Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sex and the Pity

[12/21/06: GREETINGS, SALON READERS! You're reading an old Dawn Patrol item that I wrote very late one night, many moons ago. My more recent blog entries are more reflective of my current views. Also, the theological topics I mention in this post come across better (and minus the bloggy snark) in my book; check out this online excerpt.]

Jill of the group blog Feministe comments on one of the "Dawn Eden Takedown" posts of which that site is so fond:

I actually feel bad for Dawn. And I’m not saying that in a condescending way, I really do mean it. . . . The one thing she seems to want more than anything is a husband, and for whatever reason that hasn’t worked out for her. Can you imagine putting all of your energy into doing things (like abstaining from sex) for a future mate, only to never find one?
There's an interesting leap of logic there:
  • Lady X's foremost desire is to be married.
  • Lady X puts all her energy into fulfilling her desire.
  • Lady X has never found a husband.
  • Lady X will never find a husband.
If I believed that was my story, I would find it quite sad too. But it's not, for two reasons. I believe Jill will appreciate one of those reasons if she's reasonable. The other goes against everything I've read by her and her sex-positive/babies-negative crowd.

The first and obvious answer to Jill's assertions is that I might meet my future husband tomorrow. Upon our marriage, he and I might honestly be able to say that the self-restraint we practiced before marriage did more than fill us with desire; it increased our appreciation for the meaning and beauty of marital sex.

One might argue that such an outcome wouldn't be true of everyone who abstained from premarital sex. But if my husband and I honestly believed that it was true in our case, no one could reasonably dispute our experience.

All that is hypothetical, I realize — but no more hypothetical than assuming that a 37-year-old woman whom one's never met will never, ever get married.

The other reason Jill's story is not mine is in her rhetorical question, "Can you imagine putting all of your energy into doing things (like abstaining from sex) for a future mate, only to never find one?"

Let's be frank: The real question here is, "Can you imagine abstaining from sex only to never have a husband?"

This may be reduced to another logical sequence:
  • Good sex is essential to enjoyment of life.
  • Good sex does not require a partner who makes a lifetime commitment.
  • Good sex is so important that one's decision whether or not to have it defines one's entire identity and purpose in life. "Can you imagine putting all of your energy into doing things (like abstaining from sex)..."
  • Therefore, a person who refrains from having good sex for lack of a lifetime commitment is unimaginably, pathetically, tragically deprived. When she is on her deathbed, she will realize that she has wasted precious opportunities for joy.
I remember, back when I used to have crushes on rock musicians, reading Pamela DesBarres' I'm With the Band and wishing I could be like her and the rest of her "Plaster Casters" gang. What I admired was that they could follow creative, sexy rockers and sleep with them, yet shed their conquests so easily.

I wasn't like that. If I had sex with a man, even a one-night stand, I always risked attaching to him to the point that I would pine for him.

I tried different tactics, like the hippie-type bonding, where my sex partner and I would act kind and loving to one another, saying we'd always be friends no matter what physically "happened" between us. It didn't work; he'd eventually move on to the next "buddy" (or "new special friend," to use Tony Hendra's wonderful term from "This Is Spinal Tap") and I would feel empty.

Knowing that I would be hurt, I eventually tried to avoid giving too much of myself emotionally in the first place. The result remained unsatisfying. I might have a fun evening, but afterward I would still be alone, only more conscious of my loneliness than before.

The fun wasn't worth the separation. Perhaps it is for Jill, and that's why she advocates having sex without love — and why she's so frightened by the thought of dying without having taken the opportunity to have loveless sex. For I believe that love, by definition, lasts forever — so marital love is the only true sexual love that a man and woman can express to one another. Anything else sexual is not love.

Growing into an old spinster used to indeed be my greatest fear. I used to believe that, if I knew that I would never get married, I would kill myself. This was before I had knowledge of Christ, when I suffered from depression and believed that if God did exist, He didn't care about me.

Today, my perspective has nearly reversed. (I say "nearly," because the suicidal aspect's thankfully disappeared.) The agon comes not from certainty, but from agnosticism. If I am to be single for life, I wish I could know it now. It would be wonderful to be able to plan out the rest of my life without having to leave a husband-sized gap just in case.

And — here's the thing — if I weren't getting married, I would still be chaste.

It's who I am.

I love this thing that God created called sex. Absolutely love it. And I love it so much that I will no longer accept any substitutes for the real thing, the way it was meant to be.

Put it this way: Suppose you discovered sushi for the first time and fell in love with the taste of it — except the only sushi place you knew was a really cheap place that left the raw fish out so long that you got food poisoning every time you ate it.

And suppose you knew, from billions of trustworthy reports, as well as a voice that was in your heart, that somewhere out there was a phenomenal sushi restaurant, the best ever, that — wonder of wonders — wouldn't make you sick?

Would you keep eating the delicious but sickening sushi, knowing that the more you ate it, the harder it would be to forget its sickening aftereffects once you had the real sushi?

Maybe you would. Maybe you'd tell yourself that's better to enjoy superficial pleasure that poisons you, then to hold out for the elusive real thing and risk never having even the superficial pleasure.

Contrary to Jill's logic, I believe that there is a pleasure in this world that includes sex, and yet is greater than the greatest sex.

I wish to God that I knew whether or not I'll experience it. Either way, my life is filled with meaning and beauty, and — often — joy. For all that, I thank the Lord.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.