|Not just a handsome face.|
I felt sorry for him, too. He had done is very best to talk about the connection between the body and the soul, and the body and God's plan for humanity, and who knows what else, but at the end of the day, what his hearers still wanted to know was "How far can we go?"
At least "How far can we go?" is a step in the right direction. It beats "How far can you/I go?" because at least there is a recognition that we are in this together. Not we Catholics or we humans but we girlfriend and boyfriend ,or we man and woman. Once we can get from "How can I avoid annoying God and deserving God's punishment?" to "How can I avoid assisting this person beside me to annoy God and deserve God's punishment" , we have taken a step forward. It's a very radical step, too, because it means (A) stepping out of self-absorption (B) taking responsibility for how other people react to us--which is incredibly scary, as if flies in the face of the whole "I can wear whatever the hell I want" philosophy, which includes women who proudly wear cloth prisons on British streets and women who bicycle topless in Ontario.
The most poignant email I ever got was from a reader who was chosen for rape because she was the only modestly dressed girl at a party she had very unfortunately attended. She had been uncomfortable, and in trying to figure out why what happened had happened to her, she came to the conclusion that it was because she looked vulnerable, and the monster who singled her out guessed correctly that she was vulnerable. So I want to make it very clear that by the very definition of rape, 100% of responsibility for rape is on the rapist's head. If I were to throw off my clothes right now and go for a naked stroll around the grounds of the Historical House, astonishing and annoying the dog-walkers, the gardeners and the lost tourists I would do so knowing I had the complete and unalienable right not to be touched by anyone---except the local fuzz when they turned up to arrest me.
Naturally, I will not do any such thing, for I do not want to annoy the dog-walkers, the gardeners or the lost tourists, to say nothing of B.A., whom the gardeners would at once call on their walkie-talkies. "Ehmmmm.... Ben, yer missus is aff her heid." Also, the sun is shining, and I fear for my complexion. I fear for my complexion (and B.A.'s job) more than I do a sexual assault resulting from my naked stroll because I have too good an opinion of the intelligence of local men to think they would go near a woman who looks so obviously aff her heid at 11:30 in the morning.
So when I talk about taking responsibility for how other people react to us, I am not talking taking responsibility for the wicked behaviour of rapists. I am talking about remembering that we are not invisible and that other people have to look at us and interact with us. I am talking about doing our best to see ourselves as others see us. I am talking about consideration for others, community standards, projecting our best selves, recognizing that public space is shared space, and understanding that everyone is hardwired to reproduce. If those silly girls in Ontario think they can "correct" male sexuality with signs reading "They're just boobs" as they march topless through the streets, then they are beyond stupid.
Sexuality is one of the strongest powers I can think of, and if you are not troubled by sexual thoughts and feelings, as a Single woman, then you are very lucky indeed. Don't go around asking people "Am I weird?" You're not weird. You're lucky. Meanwhile, starting conversations with others about sexuality is rarely a good idea, especially if they are men, for most men are troubled by sexual thoughts and feelings from puberty until death. Have a heart. You may feel all sophisticated and noble in your discourse, and he may seem positively philosophical about whatever you are saying, but you cannot read his mind and you probably can't read his face either.
How far can we go? Well, for a start, who are we? Are we a girl and a guy who have just met? Are we a girl and a guy who know each other vaguely from class, or work, or parties we've attended? Are we a girl and a guy who have had real conversations? Are we a girl and a guy who have intentionally met up together to share time together, over a coffee, or a meal, or while watching a film? Are we a guy and a girl who have been intentionally meeting up for shared time together for a year? Are we a guy and a girl who are talking about the possibility of marriage? Are we a guy and girl who are engaged to be married? Are we a guy and girl who ARE married? Are we a guy and girl who are married but using NFP? Are we a girl and guy who are married, but one of us is ill? Are we a girl and guy who are married, but one of us has a porn addiction? Are we a girl and guy who are married, but one of us has the libido of a slice of stale bread? How far can we go?
I would say that, contrary to what you might think, the closer you get to a person, the more you must think about respecting his or her sexuality and being careful of your sexual behaviour, and what your sexual behaviour "looks like" to the other person. If you get drunk and make out with a stranger at a party because he's cute and it feels sooooo good, that's bad, using, behaviour, but it's not as bad as if you get drunk and make out with a guy you've gone on a couple of dates with because he's cute and it feels sooo good. The first guy probably isn't going to be hurt that badly if you don't call him The second guy is definitely going to be hurt if you don't call him. Meanwhile, the long-term boyfriend is going to be devastated if, after a year of making out, you dump him. Just as you would feel if, after a year of making out with you, he dumps you.
I completely understand why you would dump a guy after making out with him for a year (or two, or three) instead of ignoring your feelings of boredom and disenchantment and marrying the poor bloke. I get that. What I don't get is why you thought it was okay to make out with him for a year, as if making out was as harmless as telling jokes or singing songs together.
But I lie. Of course I get it. The Chastity Circus is not all that worried about so-called non-genital sexual acts. The Chastity Circus is primarily worried about the mass conception and slaughter of innocent human beings, and no wonder. Therefore, the chastity speakers of the world can be forgiven if they give you the impression it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you don't take your pants off. Having sex with a complete stranger, having sex with your fiancé--it's all the same (they imply) because you are committing a Mortal Sin which is a Mortal Sin that leads to the creation of little human beings who will be denied either a proper family life (e.g. with a dad in the house) or their very lives. Even if you are as sterile as a polyester carpet, you will add to the culture of "Everyone is Doing It", which has led to highly fertile unmarried teenagers and college students doing it too, which before 1950, they usually didn't. So whatever you do, DON'T DO THAT.
I think the Theology of the Body provides a corrective to this genitally and reproductively centered point of view. It puts the PERSON at the center of considerations about chastity, not The Act of Acts through which babies are conceived. Who is a person? A person is a rational creature whose ultimate happiness is union with God, the source of all that is good. A person is also--whether he or she knows it or not--a creature redeemed by Jesus Christ, who died a particularly horrible death for that person, and therefore should be sacrosanct---neither murdered nor used as a means to an end, including the end of "feeling good."
Making out really feels good. If you don't know that, you're lucky in a way. Apparently the first high ever off heroin feels really good, too, the best thing over, which I don't know personally, but I don't want to know personally, as heroin is a Class A illegal drug and highly addictive, leading to horrible deaths--and worse lives--for all kinds of people. A woman I know told me about it, and I thought, "However good heroin feels, I am sure the Beatific Vision feels better." Anyway, making out does feel really good, and it should, as the whole biological point is to get a fertile female physiologically ready to have sex. That's just something to think about the next time you have to give the Speech to someone you have just made out with. But of course you still have to make the Speech. I'm just saying that the Speech will be less embarrassing if he doesn't point out that you have just had half an hour of pretty rapturous sexual enjoyment. My advice is to say (should this ever happen), "Gosh, I guess you're right. I've never thought about it that way. You have a point. Gosh, you're smart. But you have to admit that actual sex sex is a much bigger deal, and it's time I/you went home."
The effect making out has on both men and women is why I think--if you are bored with all the abstract arguments, philosophy and noble sentiments of Theology of the Body lecturers--the one sentence answer to "How Far Can We Go?" is "One chaste kiss on the lips." This is the ideal, not my expectation of my little Singles, but I think we should be aiming high, right?* We are, after all, talking about living, breathing, human beings loved by God but manipulated by Satan. We are part of the problem, but also part of the solution, and we have to ask ourselves, which side would we rather be on?
Heigh-ho. I hate chastity lectures. But I also hate it when nice Catholic girls and boys use each other when thinking that they aren't, and generally lying to themselves and each other, and ending up wounded and cynical and afraid of each other instead of being healthy and happy and good pals helping each other to find the right person to marry.
*Naturally you would all be horrified if B.A. or I kissed anyone else on the lips. At least Catholics still have super-high standards for the way married people treat each other and other people. And you see I have alluded to, but not discussed the fact that married people ALSO have "How far can we go" questions. Of course we do, but I am not going to write about chastity for married people. It's bad enough talking about chastity for Singles, for to write about chastity is to write about sexuality, and I do not want to become the Catholic D*n Sav*ge. Perish the thought.
Update: The chap who illustrates that a good-looking young man is not just a handsome face grew up to become Benedict XVI. Just saying.