The Sexual Revolution: “You Can Be Whoever You Want to Be; You Can Live However You Want to Live — But You Can’t Do That”

Broken mirrorOne of the hallmarks of the ongoing “sexual revolution” has been that “I can be whoever I want to be; I can live however I want to live” with respect to my sexuality and gender identity. That is, regardless of my biological sex, I am free to live and love and make love to whomever I please, be that boys or girls or both or everyone or not at all. Even if I don’t like biologically being a boy, I am free to be a girl instead. Such personal choices — any such choices — are hailed and praised by my liberal friends as liberated; and that’s the key: liberation from social and even biological constraints and definitions and freedom to be whoever I want to be and live however I want to live. But this “freedom” and “liberation,” I’m finding, only applies one direction: I am not free to be and live as I please if such choices contradict the rhetoric of liberation or constitute what “advocates” would deem “repression”: if, having opposite inclinations, I choose to be heterosexual or “cisgendered.” But I thought you just said I was free to live and choose and define myself?

Last week it was announced in the media that actor Gary Sinise and news personality Bret Baier had withdrawn from speaking at a conference for Legatus, an organization of Catholic businesspeople, because of that group’s “anti-gay” views. Those “anti-gay” views (as few in the mainstream media reported, but the linked Washington Post article did) amounted to alignment with and support for the [Courage](http://couragerc.org) apostolate, a Catholic group that does not condemn people who experience same-sex attraction, or suggest that they can or should seek to change those tendencies, but offers them love, hope, and support in living a celibate lifestyle in accord with the Christian faith — a message that homosexual “advocates” will not brook. In other words, you’re free to be whoever you want to be and live however you want to live — unless you feel same-sex attraction and are unhappy with that.

Today I read another story about how Mount Holyoke College, a women’s liberal arts college in New Hampshire, has cancelled its “traditional” performance of The Vagina Monologues, a play about the liberation of women’s sexuality, because of concerns that it might exclude and offend the “transgendered,” those who “self-identify” as women but have no vaginas at all. A leader of the theatre group stated that the cancellation was due to the “extremely narrow perspective,” “inherently reductionist and exclusive,” that the play offers “on what it means to be a woman” — gender being a “wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions.” In other words, you’re free to be a woman and be liberal in your sexuality, even to celebrate it — until that message runs smack into the reality that not everybody who wants that can have that, or shares the same understanding of it, and your being-who-you-want-to-be in fact oppresses the somebody else’s being-who-he-wants-to-be.

These are just a couple of vignettes in a tableau of cases that is becoming increasingly rich: the common theme being the increasing intolerance of sexual revolutionaries to any contradiction of their message, even to the point of the revolution devouring her own young; even when that intolerance reveals the message’s self-contradiction. So, I’m free now to be who I am want to be and live how I want to live — even if (especially if) that being-who-I-want-to-be and living-how-I-want-to-live contradicts age-old societal norms (e.g. heterosexuality, marriage, monogamy, fidelity) — but as soon as “who I want to be” and “how I want to live” is traditional and acceptable (even to the accepted traditions of twenty years ago, e.g. the sexual liberation of The Vagina Monologues) — then I become anathema.

There is a lot more here that I want to unpack and write and think about. But all of this hits very close to home to me, as somebody who has struggled most of my life with gender identity and sexual issues, who wants nothing more than freedom to live how I want to live — a good, holy, traditional and Christian life. My “liberal” friends have repeatedly scoffed at me, at the very idea that pornography and masturbation could be things that one would find it desirable to have freedom from or temperance in, let alone that they are things one could be addicted to. But if who I want to be is a happily married, heterosexual, cisgendered male, free to make healthy choices and live a life of love for all people — then ought that to be, per their own stated agenda, something they should accept and support?

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Pray for us

Today is Saint Agnes’s feast day.

In her honor, I added her medal to my brown scapular (it used to have a St. Benedict medal, but I wear another St. Benedict medal elsewhere).

Brown scapular with St. Agnes medal

I’ve been doing well. Things are good with Dove. I have a lot I want to write and share, but I find myself very busy again and not having time to sit down and do it. I’ll make an effort.

Dear sister Agnes, please pray for us. I need God’s grace to overcome.

Scratch

I think Dove and I will get through this.

Well, scratch that.

Dove and I had a good couple of nights. I thought we were beginning to move past this. I had a post about half-written today, looking forward to the future, dealing with recovery in the context of relationship — something I never thought I would be able to deal with — about trust, and intimacy, and fidelity.

But tonight we had another blow-up, and I’m more afraid for us than I’ve ever been before. Please pray for us: we need a healing.

The Lady

Renoir, Portrait of a WomanI haven’t been writing here much in a long time. There’s been a reason for that: I met a Lady, who gave me so much hope. So often I’ve thought of coming here to share her with you joyfully; but today I share her tearfully and fearfully.

I met her now about a year ago; we’ll call her Dove. Entirely by coincidence, our first, casual date was Valentine’s Day. After that we continued to message online, talked a few times, had a few more dates; but nothing happened instantly or magically. I told her up front about my past and my addiction, the very second time I saw her. I wanted to be honest and forthright and do things right. I was doing well then, recovering, I thought, approaching a hundred days of sobriety.

Easter brought us together. Dove is not Catholic, but had been drawn to the faith for a long time, long before she met me. She had been writing me at length sharing her thoughts and feelings and asking questions — and frankly, I was uneasy. Girls before had pretended to be interested in things I liked in order to get close to me, and I was very afraid that this was more of the same; only this time, it was a drive for the most intimate and personal part of me. And I pushed her away, out of fear. We had talked of visiting a local shrine together, and I put her off, for weeks. Finally, I agreed to go with her. Entirely by coincidence, it was Good Friday.

The Good Friday service, and the Adoration of the Cross, was deeply powerful and meaningful to me, that week of all weeks. It was for her as well — I didn’t understand how meaningful at the time. I invited her to come to the Easter Vigil with me. I so little expected her to accept that I put my phone someplace and forgot about it. I picked it up just as I was getting ready to leave myself. She did want to go with me. Somewhere between Good Friday and Easter, Dove decided that she really was, wholly and genuinely, feeling drawn to the Catholic Church. And somewhere between it all, I too began to realize that Dove was genuine, and passionate, and beautiful, and that I was being drawn to her.

A few weeks later, we had a serious talk. She told me that she had been ready to give up on me, to resign herself to the fact that we were just friends and would only ever be. And realizing that I was about to be let go of, I realized in alarm that that isn’t what I wanted at all. I had been fearful, dragging my feet, afraid of things moving too fast or letting her get too close to me. I was so afraid of letting a girl be more than a friend than I hadn’t realized that she was my friend, and becoming more. “It’s been so long since I’ve had a girl-friend — a girl I was dating who I could really say was my friend, rather than an adversary,” I said blushingly, not believing the words were even coming out of my mouth. “But I think you’re my girlfriend.”


Homer, After the HurricaneThat was June, after I had fallen again. I think falling, from my point of pride, brought me to realize how much I truly needed her. The past six months have been wonderful, lovely, full of love and growth in trust and intimacy. We talked, very seriously and deliberately, about marriage. I had made up my mind that she was who I wanted to spend my life with. The only things holding me back, in my mind, were the frustrating and practical but all-too-important complications of living in the real world: finding a steady job and making enough money to support a family.

I did continue to struggle with my vice — violently, for the past month or two. Those real-world concerns led so easily to real-world stress and anxiety and depression, and the all-too-real temptation to escape from this world into something, somewhere, someone else. It was wrong; it was sin. But I swear from my top to my bottom — and as my readers, you surely know — that to the extent I even thought about it rationally, I only ever meant to medicate myself, never to hurt anyone else — least of all my Dove.

This New Year, looking back over everything we’ve been through, deeply moved by the Holy Spirit in the Christmas liturgies and in private prayer, I made a renewed, sincere commitment to recovery, to come clean, to break free from these demons once and for all; to go back to Celebrate Recovery, from which I’d been absent these past few months, as a weekly token of that continuing commitment. I asked Dove to go with me — both to support me, and, I thought, to see the hope and the healing that God does work in the lives of those who trust in Him. The lesson, on Denial, and Step One, again moved me deeply. And I realized how much I have been in denial. And I realized that if Dove and I were ever to be truly one, I would have to be completely open. So I decided to tell her everything.

I have been open with her since the beginning about my struggle with a pornography addiction — which to me, then and now, sums up my problem. All the masturbation, all the fantasies, all the escapism, all the evil dolls, even the acting out sexually in former years have all been extensions and manifestations of that root problem. I never felt that I was “hiding” anything from her: Even in the past few months, I have confessed to her that I have been struggling. Perhaps it was very naïve of me, but I honestly, sincerely expected her to be understanding and supportive. And she was, at first, with extraordinary grace. But then, after it “sank in”…

I will respect her privacy and spare you the intimate details of our conversations. But suffice it to say that things are not well. She is angry, hurt, devastated. She accepts the worst possible interpretation of everything I’ve told her and assumes the worst of everything she doesn’t know. In her mind, the person she loved was all a lie; I have been unfaithful, and untrue, and deceptive, and manipulative. All the trust she had for me is swept away by the tide. As it also threatens to sweep away all the hopes and dreams I had for her, for a better, purer life.

Please pray for me, brothers and sisters. I need God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness more viscerally than I ever have before.

Penned

incarceratedDay 48.

There are changes going on in me.

More clearly than I’ve ever discerned it before, I am changing. I know very well that I can never “declare victory” — that this will be a fight I fight for the rest of my life — but more than ever before, I feel a growing distance between me and my addiction.

I’ve been this long before. A little more than a year ago, I went eighty days before falling. But I’m doing something different this time. This time, rather than mere avoidance — a beleaguered footrace, feeling the wolf’s hot breath on my heels — I feel a real separation. The wolf — which in truth, is in me — has been penned.

Or rather, I’ve allowed myself to be penned. I’ve given myself — and I give myself daily — to penance. My incarceration — this separation from the Internet — is not a punishment so much as a protection. And it is a submission — a voluntary act of giving up control, of surrendering myself and laying down my freedom. And yet I haven’t felt such freedom as this in years. Such self-control — the freedom to choose my own thoughts and actions.

And this is how it is in Christ. Jesus said that if we take his yoke upon us, we would find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28–30). In that surrender of ourselves, placing our lives in the hands of a greater Master, we find a lighter burden than ever the world could give. I’ve never truly understood this before now — so bound to another master have I been.

A blessed exile

Goodness. Has it really been October since I posted?

Yes, for a few months there I was almost gone: first being consumed with a project for school, and then, when that was gone, coming the closest to drowning in my sin that I ever have. I found myself in a vacuum, the house that had been emptied and swept clean to leave only a depressing and purposeless void, all too welcoming to my demons.

And there was fear: a visceral and palpable fear at the darkness I saw ahead. What now? What was God calling me to do? So often I had considered the priesthood or religious life; thought that might be my vocation; but how could that be, when I’ve been consumed with the longing for a girlfriend my whole life and addicted to pornography? Or was I called to be married, to be a husband and father, as I so often dreamed when I was younger? But how could that be, when I’m hopelessly shy and a perennial loser at the dating game; when my addiction had all but ruined the prospects of ever having a healthy relationship? Not seeing light in either tunnel, I resigned myself to the rising waters.

And then, my parents, thanks be to God, intervened. Twice I made a show of giving up control; twice I made excuses and held on to some avenue of escape. The third time I surrendered. So many times I’ve tried to surrender to God all by myself, only to seize the reins again in panic when the going got hard. I resented the restrictions they put on me for my protection, sought to circumvent them — am I not an adult? — but this time, I voluntarily submitted. Now I am a willing exile.

I’ve given up the Internet almost completely; I have no access from any PC, except when they are home and awake. I continue to have limited access via my phone and iPad, which so far has not been a temptation to wander. So much of my addiction is wrapped up in the hoarding impulse, to have and control, and I cannot do that from this little lifeboat. Now, three weeks in, the temptation is rising again. I know that I could go looking — yesterday, even, I found myself on a lustful hunt to find a pretty model I saw on a magazine cover, to know who she was and have pictures of her — but I stopped myself. I confessed my sin. I am still standing. I know that there is an avenue still open — but I want to be strong. I want to choose right, to know I could and choose not to. I want to prove worthy of my parents’ trust this time. It is hard, it is a pain, having no window to the outside world save this little lifeboat, but I am glad to have at least that, and I want to keep it and not abuse it.

Today will be 22 days. Yesterday I briefly thought, well, twenty days was a nice run of it; I could give in and not be ashamed — but no. I want to please my Lord. I want to spare the grief of my parents, who are so worried for me. I want to have a future apart from this.

In the world

I didn’t make it to eighty days. I fell very hard soon after my last post, on Day 50. It was a struggle getting back up for about two weeks, but I’m here again. Day Seven today.

The past couple of days have been very hard. I feel a loneliness, a longing, specifically for female companionship, more than I have in a very long time. For so long, I outright dismissed the idea of ever having a girlfriend again. Between my brokenness and my addiction, there seemed to be no hope for that. And I was content. It was easy, on one hand, to tell myself that I had nothing to lose, that the habit wasn’t keeping me from any real relationship, so what did it hurt? why not content myself with what I have? and on the other hand, to convince myself — and I still believe — that I need this time alone, immersing myself in God, to be healed and prepared for whatever vocation lies ahead.

Alone in crowdBut I’ve been alone for most of my life. I haven’t had a “girlfriend” in more years than I care to admit — the few girls I’ve been out with were more combatants whom I had to fend off than “friends.” And I have struggled with loneliness. That loneliness is what led me headlong into disaster several years ago, when fueled by my addiction and the distorted view of sex and relationships that pornography gives, I said, To hell with God’s plan, and set out to experience what I felt I’d been denied. And sin chewed me up and spat me out.

Now, it’s been easier to believe that I’m too damaged to be a part of any meaningful romantic relationship; that with my ongoing struggles against this addiction, any relationship would be doomed from the start; that in my sexual brokenness, I would be an unworthy partner and husband. And I was content. I didn’t have to worry about it. I deleted all my dating site profiles, tried to stop thinking about it. And that is fine, as long as I’m alone with God and praying. If I could withdraw to a cloistered life, I might could forget. But here in the world, all it takes is one cool breeze to fan the embers back into flame.

A girl. There’s a girl at church, Clara, the daughter of some dear friends, who, the first time I ever met her, swept my heart away with foolish dreams and fantasies, after so many months of not thinking about such things. At first she came for a visit; now she’s back to stay, and I see her every week. I can hardly speak to her. I always do speak to her, but seldom more than, “Hi, how are you?” I don’t know what she thinks of me. She sat with me once at a potluck dinner. What does that mean? It’s fear, more than anything else, that binds me up; it’s easier not to worry about girls. But I’ve been worrying about girls my whole life. It’s that worry, that anxiety, that insecurity, that loneliness, that’s probably at the root of every problem I’ve ever had.

I had a very sensual dream last night about a girl I was intimate with years ago. The one who, despite being such a fleeting moment, made me feel more special than anyone had in many years. I can’t shake her. It is absolutely true what they say, that sex binds two people to one another, body and soul. Today is difficult. Please pray for me, my dear ones.