Have you noticed that our culture seems to confuse lust and love? What is God’s design for sex? How does this differ from lust and are the lines between them being blurred?
Sex is beautiful. Sex is powerful. Sex is sacred. Sex was designed by God to seal the marriage bond. Spouses are called to selflessly gift themselves completely to each other in a way that is free, faithful, and fruitful. This mutual self-giving results in a union that goes beyond sharing a physical pleasure, but is a deep, forever, tattoo-on-my-heart sort of bonding. True love is not self-seeking. By this definition, someone who is “sexy” has nothing to due with bra-size, waist-size, biceps or six packs. Sexy should be a person who embodies loyalty, kindness, trust and selfless love to an extent that one can’t help but be attracted to them. Their whole person inspires one to not only want to be with that person, but be a part of that person in an eternal way.
Lust on the other hand by its definition is self-seeking. Lust is pleasure-driven and offers no lasting satisfaction. People are reduced to objects of gratification. Lust is superficial, sex is casual and “just sex.” Sharing in the pleasures of sex without the relationship of marriage can confuse our hearts and our minds. Studies have shown that with each subsequent sexual partner women produce less and less oxytocin a brain chemical that bonds women to their partners. This is the same brain chemical the bonds women to their newborn babies. Masturbation and porn would also fall into this category of lust; they are superficial physical pleasures outside of God’s design for sexuality. These distortions of the gift God gave us in our sexuality are fool’s gold.
Where does contraception/sterilization fit into these categories of lust or love? Does contraception foster the selfless, deep, sharing in God’s loving and procreative nature? I believe using contraceptives or voluntarily sterilizing increases the risk of sex being reduced to “just sex.” This could weaken the sacred bond given by God to increase the joys of marriage. God created sex to be more than a shallow, pleasure-driven past-time, despite what you see on T.V. Couples who practice NFP (Natural Family Planning), what the Catholic Church encourages as a method of achieving or avoiding pregnancy, evade the trap of lust. Yes, even in marriage sex can be reduced to a physical pleasure when self gratification is the driving force. NFPers have the best sex! (Can I get a woot woot?!) We might not have the most sex (though let’s be honest we still get more sex than the media glorified single life), but it is quality over quantity here. (If you are unfamiliar NFP involves periods of abstinence during the woman’s natural times of fertility if pregnancy is wished to be avoided). I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that NFP never separates the power from the pleasure of sex. That power that unites a couple when they give themselves completely to each other, isn’t just amazing, it’s holy. As I believe Christopher West (Theology of the Body) says it isn’t just a moment’s pleasure it is a lasting treasure. That is why NFPers have a divorce rate of 2% because we preserve the bonds of sex as God intended in their full strength.
God has given us a 5-star dining experience. Yet many of us foolishly cannot resist the hotdog (or taco?) vendor while we wait for our reservation. There is no doubt it can be a struggle to preserve one’s virginity until marriage. Our culture only makes it harder. How can something that feels good/right, be wrong? Sex isn’t bad, God made it good, but He also made it for marriage. Keep your eye on the prize, not everything that glitters is gold. Real gold is found in a loving marriage that lasts.
In our moral infancy we may view our faith as a set of rules, do’s and don’ts. Don’t kill anyone, don’t hurt anyone, don’t have sex, listen to your parents, etc. Though we feel obligated to try to follow the rules, if we haven’t adopted the principles behind those rules, we lack the conviction to actually follow through when the going gets tough or should I say temptation is at hand. This is called the purgative stage of spirituality. It is like walking a tight rope, constantly tempted and at risk of falling into sin. The illuminative stage is a more mature state that sees beyond the superficial and temporal and is therefore able to walk the “straight and narrow” with much more ease. This is the freedom that Christ brings. You are above the temptation. Sin is bondage, one is a slave to it- ie the snare of pornography perhaps. When one is more fully united with Christ and elevated above temptation, one can see the trap of sin and more readily avoid it. For example, a spouse in a healthy marriage is not tempted by an extramarital affair. It is obviously fool’s gold, might seem shiny, but a fake, empty lure.
I believe that promoting contraception before marriage promotes casual sex and undermines the gift that God has given to couples for marriage. With divorce rates being ~50% I think we need to be taking a hard look at what we are doing before and in our marriages. Are we confusing lust and love? Lust results in unwanted pregnancies, which results in single parents and abortions. In 1960, (before the sexual revolution) 5% of babies were born out of wedlock in the United States. Today, 43% of babies are born to unwed mothers.
I know there are people out there that are pro-life, and also pro-contraception. And to some extent perhaps contraception is the lesser of the two evils. However it makes sense that promoting contraception promotes casual sex and in a sense “gives permission” to teens to follow their carnal instincts rather than the God-given intuition that sex is something special to be cherished. Each relationship leaves a mark on your heart, where sex is involved I believe that mark is more like a tattoo. Who are you trusting with the inking pen, and please say that person hasn’t been drinking! I believe that part of being pro-life is to promote the 5-star experience. To promote chastity is to strengthen marriages and families, the building blocks of our society. Everyone deserves better than the street vendor. We may have a hunger, but let’s look carefully at what we are putting into our bodies! Sex is something awesome and powerful that God can use as a means to make your marriage and life flourish.
Note: Theology of the Body (TOB) are works from St. Pope John Paul II that Christopher West has compiled and presented, it has helped me understand God’s Design for sexuality. A great book to start with is “TOB for Beginner’s” or there is a video series I would also highly recommend.