What is Sexy?

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Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus (Photo credit: rwoan)

I admit I was curious about Miley Cyrus‘ performance at the MTV Awards, so I watched the video. To me, that was the least sexy event I have seen on television. Unlike other animals, human beings surround sexuality with an aura of mystery and wonder–that seems to be a part of human nature. In the past, before premarital sex became common, the lure of the wedding night was eagerly anticipated by engaged couples. The contemporary world has removed the mystery from sex and therefore removed the sexiness from sex. I have never been impressed by the obviousness of the sexual movements by Madonna, by Lady Gaga, by Miley Cyrus, or by many performers in rap videos.

Can anyone watch the movie Casablanca without feeling romantic? Did it need an explicit sex scene to make it “sexy” enough. To me, Casablanca is one of the sexiest movies out there. In the movies of the 1930s up to the early 1960s, there was a great deal under the surface–sexual innuendo that only adults could understand. The kiss anticipates what the viewer knows will come, but does not see. Mystery leaves room for the viewer’s imagination. If I watch a 1950s-era movie that leads to the kiss sealing the love between a man and a woman, that kiss is incredibly sexy. Oftentimes in these old films, the expectation is that the lovers will marry, initiating them into the mysteries of sexuality and the greater mystery of bringing new life into the world and in adjusting and loving another person in such an intimate way. Today sex is reduced to technique, to selfish desire for one’s own pleasure, to wanting a “good performance” from one’s partner without any love at all. Human beings are reduced to mechanisms, machines who perform the sexual task as efficiently as a well-run corporation.

Miley Cyrus and her ilk mark the end stage of a process that began long ago as marriage disintegrated as an institution and the hook-up culture came into play. Ms. Cyrus probably has no idea how stomach-turning her performance is to people who have not lost the ability to blush.

Keep sex a thing of wonder, a unique and intimate expression of love. Do not buy into the cheapness unrestrained performances bring to sexuality. We are more than machines. We are more than animals who operates sexually by instinct. We are human beings with complex feelings that surround the sexual act. It is time we stopped stripping (literally, it seems) the mystery from sex, to stop making sex unsexy.

Should We Act on All Biologically Based Urges?

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Lovers In The Shadow

Image by Aesum via Flickr

Advocates of practices as diverse as wife swapping and homosexual relationships have made the argument that because they were born with certain biologically-based urges, it is morally acceptable, even morally laudatory, to act on those urges. For example, some homosexual advocates argue that if homosexual orientation is biologically based, then homosexuals cannot be morally blamed for acting sexually upon that orientation.

Let me present a similar argument. Heterosexual men are biologically programmed to spread their sperm to as many available women as possible. Men, from a biological point of view, are not monogamous but polygamous. Therefore, men should act on their sexual urges and have sex with as many available women that they can seduce. This is true for unattached single men, attached single men, engaged men, and married men. All should act on their biological urges.

Although as a man with normal male drives, the prospect in that previous paragraph is tempting, the problem is that following my urges would be destructive to myself and to others. The same is true of other men. They have a moral responsibility to be sexually responsible and not act on their biologically-based urges, no matter how powerful they might be. In order to rear children in a stable environment, male biological urges must be controlled and channeled in a monogamous relationship. The man may want sexual relations more than the woman; this is natural, but hopefully the couple can compromise and find a mean between extremes. As for total refusal of marital rights–that is considered legitimate grounds for annulment even in the Roman Catholic Church.

Why do humans have biological urges that are not morally right to indulge. Some Christians believe that one aspect of human sinfulness is a reversion to basic animal instincts, which then must be mollified for the purpose of creating a stable human society. As rational animals, we all have the ability to control our biological urges. The task is difficult. Sometimes people slip up. But as long as they keep up the struggle and do not lapse into the decadence of promiscuity, there is hope for them and for society. A society in which all males fulfilled their biological urges to have sex with as many women as possible would not long survive.

Thus, from the fact that “Person A has a biological tendency to perform act x” does not imply that “It is morally right for Person A to act on his (or her) biological tendency to do action x.” Such a nonsequitur is a commonplace in today’s culture wars. Moral discipline is called “discipline” for a reason. May God gives us the strength to have it and practice it, and may God forgive us when we fail. What is not open to us morally is to justify immoral activities in the name of biology.