Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Yes Means Yes: Comments, Etc.

So I've actually finished reading Yes Means Yes now. There'll be some more reaction-posts coming, but there are some comments that have been made that warrant a further reaction. If you want this post to make the maximum amount of sense you should probably go back and read the initial post on YMY and then the follow-up post where I discussed some of the questions/comments a friend had left on the first post. Please note that I am pulling comments from both threads; if you're wondering why nothing of Eric's comment on the first post is here, it's because the second post was intended to address that. I'm going to save some of Eric, Nick and CJ's commentary especially for another post, because I think their comments were helpful to me in probing what this "modern notion of consent" is that we dislike, as opposed to the general notion of consent that I would argue should be agreed upon by Christians. Still to come on the YMY front: I'm going to attempt to respond to a particular essay in the book that has yet to be mentioned on this blog. I'm also going to attempt a post about "modern notions of consent" that seem so controversial. If I have the energy and the development on this front I might also attempt some post about what a Christian model of sexuality might actually be, because I'm not satisfied with the feminists' model, as a Catholic, at least not the Yes Means Yes crowd's model. Commenters will be addressed in alphabetical order.

Commenters' words will be in bold.
My responses will be in normal text.


Stuff CJ said:

Dan, good reasons why women shouldn't initiate? If that's the way the cookie crumbles in the relationship, far be it from me to limit the way God's love works in people; however, while most of these radical feminists will probably scoff at my suggesting this, I have rarely met a woman who doesn't wish for the initiate from a real man (I think you know how I mean this) and not just these p[r?]etty boys we find in today's society. Physical archetypes would be the reason I would cite, but many people find the interpretation of physical realities woefully close-minded (though still living by the die-hard line of scientific method and empiricism).

Either by socialization or by biology, there's bound to be truth to what you're saying. Not sure if it's quite as scientific and empirical as you claim. The main trap I now consider it part of my project to avoid is considering female sexual desire as lower than male. (I don't think you're doing that.) Note that I don't necessarily consider either desire to be really, really important, but that I am simply saying they seem to be equal in importance if the persons are equal in dignity.

Plus, I'm still not sure how to apply such a concept in modern times.

I think you lost me a little. Which concept don't you know how to apply?

Yes, I know Dan, I really need to proof these things before I post them.

Yes. Yes you do.

Stuff Eric said:

Marriage does necessarrily include the physical. If two people "marry" with no desire to have sex (or to do so without children) they are entering into something of a sham marriage.

I do agree with you on this point (and, I should note, not just you but the Church) but I feel like we need to discuss this in such a way so as to leave room for, well, not calling the marriage of Mary and Joseph a sham. (For any non-Catholics who might be reading this, this is an issue that Catholics such as Eric and I have to deal with that you might not, because Catholic Tradition insists that Mary and Joseph's marriage had no physical intercourse.

What I said is that the physical union of the spouses is not the ultimate end, or the high point, of marriage, no matter how many spiritual analogies modern Catholic sex educators use.

Agreement. But then what is its ultimate end? I'm not tied down to one answer to that question.

Regardless of whether or not you happen to like the language of debt, it's clear that sex in Christian marriage is not necessarrily consentual in the modern sense, even if it should not for that reason be forced (though it does not mean one can use force or coercion, it is in fact a serious sin to deny one's spouse).

I agree that it's not consensual in the modern sense, but I should expand on that later. Regarding "serious sin:" Do you mean that anytime one's spouse asks, it would be a sin to deny? Or do you mean it would be a sin to deny for a significant period of time, unless one was doing so for some purpose considered legitimate? The Pauline passage--on my admittedly naive and un-scholarly reading--doesn't seem to force a reading that every request must be met on pain of sin. It seems, prima facie, at least as reasonable to read it simply as the admonition that all marriages have a healthy sex life. Nonetheless the Pauline passage does point to an irreconcilable difference between Christian views and the modern views of sexuality, which I'll get to in a later post.

Cho's scenario does not make sense in the context of marriage, because a spouse giving in to the other even though he/she doesn't really want it is not necessarrily a bad thing in marriage, whereas it is in the logic of modern sexuality. I don't say of course that it's an ideal in marriage, but it is something of a duty as far as I understand it.

Yes. I'll try and give some more nuanced thoughts on the subject later. I do think--and I don't know if I said this in my first post--but I do still think it's worthwhile for Christianity to speak to situations that aren't marital, if only to see if--as a temporary measure, not as a solution--we can help move them further from being screwed up. Many of the reasons Cho gives in her testimony for having said yes were pretty awful reasons, and might have been even worse in the context of marriage.

I don't think it helps anything to praise consentual fornication, simply because it does not pile on other sins.

I'll take progress where I can get it. I don't intend, however, to praise it as if progress automatically meant a lack of sin. In this case, 'those other sins' refers to one of the few things condemned by the Church as being never, ever, okay. I don't praise consensual fornication. But it's closer to Truth than rape.

In fact, it may in some way be worse because it stabilizes the sin. Someone who is able to maintain a reasonably stable sex life because they've embraced the rules of consent may be much further from seeing how damndable the whole situation is. In fact, it may in some way be worse because it stabilizes the sin. [...] It seems to me that people in this situation are only questionably better off morally, and in terms of the possibility of conversion may be much further off.

I do share your concern. In some ways it reminds me of Lewis's caution in The Four Loves that sometimes love is most dangerous when it most approximates the love of God, and yet is not that love. Certainly there is the danger that in trying to reach into an incredibly sinful situation we might accidentally simply decrease the sin and make the lesser amount of sin seem more acceptable than it is.

That said, I would prefer the situation of consent to the situation of rape because the latter seems not only worse in degree but also in kind--there is a perversion there of sinning not just against one's own body but also against the body of another, in a way not present in simple fornication. The question that must be immediately answered, for me, is not which situation we prefer--it is what we say and where we stand when someone says "no" to the proposition of sex--or even when they answer in a nonverbal "no."

I did not say feminism created this problem on its own, but that it helps to create the grey areas that make it possible. Obviously the wickedness of man's heart is reason enough for any sin, but we now have a social space in which this sin can be normalized and even embraced as a "lifestyle."

Eliminating those social spaces is tricky. I'm not sure any one culture has ever done it.

I don't necessarrily reject every possible idea which has ever been called "feminism" [...] by some liberal definitions of the word, I am a muslim. [...] I see no reason to constantly redefine the term in such a way that it becomes completely disconnected from the historical movement which gave it its name.

Hence my irritation with modern redefinitions of fundamentalist to include anyone who takes religion seriously.

I'm quite certain that we don't agree completely about what being "just Catholic" means, but I'm also quite certain that we don't disagree in any way so big as to make us opponents in any fundamental sense.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I take a slightly more minimal approach. But it is good to remember that we are together on the fundamentals.

Stuff Nick said:

From the "traditionalist" standpoint (hehe), there is a reason why Popes over the last few centuries have (repeatedly) spoken out against the idea of the State taking over Marriage (in order to confine it to the secular realm). The problem is that it strips Marriage of it's Sacramental character and thus cuts off it's ultimate ends, which are supernatural (Mat 22:30).


A secular marriage becomes ordered towards what currently benefits society, with it's ends limited only to the present - which is likewise "guided" by the ever changing wind of "popular opinion."

This would seem to flow logically.

But it seems like some of the societal ends do still matter, or at least, that the stability is--even if it is only an "in the meantime" solution--better than instability.

This is one of the core reasons why separation of Church and State is impossible for the Christian, and without this foundation any dialogue with "others" (e.g. feminists, Protestants, "Republican Party Catholics") is ultimately futile. Without that foundation, you're conceding 'home field advantage' to the lost, confused, or even downright evil 'opponent' - and at that point it's an up-hill and no-win game for you.

I am not at all married to our Constitution; I should much rather see a state reordered to human dignity and the law of God. However, it seems rather pessimistic to assume it is simply "an up-hill and no-win game" to venture out of one's "home field." Certainly it makes things more difficult, but I think the consistency of Catholic moral philosophy can serve as a witness even when we're not in the home-field, if we really say not only that "I agree with you about XYZ," but also "You're wrong about ABC, because really, this is the way things should be." (ABC doesn't mean artificial birth control here, but it could!) Of course, for this witness to really work, we've got to be living as a people with hope in the Resurrection, and living the philosophy we preach.

When the ultimate end is to assist their partner in attaining Heaven, things such as rape, grey area, even consent, 'drop out' of the equation because they inherently oppose that ultimate end. The modern notion of 'consent' is inherently wrong because it is not formed by Charity (Love), because it is based on selfishly consenting only when the person consenting sees them self in a position to gain ("take") and not as an unselfish fulfillment of duty. Consent formed by Charity is only possible in the Sacramental context, but at that point it resembles nothing of what the secular reader can make sense of.

There is truth to many of the nuances Dan is speaking of, but they need to be re-framed into the Christian framework and not left 'hanging' as if applicable to the secular view of marriage.

Yes. At the same time, being able to speak Catholic truth into situations that aren't immediately Catholic, and in a way which encourages conversion, would be a useful endeavor if we can manage it.

Stuff Shawn said:

As the only female commentor as of this moment, I will say that intimacy (which, from my angle, is the point of relationship in general, and marriage specifically) is certainly not limited to sex/intercourse (nor is intercourse a requirement for intimacy). Arrogance and entitlement are intimacy killers. Consent and desire will both be augmented by a move toward intimacy, which is fed by respect, self-sacrifice, and having your beloved's back...emotionally/physically/spiritually.

You, being a non-Catholic, are in an intellectual sense freer than I am to take union as being the end of marriage. I, being Catholic, am free to take it as being an end of marriage. I do however think intimacy is bad phraseology for anything that is supposed to be "the point" of marriage specifically. I assume when you say intimacy you mean intimacy that is found in a sense of marital union--otherwise, if you just wanted intimacy, why wouldn't you just go monastic? A faith community is plenty intimate. Something about marital intimacy must be different. So if you meant to say that intimacy itself was the point of marriage specifically, I would have to say I think you're wrong on that point.

From where I'm sitting, many of the less savory components of "feminism" are essentially self-defense or at worst reactionary.

To be honest, most of the things I dislike most aren't even the reactionary things, they're the things that comes from a worldview that's very much outside of Christianity.

The sad part is that women felt the only way to be as valuable as a man was to be like a man. This should make us all sad..."femininity" was sacrificed on the alter of not being second class. Tragic.

To a degree, I agree. I don't think most women have actually made that switch in its entirety (or if they have, our culture is doing a poor job of showing us this shift.)

Feminism has had some unfortunate fall out, but it was necessitated by oppression (generally at the hands of men, often those who used religion and "headship" as a cheap crutch).

From where I'm standing, with my admittedly naive readings of Paul, it looks like headship exists, and that it does seem to be the husband's. That seems to be a reality that we've all got to deal with if we're seeking to be historically Biblical Christians. The question is what it means. I lean more complementarian on that than you do, but I have no fully formed opinion on it except that it definitely includes a strong sacrificial component.

To sum up my thoughts, I'm tickled pink (yes, it's a girlie color, and I LIKE it!) to hear men (primarily, so far) having this conversation. It gives me hope for a better future, where we all embrace the unique ways we were designed.

I suppose my big question would be whether a belief in uniqueness of the sexes puts any serious limitation on straight-up egalitarianism.

In general, some of the assertions you made in comments about abortion and dogma are not necessarily Catholic positions; I feel that at least for the present conversation I've addressed those sufficiently here.

1 comment:

EricBrooks said...

Since you asked, here's St Thomas on when the "marriage debt" does and does not apply as an obligation:

Obviously some of the science here (e.g. deformed children conceived during menstruation) is not correct, but the general thinking on when this does and does not apply is helpful.

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