBERHARD.

        • Fred

          Yes, you’re popping by once again when someone has a negative attitude towards atheists. What else is “new” ?

          • Goldstein Squad Member

            I always thought JT was a mean little guy, but didn’t care one way or another what he blogged about…his blog is decaying anyway.

            But then he drifted over to the The “Friendly” Atheist blog and called Chris Stedman a “dishonest little shit”…no doubt about it, JT is a loser.

          • Qmwne

            As far as I can see, Leah calling out petty remarks about JT is just her being a good Catholic and a good person.

    • Josh Lyman

      No. No. No. A thousand times no.

      Consent to sex looks like consent to sex. Marriage looks like marriage. One can do either without the other.

      Marital rape is REAL.

    • Andrew

      Wives can be and are raped by their husbands (and vice versa). Marriage does not equal consent.

  • http://www.2catholicmen.blogspot.com Ben @ Two Men

    It may sound overly-simplified, but I think a believer who consents to fornication of ANY kind should ask themselves a fundamental theological question. Am I living for God or living for “Self”? Living for God ultimately becomes heaven. Living for self ultimately becomes hell.

    • http://www.thecrazyivans.com Kristen inDallas

      I think you may have left out purgatory? Where do you go if you live for other human beings? Does it depend on whether you’re living for the holy spirit in each of those humans or if your living for others as a means heaven (ultimately for the self)? What if you can’t tell the difference?

      In other words… yes, it does sound overly simplified. It’s a good question to ask, preferaby every day. But I wouldn’t expect anyone to come to a definitive answer. Good thing the guy making that call is omnicient and loving….

      • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com smidoz

        Perhaps this is overly simplified, but you can be a believer and not be a Catholic, in which case purgatory is irrelevant. Ok, so this is the Catholic channel, but just saying.

  • Mark

    DeaconJR: I think this is equally applicable to non-married persons, if we are concerned about rape and about fornication. If you change the culture with respect to consent, then you may very well see less fornication, because, the argument goes, you’re going to have less cases of “it just happened” or “it went so far before I was ready.” The underlying article talks about how some Christians use the lack of explicit consent as an excuse. In other words, it may help keep some from fornicating, if they feel pressured by society to have to give an enthusiastic yes whenever they know they ought not to have sex.

    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

      Hi, Mark–I’m not seeing the rationale there, honestly. If we’re discussing consent to sex outside marriage, then we’re squarely in a realm in which the “consent” message takes us from the intrinsic evil of rape to the obviously less grave but still intrinsic evil of fornication. That is, energy spent on saying effectively “make sure your nonmarital sex is fully consensual” could instead be spent upon stating the obvious Christian truth: “make sure you don’t engage in or consent to sex outside marriage no matter what the culture tells you.”

      • waywardson

        DeaconJR: “Good Christians” have sex outside of marriage. Christians sin.

        Although rape and fornication are both sins, rape is a MUCH more serious sin than fornication. I hope I do not have to explain why.

        Second, “just say no” doesn’t always work. Young people still need the skills to be able to negotiate sexual situations, including consent. As the article states: “A common objection to “enthusiastic consent” (which is sometimes glossed as “consent is the presence of a ‘yes’ not the absence of a ‘no’) is that having to talk about sex with prevent people from ever having sex.” In other words, teaching about consent means that people are LESS likely to have irresponsible/inappropriate sex, not more.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

          Waywardson–let me make sure I understand: telling a young person to “just say no” doesn’t always work, so we should teach young people to “make sure you say yes”….??

          And making sure they know to say “yes” actually makes them *less* likely to have sex, but telling them to say “no” won’t make them less likely to?

          • Erick

            Deacon: I believe the rationale is “having to say yes” ensures that Christians cannot play loose with the morality attached to sex. They cannot just say “it just happened” ex/pre-maritally and ask for forgiveness.

            Bad Christians and bad people will play loose with fornication, regardless. But communication and knowledge informs the wisdom of good people and gives them another weapon in their battles against temptation.

          • deiseach

            I would tend to agree. If your excuse for committing fornication is “It just happened, we didn’t plan it, we were swept away” (0r even “But we’re so in love, and we’re going to get married anyway”), then you should – if you are committed to the Christian view, let’s leave secular civil social mores out of it for a minute – be faced with the reality of what you are doing.

            Do you want to do this? Even if you think it’s wrong? Do you think it’s wrong? If you don’t, or if you do but you’re going ahead anyhow, then be sure you know why you’re saying ‘yes’. Or indeed, ‘no’, as the case may be.

            You’re both young, the hormones are storming, the culture around you says it’s normal to have sex and only freaky weirdoes take that ‘wait until marriage’ stuff seriously, and you are really, really gripped by desire and the need to release libidinic tension – but you want to think of yourself as a good person, a good faithful person, so you don’t think about disease and pregnancy and the risks you are running, and things like condoms and being on the pill and all the rest of it means that you are acting with forethought which means that you have the guilt of sin unless you just let yourself be ‘swept away’. After all, it’s easier to ask forgiveness for a stumble than to have to admit to conscious back-sliding. And you really mean it when you say you’ll never, ever do that again. Until you find yourself in the same situation.

            Also, conscious consent means you have to think about why you’re having sex: do I really want to, or am I just going along with his/her request because I feel subtly (or not-so-subtly) pressured to do so, either because we’re already in a relationship of some kind and I want to maintain that, or just because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of “But you never want sex when I do, you’re so cold and unfeeling and I feel rejected”? Do I just want a roll in the hay but I pretend it’s because I care about this person? Would I be just as happy or even happier if this was a purely commercial transaction between me and a prostitute and once it was done, the other person would go away and there would be no emotional entanglement or claims or attachments?

      • Benjamin

        I think the rationale is that people will have premarital sex and/or sexual relations.

        Now, in a just Christian society, we may see less of it, no doubt. However, if the Bible and history are any indication, it will happen.

        Hence, it is better that -while teaching kids to wait until marriage- we make it very clear what consent looks like. So, while we want people to feel guilt and shame for having sex or sexual contact before marriage, we also want them to feel guilt and shame if there isn’t explicit consent.

        In terms of greater or lesser evils, let’s take the case of robbing a bank. A bank robber is no doubt committing a grave sin. However, he is committing a worse sin if his partners in crime are not their by their own will but are instead forced to aid him in his crime.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

          My thought would be to not merely tell kids “just say no”–though this must be told–but also to spend sufficient time and energy introducing young people to *God’s* plan for man and woman, human sexuality, marriage, and family. That plan, expressed in its proper fullness, is what I think we want young people to “consent” to, right?

          And, yes, the “mutuality” of consent within marriage should be part of that conversation, along with the notion of respect for personal boundaries in relationships leading toward marriage.

          But I would object to any approach that seeks to minimize one grave sin (rape) by urging someone toward another (fornication). This parallels, for example, the reason the Church doesn’t (and won’t ever) encourage the use of “birth control” outside of marriage even though on the surface it seems it would minimize the gravity of the consequences (pregnancy) of fornication.

          • waywardson

            Of course, we should be telling young people about healthy sexuality. But that doesn’t mean they will listen.

            Research has shown that the best way to prevent teen pregnancy is to (1) give teenagers accurate biological information, including safer sex techniques AND (2) giving them good reasons to wait and the relationship tools to be able to do it. Not everyone waits, but more people do than with fear-based “abstinence only” programs.

            The Church will never encourage anyone to sin, BUT the reality is that people do. If they sin, they should avoid more serious sins and seek to reduce the harm of what they do.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Waywardson–

            In examining the example of Jesus on this issue, I can’t come up with any place in which He say, “if you sin, try avoiding more serious sins and minimize the harm you do.”

            Rather, as with the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11, He tells her “just say no”:

            “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

          • http://pslaplace.wordpress.com PS Laplace

            So do you consider rape and fornication to be equally bad?

          • waywardson

            Pope Benedict XVI did say something to that effect about condom use to prevent disease. Using a condom is not a moral act, but it may be a less immoral act than not using one.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/world/europe/24pope.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          • Erick

            @ DeaconJR et al

            I think DeaconJR is operating on a level beyond the scope of the post.

            The fact of the matter is that the post encourages a greater awareness of morality within the realm of sexuality. While it is not the perfect fullness that the Church teaches, it is still a good step towards that perfect fullness.

            I understand where DeaconJR is coming from; it is not the Church’s duty to compromise on morality. As an analogy, it is wrong to rob a bank. The Church cannot make distinction whether the robber used an automatic assault rifle and shot people or whether they did it in the middle of the night without casualties. Robbing a bank is simply wrong.

            But, DeaconJR, I think you need to watch your approach to your invitation to conversation. To modify a common phrase in use within political circles today, you have made the perfect an enemy of the good with your posts.

      • Karen

        Well, rape — actually “sexual assault” — is a felony and fornication is not illegal at all. Even the most conservative Christians need to know the difference between enthusiastic consent and lack of consent, if for no better reason than to avoid going to prison. Besides, this information is useful to married people as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve endured sex with my husband just to make him shut up or avoid having him yell at me, because his Catholic upbringing taught him that marriage = constant consent.

        • waywardson

          That’s unfortunate, because there is NOTHING in Catholic teaching that states that marriage=constant consent.

        • Alypius

          I am so sorry for you, Karen!!! Reading this makes me so sad for the pain we men cause to our beloveds, either wittingly or unwittingly.
          It’s true that there’s a sense in which the bodies of spouses “belong” to each other, but as John Paul II made quite clear in Love and Responsibility (and later the Theology of the Body) this in no way implies any expectation of sexual gratification at-will.

          Authentic self-gift is only possible when our individual desires are subjugated to the good of the other. Even though sex is itself a gift of self, sometimes it’s a greater act of love to our beloved to say, “I’ll wait for you”. That, frankly, is really hard for many of us guys, what with our raging libidos, and 10 years into my own marriage has been quite honestly the most difficult habit to progress in aquiring.

        • Irenist

          Karen, there are more important things going on here than an abstract discussion, it seems. If your husband is continuing to make such demands, I prayerfully beg you to seek out some counseling, either as a couple, or alone if he won’t go. Please, please, please. God loves you. You deserve better than that. So much better. You’re worth it!

          • Irenist

            AFAIK, feeling entitled to sex could be a warning of a propensity to domestic violence. Pardon me for being a busybody, but please seek help to change that dynamic.

  • kenneth

    I solved this problem a long time ago in my life. I only deal with people whose heads are not twisted up by Judeo-Christian sexual pathology or the perpetual adolescence of popular culture. All of my partners and candidates are people who embody the concepts laid out in “The Ethical Slut” or the BDSM culture.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I’ve often thought the whole battle over how to approach sex is waged by adults wanting to keep the boundaries conveniently established. We may say it’s about the kids, but I wonder.

  • anne o. nymus

    I can see the attraction of someone who knows intuitively what you want and when you want it, but I think to get to that stage you need years of practice, and you need to be able to communicate with each other clearly, so that you can learn each other’s preferences. I agree that the idea that someone will just automatically know what you want without being told is dangerously unrealistic.

    There’s a problem that sometimes being clear and honest about what you want is seen as unromatic, that it somehow kills the romance. I guess it’s because, if you made a romatic comedy where people just said what they were feeling, it would be about five minutes long.

    To me sex is not at all shameful. It’s entirely natural and normal to want sex (some people don’t want sex and that’s natural too. People vary.) It would be good if we could get to a stage where people could ask to have sex or accept an offer to have sex without feeling embarrased or stigmatised. It would be good as well if people could say no to sex without feeling like they are weird or there’s something wrong. I can understand why it’s so difficult though; being honest about sex leaves you vulnerable.

    I have to admit, the last time someone asked me out, I wasn’t entirely clear. The first reason was, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, or the offer. The second reason was, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings/cause a scene by saying outright ‘No, I don’t want to go out with you’
    so, I gave him a kind of vague maybe-later-but-not-now answer. In this case, it worked, in that he didn’t bother me anymore, but I can see how it was open to being misinterpreted. So, while I agree the ideal is honest communication, it’s something I stroggle with, especially face-to-face.

  • Jill B

    Why am I not surprised that the comments immediately turned to “Sex must be referred to with the words ‘GRAVE! EVIL! SIN!!’ unless and ONLY unless you are talking about sex within marriage. Discussions of incremental improvements to the existing (and admittedly awful) sexual culture are ONLY allowed if the only increment is from ‘evil sex’ to ‘validly married sex.’”

    Sigh. Great post anyway.

    • kenneth

      It’s no accident that the worst rape and abuse cultures in the world are found in areas where conservative religious values permit no expression or open acknowledgement of sexuality outside of marriage.

      • Jill B

        Other parts of the world definitely have it horrible too (and often worse than us here), but there is still a lot wrong with U.S. sexual culture: rape frequency, rape prosecution rates, victim blaming, STDs, unwanted pregnancy and/or abortion rates (regardless of how you feel both of those should be fixed, less unwanted pregnancy would be better, and so would less abortion–which at the least we could all agree is a medical procedure/surgery with potential medical complications.)

      • deiseach

        Kenneth, unless there is a culture or society on this planet where there are government-appointed sex workers who visit those not getting regular sex (and having worked in local government myself, that would probably mean at least a backlog of a two-year waiting list and very little choice of basic services), then there are people who are not having sex.

        There are people who want to get married and can’t, because they can’t get anyone to marry them (or perhaps stay married to them, so they stumble through a series of broken marriages). There are people who are too ugly, too socially awkward, too poor, too ‘odd’ in some sense, who for a constellation of reasons haven’t been able to find someone to love, to have as a partner, or even just to sleep with them casually as a one-off basis.

        Do you really think every single fifteen year old gets a card on Valentine’s Day (even if it’s sent anonymously by their mother) so they can show it off in school? You never knew that boy or that girl who everyone thought was a freak, a loser, and who would never be considered as a potential date?

        You don’t see people living alone? You don’t know why prostitution flourishes, because of a combination of women in desperate financial circumstances and men who have no other sexual outlet? Why there is such a thing as pornography? Sex toys for the single man and woman?

        Why the hell did Morrissey write How Soon Is Now? and have a hit with it, unless this is a recognisable experience?

        And our culture tells us all that we can and should have all that; that we must be in a couple; that we should be having regular, satisfying sex; in the romantic comedy films and in tv shows the awkward nerd or kooky girl who is revealed to never have been kissed is an object of wonder and pity, but luckily (by the time the film or the tv episode wraps up) intervention by friends or chance will mean that they will be fixed up with a like-minded nerd or someone who loves banana slugs and there will never be lonely, unattached people aching for the promise held out to them that will never be fulfilled. Go online to Craigslist! Download the grindr app! And if you still can’t find anyone, you’re just a loser so it’s all your own fault.

        The most sexually-liberated culture in the world will still have to face the problem of ‘how do you get someone to sleep with X unless it’s a commercial transaction’ and the even more problematic situation of ‘how do you get someone to fall in love with X’. If you have a solution (other than ‘let’s not all be screwed-up by conservative religion’ or ‘go online and find a sex worker’), please share it – because I know people who are longing to marry, longing for intimacy, longing for someone to be with them, and it ain’t happening.

    • Chris Hallquist

      I’m naive enough to have been surprised by this. Leah, you’d better hope your commenters here are not representative of the Catholic Church as a whole. (I’m generally of the school of thought that you shouldn’t take random comments on the internet to be representative of anything… but still.)

      Oh, and yeah, great post.

      • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

        You are surprised that the church applies words like “gravely evil” and “sin” to fornication?

        • ACN

          Surprised that you compare the intimacy of marriage to the pains of rape.

          Surprised that there is at least one commenter here who thinks that additional moral instruction about not fornicating somehow nips both the consentual sex and the rape problems in the bud.

          I know better than to be generally surprised by the bizarre, and regressive sexual attitudes of your church.

  • waywardson

    Ok, my responses are not showing up on this blog. What gives?

    • kenneth

      Your comments are like the emperor’s new clothes. Only the very wise can see them!

  • waywardson

    …that sound you hear is the point of your post going right over some of these responders’ collective heads.

    This is a fantastic post.

    The idea that sex is something that people shouldn’t talk about is extremely harmful. People aren’t very good intuitively guessing the intentions of others. I’ve been in these situations in my younger days. I’ve guessed wrong (and been greeted with an abrupt and unexpected “real no” as a result). I’ve had others guess wrong on me.

    Even if you believe that people should wait until marriage for sex, THIS PROBLEM DOESN’T GO AWAY WHEN YOU ARE MARRIED. Married people still need to talk about sex. Consent is still an important part of sex in marriage. Being able to say “I like this” and “I don’t like that” or “I would like to have sex tonight” and “Not tonight, dear, perhaps tomorrow?” is critical to having a good sexual relationship in marriage.

    And since this is the Catholic Channel, Natural Family Planning (or any other fertility awareness based method of birth control) WILL NOT WORK if the couple cannot communicate effectively about sex.

    But this is more than just sex. It’s never a good idea in ANY relationship to substitute assumptions for real communication.

    • Sparki

      Hear, hear!

  • house baelish

    Having looked at some of the comments made on here, I think I’m going to stop lurking for a second to point out that rape and fornication fall into two very, very different categories. I do believe, as a Catholic, that sex should be saved for marriage. However, rape is on a completely different level.

    Looking at this post, which gives excellent thoughts on the meaning of consent, and saying that it should focus instead on fornication, is like saying that we should ignore fighting drunk driving in favor of combating drunkenness. Sure, it’s good to control the amounts you drink–otherwise you might do something stupid, sinful, or dangerous–but that’s nothing compared to the lives someone risks by driving under the influence. So, if a friend was taking a few too many, I’d make sure they had a sober ride home.

    I fail to see the objections people have to this post. Would it be better if people waited for marriage? Sure. But, just as loss of control pales in comparison to a child struck dead by a drunk driver, consensual sex is nothing compared to a wounded and traumatized victim, mentally and emotionally scarred because their partner chose to interpret their silence as a “yes”, or their “no” as playfulness. And if anyone thinks that, in the name of sexual morality, we should sacrifice saving someone, anyone, from that fate… I just don’t know what to say. I really don’t.

    Many thanks to Ms. Libresco for writing this post. I wish such thoughtful discussion of consent were more common.

    • Jill B

      Bingo.

    • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

      I do think the drunkenness/ drunk driving parallel with fornication/rape is a good one. I think if you accept drunkenness you will get drunk driving. If people are not sober they will make bad choices. Drink driving will be one of them. Same with fornication. If you have it then consent will be pushed to the limit and beyond. People just are not going to make loving, respectful choices all the time. Sometimes they are going to make selfish choices. When consent always becomes a mess. Half the time we can’t figure out when we want sex let alone when the other person does.

      • house baelish

        The analogy was not perfect, and, if I read your comment correctly, you seem to be taking the flaws of the analogy for the meaning itself. Whereas drunk driving is caused by drunkenness, rape does not always occur in a premarital context; additionally, while drunkenness causes drunk driving, premarital sex does not, as you seem to imply, cause rape. My apologies if the analogy was unclear.

        To avoid further conclusion, my position is this: premarital sex is bad. However, rape is far, far worse. It is a physical, mental, emotional, and sexual assault, a violent crime. Trying to put these two things on the same level is inexcusable.

        • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

          They are not on the same level. Still accepting premarital sex creates a culture where rape is more common. Just like accepting drunkenness creates a culture where drunk driving is more common. So in both cases saying one is bad and the other is just fine is incoherent.

          • http://www.thecrazyivans.com Kristen inDallas

            Actually, not so much. Accepting a “culture of drunkenness” has led some cities to develop extensive cab networks, or a rail system that opperates 24 hours, etc. When you accept that some people might get drunk, and give them other options on the driving part, drunk-driving goes down. When you assume that EVERYONE should act perfectly and not drink, you take it for granted that everyone can be driving. So the drinking that does occur, is more likely to occur by people driving to the bar, and having to drive back home.

            Similarly, when you assume everyone should be perfectly abstaining from sex, you increase the likelihood that the premarital sex that does happen will be achieved through lying, self-deception, and poor communication.

          • Irenist

            Still accepting premarital sex creates a culture where rape is more common.

            Traditional societies in the Islamic, Hindu, and even Christian world would disprove that, I suspect: look at the recent rape furor in India, e.g.

            In the movies, we get to trade off good against evil. In the adult world, sometimes goods compete. Christian chastity is a great good. So is rape reduction. The hokey “Just Say No” culture may foster the former, but if so it probably does so at the expense of the latter. So we need to find a way to foster chastity in a culture of frankness, rather than in the closeknit old Catholic neighborhoods of community, chastity, furtiveness, prudery, and occasional hypocrisy. This is the sinfully immodest era God has given us to live in. It was not for us to choose it, but to make the best of it. Seizing our frank era’s opportunities for rape reduction without endorsing its libertine excesses is part of that.

            I’m with Kristen here, Randy. Harm reduction is a better approach to the specific problem of rape, not seeking to immanentize a utopian eschaton in which all shall be saints who live the Theology of the Body to the letter. Sadly, even in the Christendom of yore, I fear the spirit of the TotB was honored more often in the breach by those of our fellow sinners who lived in that era.

          • http://babesinbabylon Addie Darling

            YES! Thank you, Irenist!

    • Curious

      Why do you believe sex should be saved for marriage? If both partners want sex and they use protection against disease/pregnancy, what harm does sex outside marriage do?

      And how do you feel about things like oral sex or handjobs outside of marriage?

      • Sparki

        You didn’t ask me, but I have some thoughts.

        By having sex outside of marriage, the partners commit themselves to the awful truth that they can’t be trusted to be faithful within marriage. In other words, they prove to one another that marriage vows are not a prerequisite for sex, and if that’s true with the current partner, that’s also true for any other potential partner that happens to come their way, even after the wedding (if it ever comes off). Refraining from sex before marriage is an opportunity to prove fidelity to the marriage vows – to witness one another withstand intense sexual temptation, and to witness it first hand. The confidence of knowing how well my husband can resist sexual temptation for the sake of keeping our marriage bed pure was the best wedding gift he could have given me, and vice versa. It would indeed be a harm to any marriage to not be able to trust one’s spouse to not have sex outside of marriage.

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

          This seems like an odd reason to abstain from sex outside of marriage to me, for a couple of reasons

          1) “that they can’t be trusted to be faithful within marriage” does not follow from “having sex outside of marriage”. What actually follows from “having sex outside of marriage” is that they can’t be trusted to not have sex with their long term monogamous partner to whom they are not married (or in the case of casual sex, that they can’t be trusted to not have sex with a relative stranger when they are not engaged in another romantic relationship). You might as well say that the fact that wine transubstantiates during the Eucharist means that wine can’t be trusted not to transubstantiate anywhere other than the Eucharist, so you’d better not drink wine.

          2) While they do indeed “prove to one another that marriage vows are not a prerequisite for sex”, they’ve not indicated that there is NO prerequisite for sex. For example, the prerequisite of having romantic feelings towards their partner, or the prerequisite of not being in a relationship with someone else. A married couple might have sex in a hotel room, proving that being at home is not a prerequisite for sex, but it does not follow that they will have sex next time they’re in the grocery store. Lacking a particular inhibition is not equivalent to lacking every inhibition.

          3) I agree that it “would indeed be a harm to any marriage to not be able to trust one’s spouse to not have sex outside of their marriage”. And that’s what the marriage vows are for. It is (amongst many other things) a promise that you won’t go and sleep with someone else. Whether or not you’ve had sex before you met this person is no indication whether you will or will not keep that promise.

          4) This whole argument applies equally well to kissing. And holding hands. And going on dates. And any of a myriad other things that married people have a reasonable expectation of exclusivity toward with their spouse. If you kissed someone else before being in this marriage relationship, how can your spouse trust you not to go kiss someone else after getting married? Simple- you promise not do, they trust you, and then you follow through on your promise. It’s no more complicated for sex than it is for other romanticly exclusive acts.

          • Sparki

            Responding to Jake’s points:
            1) Your claim, “What actually follows…is that they can’t be trusted to not have sex with their long term monogamous partner to whom they are not married (or…they can’t be trusted to not have sex with a relative stranger when they are not engaged in another romantic relationship)” – is adding elements to the equation that make it more narrow than I intended. Who said it was a long-term relationship? Who said they were not engaged in another “romantic” relationship (by that I think you meant to say sexual liaison, which may or may not be romantic)? When a person thinks that marriage vows are not a prerequisite for sex, he or she pretty much ALWAYS believe that, unless they have a profound religious religious experience that changes his or her world view on the issue. You don’t think that it’s wrong to have premarital sex. Are you married? Did you have the same view before your marriage and after your marriage? Do you expect to always have that view? If so, you’re like most people. Your statement, “You might as well say that the fact that wine transubstantiates during the Eucharist means that wine can’t be trusted not to transubstantiate anywhere other than the Eucharist, so you’d better not drink wine,” is completely nonsensical, because wine doesn’t transubstantiate itself. There’s a human element AND the Lord involved in the process of transubstantiation. And yes, for the record, every time a human priest offers wine and the prayers of consecration to Jesus, I expect that wine to be transubstantiated.

            2) Your next point, “…they’ve not indicated that there is NO prerequisite for sex. For example, the prerequisite of having romantic feelings towards their partner, or the prerequisite of not being in a relationship with someone else.” Ah, but people can develop romantic feelings others they are not married to, and they are perfectly capable of defining their existing marriages as “not really a relationship any more.” Come now, I know you’ve seen it happen as well as I have. There is trouble in the marriage. The couple stops talking about things as they should. Sex becomes a duty if it’s engaged in at all. Then one of them starts to have romantic feelings for a co-worker or somebody else they interact with on a regular basis. In time, they will say they are in love with the other person, not the spouse, and justify extramarital sex, followed by divorce and remarriage. Happens all the time. Your analogy about the married couple having sex in a hotel room and then a grocery store is completely off, because hotels have private rooms with beds and are a normal place for sexual activity, while a grocery store is a public place without a convenient area for sex and is not a normal place for sexual activity at all. The “inhibition” required for marital fidelity is, “I will not have sex outside of my marriage,” and premarital sex violates that EVERY SINGLE TIME.

            3) So lets say Sid and Nancy got married on December 1, 2012, but they had plenty of premarital sex (with each other and previous partners until they found each other) in the ten years prior to their wedding. Why on earth would anybody suddenly think that either Sid or Nancy are suddenly going to stop having sex outside of marriage after ten years of proving that they are perfectly okay with having sex outside of marriage? The evidence is against them. I disagree with your statement, “Whether or not you’ve had sex before you met this person is no indication whether you will or will not keep that promise.” In our fictional Sid and Nancy’s case above, there’s ten years of proof that they haven’t had any intention of keeping that promise. There’s no proof at ALL that they will keep that promise, unless they’ve managed to go without sex between their engagement and the wedding. They might pull it off, and I would certainly hope it would, but the evidence is against them.

            4) I think your claim, “This whole argument applies equally well to kissing. And holding hands. And going on dates. And any of a myriad other things…” is really pretty lame. If you can manage to refrain from having sex before marriage, you can certainly manage to keep from kissing somebody who is not your spouse after you get married. This is like saying, “Just because you ran a marathon successfully doesn’t mean you can run a 5k.” I do agree that keeping a promise ought to be simple, but look at what a simple promise means after you’ve already proven that you’ll do the opposite. If somebody has been doing something you don’t want them to do consistently for years, and then they suddenly promise they aren’t going to do it any more, how much can you trust them?

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            Your argument, so far as I can tell, is:
            If (A) then (B)
            !(A) therefore (B)

            where
            A = so-and-so isn’t married
            B = so-and-so is willing to have sex with someone he/she is not married too

            This logical construct doesn’t work for any other set of primitives, so I don’t see why it should apply to sex. Some examples I gave where it doesn’t work:
            -A= so-and-so isn’t married, B= so-and-so is willing to kiss someone he/she is not married too
            -A= so-and-so isn’t married, B= so-and-so is willing to hold hands with someone he/she is not married too
            -A= a priest offers wine blessed with the prayer of consecration, B = the wine will transubstantiate

            Some additional examples:
            -A = The year is 2012, B = the Giants will win the World Series
            -A = The current month is January, B = I might go skiing this month

            or more generally,
            -A = Couple C has attribute D, B = Couple C will take action E

            I’m not arguing anything specific about sex here. I’m saying your logical structure is wrong- you’ve confused a theological point (and a valid one- there are some good reasons, both theologically and practically, to abstain from sex until marriage) for a cause-and-effect relationship in which there is no clear causal link between the two.

            There may or may not be a correlation (I have no idea what the numbers are for how many people cheat in general vs. how many people who abstain until marriage cheat), but either way, correlation is not causation.

        • Curious

          Thank you for your response.

          I don’t really see how having sex outside of marriage shows that you can’t be faithful inside of marriage. If you are single, you have no-one at that point to be faithful to. It seems odd to think that you would need to be faithful to your future spouse when they only exist as a possibility. The marriage contract surely only applies from the point you take your vows. Until you’re actually married, you’re not ‘within marriage’ and so your behavior outside of it doesn’t necessarily reflect how you’ll behave when you are married.

          A lot of extra-marital sex takes place in the context of a relationship. Many couples will date for a while and have sex while they are doing so. If you’re having sex with only one partner then you are in fact being faithful to them. Sex in a commited relationship can be a good trial run for marriage. People can test each other’s faithfulness and commitment before they take the drastic step of pooling all their resources together. In that way they can learn to trust each other.

          To me, marriage is a public commitment where you agree, among other things, not to have sex with anyone else. It’s not ‘sex outside of marriage’ which is the problem for me, it’s sex with someone your partner doesn’t approve of. The problem with adultry is the breaking of your partners’ trust, with all the attendant pain that causes them, and not the actual sex itself.

          • Sparki

            Responding to Curious:
            “I don’t really see how having sex outside of marriage shows that you can’t be faithful inside of marriage.” — It doesn’t mean you CAN’T, but it is PROOF that you don’t think you have to be married to your sexual partner. Let’s try an analogy. Suppose Bob makes a commitment to never have a beer until after dinner, and he never does. But Sam makes no such commitment, and he has a beer whenever he feels like it, morning, noon or night. The two of them go to a football party where the game starts at 4 p.m. in the afternoon and dinner will be served at half time. Which of the two men do you expect to have a beer before halftime? And which do you expect to not have a beer until after halftime? Either of them are free to drink at any time, but the EVIDENCE of their previous behavior indicates that Bob is more than likely going to wait until after the halftime dinner, and that Sam is probably going to tap the keg well before the first quarter ends. Now suppose Sam’s wife asked him to not have any beer until halftime. What are the odds that Sam will actually follow through? Maybe he loves his wife enough to honor her request. But based on his previous behavior, can any one really expect him to not have a beer? After all, there’s nothing wrong with it, right?

            “If you are single, you have no-one at that point to be faithful to.” — You could still be faithful to marriage vows themselves – to the institution of marriage. And I don’t think it’s silly to be faithful to one’s future spouse, whoever that may be. When we were engaged, my husband said to me, “I am not going to sleep with ANYBODY outside of our marriage, including you,” and he upheld that commitment. It was a great honor to be treated that way, and I returned that honor by keeping the same commitment for him.

            “… Until you’re actually married, you’re not ‘within marriage’ and so your behavior outside of it doesn’t necessarily reflect how you’ll behave when you are married.” If a woman overeats all the time and is quite round, do you think that she’ll stop overeating after she gets married? If a man gambles all the time, would marriage really end that behavior? I disagree entirely, and I think if you thought this through, you do as well. If a couple who is dating argues all the time, don’t you think they will argue all the time after marriage? If a woman is constantly belittling her fiance, do you really think her behavior will magically stop just because they get married? If a man always chooses his mother’s side over his wife-to-be’s view in a discussion, do you really think things will change after the wedding vows?

            “…If you’re having sex with only one partner then you are in fact being faithful to them.” — For the time being, but you’re still willing to have sex with another partner if that relationships ends. You aren’t being faithful TO MARRIAGE. Just to your partner of the moment, and whenever you feel like changing to another partner, you’ll be faithful to the next person, but not the current one.

            “Sex in a commited relationship can be a good trial run for marriage.” — Oh, no, I disagree. Sex gets in the way of building the intellectual, emotional and spiritual unity that a couple needs for a lasting marriage. It’s important to hold off on sex until the other three are in place, but couples usually are having sex well before the foundation is laid for the other three. Be honest – how often have you invested in building a solid intellectual, emotional and spiritual foundation for your relationship before having sex? The only couples I know who have done it didn’t have sex until they were already married.

            “People can test each other’s faithfulness and commitment before they take the drastic step of pooling all their resources together. In that way they can learn to trust each other.” — How can you learn to trust each other for marital fidelity when you’re having sex outside of marriage? It’s impossible. And seriously, if you can’t trust your boyfriend/girlfriend with your finances and your property, why on earth are you having sex with that person?!?!?!?! You’ve got it totally backwards!

            “To me, marriage is a public commitment where you agree, among other things, not to have sex with anyone else.” — See my notes to Jake above.

            “It’s not ‘sex outside of marriage’ which is the problem for me, it’s sex with someone your partner doesn’t approve of. The problem with adultry is the breaking of your partners’ trust, with all the attendant pain that causes them, and not the actual sex itself.” — I maintain that it’s foolish to trust somebody to stay faithful within marriage if all they have ever done is proven that they don’t need to be married to the person they have sex with.

  • callmeart

    I’m 67 and in catholic high school I was told that a wife could theoretically decline sex but there were few circumstances that would justify this conduct because of a man’s sexual needs. This from a priest. Catholic school, catholic priest, catholic students. Catholic teaching?

    • Erick

      Exactly what do you think was being taught by this response?

      From where the Church operates, the question asked you is “how dysfunctional is your marriage that a spouse declining sex every once in a while becomes a problem of rape”? If there are questions of rape within your marriage, then there are issues there beyond just rape.

    • waywardson

      The priest was wrong.

      There was a lot of confusion about Catholic sexual teaching, especially 50 years ago. What was thought to be Catholic teaching was really based on incorrect medieval biology, Stoic (pagan) philosophy and St. Augustine’s personal sexual problems.

      But this was not just a Catholic problem. At common law, there was no such thing as marital rape. Fortunately, the laws have been changed over the years.

      One of the first things that John Paul II did after becoming Pope was to clarify Catholic sexual teaching with his Theology of the Body series. Sex requires mutual consent in marriage. A man who expects sex from his wife despite her objections is using his wife as an object.

      • JohnH

        And how do you know that John Paul II was not wrong for overturning a millennium of tradition dating back to the earliest days of Christianity, with as much claim as dating to the Apostles as pretty much anything else? How do you know that the next Pope will not treat what John Paul II said in the same manner as Quanta Cura is currently regarded and revert to the teachings of St. Jerome?

  • Doragoon

    Consent based morality is really problematic. It’s all based off the idea of the self actualized person. That there’s some nature inside of ourselves that will make us happy and we’re supposed to ignore everyone else and follow it. But we can’t pretend that people aren’t pressured, molded, and coerced by everything and everyone around them. We are social creatures and we will have these interactions (such as legal prohibitions).

    No one has mentioned it yet, so I will…
    What about paying people to do what they wouldn’t otherwise have done? Can enough money make an immoral act moral? Can consent (and payment) be given after the act? And so on…

    • Irenist

      “Consent based morality is really problematic.”
      Sure. Virtue ethics is the way to go. But justice is a virtue, and stealing the use of another’s property or body without consent is unjust.

      • Meg

        I don’t think she’s saying that consent is bad. I assume she’s referring to consent-based morality as in a morality based on consent as the sole good.

        • Irenist

          My bad, then.

  • Pingback: Two Terrible Ways to Have Sex | cathlick.com

  • deiseach

    Somewhat off topic, but fifteen minutes after leaving my cri-de-coeur on here about people who have never even gotten a Valentine’s Day card in their lives (true confessions time: c’est moi I was including in that number), I went to collect the post.

    Guess what I received? From the Society of the Little Flower, a mailing containing, amongst other things, a St. Valentine’s Day card. What did I tell you about St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face? She is hardcore. HARD CORE. :-)

    Okay, anyone have any intentions they want remembered in a novena of Masses the Carmelites will be saying starting St. Valentine’s Day? Or just they want their/their loved ones remembered? Say the word and I’ll put you all down on the petition envelope I received with my card.

    (Stalked by Carmelites, I tell you, I’m being stalked!)

    • leahlibresco

      Err, it is a bit petty to ask for a second date to happen this year?

      • deiseach

        Dates? You young people want dates? In my day, let me tell you, ’tis far from ‘dating’ we were reared.

        Young women got married when their mothers went to the cattle mart in town, met a man selling calves, and told him “I’ve a nice little heifer at home myself” (true story about a relation of my mother’s, as told to me by my mother).

        :-)

        Nah, if you want courtin’, that’s no harm. You could always do the old standby of “Saint Anne, Saint Anne, get me a man” (though beware! Results could be more than anticipated! When my sister was expecting her first child, she phoned home to tell us, and my mother told her that an elderly relative of ours had been praying to St. Anne for ‘a surprise’ for her. “Well, tell her it worked!” my sister said).

        Okay, that’s Leah’s intention for the Valentine’s Day novenas. Anyone else want a date/a wedding/dump this loser and get me someone better/world peace?

        • http://www.thecrazyivans.com Kristen inDallas

          world peace please! :)

          • deiseach

            As requested, this lovely tin of whirled peas just for you!

            Oh – world peace? Well, we’ll see what St. Valentine and the Carmelites can do :-)

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Given how some comments above are interpreting the data, I’d like to review the following:

    1. The teaching of the Catholic Church is that we are all called to avoid all sin.
    2. Catholics are called to proclaim the teaching of the Catholic Church.
    3. It is possible to teach the young what the difference is between rape and fornication and still teach them to say no to the intrinsic evil of sexual relations outside marriage, which is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

    If any of my above comments do not conform to these three ideas, I would welcome correction. And to the extent that Leah’s post adheres to and promotes these ideas, I see no problem.

    God bless,

    Deacon JR

    • Erick

      DeaconJR:

      It’s not the content of your message. It’s the style. Truth without charity is not Truth, with a capital T. You’ve been unwarrantedly confrontational with your comments. And this is from one who is Catholic and agrees with your points.

      The fact of the matter is that you need not be so confrontational since your comments operate on a level the post does not address. This post is not about the morality of premarital sex versus marriage. This post is about the morality of consent, which operates within both marriage and sinful sex.

      I understand that you want to bring in the morality of marriage, but attacking the post because it does not address your issue is poor form.

      • joey

        I disagree. I commend DeaconJR for speaking out and clarifying the Truth in regards to this ambiguously written post (keep in mind, this IS the Catholic channel).

        • leahlibresco

          It’s not ambiguously written. I want people having casual and/or unmarried sex to respect their partners more.

          • joey

            Ambiguous in the sense that you may be giving off the position that ANY consensual sex means the sex is not immoral. A very short disclaimer (e.g. although the overall message of consent should apply to all people choosing to have sex, the only truly proper place for sex is still within marriage as taught by the Catholic Church) anywhere within the post would eliminate essentially all the confusion. Its clear absence makes the post ambiguous.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Leah–there is a significant ambiguity in the post that elicited my first question. Your comment at 10:08 a.m. seems to amplify the ambiguity: “I want people having casual and/or unmarried sex to respect their partners more”….how?

            Your post seems to suggest that “sexual consent” is a *sufficient* sign of “more” respect and that addressing the real problem at hand–the fornication–seems almost superfluous to the point of the post. And so, to the extent that the point of the post is not to address the elephant in the living room, I suppose I object to the focus.

            Yes, we all want people having sex outside marriage to respect their partners “more”–namely, by not *having* partners. Not having sex partners outside marriage actually resolves *both* potential issues–rape and fornication.

            An illustration: Say I want people engaging in fornication to “respect their partners more” by merely limiting their sexual activity to mutual or non-mutual masturbation, since fornication can result in much more serious consequences and can manifest much more disrespect for the partner. Sure, the Church teaches masturbation is wrong, but because it’s *less* disrespectful to the “partner”, would I be wise to make the suggestion, especially without articulating the Church’s teaching on masturbation? I’d think not.

            This is why I’m questioning the focus of the post. God bless you, Deacon JR

          • leahlibresco

            Figuring out the difference between kissing and various sex acts, and when each is appropriate is one conversation, and it’s not the issue I’m trying to settle with this post.

            I’m talking about basic respect for the bodily autonomy of another person (especially one you have feelings for). For whatever reason, we’ve adopted a much more laissez-faire approach to consent in the realm of sex than anywhere else. A ‘no’ to dancing or sparring or listening to me talk about math is much more likely to be acknowledged and respected than a ‘no’ to sex.

            Arguing that people need to ask and respect the answer they’re given doesn’t tell them when it’s appropriate to ask in the first place. Both issues are important, but I’m only covering one here. Yoking the two together makes it more likely that people who are resistant to one will write off the other, even if they might have been convinced if the argument was presented in isolation.

          • Fred

            How is casual or unmarried sex respecting you’re partner?

          • ACN

            Leah, I agree.

            Your piece isn’t ambiguously written at all. It’s on point, and I would say that the source of confusion/ambiguity appears to be people who are bringing their own anxieties about third parties having consentual sex to a combox.

          • ACN

            “Not having sex partners outside marriage actually resolves *both* potential issues–rape and fornication.”

            You do not understand rape at all. When you conflate consentual intercourse with rape, you become part of the problem. There aren’t armies of people walking around rationally weighing the pros and cons of finding a consentual sex partner, or raping someone. So no, additional moral imperatives to not have any pre-marital intercourse DOES NOT solve both problems.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Hi, Leah–you wrote: “Arguing that people need to ask and respect the answer they’re given doesn’t tell them when it’s appropriate to ask in the first place. Both issues are important, but I’m only covering one here.”

            Yes, then I guess I read your post correctly at the outset. By covering one issue “isolated” from the other, I understand that you might be seeking to reach some who are unconvinced of either, but if this is the approach you’re taking, it would be very helpful to state as much in the post itself. Not stating as much does make for ambiguity. What if you had only said in the post: “Now, everyone probably knows that the Catholic Church teaches that sexual relations outside marriage is wrong, and as a Catholic I agree, but in our culture we face another fundamental problem–people of all backgrounds losing sight of what it means to ‘consent’ to sex. So, while sex outside marriage in itself poses serious problems, let’s explore first the problem of what it means to consent to sex…”

            I think something like that could resolve the ambiguity. God bless you, Deacon JR

          • Steve

            DeaconJR… Leah not taking a stance one way or the other on the moral issue of premarital sex (if you happen to believe in such a thing to be immoral) is ultimately irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is examining sexual consent between partners, married or otherwise. Having this discussion does not require all the caveats about the churches official position on this or that. If you looking to take the time to tell Leah what you think she should have said, go start your own blog and say it yourself. It’s as if the discussion regarded ethical issues of treatment of prisoners of war and you insist on rattling on about war being immoral.

          • Goldstein Squad Member

            What a joke…if they are having casual sex. “respect” is not part of the event.

            …snicker….

          • James Kennedy

            It is merely the fact, which the Catholic Church teaches, that Rape is a worse sin than Adultery or Fornication.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Seriously Erick? Please, I ask, cite where I have been confrontational or have “attacked”… If you notice above, I was not confrontational, nor do I consider it “poor form” to ask the author if I have understood her post correctly. Her reply was partial, and so I asked for clarification (which has not yet been directly replied to). If you can locate any part of my “style” that is objectionable, just cite it and I will gladly apologize.

        God bless you,

        Deacon JR

        • jose

          You said: “What does “sexual consent” look like? Um….doesn’t it look a lot like *marriage*?”

          Sexual consent does not look like marriage. They are 100% independent concepts. Please don’t rape your wife.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Jose–you do realize I was making reference to the part of the post in which it says:

            So we end up with another group of people who, in Eaton’s words “ literally don’t understand what sexual consent looks like.”

          • Alan

            Deacon – Geeze, that makes your response even worse. If to you sexual consent looks like marriage than you are saying that marital rape doesn’t exist – you are permitting a husband to force himself on his wife because marriage is consent.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Alan–you have it exactly backwards, I think.

            First, what I said was in the form of a question regarding what “sexual consent” “looks like”

            I said “doesn’t it look a lot like marriage?”

            I did not say and do not believe that “marriage = sexual consent”, which is what a lot of folks seem to conclude. By colloquially responding that sexual consent looks “a lot like marriage,” I think my intention was clear: In the world of “consent”, it used to be understood that, “Oh, you would like to have sex with me? Sure! No problem! Just as soon as we are married….” Marriage is the state of life that sex was made for, but the Catholic Church makes clear (particularly in JPII’s Theology of the Body), that even in marriage, not only might there, God forbid, be spousal rape, but the spouse may also reduce the beauty and meaning of sex via any lust that objectifies the other spouse.

          • orgostrich

            DeaconJR, I think the problem with saying that “consent looks a lot like marriage” and then repeatedly trying to bring the conversation back to the immorality of pre-marital sex [the "real problem at hand"] is that it implies that sex outside of marriage where both partners say “Yes” or where one partner says “No” are both equally non-consensual (or equally disrespectful.)

            This disregards the harm and pain rape victims have experienced and minimizes the importance of the distinction between “yes” and “no”. To be clear, I don’t think you intend to imply any of that. I think you are trying to make an additional point about marriage, but doing so in a way that actually contradicts (or proves?) Leah’s original point in her post- that the way we talk about sex can lead to some people, consciously or unconsciously, not caring whether a partner said yes or no.

          • Alan

            Deacon-

            “I think my intention was clear”
            I hope you appreciate the irony of you saying that in the same thread where you accuse Leah of being ambiguous because she didn’t bring the aspect of sex you wanted to discuss (though her actual content was quite clear) and at the same time you use a loose colloquialism which leaves itself open to misunderstanding.

            In any case, without getting into why I find your understanding of sex and marriage to be stunted and unfortunate, you are saying that marriage is necessary for consent but not sufficient. Fine, but that is certainly not obvious from saying ‘marriage looks like consent’ which implies it is sufficient. Since, according to what you are saying here, affirmative consent is required, even within marriage, in order for sex to be consensual than consent looks a lot like the consent that Leah is describing.

          • jose

            Deacon, you do realize we don’t live inside your head? Here’s your entire comment: “Am I maybe missing something about this post? What does “sexual consent” look like? Um….doesn’t it look a lot like *marriage*?This post seems to focus on those who are un-married, or am I wrong on that?”

            No reference to anything, except to “this post”. Next time you want to make a reference, make a reference instead of just thinking about it and expecting others to read your mind. Your thoughts are invisible, you know.

        • Irenist

          If you can locate any part of my “style” that is objectionable, just cite it and I will gladly apologize.

          That’s admirably irenic of you, DeaconJR. What follows may sound hectoring, for which I apologize. If I may attempt to shed some light on the perplexity, I think the issue in online discussion generally, and sex, (politics,) and religion in particular, is that you have to:

          1. Know your audience and meet people where they are: C.S. Lewis provides some discussion of this in an apologetical context in some of the essays in The Weight of Glory; his advice remains applicable–e.g., his observation that moderns are likely to trust paleo-anthropological “Just So” stories (i.e., to them, “Science!”) much more than humanistic wisdom of any kind.

          Unlike, perhaps, much of the rest of the Catholic channel on Patheos, there are a lot of very bright, wise, kind, non-trolling secularists and atheists among Leah’s readership with incisive questions about the Faith and answers about life that we can learn a lot from, but exactly zero deference to any authority inherent in the Church’s teachings. Thus, neither assuming familiarity with Catholic sexual ethics or assuming that “because this is the Catholic channel” that Leah will therefore stop thinking aloud in a rather secular-inflected way is helpful. Many of us who have converted (or in my case, returned) to the Church from atheism continue to have predominantly atheist friends and retain our liberal sensibilities and sensitivities even as we strive to follow all of the Church’s teachings, “sexually conservative” and “economically liberal” alike. The Church is catholic enough for our faith to seek understanding in its own voice, asking its own questions.

          2. Remember that “text is an autistic medium”: in comment threads and emails, readers, given human nature, will always unconsciously put the most uncharitable possible spin on your words, and then be sincerely horrified that you could say/think such horrid things.

          This is particularly true here: many American atheists know little about Catholicism, and care less. Which is understandable–it mirrors my stance on, e.g., Jainism. We must remember that what information these secular liberal Americans, largely indifferent to the Church, have about it often comes from ubiquitous sources like:

          a. the Jack Chick-inflected sea of anti-papist bigotry that is the Protestant default culture in which we all swim,

          b. the cognate secular Whig-historical black legend of the Church as a reactionary, witch-burning, Inquisitorial, anti-Semitic (“Hitler’s Pope”), Galileo-persecuting, Franco-lauding Mordor of endless, enraged, orcish opposition to all that’s sweetly reasonable, and

          c. the media-presented spectacle of Catholic clerics’ occasionally intemperate pro-life pronouncements of support for some of the worst elements in the G.O.P., and relative media silence on Church social teaching unless it’s being presented as the peculiar hobby of dissidents like the “Nuns on a Bus.”

          So let’s imagine you’re one of these atheists, attempting to have an open-minded discussion on a Catholic blog. You mean well, but given your information sources, and the uncharitable way comments on the internet get read anyway, is it any surprise that you’d assume–with horror– that maybe marital rape is condoned in Catholic teaching? After all, wasn’t Todd “rape comment” Akin some kind of Christian? And didn’t the Church commit a bunch of medieval atrocities or something? And aren’t they all kind of suspiciously red-statish and patriarchal? With the best will in the world, you could easily assume this, given the information sources I’ve listed.

          *

          (Most) people here aren’t being uncharitable, DeaconJR. But you have to meet them where they are and remember that your words will unintentionally be read with maximum hostility, due to the nature of the online medium and the current cultural climate. However, your own blog recently provided an example of the graceful, gracious tone we should all strive to cultivate:
          http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/got-any-tob-topic-ideas-for-this-baby-blogger/

          Please pardon my impertinence here in presuming to lecture you thus. I do hope it’s helpful. May God bless you.

          • Val

            Damn, you’re good at this.

          • Steve

            Well played Irenist… well played indeed.

          • Darren

            ”b. the cognate secular Whig-historical black legend of the Church as a reactionary, witch-burning, Inquisitorial, anti-Semitic (“Hitler’s Pope”), Galileo-persecuting, Franco-lauding Mordor of endless, enraged, orcish opposition to all that’s sweetly reasonable, and”

            OK, that is the top contender for the most amusing thing I have read all month. Nice.

            And bonus points for the Death Cookies reference!

          • jenesaispas

            I was genuinely just going to say this:

            2. Remember that “text is an autistic medium”: in comment threads and emails, readers, given human nature, will always unconsciously put the most uncharitable possible spin on your words, and then be sincerely horrified that you could say/think such horrid things.

            It’s worth repeating (mostly for myself).

  • Darren

    ”That was embracing sin and deliberately rebelling against God… A close friend of mine once explained without irony that using condoms was a more serious sin than unprotected premarital sex, because it implied premeditation.
    …In that kind of environment, the idea of deliberately, actively, openly choosing sex — owning up to it and telling your partner that you’re ready — is practically unthinkable. Pushing boundaries, both your own and your partner’s, becomes the only way anyone gets laid, and over time it becomes normed. Protest, conflicted sex, and a veneer of regret functions as a sort of polite fiction, and many of the kids get what they want out of it. They have sex with their partner, and they don’t feel quite as much guilt because they can convince themselves that “It Just Happened.”

    And, here we have, in the comments, abundant proof of the environment from which this springs. Who would have thought that simply advocating for clear and unambiguous consent would have provoked such an outcry?

    ”Ash–it’s the “Catholic Channel” of Patheos. What I stated is the teaching of the Catholic Church. ‘nuf said, I think….God bless, JR”

    Oh, right…

    I especially enjoyed:

    ”…it is not the Church’s duty to compromise on morality. As an analogy, it is wrong to rob a bank. The Church cannot make distinction whether the robber used an automatic assault rifle and shot people or whether they did it in the middle of the night without casualties. Robbing a bank is simply wrong.”

    Well, that would certainly explain some of the less effective US policies of the past few decades: Just Say No .vs. needle exchanges, Abstinence Only .vs. family planning and AIDS outreach, Welfare Reform .vs. making sure all of God’s little miracles actually have at least one meal in them every day, etc.

    And this is the best system of morality one can come with? Beating out all others? Oh, sure, it is easy to become enamored of Augustine, or Aquinas, their polished and eloquent arguments, but what you really get is Newt Gingrich and Bill O’Reilly.

    —–

    All argument aside, beautifully written post. Trolling from the choir notwithstanding, this is information that everyone needs, and it cannot be said often enough. I applaud the post, and sincerely hope the heckling from the right does not muzzle your speech, just because of your different address.

    • Erick

      So according to you, allowing people to rob banks without using guns is better than teaching the prohibition of robbing of banks at all.

      Yes, thanks. I see now where the left is so much more human than the Church.

      • Darren

        Yep; it is _less_wrong_ to rob a bank in the middle of the night with no casualties than to do so in broad daylight and slaughter everyone with small arms.

        Pretty much sums up my morality.

        That makes me a Leftist? Interesting…

      • Alan

        Um, that’s basic common law – robbery is a worse offense than larceny. Don’t see what that has to do with left, right, religious, secular.

      • Erick

        No one doubts that armed robbery is a worse offense than just plain robbery.

        The point was that criticizing the Church for preaching its sexual ethics as opposed to using condoms is like criticizing police for making larceny a crime. The fact of the matter is larceny is still a crime no matter how less evil it is.

        Basically, you are criticizing the Church because they continually go for the “do not betray” option in the prisoner’s dilemma game.

        • Caravelle

          Nope; criticizing the Church for preaching opposition to condoms is like criticizing the police for its opposition to basic gun control measures like background checks, on the logic that opposing larceny is so fundamental it should be done at the expense of reducing the frequency of armed robberies, and that making larceny a crime is sufficient to eliminate armed robberies.

          Interestingly, in the real world the police don’t actually oppose basic gun control measures.

  • Steve Schuler

    I agree wholeheartedly with Deacon Jr’s concern over the ambiguity of Leah’s post, particularly in her avoidance of expressing Catholic teaching as pertains to the morality of extra-marital sex. After reading her post I was left wondering what she thought about the morality or immorality of extra-marital sex, as there was nothing explicit in her post to provide clarity on that matter. Leah’s response to Deacon JR above: “It’s not ambiguously written. I want people having casual and/or unmarried sex to respect their partners more.”, provides no more clarity and leaves me wondering if she departs from traditional Catholic doctrine on this matter.

    Would you please make clear your position on this matter, Leah?

    • Val

      It’s fascinating to watch Leah be as needled by the doctrinaire Catholics for full disclosure and (perceived) contradiction-resolution as she has been by the conversion-dissenters (myself among them) for the same thing.

      • Irenist

        With deep sorrow, I can report from my own experience that being a serious Catholic who isn’t also part of the Tea Party epistemic closure bubble is getting harder in this country.

        • QANC

          Amen, brother…

        • Custador

          As an atheist, I have to say I find that a very interesting comment. Can you expand upon it?

    • Oscar T

      The reason you were left wondering is because it wasn’t the topic of her post; you had might as well complain that she left me wondering about her position on fracking (the other kind–the kind you’re not asking about).

      It’s pretty clear that you’re exploiting her post in an attempt to either make her “expose” her inadequacies as a Catholic or to push her to conform to your views… all on an issue she wasn’t talking about in the first place.

      • Steve Schuler

        Actually, Oscar T, you are quite mistaken in the presumptions that you make as to my motivations for asking Leah to directly address the concern that has been raised by several of her co-religionist in this thread. Your mind reading skills are left wanting, but of course you couldn’t know that if I didn’t tell you so.

        I’ve no personal stake in Leah’s religious identity or how well she conforms to the orthodox or traditional beliefs of Catholicism. I started following her blog with the hope that I could gain some insight and understanding into the process of her conversion to Catholicism. To my disappointment there has been very little that she has blogged about that has provided very much of either, but perhaps in time she will write more on that topic. What actually keeps me hanging around at this point is the information and understanding I glean from her commentariot, which is substantial.

        In this instance my sole motivation for asking Leah about her personal view on the morality of casual or extra-marital sex is that I think that it is a fair question that is very closely related to the somewhat narrow topic that she addressed in her post, as has beeen expressed by other Catholics in this thread. Leah either will, or will not, address it entirely at her own discretion.

        • Val

          I also misread your approach, Steve, and I apologize for my own inattention and error… though I think my little aside might yet stand in general, if not in the specific instance.

          I doubt that Leah is going to provide any satisfactory insight into the real process of her conversion… a frustration which I have expressed before. She appears to have said all she is willing to in public and conveniently shunted any challenge on the topic into the sub-carpetal territory of “fights she walks away from.”

          Like you, I consequently find far less of interest and substance in the original posts than in the sometimes really extraordinary comment threads.

  • Fred

    Leah said, “I’m talking about basic respect for the bodily autonomy of another person”

    So, once again, how are casual or unmarried sex respect for another or yourself?

    • http://www.thecrazyivans.com Kristen inDallas

      Do you mean, “how *can* casual or unmarried sex *include* respect for another person’s *bodily autonomy*?” Because that’s the question that wouldn’t require any twisting of her statement. There are a lot of valid answers to that question. Mostly anecdotal. But before we can get there, I think the first step is in realizing that not every unmarried couple is exactly alike, just like not every married couple is exaclty alike. By making “unmarried sex” the subject of your question, rather than the unmarried people having sex (which are not a monolith) you’ve drastically limited the scope of the answers you could hope to recieve.

      • Darren

        I suspect that from the perspective of the Catholic Police, the answer boils down to:

        Is it sex within the bounds of holy (Catholic) matrimony, and without contraception? Then OK.

        _Everything_ else is incompatible with intimacy, bodily autonomy, natural law, mutual respect, true consent, or what have you.

        Where Leah ran afoul of the Catholic Police was in writing a post that implied that some people might actually be having sex outside of those bounds, and that those people who chose to do so should endeavor to improve their communications and deepen their mutual respect for each other by establishing clear and unambiguous consent.

      • Fred

        “Do you mean, “how *can* casual or unmarried sex *include* respect for another person’s *bodily autonomy*?” Because that’s the question that wouldn’t require any twisting of her statement. There are a lot of valid answers to that question”

        Let’s hear them, preferably from Leah.

    • Irenist

      Leah said, “I’m talking about basic respect for the bodily autonomy of another person”

      So, once again, how are casual or unmarried sex respect for another or yourself?

      Fred,
      Bodily autonomy is a distinct value. Consider this from a Catholic discussion of the old canard that Aquinas allegedly found masturbation to be worse than rape:

      As justice is a greater virtue than chastity, so injustice is a greater evil than unchastity, and thus all things considered, Aquinas would consider rape a greater evil than masturbation or contraception. This formal way of speaking is recognized by some more considerate authors:

      The teaching of medieval theologians that such sexual sins as masturbation, sodomy, and contraception are more perverse, as sexual sins, than fornication or adultery or even rape (the former were said to be contra naturam whereas the latter were said to be praeter naturam), angers many people today. But this teaching must be understood properly. The medieval theologians are claiming that certain kinds of sexual sins more seriously offend the virtue of chastity than do others. They are not saying that these sins are for this reason less grave as sins than adultery or rape, for instance. After all, adultery and rape are very serious violations of the virtue of justice as well as being violations of the virtue of chastity. Thus, as a sin, rape is far more serious than masturbation or homosexual sodomy because it not only offends chastity but also gravely violates justice. (Ronald David Lawler, Joseph M. Boyle, William E. May, Catholic sexual ethics: a summary, explanation & defense).

      Source: http://www.pathsoflove.com/blog/2009/06/aquinas-on-sexual-sins-dangers-of-speaking-formally/

      Leah is attempting to have a very, very important discussion about charity and justice between married and unmarried sexual partners. Rape is precisely an injustice: we must not commit theft against other’s God-given stewardship of their own bodies. This is not the whole of sexual morality, but it is foundational.

      Although chastity and temperance are important virtues, it is charity and justice between lovers that is at issue here. As rape is far, far, far graver than mere fornication, Leah’s discussion of justice between partners is laudable. Considering how deformed our culture’s norms about consent in sex are (at least in part precisely because of failures of nuance like the ones in this thread, and the prudish culture of silence around healthy sex such unsubtle dichotomies produce), this is a conversation that needs to happen. We Catholics, informed by the Theology of the Body, should warmly welcome it. Justice isn’t the only virtue, but it is vital. Rape isn’t the only sin, but it is extraordinarily important to combat. How can we expect people fully to live out the Theology of the Body if we can’t even get them to stop raping each other? Walk before you run.

      • Fred

        Ok, none of that deals with the question of casual or extramarital sex being reflections of bodily autonomy.

        • Irenist

          Consensual fornication is a sin against chastity. Rape is a sin against chastity because it is a subset of fornication; rape is also a far graver sin against justice. Leah’s post was about finding away to achieve consent (and thus avoid rape) in the context of both marital relationships and relationships founded on serial fornication with a single partner. Since rape is monstrously evil, and consent is its antithesis, this is an important discussion. It is not, however, a discussion in which the married-chaste/unmarried-unchaste distinction is especially relevant, although that distinction is both real, infallibly taught, and spiritually fruitful for those who have ears to hear.

          • Irenist

            To clarify: under God, we own (or are stewards of, if you prefer) our own bodies. When a rapist steals the use of your body, he violates your bodily autonomy; this is a grave injustice in addition to being unchaste like any other fornication.

          • Fred

            So in your mind serial fornication with a single partner is a reflection of bodily autonomy? What about explicit consent between sado masochists? I mean that’s just gotta be a reflection of true bodily autonomy. They both explicitly consent to it.

          • Irenist

            Autonomy is self- ownership. Two addicts consensually sharing drugs are enslaved by the drugs but autonomous vis a vis each other. If one brutally beats the other and steals his drugs then the evil of violated autonomy has been added to that of drug lust. Consensual fornication can be and is deeply dysfunctional without also violating autonomy like rape does. What ” a-mind” could be too obtuse to see that?

    • Bob

      Assuming you have obtained consent and the other person is an adult, you are both doing something enjoyable, which is good exercise and releases endorphins which make you feel good. To me, it’s a bit like saying ‘how is going on a rollercoaster together showing respect for others or yourself?’
      It’s fun and if you use a condom there’s very little risk involved. Sex is good for you. People who have regular orgasms live longer.

      You show respect for the other person by assuming that they can decide for themselves if they want sex or not, by agreeing beforehand about what contraception to use and by stopping if they ask you to stop and listening to them when they express their preferences for position, speed, intensity of touch and things like that. You show respect for yourself by thinking about what you want and communicating it as clearly as possible, as well as protecting yourself by using contraception. It helps if you have masturbated enough to know the kinds of things that work for you beforehand. If you’re sexually active, it’s a good idea to have regular std checks as well, which is respectful because it protects your health and the health of future partners.
      In an ideal world, people would also be respectful by saying whether they were looking for a relationship or just a one-night stand. That doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it does. Not all casual sex is respectful, it’s true, but neither is all married sex.

      • Alan

        I’ve never tried wearing a condom on a roller coaster – does it feel as good?

        • ACN

          Nah.

          It’s like getting a massage in a raincoat :)

      • jenesaispas

        “People who have regular orgasms live longer.”

        Cannot infer cause from correlation.

    • Josh Lyman

      Seriously? Why do you find this such a hard concept? One person wants to have sex. The other person also wants to have sex with that first person. They have sex in a way that makes both of them feel happy. That is respect. How is it NOT?

      • Sparki

        It’s really more complicated than that. People sometimes find themselves in a position where they intellectually and emotionally want to have sex, but physically, their bodies are not responding to sex for whatever reason (illness, hormonal imbalance, stress, just plain being tired, whatever). Or they might be physically and intellectually desiring sex, but an emotional disconnect from their partner (due to an argument or something), makes the situation less clear-cut. Sometimes one partner wants a particular kind of sexual experience that the other partner isn’t into at that particular moment. It’s hardly ever a perfect “yes/no” situation.

  • Darren

    Excellent reference to the extreme commitment to mutual consent advocated by the BDSM community.

    Personal anecdote – my early dating experiences in college coincided with there being a great deal of coverage (from both sides) of the problem of date rape. I took this strongly to heart and spent those years deathly afraid that I might _accidentally_ end up on the wrong side of the consent line. A bit silly, in retrospect, but at the time I had a much easier time being noble and self-sacrificing than I had in actually navigating the (to me) confusing world of boy/girl communications.

    Fast forward ten years or so, and how incredibly awesome was it to find myself sitting in a Denny’s, across from a prospective playmate, and over appetizers each of us running down our multi-page checklist of likes and dislikes, yes’s and no’s, wants and desires. It was so simple, and, in my opinion, an exercise so steeped in mutual respect, each for the other.

    The point of this is that, as a culture and as individuals, we suffer from the lack of honest and open communication. Women grow up and live in fear, and men grow up and live in frustration, which too often turns to resentment and misogyny… We are all less than we could be, and for what?

    • Darren

      P.S. – not to take myself too seriously, in the above post by “noble and self-sacrificing”, substitute “needlessly masochistic and overly dramatic” and it is probably closer to the objective truth… :)

    • jose

      To balance things out, a reference to the rampant abuse in the BDSM community. Let’s give that “commitment” a reality check.

      • Darren

        Wow, that is a great article, and by great I mean horrifying but worth reading.

        Sad that, even among a community committed to communication and consent, such things still occur.

    • Darren

      OK, gotta call TMI on myself here… There was a point to be made, I just did so badly.

      Memo to self, next time I think it is a good idea to post a personal anecdote – it isn’t.

  • Maiki

    To represent team Catholic in a more moderate view — I do like your post. I think the comments seem to take an all or nothing approach, a lot of the time: either say everything there is to say about sexual teaching, or you are a bad Catholic, or throw away the chains of Judeo-Christian oppression. I think you are talking about something important that is important in general in morality — letting ambivalence lead us to sin. Having to say “yes” to premarital sex is hard. it is easier not to say no. But they don’t send the same message. And if we require the stronger message, we enable more moral agency (even if the choices aren’t correct, the responsibility of our actions is the first of many steps to acting as a fully functioning human).

    I understand the comment about “marriage is an expression of sexual consent” — it is a public permanent statement of the beginning of a sexual relationship, a resounding “yes” to the world. But that “Yes” still needs to be reaffirmed when the sex act happens, just like we assent verbally to the “Body of Christ” each time we receive communion after our public profession of faith in Baptism.

    Another point: people don’t magically become good at communicating sexual intimacy when they marry. Those skills need to start in the engagement and dating process. Learning to say yes and no is an important skill *especially* if you plan on being chaste and aren’t getting married in two weeks. There is no other way of doing it, short of both of you possibly making very bad assumptions about your sexual wants and needs. If you can’t have sex to “show” your partner what you will want (Test drive mentality on premarital sex), you better be able to communicate very well while dating and during engagement, and in the beginning of marriage. It is only in a world where premarital sex is assumed that we can deal with not communicating about sex — bad sex can lead to a breakup instead of an uncomfortable conversation until we find the person who by happenstance matches us.

    • Erick

      +1

      I’m glad someone saw the same thing.

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      I, too, agree with this.
      (And I’m disregarding my own policy against “this” comments because much of what Catholics said above makes it salient to point out lots of Catholics don’t see it that way.)

      • Irenist

        ^This!

    • KL

      Just driving by to drop another “this” in the bucket, for several reasons — namely, 1) thank you for expressing an important and measured response, one which I would have struggled to articulate myself were I to take the time to attempt it, though I have not because I am embroiled in insanity due to the fact that 2) I am, in fact, getting married in two weeks, and I find these conversation threads intensely relevant. The process of marriage preparation has been fascinating, enlightening, and while frustrating at times, immensely rewarding. I feel blessed to have a relationship in which I feel entirely comfortable expressing myself verbally to my partner on any number of “sensitive” subjects, and I am confident that this communication will continue after our marriage. But it will take constant attention and re-evaluation, as inevitably our relationship grows and changes over the years. Consent can never be assumed to be a once-for-all occurrence — and I love the image of verbal assent to “The Body of Christ.” I’ll have to steal that one…

      • jenesaispas

        Aww, happy married life!

      • :D

        Congratulations! I wish you and your future spouse every possible happiness.

      • leahlibresco

        Mazel tov!

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

    As a Catholic myself – hell, one who has disagreed with Leah pretty strongly in the past – I think some people here may be getting a bit too worked up. Nothing major, but really, I think the one poster who mentioned that Leah is quite reasonably trying to argue for an incremental change in a larger culture is pretty accurate. Maybe I missed something, but I don’t see her playing apologist for extramarital sex or anything.

    Anyway…

    And it’s not always clear what counts as a clear no, since romances in popular culture tend to include a lot of girls that “need” someone to push them to loosen up and stalking that gets rewarded.

    This makes it sound as if girls never knowingly, willfully, happily, eagerly play ‘hard to get’ or try to get their lovers to be assertive with them, and instead it’s some kind of alien media portrayal that doesn’t reflect reality but results in a lot of confused men. A good share of women react positively to that ‘pop culture’, like it or not.

    Now, maybe they shouldn’t. And maybe men should reject it too. But now we’re getting into the strange, confusing territory of psychological and physical desires – the landmine that a lot of people seem to want to dodge, even people normally quite comfortable talking about BDSM and more.

    When one character tries to move from kissing to something else, s/he almost never pauses to ask the partner if they’d like to turn things up a notch. And when one person in the scene rebuffs the new sex act, the couple almost never continue at the previous level of intensity, they sit up in their artfully draped sheets and try to figure out what went wrong.

    Yeah, because sex – particularly modern sex – isn’t some mere act, but is packed with a whole lot of psychological aspects. Mood is important. Passion is important. Not everyone feels turned on at the thought of enthusiastic consent. Some people are turned on at going with the moment, not having to worry about enthusiastic consent, and intuition.

    And there’s an important question. Does the woman who enjoys an assertive man – the woman who is turned on by the right guy just DOING something while she submits and opens herself up to him (using the very delicate language here) – have a disordered sexual desire? Should she change what she likes? Should she deny herself seeking those experiences and instead – contrary to her sexual desires – go the explicit consent route instead?

    I suppose the big problem I have with the OP is that it frames it in such a way that implies that it’s these entirely external things – culture, social rules – that are running the show with how sex is carried out, and ignoring the personal end of desire. Well, what should be done about those desires? Assume for the sake of argument that they are incompatible with ‘explicit consent’ – that once you have to basically put up a neon sign saying ‘Yes, citizen, Sex Act Number 107-A can commence’, the desire is frustrated.

    Shall we at that point say that some sexual desires are disordered and should be discouraged? Even if it’s a consensual act? (And keep in mind, you can have consent without explicit consent. That’s part of the problem.)

    • Fred

      “Maybe I missed something, but I don’t see her playing apologist for extramarital sex or anything.”

      She is if respect for bodily autonomy can happen within casual or extramarital sex. She’s taking on the incoherent a-mind postion that consent predicates what is rght.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

        She is if respect for bodily autonomy can happen within casual or extramarital sex. She’s taking on the incoherent a-mind postion that consent predicates what is rght.

        I think that’s way, way too far. Nowhere did she seem to suggest that ‘consent predicates what is right’ – instead she seems to be advocating a view that explicit consent should be the standard for sexual relations.

        I can appreciate – seriously appreciate – wanting to guard against implicit condoning of bad behavior. But I simply do not see that here with Leah. I see her talking about the role of consent in sex. I have disagreements with some of what she’s saying, clearly, but nothing she’s saying here has to be taken as an endorsement of casual or extramarital sex. Granted, her advice is in broad enough terms that someone who doesn’t subscribe to Catholic moral teaching may be able to converse with her and agree, but so what? I can point out that sex with a condom on is typically crappier than sex without a condom – that’s not an endorsement of Catholic teaching in and of itself, nor is it advocating casual sex.

        I just think some people are overreacting here. Slightly, but overreacting all the same.

        • Fred

          Do casual and extramarital sex reflect respect for bodily autonomy?

          • Fred

            Explicit consent or not?

            Any time Leah

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

            Do casual and extramarital sex reflect respect for bodily autonomy?

            That depends on what you mean by bodily autonomy. I mean if you put it starkly, yes, consensual sex acts would seem to respect bodily autonomy more than rape, so there is that. To acknowledge as much is not to give tacit approval to casual or extramarital sex.

            Look, what are you aiming for here? Are you arguing that casual and extramarital sex are sinful? That they are, in a way, harmful? Great – I’m onboard with both claims. Are you taking the position that any discussion of sex, or any engagement with secular culture must begin and and with “X is a sin, period, don’t do it, stop asking questions” or The Enemy Has Won? In that case, or in situations approaching that case, I disagree.

            Leah is trying to address a facet of how we think about sex. I disagree with her in large part, but these reactions that treat her as somehow endorsing premarital or casual sex because, in principle, someone with what is apparently a different set of beliefs and moral values could nevertheless agree with her on this very specific topic seems wrongheaded. If she spins around and says ‘no, I think casual and premarital sex are fin and dandy’, okay, then I’ll start criticizing. Until then, I think she’s just discussing a far more general topic.

          • Jake

            Do casual and extramarital sex reflect respect for bodily autonomy?

            Those are not the same thing. Casual sex (by the definition you seem to be using) is a subset of extramarital sex, not an identical set.

            Sex between two committed, loving partners certainly reflects respect for bodily autonomy. And that is a very different thing that saying it’s either “right” or “wrong”.

            Just becasue you believe something is *wrong*, doesn’t mean you’re obliged to believe it’s wrong in every way imaginable. Stealing is wrong, but stealing bread to feed your family is certainly not the same kind of wrong as stealing the pension funds of middle class retirees to line your own pockets. Simillarly, premarital sex might be wrong in your view, but surely you can admit that people who disagree with you about the moral implications of premarital sex can still undertake sex acts out of love for their partner? And surely you can agree that there’s a difference between casual hook-ups and long term, committed, monogamous relationships?

            Bodily autonomy is a completely separate concept from marital status. You can respect the bodily autonomy of your unmarried partner by not pressuring them (or much worse, forcing them) to engage in acts they’re uncomfortable with- just the same as you can respect the bodily autonomy of your married partner by not pressuring them to do the same.

          • QANC

            The fact that you are missing, Fred. Is that not everyone is Catholic or a perfect follower of Catholic teaching (As much as we wish for) therefore people will probably have sex outside of marriage whether it is a good for them or not (and we are going with not) and they may not listen to the whole sex within marriage thing and ultimate versus immediate and yada yada yada other stuff….buuuuuuutttttt if they can convinced to respect one another even in a wrong act then perhaps they will take a step in the right direction. Or even perhaps eventually they will say “Wait, this act is disrespectful of you” and not do it. And then problem solved. When you teach someone respect eventually they can learn respect.

  • Fred

    “That depends on what you mean by bodily autonomy. I mean if you put it starkly, yes, consensual sex acts would seem to respect bodily autonomy more than rape, so there is that.”

    Ok, let’s bring in sado masochism. Both people expicitly consent to it. (Incoherent a-minds satisfied). Demonstrate to me how sado masochism is a reflection of bodily autonomy. Because they explicitly consent to it?

    • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

      Demonstrate to me how sado masochism is a reflection of bodily autonomy. Because they explicitly consent to it?

      Yes, insofar as the woman in the gimp suit has expressly given her permission to the guy holding the whip to crack her one, she is exercising some amount of bodily autonomy. Both of them are making some bad choices.

      What, is this really something you’re having trouble absorbing? Is it a case of ‘bodily autonomy is in the ‘good’ category, but these acts are in the ‘bad’ category, therefore there’s no way there can be any overlap’? Because if so, I’m afraid things are a little more complicated.

    • Daphne

      What do you mean by bodily autonomy? Because if it means you can do what you want with your own body and that no-one else can do anything to it without your permission then yes, sado masochism is an expression of bodily autonomy, because what is done to the masochists’ body is carefully negotiated beforehand, limits are set and the masochist is able to stop the proceedings at any point by saying their safeword. Nothing is done to them that they don’t want done (assuming that the ‘dom’ follows agree conventions and is not some sort of rapist).

  • Fred

    Simillarly, premarital sex might be wrong in your view, but surely you can admit that people who disagree with you about the moral implications of premarital sex can still undertake sex acts out of love for their partner?

    Let’s ask Leah that. Anytime hon.

    • Irenist

      “Hon”? Seriously? Sheesh, Fred.

      • Fred

        What’s the matter? Apparently bodily autonomy can happen in different ways

        • Irenist

          See below.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

      1) Are you aware that Leah has a job, and cannot answer your questions on your demand?

      2) Repeatedly asking the same question, and adding the condescending and sexist “hon,” does not help your case (whatever it might be).

      • Fred

        1.Don’t kid yourself, she’s avoiding the question.
        2. Once again, i consent,explicitly, to hon being a term of endearment.

        • Alan

          I hope you see the irony in you insisting how someone else perceive ‘hon’ (which you continue to insist on using even after they told you they found it sexist) in a thread on consent. It’s almost as if you insist on verbally raping her after she explicitly said no…

          • Fred

            I hope you see the irony in being forced to accept hon as sexist is a denial of my consent.

            I can do this all day, hon.

          • Alan

            Yeah just like the wife who doesn’t want to have sex in forcing her husband to wait is denying his consent… clearly you are just an apologist for certain forms of rape.

        • butterfly5906

          Fred, I mean this sincerely, so hopefully it won’t come out as insulting, but are you a non-native English speaker or do you have any language/communication difficulties that other commenters should be aware of? Because the way you are using the word “consent” here and below makes me think you’re honestly confused about its meaning. If true, this might be causing a lot of the disagreements between commenters in this post.

          • Fred

            I thought it was pretty simple. How does explicit consent to whatever express autonomy?

          • Irenist

            How do you define autonomy? That perhaps our crux of confusion here.

        • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

          1) I am impressed by your psychic powers.

          2) I keep reading that sentence, and its variations, and it still makes no sense. If you have a point (a real point) to make, make it.

          And for good measure:
          3) Grow up.

        • Darren

          “2. Once again, i consent,explicitly, to hon being a term of endearment.

          Yes, if you are a sassy waitress at a truck-stop. Otherwise, not so much. :)

  • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy

    I’m talking about basic respect for the bodily autonomy of another person (especially one you have feelings for). For whatever reason, we’ve adopted a much more laissez-faire approach to consent in the realm of sex than anywhere else. A ‘no’ to dancing or sparring or listening to me talk about math is much more likely to be acknowledged and respected than a ‘no’ to sex.

    This reminds me of Janet Smith. She says having sex is becoming like playing tennis in many people’s minds thanks to contraception. The difference is she says it is a bad thing. Sex is a call to love like God loves. When we treat it like we treat a tennis match we lose our souls in the process. What you are saying is we can’t really do it. We can’t pretend sex is that casual no matter how we try. I see something good in that. The fact that we can’t accept a casual No to such an non-casual question is good. When we get to the point that we can’t accept a casual Yes either we will have really made progress!

  • Irenist

    “Hon” is sexist, IMHO, in this context. In a thread on consent, of all things, you have, IMHO, moved from “answer my question” to “answer my question, woman.” Creepy.

    • Irenist

      That’s in reply to Fred above.

      • Fred

        I consent to hon being a term of endearment,hon. You’re being creepy. And what would be wrong with creepy in a theread about consent,hon?

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

          Nothing better to dispel the perception of sexism than doubling down on usage of the offending term.

          Oh wait. Everything. Everything is better than that.

          • Fred

            You guys don’t seem to stick to your arguments. Not surprised on thread about consent. Hon is a term of endearment, hon.

        • Irenist

          Are you Catholic, Fred?

          • Fred

            Irenist, are you an obtuse a-mind that tries to claim being, enslaved, by drugs is an expression of autonomy? Pay attention to what you say: being enslaved is autonomous. Where’s the self ownership in that?

            Crude, getting cracked by a whip is an expression of autonomy? What about explicit consent to face first sprints into a wall?

          • Irenist

            I’m often obtuse. Is your goal in this thread to win hearts and minds for a Christian sexual ethic?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

            Crude, getting cracked by a whip is an expression of autonomy? What about explicit consent to face first sprints into a wall?

            So long as it’s an uncoerced conset, yep, it’s still an expression of autonomy

            Are you really trying to argue that if some act is harmful or a bad idea, it cannot be autonomous?

        • KL

          Terms of endearment divorced from an appropriate context (e.g. close friendship, family, romantic relationships) communicate condescension, whether or not they are intended to. The implied power imbalance is thrown into still sharper relief when they come from a man directed toward a woman. There are few methods that will more quickly cause your interlocutor to disengage in distaste than an uninvited “term of endearment.” Perhaps something to keep in mind in future discussions.

          • Fred

            Of course, face first sprints into a tree are appropriate among friends who explicitly agree, but not among friends who disagree, hon.

        • Hon

          If you are calling someone else hon, it is not your consent that matters but theirs, hon. You say being called hon isn’t sexist? Fine then, hon. What that means is that people can call you hon without fear that you will find it sexist, hon. But if someone else says that they find it sexist, that means they don’t consent to being called hon, hon, and so you should stop calling them that if you care about their personal autonomy, sugarbunnykins.

        • Josh Lyman

          Do you honestly not understand that consent needs to be MUTUAL? Are you really that fucking stupid?

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    I’m no longer a Catholic, but I think many of these comments misrepresent the Catholic position, especially regarding the nature of sin, of which there are various degrees of infractions and worse sins than others. The Medieval always understand non-marital sex with a loved one to be a relatively small infraction. Many Medieval romances explicitly focused on this theme, and the sex was approved by God, and seen as good due to the lovers’ commitments to each other. Sometimes these romances were blessed by a priest, and other times the story simply gives the impression of God’s wink in the couple’s direction.

    Also the Pope’s statement on condom use to protect a partner from disease (posted in another comment) suggests that birth control can be used with intentions, making the sin less great than in other cases. When it comes to sex and consent, we shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    I think overemphasizing the evils of non-marital sex/fornication can cause problems on an individual level and in relationships, as Leah mentioned when discussing the game Christians play about not wanting sex and feeling guilty afterwards. It’s much healthier to just admit that you want to have sex. I knew a Catholic couple who got completely drunk, so they could have sex without being culpable for that particular sin. They were technically culpable for the sin of drunkenness, not fornication, since by Catholic standards of sin, they couldn’t consent to the act. They confessed the sin of drunkenness to the priest. This little anticdote also brings up the problem I have with Catholic notions of sin and intentionality/will.

    Mortal sin is “to choose deliberately – that is, both knowing it and willing it – something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin” (CCC1874).

    There is the issue of what actually constitutes “willing it,” in a person full of complex thoughts, emotions, and desires. For this reason, sex and consent issues will always be a problem for Catholics.
    Finally, I’m surprised that nobody mentioned NFP as providing a communication avenue in marriage and way for spouses to regularly communicate consent or lack of consent. I believe NFP can be harmful and there is nothing wrong with birth control, but communicating consent can be one of its benefits.

  • Fred

    hon said, “Yeah just like the wife who doesn’t want to have sex in forcing her husband to wait is denying his consent… clearly you are just an apologist for certain forms of rape.”

    yeah just like the guy who denies my consent to hon as term of endearment is denying my consent…clearly you are just an apologist for some forms of rape.
    I said i can do this all day hon.

    • Irenist

      I suppose you can do this all day, Fred, but masturbation is a sin.

    • Alan

      Ah poor Fred is off his meds. If only you had gotten laid in high school maybe you wouldn’t need to masturbate so much.

  • Loud

    Deacon, didnt Christ also say that whoever leads one of his little ones to sin would have been better off thrown in the sea with a millstone tied around their neck?
    Yes sex outside of marriage is a sin, and yes, rape is a greaer sin. But what about the fact that preasuring someone to have sex with you, wearing them down where they already held strong for a while, is also very grave?
    Its like how maximillian kolbe took the place of an inmate that was about to be executed by nazis, or when the teachers at sandyhook risked gave their own lives to protect the children. You dont say “the teachers sjoild hsve run and hid and left the children alone because all they did was give the shooter someone else to kill, and thats bad.” You say “they tried to make things better” leah isnt trying to give them a gate to sexual sin, she is trying to prevent worse sin. I think its heroic.

  • jose

    This comment thread is mind-boggling. My summary:

    Leah: “Let’s not rape women.”
    Everybody: “Why are you such a bad catholic? Why do you pander to the atheists so much?”

    • ACN

      She’s being accidentally or deliberately misread, and then being accused of being ambiguous.

      I’m boggled.

      • jenesaispas

        Here’s my attempt at a summary:

        Leah- We need to know when consent is consent. lets use explicit consent.

        Some commenters- why haven’t you said that pre-marital sex is wrong?

    • Kip

      Be fair, there are moderate Catholics agreeing with her, it’s not so black and white.

      And it’s not only atheists who have casual sex (and not all atheists have casual sex). I don’t think anyone actually put it in those terms, or really implied she was pandering to atheists specifically, rather than non-Catholics in general. In fact most Americans have sex before marriage. Probabilities are high that that includes some of the people argueing against it in this thread.

      http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2006/12/19/index.html <—a source for that statement.

      • Kip

        P.S. Men can be raped as well and their consent is also important. Let’s not rape anyone.

  • http://unhappilyagnostic.tumblr.com/ Unhappily Agnostic

    I don’t think anyone’s pointed out to the objecting Catholics that Leah’s position seems pretty dang analogous to the Pope’s on condom use to prevent HIV, re. the absurd 2012 media blitz.

    • http://unhappilyagnostic.tumblr.com/ Unhappily Agnostic

      I mean absurd 2010 media blitz. Ahem. I follow the news very closely.

      • Erick

        It’s been pointed out at least twice before you. Thanks, though.

  • SteveP

    Leah: I hope whatever situation prompted the blog post has been resolved with grace. God be with you.

  • Fred

    Crude said,” So long as it’s an uncoerced conset, yep, it’s still an expression of autonomy”

    Yeah, I guess if someone coerces you into 1 and 1 makes 2 they’re denying you’re autonomy”
    Enjoy your garbage y’all.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    More than 200 posts later, I realized that above I have only responded to the impression I was left with after having read Leah’s post. I needed to go back to identify more clearly in the text what I found troublesome. So, here are quotes I find troublesome:

    [Leah's citing this from another source:] “The hardcore abstinence message of the conservative suburban youth groups I knew, and the poisonous atmosphere of normalized denial and rationalization, are basically training a generation of men and women who literally don’t understand what sexual consent looks like.”

    [Me:] Here, in the source Leah cites, what is referred to as “the hardcore abstinence message” is being blamed for contributing to the lack of understanding of “what sexual consent looks like.” What does “hardcore abstinence” really refer to? The concept of *total* abstinence is hardcore and somehow problematic? If so, this is a dangerous supposition and belittles the necessity of proclaiming the Church’s teachings pertaining to chastity and purity, in my view. If not, then what does it mean?

    [Leah:] “It’s fine to talk about when not to have sex, but, unless you’re the Shakers, you need to put at least as much effort, if not more, into explaining how to have appropriate sex.”

    [Me:] Here, Leah takes an approach that also seems at least somewhat condescending toward the “abstinence” message (“unless you’re the Shakers–what does that mean?”). Leah then appeals to the notion that the “abstinence” message is insufficient and that *more* effort should be taken to explain “how to have appropriate sex.” I would then ask, if we are supposed to put *more* effort explaining “how to have appropriate sex,” why Leah would opt to *withhold* effort to express the one bit of Church teaching that says what actually is absolutely necessary for “appropriate sex”–the reservation of sexual relations to the married? If the conversation really is about “how” we are to have “appropriate” sex, then I continue to object to this omission.

    [Leah:] “Eaton (and Kevin Roose, back at “Call Him Voldemort!”) does a good job explaining how the extreme purity model of some Christians prevents reasonable discussions about consent. ”

    [Me:] Here I have to wonder what an “extreme purity model” really is–and how it can actually prevent “reasonable discussions about consent.” It seems to me that the fact that the Church calls us all to “extreme” purity and has the audacity to claim that it is both *possible* (and that it possesses the means by which it is made possible) makes it highly unlikely that it would prevent “reasonable discussions about consent.”

    And so these are concrete examples from the post that seem to pit the message of abstinence and purity against what is claimed as a more “reasonable” approach to “how to have appropriate sex.” These words create ambiguities regarding the authors’ attitudes toward abstinence and purity, both of which form the very core of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. And while my initial impression was that something was lacking that should be there (acknowledgment of Church teaching contra fornication), I now see something present in the text that raises these additional questions.

    God bless,

    Deacon JR

    • Erick

      You seem to be taking the quoted section out of context.

      Eaton’s observation is of people who grew up in the Christian abstinence ethic but had become ambivalent in following the ethic. Notice how “hardcore abstinence” is coupled with “normalized denial and rationalization” by the conjunction “and”.

      Eaton observed how these ambivalent people had turned “NO” into “YES” when it came to sex, because they reasoned that “not explicitly denying” was morally better than “explicitly consenting” to sex.

      This is not an attack on the Christian ethic. It is an observation on how the Christian ethic could be twisted by ambivalent people. It is in this sense that Leah says that teaching the abstinence message is not enough. I don’t see how that could be taken as an encouragement or advocacy for un-Catholic sexual ethics.

      • Irenist

        Erick,
        I agree with your guess at what Leah was getting at. However, given that Deacon JR has apparently devoted much time to spreading the Good News that there is more to life than the contraceptive culture and the hook-up mentality, I think it’s entirely understandable that he’d read Leah’s post the way he has. It’s not my reading, but I think it’s obvious he’s reading and responding in good faith here.

        • Erick

          Irenist,

          As I’ve posted previously, I also can understand where the Deacon is coming from. In fact, I’m delighted with this most recent post from him. What I find regretful is that this last post of his at 10:50am today should have been the first post he made. Then we could have gotten into the merits of the arguments made, the possible solutions (including reasoned debate on Church solutions), etc. As it is, I fear that with 200+ posts before we got here, we may have buried this so far down and turned off so many people that a real conversation will not take place.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Erick–I’d be willing to concede that yours is a fairer reading than my initial take on that quote, and I want to make clear I’m not trying to suggest or assert any particular motive or belief that may lie behind Leah’s words as expressed. But I think it’s fair to ask for more clarity on these points. I have no reason at all to think that Leah is trying to articulate anything not in keeping with Church teaching, none at all. But I’m confident that legitimate questions asked with due charity, responded to in like manner, can be helpful, not only for my own understanding, but for others as well. God bless, Deacon JR

        • Erick

          DeaconJR,

          I have no doubt that you have been legitimate with your questions of Leah. Much like Irenist, I would be happy to see you continue to contribute to our discussions here. I am sorry, that I wasn’t quite as eloquent as Irenist when I talked about your tone/style previously, and that I was unable to provide answers more charitably on the dynamics of posting on Leah’s blog.

          I would be interested in your thoughts on Eaton’s observation as I’ve interpreted? Is it really morally less evil to “not explicitly deny” versus “explicitly consent”? How would a Catholic justify providing for the contingency of failing with regards to sexual ethics?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Hi, Erick– I appreciate your thoughts above. Regarding “not explicitly deny” versus “explicity consent,” there are a couple considerations. First, if a Catholic willfully, with full knowledge, deliberately (explicitly) consents to sex outside marriage, he/she not only has “objectively” committed the gravely immoral act of fornication, but he/she “subjectively” would be personally guilty of mortal sin. So, in this sense it is interesting that the kind of “explicit consent” that is utterly appropriate for “consensual sex” is the same kind of consent that, outside of marriage, necessarily causes the person to be morally culpable of serious sin.

            In this sense, the more passive approach of just “letting it happen” (the “not explicitly deny” part) calls into question whether “subjectively” the person may or may not be personally guilty of the sin “objectively” committed; if things happen unexpectedly, that certainly mitigates the subjective culpability of the person. But, if there is in some sense a “premeditation” on the person’s part to *be* in the “not explicitly deny” camp, then the person bears a certain responsibility for choosing that approach that makes him/her culpable for going down that road.

            Not sure if that gets to the heart of it, but maybe it’s a start! Deacon JR

        • Val

          “I have no reason at all to think that Leah is trying to articulate anything not in keeping with Church teaching…”

          And what if she were? What if she were in fact implying that strict adherence to doctrine contributes to a failure of communication between consenting adults?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Well, if that really was the implication intended, then, from a Catholic perspective she would be incorrect…but again my point is not to guess intention but rather to ask for clarification of what is meant by the language used.

    • Irenist

      Deacon JR,

      Thanks for a thought-provoking, clearly carefully thought-through comment. I wish I had the time to engage with it properly just now. As it is, I do want to take a moment to let you know I’m grateful that you haven’t been scared away from contributing to the conversation here. Skimming your blog teaches me that you have many rich insights to share.

      Pax Christi tecum!

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Thank you, Irenist–also a thanks for your earlier comment, which I hope to continue reflecting on and take to heart, as I recognize I remain a work in progress. God bless, Deacon JR

      • Darren

        Um, you did read the original comment, right?

        ”Am I maybe missing something about this post? What does “sexual consent” look like?
        Um….doesn’t it look a lot like *marriage*?
        This post seems to focus on those who are un-married, or am I wrong on that?”

        Pretty straightforward passive-aggressive troll looking to shut down Leah from posting on topics such as sex and consent without that post being in harmony with dogma. Nothing posted afterwards really changes that assessment.

        Some distraction provoked by an (unintentional I assume) implication that marriage equals perpetual consent, but the real message was clearly,
        Ahem. I assume it was just a _tiny_ mistake, but it seems you are implying that any discussion of sex can begin or end anywhere other than the infallible teachings of the Church. You’ll want to fix that right away, deary.”

        You may agree or disagree with those teachings, but they were clearly not the subject of Leah’s post. Most likely Leah forgot herself and spoke as if she were still the self-determined, liberal, feminist, intellectual that she most recently was. Deacon JR was reminding her who’s house she now lives in. From a church standpoint he was completely right to do so; it only offends those of us who neither desire nor appreciate such pastoral correction. Now it rests with Leah whether she wants to accept the rightous rebuke of her brother in Christ or not.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

          Dear Darren–

          I’d ask that you take my initial response at its face value–that I was trying to figure out for whom the post content was intended; you seem to be supplying a back story to it that has no basis in reality, since I have very little knowledge at all of Leah prior to reading through this particular post. Indeed, perhaps that lack of knowledge has helped stir this pot in a manner totally unintended by me.

          God bless you,

          Deacon JR

          • Darren

            Deacon JR

            I make many mistakes and often express my thoughts poorly. This is _not_ to say that you have done either, but to point out that I am treated with tolerance and patient (mostly) when I do so.

            Your initial post did read to me as I have described it. However, you say this was not your intent. Fair enough, I take you at your word.

            Being relatively new to Leah’s blog, and Irenist has already touched on this, it may seem odd that so many non-Theists read it and participate so vigorously (if not effectively) in the debate. In my own case, and I suspect in the case of most others, it is because Leah was about as well informed and thoughtful an Atheist as one was likely to find (more than me, on both accounts), yet she has made a very deliberate choice to join the Catholic church. True, she started with some quirky priors that may have pushed her to _some_ religious tradition, but she had the whole of religious and ethical thought from which to choose, and she choose Catholicism? Puzzling does not begin to capture it!

            Some are angry about the defection, but others are curious. Atheist to Catholic conversions do happen from time to time, but normally of the Atheist-Until-Graduation variety. Leah is more like Carl Sagan converting (not really, sorry Leah, for all that you are smarter than me, you are still not Carl).

            For those of us who do not feel like we have really “beaten” Catholicism (i.e. heard, understood, and refuted) without hearing the absolute best, strongest, most persuasive, most iron-clad truth arguments it has to bear, we are curious. Surely Leah _must_ have something really good, right? It can’t just be a warm and fuzzy desire for an anthropomorphic Objective Morality, a fear of Nihilism, cool cathedrals, and a Catholic ex-boyfriend, can it?

            Bit of a ramble, just to say that the really juicy posts are pretty highly charged.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Darren–very well stated–thanks for taking the time to express those thoughts. I appreciate it. JR

    • Darren

      Yes, well, it would save us all a lot of trouble if Leah would confine her postings to appropriate Pathos: Catholic topics:

      1. How much she enjoyed the Pope’s last book;
      2. How much she likes the current / upcoming liturgy;
      3. How horrible President Obama is and how much he hates Catholics;
      4. How the CEO’s of Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby are the truest American heroes;
      5. Refuting the latest Liberal Media attack on Catholicism;
      6. Something about Augustine or Aquinas;
      7. Prayer requests for something or other;
      8. How Atheists really do hate God, and will eat your delicious Catholic babies (and she would know, having once been one);
      9. Discussing how much she agrees with the Catechism; and
      10. Occasionally musical theatre (assuming it is something moral, or at least old, nothing gay).

      You know, pretty much copy Bad Catholic or Father Dwight until she learns the ropes…

      Perhaps after a few months of this, she can then graduate to criticizing her fellow Catholics for not being Catholic enough, but let’s walk before we run here…

      • deiseach

        Thanks for the handy bingo card list, Darren. We can tick off Nos. 6, 7 and 9 because I’m fairly sure she has already posted something on Aquinas and Augustine, has asked for prayers for intentions, and did mention the Catechism approvingly.

        Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of combox warriors telling her she’s insufficiently Catholic because she’s on the wrong side of Issue This (whether it’s being much too/failing to be sufficiently progressive/traditional)!

        • Darren

          I left off Math and Crafts, too, but I was running out of room.

          Number 1 was covered, too.

          I am actually a fan of the Cathachism myself; what other church has a reasonable comprehensive list of its beliefs in web-searchable form?

          And, until you or Irenist start up your own blog, Leah’s blog and the resulting comments are still the best option out there for hearing some actually thought through Catholic opinions.

          • jenesaispas

            “I am actually a fan of the Cathechism myself; what other church has a reasonable comprehensive list of its beliefs in web-searchable form?”

            That made me laugh. Did you mean to say ‘reasonably’ and not ‘reasonable’? ;)

            This is one of my favourite quotes (not sure why) its from the Pope’s foreword for the Youth Catechism (which is quite good):

            ‘I will not describe now how we slowly made our way through so many and varied questions until finally a book came from it all. One can, of course, criticize some things or even many things in such a work: Everything that man makes is inadequate and can be improved. ‘

          • Darren

            Jenesaispas;

            Yes, ‘reasonably’, not ‘reasonable’; that is what I get for typing in the com-box and not pasting from Word…

            Nice quote, having written more than a few documents by committee, I am sure that even a Pope feels the pain.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            until you or Irenist start up your own blog,

            For what little it’s worth: Ruefully noting that I comment often and verbosely, I’ve taken up the suggestion that I ought to (re-)start my own desultory blogging. I’ve inaugurated the blog’s reboot with a tentative response to the first of the ten arguments in Brandon Vogt’s recent article in Our Sunday Visitor on same-sex civil marriage. The blog is linked above. Anyone from this blog’s wonderful commentariat would be most welcome.

          • leahlibresco

            Irenist, have mercy and put your text on a solid background.

          • Darren

            Irenist, “Gah!”

            I second Leah’s request. :)

          • Darren

            Irenist, that last comment was supposed to be humorous, BTW, hope it did not offend.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            No, no offense at all! Is the blog more legible now?

          • leahlibresco

            Yes, bless you.

  • jenesaispas

    Cliff’s blog was err…different

  • Q

    Question to the Catholics here: is sex before marriage a mortal sin for all of you, or is there some debate and possible wiggle room on this? Can you be a Catholic if you think sex before marriage is sometimes okay?

    • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

      Taking the questions in reverse order:

      Yes, you can be Catholic if you think sex before marriage is sometimes okay, just as you can be Catholic if you think lying is sometimes okay, or usury is sometimes okay, or the like.

      When one talks about an action in the abstract, calling it a mortal sin just means that if in practice it is done with full understanding and deliberateness it would be a mortal sin, where that means that it is simply inconsistent with a genuine, reasonable, and informed love of God and neighbor. But anything that is called a mortal sin in this sense might not be a mortal sin in particular circumstances, if those circumstances make it so that it is no longer inconsistent with a genuine and informed love of God and neighbor (usually because of some honest misunderstanding, or because it is not done with full deliberation, or because there is something that makes the decision extraordinarily difficult); this makes it a venial, not a mortal, sin. (The difference between mortal and venial here can be seen by a sort of analogy. If you are friends with someone, there are some kinds of actions that are simply inconsistent with your friendship with that person — e.g., betrayal, for instance. These are the mortal sins of the friendship. There are other kinds of actions in which the action itself is not inconsistent with the friendship, but just falls short in some way of what a friend really should do. These are the venial sins of the friendship. Practically anything that will fall into the former category if done with full understanding and deliberation would end up in the latter if it’s done out of partial stupidity, ignorance, or understandable weakness, or anything like that, in such a way that it’s merely falling short of good friendship and not an anti-friend thing to do. The reverse is possible as well. Obviously there is some sense in which both are bad, but they are not so in the same way, which is why the distinction matters. Mortal sins are sins in the strictest sense; venial sins are also sins, but in the broader sense that they are failings that could easily become mortal sins.) The straight Catholic position is that deliberate sex outside of marriage is the kind of action that when done in the right circumstances is a mortal sin. But any ethical judgments in the end have to take into account the actual circumstances people face, and some of those circumstances can introduce ambiguities and ‘wiggle room’. It would depend on the specifics of each case. This is generally true of moral questions.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Dear Q–

        Brandon above says, “Yes, you can be Catholic if you think sex before marriage is sometimes okay…”

        But if your question Q, is really “What is the Catholic Church’s authoritative teaching on fornication–does it admit of exceptions?” Then Brandon’s reply in the affirmative will only confuse the issue. The problem is regarding the state of “being” Catholic versus the state of “being a Catholic who actually believes what the Church teaches.” Catholics who still self-identify as Catholic but *reject* the clear teaching of the Church on different matters are not being faithful to the Church or to the truths taught by the Church.

        In this case, the answer is *no*, one cannot be considered a “faithful” Catholic if one believes that some acts of fornication are “sometimes okay.” The Church teaches that fornication is an intrinsic evil.

        Deacon JR

  • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

    I am baffled by the charges that Leah’s post is ‘ambiguous’; not mentioning things not relevant to the immediate and explicit point (about the different ways in which people fail to communicate and teach what is genuinely involved in sexual consent), which constitutes the vast majority of things that seem to have been raised in this comment thread, is not ‘ambiguity’ but sticking to the point. And it’s a perfectly legitimate topic: obviously lots of different things do prevent reasonable discussions of consent, and this is true across many different practices, communities, and assumptions about sexual ethics. Any suggestion that it’s not a topic a Catholic can discuss in its own right, without endlessly talking about other topics on top of it, is absurd to the point of being ridiculous.

    Merely tangentially related comments are certainly common fare around here, and sometimes part of the charm, but there is a weird tendency in a lot of commenters, both atheist and Catholic, to act as if they had some sort of special claim on Leah so as to be able to dictate to her what topics she will discuss, how much time she will spend discussing them, and the manner in which she will approach the discussion. I’m not sure why this sort of irrational behavior is so common around here, but trying to blame it on nonexistent ambiguities on Leah’s part is most certainly not cool.

  • Erick

    @ DeaconJR

    Thanks for the quick response.

    I take it that you are saying “not explicitly denying” can be a moral gray area (because it’s dependent on an individual’s internal motivations). Am I right?

    At the same time, since we are human beings, there seems to be an implicit understanding within your response and within the Church generally that people can fail to follow proper sexual ethics.

    Considering the other evils (rape being the post’s topic) that “not explicitly denying” brings culturally, even if not subjectively/personally, should the teaching be then that owning up to the subjective mortal sin is a morally better option than allowing oneself to fall in the moral gray zone?

    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

      Hi, Erick–the “not explicitly denying” category might be called a “gray area” insofar as it could include a spectrum of moral culpability (subjectively speaking–objectively the act itself remains intrinsically evil) from a person incapable of consent of any kind due to impairment all the way to a deliberate premeditated decision of the person to willfully “let things happen” by “not explicitly denying” (in which case the person’s subject moral guilt would be virtually indistinguishable from the guilt of someone who did explicitly consent to fornication).

      You ask: “should the teaching be then that owning up to the subjective mortal sin is a morally better option than allowing oneself to fall in the moral gray zone?”

      Here’s the problem: it’s not really possible to approach this aspect of sin from a “positive” perspective by saying that one form of sin is “better” than another because the term “better” implicitly denotes that there is some form of “goodness” to be had in the decision itself. So it’s not right to say that fornication is per se “better” than rape, since both acts are deprived of the good; it is right to say that one of the acts is more severe, more serious, more destructive, than the other–no question that rape is much more destructive than fornication.
      So when one is intent upon committing an evil act, we might hope and pray that the evil done is the “least destructive,” but we really can never counsel someone to *willfully* choose the “lesser of two evils.” We can’t say to someone–”look, I know you’re thinking of killing *15* people, but why don’t you choose just *one* person to kill, since that’s “better” (or less destructive) than killing 15. ” No, what we have to say is, “look, don’t murder *anyone*–*every* kind of murder is bad, not just mass murder.”

      And thus, the more I ponder Leah’s post, the more concerns I have about the idea of pointing people to the obviously “less destructive” “explicit consent” concept when applied outside marriage, because, outside marriage, it still represents an encouragement toward precisely the kind of “sexual consent” that can lead to what the Church views as mortally sinful.

      God bless,

      Deacon JR

      PS–this is also what the Pope’s reference to condoms and HIV really was, as well–he was remarking about the fact that because the use of condoms in sexual activity is seen as preventive of HIV, when someone with HIV fornicates but opts for condom use, it is possibly indicative of some movement of that person’s will toward the good (as it expresses a concern for the partner involved). BUT, his saying this was neither an endorsement of condom use nor a statement that it’s “better” when fornicating to use condoms. His statement can’t be reduced to that for the reason I state above–rather, he was simply expressing something about what subjectively may be going on in the person using the condom.

      • Erick

        Hi Deacon,

        ==the “not explicitly denying” category might be called a “gray area” insofar as it could include a spectrum of moral culpability (subjectively speaking==

        Yes. This is what I meant.

        == it’s not really possible to approach this aspect of sin from a “positive” perspective by saying that one form of sin is “better” than another because the term “better” implicitly denotes that there is some form of “goodness” to be had in the decision itself.==

        Understood.

        ==So it’s not right to say that fornication is per se “better” than rape, since both acts are deprived of the good==

        I don’t mean to say that fornication is better than rape. I wanted to get into the idea of “subjective moral culpability” that you’ve described as it relates to sexuality.

        It’s analogous perhaps to guns. Guns in the hands of good people are not necessarily a social phenomena that requires a community response. But since guns can reach the hands of violent people, there is something there that needs to be addressed.

        Similarly, subjective moral culpability in the hands of people who really do strive but just fail is not a problem that needs to be addressed beyond the individual pastoral level. But subjective moral culpability in the hands of other more morally depraved individuals becomes a gateway to even more destructive objective evils, such as rape, within society/culture.

        Before I move on, I want to ask a question.

        I take it that you don’t believe Leah’s proposed “enthusiastic consent” is the proper route to take in response to this phenomena. What is the proper response as espoused by the Church?

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

          Hi, Erick–I’ve more or less elaborated on what might be a good response in several comments above, but in a very abrupt nutshell, I think it can be condensed in a manner similar to the “enthusiastic consent” phrase–”enthusiastic abstinence.” This is probably a lame analogy, but think “football” for a moment–the “end zone” is “abstinence”. Regardless of what kind of team you put on the field, the end zone doesn’t change relative to the strength or weakness of the teams playing the game. Similarly, even when we understand and acknowledge the real struggles of so many in our hookup culture, the “end zone” stays the same because to do otherwise would compromise the nature of the “game”. We obviously want every team that plays to win, whether the team is exceptional or can barely run the plays. But at the end of the day, there’s only one real way to “win” the game–get to the end zone.

          And that is what I think the Church expresses in response to these issues: of course no one wants rape, but neither should one want fornication. And we shouldn’t be encouraging the exchange of “enthusiastic consent” to fornication as an attempt to fix the grave problem of rape or “date rape”. We *can* and should encourage the concept of “enthusiastic communication” of values and truths as they pertain to our relationships with those who might become our future spouses. But I continue to see the encouragement of “enthusiastic consent” as a significant problem, or at least as an inept expression of the concept of “enthusiastic communication.”

          And it may well be that Leah intends to convey that very notion of “enthusiastic communication”, which, when employed, doesn’t automatically disrupt the concept of “enthusiastic abstinence” as taught by the Church.

          Deacon JR

          • Erick

            I’m not sure we are speaking along the same lines, Deacon. I think you are trying to address the morality of sex in its totality (the end zone in your analogy). I’m just trying to address the idea of “subjective moral culpability” itself.

            As blunt as I can get, I guess my question is:
            Should we abandon this idea that there is a spectrum of “subjective moral culpability”?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Hi, Erick–yes, I’m looking at the “objective” aspect of the moral question, largely because moral principles are drawn from the realm of objective morality. This is essential relative to your question about whether we should abandon the notion of a spectrum of subjective moral culpability. The answer is this: the task of Catholic moral teaching, at its core, is to express as clearly as possible the content of the objective moral truth. While not totally abandoning the realm of the subjective guilt of specific individuals considered as individuals, it is universally recognized in Catholic moral theology that the issue of subjective guilt is an issue best left between the individual and God, who is the only One who can adequately “judge” subjective culpability.

            So, while we might speculate regarding what subjective culpability might “look like” in particular cases, we (at least ought to) leave it ultimately in God’s hands.

            Looking at the question of rape versus fornication for example, we would never abandon the principle that one can do something evil so that something good may come from the evil act. “The end does not justify the means”. So another way to look at this, complementary to the other ways alread mentioned, would be to say that we would never urge someone to consciously choose fornication so as to achieve a perceived “good” of avoding rape. Just because the person would be subjectively morally guilty of a less grave offense (fornication) doesn’t permit us to urge a person to actually commit a less grave offense, precisely because that less grave offense is still an objective and intrinsic evil.

            So it’s both/and–both the objective and the subjective aspects of morality are real and true, but it is in the “objective” realm that we determine moral principles to follow.

            Deacon JR

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            above ^ “never abandon the principle that one CAN’T do something evil….. ” :-)

          • Alan

            “So another way to look at this, complementary to the other ways alread mentioned, would be to say that we would never urge someone to consciously choose fornication so as to achieve a perceived “good” of avoding rape”

            Very well said. In other words, we should give people the impression that if they are going to fornicate anyway they might as well rape the girl.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Yes, Alan, those are definitely “other words,” as they have nothing to do with what I said… :-)

            The issue is this: if, according to your moral view, there is nothing at all wrong with fornication, then no words will convince you that it’s sound advice to encourage people to steer clear of *both* rape and fornication. Assuming one believes that fornication is wrong, telling someone who might rape while attempting fornication that it’s better to fornicate *without* rape is comparable to telling some violent offender who might kill while attempting rape that it’s better to rape *without* killing…. both seem equally misguided to me.

          • Erick

            @ DeaconJR

            ==So, while we might speculate regarding what subjective culpability might “look like” in particular cases, we (at least ought to) leave it ultimately in God’s hands.==

            Cool. This is more of what I was getting at. As Christians, we should not try to calculate a culpability difference between “not explicitly denying” and “explicitly consenting”. We should leave that in God’s hands.

            I think Leah’s solution of “enthusiastic consent”, if applied strictly, functions in that way for the faithful. “Enthusiastic consent” teaches the faithful, “If you sin, you might as well own up to it. Don’t rationalize your decision to sin to make yourself feel better about your own subjective moral culpability.”

            Where I think you don’t agree (and quite understandable) is the fact that she is applying the rule to her non-believer readers also — people who don’t necessarily share in the Catholic view of the morality of sexuality.

          • Alan

            “Assuming one believes that fornication is wrong, telling someone who might rape while attempting fornication that it’s better to fornicate *without* rape is comparable to telling some violent offender who might kill while attempting rape that it’s better to rape *without* killing…. both seem equally misguided to me.”

            Well good then, the problem is you. That you think the distinction between consensual sex and rape is as equally inconsequential as the distinction between rape and murder is all the evidence in the world that your morality reaches terribly depraved conclusions.

            And yes, the result of using those depraved conclusions to guide educational philosophy is that you leave people with the impression that if they are going to fornicate anyway than consent is inconsequential and there is no reason to ensure you have it.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            And so, Leah–a little help here.

            Is the “problem” really me?

            Are my conclusions really “depraved”?

            Do you agree with Alan’s assessment of what I’ve written?

          • ACN

            Yes.

            The problem really is you, because you really did write the thing that Alan quoted, and it’s either really depraved or really flippant.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Leah—do you believe my comments above should be relegated to the “depraved” or “really flippant” dust-bin? I’m seriously hoping for some kind of reply because I’ve really tried to not only think through and express my concerns thoroughly above, but, as this is all captured on the Patheos Catholic portal, I don’t want folks concluding that I’m somehow expressing anything other than that which is based on the teaching of the Church.

            God bless you,

            Deacon JR

          • leahlibresco

            I really really disagree with this:

            Assuming one believes that fornication is wrong, telling someone who might rape while attempting fornication that it’s better to fornicate *without* rape is comparable to telling some violent offender who might kill while attempting rape that it’s better to rape *without* killing…. both seem equally misguided to me.

            What I am doing in this post is asking people to pay more attention to one specific way of respecting others. Seeking enthusiastic consent is necessary but not sufficient for moral/healthful sex-having. I don’t think we endanger people’s moral development by talking about one facet of right action in isolation. This post isn’t a license to do whatever you like as long as you obtain enthusiastic consent.

            But as to your specific comment, moral improvement/awakening is good. Someone who has extra-marital sex consensually is absolutely doing better than someone who rapes, in or out of marriage. Someone who kills quickly and cleanly is doing better than someone who tortures people to death. In both cases, the better act means that the person acting is more sensitive to the human dignity of the person they’re interacting with. Awakening the sense of duty to another is a gradual one, but I’m sure prepared to rejoice over every step in the right direction.

          • Darren

            Deacon JR;

            I suspect the part that has put you ‘over the line’ is the last bit, “both seem equally misguided to me.” It sounds an awful lot like you are saying:

            “Rape + fornication is bad
            Fornication alone is bad, but less so”

            “Rape + murder is bad
            Rape alone is bad, but less so”

            “But they are all just about as bad.”

            I doubt this is intentional, and from a close reading I do not think you are _really_ saying this, but it _feels_ like you are, and I suspect this is the provocation.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Darren–quick reply–I did not say that they were equally “as bad”–not at all. I said quite the opposite, consistently. I said it was “equally misguided” to try to *tell* someone….etc…. JR

    • Darren

      Correct, but I have to read your statements very carefully to distinguish. Just giving you a “feel”.

      Course, my thoughts may be completely wrong and the problem may lie elsewhere.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Hi, Leah–thanks very much for replying. You wrote:

    ***What I am doing in this post is asking people to pay more attention to one specific way of respecting others.***

    But that’s really the key to the whole question–*neither* rape nor consensual fornication can ever make the claim of “respecting others” if both are intrinsically evil, even *if* those engaging in consensual fornication do not think the act is evil or harmful. I’ll go for one more illustration—someone decides to push you off a tall building; you fall and die (rape). But if someone instead asks if you would consent to jumping off the building together, and you give “enthusiastic consent” to the request, you still fall and die (consensual fornication). Wouldn’t it seem a bit odd for me to come along and ask folks to pay more attention to respectfully requesting consent before plunging to your death? The consent exchanged doesn’t make the plunge less deadly, even if the pair thinks for some reason that the fall won’t hurt them…. Wouldn’t it be preferable to point out to the pair that they’re consenting to something that’s going to kill them?

    ****But as to your specific comment, moral improvement/awakening is good. Someone who has extra-marital sex consensually is absolutely doing better than someone who rapes, in or out of marriage. Someone who kills quickly and cleanly is doing better than someone who tortures people to death. In both cases, the better act means that the person acting is more sensitive to the human dignity of the person they’re interacting with. Awakening the sense of duty to another is a gradual one, but I’m sure prepared to rejoice over every step in the right direction.****

    There is a really important nuance of language at work in what we’re both trying to say, having to do with comparisons. The truth is, to speak of some intrinsically evil acts as being “better” than others is just not accurate in terms of objective morality, and therefore it can’t really adhere to *subjective* morality either. What does “better” really mean? It means “more good” than something else. Try this: Are some rapes really “better” than others? Are some murders “better” than others? But, some rapes are *worse* than others, to be sure. Some are “more evil” or “more bad”. But that can’t be reversed to mean that this instance of rape is “more good” than another. This is because something that is evil in itself simply does not in itself possess “good”—at all.

    But if someone who “date rapes” is persuaded to practice enthusiastically consensual fornication, isn’t that “better”? No, it’s just “not as bad”, if both moral choices fall in the category of intrinsic evil. Even so, I don’t argue against the idea that it might indeed represent an “awakening” to a deeper sense of duty, and it is a step *toward* the good, even if the good remains effectively out of reach because of the intrinsically evil nature of the act.

    Leah, we’re closer in agreement than I might have thought a few days ago. I think your instinct of encouraging folks to move toward the good is…good :-) . But I don’t think it’s prudent to offer that kind of encouragement in “isolation” from the reality of the acts involved, particularly if the persons you hope to reach are those not convinced of that “reality.

    God bless,

    Deacon JR

    • Alan

      Perfect, now consensual premarital sex is the equivalent of suicide and no better than rape or murder – yep, totally depraved moral framework is what is required to lead to these conclusions.

    • Darren

      Another thought. For some of the commenters, saying “fornication” is about on a level with “keeping the Sabbath” or “keeping kosher”:

      You and the Church are perfectly within your rights to think that keeping kosher is a Really Big Deal. You are within your rights to explain to others how keeping kosher is a Really Big Deal and they should as well.

      For a lot of people, though, even having rape in the same paragraph with prohibitions on shellfish is going to be offensive. It does not really help much saying that, yes, raping a woman is certainly much worse than eating a cheeseburger, but both are bad.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Well, Darren, your reduction that equates fornication with “eating a cheeseburger” aptly points to the heart of the problem of communication on this topic. It also points to what I think is the problem Leah is having with this as well–she’s creating an “uber-category” in which both fornication (intrinsically evil) and marital relations (intrinsically good/holy) are both described as “sex-having.” But the Catholic view is that fornication and marital relations are extreme opposites. That is, fornication can deal spiritual death to the human person in a way that goes well beyond “keeping kosher” as you seem to reduce its meaning to above.

        In this context, it’s just not sufficient to lump together fornication and marital relations as “sex-having.” And as for anyone who views, as you suggest some do, nonmarital sex as akin to eating a cheeseburger, then I’d suggest the problem is the cheapening of the value of sexual intimacy, and not a problem of somehow my over-stating its proper value.

        • Alan

          Violating the sabbath warrants the death penalty under traditional Jewish law – doesn’t change the reaction you would get if you equate it to rape, murder and suicide.

          Yep, that you think it is akin to rape and murder is definitely you overstating its value at least as much as equating it to eating a cheeseburger.

        • Darren

          I think my point has been partially understood.

          To those groups who care about dietary restrictions and Sabbath observance, it is an Incredibly Big Deal, equally as serious as fornication is to you. Honest to goodness window-smashing-getting-hauled-away-by-the-police riots have resulted over something as “minor” as non-observant Jews driving their cars on the Sabbath. I am certain that in the vast writings of the rabbis, there are pounds and pounds of paper proving beyond a shadow of doubt that eating a cheeseburger is also intrinsically evil and inculcating of spiritual death.

          To you, as a good Catholic, this is absolutely ludicrous and of course no rational person could possibly think that God gives one whit about whether one’s hamburger has a damning piece of cheese or not.

          See the point? Can we understand why it is offensive to say rape is worse the violating kosher, but both are bad, and the Church really can’t distinguish between them?

          • Darren

            Correction, the Church can distinguish, but from a moral stanpoint chooses not to.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            The problem with merely relativizing away the issue of rape/fornication by appealing to other forms of what constitutes a Really Big Deal for other religious people is that we are discussing this within the *Catholic* portal, wherein it should be expected to find that Catholic teaching provides the framework for discussion. Your continuing to seek to reduce the concept of fornication to “violating kosher” seems to miss this point entirely. Catholic Church teaching doesn’t make such a reduction. So, if people are themselves making such a reduction, they may well be reflecting their own viewpoint in doing so, but it’s hardly an excuse for “offense” at finding authentically Catholic teaching and reasoning expressed clearly in a Catholic blog environment… Deacon JR

          • Darren

            Deacon JR

            ”The problem with merely relativizing away the issue of rape/fornication by appealing to other forms of what constitutes a Really Big Deal for other religious people is that we are discussing this within the *Catholic* portal, wherein it should be expected to find that Catholic teaching provides the framework for discussion.”

            Well, I am afraid this brings us back to your early comment,

            ”Ash–it’s the “Catholic Channel” of Patheos. What I stated is the teaching of the Catholic Church.
            ‘nuf said, I think….God bless, JR”

            You later said it was not your intention to cause offense, and you requested help in understanding if the offense was in some way justified or not. I have attempted to provide what little insight I have to impart, but if you wish to dig in your heels and grumble that it is a Catholic channel so why are some people getting their panties in a bunch, then productive dialog may be limited.

            I would part by saying that I doubt Leah’s blog will fully conform to Catholic teachings for some time yet. If that is what you are in search of, there are probably better blogs to read.

            One more thing, though. Leah has read extensively in the LessWrong rationalist pages. I will pass along one story that she, herself, has quoted that might help you understand the really weird places that comparative morality can take one. If you would like to actually understand what it is like to think inside someone else’s morality, I can think of few better examples.

            Why it might be good to eat one’s babies

            Good luck and I look forward to speaking with you again should a suitable topic present itself.

          • Steve

            DeaconJR… Are you suggesting that Catholics have nothing to contribute to discussions that stem even the smallest bit beyond the scope of catholic teachings?? Are you suggesting that a pacifist is incapable of hosting a conversation about the ethical implications of drone warfare?? Every person here is reflecting their own singular viewpoint. There is a range of opinions from those whose blindingly narrowminded adherence of catholic doctrine makes them incapable of discussing a topic in an intelligent manner, to those who feel such adherence is silly and counterproductive.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

    Steve–as long as people who are offended by Catholic doctrine are not surprised to find it at the Catholic portal, I think the discussions can be diverse and wide-ranging. JR

    • Steve

      I don’t think anyone was surprised to find catholic doctrine represented on a blog on a Catholic portal. I believe any surprise was do to a stubborn insistence that the original conversation about sexual consent between partners was being ignored in favor of a discussion about the dos and don’ts of the catholic world. Regardless of your feelings about premarital relations, the rightness or wrongness has nothing to do with the discussion at hand. On a personal note, I feel the equation of premarital sex and rape on any level is a sign of lunacy, though again, that’s a topic for another day.

  • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

    The truth is, to speak of some intrinsically evil acts as being “better” than others is just not accurate in terms of objective morality, and therefore it can’t really adhere to *subjective* morality either. What does “better” really mean? It means “more good” than something else. Try this: Are some rapes really “better” than others? Are some murders “better” than others? But, some rapes are *worse* than others, to be sure. Some are “more evil” or “more bad”. But that can’t be reversed to mean that this instance of rape is “more good” than another. This is because something that is evil in itself simply does not in itself possess “good”—at all.

    DeaconJR,

    Unfortunately, this is merely bad moral theology. ‘Intrinsic evil’ does not mean ‘evil without qualification’; it means ‘evil as to object’. This sort of evil is the primary evil relevant to moral life; however, it is simply wrong to speak as if it were the only kind, since Aquinas pointed two other kinds of good or evil that are clearly relevant to moral life, namely, those that are found in the end (or intention, as it is sometimes called today) and those that are found in the circumstances; a pointed that is reiterated by the Catechism (1749-1761, which is all a very simplified summary of Aquinas). Thus there is no difficulty at all with identifying perfectly objective ways in which intrinsically evil acts could be better or worse than other intrinsically evil acts of the same kind. It is better to do something wrong with misguided good intentions than with the malicious intent; it is better to steal from those who won’t miss it than from those who desperately need what you are stealing; it is better to do some wrong things privately rather than in public where they might cause scandal, which would add a serious evil beyond the initial wrong act, simply based on circumstances; it is better deliberately to violate your conscience, which is an intrinsically evil act, when it becomes clear that this is necessary because you have previously failed to cultivate it properly, than it is to violate your conscience under other circumstances; and so forth. These things, if they do not change the very species of the act, cannot make the act any less evil as to object; but it is nonsense to claim that an act that is evil as to object but not as to intention is not better than an act that is wholly evil. Murdering someone in an attempt, however misguided, to improve the lives of others is obviously better than murdering someone to get back at them for making fun of you; it does not make it less wrong as murder, but there is a world of difference between those actions.

    Further, the proper attitude to intrinsic evils is medicinal, and this requires recognizing that the patient is getting better even if they aren’t out of the woods yet, which you’ve effectively just cut out. As the Pope noted a couple of years back, in certain individuals intrinsically evil actions can be done in a way “where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.” This is obviously a good thing. None of this requires compromising on whether something is intrinsic evil; it does require recognizing the falsehood of the claim that ‘to speak of some intrinsically evil acts as being “better” than others is just not accurate in terms of objective morality’.

    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

      Brandon–

      It is by no means “bad moral theology.”

      82. Furthermore, an intention is good when it has as its aim the true good of the person in view of his ultimate end. But acts whose object is “not capable of being ordered” to God and “unworthy of the human person” are always and in every case in conflict with that good. Consequently, respect for norms which prohibit such acts and oblige semper et pro semper, that is, without any exception, not only does not inhibit a good intention, but actually represents its basic expression. [JP II Veritatis Splendor]

      I suggest a thorough review of Veritatis Splendor, Brandon.

      Meanwhile I ask for examples: Give me an example of one act of rape which is “better” (meaning an example which is MORE GOOD) than another act of rape. Likewise, how about an example of a murder which is “more good” than another murder…. God bless, Deacon JR

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

        Brandon–I see your “murder” example in your earlier post. And you and I apparently agree that “good intention” does not make an intrinsic evil “less wrong”–which is exactly my point in this. If the act is “intrinsically evil” no matter what, then it’s crossed the threshhold irrevocably into “not-goodness”.

        And this is exactly why in the case of specific moral acts, “good intention” may make an intrinsically evil act “less bad” than similar acts done with bad intent, but such intention does NOT make such an act “better” (more “good”) than the others, because they remain irrevocably evil acts.

        Colloquially, people may talk about such acts as being “better,” but no, it’s not “bad moral theology” to use language precisely in this regard in order to point out why it’s not good to encourage people to “enthusiastically consent” to acts that are intrinsically evil. God bless, JR

        • Alan

          Aside from your “overuse” of “scare quotes” in your “responses” that “belies” the “notion” you are being “precise” in your langue, you seem to have difficulty seeing anything other than what you want to in others posts.

          For example, you seem to completely ignore Brandon’s segmentation of evil into different aspects when you assert he agrees with you “that “good intention” does not make an intrinsic evil “less wrong” somehow implying he agrees ““good intention” may make an intrinsically evil act “less bad” than similar acts done with bad intent, but such intention does NOT make such an act “better” (more “good”) than the others, because they remain irrevocably evil acts.” when he explicitly disagrees with this and in fact calls it nonsense: “but it is nonsense to claim that an act that is evil as to object but not as to intention is not better than an act that is wholly evil.”

        • leahlibresco

          The acts may not be better when done with good or confused intent, but the people are.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com DeaconJR

            Hi, Leah–okay, from your response above, it seems you might be agreeing that the intrinscially evil moral act is not made “more good” when accompanied by good or confused intention, but you are saying the people are “better” (by which I assume you mean “more good”) if they commit an act not out of malice but out of good intention.

            How?

            It would seem to me that the same basis applies to both the act and the acting person, since the moral object of the act *can* be described as “less wrong” or “more wrong” depending on the quality of intention, the acting person, too, is not exactly in a position to be described as “more good” for having formed a “good intention” if in their will (which is the “location” of the intrinsically evil “moral object”) they are embracing the object of the act.

            If a “good or confused” intent can’t make the moral object chosen by a person good or better, how can it make the person “better”–rather, doesn’t it make them “less wrong” but not “better”?

            Deacon JR

  • Kyle

    Thank you thank you thank you! This post is genius. I hate the culture of having to guess what your partner wants and being punished for not being able to read minds.

  • Custador

    Some of the posters on this thread are absolutely revolting examples of human beings. Well done, you’ve totally validated my disgust for the Catholic church, its sexually perverse doctrines and practices, and its adherents. However, on the off-chance that some of the human excreta who don’t even realise they’re rapists might actually want to better themselves, please consider the following:

    1) Most rapes occur within marriage. When she says “I Do” at the alter, that does not grant you unlimited rights to her body. It’s still HER body. She can say no at any time, and you have to respect that. If you do not, YOU ARE RAPING HER.

    2) Implied consent and implied withdrawal of consent: You don’t have to have a conversation about it every time you feel like getting jiggy. If you attempt to initiate sex and she joins in, then she has given consent. If you attempt to initiate sex and she in any way resists, then you must stop, because if you continue YOU ARE RAPING HER. Similarly, if you attempt to initiate sex and she does not respond at all, then you must stop, because if you continue YOU ARE RAPING HER. In the latter two scenarios, implied withdrawal of consent has occurred and, just to stamp this one down, if you don’t stop at that point YOU ARE RAPING HER.

    Seriously, how can anybody get to adulthood and not know these things?

    • Custador

      Oh yes, I know: By being religious.

    • Bea

      THANK YOU! I have been reading these comments with growing horror. I cannot believe there are still so many ignorant and harmful people in the world. I am glad that you voiced this so well.

      This was a really well written article and should have initiated an intelligent conversation, but all it did was get a lot of fanatics out who clearly have lost their ability to use reason and logic at all.

    • Lector El

      I share your reaction. Reading people’s comments on Leah’s post has left me shaken. I had not realized Catholic morality was so completely incompatible with my ethical system. Consensual sex outside of marriage being considered even remotely similar to rape-dear god in heaven, something has gone very wrong when someone believes that.
      I’m more frightened of humanity than I was before I read this.

    • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

      You are complaining about Catholic sexual morality being too permissive. That is pretty rare. We normally get the opposite complaint. Unfortunately you are missing the point.

      Sex can be about love and it can be about lust. The whole concept of consent assumes lust. What are you asking? Is it OK for me to use your body for my pleasure? That is what is being asked when someone ask for sex. Intimacy is not about asking. It is about being. Being in a spiritual union with the other person that you expect to last your whole life.

      Does it always last your whole life? No. If it does not you can get to the danger of lust within marriage. Then you need to be careful. You can make things worse by coercing sex. But the goal should be to never go there. The goal is to have a bond that goes beyond moods and feelings. It might be expressed differently based on physical realities. You might decide intercourse is not going to happen right now based on your health or energy level or fertility. Still your deep desire should always be to say Yes to each other.

      Today people are so far from understanding marriage. They think it is just using each other for sexual pleasure on a regular basis. If that is what you are thinking then it makes sense that you would be concerned that every single time proper consent is received. The real issue is not getting consent. It is what you do when you have it. Do you love her or do you use her? The classic case is where a woman has a headache. A man should know she is feeling bad and not ask for sex. If he asks most women who are truly in love would just do it. That would not be optimal. It would be better if her husband did the selfless thing. Still it is the wife doing a selfless thing. That is good too.

      Now when one person wants to avoid sex regardless of the other person’s feelings or when one person wants sex regardless of the other person’s feelings then you have a problem. The mutual self-giving has broken down. That problem exists even if the other person agrees to having sex or not having sex. It is a huge issue that needs to be dealt with.

      It is possible for it to get to the point where a man is forcing himself on his wife. That is an awful thing. Any form of violence within marriage is a terrible betrayal. Can you call it a problem of consent? It is not like he needed to get her drunk first so she would let him use her. That is not the problem. The problem is they are not living their vows. They need to figure out how to get back to that place of love. Still in the short term they probably need to live apart for a while just for the sake of safety.

      • Custador

        Every time I read your posts on this thread, I become more and more deeply convinced that you’re a misogynist dinosaur from the 1950s who is utterly, utterly clueless about gender equality, feminism, sociology, psychology and, well, life in general. Seriously, have you read your own words?

        “It is possible for it to get to the point where a man is forcing himself on his wife… Can you call it a problem of consent? It is not like he needed to get her drunk first so she would let him use her. That is not the problem. The problem is they are not living their vows.”

        Oh. Your. GOD. Can I call it an issue of consent? YES! BECAUSE THAT’S A FUCKING RAPE! But in your mind, the problem is not that the husband is a FUCKING RAPIST, the problem is that she doesn’t love him any more?! What. The actual. Fuck. Is wrong with you?

        • Darren

          Custador;

          Respectfully, yelling does not help. Tensions often run high in Leah’s com-boxes; she attracts a diverse commenter population.

          Yelling will not convince your opponent that they are mistaken, nor will it sway the silent readers who may only be awaiting a well-though criticism to push them into agreement with you.

          When my emotions run high, I try and think of them, the imaginary 19 year old Darren’s out there, who really just want to find a well thought out, reasoned, persuasive argument to help them make up their own mind about an issue.

        • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

          You did edit my words. I did say violence is a problem. A serious problem. I am just saying that their relationship has obviously moved a million miles away from where a husband and wife should be. That is a problem that goes beyond consent. By that I mean that even if she consented it would have been a very bad thing. I don’t mean the lack of consent is a minor issue. Just that marriages when they reach that point are so dysfunctional that it is hardly coherent to talk about them as marriages anymore.

      • kessy_athena

        You’re the one who’s completely missing the point, I’m afraid. “Is it OK for me to use your body for my pleasure? That is what is being asked when someone ask for sex.” No, no, no, no. If that’s your attitude toward sex, no wonder you don’t understand what consent is. When you ask for sex, what you should be asking is, “Do you want for us to pleasure each other TOGETHER.” If you aren’t paying attention to your partner’s experience you’re just plain doing it wrong. If you’re not giving your partner what they want, then why are you even bothering with another person? You may just as well be masturbating. The beauty of sex is not just in pleasuring yourself, but in being able to make someone else feel wonderful at the same time.

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with lust. Lust isn’t dirty and isn’t sinful and isn’t shameful. It’s a part of human nature and a part of any healthy romantic relationship.

        You’re dead wrong that being able to understand your partner without talking is intimacy. It’s not, it’s familiarity, there’s a difference. Any time there’s a person you know well and have interacted with a lot, you will probably both learn to anticipate each other’s reactions to some degree without it being explicitly stated, even if both of you absolutely hate each other. Good communication is the bedrock of any good relationship, whether you’re talking about a sexual, romantic, or friendly relationship. The important thing is that communication is going on, not how it’s going on. Explicit spoken communication is not somehow inferior to understood non verbal communication. Generally speaking, you need to do a lot of verbal communication in order to learn how read the other person’s non verbals well. You can’t learn if you don’t get feedback.

        • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

          I am not sure why you think there would be not talking. The method of communication is not the issue. It is what is being communicated. Are you paying attention to your partner’s experience? How is that? You can’t know much unless you have developed a very intimate communication, verbal or not. Most of the time that is not there. So yes, you are doing it wrong. You are basically not bothering with the other person. You just kind of hope or expect they enjoyed it.

          I am not sure what you mean by lust. Lust is by definition a disordered sexual desire. So your comments don’t make any sense unless you are using the term differently.

          • J-Rex

            Lust: 1) intense sexual desire or appetite 2) uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite
            The first definition is just about sexual desire which is necessary for a healthy marriage. Only the second one is a negative thing. The confusion here is that in Christian circles, “lust” is always referred to with the second definition, but you have to understand that other people don’t always mean it in the same way. Other people simply mean it as the desire people feel that leads them to have sex. That’s not sexually disordered, that’s sexually healthy.

  • kessy_athena

    Ye gods, what the hell is wrong with you people? Will you listen to yourselves? Rape within marriage isn’t really rape? Doesn’t marriage usually involve a vow to the effect of, “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”? Violently forcing yourself on someone, violating them, leaving them emotionally battered, treating them as an object, as a possession – that is not love, that is about as dishonorable as you can get.

    This is what happens when you think that doing the right thing means just following orders. This is what happens when you try to avoid your responsibility to be a good person and just hand your free will over to some authority figure. You become an amoral monster.

    And all because of what? Because Yahweh told you so? The gods are spirit beings – they do not have biological bodies. Why would a god even know the first thing about human sexuality? What conceivable benevolent reason could they have to meddle in it? The only reason I can see is that sexuality is a powerful tool to manipulate people. And any god that would do that is not benevolent. Any god that would do that is an evil demon.

    I’d pray for Athena to grant you people a little wisdom, but I already know what she’d say. Even the gods can’t cure willful stupidity.

    • Bea

      “The only reason I can see is that sexuality is a powerful tool to manipulate people. And any god that would do that is not benevolent. Any god that would do that is an evil demon.”

      THIS!

      “Even the gods can’t cure willful stupidity.”

      AND THIS!

      Excellent post! Thank you for saving me the trouble of trying to compose something myself. I am absolutely horrified at the comments I have read after this post. This should have sparked an intelligent conversation about how we can understand consent and how we can explain it to our children, but it instead devolved, immediately, into a discussion about whether having sex is even allowed anyway.

      Leah, your talents are wasted here. Join a blog that has intelligent readers and see how great you can be.

  • Pingback: Google


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X