Sex: The Mystery of Love
What is the one thing in this world that is a major interest to most young people? It’s sex. I was definitely a normal teenage girl who was interested in hanging out with my friends, talking about boys, and obsessing over my new favourite band of the month. Looking back, it seems like I always had a crush on some boy in my class. When I couldn’t get him to notice me, I would go through the usual cycle of despair and declaring that my life was “over” because so-and-so clearly was not interested in me. Eventually I moved on to a new crush the following week, completely forgetting about the other boy. This is, of course, simplifying the anxiety and turmoil that most teenager girls go through, and it’s easy to laugh about it now, but at that age any rejection truly felt like the end of the world. When I did develop long term crushes that lasted for several months, I developed a sudden obsession with kissing. I wanted to know what it felt like and if it was as wonderful as movies made it out to be. Some of my friends already had their first kiss, and I felt like the late bloomer, it was embarrassing. However, kissing was something I could talk to my friends about without being teased. I did not feel any pressure to have a boyfriend or to date, but my curiosity and desire would not release me from craving this type of intimacy. It wasn’t long before curiosity about kissing turned into curiosity about sex.
Sex is powerful, so much so that it has an almost intoxicating effect, especially on young people. Sexual images are used almost everywhere, and it’s not just a recent development. In Venerable Fulton Sheen’s talk, titled “Youth and Sex”, he states: “Every advertisement has to use [sex] so that you are inclined to always think about it.” The big problem with this unhealthy obsession and preoccupation with sex? It’s the failure to recognize sex as a mystery. It’s also the reason why I wanted to know so much about it as a young teenager, and why I had issues with recognizing sex as a sacred act between a man and a woman. Sheen explains that: “Sex is a mystery…[and] what is the invisible side of sex? What is the mystery? It’s the mystery of love. First of all, sex stands for God’s creative power given to people. So, He gives the creative power to a husband and wife instead of directly creating us. He says to a father and mother: “I will let you share my creative power, and you will give life.” This is the spiritual side of marriage and of sex.” I guarantee you that this thought never crossed my mind as a young woman, and this talk would have benefited me greatly as I was going through that stage of my life. I saw sex simply as a means of pleasure that everyone participated in eventually, and I did not think that it was important to wait for marriage. In my mind, there was nothing sacred about it.
Venerable Fulton Sheen also reflected on St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, particularly a passage that is sometimes read at weddings. “God intended that in marriage the husband stands for Christ and the bride stands for the Church. Does that mean that the man is the head of the woman in the sense of domination? No! The man is the head of the woman in the sense of sacrifice, so as Christ gave himself up for His spouse, His bride, which is the Church, so the husband sacrifices himself for the wife.” How does this passage relate to sex? Well, why is this so difficult to explain to young people and why do parents have a difficult time explaining this to their children? It’s because parents cannot communicate the mystery that is sex. It is easy to comprehend the mechanical, physical side of it, but the mere physical aspect of the sexual act, as Sheen explains it, “cannot communicate the mystery, the deep, profound love that is involved. That is something that is almost impossible to describe.” As a teenager I never considered that there was even a spiritual side to sex. I romanticized the whole act, which in part was perhaps influenced by romantic movies. I was certain that the movies I devoured surely showed “deep, profound love”, and I wanted to experience it for myself. But my twisted notions about love and sex never allowed me considered that sex is a gift from God that allows us to participate in His creative power, and that it cannot be casually used as a natural extension of “liking” or “loving” someone.
My obsession with boys and twisted notion of love eventually lead me to believe that some young men genuinely had an interest in me, and of course this led to anger and heartache when I realized this was not the case whatsoever. Despite being flirtatious and paying attention to me, most of the young men were only interested in a physical relationship. Despite my curiosity as to what it would be like, I knew I did not want to rush into such a big decision lightheartedly. As a young woman, when I developed a crush on a young man, I convinced myself that I liked all of him. It wasn’t just his cool hair or nice smile, it was everything about him. I never considered that women and men experience infatuation or crushes differently. Fulton Sheen points out that “there’s a world of difference in which a man loves a woman, and a woman loves a man. A boy can love a part of a woman, while a woman can love only the whole man. That is why, my dear girls, the boys will talk about your legs. They can love a part of you, they can love a dimple…but do [girls] ever talk about boys legs? Never! You never mention their legs! Why? Simply because you’re not built that way. Don’t think they love you simply because they love a part of you. You girls are slow to love and the boys will say “oh, you’re cold!” You’re not cold, you’re wise! You can’t love until you give yourself totally and completely. So you wait.” Perhaps this statement was more applicable to Fulton Sheen’s time. Unfortunately, I believe this now applies to both men and women. Both sexes are guilty of objectifying a person and lusting over them. But we must fight against this if we want to be able to love authentically!
I leave you with just one piece of advice. As women, it’s difficult to not get caught up in our emotions. Don’t rush! Good things take time to develop, especially relationships. Take your time and enjoy the different phases of life, they really all end up being pretty wonderful! And when the time is right for you to experience new phases of life as God intended, it will be all the more amazing because you chose not to rush.