"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pansexualism—and what to do about it

I'm pleased to note that one of the best Orthodox bloggers, The Ochlophobist, has lately been shifting his concern to the sexual front in the culture war. Last week he began a promised series about Orthodoxy and contraception, and quickly expanded that into a larger discussion about our "pansexual" time. So far, the latter could have been written just as well by a neoCath; I concur entirely with his assessment of both issues' importance, and mostly with his moral intuitions. But at the outset, I'd like to contribute to the discussion with an observation and a brief bibliography.

The observation is that there is a problem with the lack of consensus, both within and outside Orthodoxy, about the immorality of barrier as distinct from abortifacient methods of contraception. It seems to me that, once one allows the possible liceity of actively and deliberately suppressing the procreative aspect of conjugal intercourse, one undercuts the case against sodomy. One is reduced to saying that, while inherently non-procreative sorts of sexual act are intrinsically evil, making sterile an act that might otherwise be fertile can sometimes be OK. That's a distinction which has always left me scratching my head; ever since it was widely accepted among Christians, including Catholics, back in the 1960s, the effects on our culture have been inevitable. And they were predicted with chilling accuracy by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. One often encounters the distinction in conservative Protestant circles, of course; indeed it's no accident that I've never been able to find an argument for it that does not appeal, in the end, to sola Scriptura. But that option is not and should not be open to Orthodoxy. Catholicism has a magisterial understanding of natural law that, in John Paul II's "theology of the body," is effectively integrated with biblical personalism. But the Orthodox seems averse to those ideas too. And so I don't see an effective theological underpinning for the distinction in question.

The bibliography is two books written by Catholic women in response to the culture of casual sex, a culture referred to among young people as "hooking up." Since males are less victimized by said culture than females, it's both inevitable and important that the majority of authors directly critiquing it be women, and that such women offer positive alternatives.

One such book is by Catholic convert Dawn Eden: The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. I've referred to it before on this blog, and it's gotten some modest attention in the secular MSM. Now, the book which has informed Och's most recent post is Laura Sessions Stepp's Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both, which is also worth reading; it's serendipitous that, at her own blog last Saturday, Eden notes how one college senior quoted by Stepp has apparently taken her cue from Eden's wisdom if not from Eden's book itself. Let's hope the serendipity is a sign of synergy.

My other book recommendation is Jennifer Roback Morse's Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. It's somewhat less personal and more academic than Eden's and, for that reason, will probably sell less. But it has the distinct advantage of utilizing unassailable research. Morse's site can be found here.

Even if you don't agree with my "observation," you must surely agree with The Ochlophobist and the authors cited that the pansexual culture, especially among young people, is hugely destructive. It erodes and, in many cases, destroys the capacity for the kind of self-giving love that cements lasting marriages. The cultural wreckage is all around us, and the secularists are absolutely clueless. Just as in Roman times, the impetus for repair must come from Christians united by an inspiring vision of sexuality that is also firmly grounded in Tradition.
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