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Contemporary Human Attitude Towards Sexuality


Sex is an unruly power that must be contained. Sex is a vital sign of a healthy and enjoyable life that must be maintained. These two contrasts mark the struggle of the contemporary human attitude towards sexuality today. How then do we maintain the balance so as not to be tilted to just one position? To do so, there should be a broader embrace of sex and sexuality.

Sexuality is not an evil or also merely an inferior vital force, but it is of a high value for human life. Of course, in the line of a broader embrace and for the sake of the whole truth, it must be said that: therein also lies the power and attraction of sin. There is destructive egotism, the complete sexuality of the self without regards to others and the society. One cannot also forget to mention that there is the endangering of one person by the other, yes, even the abuse of humans by humans. Precisely in the encounter of man and woman one person can treat the other in a loveless way and abuse her/her. This also holds for the intimate sharer of the sexual encounter. Therefore for the humane actualization of our sexuality we need, not merely affirmation, but also the gift of discrimination of good and evil, and a deep love of God, which proves itself in the observance of the commandment of the Lord to truly love each other.

Sexuality demands that we grow and mature to a certain heights because of these high and essential needs that go with it. These high demands arise with each age and situation of life anew. The fundamentals are reverence and love. They manifest themselves in tenderness, consideration and care for each other, which must increase the closer the encounter of two people is. Reverence and love also demand ascetism and renunciation, not because of a disapproval of sexuality, but for the sake of freedom vis-à-vis disordered demands of the urges and affronts of a sexually worked up environment. After all we also know in other questions of life today, that we can only continue to exist if we give the desire of possession, power and pleasure the right scale.


Consequently before the present day glorification of sex, sex was seen as an unruly power that must be contained, an inner force that must be restrained. The power of sex was a great worry, and parents’ real task begin when their children become teenagers. Parenthood is highly determined by the sexual purity and abstinence of their children. The worry is about the curtaining the sexual power.

Today, however, sexuality is a power that people worry about for a different reason. True, mothers still worry about their sons being led to disgrace by the accursed itch that knows no satisfaction. True, fathers worry that their little seventeen year old daughters will become big bellied before their socially accepted time. There are even support groups now to help people who are addicted to sex in much the same way as those support groups which help people who are addicted to chemicals or to gambling.

There is recognition, therefore, of the fact that sexual drives can be unruly. However, there is also a change in the setting. Sexual desires are not presumed in present experience; and when they are gone, there is not a lot of dancing and celebration in either the bedroom or the doctor’s office. Sexual desires and in some sense sexual activity are seen as signs of a healthy physical and personal life. Part of every extended medical exam probes the vitality of the sexual life. It is seen as a measuring rod. If one’s appetites are not alive and active, then the patient either has some physical problems, some interpersonal problems, or simply suffers the stress of a burdensome life. In any case, the powers of the sexual appetite are not assumed or taken for granted.

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Humans are physical creatures. Everything about the body continually affects who they are and how they are seen. If a person is tall or short, considered attractive or not by others, or is living through the ravages of a body that is changing dramatically with puberty or old age, that person is changed to the very core of life. It is not a question that one’s body is changed and therefore one’s personality has changed. That is too dualistic. One’s person does not sit back and dialogue with one’s body. A person’s body is an intricate part of a person.

The ultimate, most personal and powerful sign of a husband and wife’s love for each other is normally expressed in the intimacy of sexual intercourse. The Church holds that in this intimate way, God’s love for us takes on human expression (cf Eph 5:21-32). Just as a man and a woman give their bodies to one another as a sign of the depth of their love and respect for each other, so Jesus gave his body to show us the depth of his love. Sexual intercourse is our most intimate way of expressing to one another our faithful love – a love which is both unitive and life-giving. By unitive and life-giving we mean that it strengthens the exclusive love of our marriage, reaffirms our permanent commitment, and brings into ever greater focus the gift that we are to one another.

Certainly, husband and wife are fully entitled to be unreservedly happy in their bodily affection and sexual love for each other and experience pleasure and satisfaction. No reservation and misgivings should be allowed to affect the deep gladness and blissful rapture of their mutual self-giving in conjugal love. However, this happiness is not contradicted, it is rather supported by the demand that sexual love ought to be embedded in the more comprehensive, more lasting love of self-forgetful agape.

For the personal meeting of bodies to be an encounter in love, a man and woman must respond to each other selflessly. The more they do this, the more happiness will sexual pleasure bring them. Purely drive-conditioned mating, on the other hand, permits indulgence in sexual pleasure, but does not result in genuine happiness. Husband and wife will generally not be able to realize their mutual love in its perfect form from the very beginning. They have to mature towards the consummation of their love in patient endeavour. Yet the goal of the perfection of love should never be lost sight of.

Explicit .physical sexual relationships are meant to be embodiments of love, but they neither exhaust the possible ways of loving, nor are they always appropriate. We must also be loving always, and we cannot avoid being sexual in our relationships, but we simply are not always engaged in, or desirous of explicit genital or physical sexual unions. There is something special about the physical love-expression of human sexuality, and its distinctiveness must be discovered and preserved.

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