16 things Catholic girls should know about consent

How should Catholic parents teach their kids about consent?

We don’t want to give the impression that we’ll wink at sexual misbehavior, as long as our kids reach adulthood without a police record, a pregnancy, or an STD. We want more for them than that. We utterly fail our children if we teach them only about consent, without any other understanding of what sexuality is for and why they are so valuable as human beings. Reducing sexual health to mere consent is just another form of degradation

At the same time, we don’t want our kids to get a police record, an STD, or a unwed pregnancy. Or a damaged psyche, or a broken heart, or a shattered sense of self-worth. An education in consent is not enough, but we must teach them about consent.

But too often, Catholic parents dig in, just telling kids to save sex for marriage, period. Perhaps they teach their kids to avoid the occasions of sin like the saints, but they’ve never taught them how. They’ve never taught their kids what to do if they have, like billions of teenagers before them, gotten carried away by desire, or what to do if they themselves have good intentions but their boyfriends do not. They’ve never taught them how to navigate that minefield of conscience, desire, and external pressure. They send their daughters out entirely unequipped.

And so girls who want to be good are left to piece together some kind of dreadful “least bad” course of action with almost no information about what they can and should do in actual relationships. Teenage girls often put their own best interests last, in hopes of minimizing damage or offense for everyone else. 

So here is what Catholic parents should teach their daughters about consent:

  1. It’s never too late to say “no” for any reason. You’ve done that thing before, with him or with another guy? You can still say “no.” You’ve done worse things already? You can still say “no.” You’ve done lots and lots of things, but not this particular thing? You can still say “no.” You’ve talked about this thing, even agreed to do this thing? You can still say “no.” You’re right in the middle of the thing and have changed your mind? You can still say “no.” It’s a little thing that no one could possibly object to, but you just don’t want to? You can still say “no.”

If you find yourself in the habit of encouraging sexual behavior over and over and over again, and then backing out over and over and over again, then maybe you’re being a jerk, and should think about how you’re spending your time, and how you’re treating your male friend. But that’s a separate issue that you can deal with later. Even jerks can say “no.”  You can say “no” at any time for any reason, because you have no obligation to turn your body over to your boyfriend. Why would you?

 

2. Yes, he can stop. Of course he can stop. What is he, a defective robot? If he’s all worked up, it may be very difficult to stop, and he may be mad or offended or disappointed, but he has free will and he can stop. If he doesn’t stop when you tell him to stop, that is sexual assault. He. Can. Stop.

You’re not genuinely injuring a guy by stopping after one or both of you are aroused. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself on the altar of blue balls. If he’s man enough to ask for sex, he’s man enough to deal with a little disappointment. 

 

3. There’s no such thing as being tricked into consenting. If you consent, you do it on purpose, consciously. If you didn’t realize you consented, or didn’t mean to consent, then you did not consent, and whoever tricked or coerced you is assaulting you, by definition.

 

4. A hymen is just a membrane. We hear a lot about protecting virginity, but sex is about so much more than vaginal penetration. There are non-PIV acts which feel important and powerful because they are — and they belong within marriage, just as much as intercourse does. You don’t have to let yourself be used for all kinds of absurd and degrading things just to protect that precious treasure of technical virginity. A hymen is just a membrane. You, on the other hand, are made in the image of God, and should not submit to degradation from anyone who professes to care about you.

 

5. Listen to your gut. If a situation feels weird or fishy, trust that God-given instinct and get the hell out. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. A firm “No, thank you, I’d prefer to do x” or “That won’t work for me, how about we do x instead?” is all you need. And if someone throws a tantrum over your alternative plans, you can be reasonably certain your good was not at the top of their list of priorities. A good man will value your comfort as well as your consent.

 

6. There is never any good reason for a guy to mention what his previous girlfriends were willing to do. Whether it’s a compliment (“I’m glad you’re not uptight like she was”) or a complaint (“All the other girls I’ve been with had no problem with such-and-such”), this is pure manipulation, meant to put you off balance, exert pressure, and make you feel like you have something to prove. It doesn’t matter if you’re different from every other girls in the entire universe. You are you, and if he can’t appreciate that, then he can go dangle.

 

7. Love doesn’t manipulate. It’s old school manipulative when he says “If you really loved me, you’d do such-and such.” It’s also manipulative if he turns it on its head by saying, “Let me show you how much I love you,” or “Why won’t you let me show my love for you by . . . ” Love isn’t about putting pressure on people. Love lets people be.

 

8. You never owe a guy sexual favors just because he does something nice for you. If a guy wants to spend time with you and you like him, be nice to him. But a date is not a contract. You’re not chattel, to be traded, no matter what he thinks he deserves.

And if you do hold the line and say no to “big” things, don’t feel like you then ought to compensate by agreeing to smaller things that also make you uncomfortable. Your comfort isn’t up for bargaining.

 

9. An adult man who wants sex or romance with you when you’re underage is a bad man. Full stop. You may be flattered, you may feel like you’re especially mature, and you may very much want what he’s asking for; but, by definition, this is assault. There’s a reason you cannot legally consent when you’re underage. An older man only wants an underage younger girl if there is something wrong with him. He’s very likely gone after other, maybe even younger girls, and will continue to do so. You should protect them by telling someone you trust.

 

10. If you’ve had sex, you’re not automatically in a relationship; you don’t owe him anything; and you’re not fated to be together. Sex makes you feel like there is a bond, but you have the power to break it at any time. It may hurt to disrupt that sensation of being in a relationship, but it may be the smartest thing you can do — the sooner, the better.

 

11. You don’t have to get married to someone just because of your sexual past together. Even if you’re pregnant. In fact, getting married because you “have to” could be grounds for a future annulment, if you got married because of pressure and a sense of obligation, rather than as a free choice. If you did something wrong, like choosing to have consensual sex with someone who’s not right for you, you can’t somehow redeem or erase that past sin by getting married. The past is the past. God wants you to have a good future.

 

12. It’s a bad mistake to have sex outside of marriage, but it’s not somehow more Catholic to refuse to use a condom. Contraception is a sin, and so I cannot in good conscience say, “Yes, if you’re going to have sex, use a condom.” Even if your goal is to prevent the spread of disease and to prevent the conception of a potentially fatherless child, it’s not somehow less-bad to commit two mortal sins instead of one.

But some young Catholics will tell themselves that there is something noble or bracingly honest about refusing to use a condom, even as they persist in seeking out unmarried sex. This is absurd. What are you doing? If you want to avoid sin, because it hurts you and your partner and cuts you off from God, then avoid sin. Don’t play games with telling yourself, “I’m sinning, but I’m doing it the Catholic way!” There is no such thing as sinning the Catholic way.

 

13. You’re not bad for wanting to have sex! Feeling strong sexual desire doesn’t prove that you’re a bad person, a bad daughter, or different from good Catholics. God has given us this desire for a reason. Sex is good, and the desire for sex is a normal, healthy desire. Your job is to figure out how to respond to your desire in a healthy and moral way. And no, it’s not easy. You will probably fail. Try again. But . . .

14. If you find that you cannot make yourself stop seeking out sex, then there’s probably something else wrong in your life, and you need help with identifying, addressing, and healing it. It’s normal and healthy to have a strong, hard-to-control libido when you’re young, but it’s neither normal nor healthy to feel driven and compelled to seek out sex with lots and lots of people. This is self-destructive behavior, likely with deep roots. It will be difficult to talk to someone  about this, but you really do need help — psychological help, not just confession.

 

Some girls will also agree to unprotected sex as a way of accepting some kind of built-in punishment for their promiscuity, not realizing that the promiscuity itself is a symptom of psychological distress. Confession is helpful. It is likely not sufficient by itself.

15. If something bad happens, whether it was consensual or not, you’re not alone. The people who truly love you will not love you less just because you did something you shouldn’t do, and they certainly won’t love you less if something happened to you that shouldn’t have happened. If you have someone who truly loves you, that person will talk to you, or find you someone to talk to, or take you to the doctor, or take you to confession, or take you to a therapist, or do whatever you need so you can be in a better place than you are right now. Having had sex does not make you an outcast. You are young. All is not lost.

 

16. You’re not ruined, no matter what you’ve done or what others have done to you. You cannot be “damaged goods,” because you are not goods. You are a person. Even if you feel worthless right now, and even if other people say you are worthless, you do not and existentially cannot exist for the consumption of any other human being. Not your future husband, not anybody. You are a child of the living God.

 

Yes, your past will affect you. Yes, you are changed by your choices and by the choices of others. But if you have regrets, they can be forgiven. If you have wounds, they can be healed. You are not ruined. You cannot be ruined. As long as you are alive, there is hope.

 

Here’s the kicker. Much of what I’ve said above goes for married relationships, too. You can go to extremes, of course. Some men behave as if their wives can never say “no” once they are married; and some women behave as if their husbands must gain explicit permission for every thought, word, and deed. It often takes couples many years to understand each other well enough to find the right balance. Spouses can reasonably expect to have sex with each other if possible. But there is also such a thing as violating consent in a marriage. Marriage does not give one spouse the right to use the other spouse, sexually or otherwise.

 

So, Catholics, let’s get over our aversion to the word “consent.” Our kids need to know about consent in dating, and they’ll need to know it when they’re ready for marriage, too. It’s one more way to learn to love each other better. 

 

***

Many thanks to my friends M.B., C.P., F.S., R.S., G.H., K.C., C.C., D.M., J.T., A.G., M.E., E.L., S.J., M.D., K.M., R.B., A.H., K.C., for helping me compile and refine this list.
Photo via Pexels (creative commons)

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126 thoughts on “16 things Catholic girls should know about consent”

  1. Here’s a piece on virginity by the excellent Dorothy Cummings McLean:

    http://thehistoricalhouse.blogspot.com/2018/02/virginity-obsessions.html

    “Meanwhile God alone knows how many children and teenagers, let alone 20-something women, have had sex forced upon them. That someone is a “physical” virgin–which is to say, has never experienced sexual intercourse–on his or her wedding day may be as much a sign of his or her very good fortune as it is of his or her conscious chastity.”

  2. I wish my Catholic school sex-ed had been more like this, and less like “having sex means you can never love or be loved by anyone else, ever again” and canned Protestant chastity programs. By no means were the basic ideas WRONG, but they were presented so badly that the message came out warped. I suppose that’s what speaking truth in charity is about.

    If I could have been in a place to accept points like these, it could have radically changed the course of my teenage years. Some people get so hung up on keeping their daughters away from boys that they don’t even consider the danger that can come from other girls. Learning your own value first, and getting psychological help with that if necessary, is the critical first step in defending yourself against pressure and manipulation in any situation.

  3. May I add something about the consequences of saying “no”?

    If a girl decides that she needs to say “no” the boy might get angry, or sad, or become more respectful, or break up with her or decide that he loves her even more. If she decides that she is going to say “no” because that is the right thing to do, it is still the right thing even if the immediate consequences seem to be undesirable. This applies to a lot of things in life, not just romantic relationships, but sometimes it seems extra hard in romantic relationships. Sometimes a very sad, hurt, reaction is harder to deal with than an angry response. It is very tempting to think that if you make the right decision everything after that will be wine and roses, but it ain’t necessarily so.

  4. Hey Simcha
    I was going to say “You’re welcome” to Neely but every time I pressed reply it said “reply to Jonathon”. Jonathon has already soaked up way too much female attention.

  5. Thank you.
    And…
    I have a question: would you agree to have this text translated into Polish? Not for money unfortunately. I would like to have it posted on a web page of the pro-life ministry of one of Catholic movements, namely the Light-Life Movement. I shared this blog entry on our fb page but not all people understand English here.
    Greetings.

  6. This is a topic that is very much needed and unfortunately, we don’t talk about it enough. The only thing I would change about this article however, would be separating consent vs. non consent. While yes, having consenting sex before marriage can leave a Catholic girl feeling guilty for having sinned, having non consenting sex and not having a say in having sex when you’re taught to wait before marriage can be very traumatic. Shame can definitely be felt in both senarios but as Catholics, we avoid talking about rape and the shame that comes with it. Don’t misunderstand, I greatly appreciated this article but understand that choosing to have sex and being raped are completely different and you can’t summarize the feelings expressed for both in two neat little paragraphs.

    1. As a Catholic, it has troubled me that St. Maria Gorretti is held up as a model of virtue. She was killed for resisting rape. What message does that send to women who are forced into sex? Should they too be expected to die rather than submit? Even if we all agree that St. Maria Gorretti’s virture was extraordinary and we are not to be held to that standard and it’s okay to submit to save your life, the message is still there. No wonder there is guilt!

      1. Mary Walker said:

        “As a Catholic, it has troubled me that St. Maria Gorretti is held up as a model of virtue. She was killed for resisting rape. What message does that send to women who are forced into sex? Should they too be expected to die rather than submit? Even if we all agree that St. Maria Gorretti’s virture was extraordinary and we are not to be held to that standard and it’s okay to submit to save your life, the message is still there. No wonder there is guilt!”

        There’s also the logic problem that a 11-year-old girl can’t actually expect to fight off a determined 20-year-old. I think it was very flukish that she was murdered rather than sexually assaulted.

        1. I just read the article and it is good. BUT the article is NOT the message that is being received by the folks in the pews. Also, the perpetrator of the rape, by any objective sense, sinned because he willed the act. It was incidental that he didn’t complete it. Sort of like robbers going to rob a bank but seeing police standing outside decide to pass by for now. St. Maria didn’t keep him from serious sin. In fact, I think an argument can be made that her refusal was the catalyst for the serious sin of murder. Anyway, this highlights the tricky path we tread regarding women and consent and not-consent and virtue. At what point does it become more prudent (and therefore the virtuous choice) not to consent?

          1. Karen, it doesn’t say that at all. It does say that Maria forgave her killer and that she was extremely pious in an extremely pious family but it doesn’t say anything about her virginity being the reason for her being a saint. That fact was probably added later to demonstrate how innocent she was and horrible the crime against her was. She’s more likely a saint because she forgave her killer and that he eventually repented.

            Again. The Catholic Church has NEVER taught that to survive rape is a sin.

      2. Why isn’t virginity worth dying for? Similarly the Faith is worth dying for. The martyrs didn’t submit to offering incense to idols, while interiorly not worshipping them, in order to save their lives and save their persuecutors from the sin of killing them. The Virgin Martyrs are in the Roman Canon for a reason. As an eleven year old girl who went on pilgrimage to Nettuno, I found Maria Goretti, and other blesseds who did die resisting rape even though their attackers succeeded in raping them, to be inspiring. The goal is Heaven, not the longest life on earth, and for a girl to know she has a physical gift worth preserving until marriage, and worth dying for, is very empowering. Let our youth know they have the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to live purity, and to repent and love greatly if they have the misfortune to sin against it. Mary of Egypt, Magdalen, transcended their guilt through repentance and became great saints who loved God more than a lot of people who never fell into this sin. The saints are given to us for a reason.

        1. I actually don’t understand why virginity WOULD be worth dying for. Your personhood isn’t worth more because you’re a virgin and there’s a difference between virginity and chastity. Maybe I’m missing something?

          1. I heard somewhere that St. Augustine held that virgins who were raped were still virgins. In other words, one’s virginity can’t be taken against one’s will, it can only be given? I haven’t fact-checked that, but it’s an interesting thought. St. Maria Goretti doesn’t make much sense to me, either.

          2. You’re not missing something. It’s just that people are confused about virginity and chastity. Those two things have been conflated with each other for ages which have caused many problems.

            Some definitions before I go further.

            Virginity: the physical state of not having had sexual relations involving the sexual organs

            Chastity: the lifestyle choice to live, act, and speak in a manner that respects the sexuality and personhood of yourself and others. Thoughts, words, and deeds make up the behavior, attitude, and beliefs about chastity.

            Abstinence: the refraining from sexual activity of any kind. Also, the refraining from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent.

            Now, someone can be a virgin and not be chaste (looking at porn, telling sexual jokes, treating others as objects for personal lust) or they can be chaste and not be virgins (married couples are required to be chaste but have no restrictions on having sex with each other unless they so decide due to their situation).

            Many people have been taught that to be chaste one must also be pure (as in no knowledge of sex or how their own body works or any education beyond the creed) or that to be virgin is to have no knowledge of sex or how their own body works, or to be touched by anyone but their own immediate family but this not chastity or virginity. Virginity is one specific thing (and it is specific) while chastity is behavior that permeates all you do (thoughts, words, deeds).

            So now on to those the Church has declared virgin saints. Most of the saints stories that I’ve read that involve saints known for their virginity involved turning down marriage proposals to pagans (where the rejected pagan later more often than not killed the saint and it was their death that made them saints), wanting to join the convent instead of getting married, or to live a life dedicated to God lived out in service to others (so convent, anchorage, hermitage but with family approval or lack of disapproval). Most of these saints lived during the first few centuries of the Church when the Church was being actively and violently persecuted. Later virgins are usually found to have joined the convent sometimes after turning down marriage. It wasn’t about virginity itself but about completely dedicated oneself body and soul to God.

            Hope this helps. (Laundryninja is an awesome name by the way. 🙂 )

          3. Whoops. I forgot to mention and it’s very important: you consent to no longer be a virgin when you willingly choose to consent to sex. Simcha’s whole post is on consent and I don’t even mention it. *facepalm*

            Rape does not involve consent on the part of the victim. The victim has no choice in the matter. And I’ve read in multiple places that police advise women who are being raped to do what ever they need to to survive and stay alive. If that means not fighting back, then don’t fight back. You’re life is important.

        1. Karen, I don’t know who you’re replying to but since you’re a troll it doesn’t really matter.

          The Catholic Church has NEVER taught that to survive rape is a sin. The rapist is the one guilty of sin. The victim has not incurred any guilt whatsoever. They are a victim.

          I have read news stories reporting were nuns were had been raped. By Karen’s illogic, those nuns should have died instead of survive. Some of those nuns who had been raped forgave their rapists.

          If anyone who reads this has been or knows someone who had been raped or were molested as a child, they are NOT guilty of any sin. The rapist and/or abuser is the guilty person. They are the ones who have sinned against the victim.

          1. Thank you pacbox for the clarification! And the compliment… it seems like laundry is all I do these days so I figured I might as well rock it 🙂

  7. I would like to add something about HOW to say “no”. Some people are just naturally less sensitive than others, or less responsive. Some people are less responsive in certain situations. The one who is saying “no” might have to get louder and or more forceful than is usual for them. That does not mean that the other person is necessarily a jerk, or abusive. They might just be the sort of person who needs a lot of clarity. It is really all right to yell if needed, or to speak in an angry tone, or to be very detailed (“take your hands OFF ME”) or to use physical means, such as standing up and walking away, or pushing the other person away. It does not make you a mean person, or a bad person, if you need to be very forceful in order to be clear. And you do not have to blame the other person for being mean or abusive. They might be a mean or abusive person, but they might not. They might just be real slow on the uptake.

    1. Um … while I agree that one should be willing to be forceful, I also don’t think that’s exactly on the victim here. A lot of women are encouraged to be polite and not give hard “nos,” and it’s hard to switch gears at a stressful moment when someone is assaulting you. A guy who ignores a quiet no, or “please don’t,” or a girl who is squirming away from him …. is a rapist, not a confused guy who just needed a little more clarity. It really is the guy’s job to get a yes, not keep going until he’s REALLY sure she doesn’t want to.

      However, I’m definitely trying not to train my daughters against saying flat-out no where appropriate.

      1. Maybe I didn’t express this clearly enough. Many girls have a hard time expressing themselves forcefully, and might think that would only be all right if the person they are addressing is a really bad person. If she knows this guy, has been a friend, might want to still be a friend, she might feel that too strong a “no” is condemning him. If she understands that in some contexts a very forceful, clear, even physical “no” is appropriate, that it does not have to mean that either of them is a bad person, perhaps she might be more able to say it?

  8. Maybe this is the germ of your next book, Simcha . . . can’t wait to read what boys should know . . . I wonder if you could find some Catholics in their 20’s to read this and give a response, as I think lots of the readers here are past the time of life when this would be most relevant.

    1. Catholic in my 20s. I think this is a great succinct list of things that I’ve learned from a combination of other sources. I was able to synthesize what my religious education and exploration taught me about morality and intimacy with what public school sex-ed, feminist lit, a biology degree, and college safer sex campaigns taught me about consent, date rape, and autonomy. I feel like those things weren’t synthesized anywhere for me though, except in discussions with peers, especially the nerdy bio majors who hung out at the Catholic center on campus.

      This article does a wonderful job of that synthesis, and I hope this information is shared widely with those in a position to educate teenagers and young adults.

  9. Frustrating read, comes across as misandrist. The consent issue works in both directions. Many males are pressured into sex or sexual acts by sexually aggressive females. The risk of forcible rape is less, but there are other forms of leverage that can be emotionally compelling.

    1. “Frustrating read, comes across as misandrist. The consent issue works in both directions. Many males are pressured into sex or sexual acts by sexually aggressive females. The risk of forcible rape is less, but there are other forms of leverage that can be emotionally compelling.”

      It’s for “Catholic girls.”

      Presumably, there’s going to be one for Catholic boys.

      1. But girls should be taught that guys have a right to say no. Girls are often the aggressors, pressuring guys into doing things that they don’t want to do.

    2. It doesn’t come across as misandrist at all, to my view. In my teenage years the pressure to have sex ALWAYS came from the boys. Which is not surprising, given that most girls had older boyfriends who would be more persuasive and, I would guess, slightly more interested in sex than their younger girlfriends. It was just a given in our world, when I was a teen, that you would have to fight off the boys (and sometimes you would maybe give in to the pressure and have sex without being into it THAT much yourself).
      It may be different in relationships of adults of the same age, I suppose.

      1. teresa said,

        “It doesn’t come across as misandrist at all, to my view. In my teenage years the pressure to have sex ALWAYS came from the boys. Which is not surprising, given that most girls had older boyfriends who would be more persuasive and, I would guess, slightly more interested in sex than their younger girlfriends.”

        Yes, the age difference makes a difference.

        Here’s a good piece on the problem of the older boyfriend from, of all places, Scarleteen:

        http://www.scarleteen.com/article/abuse_assault/why_i_deeply_dislike_your_older_boyfriend

        “So unfortunately, I’m also all too aware — as is every reproductive health and teen advocacy group worldwide — that the rule, rather than the exception, is that your older boyfriend is more likely to be bad news than good. And the younger you are, the more statistically likely it is that your older partner is going to spell major league disaster for you.”

        “I feel like he chose you because he thinks that he can be held to lower standards by you than someone closer to his age would hold him to. I hear you when you tell me that you value his picking you, that someone older and wiser choosing to be with you makes you feel important, but I don’t understand why when he doesn’t act like someone older and wiser. I know he tells you how mature for your age you are, and how your maturity puts you “on the same level.” The part he always seems to leave out is that if you are on a similar level of maturity, it’s only because he is immature for his age.”

        “And I know that he knows that age matters, despite his telling you, or agreeing with you, that it doesn’t. He knows that because he’s been your age before, and knows that things are different for him at the age he is now. When you’re his age, you’ll know that, too, but he also knows you don’t know that yet.”

        “A recent study found that 6.7 percent of women aged 15-17 have partners six or more years older. The pregnancy rate for this group is 3.7 times as high as the rate for those whose partners are no more than two years older”

        “Women with older partners were more likely to have reported that they had been forced to have sex at some time in their lives”

  10. Should boil it down to “saying no.” People are not to be used as objects by one another (or themselves for that matter) and sex is for procreation and ultimately God’s purposes. Anything other than this is a type of abuse/violence completely alien from sex itself since it is outside the confines of its purposes — human verdicts to the contrary don’t change that. So, “saying no” should it be.

  11. Are you aware that there is an ad that appears in the middle of your article for Lo LoestrinFe, a contraceptive pill? I’m sure that you wouldn’t want this in your article, but I don’t know how one can eliminate it.

    1. FYI these kinds of ads change based on YOUR search terms and have nothing to do with Simcha. My ad on the blog is for “discount fashion brands.” LOL

  12. So, like, are you ever gonna stop being a modernist shilling for whatever leftist agenda is next? Admittedly, you stopped before going as far as your old comrade, Mark Shea.

      1. Jonathan said,

        “Admittedly, you make some good points… but much of it is compromised with leftist, feminist ideology.”

        How about you give your “pure” versions?

        1. If this was my own blog, I’d be happy to write a different article, but it’s not, so I won’t. I added another comment that clarified a couple things.

          The whole of idea of “consent” is misdirected. Instead of giving the impression that some things might possibly be ok, at least for yourself at times, by saying you can say “yes” we should be focused on teaching our kids to definitively say no to all of these things all the time. We could use the modern focus on the idea of consent as a starting point, but we should change the conversation to desiring to love and please God rather than staying on about subjective consent.

          1. Jonathan said:

            “The whole of idea of “consent” is misdirected. Instead of giving the impression that some things might possibly be ok, at least for yourself at times, by saying you can say “yes” we should be focused on teaching our kids to definitively say no to all of these things all the time.

            Here’s the thing–some affectionate gestures are morally OK with consent, but not OK without consent. For example, it’s OK to hold hands–but not if the other person doesn’t want to hold hands. Ditto other forms of affection that are licit between unmarried parties. Even a kiss that might be OK between two consenting unmarried people is unacceptable if it’s forced or coerced.

            Likewise, your version isn’t very helpful to married people. Does being married mean that one gets to sexually assault one’s spouse? Just because married people are allowed to have sex with each other doesn’t mean it’s OK to bully, coerce, or rape if it’s within marriage.

            Consent is not the only moral dimension, but it can be a good friend to chastity and prudence. After all, if it takes two “yeses” to do something, we’re reducing the likelihood of unchastity and imprudence, just like needing two signers on a financial document reduces the chances of financial stupidity–two yeses is morally safer than one yes. Just as consent is not the only moral dimension in sexuality, it is just as much the case that married/unmarried is not the only moral dimension in sex, and that a person who thinks that they get to do whatever the heck they want because they are married may be doing a lot of evil.

            The hope is that if young people have a strong understanding of consent, they will be learning to respect each other’s bodies and each other’s dignity and becoming less selfish and heedless, which is nothing to sneeze at.

          2. Jonathan said:

            “Instead of giving the impression that some things might possibly be ok, at least for yourself at times, by saying you can say “yes” we should be focused on teaching our kids to definitively say no to all of these things all the time.”

            I think you may be making a wrong turn by assuming that every single one of these examples is only about full-on genital stuff. It doesn’t have to be about sex. It could be about saying no to handholding, a hug, a kiss, a walk, a drive, a date, a particular invitation that makes you uncomfortable, being boyfriend and girlfriend, etc.

            I’d also point out that if we reserve learning to say “no” only for certain mortal sin, the no-muscle is not going to be as strong as it could be if we got more practice in other situations. You can’t have no practice saying no, and then expect to be able to be effective at doing so under unfamiliar, emergency circumstances. Plus, a young person may wish to say no to physical activities that aren’t objectively sinful but they do not wish to engage in with that particular person.

            As I was saying elsewhere, parents who think that they can make all the decisions for their children and never take no for an answer are not doing a good job training their kids to make moral choices for themselves and say no to sin or imprudence.

    1. My wife has informed me that perhaps this is read very differently by men and women. Typically, she thinks your stuff is potentially poisonous too, but she likes this one, so maybe she’s onto something.

      For example, I read point 12 as “So, like, while you shouldn’t be having sex at all, and using a condom is even worse, if you’re gonna keep sinning then you might as well go all out.” She read it as “Wow, my logic of not using a condom is stupid… Maybe I should stop having sex with my boyfriend.” The whole objective/subjective dichotomy. If you had a final sentence that said “So stop engaging in either of these sins!” or something of the like, it would be better.

    2. Jonathan, it is possible to address differences in thinking without being rude and name calling.
      I am very impressed though with the people who responded to his points without rudeness in turn. I tend to disregard the arguments of people who start their statements that obnoxiously.

      1. Yes, Jonathan, I too was a bit taken aback by your tone. I was about to say “I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, ‘you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar,'”but then I stopped myself because I was worried that you might zealously decide to deconstruct that aphorism and say it doesn’t apply when you’re talking about poisonous ideas like the ones Simcha espouses. . . Perhaps you think it’s always best to go out swinging (for example, when you called Simcha a modernist schilling for the latest leftist agenda), but most of the time your ideas are more likely to be heard if you don’t attack first. If you lead with name calling, it makes people question your intentions. Do you really want to communicate or do you want to attack in anger? Maybe you did really want to attack in anger, but your more thoughtful comments after the first make me think that you may want to communicate something in earnest that is heard by someone who may disagree with you. It’s just that if you start off with insults, you usually lose your audience. One thing that may help build up your credibility again is to apologize for your initial outburst.

  13. Thank you for including the bit about marriage too. While I was reading I was thinking “in marriage too!” for all of the points.
    Also, the “you are not damaged goods, because you are not goods” is wonderful.

  14. If physical integrity (point #4) isn’t important, then why does the Church have a whole dogma about it (Our Lady’s Perpetual Virginity)?

    Also, “non-PIV” sex acts, if brought to completion, have no place in marriage either, and certain of them have no place in marriage even if incomplete. You may wish to clarify this point.

    1. Peregrinator said:

      “If physical integrity (point #4) isn’t important, then why does the Church have a whole dogma about it (Our Lady’s Perpetual Virginity)?”

      “Also, “non-PIV” sex acts, if brought to completion, have no place in marriage either, and certain of them have no place in marriage even if incomplete. You may wish to clarify this point.”

      I agree about your second point, but there is actually a conflict between that and your first point.

      Presumably, what Simcha was trying to get across is that making a fetish of physical virginity is not enough for chastity.

    2. Actually the dogma doesn’t refer to Our Lady’s hymen, and it’s kind of creepy and weird when people insist on it. We have no idea if she even HAD one or not, many women don’t! And some women “break” their hymen through non sexual activity. That doesn’t mean they aren’t virgins. #science

      1. I did learn recently (I think in Hail, Holy Queen by Scott Hahn?) that we also assume that baby Jesus did not exit Mary’s body naturally so as to preserve her virginity. She was ‘intact’ by nature of being a virgin and continued to be ‘intact’ by the divine way Jesus left her body. I haven’t heard much else about this detail, but it’s troubling to me…any thoughts??

        1. I was told that her virginity was miraculously preserved, which is not “natural” in one sense, but that she did in fact give birth like other women. I also was told, however, that the opinion of the Church Fathers is that she did not suffer pain in childbearing, because that was the curse applied for Eve’s disobedience, but that original sin was not applied to Mary.

      2. “Actually the dogma doesn’t refer to Our Lady’s hymen, and it’s kind of creepy and weird when people insist on it.”

        The dogma refers both to Our Lady’s bodily integrity and to the fact that she never engaged in sexual intercourse. That is why we say that she was a virgin during and after Our Lord’s Nativity and not merely before; the ancients held that virginity was lost by giving birth in a natural manner. St. Thomas explains here: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4028.htm#article2

  15. Simcha – this is amazing and has needed to be said (and heard!) for a long time! Thank you for putting into one article. At the beginning you say, are we teaching them how?? And that to me has been one of my biggest issues with youth ministry in my area, even when I was being ministered to! Like, I got that I wasn’t supposed to have sex, but really, what happens when you go too far? How do you turn that car around?? Thank you for publishing this!

  16. Could parents perhaps also teach their girls that guys have a right to say no as well, and that when a guy says no, it doesn’t have to mean that he’s gay, asexual, or otherwise not attracted to the girl in question? Teenage boys, believe it or not, often make sexual decisions based in morality, guilt, and fear of consequences. Average teenage guys actually say no more than is commonly believed, and often do so when the girl is being sexually aggressive. Girls should be taught that they should back down when a guy says no and that they shoudln’t try to make him feel bad about it.

    1. Exactly!! Everything on this list applies to boys as much as girls. We do boys serious damage by assuming that they’re all mindless horndogs with no inner turmoil or issues of their own.

    2. I agree. I certainly had the idea in my head as a young woman that if I was with a guy, and chose to have sex, sex would happen. Nope! Maybe he doesn’t want to!

  17. I asked my 16-year-old son to read this, both to help him understand what girls might be struggling with and to give him a picture of what acting like a jerk is.
    He said it was good, and his favorite part was about how it’s never too late to say no. So. I think you helped him, and I wanted you to know. Thank you.

  18. This is a great list. Thank you.

    Just a word to the wise for those that have commented–please don’t use the term “mortal sin” while trying to convince your daughter that she is priceless and beloved by God. First degree murder is mortal sin. Being a hormonal idiot who is caught up in some lamentable love saga, makes you a hormonal idiot. Making bad choices while under the influence does not send you to the hell ovens.

    Calling it “serious sin” is more appropriate. You can only commit mortal sin when it is cold, calculated, and you aren’t under the influence.

    Good thing God decided to be a great, great grandson of a few (ahem) non conformists.

    It doesn’t mean that fornication is okay. Sin punishes the lawbreaker.

    1. Thank you for this!! I shared the article and my atheist sister wrote a long response about how horrific it is of us Catholics to compare sex outside of marriage to murder. You had a great response to clarify that point!

  19. I feel like as a mom I’ve got a big list of DO NOTs to share at the appropriate time. I’ve got Schroedinger’s rapist, Gift of Fear, boundaries, consent, enthusiastic consent, etc.

    The problem (which hopefully Simcha’s book(s) will help with) is that I fear that this is all going to be rather overwhelming without more DOs to put them in context and provide encouragement that it’s worthwhile going out in the world and taking risks and meeting and trusting people. I really liked the piece on male-female friendship for this.

  20. Wow, there is a lot of common sense here. Gotta admit, I didn’t think Mrs. Fisher was capable of sensibility. Glad she left out the bit about how title IX and unrestricted intersex relations creates a utopia where everyone is either chaste or fully consenting of every sexual act.

  21. This is all great, but there is something else I wish we told girls, that’s not about consent but about sex itself. Many women, myself included, have what’s called “responsive” sexual desire. I literally almost never feel “horny” out of the blue, but I quickly and easily become aroused if I start going at it with my husband or come across a sex scene in a book. I have been this way since my teens, but I didn’t learn about responsive desire until very recently (I’m in my late 30s). For so many years I worried there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have the “sex drive” that so many people seem to have, because I would never desire sex for no reason. People would say I was a prude, sexually repressed, had no sex drive, etc. I *knew* that wasn’t true. I did, in fact, become aroused easily by fairly innocent “making out,” or by simple touch, or by romantic scenes in books. But it just seemed different from how I was “supposed” to experience sexuality and I didn’t know how to articulate it. But as it turns out, my sex drive is *very* healthy and normal – it’s just responsive. Something like 70% of women have a more responsive sex drive, whereas most men don’t. Quite frankly, it makes me angry that I was made to feel like there is something wrong with me for so many years just because my normal sex drive isn’t like a typical man’s.

    So, what I think we should tell girls is that that if they *don’t* feel like they want sex all that much, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. It could be they are just kind of late to go through puberty, or it could be their sex drive is more responsive. So, they are probably not going to feel aroused unless they start doing something with their boyfriend or reading a sex scene. “Good Catholic girls” especially are often told they shouldn’t do these things, so if they’ve literally never gotten at all physical with a guy or read a steamy scene, they may worry there’s something wrong with them because they “don’t want sex,” when the reality is they simply never had the right stimulus.

    1. This is very important. We talk about women’s sex drives as if they’re the same as men’s, and (for the most part) they aren’t! But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong or broken with a woman if she doesn’t experience desire the way (most) men do.

  22. I think every Catholic teen should learn the full story about her cycle and fertility signs. There are adult women who went through secular sex ed and still came out ignorant about cervical fluid. I’ve heard several women say they didn’t know what that “gross stuff” was; they thought they had an infection! And if a girl notices in the morning that she has “egg white,” it may just put the fear of God in her later if her boyfriend starts making a move on her…

  23. Great post! Yes, it needs to be an ebook. I’d also add one more thing—Every child (yes, child) needs to know about the basics of sex and reproduction NO LATER than age 9. If you as parents don’t tell your kids, one of their friends will. As much as you’d like to shield them from this knowledge until they are a bit older, it is irresponsible for the following reasons (1) puberty for girls is getting earlier and earlier–often around age 10. I know two young sisters, one year apart in age, who were shocked when their periods came the same day (ages 10 and 11). They didn’t know what was going on. If your daughter isn’t having her period early, she probably knows somebody who is, and of course will want to know why–either from her parents or her peers. (2) a basic understanding of sex and reproduction protects kids from predators and/or exploration with their peers. (3) in our society, there are so many OTHER ways kids can and will find out. Sadly and unfortunately, if parents want their kids to learn from them, they have to have “the talk/s” sooner rather than later. Some parents THINK they can shield their kids until an older (and therefore) more appropriate age. They can’t.

  24. Excellent. You’ve saved me writing a post. Why some parents are content to send their kids out into the world armed with the bare minimum of a sex education is beyond me. It’s extra super duper important if you homeschool your kids! You can’t say “I want to be in charge of my child’s education!” and they neglect to tell him or her about sex. Nowadays, we’re the only people who can talk to our kids about sex, consent, relationships, etc. in the right way. So even if your kids are in school, you’re not off the hook. Man up people. Have the tough talks. Say the hard things and don’t be afraid because you might have screwed up in your past. So you’re a hypocrite – St. Paul killed Christians and St. Peter denied Christ and they still got to lead the Church. You can tell your kids the ins and outs of relationships and how they should go even if you had sex before marriage yourself. When girls get assaulted and don’t even know what is happening to them, parents have failed. We cannot let our own fears, regrets and skittishness cause us to make such mistakes.

  25. I started a CAF thread on this post:

    https://forums.catholic.com/t/simcha-on-what-catholic-girls-need-to-know-about-consent/469226/2

    There’s not much going on there, but here’s a point I made in my comments:

    “I’d add that it’s not that hard to apply standard rules of politeness to dating.

    “Let’s imagine you have a guest and you offer the guest wine or some food delicacy and the guest says no. It’s just not polite to keep offering and offering the same thing, even if it’s really good stuff and you know they’d love it if they just gave it a try. Or let’s say you have a fun outing idea and the person you want to take on your fun outing doesn’t seem in a big hurry to make arrangements with you and is making unenthusiastic noises and trying to change the subject. Maybe find somebody else to take on your fun outing who would appreciate it?

    “I’d also add that it’s dangerous to be romantically involved with somebody who doesn’t want the same sort of relationship you want, and it’s imprudent to think that you can make somebody who wants X want Y instead. If you want Y, find somebody who wants Y, too.”

  26. This gets us into SJW territory, but I also think that there’s a lot to learn from the secular concept of enthusiastic consent.

    Enthusiastic consent doesn’t even need to be a sex thing or a dating thing at all–it might just mean learning to pay attention to other people’s signals and not accidentally bully them into activities they are not interested in, be they romantic or non-romantic. With romantic things, it could mean taking no for an answer, paying attention to cues suggesting that the person is not eager or is not reciprocating or that they are pulling back. With non-romantic things, it could mean taking no for an answer. For example, you invite a friend to a thing and the friend says no and you pester them until they agree to come. Sexual or romantic consent is just a sub-department of personal boundaries, which also means that disrespect for non-sexual social boundaries can suggest the possibility of disrespect for sexual boundaries. (And this goes for both sexes.)

    Another thing that comes to mind is that young women ought to be active partners in planning outings and dates, particularly with people that they are less familiar with. Defaulting to “man leads” is a bad idea if you don’t know the man well yet. Likewise, I think parents ought to encourage kids of both sexes to have their own transportation when dealing with people they don’t know really well, including for non-romantic events, because it would be easy to wind up stranded or agreeing to an unsafe ride. (Thankfully, modern technology makes this a lot easier to deal with than it was in the 80s or 90s.)

    Ultimately, if a person within one’s circle of trust decides to violate trust, any of us is vulnerable, but a place in that circle of trust is something to be earned, not assumed, and people who demand trust are (unfortunately) often not safe people.

    Some bibliography:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gift_of_Fear (especially the PINS list)

    and

    https://captainawkward.com/ (That’s a very secular site, but she is the Queen of Boundaries and No.)

    1. Here’s a problem for traditional families:

      How are our daughters supposed to say no to boys (or our sons to girls) if they have very little practice of saying no to anybody? If we expect automatic acquiescence, where are they supposed to learn to say no?

  27. The age disparity thing is SOOO important. I think I read a statistic somewhere about a large majority of teen pregnancies are in relationships with a 5+ year age disparity between the older man and younger woman. An 18 year old who can’t find people his own age to date often will prey upon younger women, who see it as flattering and a reflection of star-crossed love.

    You also hear echoes of this with men who were preyed upon by the grown women who were their neighbors.

  28. a tangent- how can we parents encourage our girls to be safe (like- never take an open container of drink from anybody, take a taxi home if you feel weird or call me and I will pick you up no questions asked until maybe the next day) and ‘modest’ in terms of clothing (how about a tank top under that low-cut top, etc) – without being ‘victim-blaming’ or making her feel like it is up to her to keep boys/men in check? because she WILL be safer if she doesn’t walk alone at night or get black-out drunk… not that anyone has the right to assault you if you are drunk- thoughts?

    1. We’ve told my brother in college it’s a bad idea to get black out drunk too… because he might very easily get in a situation where someone accuses him of something and it looks bad because he was drunk. That one is just common sense.

      As for the rest…I dunno. That’s something I wonder about too.

      1. GiannaT said:

        “We’ve told my brother in college it’s a bad idea to get black out drunk too… because he might very easily get in a situation where someone accuses him of something and it looks bad because he was drunk. That one is just common sense.”

        Also, this kind of thing can happen:

        https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/13/us/penn-state-fraternity-hazing-death/index.html

        That guy was served 18 drinks in 82 minutes as part of a fraternity hazing, fell down some stairs, and was then left to die.

      2. Getting blackout drunk is a terrible idea for anyone at all ever. Hangovers are seriously miserable. I told my sons that getting drunk was like having a stomach virus that made you look like a idiot first. So far the advice has been heeded.

      3. My dad told me, when I left home for college, that it was fine to drink if I wanted to, but I should drink only among friends I trusted. Not at parties and not on dates. I followed the rule, got inadvertently drunk a few times, but I was with friends and nothing ever happened. Eventually I learned how much I can safely drink; I drink at parties but I’m careful never to get drunk. I think it was good advice.

    2. Modesty and safety information should come from people who are in the appropriate relationship with the young woman: mom, or parents together, or another close caretaking relationship.

      I see those talks as being about practicality and prudence in the face of human sin and a fallen world, and can be labeled as such when given. Along with the caveats: Your worth and dignity are sacrosanct and do not go away no matter what the circumstances.

      1. Corita said:

        “Modesty and safety information should come from people who are in the appropriate relationship with the young woman: mom, or parents together, or another close caretaking relationship.”

        I’m not so sure about safety (because expert opinion and local information has value there), but I agree 100% that random people should not be giving young girls modesty advice.

        It’s very natural, though, from the people who are buying her clothes and see her every day.

    3. I think it’s fine to say: “It is a guy’s responsibility not to be a jerk, to respect your boundaries, and your rights. If he violates your respect, boundaries, autonomy, etc., that’s on him, not you. But some guys are jerks(not all), and so it’s good to be prepared. Here are some strategies”

  29. This is excellent. I don’t have any daughters, but I’m going to save this for my son to read when he reaches the appropriate age.

  30. OH MY SWEET BABY HEDGEHOGS THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS.

    Please, please, PLEASE, make this kind of thing into a book. PLEASE. For the sake of all the confused, frighteningly naive girls and equally confused manipulative boys out there (I’ve been one, and known quite a few of the others). Catholics have GOT to stop equating ignorance with innocence.

    1. Mel said:

      “Please, please, PLEASE, make this kind of thing into a book.”

      Yes, please! Even an e-book.

      And it would be a good addition to a speaking repertoire.

    2. This is exactly what I wanted to tell you.
      Please write a book for teenage girls (and/or boys) on the issue.
      I am not even a Catholic, but girls, no matter what religious background they have, need to know this. And you are at the same time so firm, loving, and compassionate, that your advice might resonate with teenage girls even at an age when they are at their most pig-headed.

  31. This is excellent. I hope you do one for boys/young men as well. When I would visit the campus of a very highly regarded “Catholic” university, I heard the male students there espouse so many weird ideas about sex it made my head spin. One in particular sticks with me: “It’s better to have pre-marital sex with my girlfriend than for me to masturbate, because masturbation is a sin.” Um. What?

    1. I’ve heard that one before!!! As if there isn’t a *whole other person* they are causing to sin as well! SO sad and frustrating. So much faith formation is missing for someone who concludes that.

    2. Because, you see, sex is natural while masturbation is unnatural and intrinsically disordered. See how it works? I seem to remember, though, that Aquinas addressed this and said premarital sex was worse, because it’s two people sinning rather than one.

  32. Well written. Probably the most intelligent thing I’ve ever seen written about consent. BUT–this seriously needs to exist in book form. Publish it. Put me on the waiting list. Make it small–pocket-sized. Like a devotional, only, you know, not.

    And then, the boy’s version. But make it like the girl version. From her perspective, but with his pronouns. Because boy advice is condescending, and it really should be informative. Sort of a “This is what you’ve heard. This is what she’s heard. This is the reality.”

      1. That’s a very narrow opinion of the audience. There would be a market for this book, and a readership. A short book–like a gift book. Something special and discreet.

    1. From what I’ve seen the girl purity advice is WAY more condescending than the boy purity advice. Boy purity advice says, “I know you want sex with every fiber of your being; here’s why you should deny yourself.” Girl purity advice says, “You think you want sex but you don’t; you really just want love. If you think you want sex you’re just wrong and you don’t know any better so I’m going to tell you what you’re really thinking because I know better than you.”

      So I’m obviously ecstatic to see someone as widely-read as Simcha (read: more widely-read than me) acknowledge that women want sex, too, and that’s not a bad thing.

      1. This. They boy advice also implies that ALL they want is sex and that all women are good for is sex. I have never seen anything that tells boys that it’s okay to be friends with girls and it’s okay to want affection that isn’t sex. Girls aren’t aliens; they like sports or science fiction too, and guys can really enjoy baking and knitting. Hobbies don’t have sex chromosomes.

    2. This was good. But for a similar resource, ones that are truly excellent are Jason Evert’s and his wife Crystalina’s pamphlets (Pure Love and Pure Womanhood respectively) spelling out exactly this thing, in a way that makes alot of sense. They’re already available!

      1. Funny you mention them – they are exactly who I was thinking about when I mentioned the condescending purity advice in my comment above. I would not recommend them at ALL.

  33. Thank you. As I’ve been following your recent posts I’ve been hoping you would address it from the angle of how to prepare our children. As a mother of a daughter beginning her freshman year of college this fall (and 2 more coming in the next 4 years) the issue suddenly loomes large. Looking forward to the discussion and hoping we talk about preparing our sons, as well. Good stuff, Simcha. Thanks.

  34. I think you made an important typo (or confused a thought?) when you said: “it’s not somehow less-bad to commit two mortal sins instead of one.” I think you meant, “it’s not somehow less-bad to commit one mortal sin instead of two.” Except it is… It’s certainly better to commit 1 mortal sin than 100, but I get your point: mortal sin is never an acceptable choice, unless you want to cut yourself off from the friendship of God and be in a state of mortal sin so that if you die, you will burn in hell. One mortal sin is all that is needed to send your soul to hell, but doing more mortal sins definitely “heaps coals on your head” and does more harm to your soul and to others. On first read through that section I was confused about what you were telling the proverbial “Catholic girl” to do if she DOES have sex: to either use a condom (a second mortal sin) or not. I would make your point more clear. 🙂

    1. Tara Durrin said:

      “One mortal sin is all that is needed to send your soul to hell, but doing more mortal sins definitely “heaps coals on your head” and does more harm to your soul and to others. On first read through that section I was confused about what you were telling the proverbial “Catholic girl” to do if she DOES have sex: to either use a condom (a second mortal sin) or not. I would make your point more clear. 🙂”

      Using contraception during the marital act is immoral, but it’s debatable whether fornication + contraception is any worse than fornication. I think you can argue it either way (premeditation versus selfish disregard for the welfare of the other person).

      1. AmyP, you make an excellent point. I agree with 99% of what Simcha has written here, but I don’t agree that having extramarital sex with a condom is “two” sins.

        Contraceptive sex within marriage is a sin because it violates the unitive meaning of sex. Sex outside of marriage has already broken the unitive meaning; whether or not contraception is used doesn’t make things objectively better or worse.

        There is not a single document from the Catholic magisterium which states that people engaging in extramarital sex should avoid contraception.

    2. Her point is clear. There is no Catholic way to fornicate. Teaching girls that condoms make sex more evil puts them at risk. (Demonstrably!) Condoms render the marital act infertile. Are you honestly arguing that the marital act, outside of marriage, is more ok if it’s fertile?

      Simcha is not taking a position on better or worse. (Wisdom!!) She’s saying that condomless sex outside of marriage is not somehow more Catholic. It isn’t. There is no baptizing sins.

      1. “Are you honestly arguing that the marital act, outside of marriage, is more ok if it’s fertile?” No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. You are confusing two different sins. We are talking about two acts: 1) fornication (always grave evil), 2) using contraception. If you fornicate, it doesn’t matter how much you love each other or whether you are using NFP to only have sex during infertile times, or what have. You just cut yourself off from the friendship of God and will go to hell if you die in that state of mortal sin. 2) using contraception (another grave evil). If you use contraception, you commit mortal sin. If you do BOTH of these things, you do two mortal sins. Two mortal sins is worse than once. The more mortal sins you do, the more harm you bring to your soul and to others. Your soul is already going to hell if you fornicate and die in that state. But you can be punished more if you commit several mortal sins. You also *do more harm to others* by doing 50 mortal sins instead of 1. God is *more angry* over 50 mortal sins than 1. This doesn’t mean God is not very angry over 1. It means he is *more angry* over more. I hope that clears things up. 🙂

        1. Tara, your statement that contraception involves a mortal sin is a perfectly valid personal opinion, but the Catholic Church has never made such a statement.

          All of the Church’s statements regarding artificial contraception concern acts between a husband and wife. Not a single statement by popes or councils or the CDF has ever claimed that contraception is sinful for unmarried couples.

          Therefore, Catholics are perfectly free to believe that a condom makes extramarital sex less sinful, more sinful, or has no effect. The only thing that is nonnegotiable is that extramarital sex is always gravely sinful.

    3. I don’t know, I think how she put it can be helpful from a “sin is sin” perspective, rather than a quantitative mindset. One mortal sin separates you from God as much as two mortal sins do. Yes, someone who commits lots of mortal sins is in worse shape than someone who commits just one, but we shouldn’t always be so quantitative in our assessment of sin. On the flip side, someone who is technically not in a state of mortal sin but commits lots of serious venial sins of malice needs Confession almost as much as someone who commits a single mortal sin of weakness (rather than malice). Yes, technically Vicky Venial can go to communion and Mary Mortal cannot, but Vicky probably has a lot more work to do than Mary does.

      I really appreciated this particular paragraph. In undergrad one of my Youth Ministry classes got into a big argument about what to do when Johnny and Susie from youth group come to you privately and announce they’re in love and having sex. Nearly the whole class said you should encourage them to use contraception, while a very small handful said you can’t in good conscience encourage them to use contraception. The way Fisher puts it makes sense to me – framing it as there’s no “Catholic way” to sin answers the question of “but should we use condoms when we fornicate?”

      Telling people to not use condoms when they fornicate is missing the point, there is no Catholic way to fornicate. We don’t say “yes please at least contracept when you’re fornicating.” It’s better to educate teens about the different methods of contraception out there and WHY they’re immoral (and potentially very harmful). We’re not going to give teens any more ideas than they or the world already have.

      1. I kind of read it as ‘its a bad idea to fornicate, but if the guy says you can’t use a condom because y’all are Catholic, he’s being a hypocrite.’

        I dunno. That one’s a bit fuzzy too me, to be honest. Yet another reason to teach our daughters NFP maybe?

        1. In all seriousness, I think teen girls need to be taught NFP to gain some insight into why they want sex more at some times than others…more perspective can never be a bad thing.

          1. GiannaT said:

            “In all seriousness, I think teen girls need to be taught NFP to gain some insight into why they want sex more at some times than others…more perspective can never be a bad thing.”

            I think there’s some value in knowing that at certain times of the month you may be climbing up the walls, so that would be something to take into account when planning one’s weekend activities. Also, there’s value in knowing that if you just tough it out a couple days, it’s going to be easier soon.

          2. yes yes yes. knowledge is power and this makes the girls far more aware of when they are more likely to fall into or lead another into temptation. They need to be aware of their own bodies and desires! It will also help to keep them aware of what is true feeling and love and what is sex drive!

        2. GiannaT said:

          “I kind of read it as ‘its a bad idea to fornicate, but if the guy says you can’t use a condom because y’all are Catholic, he’s being a hypocrite.’”

          That’s pithy.

        3. If the guy wants to fornicate, he’s already a hypocrite! Intending to do a mortal sin is already a mortal sin. Fornicating is a mortal sin. Using contraception is also a mortal sin. There are 3 mortal sins involved in fornicating with a condom. The first one sends you to hell. The others heap more coals on your head and do more harm all around. :'(

      2. Hi Katelyn. You said, “Yes, technically Vicky Venial can go to communion and Mary Mortal cannot, but Vicky probably has a lot more work to do than Mary does.” This is a scary point of view. It’s not about whether you can go to communion. It’s about whether you can go to heaven. We are talking about eternal salvation or eternal damnation. Mary Mortal goes to hell and suffers agony forever. FOREVER. ETERNALLY. Vicky Venial is in a state of grace and when she dies she will go to purgatory and then be in heaven forever with her Lord. There is no equating “lots of venial sins” with a sin which, by choosing to do it, you end your friendship with God. Please be careful.

  35. Totally spot on and exactly what I needed to know when I was a girl. The one thing I’d add is that having sex with a boy/man is not the path to a committed relationship. Thank you so much.

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