No, Tony Esolen, you can’t cure gay with football

I think he’s fallen prey to a dangerous fantasy, almost a fetish, of what the world once was: A world where fathers are always good, kind, and wise, where women are gentle and nurturing but not awfully bright, where the sun was always golden, sheets were always clean, and most of all, no one was ever, ever gay. (And if they were, it was because they accidentally talked to a gay man, who probably got that way by … not thinking about showering coal miners often enough … hmm.)

So here’s my advice to you, teenagers . . .

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Renee Olmstead via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

48 thoughts on “No, Tony Esolen, you can’t cure gay with football”

  1. Earlier, I said:

    “Esolen has said elsewhere that consensual gay sex is worse than heterosexual rape. I’m not nitpicking.”
    I updated that comment this morning:
    EDIT: I’m having a hard time finding the passage I had in mind here. I am very worried that I have misrepresented Esolen here. I don’t want to delete this comment, because it’s been up for several days. Please do not assume Esolen actually said this. Sorry.

      1. His essay was very thoughtful. It’s quite obvious you’ve both misquoted and misunderstood. It’s a shame. Furthermore there’s nothing wrong with what he has expressed, and I agree wholeheartedly with the diagnosis, that for some people, the feminist ideology so skews their thinking that they seem to find wrong and *danger* in practically anything that doesn’t bow to their party line. Open minded thinking…umm no. Meanwhile feministas can spout all kinds of stupidity and we are supposed to stand back gazing respectfully…because a “woman has a right” to express even unpopular, brazen and certifiably nutty opinions. And nobody should dare criticize! What a double standard.

        1. My dear, if I couldn’t tolerate criticism, I wouldn’t be allowing you to post your comments, and I certainly wouldn’t have gone back to post a correction of the comment I left. Please continue to enjoy the freedom I grant you to say whatever dopey thing you want in my private com box. Cheers!

          1. Oh my dear I’m not just talking about you but so many feministas who feel their every thought is worthy of veneration, but if a man has an opinion….and gasp, ….a different perspective whic does not venerate their feminist tendencies, he’s espousing shameful, horrible dangerous ideas. You are far from the only one.

      2. Esolen discounts any suffering of women. In his view women are morons who simply exist to suffer or to make life miserable for men. We have no existence beyond cooking and cleaning and proving wombs for the production of other males who should be taken away from us as soon as remotely possible. He doesn’t see women as companions or conversation partners at all. The worst part? He has a wife and a daughter. Can you imagine living with a man who holds everything female in bitter contempt?

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  2. Thank for this. Esolen banned me ten years ago fr Crisis because I asked him to define what he meant by ‘femininity.’ He considered my impertinence in questioning a man to be grounds for banning. I admit to being insistent but Esolen REALLY doesn’t like being challenged by girls one little bit. I would go so far as to say he doesn’t like girls much at all.

  3. This is so good, Simcha. Thank you for this. And also for, “he will someday have to answer for laying such heavy burdens on parents whose children somehow failed to spend their entire childhoods playing out his bucolic fantasy of overalled youngsters plashing in brooks, playing tag in wheat fields, and the plopping down to read Homer under the shade of a chestnut tree.” Exactly my feelings about Esolen’s “10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child,” but better words than I could come up with!

  4. Gianna – surely to be consistent with Esolen’s philosophy, you should really be fantasising about, umm, sorry, thinking about, a bikini car wash? And yes, why specifically coal miners – are lumberjacks not quite sexy enough?

  5. So does he realize that a whole lot of his work on boyhood reads like fan-fic for pedophiles? Is he not concerned about what an occasion of sin that must be?

    1. Something about the way he writes makes me feel like I’m going to get in trouble for reading smut on my lunch break.

  6. I thought his essay was beautiful. Also, I believe his intended audience was faithful, Catholic adults. Yes, it was addressed to sons, but it was done with the hopes that good fathers are reading this and will create an environment where they can talk to their sons about this in their own words. I don’t understand why you would use your platform to critique an essay like this while not saying anything against Fr. Martin’s public statements supporting homosexual behavior. Your blog post title is very misleading as well. Esolen never claimed football cured gayness. In fact, he even brushed it aside as a quirk of our times giving a subsequent example of what men/boys might have done together before our culture became obsessed with sports. He even mentioned that maybe a boy doesn’t have a skill set that allows him to be part of the sports team. I only wish he gave more ideas about what boys can do today in that situation. Our culture has equated sports with masculinity and bonding and if a child doesn’t have that skill set he’s quickly labeled as gay or at least headed down that road. The most important topics he touched on are the facts of how easily and quickly young, confused teenagers can have the sin of sodomy imprinted on their brains. He is correct. It only takes one accidental viewing of gay porn and then a curious second, to have that activity associated in the brain with an orgasm. It only takes one or two adults or similarly confused peers affirming you in whatever “tripped the trigger” to believe that that’s what your true sexuality is. This then becomes a very confusing struggle for the boy who will probably struggle for years, if not all his life.

    1. Esolen wrote “with the hopes that good fathers are reading this and will create an environment where they can talk to their sons about this in their own words.” Oh yes? His previous essay, which I linked to, describes a day when a son comes out to his father as “the darkest day of [the father’s] life.” Yep, hearing that your son is gay is worse than hearing that your son is, for instance, dead, or an ax murderer. And this is no fluke. If you peruse Esolen’s writing on the topic, you see that he has nothing but the deepest disgust for homosexuals.

      You’re right, he’s writing it for fathers. Tell me what kind of response a son – either a son who’s truly confused, or a son who’s truly gay – could expect from a father who’s been trained in the school of Esolen.

      1. I don’t necessarily agree with the way this was phrased, but I think you are also being nitpicky here. Obviously there are some families who have the bad luck to be beset by heartbreak and tragedy and bad developments in all kinds of forms, but as matter of overall odds, a father with a gay son is unlikely to also have an ax murderer son. Dr. Esolen didn’t say it was the worst thing that could happen to any father, but the worst thing that was likely to happen to this particular father. That may be right or wrong, but that is what he wrote, not the broader claim that you insinuate.

        1. All right, then how do you think a gay son would perceive it if he read such a thing? “Oh, it’s all right, then. If I talk to my dad about this intensely painful and personal thing I’m experiencing, it will only be the worst thing he’s ever experienced, not the worst thing he could possibly experience. I am now looking forward to a fruitful conversation.”

        2. Esolen has said elsewhere that consensual gay sex is worse than heterosexual rape. I’m not nitpicking.
          EDIT: I’m having a hard time finding the passage I had in mind here. I am very worried that I have misrepresented Esolen here. I don’t want to delete this comment, because it’s been up for several days. Please do not assume Esolen actually said this. Sorry.

          1. Just curious…it sounds like you disagree, but on what basis? Where do you find a moral code that would put it the other way? I’m pretty sure they are both disturbing and immoral but the Bible seems to agree with Mr Esolen, as to the one being worse. I think I understand the reasoning as to why…but do you? Modern mindsets would certainly put it in the order you prefer.

          2. If the passage you refer to is in the one I think you refer to, I think your interpretation of that is not quite right either. But there is no point in endless comment box litigation.

            It is true that Dr. Esolen has great command of language and often writes in a florid style that is not to everyone’s taste. To be honest, I generally prefer a more straightforward prose style myself. (I sometimes find Chesterton hard to follow, for example.) But people tried to wreck his life in the past year (as people from the opposite side tried to do you, so I think you would be more sympathetic) – a post like this just seems to pile on someone who has suffered badly.

      2. I personally believe a father that is trained in the “school of Esolen” as you call it will have a beautiful response to his sons revelations. Esolen’s own words describe the sensitivity and understanding of such a father. He is not shaken in the least by his son telling him he got an erection when he was staring at another man or wrestling with his friend. His father understands completely and reassures his child he is a normal teenager who’s penis is aroused by lots of stimuli at this stage. This father will have conversations that the average, American father would rather die than have. I read absolutely no hint that Esolen’s type of father would be some insensitive jerk. One of my own sons is not athletic by nature and is on the more sensitive side. My husband is a frequent reader of Esolen. My husband has done an amazing job at spending time with our son and encouraging his unique talents and finding all sorts of ways for him to experience male bonding. They have open doors of communication and are very comfortable talking about anything. They went to a cooking class together just last week taught by a male pastry chef. My husband and son awoke early this past Sunday to make and surprise the family with homemade eclaires that they learned how to make. He is teaching my son to serve his wife and family and I believe this would be typical of an Esolen reader.

        Esolen also has the courage to use language like “sodomy” to help readers grasp the seriousness of the sins. It’s not just emotional “loving” of another man. There is a compulsion to experience orgasm through homosexual sex, whether oral or anal and it is an evil habit that is encouraged at an early age for those who struggle with it. It’s the same evil habit the many men expect now in heterosexual relationships. Apparently they get a better orgasm through anal sex. A hideous and disgusting act to a properly ordered, normal mind. Esolen is right to express disgust at the behavior. The majority of America is actually afraid to express this disgust, or when disgust arises in them at the thought, they have bought the lie that they are homophobic and must correct their own faulty thinking.

        I also am of the opinion that you have fallen prey to our culture’s lies when you make statements like, “…either a son who’s truly confused, or a son who’s truly gay…”. God doesn’t make anyone that is “truly gay” just like he doesn’t make anyone to have a desire that they can’t properly fulfill. God gives us sexual desire and through sin, many individuals have developed disordered ways of fulfilling that desire. Not “differently ordered” as Fr. Martin likes to claim. Some people have fallen to beastiality, some to sodomy, some to paedophilia and anything else one could think of today.

  7. I don’t think he’s saying that football is a “cure”. Rather, I think he’s making a point that there was perhaps a time in our culture when we weren’t as easily obsessesed with sexuality and the constant analyzing of our psychology because we were busy doing other stuff. But, whatever about football…it’s not my favorite.

  8. Um, isn’t an excess of male camaraderie, with too few females around, one of the main things that can lead to homosexual behavior even among basically heterosexual boys (cf. British boarding schools)?

    1. “Imagine that you live on a farm [writes Esolen]. All your life long you have been out in the fields with boys and men, working, laughing, quarreling, sweating, eating, playing. You have never been in doubt for a moment about your sex and your belonging with others of your kind, because that’s all you have known. You would have the same ordinary feelings that other boys have, yet they wouldn’t be a source of pain or fear. They couldn’t be. Every day you will have been affirmed as a masculine being, just from the work you do.”
      He thinks girls and women didn’t work in the fields?

    2. The thing is, as Simcha acknowledged, he’s right about the need for same-sex friendships. Somehow, in the course of a couple generations, we’ve gone from the close male friendships described by Chesterton, Lewis, et al to male friendship as limited to “how ’bout that game?” with anything deeper suspect as “gay.” Women are now the ones who are popularly supposed to be able to discuss all serious topics with each other, but men are supposed to stop with grunting and video games. Not saying the old stereotype of flighty women and serious men was better, but the pendulum swing the other way isn’t an improvement.

    3. Yes, male camaraderie is gay and so is spending too much time with girls. Essentially, the only thing a 14-year-old can do that won’t make Simcha think he’s gay is become a young womanizer. And in that case he’s a disgusting, woman-using piece of garbage (but not gay). So those are the options in Simcha’s world. Esolen is right.

  9. He obviously poked you in the feminist bone, so you had to reiterate the boilerplate: hay pal, the sexes are equal, men and boys are not special, women did JUST AS MUCH to build the world, everything sexual is really just a big complicated blobby grey mess spectrum that you have to slowly work out with lots of talking because MAYBE you ARE gay or bisexual or … who knows?

    IOW, Esolen is right, do not talk to women, especially JPII feminists.

    1. In all seriousness, I struggle to figure out what you mean by ‘JP2 Feminist’. Do you mean a woman who uses his theology, or someone who takes his theology out of context, or what?

      I’m sincerely interested in figuring out where you’re coming from here.

      1. Nevermind, went back and read a previous conversation we’ve had (I missed a couple of your comments on that one, just now read them. Mea culpa for taking so long). I know what your answer is.

        1. I might remember that interchange, did I ask at the end if you could cite a place where the liar JPII explains the rights of men and the duties of women toward them and then like literally every other JPII sycophant you went silent?

          1. Um, I literally didn’t read that question until yesterday. I stopped checking up on that conversation because I have a life outside of a blogger’s combox (a life as a stay at home mom, find that as ironic or non ironic as you will). You took a day or so to get back to me, and I’d moved on to other things.

            I’ll go back and re-read it, but as I recall you didn’t ask anything. You just said that Pius did great at outlining those things and that’s where JP2 failed (which I don’t agree with, but that’s a separate comment to write…).

          2. And dude, I’m trying to have a decent conversation with you here. Can we refrain from the name calling please?

            Seriously, what’s the goal of this conversation for you? If it’s to change my mind, calling me a sycophant is not the way to go about it. It makes me want to get away from this conversation all together to avoid being called nasty names (true as they may or may not be to your point of view).

          3. Took a day to think about it.

            1.) You’re asking me for a pithy quote from thick, dense theological works, not an easily read encyclical. (Seriously, the original material for Theology of the Body, not just a summary, is VERY hard to get through. Love and Responsibility isn’t much better). I don’t have time to do that with a screaming toddler, due any day now baby tap dancing on my ribcage, and a sink full of dishes. Sorry.

            As a result…

            2.) Do your own research. And keep in mind that Church documents build off and elaborate on each other. TOB talks about BOTH men and women and their relationships with one another-it isn’t as limited in scope as an encylical focusing on responding to one particular thing. Thus, it’s sort of comparing apples and oranges. And JP2 DOES talk about women and modesty at least in Love and Responsibility…like I said earlier though, I don’t have the time to dig out the quote for you.

  10. But as a woman, I can’t think about coal miners showering, right? Because…reasons…

    Dang it, that image is gonna be popping into my head all day. 😛

    1. I had to pause for a moment when I read that passage. As Simcha said, there are actually some decent points buried in the essay, but the execution is…unfortunate. I really, really shouldn’t say this, as I’ve criticised those who’ve speculated on Fr. James Martin’s sexuality as a means of smearing him, but all this rhapsodising on male camaraderie and virile manly manliness does inadvertently veer towards the homoerotic.

    2. My gorgeous wife has been a coal miner for 38 years. She’s strong and amazing. Pretty tired of cliches about coal miners. She was raised LDS and became Catholic in 2000. And we are both horrified that Catholics helped elect this horrendous administration. Enough of the exploitation of coal miners to push these false arguments!

      1. …I wasn’t aware exploitation of coal miners in the discussional sphere was a thing.

        Well, that just makes that example weird on multiple levels.

        1. But the lesson we can take away from Esolen is that teenage boys should definitely picture other men in the shower to reassure themselves that they aren’t gay.

          1. Well, it helps reassure me I’m not gay, but then I have to go to confession afterwards. Not really sure that’s ideal.

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