Nathaniel Peters

‘The Meaning of Sex’: why sexual integrity isn’t out-of-date

Nathaniel Peters
By Nathaniel Peters
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June 7, 2012 (thepublicdiscourse.com) - How should we respond to the hookup culture? A number of concerned parents, pastors, and professors from all sides of the religious and political spectrum have expressed concern about the sexual culture that today’s young people inhabit. Some scholars, such as sociologists Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker, and Kathleen Bogle, have published value-neutral analyses that aim to assess current trends and save us from common misperceptions. In empirical terms, they tell us how and why the sexual economy hurts its actors. Others, such as Laura Sessions Stepp and Donna Freitas, have offered more personal—and, for Freitas, spiritual—analyses of problems and possible solutions in modern sexual culture. Interestingly enough, these authors don’t write as traditionalists or social conservatives. They aren’t advocating purity rings or “modest is hottest.” Instead, they seek to help young people make more responsible sexual decisions. Not surprisingly, though, their counsel often aligns with a traditional conception of sexuality and monogamy, even if not perfectly. The science shows that more commitment and fewer sexual partners tend to make people happier.

But what about those who think that morality requires a bit more of us? How can they persuade young people that reserving sexual intimacy for marriage is the right thing to do? In his book On the Meaning of Sex, popular author and political philosopher J. Budziszewski attempts to make such an argument on the basis of human nature and natural law. He begins with an anecdote from teaching. During a classroom discussion of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, one of his students, Harris, said he found the characters disgusting. When pressed, Harris clarified that he had no problem with their sexual habits: “Sex doesn’t always have to mean something,” he insisted. What he found disgusting was their factory production of human beings.

But, Budziszewski argues, holding those two positions is not logically consistent:

It shouldn’t have bothered Harris unless procreation is something that ought to take place in the loving embrace of the parents. . . . Moreover, since Harris was revolted that the aspiration to children could ever be separated from the aspiration to union, it would seem that he recognized that these two meanings aren’t merely sometimes joined together, but that they are joined whenever we have sex. . . . Apparently sex means something to us even if we don’t admit to ourselves that it does.

That last sentence conveys Budziszewski’s goal and style of argumentation: He wants to draw attention to the reader’s gut feelings and instincts that may have been trained away by education or social conditioning. He wants to help them see what they know, even if they don’t know that they know it.

After some well-laid-out arguments about function, purpose, and natural law, Budziszewski argues that our bodies and actions have natural purposes. This means that some actions, such as those necessary for sexual union, mean something, whether we want them to or not. To put it another way, they say something, even if that is not what we want them to say: “A bodily action is like a word; we mean things to each other no less by what we do than by what we say. . . . To crush your windpipe with my thumbs is to say to you, ‘Now die,’ even if I tell you with my mouth, ‘Be alive.’ To join in one flesh is to say, ‘I give myself to you in all that this act means,’ even if I tell you with my mouth, ‘This means nothing.’” What sex means is total gift, a union of selves instantiated through bodily union, and it cannot but help mean that. By acting against this nature, which we cannot change, we do damage to ourselves and others.

Budziszewski further argues that human nature entails complementary differences between men and women. He notes that these differences are similar across cultures, both in terms of what people think they are and what they think about them. “Mark it up as another victory of quantitative social science,” he writes: “We can now confirm by counting that what everyone used to know without counting really is true.” He then explores how the particular characteristics of men and women make them attractive—in short, what we mean when we say that someone is sexy. Budziszewski thinks we mean that we find their manliness or womanliness desirable. Womanliness, for instance, “isn’t something she contrives, but something that glows from her. . . . The most compelling and believable signs of being a nice person to marry, make love with, and have children with are the ones that arise spontaneously. They are an outward glory given by an inward and invisible reality. A beautiful woman cannot help giving off such radiance, because it is an effect of what she really is.” Beauty conveys something deeper and more holistic than raw sexual appeal.

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Similarly, spousal love is not a matter of feelings but an act of the will. Enchantment is a feeling of emotional infatuation, the moment of “wow” when she enters the room. Love, by contrast, is really about charity, which Budziszewski defines as “a permanent commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” Erotic charity is a mode of charity bound to one person, and sexual intercourse is a particular act of this charity that fuses two selves together in the union of their flesh. Because love is not about enchantment, but charity, it is an act of the will, not a feeling. Therefore, Budziszewski argues, “it is something that one decides to do, and it can be promised.” To the many young people who claim that permanent, exclusive marriage is impossible because you can’t promise feelings, he would say yes—but marriage is not a promise of feelings.

Not surprisingly, Budziszewski calls for embracing sexual purity, which, he makes clear, is a matter of pursuing goods—goods that will be useful and helpful for marriage—not fleeing from them. Its temporary “no’s” enable one to give a full “yes” at the right time. He sees sexual purity as coming in both masculine and feminine flavors: “One awakens the feminine intuition of something that must be guarded; the other, the masculine sense of something that must be mastered.” And he extols the virtues of purity: decorum, “the conduct befitting the dignity of man as a rational being”; modesty, which “expresses respect for the fragility of this dignity . . . [and avoids] provoking appetites that people should be trying to moderate”; and temperance, finding order and the mean in one’s actions.

Throughout the book, Budziszewski resists invoking God or anything beyond rationally accessible premises. More accurately, he hints at such ideas without developing his hints, nor has he explained why every chapter begins with a quotation from John of the Cross. In the conclusion, though, he argues that sex points to and is ultimately about God: “Nature points beyond herself. She has a face, and it looks up. . . . ultimately, human love makes sense only in the light of divine love. The point is not that divine love means something and that human love doesn’t. Human love means so much, because divine love means still more.” In a variation on C.S. Lewis’s argument for the existence of God based on desire, he notes that even when we love well, mortal love is not enough. Since no human longing is made in vain, this unfulfilled natural desire must point toward a supernatural lover.

But taking this argument into religious waters poses the question of which audience Budziszewski hopes to reach. And that poses the larger question of how effective his efforts—not to mention the broader efforts of like-minded religious believers—actually are. If he wants to strengthen the faithful as they navigate young adulthood, he might well succeed. To be sure, far too many young religious men and women have followed the cultural lead and abandoned chastity. If On the Meaning of Sex gave them better reasons for it, that alone would be a great feat. But how is he to persuade students who press with further questions or actively oppose his views on principle? Budziszewski’s occasionally chivalric language might go over well with young Chestertonians, but many young adults would balk at passages like this one:

When we do attempt the journey back to the commonwealth of sense, we will meet trolls and enchanters on the way. They will obstruct passage, demand tribute, and try to lure us into byways and bogs. But why should that discourage us? We are already begrimed and bewitched. The first thing to do is open our eyes, grasp hold of the nearest branches, and pull ourselves out of the ooze. Odd knights we! Having made ourselves muddy and ridiculous, we may as well journey with a smile.

Likewise, the Arthurian metaphor of the Siege Perilous for a woman, her sexuality, or her reproductive organs is not going to fly outside more traditional Christian circles, and even there it might receive tenuous support.

Inquisitive students will desire more proof that sex has to mean what Budziszewski thinks it means—and why it cannot mean what they might want it to mean. His passages about sexual beauty offer an attractive vision of what it means to be human, but can they pierce the carapace of wounded, ironic disdain? He discusses sexual differences with nuance and care, and many young adults would no doubt find resonances of his words in their lives, but, albeit unfairly, a good number will dismiss it as patriarchal and outmoded.

How then can those who agree with Budziszewski try to show young adults a more excellent way? There are few easy answers, but On the Meaning of Sex’s strengths show where to begin: by offering an eloquent, engaging description of the beauty of men, women, and sexuality. Moreover, it seeks to show young people the wisdom of their desires and repugnance. It tries to preserve good intuitions and gently check misunderstandings, to show them what their hearts know, even if unwittingly. It also hands on the wisdom of our forebears with care and winsomeness. Of course, those who believe that chastity leads to flourishing must also demonstrate it with their lives. But arguments are necessary as well, and both the style and the content of On the Meaning of Sex offer a good place to find them.

Nathaniel Peters is a Ph.D. student of theology at Boston College. This article reprinted with permission from thepublicdiscourse.com.

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Luka Magnotta http://luka-magnotta.com
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Gay porn star admits dismembering ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

Montreal gay porn actor Luka Magnotta admits killing and dismembering his ex-lover and molesting his corpse on film, but pled not guilty on Monday to all five charges filed against him.

Magnotta shocked the world in June 2012 by allegedly killing and cannibalizing a 33-year-old university student from China, Jun Lin, then posting a video of his actions and the results online. He later hid some of the dismembered parts in the garbage, but also mailed parcels containing body parts to political offices in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.

He was charged with first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a body, publishing obscene material, mailing obscene and indecent material, and criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other MPs.

Magnotta's lawyer Luc Leclair is basing the not guilty plea on the defendant having a history of mental illness, thus making him not criminally responsible.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said he intends to prove that Magnotta planned the alleged murder well before it was committed.

"He admits the acts or the conducts underlying the crime for which he is charged. Your task will be to determine whether he committed the five offences with the required state of mind for each offence," Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer instructed the jury, according to media reports.

However, some authorities have pointed out that Magnotta’s behavior follows a newly discernible trend of an out-of-control sexual deviancy fueled by violent pornography.

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Dr. Judith Reisman, an internationally-recognized expert on pornography and sexuality, told LifeSiteNews in 2012 she believes Magnotta’s behavior “reflects years of brain imprinting by pornography.”

“His homosexual cannibalism links sex arousal with shame, hate and sadism,” said Reisman. Although cannibalism is not as common as simple rape, she added, “serial rape, murder, torture of adults and even of children is an inevitable result of our ‘new brains,’ increasingly rewired by our out-of-control sexually exploitive and sadistic mass media and the Internet.”

In their 2010 book “Online Killers,” criminology researchers Christopher Berry-Dee and Steven Morris said research has shown “there are an estimated 10,000 cannibal websites, with millions ... who sit for hours and hours in front of their computer screens, fantasizing about eating someone.” 

This underworld came to light in a shocking case in Germany in 2003, when Armin Meiwes was tried for killing his homosexual lover Bernd Jürgen Brandes, a voluntary fetish victim whom Meiwes picked up through an Internet forum ad seeking “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.”

After the warrant was issued for his arrest, Magnotta was the target of an international manhunt for several days until he was arrested in Berlin, where police say he was found looking at online pornography alongside news articles about himself at an Internet café.

The trial is expected to continue to mid-November, with several dozen witnesses being called to testify before the jury of six men and eight women.

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Janna Darnelle

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My husband divorced me for his gay lover - then took our children

Janna Darnelle
By Janna Darnelle

Every time a new state redefines marriage, the news is full of happy stories of gay and lesbian couples and their new families. But behind those big smiles and sunny photographs are other, more painful stories. These are left to secret, dark places. They are suppressed, and those who would tell them are silenced in the name of “marriage equality.”

But I refuse to be silent.

I represent one of those real life stories that are kept in the shadows. I have personally felt the pain and devastation wrought by the propaganda that destroys natural families.

The Divorce

In the fall of 2007, my husband of almost ten years told me that he was gay and that he wanted a divorce. In an instant, the world that I had known and loved—the life we had built together—was shattered.

I tried to convince him to stay, to stick it out and fight to save our marriage. But my voice, my desires, my needs—and those of our two young children—no longer mattered to him. We had become disposable, because he had embraced one tiny word that had become his entire identity. Being gay trumped commitment, vows, responsibility, faith, fatherhood, marriage, friendships, and community. All of this was thrown away for the sake of his new identity.

Try as I might to save our marriage, there was no stopping my husband. Our divorce was not settled in mediation or with lawyers. No, it went all the way to trial. My husband wanted primary custody of our children. His entire case can be summed up in one sentence: “I am gay, and I deserve my rights.” It worked: the judge gave him practically everything he wanted. At one point, he even told my husband, “If you had asked for more, I would have given it to you.”

I truly believe that judge was legislating from the bench, disregarding the facts of our particular case and simply using us—using our children— to help influence future cases. In our society, LGBT citizens are seen as marginalized victims who must be protected at all costs, even if it means stripping rights from others. By ignoring the injustice committed against me and my children, the judge seemed to think that he was correcting a larger injustice.

My husband had left us for his gay lover. They make more money than I do. There are two of them and only one of me. Even so, the judge believed that they were the victims. No matter what I said or did, I didn’t have a chance of saving our children from being bounced around like so many pieces of luggage.

A New Same-Sex Family—Built On the Ruins of Mine

My ex-husband and his partner went on to marry. Their first ceremony took place before our state redefined marriage. After it created same-sex marriage, they chose to have a repeat performance. In both cases, my children were forced—against my will and theirs—to participate. At the second ceremony, which included more than twenty couples, local news stations and papers were there to document the first gay weddings officiated in our state. USA Today did a photo journal shoot on my ex and his partner, my children, and even the grandparents. I was not notified that this was taking place, nor was I given a voice to object to our children being used as props to promote same-sex marriage in the media.

At the time of the first ceremony, the marriage was not recognized by our state, our nation, or our church. And my ex-husband’s new marriage, like the majority of male-male relationships, is an “open,” non-exclusive relationship. This sends a clear message to our children: what you feel trumps all laws, promises, and higher authorities. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want—and it doesn’t matter who you hurt along the way.

After our children’s pictures were publicized, a flood of comments and posts appeared. Commenters exclaimed at how beautiful this gay family was and congratulated my ex-husband and his new partner on the family that they “created.” But there is a significant person missing from those pictures: the mother and abandoned wife. That “gay family” could not exist without me.

There is not one gay family that exists in this world that was created naturally.

Every same-sex family can only exist by manipulating nature. Behind the happy façade of many families headed by same-sex couples, we see relationships that are built from brokenness. They represent covenants broken, love abandoned, and responsibilities crushed. They are built on betrayal, lies, and deep wounds.

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This is also true of same-sex couples who use assisted reproductive technologies such as surrogacy or sperm donation to have children. Such processes exploit men and women for their reproductive potential, treat children as products to be bought and sold, and purposely deny children a relationship with one or both of their biological parents. Wholeness and balance cannot be found in such families, because something is always missing. am missing. But I am real, and I represent hundreds upon thousands of spouses who have been betrayed and rejected.

If my husband had chosen to stay, I know that things wouldn’t have been easy. But that is what marriage is about: making a vow and choosing to live it out, day after day. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, spouses must choose to put the other person first, loving them even when it’s hard.

A good marriage doesn’t only depend on sexual desire, which can come and go and is often out of our control. It depends on choosing to love, honor, and be faithful to one person, forsaking all others. It is common for spouses to be attracted to other people—usually of the opposite sex, but sometimes of the same sex. Spouses who value their marriage do not act on those impulses. For those who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex, staying faithful to their opposite-sex spouse isn’t a betrayal of their true identity. Rather, it’s a decision not to let themselves be ruled by their passions. It shows depth and strength of character when such people remain true to their vows, consciously striving to remember, honor, and revive the love they had for their spouses when they first married.

My Children Deserve Better

Our two young children were willfully and intentionally thrust into a world of strife and combative beliefs, lifestyles, and values, all in the name of “gay rights.” Their father moved into his new partner’s condo, which is in a complex inhabited by sixteen gay men. One of the men has a 19-year-old male prostitute who comes to service him. Another man, who functions as the father figure of this community, is in his late sixties and has a boyfriend in his twenties. My children are brought to gay parties where they are the only children and where only alcoholic beverages are served. They are taken to transgender baseball games, gay rights fundraisers, and LGBT film festivals.

Both of my children face identity issues, just like other children. Yet there are certain deep and unique problems that they will face as a direct result of my former husband’s actions. My son is now a maturing teen, and he is very interested in girls. But how will he learn how to deal with that interest when he is surrounded by men who seek sexual gratification from other men? How will he learn to treat girls with care and respect when his father has rejected them and devalues them? How will he embrace his developing masculinity without seeing his father live out authentic manhood by treating his wife and family with love, honoring his marriage vows even when it's hard?

My daughter suffers too. She needs a dad who will encourage her to embrace her femininity and beauty, but these qualities are parodied and distorted in her father's world. Her dad wears make-up and sex bondage straps for Halloween. She is often exposed to men dressing as women. The walls in his condo are adorned with large framed pictures of women in provocative positions. What is my little girl to believe about her own femininity and beauty? Her father should be protecting her sexuality. Instead, he is warping it.

Without the guidance of both their mother and their father, how can my children navigate their developing identities and sexuality? I ache to see my children struggle, desperately trying to make sense of their world.

My children and I have suffered great losses because of my former husband’s decision to identify as a gay man and throw away his life with us. Time is revealing the depth of those wounds, but I will not allow them to destroy me and my children. I refuse to lose my faith and hope. I believe so much more passionately in the power of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman today than when I was married. There is another way for those with same-sex attractions. Destruction is not the only option—it cannot be. Our children deserve far better from us.

This type of devastation should never happen to another spouse or child. Please, I plead with you: defend marriage as being between one man and one woman. We must stand for marriage—and for the precious lives that marriage creates.

Janna Darnelle is a mother, writer, and an advocate for upholding marriage between one man and one woman. She mentors others whose families have been impacted by homosexuality.

Reprinted with permission from the Public Discourse.

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