“If the body and sex were mean to proclaim our union with God, and if there is an enemy who wants to separate us from God, what do you think he is going to attack? If we want to know what is most sacred in this world, all we need do is look for what is most violently profaned.”
Introduction to Theology of the Body, Christopher West
Growing up in the 1990s, my first memory of “The Talk” was when my mom sat me down and told me that men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.
Looking back, my mom was clearly trying to protect me from the way the world looks at sex.
But, as you can imagine, my pre-teen self was like:
Unfortunately, talk about sexuality pretty much ended there. I was prepped on the physical side of things (what goes where, and when) and my mom wanted my brothers and I to be open with our questions, but I didn’t get a Catholic perspective on sex except that when you’re Catholic you don’t have sex until you’re married.
Even more unfortunately, that’s pretty much how the rest of society (including myself until age 31) summarizes the Catholic approach to sex: don’t do it until you’re married. And then, silence.
I can’t count the ways in which this is a shame. Not only does the silence create a perfect breeding ground for Screwtape to jump in there and wreak havoc (AKA pornography, premarital sex, friends with benefits, R-rated movies, “explore your sexuality,” “try out homosexuality,” and everything else), but it leaves a huge, sinking whole in the place that should contain the vision of what sexuality is meant to be.
It’s just like our buddy Langston Hughes said so long ago:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Looking out into the world today, it’s clear that the dream of Catholic sexuality died somewhere. Our idea of love, sex, and marriage in the secular world is barren and lifeless. It’s not a safe place, it’s a battle trench. It’s not empowering, it’s a weighted anchor. And it’s all because Screwtape knows how important sex is to living a full life in tune with God’s plan.
The solution? Let’s start talking about how awesome married Catholic sex is! Not in a prurient, secular way. But in a way that affirms that it’s something worth waiting for. That it’s something special, something to be desired, and something that isn’t “bad until you’re married and then suddenly good, but only for babies.”
God made sex, and God made the body. God loves both. But both are meant for the sacrament of marriage. Outside that sacrament, it’s not that sex becomes bad; it’s that it becomes disordered. It’s no longer a sacred gift from God. It no longer is for your good, nor does it have your best interests in mind. Inside of marriage, sex brings you closer to God. Outside of marriage, sex brings you further away.