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Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category

We Need Love-Only Sex Ed, Not Abstinence-Only

Posted by Tony Listi on January 17, 2014

We need a Love Only approach to sex ed, not abstinence-only. If you are not married to a person, then love demands you abstain from any sexual activity with that person, regardless of any urges or feelings you have.

If you have not publicly committed to give your entire life exclusively to the other person in lifelong loving marriage, then what makes you think you have any right whatsoever to derive any intimate physical or emotional pleasure from them/their body? What makes anyone think they have any right to use someone else/someone else’s body merely as a sex toy for their own individual pleasure, ego, and/or self-esteem? Even if a person consents to be used in such a way, it is still a harmful and unloving violation of their human dignity and thus wrong. Consent does not change the inherently harmful and unloving nature of sexual use. A person is still a person with dignity and should not have their dignity violated even if that person himself or herself consents to have their dignity violated.

It is the lifelong commitment to the other person in marriage that allows and empowers sexual acts with that person to be acts of self-giving love rather than acts of selfish use. Because of our dignity as human persons, without marriage, there would be no truly legitimate, moral, and loving reason for sexual acts; such acts could be nothing other than selfish, harmful, and thus immoral without marriage. Without marriage, sexual acts always treat the human person as a sex object or sex toy (intended or not), and that is not loving or right. Only within the context of lifelong  marriage can sexual acts recognize and reverence the person and his or her full dignity. It is the marital commitment (and fidelity to it) that ensures that the person is not abandoned and thus thrown away like trash when they no longer sexually satisfy (at all or as much as another person) and when love demands sacrifices. Sexual love by its very nature demands and entails lifelong commitment and sacrifice.

Of course, it should be noted that while lifelong marriage is necessary for loving sexual acts, it is not in itself sufficient for love or loving sexual acts. Just because a commitment is lifelong and exclusive does not necessarily make it loving. To be loving, the marriage must be a lifelong and exclusive commitment to the good of the other person in all aspects of their personhood, not merely a lifelong and exclusive commitment to live together and be monogamous.

Critics of abstinence-only education are only partially right. Without this Love Only perspective, abstinence is indeed largely arbitrary repression, which is indeed harmful and in many cases inadequate long-term for remaining abstinent. Arbitrary repression does not quell sexual urges but merely holds them in tension, and if the sexual tension builds up over time, the person will likely succumb to acting out their sexual urges in an unloving way or context (e.g. premarital sex, rape, homosexual behavior, etc.). So strong are sexual urges sometimes that even the fear of potential STDs and pregnancy may be forgotten and unable to prevent a surrender and lapse into unloving sexual behavior. Besides, technology will likely continue to mitigate or remove fears of sexual disease and unwanted pregnancy. But technology will never make unloving sexual acts loving; technology will never mitigate or remove the emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage of unloving sexual acts (least not without inflicting greater damage on the person).

But abstinence grounded in love and chastity is not arbitrary repression but rather fully recognizing the dignity of the other person and choosing to love and respect them and their dignity, choosing not to treat them as a mere sex object or sex toy that satisfies a physical or emotional urge or desire. And when we are truly loving and chaste in our abstinence, we can quell the sexual urges, release or sublimate the sexual tension in a chaste loving non-sexual way, and not be frustrated. If we truly love the person, frustration should give way to joy and peace.

It may not be easy to practice loving and chaste abstinence in our hyper-sexual, hyper-stimulated, selfish, and pornographic culture, but it’s a lot easier than arbitrary and brute repression. And the deep joys and peace of love are always worth the demanding difficulty and cost (however, I should add, ideally, we should love for the sake of love and for the sake of the person, not even merely for such profound peace and joy, however transcendent and sublime).

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Posted in American Culture, Education, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Women, Sexual Pleasure, and Contraception

Posted by Tony Listi on August 27, 2012

Conservatives seem to be ignoring or dismissing the fundamental and apparently somewhat persuasive “pleasure argument” made by sexual egoists to women about sex and contraception.

The egoists tell women that vanity, independence from men, and sensual pleasure and self-indulgence are the sources of happiness rather than love, sexual joy, commitment, and lifelong marriage to a truly loving husband at their service. Therefore, they celebrate and worship contraception, which “empowers” women to get a lot more sex and a lot more physical sexual pleasure than ever before without the “burdens” of  men, marriage, and/or children. The egoists want women to have the same qualities as the worst kind of lustful men.

Conservatives often seem to assume that women don’t fall for this, assuming that women are less attracted to sexual self-indulgence than men. But many women, including many young liberal and libertarian women, have accepted that logic and those values. Increased pornography use among women is also indicative of this problem.

At the very extreme, some conservatives seem to forget that women can get just as much physical and emotional pleasure from sexual activity as men, if not more so.

The image of very lustful and vain women is indeed very repulsive to the conservative mind (as is lustful and prideful men), but it’s an image of reality in a great many women and needs to be recognized and confronted. (Though of course, it is more important to recognize and confront it in men, who typically initiate sexual behavior.)

So today, conservatives unfortunately have to re-establish the fundamentals, especially those about happiness. They have to argue the case that love brings real, lasting happiness and is better than use, than mere self-indulgence in vanity and pleasure. We should not assume that women today understand this truth better than men and embrace it more often and more strongly than men.

As a whole, women’s values and demands regarding sex have changed over time. Many women are not demanding marriage, commitment, and love anymore; they are satisfied with vanity, pleasure, and independence and reject commitment and responsibility.

If one wants to be harsh and cynical, one could say that women’s values (like men’s) haven’t changed at all,  that women (in their fallen nature) have always desired vanity, pleasure, and independence rather than commitment and responsibility, and that contraception has merely lowered the personal cost to women of pursuing those egoist values. Before contraception, the costs were just too high. A woman may have wanted to indulge in sexual pleasure and vanity (in or outside of marriage), but she knew the consequences were more children and the sacrifices necessary to care for them.

Contraception in itself, like all technology, is not the source of hedonistic, self-centered values. It merely allows people to act on pre-existing values or tendencies (good and bad) at a lower cost.

Posted in American Culture, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Pornography vs. The Nude in Art: The Catholic-Christian Perspective

Posted by Tony Listi on December 9, 2011

Many colleges and universities offer art classes which necessarily involve the viewing of the nude male or female human body. There are two extreme and wrong-headed responses or approaches to this kind of situation:

  1. It is always and absolutely wrong to look at the naked human body merely for artistic reproduction or training. It is also always and absolutely wrong to publicly display such artistic reproductions of the nude body. Anybody who engages in such things is engaging in the deadly sin of lust.
  2. Looking at the naked human body, whether in person or through art, is no big deal and shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. Anybody who wants limits upon or has any concerns about the morality of looking at the naked human body are prudes who hate the human body or don’t sufficiently value its beauty and dignity.

The correct, prudent, and temperant approach is the Catholic Christian approach outlined by Blessed Pope John Paul II (JP2) in his Theology of the Body. Artistic representation of nude forms is a very complex issue because it combines very objective truths with very subjective experiences.

Let’s look at JP2’s own words: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Catholicism, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Sex, The Papacy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Dance and Theology of the Body

Posted by Tony Listi on June 12, 2011

Traditional dancing between men and women (i.e. ballroom dancing) is a great way to teach and illustrate Theology of the Body. Such dancing reveals visually with the male and female body what God wants men and women to be as men and women in erotic love.

1) Consent: The man should not try to force the woman to dance with him; he should ask for and have her consent. She shouldn’t have to dance if she doesn’t want to. Of course, it goes both ways; the man shouldn’t have to dance with anyone he doesn’t want to either.

Likewise, a man should not try to force a woman to date him, to be in an exclusive relationship with him, or to marry him. The man must ask her and respect her decision. And no woman should try to force a man into such things either. Love cannot be coerced.

2) Male Initiative: Traditionally, the man should ask the woman to dance. Yes, sometimes women do ask men to dance with them, but it is not the norm. The woman taking the initiative to ask in itself may not necessarily impair the dancing, but it could reflect an underlying predisposition of the man being unable or unwilling to assume proper leadership of the dance (see section on Male Leadership below), which would be a problem.

Likewise, the man should take the initiative to ask the woman out, to ask to be in an exclusive relationship, and to ask her hand in marriage. The man should prove his interest, love, and commitment. If the man doesn’t care enough to ask or can’t even muster up enough courage to ask, then he doesn’t really love her. Cowardice is self-centered and unloving, regardless of whether she says “yes” or “no.” It’s not good if the man is more worried about himself and his pride than about the woman, her well-being, and what he wants to do for her. If a sincere and loving man asks, and the woman says “no” haughtily and cruelly rather than compassionately and gracefully, then the man should realize that he is better off without such a woman, who is unworthy of his love and incapable of loving.

Yes, sometimes women take the initiative to ask men out, but again, it’s not the norm and could cause problems down the road, though not necessarily, for the same reasons as stated above for dance. At the higher and more serious level of marriage, I’ve never heard of a woman asking a man. There’s a reason for that spiritually: the man should lead and prove his love.

3) Male Leadership, Activity, & Responsibility: Once she agrees to dance, the woman follows and the man leads. The man actively chooses what dance moves will be done and where the dance will go on the floor. If both try to lead and neither follow, no dancing really occurs. In fact, in the extreme case, they hurt each other and/or part ways. If the man leads terribly, both suffer. Such leadership thus carries with it very important responsibilities. For example, the man must take pains not to lead the woman in such a way that she (or both of them) runs into other dancers on the dance floor.

Why can’t the woman lead the dance? In theory, I guess she could, but have you ever seen a dance where the woman is leading the man, spinning him, dipping him, holding him in her arms, etc.? Does it work? Does it look good? No, it doesn’t because such a dance is not in accord with the natural qualities of the male and female bodies and character (which I will discuss further in later sections). Such is the reality of dancing; different natures must be taken into account and obeyed.

Likewise, in a marriage, the husband is the natural leader, the head of the household, and thus has important responsibilities, including providing for his wife and children. Dating and courtship should be a process of the man gradually learning how to lead his girlfriend in love and service of her.

It is important to point out that Christian leadership is servant leadership. The greatest in the kingdom are the servants of others, using their power and authority to serve others rather than themselves. A leader who abuses his power and authority, lording it over others, is abhorrent. But contrary to modern thought, authority in and of itself is not evil or oppressive.

I think it is also important to point out that, despite the contrary case in dance perhaps, a good leader knows when to follow and let others take the lead, if only temporarily. A good husband has humility and knowledge of both his own and his wife’s strengths and weaknesses. He knows when to follow his wife’s lead and never dismisses or stifles her strengths. Such a good husband never really surrenders his authority but rather exercises it wisely and prudently.

So in a certain sense the man too is called to surrender, to surrender his self-interest for the sake of love and “surrender” his direct and explicit leadership role. These are the kinds of surrender that men must make if they wish to lead well.

4) Female Obedience, Surrender, & Receptivity: Again, the woman’s role in the dance is to follow. She is supposed to let the man lead her. If she doesn’t, both dancers are going to have problems dancing. This follower role doesn’t make her any less of a partner, dancer, or human being. Following is not a role of lesser dignity in dancing; it is merely different.

When a woman is a good follower of a man in dance, she is surrendering herself, especially her body, to that man. If she follows him obediently in more intimate dancing and dance moves, she surrenders her body, herself, to him even more. The more intimate the body movement the more complete her surrender.

Likewise, once married, the role of the wife is to obediently follow her husband’s lead. Admittedly though, a good husband who will lead lovingly and humbly like I described above can be hard to find these days. A woman would be better off avoiding marriage if she cannot find a man who will love her as Jesus loves the Church, eager to serve her and willing to sacrifice himself and suffer for her sake even unto death, despite her flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections.

Dating and courtship should be a process of the woman gradually learning how to trust, how to surrender herself to her boyfriend. Of course, the man has to gradually earn this trust of his girlfriend through acts of love. And the ultimate physical, emotional, and spiritual surrender and act of trust is the sexual act, which is properly reserved only for marriage because the life-long, total fidelity of marriage is a stable foundation for the total trust necessary in the sexual act.

If the woman refuses to surrender like a female dancer who refuses to be led, or if a woman never learns to surrender like a female dancer who never learns from her male lead’s physical signals what he wants her to do, the relationship will have problems, if not collapse.

Contrary to modern thought, authority and dignity are not equivalent or proportional. The fact that the husband has more authority than the wife does not mean he has any greater dignity as a human being (the same could be said about the authority of the pope and bishops in relation to Catholics and non-Catholics). So when St. Paul says a wife should be subordinate to her husband’s authority, he is not saying women have any lower dignity; he’s merely stating their specific role in the marriage dance.

5) Male Height, Size, & Strength: The male body is naturally taller, bigger, and stronger than the female’s on average. It is the man’s height and strength that makes him the natural leader of the dance, for he is able to easily spin, dip, and hold the woman. She typically cannot do the same with him. If the man is not tall enough, it will be difficult or impossible for him to spin the woman. If he is not strong enough, it will be difficult or impossible for him to dip her, hold her, and do other moves requiring strength. If the man is not tall and strong enough, both suffer.

Likewise, men should put the height, size, and strength of their bodies at the service of women and thus love the women in their lives. A man should open doors, carry things (especially if they are heavy), fix things, and provide other services to women that require strength. This principle is true generally apart from erotic love but finds greater focus and deeper expression in erotic love.  A man should use his strength and size to protect his date, girlfriend, or wife from harm, even to the point of sacrificing his bodily health or life for her sake.

Indeed, men should seek to be physically stronger for the sake of serving their girlfriend or wife. Lifting weights should not be motivated by ego (as hard as that is for us to avoid) but rather by a desire to be prepared for loving service to our girlfriends or wives, to strive for ideal masculinity. This kind of striving for strength should continue even after one has gotten married. Sometimes married men or even men in a serious relationship think they don’t have to work at being strong for their girlfriends or wives because they think strength is merely for attracting and getting women rather than also serving the one woman who is yours.

With all this in mind, it is quite natural that women desire and seek out men who are taller, bigger, and stronger than themselves. Just as naturally, men desire and seek out women who are shorter, smaller, and weaker than themselves. Despite the best of intentions, disharmony is more likely to arise where these physical inequalities are the opposite of these natural desires. Physical characteristics of the body naturally have psychological and spiritual consequences.

However, physical strength is not enough; a man in a relationship should have emotional, psychological, and spiritual strength to protect the woman’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Indeed, this kind of protection is even more important than physical protection, so cultivating emotional, psychological,and spiritual strength is more important than lifting weights. A boyfriend or husband should be the protector of the body, mind, and soul of his girlfriend or wife.

6) Mysterious and Unveiled Female Grace, Elegance, & Beauty: The female body is naturally more graceful, elegant, and (in some sense) beautiful than the male body (perhaps I’m biased, being a man, but I don’t think so). When the female body is spun, dipped, and held, the natural grace, elegance, and beauty of the female body shine through. It’s very hard to put these mysterious qualities into words, to articulate this mystery of the female body…. But perhaps a man is in a better position than a woman to delve into this mystery.

It seems as if the male body’s leading movements in dance enhance or unveil the grace, elegance, and beauty of the female body that was hidden or not as manifest in the stillness or unrhythmic movement before the dancing. Sometimes the female body seems like it radiates a graceful, elegant, and beautiful energy and dynamism all its own that the male body merely tries to direct and contain like a nuclear reactor directs and contains enormous atomic energy.

Likewise, I’ve always observed that women seem to become more graceful, elegant, and beautiful when they are dating or in a relationship. Sure, one might say that such women have someone to be more graceful, elegant, and beautiful for, and so they take more pains to be so. Indeed, women should seek to be more graceful, elegant, and beautiful for the sake of their boyfriend or husband. Make-up, skin care, hair care, etc. should not be motivated by vanity (as hard as that is to avoid for some women) but rather by a desire to look one’s best for and thus please and serve one’s boyfriend or husband, to strive for ideal femininity.

But I think this phenomenon goes or should go beyond merely what the woman does in response to having a partner; the man who she is in a relationship with can and should draw out and unveil her grace, elegance, and beauty by means of his relationship with her, by means of his loving service of her.

Sometimes married women or even women in a serious relationship think they don’t have to work at being beautiful for their boyfriends or husbands because they think beauty is merely for attracting and getting men rather than also pleasing and serving the one man who is yours.

Of course, it is true that grace, elegance, and beauty are more than skin deep. It is more important for women to cultivate a spiritual kind of grace, elegance, and beauty that infuses the personality than for women to spend hours in front of a mirror. But the body should not be wholly neglected, for the body is who we are too.

As for marriage specifically, the ultimate unveiling of the feminine by the man happens in the sexual act and the consequent motherhood that follows. The grace, elegance, and beauty of the feminine is nakedly exposed in the marital act. The nurturing love of motherhood from development in the womb to nursing at the uncovered breast also has a mysterious grace, elegance, and beauty to it.

7) Only One Partner: A man can only ballroom dance with one woman at a time. He only has one body with two arms and two legs and can only look in one direction. The human body itself places natural limits on what the man can do in the act of dancing. Same goes for the woman.

Yes, it is possible to dance in groups, but that kind of dancing involves little to no intimacy with other human beings. Either no physical touch is involved or the physical interaction is very limited with regard to intimacy because one’s body and attention is divided between two or more other people.

Likewise, a man can only be in a serious relationship with or married to one woman. Sure, it is perfectly fine to date many people at once, to search for a partner who deserves your exclusive focus and attention. But dating is a means to an end, not an end in itself; it is a means to finding an exclusive partner. Treating dating as if it were merely a recreational activity rather than a search of love will cause harm and pain and make it even harder to obtain a stable, loving relationship or marriage.

Marriage is a “dance” in which the “song” doesn’t end until one partner dies and in which we cannot “switch” partners in the middle of the “song” without hurting ourselves, our partner, and others “on and off the dance floor.”

Just as in dance, the human body itself naturally places limits on erotic love. God designed our bodies in a very specific way sexually. Abnormalities of fallen physical nature aside, the body of each and every physiologically normal man and woman has only one set of sexual organs, of genitalia. Thus only one man and one woman can engage in the sexual act at any one time (any attempts to contradict this is a perversion). This act is the climax and consummation of the marriage and is exclusive by nature. If God had designed the male and/or female body in a sexually different way, then we Christians (Catholics) would have a different Theology of the Body. Monogamy is thus natural and right because of the exclusivity of the sexual act itself.

8 ) Focus on One’s Own Partner: Not only does the body place limits on dancing, but so does the mind. While dancing, a man must focus on his own female partner, her body, and leading her well. If the man’s attention wanders, he, his partner, and their dancing will suffer for it. The same goes for the woman. If she is not focusing on him and his leadership, problems will occur.

Likewise, dates, relationships, and marriages are going to have problems if the man or woman isn’t focusing enough on the other and is getting too distracted by others. Obviously though, erotic relationships should not consume our entire lives. Family and friends deserve our love and attention too.

But ultimately, once one is married, one’s spouse should come first before all other men and women, and one’s actions should demonstrate that. And serious boyfriends and girlfriends that could become our husbands and wives naturally deserve a degree of priority. However, good partners allow their significant others to spend quality time with their family and friends and take the time to steadily incorporate them into their own circle of friends and family.

9) Union & Intimacy: Ultimately, the goal of good dancing is union. If both the leading and following are done well enough, the dancers achieve a unity of mind and movement virtually to the point of becoming one dancing body rather than two. But unless the two dancers are of one mind first, agreeing on whether to dance and on who will lead and follow, and actually agree on such things according to their own natures, there will be no unity of body movement.

This may seem kind of obvious, but for the purposes of Theology of the Body it’s worth pointing out that you can’t really dance with someone while they’re all the way across the room or if you can’t even see them. Too much distance makes dancing impossible or, at the very least, much less intimate and hardly dancing at all.

It does not matter really whether the man and/or woman intend intimacy or not when they dance; intimate dancing creates intimacy between the man and woman. Sure, some dancing moves are inherently more intimate than others. Holding hands, standard practice in traditional dancing, is not quite as intimate as moves where the man is actually holding the woman in his arms or close to his own body, however momentarily. Yet the very fact of the man leading and initiating and of the woman following and surrendering, this reality in itself, is intimacy of some sort. So in this sense, dancing is inherently intimate. 

A man should not lead a woman into dancing moves that are too intimate relative to his actual relationship with the woman (one time acquaintance, friend, family member, girlfriend, wife?). And a woman should not surrender her body to dancing moves that are too intimate relative to her relationship with the man (one time acquaintance, friend, family member, boyfriend, husband?). Men and women who are in a serious relationship or married should discipline and guard themselves against too much intimacy when they are dancing with someone other than their boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse.

Likewise, as with dancing, erotic relationships of various levels will succeed if the man and woman are fulfilling their natural roles well and thus achieve unity of belief and action. Dating and relationships should be a process of ascertaining whether such unity is possible and of working to establish such unity where possible. Marriage should be the end goal when one has found and established sufficient unity.

With this fact in mind, it is easy to see that erotic relationships between people of radically different religions, politics, and worldviews generally are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be truly loving because these differences prevent union. Couples have to be “on the same page” on a lot of important issues to achieve a loving union.

And of course, the obvious and ultimate union of the bodies of man and woman is the sexual act. But this bodily union cannot be loving unless an emotional and spiritual (sacramental) union precedes it. Without this previous kind of union, the physical union will merely bring pain, disharmony, and separation.

Just as with “long distance dancing,” long distance relationships are kind of an oxymoron. You can’t be in an intimate relationship with someone if you aren’t physically present to them on a regular basis (cf. the Eucharist). It is possible for relationships to endure long distance strain only if intimacy and depth to the relationship have already been built up by prior personal interaction. A marriage, if entered into seriously, should be able to withstand a short period of time of long distance (strictly speaking, a marriage should be able to survive anything with God’s grace, except the death of one spouse).

As with dancing intimacy, it doesn’t really matter whether a man and woman intend commitment or intimacy when they have sex or engage in very intimate touching. The very acts in themselves are the language of commitment and intimacy. To speak this bodily language of commitment and intimacy and yet to will and act otherwise is to lie and harm the person of the opposite sex.

Dancing of any and all kinds has always been something of a spiritual exercise, not merely physical. It is not mere motion but rather an expression of the soul. And thus dancing between men and women is naturally going to reflect the sexual spirituality of the dancers, not mere body movement.

Ballroom dancing and the ettiquete surrounding it were developed during an earlier time when the sexual spirituality of the Western world was much more Christian and thus much more grounded in truth. It is no coincidence that as ballroom dancing has declined and been superceded by unchaste grinding and more individualistic and autonomous dancing, true Christian erotic love has also declined. There is a correlation and probably a symbiotic causation involved. A lack of love leads to unloving dancing and vice versa.

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Catholicism, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Race, Sex, and Marriage

Posted by Tony Listi on May 3, 2011

“If the negro is denied the right to marry a white person, the white person is equally denied the right to marry the negro. I see no discrimination against either in this aspect that does not apply to both.”

Sound familiar? Sometimes pro-marriage advocates use this same argument and logic in attempting to defend traditional marriage between one man and one woman.

But as you can see, it is a very weak argument, and I don’t use it. I highly suggest that no else does either. It more reflects semantics surrounding the term “discrimination” than critical thinking.

Here is the truth about the comparison between race and sex with regard to marriage:

A protein (melanin) is not the same as an organ (genitalia), which is made up of many proteins that form many tissues that form the organ. The function of the protein melanin is merely to change the color of human skin. The function of sexual organs is to create new life.

Skin color is arbitrary, irrelevant, and impotent. Sex is significant, relevant, and potent because it has fertility and procreative powers. Sex has natural implications for love, children, and family; skin color does not.

Race and sex are on two entirely different levels of significance and moral relevance. The true purpose of civil marriage drives and determines the significance and relevance of each category, race and sex.

Because the essential public purpose of marriage is for the sake of children, sex is naturally relevant because children naturally come from the union of the two different sexes. Skin color has no relevance when it comes to love, children, and family. Thus this comparison to race that the other side appeals to ad nauseam is simply invalid.

But naturally, those who believe that civil marriage has nothing to do with children, parenting, and/or family will see a parallel between banning interracial marriage and withholding legal recognition from same-sex sexual relationships. The anti-marriage side is merely drawing a logical conclusion from their flawed premise about marriage and children.

The anti-marriage side is often merely trying to use the emotional force of civil rights and racial language to advance their cause without addressing the key question at hand: is civil marriage about children or not? They wish to beg the question and assume what they should be attempting to prove. In fact, this is a tactic that merely serves to whip up their own side into a frenzy and to put the intellectually ill-equipped and unprepared on the defensive.

The conservative can point out their logical fallacy easily (begging the question), but it will likely do little to convince the liberal because, like I said, it’s the emotional appeal to a seemingly similar oppression narrative that’s attractive and enchanting to them.

(It is interesting as a sidenote that science, evolution, and eugenics, not Christianity, gave impetus to the notion that race had more significance than mere skin color, that race could signify or establish moral superiority or inferiority.)

Posted in Culture War, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Marriage, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Science and Politics, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s Wrong with the Phrase “Sex Life”

Posted by Tony Listi on February 3, 2011

I hate the phrase “sex life” and all the modern assumptions that lie behind it. Such a phrase elevates sex and sexual urges to a higher dignity than they deserves; the phrase reflects sexolatry. Some people act as if sexual urges were like hunger or thirst and thus need to be satisfied ASAP or else they will die or be miserable.

A person who overvalues sex will never be a truly happy person. Sex is an activity, not a “life,” and an activity that is not essential to human happiness and fulfillment. Happiness and fulfillment come from love, not regularly indulging sexual urges. Only to the extent that sex is loving does it contribute to true happiness and fulfillment. And sex is absolutely not the only form and manifestation of love.

A person may have a spiritual life, a work life, a social life, a married life (if called to marriage), and even a political life perhaps. For religion, work, society, marriage, and politics are no mere activities but very important elements of human life in general. It is natural and right that these aspects of life should require most of our personal time, attention, energy, and resources.

But for a person to have a “sex life” seems necessarily to imply lust and disorder. For sexual activity should be engaged in only within marriage, and sex, though an essential and the climactic element of married life, is still only one element of married life. For I would say that a marriage in which sex is the most dominant concern and feature of the relationship, to the point where the couple has a “sex life,” could not be a truly loving Christian marriage. It seems impossible to love your spouse when virtually your only or primary concern is when and how the next occasion for sex will be. I would also suspect that any such “sex life” would be short-lived, for an absence of love in a marriage will only lead to very painful suffering and heartache and thus to a situation in which neither wants to have sex with the other again.

Moreover, while sex within marriage can be loving, it isn’t necessarily loving just because the man and woman are married. Though sex is the ultimate act of marital love, it cannot be loving if the rest of married life, the non-sexual majority of married life, is unloving.

Thus, the phrase “sex life” is rarely used within the context of marriage for a variety of reasons. Rather, it is commonly used among young singles who have no moral qualms about premarital sex and some of whom will even engage in sexual activity on a weekly basis if not more often, whether casually or with a regular partner(s).

But to treat sex in this way, rather than as the fruit of married love, is actually to harm and degrade oneself and the other person. Paradoxically to some perhaps, the chaste who abstain from sex know the true value of sex and achieve the value it offers in only married life. For outside of marriage, sex is inherently unloving. Outside of the permanent commitment and union of marriage, sex is inherently an act of using the other person rather than an act of sacrifice, of truly giving oneself to the other person.

The purpose of the sexual act is to be an expression of Christ-like love toward one’s spouse. The love of Christ is fruitful, sacrificial, and joyful. That means the sexual act must be open to procreation, to the creation of a new human life, the primary fruit of marriage. And to deliberarely bring a child into the world is indeed to make a sacrifice of future time, attention, energy, and resources for the sake of the child and the spouse. Lastly, the sexual act should be one of joyful celebration. It should celebrate (and consummate) the love that should already exist between husband and wife. Yes, sex should be pleasurable (otherwise, you’re doing something wrong, haha). But love is a cause for joy, not mere pleasure. The natural physical pleasure of sex should complement the joyful celebration of marital love. But to have pleasure without joy is worse than pain itself. And to take joy in the wrong things is to be a miserable creature.

The truth that sex has specific divinely-sanctioned purposes and yet at the same time is completely unessential to human fulfillment is a truly Christian insight, one that is most firmly upheld and defended in Catholicism with its strict doctrines with regard to sex. Virginity and celibacy are given their due honor only in the Catholic Church, which alone has eunuchs who purposefully embrace celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. Sex too is given its due honor only in the Catholic Church because of its steadfast prohibition of contraception.

Posted in American Culture, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Sex Education: Educate for the Soul, Not Just the Body

Posted by Tony Listi on December 1, 2010

Chastity education and formation (i.e. abstinence until marriage) is the only effective and moral way for children to learn about sex because it is based in truth. To teach children anything else (e.g. the misnamed “safe sex”) would be misleading (if not deceitful), harmful, and immoral.

But before I defend chastity education, I’d like to make two broader big-picture points that will surely get lost in this debate unless someone brings them to the forefront.

First, we wouldn’t be having this debate over sex education to begin with if leftists would actually support school choice and parental control. Under such a system, parents would have the choice of whether they want to send their children to a school that effectively teaches and promotes chastity or one that teaches libertinism and perversion. This controversy over sex ed would then vanish. Conservatives and libertarians find common ground here against the left.

But rather than empower parents and give them freedom of choice, leftists would rather have a public school monopoly where they can more easily indoctrinate kids with their sexual perversity against the wishes of most parents. They would rather impose a financial burden on parents who want to escape the “public option.” They have the arrogance to claim they know better than and should have more control over kids than their own parents! For instance, President Obama’s misnamed “safe school czar,” Kevin Jennings, founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which promotes homosexuality, fisting, pederasty, prostitution, public masturbation, child porn, and many other abhorrent practices to school children.

Second, formal sex ed in school is not the sole or even the major determinant of whether a kid will have sex or not before marriage. Education, in the broadest sense of the concept, starts in the home and continues within a community. Do the parents value and teach chastity? What about the kid’s peers and their parents? What kinds of websites, TV, movies, video games, and books is the kid exposed to? What does his church teach?

For example, I went to parochial Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, which taught chastity. Did every single one or even a majority of my classmates abstain from sex? While I can’t be certain, I find that notion very doubtful. Education at school is only one small piece of the puzzle. It is worthless without family and community support and reinforcement of that education.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about chastity, a word which has been purposely obscured and removed from American culture and substituted with “abstinence” in these modern times.

But before I do, a caveat: if you don’t believe that human beings have souls and are more than mere animals, then just stop reading now. I won’t get through to you. Love and morality have no meaning among mere animals.

Chastity should be taught because it undeniably works 100% of the time. No sex = no pregnancy + no STDs. That simple. It never fails. People fail. They fail to exercise discipline and self-control, which is why sex ed should take into account more than just physical well-being.

I think most people can agree that only people who love each other should have sex, which is itself a unique and intimate form of love. But what exactly do we mean by “love”? I think most people can agree that love cannot be divorced from all notions of morality. There is a moral dimension to love for another human being.

Love is a freely chosen commitment to the good of another person for its own sake. Thus sex, as a form of love, is good and should only occur within the context of commitment. It should not be engaged in casually for the sake of one’s own pleasure and ego. STDs and pregnancy aside, the sexual act and its emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences are permanent and cannot be taken back. Thus permanent consequences demand not just any “committed relationship” but a prior permanent commitment, namely marriage, for the sake of both the man and woman.

Whether one intends it or not, sex is itself a profound promise of fidelity, of commitment, that one soul makes to another. And to make a promise and then break it is wrong; it’s a sin. It causes spiritual trauma and harm. And a serious act like sex is a serious sin outside the context of love, i.e. of marriage. The marriage promise sanctifies the sexual promise.

Women, the more relational sex, seem to understand this truth better than men. They should trust this instinctual need for commitment and demand their boyfriends say “I do” before having sex. Only then, ladies, will you truly know whether he loves you or is just using you to gratify himself, playing you for a fool, and disposing of you when you no longer satisfy him. Take it from someone who knows exactly how men of all kinds think and act when you’re not around. While chastity is crucially important for both sexes, women will benefit the most from a more chaste society. Women have been harmed the most by widespread sexual perversion and yet a lot of the power for virtuous change rests in their hands, as girlfriends, mothers, and teachers. Men are not born lovers.

These are the simple truths about sex that children should be taught at home, in school, and within their local community. Parents have a responsibility to make sure that happens. Government has a responsibility get out of the way, not to hinder parents in any way from informing and forming their children in the virtue of chastity.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contraception (& Protestantism) Paved Way for Gay “Marriage”

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

No Children

Contraception literally divorces procreation from sexual intercourse in violation of Scriptural commands and of both Catholic and early Protestant traditions. It is immoral and its rotten cultural fruit, including the gay “marriage” craze, has been immensely harmful to American society.

Contraception also allows men and women to divorce procreation from marriage. Because of contraception, American society no longer views marriage as a children/family-centered institution but merely a relationship of mutual self-gratification and convenience that can be ended at whim. Children and their rights are no longer integral to the institution of marriage in the minds of many Americans, especially among the young.

Because marriage is viewed this way now, it is only natural that the notion of gay “marriage” has gained ground culturally. Popular debates surrounding the issue hardly ever even mention children and their positive rights (see here also). Marriage is treated as an institution whose purpose is primarily for the benefit of the two (or more, perhaps) people involved. Only when one forgets that only one man and one woman united together procreate children and that children develop better under the care of their biological parents do the notions of “marriage discrimination” and “marriage equality” begin to gain plausibility.  

Contraception is what started the cultural ball rolling in divorcing children and their positive rights from marriage.

And how exactly did contraception come to be accepted and widespread in American society? American Protestants caved in to liberal regressives in the early 20th century. Up until around 1930, all Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) rejected contraception as immoral. It was only a matter of time before this cultural change would produce legal changes.

So I find it very ironic that many conservative Protestants are staunch defenders of marriage and yet condone the use of contraception, the very thing that paved the way for gay “marriage” in American culture and law.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Culture War, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Biblical Evidence Against Contraception

Posted by Tony Listi on February 14, 2010

By Dave Armstrong
Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Proposition
The Catholic ban on contraception is an arbitrary, unbiblical restriction.
It’s just one of many areas where Catholics are out of the mainstream.

Initial reply
The prohibition of contraception was commonly accepted by all Christians: Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, until 1930. It is a biblical and patristic belief.

Extensive reply
Here is the classic biblical passage having to do with contraception:
Genesis 38:8-10: “Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also.”

This involved what is known as the “levirate law”: the duty to produce offspring with the wife of a dead brother. But this is not why God killed Onan, since the penalty for that was public humiliation and shunning, not death (Dt. 25:5-10). Context also supports this interpretation, since immediately after this (Gen. 38:11-26), is the story of Onan’s father Judah refusing to enforce the law and allow his other son, Shelah to produce a child with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. He was afraid that Shelah would be killed like Onan and his other wicked son, Er (38:7,11). Judah acknowledges his sin in 38:26: “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” He wasn’t killed, so it is unreasonable to contend that Onan was judged and killed by God for the very same sin that Judah committed (in the same passage). Onan was judged for contraception (sex with the deliberate intent to unnaturally prevent procreation).

There are a host of other biblical passages which exalt fertility and the blessing of many children, and the curse of none:
1) Married couples are to “be fruitful and multiply”; this is a blessing (Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7; 28:3; 35:11; Dt. 7:13-14; Ps. 107:38; 115:14; 128:1-4; Prov. 17:6; Ecc. 6:3).

2) Barrenness is contrary to blessing and “glory” (Ex. 23:25-26; Jer. 18:21; Hos. 9:11).

3) Procreation is central to marriage (Mal. 2:14-15).

4) Childbearing is so sacred that women are even said to be “saved” by it (1 Tim. 2:15).

5) It is God Who opens and closes wombs and causes a conception to occur (Gen. 20:17-18; 29:31; 30:2,22; Josh. 24:3-4; Ruth 4:13; Ps. 113:9).

6) Children are a gift from God (Gen. 17:16,20; 29:32-33; 33:5; Ps. 127:3).

Objection
But it is unreasonable in this day and age, in urban environments, to have ten or fifteen children. This is an outdated understanding of the meaning of marriage and parenthood. It may work on a farm or a desert, but not in cities and towns.

Reply to Objection
The Catholic Church doesn’t force married couples to have ten children! But it does require them to agree to be fruitful and always open to life as the deepest meaning and purpose of marital union (thus ruling out artificial contraception). The problem today is not the refusal to have ten children, but the (often selfish or cynical) decision to have none at all, or very few, so that in Europe, most countries are below zero population growth, meaning that couples are averaging less than two children (while Muslims continue to have lots of children). This is an “anti-child” mentality. Children are often viewed as a mere inconvenience or a burden (even to the point of being slaughtered before they are born). The Bible, on the other hand, clearly states over and over that children (and many of them) are a blessing. Yet, sadly, millions of Christians today are far closer in outlook to secular (or ancient pagan) culture than the biblical worldview:

1 Chronicles 25:5: “All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him; for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.”

Psalm 127:3-5: “Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! . . .”

Martin Luther (the founder of Protestantism):

But the greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labor worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls. Now since we are all duty bound to suffer death, if need be, that we might bring a single soul to God, you can see how rich the estate of marriage is in good works.
(The Estate of Marriage, 1522; Luther’s Works, Vol. 45, 46)

Luther and Calvin both wrote with extreme disdain for Onan and his sin, whereas many of today’s Protestants have a ho-hum or neutral attitude about these grave sins:

Martin Luther:

Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed . . . He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . . That worthless fellow . . . preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother. (Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44; 1544; LW, 7, 20-21)

John Calvin:

It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is doubly horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born . . . Moreover he [Onan] thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. (Commentary on Genesis [38])

G.K. Chesterton:

It has been left to the last Christians, or rather to the first Christians fully committed to blaspheming and denying Christianity, to invent a new kind of worship of Sex, which is not even a worship of Life. It has been left to the very latest Modernists to proclaim an erotic religion which at once exalts lust and forbids fertility . . . The new priests abolish the fatherhood and keep the feast – to themselves.
(The Well and the Shallows, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1935, 233)

[It was only until the early 20th century that Protestants started abandoning or ignoring even their own traditional Scriptural interpretation of Onan. I guess the Truth of the Word changes for Protestants whenever they feel like it should, whenever they feel that it is a barrier to their own self-indulgence.]

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Sex | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

An Exhortation to a Homosexual on the Right Path

Posted by Tony Listi on January 24, 2010

Here is a message I received from someone anonymously:

i’m still gay, i’m still looking for an answer why. i totally completely believe in christ, that he rose from the dead. i am doing my very best to rely on Him alone. i do not have sex anymore, but i have thoughts. i want so bad to not have these thoughts. i want to go to heaven so bad. i like jesus, and i love jesus. i am having a tough time right now. i am absolutely 100% certain god can make me straight. but he has not yet. i suspect that making me perfect and sinless in this life is not god’s goal. the goal is to aim in that direction and go as far as i can, or rather for jesus and me to go as far as we can together, but there is a chasm that i cannot cross, only jesus can take me across it to perfect sinless heaven. on the outside, i probably look like the nicest kindest gentlest and most ‘christian’ person you will meet. i truly love people with all my heart and those who have hurt me i pray with all my heart for god to soften their hearts. sometimes i think i am only alive just to pray for people. i have loved people with all my being. i have loved christ with all my being. but i will admit not 100% of the time. and sometimes not 100% of my being. actually i probably never have done anything with 100% of my ability and 100% correct and 100% real. i hate these flaws, they are really embarrassing and shameful. i believe if i were 100% heterosexual i would still be a man whore and greedy and full of pride. but please pray for me. there is not one thing i can do to save myself, only christ can save me. i have prayed and i believe and i try and fail but i try to follow christ. i do not try to so i can get saved, i try to do so because god says i am saved already. but why am i still a homo? it’s very hard not to just be a hermit and move out into the desert and stay there without internet or electricity and just spend my days reading the bible and growing vegetables for my food. can i be both gay and saved? it will be such a relief when i am in heaven, and i pray i am going. sometimes i get really scared though, as if i were cursed before time began.

Please pray for this person. The following is my response to him:

Thank you for sharing your very personal experiences.

God can indeed remove the homosexual urges from your body, if it be His will. Continue to pray that He may. For Jesus is the Great Healer and nothing is impossible for God.

However, consider the possibility that He may never remove these urges from you in this life. That is quite likely considering the empirical evidence on homosexual rehabilitation. Sexual urges are very strong and very ingrained early on, it seems.

If this be the case, do not despair! Be not afraid, for Jesus is stronger! And He has revealed to us that the lot of the Christian in this world is to suffer, to carry his own cross and follow Him. Each Christian has their own cross (maybe many) to bear. Sometimes it is a struggle with a deadly vice: malice, lust, greed, envy, pride, sloth, and gluttony. And though we pray to have these crosses lifted from our backs, often God sees fit not to do so. Why? Because it is precisely through suffering that we learn in the deepest way to rely on Him, to love Him above all things, above even our own interests and deepest desires.

The Christian is not cursed; he is crossed! And it is through these crosses that we may be purified for holiness and draw closer to Him. Just as Jesus offers us salvation through His cross, our crosses can be a means to our own salvation. So rejoice in your predestined cross! Let us unite our crosses to His for the sake of His glory and the eternal destiny of our souls!

If these homosexual urges are indeed your life-long cross, then humbly accept it, saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” In this case, you are called to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God. No one is any less human or of any less dignity because he abstains from sexual behavior. Quite the opposite! It is a greater gift, a greater virtue, to proclaim the kingdom to come by transcending sexuality in this world.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed over urges you do not consciously initiate! By Christ’s grace and strength, you are in control of your actions. You can overcome all desires and urges that do not conform to His will. Cling to Him in faith and He will not fail you. Your urges alone cannot damn you.

The only thing worthy of shame and guilt is deliberate mental indulgence in and actually acting upon homosexual urges. And God forbid, if you choose to fall from grace with these sins, you can and must sincerely confess, repent, and be reconciled to Our Lord Jesus again, whenever you sin. There is no forgiveness without this process for each sin. No sexual sin is unforgivable, and His endless mercy is always there for the truly repentant.

I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with lust and temptation, sometimes failing and needing reconciliation. It is hard to imagine a male who doesn’t. So I know what it feels like, if not in exactly the same way. You can become stronger with each struggle. You are not alone in your struggle. Innumerable fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in this world and the next are praying for you. Mary the Mother of God and the whole choirs of saints and angels, who have gone before us and remain in Jesus and He in them, will intercede on your behalf, if you but ask them in faith. Here and now in this world, while becoming a hermit is a possibility, I’d encourage you to surround yourself with chaste brothers and sisters by joining a community and a church that accepts you and your cross but not your sins and that will help you bear your cross in holy chastity.

I cannot help but think that the reward in heaven for a person like you, if you do persevere to the end during these perverted modern times, will be very great. My heartfelt prayers are with you. Let me know if I can ever be of any assistance to you. May God bless and strengthen you in your spiritual journey home to Him.

Posted in Catholicism, Homosexuality, Religion and Theology, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »