There are others, Catholic and not, who have articulated sexual ethics beyond the strict legalism of the Catholic teaching (Dr. Mary E. Hunt, for example), and I encourage the struck and struggling to investigate their writings, but in this context I simply want to offer a call to conscience, and to experience: Look at your own sexual experiences. Hold them gently. Brush away the shame dusted on top so you can see them. I am sure for most of us, there will be a great variety, even if we have been fully chaste according to the Church's definition. I am sure that you will, as I do, find some that are more connective, more loving, more creative, as well as some that are more stifling, more disconnected, more about fear and control than love.
Perhaps that is a place to begin the search for an ethic that truly respects the depth and breadth of human sexual experience, if we look at ourselves, and open our hearts and our mouths, and tell each other what we see.
Read earlier installments of Young Women & Catholicism
- "In All Things," on the unique identity of young Catholic women.
- "Young, Female, and Catholic," on the "Catholic glue"that keeps us in the Church.
- "Role Models," on the need for models of faith and service.
- "Defending the Saints," exploring the role of saints in the lives of Catholics.
- "Spiritual but Not Religious?,"addressing the ambivalence many young Catholics feel about the religious structures of the Church.
- "This Is What a Catholic Woman Looks Like,"exploring stereotypes of the young Catholic woman.
- "Sacred and Secular," on the link between spiritual practices and the secular life.
- "Spirituality and Vocation," reflecting on the ways spirituality affects career choices.
- "Religious Identity, Sexual Identity", on the complexities of weaving together belief and identity.
- "A Real Challenge to Marriage", on the Bishops' pastoral letter on marriage.
Rebecca Lynne Fullan is a contributor toFrom the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism, and to the corresponding blog: www.fromthepewsintheback.com. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Divinity School. She thanks her girlfriend for waking up in the middle of the night toread about sex -- this is a sign of a patient partner.