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  • Writer's pictureMary Shivanandan

The Mystery of Sex

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

As Valentine’s Day is ostensibly about the love between a man and a woman, and that love, in our secular culture is equated with sex, it is pertinent to consider what contemporary sociologists, philosophers and others say about our sexual customs. Specifically, I want to draw attention to the current issue of the online journal, Humanum Review: Issues in Family, Culture and Science. Published by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, it is a free quarterly review of books on such topics as Home and Family, Health and Medicine, Education and Ecology. Its premise is that the way of love through commitment to Jesus Christ is the way to be fully human. This does not negate reason; on the contrary since man was created a rational being, reason and science as well as Faith are a privileged path to discover what is it to be human.

Sex and the Mystery of Being Human - Issue 3

The current issue, which is part of the 2018 focus on the theme of the body, is called “Sex and the Mystery of Being Human.” There are many rich feature articles on the topic as well as specific book reviews. I have chosen to focus on those that seem most pertinent to the challenges young men and women face on Valentine’s Day; they have been specifically selected for thoughts on the impact of our secular culture on love and dating.

Why is the Sexual Revolution called the Greatest Revolution?

First comes a classic text by Italian philosopher, Augusto del Noce entitled “Why is the Sexual Revolution called the Greatest Revolution?” “One of the most towering Italian intellectual figures after the second world war,” he is particularly known for his scholarship on secular trends in the 20th century. (The excerpt, as are all excerpts in the journal, is printed with permission) In a nutshell, Del Noce says that the sex revolution was revolutionary because “the spirit of libertinism took over the revolutionary spirit.” The book shows that no compromise is possible between tradition, which includes morality, and sexual liberation. According to the theoretician of sex, William Reich, sexual liberation really aims to break down the family, which, together with monogamous marriage, is the repository of tradition. “The concept of the sex urge as being in the service of procreation is a method of repression on the part of conservative sexology.” Freeing sex from this repression will result, Reich believes, in sexual happiness.

Is Food the New Sex?

Our next chosen feature article, “Is Food the New Sex?” by Mary Eberstadt, shows that, in fact, morality is intrinsic to humans. But instead of sexual taboos, the concern to eat food that is “pure,” i.e. not contaminated by chemicals, is the new form of morality. It is now imperative to buy organic foods rather than observe any sexual rules that preserve monogamous marriage and family. The fact that they are clearly linked is evident in another book, reviewed by the author, Estrogeneration by Anthony Jay. The new morality of purity in food seems to ignore the harm hormonal contraception (which allows for sexual liberation) inflicts on everybody.

When Sex Becomes Cheap

The review by Paul Sullins of sociologist, Mark Regnerus’ book, The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy (New York, Oxford University Press 2017), is particularly insightful. He says that virginity before marriage is now regarded with ridicule. “When more than half of births to women under thirty occur outside marriage, the norm of ‘first comes marriage’ shifts to ‘marriage comes second--if marriage comes at all.” The conclusion is that cheap sex now influences how American men and women relate. He calls this “the commodification of sex.” While traditionally men give love to get sex, and women give sex to get love, cheap sex has changed all that. The change has been facilitated by technology. The hormonal contraceptive pill is the fruit of technological development. The other two, online dating services and pornography are related to the internet.

Furthermore, “cheap sex” is now considered “natural” and “commonsensical.” In other words, sex is for fun, not procreation. This is particularly harmful to the poor. Sullins points out that since failure rates for the Pill in actual use (from 10 to 20 percent) increase the demand for abortion.

Hitched Versus Hooking Up

We shall end this blog with a more positive review by Michael Roesch, a graduate student at the John Paul II Institute, of Timothy P. O’Malley’s, Off the Hook: God, Love, Dating and Marriage in a Hook-Up World. (Ave Maria Press, 2017). In the book, the author notes that “hooking-up” or casual sex is the choice of many young people. Working in campus ministry, he finds that young people still desire marriage. He finds one of the most popular events for Valentine’s Day is the recounting of the personal story of a professor; who gave up his career to take care of his sick wife. He tells of the love they shared together. There are many other anecdotes relating to sacramental marriage.

For more in-depth reading of this wonderful issue, see

©KM Associates.



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