Trigger/Content Warning: this post and podcast include discussion of sensitive topics such as masturbation and sexuality. So do what you will with that information.
I had been talking to my friends John Hall, Matthew Sewell, and Matthew Petesch while writing and thinking out my recent post Masturbation and Despair: A One Body Problem post, and I found their insights really helpful. When the post became more popular, we continued talking, addressing various aspects of the feedback the post received. And since these gentlemen podcast, John Hall, Matt Sewell, and I thought we would address some of the questions on air. Because there were a lot of questions.
Now some mentioned, regarding the initial article, that masturbation, and other such topics regarding sexual morality, are inappropriate for public discussion. Others suggested, both in public and private, that they can’t imagine why a woman would want to discuss such things. And here we are not just writing but talking, in mixed company, about masturbation.
So, to borrow from a writer I respect a lot, I thought I might take a moment to address that question, because, when you’re asked something enough times, you really start to think about your answer.
So Marina, I, a blog reader would like to know, why do you keep writing these articles on sexual morality?
“I think it’s because in high school, I heard Many people asking these questions. And it seemed like the answer ‘because’ was never remotely satisfying. See, sex and sexuality are really integral to our experience as persons and with persons. And yet, most adults acted as if it were either the absolute best or absolute worst thing we could do, but it always seemed mostly like sexuality and sex were a very human thing to try to understand it. And friends would ask me things like if they had to confess using a condom when they were hooking up, and it seemed like they deserved a real and thoughtful answer. So I suppose you could say I write about sexual morality because I took the questions, and the experiences that led to them, seriously.”
But sexual topics are so uncomfortable. So why all this talk about sexual morality?
“Because it makes us uncomfortable. Because these questions and these experiences aren’t often fully integrated into our experience of being persons in the world. Because so many people out there are simply acting and then asking questions later, and sometimes those later questions become hard. Because in human sexuality, we see both this capacity for interpersonal communion on a tremendous level and also this possibility to disregard the subjective humanity of the other by reducing their personhood to an object of mere pleasure. And that should make us uncomfortable. Staring in the mirror, knowing thyself, these acts are often uncomfortable. But it is important if we are to address the world as it is, not the world as we would ideally hope it could be, because only real people in the real world can enter into deep interpersonal communion and ultimately encounter the opportunity to become saints. So I suppose you could say I talk about sexual morality because it makes us uncomfortable and that isn’t a bad thing at all.”
Why do you write all these articles about sexual morality?
“Because it’s clickbait.”
But this talk on sexual morality-
“Why are you even asking me this? This is like response 15 in a row asking this question. Why aren’t you asking a hundred other folks why they aren’t talking about sexual morality? Because there are other people doing this, and I believe that it is vital because this is a huge factor in why younger Catholics are leaving the Church, and as a young person and a woman and a Catholic, others leaving the Church through misinformation or the experience that no one hears their issues or cares, well, that matters to me. Why wouldn’t I talk about these issues, if it is for the sake of one soul?”
So why do you write these articles on sexual morality?
“Because the tension between sanctity and our experience of the world, between what we want to do and what we often do, is not a theological and theoretical construct. It is a very real, very relevant experience that the Church is not only able to address, but highly capable of addressing well. Sexuality is not a construct—it is an integral aspect of the lived experience of being human. We need it integrated holistically to live on this earth as men and as women. And the despair and shame and hopelessness that can set in when we fail to live up to our ideals in this area can destroy hope. This isn’t an issue of appropriate or not—this is an issue of a person who could be listening to the lying voice whispering “you are garbage. Why repent again? God certainly won’t love you now.” It is a fight for the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with the temptation to believe that they have done something that places them beyond hope, beyond salvation, beyond God.
We need God. Kind of now.”
It seems kind of scandalous talking about all this sex stuff. So why do you always talk about sexual morality?
“Because you’re still asking me that question.”
So keep checking both sites out—I will have a follow up written post, as well as more questions in the Body Problem series coming out soon, aand Mountain Catholic always has great stuff happening.