In Defense of Pleasure (Guest Voices Caitlin Cogan Doemer)

In Defense of Pleasure (Guest Voices Caitlin Cogan Doemer) March 17, 2019

I asked for different voices and I got them! Here is a guest post by Caitlin Cogan Doemer.

As usual, opinions are the writers.

Caitlin Cogan Doemner, MBA, is an alumna of the Torrey Honors Institute and recently published a book with her husband called “Sex Every Day: How to Prioritize Pleasure in Your Marriage” which you can find at www.SexEveryDayBook.com. They live in southern California with their four children, 1 cat and 17 chickens.

This article discusses marital love and human biology in a candid manner.

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Throughout Christian tradition, sexual pleasure has been treated with suspicion, even within the confines of “holy matrimony.”

St. Paul launches the attack with his admonition to the Galatians to “walk in the Spirit…For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

This passage suggests an irreconcilable dichotomy between the Flesh which desires pleasure (the first three sins of the Flesh listed are “immorality, impurity, sensuality”), and the Spirit, which desires the things of God. Immediately, readers are led to infer that pleasure is at best a distraction to the believer, and at worst a “Deal Breaker” for salvation (“those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”).

For the earliest church leaders, who fully expected Christ’s return within their generation, advocatting celibacy as a means of staying focused on evangelization made sense. Unfortunately, Christ did not appear, but the preference for abstinence remained the official bias of the Church’s teachings.

John Chrysostom argued that a wife was intended to make children, keep house, and instruct her husband to be serious; “not for the purposes of indecency and laughter… [nor] the fuel of fornication.”

Augustine of Hippo argued that before the Fall, man must have been able to beget offspring “without the allurement of passion”, ejactulating by will power alone, “with no loss of his wife’s virginity.”

Lactantius, the advisor to Emperor Constantine, argued “God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital [‘generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring.”

But here is where the argument breaks down and I will build my case for pleasure as God’s  intention on simple biology: namely, the woman’s clitorris.

Unlike the male’s penis which, as a multifaceted tool, might experience pleasure in the act of intercourse “by accident”, the woman’s clitorris has no other function beyond pleasure. It is an otherwise-useless bundle of 8,000 nerve endings.

As Christians, we believe that we are the product of perfect Intelligent Design. Therefore, the clitorris cannot be an accident.  God designed us — women, at least — for pleasure. And not just any pleasure… He designed us for sexual pleasure.

I do not believe it is coincidence that the most significant and Divine act we can achieve as humans — to create a new human — occurs simultaneously at the moment of our peak physical ecstasy.

Unlike the early church fathers who argued that the only purpose of pleasure was to create children, I would argue that the best reason to create anything at all is for the pleasure of it. When the infinite Triune God decided to create the world, there was no possible utilitarian reason He could have chosen to do so, as He needed nothing that was not already within Himself. The only rational explanation for Creation was simply that it delighted Him to do so.

So while I do not advocate hedonism, which pursues “small p” pleasure as an end it itself, it does strike me that ultimately, “big P” Pleasure really stands alone as the Ultimate End of all that we do. Either we are acting to please ourselves or please God, but the end of good action is that someone is being pleasured.

Therefore, since it seems that God himself is on the side of pleasure, could we please stop vilifying the notion and instead start prioritizing it, especially in our marriages? Take time to enjoy the sunset. Revel in the smell of a rose. Savor that bite of dark chocolate. And may your wife’s breasts always fill you with delight (Proverbs 5:19).


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