Not Alone Series: Talking About Ess-Eee-Eks

Here is this week's prompt: Our culture is obsessed with sex. With anyone! At any time! If you want to, just do it! But, the Church teaches that sex was created for the context of marriage. Why do you choose to abstain? Why aren't you going around having sex with just anyone? How would you encourage others to do the same? How do you remain strong when everything in our culture is encouraging you to abandon your convictions?

This week's prompt was particularly appropriate, given the conversation with my mom this afternoon.

Although the dinner with Mr. Lehigh Valley seemed to go very well, not much communication has happened since.  And there wasn't much before that dinner, now that I think about it.  It appears we have gone from hour-long phone calls once or twice a week to a little bit of texting on Saturdays.  He texted me from visiting his grandmother in the nursing home, just like last Saturday. I asked him his plans for the rest of the day and he said they were to crash the sofa and catch up on all the sports games.  I'm just getting the sense he's working too hard/doing too much to have the energy and/or time to date.

Or, you know, I really didn't catch his fancy.  (So why he even bothers with texting, I'm not sure.)  I'm not trashing the whole thing but at this point in time things are going nowhere.

I called my mom, frustrated and a bit disappointed.  O.K., I cried a little.  There was definitely some nose-blowing.

Mom: Well, here, I'm looking at the website right now and there's a cute guy your age and he's from [a town in the same county as us, pretty close by].

Me: That's surprising he didn't come up in my searches.  Maybe it's a fake one to bring people in.

Mom: It's not fake!  I'm sending you his picture. *types email*  But it says I have to log in or register to see his profile. 

Me: O.K., well, maybe he's not coming up in my searches because something doesn't match. Like the questions.

Mom: What questions?

Me: The "Do you accept the Church's teaching about certain things" questions. It's probably the contraception one.

We figured out his member number and how to look him up.  And after Mom promised to uncheck the "Keep me logged in" box, I gave her my log-in (I know! I'm a hypocritical librarian! Don't do what I do; keep your passwords private!) and we both looked at his profile.

Sure enough, the question about accepting the Church's teaching about contraception was answered "No," as was the one about sex.

Other than that, his profile sounded nice and he was good-looking.  I'm not saying I wouldn't respond if he messaged me--because he will get a notification that I viewed his profile--but I'm not planning on reaching out.  Mom asked me why, and I told her how uncomfortable some of the dates were on the other dating site I used years ago, and how obvious it was the men had had sex before, and they wanted it again. One guy confessed to me he'd renewed his expired membership with that site because his friends had made fun of him for not "sealing the deal" with me.  (Yeah, he was a jerk and so were his so-called friends.)

I don't know how easy it is to change someone's mind about all of it, but at the very least I'll answer the prompt above, because maybe that will give me some clarity for what I would say if put on the spot during a conversation with a date.

Why do you choose to abstain? Why aren't you going around having sex with just anyone? Sex is a gift from God to spouses so that they can enjoy each other, be closer, and (at times) produce children.  I choose not to have sex because (1) as I am not married, it is serious sin which is something I try my hardest to avoid, (2) the emotional and physical consequences are too great, and (3) I have lived through the harrowing experience of being just one person removed from not one but two "surprise pregnancies" (in quotes because, really? surprised twice?) and the emotional rollercoaster of attachment/fear of commitment.

For those who are fairly new readers of the blog: I have a niece and a nephew who were born within about 17 months of each other and who both were conceived during break-up/make-up cycles between my brother and his then-girlfriend--who now is my SIL as the result of much prayer, grace, and pastoral counseling for both of them.  But it could have gone completely the other way and I'd have never seen those kids again, nor would I be enjoying my other two wonderful youngest nephews.  I shudder just typing that.
It was horrible while it was happening--my own boyfriend at the time judged me and was not much comfort--and the worst part was worrying about what was going to happen to those little babies because there was nothing anyone could say or do to help.  We were told how to feel and how to act, because they were in massive denial about the whole messed-up situation.
I shouldn't have been surprised, actually, because years before, I'd come across my brother's high school journal (oh yeah, they were encouraged by their teachers to put their thoughts in these things and apparently didn't get any kind of response or just weren't read. . . by their Catholic teachers, some of whom were priests!!!) and on one page he'd written something like, "Once you have sex all you can think about is having it again."  Mind you, he was a teenager then, but adults' engaging in sex without considering the consequences (or thinking you're invincible) sounds pretty immature to me, too.

How would you encourage others to do the same? I think I would encourage others to do the same by being open to learning what the Church teaches, and talking about it, both the positives and the negatives.  Sure, people make mistakes and have regrets, and I've had those conversations with dorm-mates and roommates.  I would not judge them and in fact would applaud them for having the courage to make the decision to be chaste.

One of the priests at my college gave this advisement to us students: "Men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love."  I'm not fond of generalizations like that, but maybe I would say that there are some people, both men and women, who would say, "I love you," to convince the other person that it's O.K. to sleep together--and on the other side, people who are willing to sleep with someone so they feel loved, so it keeps the other person around.  (Hence the whole point that sex bonds people in an emotional, not to mention biochemical, way.)  So maybe we need to make sure people feel loved in other ways, by giving them attention, listening to them, caring for them.

How do you remain strong when everything in our culture is encouraging you to abandon your convictions?  Are you kidding me?  I've been countercultural since I was a kid; why should I be any different now? It doesn't faze me anymore.  During my time in college, JPII coined the phrase "culture of death" and it involved abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and drugs/harming oneself.  I stood outside of it then--on the fringes, because I loved alternative music especially--and maybe it helped me evangelize somewhat, to reach out to people and say, I know how it feels but there's a better way.  It's not easy, but if you're lucky you get some grace to help you and find some friends, of either the IRL or invisible internet type, or both.
I hated being dumped by guys who didn't like being told, "No," but I'm glad to be free of the emotional complications, fear of STDs, and pregnancy scares.  (Not to mention being used by handsy pervs.)  I'm looking forward to enjoying being with my future husband and not have that "who I've been with" list looming over our bed.  

And on a lighter note, it's too bad our consciences can't sound like Broomhilde from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, as she protected Maid Marian:

"No ding-ding vithout ze vedding ring!
(photo from Aveleyman website)

Thanks to Jen for hosting this week's Not Alone Series link-up.  See more responses here.


Meg Ann said…
great post, Kate! yeah, one of the things that I don't like about those Catholic dating sites is that it's WAY TMI before you've even had a conversation. I mean, if you met a guy at a book group or in a running group, would he IMMEDIATELY ask you about your sexual practices or views on birth control? Of course not, it'd be insane. and yet that's essentially the vetting process on those sites. my point, I guess, is that oftentimes men are willing to alter their preferences for the 'right' woman, once he's gotten to know her, but on that site she's essentially telling him right off the bat 'no sex' and that could be an immediate turn off to him.
Kate P said…
Thanks, Meg Ann! Good point about being a little TOO up-front about something kinda private. That said, I did feel that some of the people I met really were looking to jump into a very physical relationship right off the bat (no pun intended) and it was like, "Why didn't you say so?" Could've save me some time and trouble there.

My friend the marriage counselor said to be brutally honest about what you want (and what you do not want) when you write your profile. Food for thought.

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