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Let’s Not Talk About Sex, Please.

Anthony Auston

Michael W. Hannon - published on 08/19/14 - updated on 06/07/17

At least not so much, because there's more to life.

This past March, I wrote a feature essay for First Things called “Against Heterosexuality.” Today, I published a follow-up Web Exclusive entitled “Against Obsessive Sexuality.” Those will be the last two pieces I write on that subject for a very long time.

In part, this is because I’m entering religious life at the end of this month and won’t be writing much of anything for the next several years. (Please pray for me.) But I also have a more principled reason to sign off before I ship off. I have come to believe that spending all of our time talking about these venereal issues does more to compound the problem than to solve it.

The sexual chaos in our culture is real and tragic. But it’s more an effect than a cause. The root problem is not so much sex as it is the lack of anything but sex. By failing to present people with higher goods more worthy of their love and attention, we keep the sex-as-summum-bonum lie securely embedded in their minds, which will continue to damn nearly every attempt we make to set them straight on the particulars.

This inordinate obsession leads people today to expect more from sex than it can ever possibly provide, which in turn gives rise to the wide array of dysfunction we see in this realm all around us, from Facebook’s 50 genders to Newsweek’s 500,000 polyamorous couples. “I notice things about my personality that aren’t straightforwardly entailed by maleness even though I have male genitalia.” Why yes, yes you do, because there’s a lot more to who you are than just your sex. “Having a single sexual partner doesn’t bring comprehensive fulfillment to my life.” Why no, no it doesn’t, because there’s a lot more to the good life than just sex.

Sometimes we do have to address the most harmful effects of our culture’s confusion, and that means tackling some of the sexual questions some of the time. I’m not saying we should swear off reflections on sex completely. But if we insist on doing nothing but sexual damage control – not just on our blogs but in our lives – then we’re never going to resolve the larger problem, and the damage will continue to get worse and worse. If we don’t offer people something nobler than sex to apply themselves to, then the flames of lust will continue to spread faster than we can possibly put them out. Besides, relative to friendship or distributive justice or Holy Orders or angels or Our Lady or the beatific vision, sex just isn’t that interesting a topic, and it has already been worked to death in conservative think pieces. It’s time to move on.

What we need is an ordered understanding of the human good, which doesn’t degrade sex but which relegates it to its proper place. We need to devote our lives to better things, and ultimately to the Best Thing. Until people experience godlier goods, sex is going to remain their false god, and no amount of argumentation is going to convince them to compromise on that. On the contrary, our perpetuating the sex argument 24/7 is just going to keep them absorbed in their false worship, even if what we’re saying happens to be true.

So let’s live for more, and write for more, and maybe people will start to notice the hope that is in us. Only then, by teaching our brethren about higher things, will we finally be able to sort out the disorder in the lower ones.

Michael W. Hannonis Managing Editor of the Thomistic Institute, NYC and has written often for First Things, Public Discourse and Ethika Politika. He is entering postulancy in the Norbertine Community at St. Michael’s Abbey, CO on August 27. 

This article originally appeared on Ethika Politika and is reprinted with the kind permission of Ethika Politika. All rights reserved.

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