Decades ago, for seven years, I served in a college ministry in which I befriended, counseled, and prayed for countless female college students. I celebrated their wedding engagements, wept over their lost loves, walked them through mental health crises, and commiserated their many sexual regrets.
In all that time, I did not know one woman engaged in casual sex who could think of a meaningful reason she was doing it. Instead, when asked, “What is sex for?” most would look at me perplexed or, more often, slightly amused.
The time was the late 1990s, and the series Sex and the City was hot and new. The show, which ended up spanning six seasons, spawning two feature films, and becoming so popular that it remains in syndication, features four young New York City women who lean on each others’ friendship as they drink Cosmopolitans, chase careers, and bed men .
The series opens with one character wondering, “Can women have sex like men?” meaning, women can detach themselves emotionally from one casual sexual encounter to the next in a quest for sexual pleasure and personal empowerment.
The show’s answer was a resounding “Yes!” since the series ends with each woman getting her happy ending regardless of how promiscuous, flaky, or callous she had been over the show’s 94 episodes.
Back in the real world, however, things were different. Rather, try as they might, to a woman, each reported having to contort herself emotionally and mentally in an attempt to drain sex of its deeper meaning.
In his book sex, economy, freedom and community, Wendell Berry explains the phenomenon. He describes human sexuality according to two opposing mentalities. The first, which I’ll call communitarian sexuality, operates within the context of love, family, community, intimacy, and fidelity.
Berry argues that just as the family is the basic unit of the human community, so the sexual relationship between husband and wife is the nexus of the human family. He describes married-lover sex as connecting “to one another, to forebearers, to descendants, to the community, to heaven and earth. It is the fundamental connection without which nothing holds, and trust is necessary.”
The second type of sexuality, which Berry calls “the cult of liberated sexuality,” could not differ more from the first. And sadly, it dominates modern American life. This sexuality has brazenly “liberated itself from several trusts of community life…It rests on the easy giving and breaking of promises…having forsaken trust; it has become political.”
Abortion, suggests Berry, is a natural and necessary extension of the cult of liberated sexuality because sexuality, untethered from the moorings of community, family, and trust, increasingly loose coherence the more its paroxysms proliferate. And, lacking coherence, sexual chaos ensues characterized by sentimentality, bitterness, destruction, divorce, child abandonment, hypocrisy, legal wranglings, abortion as birth control, teen pregnancy, promiscuity, and pornography.
The cult of liberated sexuality, including abortion, its sacrament, rests on a bed of lies. Women and men were not created to express their sexuality in meaningless debauchery fits. No amount of social conditioning, sex education indoctrination, prime time TV propaganda, or one-night stands will make it so.
The Catholic Church has always taught this. For example, in the 1995 Pontifical Council for the Family document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, we read:
Ours is a society which is sick and is creating profound distortions in man. Why is this happening? The reason is that our society has broken away from the full truth about man, from the truth about what man and woman really are as persons. Thus it cannot adequately comprehend the real meaning of the gift of persons in marriage, responsible love at the service of fatherhood and motherhood, and the true grandeur of procreation and education.
At the present moment, American feminists and their sympathizers have taken to the streets (and Supreme Court Justices’ front yards), stomping, wailing, and convulsing at the specter of the Court overturning Roe v. calf. It is difficult to know whether we should pity or revile them.
As one writer recently put it,
Watching the wildly theatrical pro-abortion crowd, one gets the impression that they’re protesting too much. Underneath, there is pain they dare not speak, for to do so would be to tell themselves the truth: the dehumanized zygote, then embryo, then fetus is a baby, and she killed it and, in so doing, killed part of herself.
Indeed. As William Shakespeare writes in The Merchant of Venice:
Give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son
may, but at the length truth will out.
Today, 49 murderous years and 63 million aborted babies since the legalization of abortion in America, it looks like our national nightmare is about to end. But the shame will not because a reversal of roe would force millions to face the truth about what abortion is and does. And as we all know, the last thing one caught in a lie wants is to be exposed.
All the more reason, then, for we who have long recognized abortion for what is it, legal infanticide, to demonstrate the virtues of prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. While abortion’s victims and villains need love, what our culture needs most now is thoughtful people to wisely settle the question: “What is sex for?”
[Image Credit: HBO]