by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
The Kansas City Star reported on the front page of its Fri., Oct. 28, edition that a local man was indicted for fraudulently enticing dozens of women to have sex.
According to the article, the accused promised the women they would be paid thousands of dollars to “star” in nonexistent pornographic films. If the man had actually fulfilled his promise, then, according to the law, everything would have been fine. Really?
What this man is accused of doing is morally wrong on so many levels. However, it is difficult to decide what is more shocking: 1) the accused man deceiving these women into having sex; or 2) the number of women lining up to star in pornographic films.
Both are tragic symptoms of our sexualized culture. Sadly, young people today are bombarded from an early age with provocative sexual imagery in advertisements and what passes for entertainment. The beauty and meaning of sexual intimacy is routinely distorted and trivialized.
Young men are made to feel they are abnormal or weird if they are striving to live chastely. They have been taught by the culture to use young women for their sexual gratification. Having multiple sexual encounters has become a mark of manliness. To have a presidential candidate defending his own vulgar comments about women as “locker room talk” reinforces the false narrative that to be athletic, to be manly, is to objectify women.
Recently, one of our pastors made me aware that in the public high schools in his community, young men were given a class assignment to purchase condoms at local stores. To complete the project, they were required to report to the class where they were made to feel uncomfortable or awkward and where they were well received.
What kind of message does this send to young men? Are we not, in effect, telling adolescent boys that we expect them to be sexually active? While condoms may partially protect them from some of the physical consequences of being sexually active, it offers no protection from the negative impact upon their emotional, psychological, moral and spiritual well-being.
Young women are conditioned to believe that virginity is not only unattainable, but undesirable. Our culture makes young women who are not sexually active feel that they are unattractive losers missing out on the key to happiness.
In many cases, young women are formally taught in public schools that sexual responsibility is to wage chemical warfare on their fertility by using contraceptives, despite the physical health risks or the emotional and psychological confusion caused by multiple sexual encounters with multiple partners.
How did our culture come to this low point? It can all be traced back to the sexual revolution’s redefinition of the meaning of sexual intercourse facilitated by the widespread acceptance of contraception.
I highly recommend the book, “Something Other Than God” by Jennifer Fulwiler, who recounts her personal journey from a strident atheist to a fervent Catholic. Her life experiences and her own painstaking intellectual search for truth led this bright millennial woman first to accept the reality of God, then to a belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, and eventually to embrace Catholicism as the church founded by Our Lord.
A major sticking point for Fulwiler, preventing her for some time from accepting Catholicism, was the church’s teaching on both abortion and contraception. Throughout her life, she had considered herself proudly pro-choice and a defender of women’s reproductive rights.
However, her previous convictions began to break down when she came across the data from the Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood’s research affiliate) that acknowledged more than half the women who had abortions were using contraceptives when they became pregnant. She was even more disturbed to find an estimate in a Guttmacher publication that women using contraception over a 10-year period had a 70 percent chance of experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
These were startling revelations that made her re-evaluate her previous assumptions. Fulwiler realized that our cultural norms in the area of sexual intimacy were at odds with the wisdom of previous civilizations. She writes:
“Every society must create two critical moral lists: conditions under which it is acceptable to have sex, and conditions under which it is acceptable to have a baby. And in almost every culture from the beginning of time, the two lists were identical.
The details of what rules the lists contained may have varied according to social customs, but one thing almost every civilization had in common was that its two lists matched. When contraception became widely used, it caused an unprecedented upheaval in which, for one of the first times in human history, the lists no longer matched.”
Fulwiler, like so many others, had based her view of reproductive freedom on the twin principles: 1) women must have control over their bodies; and 2) contraception makes it possible to sever sexual intimacy from its life-giving potential. She now realized how she and her contemporaries had been tragically deceived:
“The people of my generation were taught that sex was only about the two people involved, that babies were a completely optional aspect of the act. In fact, the idea of nurturing children had become anathema to the idea of sexuality. The pop culture depictions of sex could not have been further removed from the images of diapers and car seats and cribs.
“People were assured that they could engage in sex without it being a big deal, as long as they used contraception. Yet the astronomically high actual-use contraception failure rates posed a problem for the no big deal promise — after all, having a baby is just about the biggest deal ever.”
God did not make some huge mistake when he linked the most powerful and beautiful expression of human love with the capacity to generate a new human life. As St. John Paul reminded us in his theology of the body, the language of the body is clear and unambiguous. With sexual intercourse, a man and a woman communicate physically a total giving of themselves to each other. This can only be honest and authentic within the context of the marital vows, where a couple pledges to unite their lives not just for a season, but a lifetime.
It is the context of permanent and committed love that the optimal environment is created to welcome new life. Children develop and grow best when they benefit from the unique love of both a father and mother. It is the stable environment of a mother and father committed in their love for each other that children are able to thrive.
Moreover, the “big deal” of the potential for the creation of a new human life makes it difficult, if not impossible, to trivialize sexual intimacy.
If the courts are going to prosecute fraudulent sex, then we are going to have to expand the judicial system or rethink our cultural assumptions. Every act of sexual intimacy outside the committed covenant of marriage is a lie, because a couple is saying something to each other physically that they do not intend to live in every other aspect of their lives. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is always fraudulent.