Some young people know in their hearts they want to be pure. They try and try again and again but they can’t stop going too far sexually with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Then, afterward they feel depressed or shameful. This can turn into a pattern which ends up in the bedroom at the end of every date. Other times, however, young people do not want to be pure at all. They will be sexually active with their boyfriend or girlfriend despite their heart which tells them otherwise. They have gotten so used to being sexually active that they feel little remorse or conversion of heart. (When I use the phrase “sexually active” I mean any activity that is sexual in nature such as: foreplay, heavy petting, oral sex, touching or pleasuring the partner that is sexually stimulating or contacting genitals which arouses the partner. Sexual intercourse would certainly be considered “sexual activity” but so would the other examples. We’ll be talking about and clarifying these details more and more.) Then, there are some who do seek purity, desire it in their hearts, yet struggle from time-to-time and infrequently to remain pure. Why are there so many different desires inside of us when it comes to purity and chastity?
Mary Beth Bonacci, a prolific Catholic writer and speaker on the topic of chastity and sexuality gives a great example to explain human desire when it comes to sex. She talks about a frog that is placed in boiling water. When the frog makes contact with hot water it will jump out immediately. However, when a frog is placed in water at room temperature then made to boil; it won’t jump out at all. It doesn’t recognize the change in temperature and remains in the water, then is boiled to death unknowingly. (Real Love, Your Questions and Answers on Dating, Marriage and the Real Meaning of Sex. Mary Beth Bonacci.) Our culture is analogues to the boiling water. I’m sure you have recognized that many of the things you look at, read, watch, or listen to, are over-saturated with lies about human sexuality. When young people grow up in a culture that capitalizes on sexuality in t.v., video, music, literature and entertainment it has an effect that works similar to the frog in boiling water. The more you are exposed to sex in an unhealthy way through media, the less you will desire chastity. Also, the more you practice unchaste behaviors, the less you will desire purity and chastity. In addition, the more your family, friends, parents, associations… and especially your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ date, present to you an unhealthy sexuality the more you will be seduced by those desires inside of yourself. Take guys, for example. Guys are sexually stimulated visually. The culture knows this, so advertisements, movies, or any marketing can play on visually stimulating media that is sexual. A guy can remember sexual images for a long, long time and they can haunt him. This is very harmful and dangerous when it comes to pornography, for example. Girls are not as visually stimulated but their hearts are engaged differently when it comes to sex. Girls will usually want to feel close to a guy and sex or sexual activity is a way she thinks this can happen. She may get trapped down the road of impurity by doing the things her boyfriend wants to do. She gets caught up in the lust and then desires chastity less and less while feeling worse and worse deep inside of herself. It’s pretty well known by the past two generations that our culture is over-saturated with sex in the media. But, there is a deeper problem than that because I know many people who desire and achieve purity despite the sex saturated culture. Now days I think the deeper rooted problem with purity and chastity is the repetitive practice of sexual sins. Someone who starts out innocent and pure then shown the way to sexual sins will loose the desire for purity in a manner of time.
What is my point? Be careful. Where is your desire for purity? If it is a small desire, then ask yourself: What has caused this within me? Is it repetitive sexual sins? Is it the media or culture? Do you watch too many unhealthy images of human sexuality? Are you addicted to porn? Has your boyfriend or girlfriend seduced you to sexual activity that at first was weird and difficult but has now become easier and more desirable? Maybe there is a history of sexual abuse that happened to you. This can be very detrimental for a healthy, holy understanding of sexuality. I’ve talked to many young people with a history of sexual abuse who felt so trapped and disgusting they didn’t know what to do. Then when a boyfriend, girlfriend or date wants to do something sexual with them they feel like it’s more respectful than what used to happen to them, so why not?
The human heart is able to understand, perceive and experience the truth of our personhood deep inside. People can innately know they are created for love. We constantly seek love. We desire it. We think, and talk about it all of the time. What is it? What is love? Why do I desire it so much? What does love have to do with sex? Why am I so attracted to sex and love?
Ok, here’s the best part of it all: The human person, created by God in his image and likeness, is created for love. Sex is God’s design. “Male and female he created them…be fruitful and multiply,” (Gen. 1:27) God said. A man and woman, their bodies and personhood, work like a road map which leads to and points to God, who is love (1 John). Why did God create males and females at all? Why did he create sex? He created sex to lead us to love. The human body, and our sexuality, is a sign. That’s what Pope John Paul II’s premise is for the entire Theology of the Body. The human body is a sign and revelation of God, who is the fullness of Love. If we take a look at the human body we can come to an understanding of God. In doing so, we can come to an understanding of ourselves who are made up of body, soul and sex. This will have to be our starting point for a holy discussion about sexuality. Without God and love in the picture for an understanding of our sexuality we get lost just like the examples above demonstrate.
So, stay tuned for next weeks answer to the question: How far is too far with my boyfriend or girlfriend? What is a Theology of the Body and why is it so important?