"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why Sex Isn't Fun Anymore

"Speak for yourself, Karny," you're probably thinking. But it's not for myself that I bring up Topic A here. It's a matter that affects us all, as J. Budziszewski makes clear in an excellent article, "Designed for Sex," for Touchstone magazine. What I like most about Budziszewski's article is the sympathy he shows for those caught up in the mayhem released by the Sexual Revolution of the past half-century—which includes, after all, practically any American who has not been living in a cave. Budziszewski writes:

Midnight. Shelly is getting herself drunk so that she can bring herself to go home with the strange man seated next to her at the bar. One o’clock. Steven is busy downloading pornographic images of children from Internet bulletin boards. Two o’clock. Marjorie, who used to spend every Friday night in bed with a different man, has been binging and purging since eleven. Three o’clock. Pablo stares through the darkness at the ceiling, wondering how to convince his girlfriend to have an abortion. Four o’clock. After partying all night, Jesse takes another man home, not mentioning that he tests positive for an incurable STD. Five o’clock. Lisa is in the bathroom, cutting herself delicately with a razor. This isn’t what my generation expected when it invented the sexual revolution. The game isn’t fun anymore. Even some of the diehard proponents of that enslaving liberation have begun to show signs of fatigue and confusion.

Budziszewski uses the subject as an apt occasion to discuss natural law theory, and even draws a bit on human biology, though much less than he should. It would be interesting to see a theist use the insights of sociobiology (which require, after all, only a consideration of microevolution, variations within a species over time, which no one doubts) to bolster an argument from natural law. For example, when Budziszewski correctly notes, "the longing for unitive intimacy is at the center of our design," it would greatly aid his argument if he were to use some of the copious scientific evidence regarding human behavior that seems to be wired into our very nature.

His concerns are more on the philosophical level, however, and within those limitations I think he does a fine job. I think that Budziszewski's emphasis on tying sex to procreation is too strong, but at least he does consider its value in strengthening "unitive intimacy." As noted earlier, Budziszewski is not a scold who wishes to upbraid people whom he imagines are having too much fun. On the contrary, he laments that the Sexual Revolution has largely taken the fun out of sex, and he writes with great compassion for the victims of that great disturbance. It is an article well worth reading.

12 comments:

James Elliott said...

Thanks for the link. I've only read about half of it so far, but it's interesting. I'll get to the rest later. I just spent a year doing clinical social work for a high school, and the author is addressing an area of some interest to me based on the work I did.

KeithM, Indy said...

Interesting periodical you linked to, hadn't heard of it before. I'll be digging into that as time allows.

Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done.

Some rules/social norms are good because the lack of them is bad.

Isn't that what's at the heart of Conservatism. Not that everything needs to be codified into law, but that some boundaries are needed to protect the fragility of our human existence.

Hunter Baker said...

Touchstone is a fab mag. I think part of J. Bud's movement toward a procreation emphasis has to do with his conversion to Catholicism in the recent past.

The emphasis on procreation is very important as you look back. If the rest of the church had held as tightly to it as the Catholics, I think we'd have little debate about things like gay marriage. At least at this point in time.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Natural Law is Main St. for Aquinas.

I been tellin' ya'll, Thomas is da bomb.

The interesting thing about the Aristotelian/Aquinian view of "virtue" is that it's non-dualistic, that is to say, "evil" and "sin" are not the opposite of good, per se. Think of them as eating sawdust instead of nourishment.

So too, Thomas points out that even a lesser good can stand in the way of the highest purpose, the pursuit of virtue. In this case, even if the bad or indifferent sex the poor lonely people described in the article isn't intrinsically harmful, as Aristotle notes, virtue is also cultivated by habit.

A diet of bad and funky sex starves the soul.

brmerrick said...

"I think that Budziszewski's emphasis on tying sex to procreation is too strong..."

How could he possible overemphasize this component of human sexuality? Where did those 40 million abortions come from? There are apparently an innumerable number of people out there having sex that don't want what is obviously an insurmountable, blatantly inseparable, undeniably supernal and overarching aspect of human sexuality.

I haven't read the man's work, but chances are, he didn't emphasize procreation enough.

Jay D. Homnick said...

I believe that the joy of sex, like the joy of life itself, is proportionate to the sense of purpose that the person experiences in the act.

That includes a broad array of purpose: love of giving in general, love of the particular partner and love of the world through procreation.

Again as in life, if you engage in it for the purpose of taking, the odds are that you will get very little out of it. If you're in there to give, you will end up taking quite a lot in return.

James Elliott said...

That's a fabulous summation, Mr. Homnick.

Tlaloc said...

Sex is a socialization behavior no different in that regard from talking. It's used for a wide variety of purposes. There are the deep meaningful conversations. The brief fun chats, and yes some people engage in abusive forms of speech.

Trying to insist that sex must always be deep is as bad as never trying to have any depth but floating from one fling to another. Of one thing though there is no doubt. The current sense of freedom is vastly preferable to the old patriarchal "morality." With freedom people can choose to engage in healthy or unhealthy sexual practices (and just as with anything else many do choose unhealthy ways). With the old timey ways unhealthy was the only option.

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