And that’s exactly why I wrote my book.

Okay, so I’ve been trying not to grouse publicly about it every time someone says boo to me. This is not that!

I came across a review that thought the first two third of my book (“NFP and your spiritual life” and “NFP and the rest of the world”) were good, but he really didn’t like the third part (“NFP in the trenches”).  He’s an NFP teacher, and thinks that maybe we need to talk about intimate things, but only in an intimate setting:  literally, person to person. His review got a comment:

I, too, have taught & used NFP for a long, long time and see or been told all sorts of things. In short, this is difficult ground to cover and perhaps this book has sold out too much to the sexual comfort levels of our current culture.

And I says to myself, I says, Well, that’s exactly why I wrote my book.  This person teaches NFP, and she thinks that sex should be uncomfortable. For way too many people, that is the message they’re getting about sexuality and their faith: don’t get comfortable! Don’t be honest. And God forbid you should be a product of “our current culture.”

But what if you are a product of our current culture? What are you supposed to do? When people are already wounded, it’s not very helpful to say, “What a shame there are wounds.” We need someone to lift the bandage.

Listen, I know this book is not for everybody. I may have a monstrous ego, but I never imagined I was writing The Definitive Compendium of Ideas that are Perfectly Suited for All Conceivable Audiences.  I know there are plenty of people who don’t want or don’t need to get really specific or frank about sexual matters. The cover was supposed to serve as a warning: Attention, squeamish people! Nakedness inside! If the cover freaks you out, you should probably pass on what’s inside.

But there are an awful lot of people who are hearing nothing but, “Sex is beautiful. Sex is meaningful. Sex is profound” and they want to believe it and they want to live it, but they are having a hard time figuring out how it applies to their actual specific naked bodies.  Many people read about covenants and veils and sacredness, and end up thinking either (a) this doesn’t apply to me. There must be something wrong with me or (b) this doesn’t apply to me. There must be something wrong with the Church.

So, that third section of my book, where I get pretty specific? It’s not supposed to answer all your questions about sex. It’s to help you and your spouse ask and answer those questions together — and to let you know that it’s okay to talk about these things. Yeah, I can live with that kind of “selling out.”

*****

(DISCLAIMER: I didn’t link to the review, because I’m not trying to heap shame on anyone’s head, or encourage any kind of comment duel. I love getting reviews, good or bad, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t criticize me! I just thought the remarks I quoted were especially telling, and highlighted something important.)

Sex is about lovers, not about sex

People need to hear this more.  Will Duquette (are you reading Will Duquette?  You should be!) says

It is true that the first stages of Eros are like shooting the rapids on a river: exciting and scary, and great fun, especially if you’re an adrenalin junky. But mature Eros is that like that same river, downstream: wide and deep, flowing strongly, deeply peaceful but in no way static or stagnant.

Oh, yes: and sometimes there’s sex involved, and it gets better over time, especially when you get over the need for thrills. No, really. The sex is supposed to be about the two of you, not about the sex, and it’s difficult to get there if you’re focussed on the thrills.

Read the rest (it’s short!).  Lots to ponder here.

 

Great stuff from Steve Gershom

Humans don’t make sense without gender.

When I tell people I don’t believe that homosexual acts are right, I don’t mean two men shouldn’t have sex; I mean they can’t.

See what he means.

Young Catholic women: what do you want to know about sex and the spiritual life?

I’ve very graciously been invited to lead a Theology on Tap discussion this Tuesday in Keene, NH.  Here’s the event description:

Think “Fifty Shades of Grey” is shocking? We’ll see your fifty and raise you 5 years and 129 talks–that’s what it took for Blessed John Paul II to outline his “Theology of the Body”, in which he explained the relationship between sex and spirituality. We’re so often taught in church that sex is a black-and-white, “do it” or “don’t do it” issue, but Theology of the Body teaches that there are so many shades of grey–we have to ask “why?” and “to what end?”, not just “can I?”
Join us as we split the ladies …and gents for separate discussions about Theology of the Body, sex, spirituality, and the practical application of the connection between the two!
The ladies’ conversation, led by author and blogger Simcha Fisher, will cover the basic ideas of ToB and how it impacts our relationships with men and our own bodies. Meet at Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant on Main Street!
The gents’ conversation will be led by Deacon Arnold Gustafson and will meet at Ramunto’s Pizzeria, also on Main Street!
Both groups will meet in private rooms at the venues so as to assure privacy when talking about this delicate topic.  See you there!
Local women, I would absolutely love to see you there!  Whether you can make it or not, I need your help.
What questions do you have?  What topics would you like to see addressed?  There is SO much here, and it’s just one night, so I’d like to focus the discussion on things that people really want to hear about.

Shame on you for not reading me

. . . says Steve Gershom, in a nice acknowledgement for the interview we did a couple of weeks ago.  Steve expands a little on his favorite parts, and remarks rather poignantly,

As a celibate gay man, I seem to spend half my time telling secular people that I’m just the same as other men, and telling Christians that I’m extremely different from other men. The truth is in the mean, I guess, but sometimes to make the stick straight (heh) you have to bend it too far in the other direction.

If you’re not reading Steve Gershom, you’re missing a lot of candor and insight, plus a good amount of heh.

If you missed our interview about the ex-gay movement and what we are really talking about when we talk about trying to change our orientation, here is part 1 and here is part 2.

Ex-Gay? Is That Even a Thing? An Interview with Steve Gershom (part one)

On June 19, the ex-gay ministry Exodus International issued an apology for the harm it has done to LGBT people. The organization is now shutting down.Many secular organizations who embrace homosexuality as healthy are overjoyed to see Exodus go; but many Christian organizations — even those who see homosexual attraction as disordered — are also glad. Aaron Taylor of First Things, for instance, says that Exodus’ views and methods show that their idea of heterosexuality is just as disordered as homosexuality.

Steve Gershom is a Catholic blogger who has same-sex attraction and who lives a chaste, celibate life. In a Catholic Exchange article called The Truth About Same Sex Attraction, he recommended Growth Into Manhood by Alan Medinger, the CEO of Exodus International.

I called Gershom (a pen name) to ask about his experience with the ex-gay movement, and to ask whether it’s possible, or even desirable, for someone with same-sex attraction to become heterosexual.

Here is the first half of our interview. I’ll post the second half tomorrow. Gershom has also written a four-part post about orientation change on his blog.

——-

In the past, you recommend Medinger’s book, a retreat sponsored by Exodus, and other resources which imply that you think that it’s at least possible for someone to change their sexual orientation. Do you still believe that? Or are there some problems with trying to do that?

Gay man, especially a gay Christian man, can focus really strongly on the question of orientation change, especially since the culture is really focused on getting married. And if you don’t achieve that, it’s hard to not feel like you’ve failed. Some people spend decades and thousand of dollars doing everything they can for reorientation therapy, and the kind of progress they make is slow and maybe ambiguous, maybe frustrating.

So many think they’ve succeeded, or even trick themselves into thinking they have — and then you hear about them later, and they’re with some guy. I do know several gay guys who are married to women and are making it work, but I don’t think they would claim they’re 100% straight. I’ve never heard any convincing anecdote about someone who’s completely changed.

But you think that some degree of change at least might be possible, or worthwhile?

I do think some degree of change is possible. I think that partly because of anecdotes. You can find anecdotes to support both directions.

But my own experience is that some degree of change is possible, by which I mean I’m less attracted to men then I used to be. The nature of the attraction is much less compulsive and much less urgent, much less troublesome then it has ever been. So that in itself may or may not be evidence of what someone might call “change,” regardless of whether you think of homosexuality as a pathology. Pathologies do exist in gay men. And in me.

What kind of pathologies?

Things like tendency toward codependency in relationships, and an intense experience of not belonging to the normal group of men. I think whatever your theories of the genesis of homosexuality, the point is that these kind of insecurities and mental anguishes among a lot of gay men fuels a lot of sexual promiscuity.

So, when you talk about reparative therapy, you can call it orientation change, or just call it developing a more integrated sexuality. You know? I don’t feel like I need to find a truck stop in the middle of the night! There’s all the difference in the world between a gay guy who’s cruising, and a gay guy who actually is just looking to find a nice guy. The second one has a more integrated sexuality, not a life-shattering sexuality.

So, are you saying there’s such a thing as a totally integrated homosexual sexuality?

No. There is no such thing as an integrated homosexual sexuality. I know a lot of Catholics and Christians would disagree with me. I understand that you don’t want to say that someone is to blame for feeling one way or another. And many people are coming out of a place of self-hatred, out of feeling contempt from the world. It’s really hard. But there are two propositions that you can’t hold at the same time: that homosexual acts are disordered, and that the desire for homosexual acts is not disordered.

But you say you are less attracted to men than you used to be.

Yes, and I am somewhat attracted to women, which I would not have said 2, 5, 10 years ago. That’s all something I don’t even know what to make of. I don’t talk about it a lot because I’m open to the charge of self-deception.

Does that mean you’re less gay now? What would that mean?

One thing we should talk about is the word “queer,” that many people use. Being queer is less about who you want to sleep with, and more about what is considered normal behavior for someone of your gender: attitudes, traits, characteristics. And so a lot of people who might say there is such thing as an integrated Christian homosexuality would say it has to do with being “queer,” which is to say you have a need for more emotional connection in the world of men, or more introspection or sensitivity. Those things that gay guys are famous for, right? There are men for whom those things are more natural; they have gifts and talents. But I would also say those things don’t have anything intrinsically to do with wanting to sleep with other men.

I read this book Images of Hope, by William Lynch (who wrote Christ and Apollo). It’s not specifically about homosexuality. He talks about the mentally ill. He talks about the tendency to treat mentally ill people as if they’re something outside of the human . . . because then we don’t have to sympathize with them, or admit that it’s possible that what’s happening to them could happen to us. I think homosexuality is perfect example of that. Lynch says as much. The experience gay men and women have is on the continuum of most people’s experience. I only learned this talking to straight guys about homosexuality.

It sounds like a really liberal thing to say, that homo- and heterosexuality are part of the same spectrum. But people are just trying to sort out what other people are to them, and who they are to themselves.

Yup, that sounds familiar!

Yeah. This is a phrase I keep coming back to, because it’s so expressive: Melinda Selmys’ phase “sexual authenticity.” She’s a lesbian Catholic married woman who still considers herself lesbian or queer or something. She said part of being gay is not just who you’re attracted to; it has to do with involuntary strands of homoeroticism through out your whole personality.

So there’s two reasons you could have hostility toward the “ex-gay” movement: one is believing you just have to fix this one bit, and everything will be okay. The second is actually believing you do have to fix the whole thing, and that your personality has to be completely redone.

It’s like, the fact that I’d be interested at all in having sex with a man is not some strange, isolated quirk. You can’t have someone who’s just like a straight guy in every other way except that he wants to be having sex with a man. Everyone who knows anything about people knows that doesn’t make sense! Anyone who thinks that really is damaging people.

Who you’re sexually attracted to affects how you relate to both genders on an everyday basis. Or the other way around: how you relate to people affects who you’re attracted to.

——-

[This ends the first half of my interview with Steve Gershom. I will post the second half tomorrow. Steve has also written a four-part post about orientation change on his own blog, SteveGershom.com.)