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Last week it was announced in the media that actor Gary Sinise and news personality Bret Baier had withdrawn from speaking at a conference for Legatus, an organization of Catholic businesspeople, because of that group’s “anti-gay” views.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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Chase the nightly shades away

Anthony: What Is the Point of All This? The Devil: There Is No Point! (plate 18)
Anthony: “What Is the Point of All This?
The Devil: “There Is No Point!”

Day 87.

Every night this week, I’ve dreamed I’ve fallen back into porn.

I am still standing, doggedly. Ninety days will be a landmark. But on a daily basis now, I combat thoughts of how “nice” it was, how much easier, how much more “natural,” it was to live in those habits. Seeing a pretty girl — and there are so many — the “natural” impulse is to retreat into a private place with her, through fantasy and masturbation. I consciously crave the false intimacy which, though false, was such a compelling substitute.

My memory of the dreams doesn’t last long, usually. I remember the one from last night, and bits and pieces from others. The one from last night was disturbing because — and this is characteristic of most of them, and of the patterns I was pursuing — it involved the sexualization — no, the pornification — of a real person. Not a real person whom I really, in real life, know, but in the dream she was real. She was a real person whom, in the dream, I liked and was attracted to; but rather than pursuing a real relationship with her, the dream made her into a fantasy, an “unreal” person on the Internet whose pornographic images and content I could download. It reveals what I, with horror, am coming to realize: that this had become the only way I knew to relate to women, in any sexual or romantic sense. It is, at its base, an attitude of exploitation rather than love.

Realizing these things makes me stronger to stand — knowing that, though “easier,” that is not how I want to live. Even in the dreams, I feel shame at having relapsed, and I awake to the relief of still standing. Jesus calls me to love — to love my neighbor as myself. I will walk in the light, as He is in the light — and I pray that His light can flood even the darkness of my dreams. Like a phantom appendage, now amputated, my unconscious brain continues to act out what had become anxious habit and reflex. O Lord, I need Your peace, to lay even that to rest.

Apples

cranach-adam-and-eve-1533The twenty-third day.

In this month’s Magnificat there is a reflection on charity as a fruit of the Spirit, contrasting it with the apple of original sin. At the beginning of this month, when I was caught in such a desperate struggle, its words became a rallying cry: What conquers sin and pride in our lives is not mere obedience but love-filled self-surrender to God. No one can avoid sin simply by willing it. The only way to avoid sin is to love, to have our lives transformed by acts of charity that overflow into the lives of others.

Lately I’ve been involved in some heated and unpleasant arguments with atheists on Facebook. Some people seem to enjoy argument, but it has only ever left me feeling bruised. Despite all my hardness, deep down I have a tender inside — and it’s that tenderness that the Lord has been striving to restore. It’s when I am loving others, not fighting, that I feel the most fulfilled, the closest to God. And I do believe that love is my path to healing.

I prayed this morning: Father, give me a tender heart, so that everything I say is full of tenderness and love, never anger or hate or polemic — that even my criticism is full of your love and mercy, and may always lead back to you.

No sooner had I prayed that than somebody responded to an apologetic argument I’d left on another blog. I will respond in charity, I said.

I checked out the person’s blog solely to find out if he was a boy or girl, to know whether to respond to my “brother” or “sister.” But what I found was an eyeful. I hadn’t read very far in the very first post before I came upon quite an explicit description of a casual sexual encounter.

I felt my cheeks flush, my heart burning inside me. I’m going to fall, I thought. I am so vulnerable. But I stopped. I didn’t have to fall. It was my choice. And I chose to hold on to my Christ.

I did respond in charity to my brother. I don’t know what was up with that person or with his blog, and I didn’t read any further to find out. But it did cause me to think, and led me to write this post:

In that moment I thought, I miss that. Will I ever have that again? And then I thought, Do I need that? Do I really even want that? My struggle for so long has been one that confused love and intimacy with sex and nudity: but I’m finally beginning to realize, I think, through a willingness to give all of that up, how seductively false those misconceptions are.

Pornography, nudity unbridled from true intimacy, will never fulfill. The parade of hundreds of women, not one of whom I’ll ever have a true connection with, is only a cruel mockery of the longing for that intimacy and of the unalienable beauty and dignity of the human person. Casual sex, sexuality unbridled from love, will never fulfill. It only hitches my heart to a random tractor, to have a precious bit of substance ripped from the socket, until there can be no real attachment there at all.

So I give all of that up, consciously, voluntarily. Just as I’m giving up my free passage on the Internet, I give up my freedom to consume myself with those false gods. The analogue is a sacrament: my giving up the Internet in submission to my parents is like a vow of obedience in submission to a superior, to God Himself. My giving up pornography is a vow of chastity. As the Catechism teaches, The [evangelical counsels] are intended to remove whatever is incompatible with charity. The aim of the counsels is to remove whatever might hinder the development of charity, even if it is not contrary to it (CCC 1973). Where I am now calls for strong medicine. Even if having a relationship with somebody, someday, is not contrary to charity, I give up the pursuit of that now, for the kingdom, that the Lord can birth charity in me, that I might be healed. Lord my God, fill me up with your charity!

One flesh

(c) Argo74 | Dreamstime.com
(c) Argo74 | Dreamstime.com

Day 38.

I’m continuing to stand, by His grace and His grace alone, since the remarkable events of Easter. No, I’m still not ready to share them — but soon.

I haven’t had a great deal of temptation, until today. There have been days that have been harder than others — and today I am facing something substantial. Yesterday I happened to run into a girl at a social gathering with whom I was intimate once. I hadn’t seen her in years, and in my mind I thought of her only as a dear friend, and that it was good to see her — but I guess my body picked up on something my mind didn’t quite grasp. At the end of the gathering, she sought me out to tell me goodbye and give me a hug — and my body responded in a more than friendly way.

I’ve been celibate for several years. Lately I’ve been thinking more and more that my vocation might include celibacy. I just haven’t thought that much about women or relationships or sex; I’ve been seeking higher things. But every time I’ve nearly convinced myself that I’m just not interested at all, something like yesterday happens.

I suppose it’s true what Scripture teaches, what we of the Church believe, that in having sexual union with someone the two become “one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). In a true, sacramental marriage, in which both partners give themselves wholly, such a bond becomes unbreakable — but even in what was, at the time, I thought, a “casual” relationship, it seems I formed a bond with this girl that goes deep into my heart. It’s the same with every girl I’ve been with — even the ones for whom I’ve insisted I feel nothing, or for whom I should have animosity otherwise. Sex was made for love. No matter what the culture insists, it can’t be truly separated from what it was intended for: creating life; forming families; forging strong bonds between mother and father and child.