Do Catholics have better or more natural sex?

Do Catholics have better or more natural sex? July 29, 2013

No.  But you’d never guess that from reading the insufferably smug Mark Shea:

Devout Catholics Have Better Sex, Says US News and World Report in a story that mentions fellow Patheosi Greg Popcak. This seems like a big huge “Duh!” to me since devout Catholics also tend to insist that sex is a sacramental union of love, not just a quick hook up. They see it as involving not just the love of one’s life, but the love of God. The see children, not as a disastrous side effect, but a bonus. And they know how to party! When you go into sex full bore, as a union of body, soul, and spirit designed to bring forth children, rather than with your fingers crossed behind your back, afraid she’s going to ask you to commit, afraid you will wind up a parent, struggling with latex, and pills, and IUDs, and worried about STDs: yeah you’re going to have better sex.

It’s often forgotten that the gospel while difficult in a fallen world is nonetheless about cooperating with, not fighting against our nature as human beings. Obey God and you find that life often gets a lot less complicated and happier. Devout Catholic sex, unlike almost all modern sex, is natural. Natural stuff is easier.

He seems to assume that all humans want the same things that Mark or other Catholics want.  Even in the first sentence:

This seems like a big huge “Duh!” to me since devout Catholics also tend to insist that sex is a sacramental union of love, not just a quick hook up.

Some people like variety.  They may even prefer sex with mostly one person, but like the occasional quick hook up (kind of like thinking cheese pizza is the tastiest, but occasionally having a wild hair for sausage).  There’s no “one size fits all” approach to sex that maximizes enjoyment for everybody.  You might as well say “This seems like a big huge “Duh!” to me since devout Catholics also tend to insist that sex is all about the missionary position, not the doggy style.”  This may be so for some people, but if you’re insisting that it is that way for all you’re simply out of your mind.  Quick hook ups have been some of the most enjoyable sex of my life.

They see it as involving not just the love of one’s life, but the love of God.

Fantasy can be instrumental in heightening sex.  But Shea’s voyeurism about god watching him get it on is no more noble than someone else dressing their partner up as a fox.

The see children, not as a disastrous side effect, but a bonus.

And some people see them as time-leeching financial obligations.  Tell you what, Mark: since you see them as a bonus, why don’t you take the children of the people who don’t want them?  Otherwise, this seems like an empty way of saying “Everybody else should value the same things I do.  Look how humble Catholicism has made me.”

And they know how to party!

Yeah, that last mass I went to was rockin’.  C’mon guys!  We’re hitting up that Catholic party tonight.  If we play our cards right, maybe we can score three years of having less physical fulfillment than we otherwise would before our unrealistic expectations of first-time sex are shattered when it turns out that sex for women usually hurts a lot the first time.  I can’t wait to spend my wedding night watching her writhe in pain!  There’s no way all those promiscuous atheists, with experience on their side as well as the freedom to explore every outlet to pleasure imaginable, will have a better honeymoon than us!

Oh, Barney…that’s right…you’re gay.  Well you can come pretend to be straight.  This party’s gonna be off the chaaaaaain!

When you go into sex full bore, as a union of body, soul, and spirit designed to bring forth children, rather than with your fingers crossed behind your back, afraid she’s going to ask you to commit, afraid you will wind up a parent, struggling with latex, and pills, and IUDs, and worried about STDs: yeah you’re going to have better sex.

It can be.  But there’s a flipside to that.  When you go into a relationship feeling the need to suppress some aspects of what you naturally are such as your kinky fantasies, your finding other people attractive (and fantasizing about them), you build resentment, which probably contributes in part to the fact that atheists get divorced at about the same clip as Catholics, even though the Catholic Church does not allow divorce and has attached all manner of stigma to it (for instance, most Catholic churches won’t remarry divorced people).

It’s often forgotten that the gospel while difficult in a fallen world is nonetheless about cooperating with, not fighting against our nature as human beings.

And here’s where Mark Shea has really fashioned his own philosophical noose.  I sent an email to sex expert Dr. Darrel Ray* for his take on what natural sex looks like.  I would paraphrase, but what Dr. Ray sent me was so good that I’ll just copy/paste it here:

If “natural” sex is better, then Catholics are far from practicing it. Natural sex does not include any hocus pocus of religion. Your dog has natural sex as do Bonnobos. The Mangainians of the South Pacific have natural sex and have had for centuries. It included many partners and a high focus on female orgasm. The Na culture in China have natural sex, it includes multiple men for a woman and no concept of marriage. I could site many other cultures that practice sex without the guilt and shame of religion AND they did not use birth control or condoms until recently.

Further, Catholic sex is highly restricted to certain practices. If a person is truly a devout Catholic then lots of very pleasurable things are off limits. Things like having sex before marriage so you actually learn what sex is all about with different partners. Having sex without Mary or Jesus watching you is something a devout Catholic will not experience. Having a sex supervisor means you have to be careful not to have bad thoughts while having sex. You cannot explore different sex toys, since those are “unnatural” as is anal and oral sex. In addition, a devout Catholic will not get the great sex in masturbation. They are not supposed to touch themselves or think about things that are “unclean” or “unholy”. Even more important, most if not all, so-called, devout Catholics, including this guy, think sexy thoughts about other people, masturbate occasionally, and use porn, even while Mary is watching. Then they have to grovel to their god and ask for forgiveness until they do it again. They are on the guilt cycle, just like most religions, so it is virtually impossible that they have good sex. Besides all this, how would they know they were having the best sex, if they never had sex in any other way or with any other person? Its like eating rice every day using the same two or three recipes and never tasting anything else, then claiming I have the best tasting and healthiest food. A devout Catholic doesn’t have a clue what good sex is. They know what their religion says is good sex, but that isn’t the same.

So…yeah.

Obey God and you find that life often gets a lot less complicated and happier.

Just ask Abraham or any closeted homosexual.

Devout Catholic sex, unlike almost all modern sex, is natural. Natural stuff is easier.

So, given how Catholic sex is, upon further examination, not “natural” in the slightest, going by Mark’s logic it must not be easier.

We shouldn’t care if our sex is not natural, because what is natural is not always what is necessarily best.  It’s natural to walk from location to location rather than driving.  Clearly, what’s unnatural is better.  It’s natural for a woman to masturbate with her hand (contrary to much of Catholic teaching) rather than using a vibrator.  Technology: it’s awesome.

The focus shouldn’t be on what is natural, it should be on what is best.  What maximizes sexual pleasure?  The proper people to answer this question aren’t a cluster of self-proclaimed virgins in robes, nor is it someone who thinks the narrow experience of sex with one person in a fashion restricted by a set of arbitrary rules makes them an expert on what every human finds arousing or sexually valuable.

No, those answers should come from people who study…y’know…humans, not people who study religions.


Dr. Darrel Ray is the author of Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality.  In the book he tackles this entire issue with far more detail and reference than I could fit into a single blog post.

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