Two sweethearts find themselves in the middle of an awful argument. They are on the verge of breaking up. They really begin letting the insults fly. Finally the woman screams:
“All you care about is my loving personality!”
No? Doesn’t sound insulting? Well, maybe she yells:
“You were just using me to hear my funny stories!”
Not that either? Maybe it’s:
“You were only after my mind!”
Still doesn’t sting? How about:
“All you care about is sex!”
Bingo. There it is. If you really want to accuse someone of being shallow, charge them with being attracted to you sexually. That has to be just about as low an insult as you can deal out. Disgusting. Self-serving. Mercenary. Interested in sex. Can you believe that?
But you might object: sex isn’t the problem. It’s being blind to everything else. Fair enough, but what if a parting lover were to lament: “all you really care about was my intellect — to the exclusion of everything else.” Well, that might be bad, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad as being singularly devoted to getting, and giving, good sex. If a parting spouse said, “all you were really interested in was my positive personality,” you might say, with high resolve, “..and that’s a bad thing??”
This isn’t an argument for sexual obsession, or any obsession. It’s just an indication that sex, in Christian circles, is seen as a sort of bastard step child that only becomes pure if it’s wedded to a member of a more royal celestial family of virtues: spiritual depth, romance, conversation, emotional and intellectual intimacy. Otherwise, it’s just something monkeys do when they’re in heat. Unlike great cuisine or scintillating conversation, it can’t just be good by itself.
One frustrated husband kept a spreadsheet, tallying each time his wife turned him down for sex; she shared his lament with the world, and if you peruse the reader comments, you get the feeling that quite a few people think his frustration was entirely trivial. What business does he have asking for sex, if his wife doesn’t feel like it?
Another blogger recently lamented a series of graphics pitching the message “reading is sexy.” Picture a dishy young woman with glasses, reading Tolstoy.
Well, so? I happen to think that’s true. I’ve seen women who were on the verge of being plain become a lot more attractive when they reveal minds that are agile and unconventional. But according to this virtuous young Catholic voice, linking “reading” and “sex” was a way of letting women know that improving their minds was only important as a way of improving their bottom line, or lines.
Couldn’t the message be interpreted a little more generously? A woman, like a man, is a collection of blessings: body, heart, mind, and soul? Isn’t such a message, in fact, a way of blessing the whole? A way of indicating that sex, and romance, and the life of the mind are all linked? A way of indicating that the ideal woman is both sexy and brainy?
Nah. Because you’re linking lofty virtues (reading, intellectual inquiry) to base realities, (sex, biological passions). Reading is pure and lovely. Sex is dirty. Sex is cheap. The world is certainly over-sexualized, so let’s trash God’s blessing because the world is abusing it.
If you doubt this ponder the fighting sweethearts above in marital counseling. Again, you could well imagine one of the partner’s (likely the wife) saying “all he values me for is sex; he doesn’t want to ever talk to me.” That would be a stinging indictment. That would smart. And if it were true, the response calls for some sort of spiritual condemnation. However, if he were to respond “all she wants to do is talk; she never wants to have sex,” that would be seen as a shallow, self-serving lament that could only be remedied, with a great deal of patience, by hubby being implored to make her values, and priorities, his priorities. His lament doesn’t call for spiritual condemnation, because he’s just asking for base, dirty, shallow sex. As one of my friends once complained, “if I write lots of little notes, buy lots of little presents, and clean up the kitchen a lot, I get sex sometime after the vernal equinox.”
The Song of Solomon lovers, and the historic church, didn’t suffer from this feminist self-obsession, this emotional and sexual selfishness masquerading as holiness. BOTH sex and poetry, eroticism and conversation, were seen as co-equal blessings. Both lovers were anxious to please sexually and emotionally.
That balance needs to be restored. If you keep making a bastard out of sexual desire, you’ll get a lot more pornography, divorce, disease, loneliness, and high-minded churchmen preaching a few more house chores as a way of improving your love life.
Right. And the next thing you’re going to tell me is that reading isn’t sexy.