Friday, April 09, 2010

If you're not ready for a baby, then you're not ready for sex

Food after Mass this Sunday. We’ll have pizza in the Parish Hall after the 7:30 student Mass at St Stephen’s.
On Tuesday night, we began our new series of discussions, “Real World: Catholics”. In this new series, I throw out real world situations or issues that we face as Catholics for people to comment on or ask questions. For both of the discussion groups, I presented two situations: 1) the current crisis involving the Church and sex abuse, and 2) couples who prepare for marriage in the Church while cohabitating.

In the first situation, both groups discussed the Church’s role in addressing sex abuse properly, but focused much attention on the less than admirable intentions of the media. Many of them showed awareness of how the media is going after the Church because of its contempt for the Church. I pointed out that the Church is regularly crucified for the same reason Christ was crucified: speaking the Truth and telling people how to live. One of the coolest lines of the night was from a student who told us what he said to his roommate when asked his opinion of the Holy Father: “You mean, the great-great-great-great-great (etc.) successor of St. Peter…he is awesome!”

In the second situation, the groups went on different tangents. The first group focused on the impact that cohabitation before marriage has on the fruitfulness marriage as well as those close to them who know they are cohabitating. The second group immediately went into a discussion on fornication; fornication is the main reason that cohabitation is wrong and dangerous to the fruitfulness of a marriage.

Both discussions were very good and I look forward to continuing the series as we tackle concrete situations for GW Catholics to discuss. The discussion involving fornication, though, was especially profound. Every member of the group spoke honestly about his or her struggle in living chastity in relationships. One member made the point that very well might represent the thoughts of everyone in the group: “I understand the teaching, but how do I live it?” Wow, what a question. I initially answered by saying that discussion groups have been formed to answer that question alone and that we could spend a whole series tackling that.

One of my answers which seemed to help the students involved an analogy to athletics. There are some athletes in the group, so they could relate. I asked them how they have trained for games, matches, competitions. They went through their full routine which included saying no to some pleasures involving food, drink, etc. They said that they stayed away from things they knew would be harmful to their preparation for the athletic event. I asked them how they did it. They answered by saying that they remained focused on the game. They weren’t just focusing on avoiding something bad (e.g., drinking), they were focused on a good (the game). I said it’s the same with sex and marriage; they should be focused on the goal (marriage) and not just on saying no to something bad (premarital sex). They made this connection and it seemed to be helpful. What was most helpful to them was to see other times in their lives which they were able to see how they remained disciplined. I threw in a line from St Paul which sealed the analogy: “Athletes deny themselves all sorts of things”.

Finally, the biggest moment of the night. As we kept discussing the struggle to live chastity in their current or future relationships, I asked them this question: “If there was no such thing as contraception, would it change anything (relating to pre-marital sex)?” As soon as I finished the question, they all said emphatically, “YES!”

That was the most telling moment in any of our discussions this year. I hope it was as telling to them as it was to me (telling not just about their attitude but about people's attitude in general). My basic answer was that if they aren’t ready for that (a baby), they aren’t ready for this (sex). My follow-up point next week will be that if there is no contraception (in their or their peers' relationships), then they probably won't have sex.


Anonymous said...

One risk of premarital sex that no form of contraception can prevent:

Oxytocin is a hormone released in the brain of men and women during intimacy and, for women, during labor and breastfeeding. Oxytocin is important in social recognition and bonding (why animals in the wild may mate for life, helps mother/child bonds), and may have a role in the formation of trust bonds.

When people have sex outside of marriage, they form strong bonds that will eventually be broken. But, the brain is accustomed to being flooded with oxytocin and dopamine (the pleasure hormone also released) and begins to crave it. It’s a lot like a drug addiction, needing to be fed. It sets up a cycle- needing the hormones, having sexual relations, creating bonds that will be broken, experiencing withdrawal, having more sex…

Add to the mix that the brain isn’t completely developed until the mid-twenties and impulse control is even more out of whack when the group, young-20’s and under, engage in sexual activity.

So, when two people engage in sexual behavior the chemicals released help form strong emotional bonds. In a marriage, this is a good thing; outside of it, it is traumatic. It reinforces the Bible's teaching that sex is not a meaningless activity, but a gift intended for the intimate bonding of a married couple. Within marriage, sex bonds. Outside of marriage, sex puts one’s brain on a hormonal rollercoaster.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. Do you have a reference?

Anonymous said...

There are an abundance of articles about research on the neurochemistry of sex. I learned a little from a doctor I know who specializes in addiction. He told compared the rush of dopamine in the brain during the highest levels of sexual activity to the brain being flooded with heroine.