Women Want Romance and Men Want Sex, Right? Not So Fast…

By: Gregory Popcak

romantic couple

It has been a truism in both secular and Christian culture that “women want romance and men want sex” or “women give sex to get love and men give love to get sex.”   I have always HATED these  sentiments because, although I know they ring true for many they have NEVER rung true for me.   I am, personally,  a big fan of love, romance, sex and everything that has to do with marriage and, frankly,  I am more the man for it.   Beyond my personal experience, however, this message has always seemed inconsistent to what Christian men and women  are called to and, as I began learning in college, what the Theology of the Body  asserts  is true for both women and men.

We Are All Made in the Image & Likeness of God

The idea that men primarily want sex and women primarily want romance  casts all men as predators and all women as frigid and suggests that there is something wrong with a woman who enjoys her sexuality or a man who has a romantic soul.   This has always struck me as deeply offensive to the Christian anthropological view.   God is a passionate God who seeks nuptial union with us.    The  Song of Songs demonstrates how God pursues us with an enviable passion.   Our Christian mystical tradition sings of the romantic feelings  God’s love inspires in  both men and women.    We are made in God’s  image and likeness.   It would only be fitting that Christian men and women would be able to respond to each other and to God’s invitation to union with as much joy and fervor  as they are both capable of expressing.   I have no doubt that men and women express their romantic and sexual love in different and complementary ways but it is difficult for me to imagine how a couple can achieve the heights to which they are called by the Sacrament of Matrimony if one partner is forced to drag the other along in sex, romance, or both.   Why would God play such a cruel trick?   The answer, of course, is that he wouldn’t.   Catholic theology has argued this for quite some time now—especially as articulated through the Theology of the Body.   Now science is giving greater weight to those claims.

What the Latest  Research Says…

A recent study  sought to overcome the difficulties that occur from self-report.   When people respond to surveys, they often answer as they think they are supposed to as opposed to how they actually feel.   The researchers thought that men and women would feel pressure to conform to the strong stereotyping that exists around male and female attitudes toward intimate relationships, so they developed a way to get past this bias to ascertain how men and women actually felt about sex and romance.   They used a test that had participants make snap judgments regarding whether to assign various romantic or sexual words/images to the categories of “pleasant” or “unpleasant.”   The design of the study required a quick response that made conscious decision-making difficult if not impossible.     Presumably, this forced respondents to reveal their  first responses before their judgment and bias could kick in.

What they Found

What they found was that while women did have a stronger reaction to romantic stimuli both men and women valued romance highly.   As for preference for sex, the differences did not manifest between the sexes as much as they did between extraverts and introverts.   In general, extroverted males and females have stronger sexual preferences and drives than introverted males or females.   That makes sense, since extraverts are just more comfortable expressing themselves in every aspect of life and sexual attitudes and behavior merely represent a concentrated version of the person’s values, personality and behavior as a whole. See entire article here.

There is obviously more work to be done on teasing out the real vs. false differences between man and woman, but I, for one, am excited about the new direction of the research in the field of sex and romance and I look forward to seeing whether or not the differences between men and women in these areas are dynamic and subtle as I believe they are.   Early reports would suggest that the answer is “yes.”

Surviving Perimenopause: A Guide for Couples.

Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D.


older couple on beach

“We’re cracking up.”

“For me,” remarks Eileen, “I get upset when he’s (her husband) upset.   It isn’t as if I’m loving this.   It just adds to the stress of it all if I feel like I’m letting him down.   Plus, I’m frustrated too.   Sometimes I don’t feel like he gets that I miss our sex life too.   I just can’t wait for the whole thing (menopause) to be over with.”

Perimenopause is the time, prior to halting ovulation altogether, that a woman’s cycle can become erratic due to the occurrence of   hormonal imbalances and fluctuations.   In a sense, perimenopause is the flip side of adolescence in that it occasions the ceasing of ovulatory function and it can begin anywhere from a woman’s   mid-30’s into her 50’s.   Because of the erratic cycles and confusing fertility signs that can accompany perimenopause, this can be a particularly challenging time for couples.   The good news is that there are a few things couples can do to make this time much less frustrating and far more loving.

1.   Get Some Training

Fortunately, the Couple to Couple League (CCL) offers a new pre-menopause class that can help couples make sense of the challenging experiences a couple can go through during perimenopause.   Gone are the days when couples might experience months or even years of abstinence during this transitional phase of life.   The art and science of NFP has evolved to the point that the symptoms of perimenopause can be decoded and understood so that couples don’t have to experience the burden of extended abstinence.   For more information, couples should contact the  Couple to Couple League  to learn how they can continue to cultivate the love their marriage deserves even during this difficult time.

2.   Pray Together.

I regularly recommend that couples pray together, but perimenopause is a time when couples can really benefit from an extra infusion of grace.   Coming before the Lord together to express their mutual pain frustration or irritation with their bodies, their sexuality and their relationship can be a powerful exercise in joining together through a challenging time.   When a couple can be honest in front of God and each other about the struggles that each are facing, they often can develop a remarkable degree of empathy and compassion for each other and those are two qualities couples can never have enough of.

3. Be in it Together

Perhaps the biggest challenge–second only to the physiological challenges of perimenopause–is the tendency for couples to turn on each other. The husband can allow his frustration to turn into resentment and anger at his wife.   The wife can allow her frustration (with her body and her sexuality as well as with her husband’s apparent lack of sympathy) to turn into resentment and anger at her husband.  There is a saying among marriage counselors.   “Your partner is not the problem.   The problem is the problem.”     In this case, that means couples must resist the temptation to think of perimenopause as something YOU (spouse) are doing to ME.   Instead couples need to think of perimenopause as a disorder that has symptoms that affect the entire marital body–husband and wife.   The wife may experience one set of symptoms (physical, emotional, relational) and the husband may experience some of the same (emotional/relational) symptoms as his wife plus a few others of his own.   Regardless, they are all symptoms of the same problem that they husband and wife must fight against together.

One important way a husband and wife can be there for each other through this time is by agreeing not to take each other’s feeling personally.   Both husband and wife should feel free to talk about their individual frustration, anger, resentment, or irritation without fear that their spouse will take it personally because there is a mutual understanding that the couple is not frustrated, angry, resentful, or irritated with each other.   Rather, they are frustrated, angry, resentful, or irritated at perimenopause and what it is putting them through. The more couples given into the temptation to make this experience personal, the more painful the experience will be.     But when a husband and wife find that they can confess the feelings they aren’t proud of to each other and get a sympathetic ear instead of condemnation, they can transform a challenging time in their marriage into the fire that refines their love for one another.

4.   Husbands Be There for Your Wives

As much as it is important to be there for each other, the fact is that it is the woman who is dealing with the worst of it.   After all, she is the one experiencing the physical symptoms of perimenopause.   A husband needs to cultivate the mindset that allows him to be a support to his wife who may be experiencing mood swings, sleep problems, and   temperature fluctuations, to name but a few of the most common symptoms.   “What can I do for you, Honey?” Should be asked sincerely and often.   Better yet, make a list of the things you know your wife appreciates and start doing them without her having to ask.   You don’t have to tiptoe around the house like you’re living with a timebomb (she won’t appreciate it) but the more attentive you can be to your wife’s needs, the more she will see you as an ally through this challenging time instead of treating you like an enemy.

5.   Inventory Your Relationship

This is also a great time to take stock of your marriage.   Perimenopause often occurs around the same time that a couple is launching their oldest children.   Couples should take some time for each other.   Make a marriage retreat.   Read good books on marriage improvement together.   Get some counseling–not because there is necessarily a problem, but to prevent problems from emerging and catching you off guard.   By taking time to double-down on your investment in your marriage, you   are sending a powerful message to each other that you are committed to building a marriage, rooted in Christ, sustained by grace, and confirmed though your own hard work that not even the gates of…well, menopause can stand against.

If you and your spouse are struggling with the challenges set forth by perimenopause, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach today to get the solutions to the problems you are experiencing. Call us and get the skills you need to succeed!

Why Do Men Look at Porn? Oprah Viewers Want to Know

By: Christopher West


A few years ago I happened across Oprah’s web site and noticed that her show that day was called “Why do men do that?”   I’m not a regular Oprah viewer, but I tuned in that day to see a panel of “experts” on male behavior, including Jay Leno, explain why men look at pornography, go to strip clubs, and cheat on their wives.

First of all, ladies, be assured, not all men do these things.   One would have thought by watching Oprah that faithful men were extinct.   Not so.   But, alas, the pornographic culture has seduced a great many men.   Why?   All Jay Leno and his panel of friends could offer were excuses.   Many of the women in the audience were visibly and audibly pained as they were told in so many words to “get over it” because “it’s no big deal.”

Why do a great many men look at pornography, go to strip clubs, and cheat on their wives?   Because the human heart has been twisted by lust.   God created sexual desire to be the very power to love in the divine image.   This is what enabled the first man and woman to be naked without shame (see Gen 2:25).   They loved rightly, and there is no shame in loving as God loves.

But since the dawn of sin, sexual desire has become inverted, self-seeking.   We cover our bodies in a fallen world not because the body is “bad,” but because the body is so very good and — when we are in touch with our own goodness — we instinctively feel the need to protect the body from the degradation of lust.

In men, inverted sexual desire tends to seek physical gratification at the expense of women.   When lust takes control of a man’s heart, it seeks release in whatever outlet presents itself.   This is exactly what the porn industry capitalizes on.

Why does all of this, pain women so much?   Because women want to be loved and cherished for who they are as persons, not for the sexual release they offer men.   The opposite of love is not hatred.   The opposite of love is to use someone merely as a means to an end.   This is what lust leads men to do — use women rather than love them.

Women don’t simply want their husbands to direct their lusts exclusively towards them, as if this made a man “faithful.”   As our late Pope John Paul II once pointed out, a husband can commit “adultery in his heart” with his own wife  if he treats her as nothing but an object for his selfish pleasure.

I know it’s a cliché, but why do so many wives claim “headache” when their husbands want sex?   Could it be because they feel used rather than loved?   Marriage does not justify lust; it is not a ticket to treat a spouse as a means of selfish pleasure.   A woman who is the object of lust soon realizes, “You don’t love me; you don’t need me.   You’re only interested in a means to your own gratification, and you can get that anywhere.”

When the name of the game is self-gratification, any outlet will do.   In this view, the Church’s teaching on sex seems tailor made to “keep me from having a good time.”   But when the name of the game is self-donating love, everything the Church teaches seems tailor made to help me overcome lust and learn to love as God intended in the beginning.   Bingo.

The truth of the Church’s teaching on sexual love is confirmed in the pain and heartache of those who are immersed in lust.   Would that someone on Oprah’s panel could have validated women’s pain and encouraged them not to settle for men enslaved by lust.

As an aside, men are not the only of the sexes to experience this lustful desire to use another person as an object of gratification. Women are just as likely to experience lust as men are, although it may take the form of emotional use more often than a strictly physical and sexual use (although it should be stated that woman are increasingly experiencing lust in the latter form as well.) The topic of this article was addressing the problem of men’s objectification of women given the nature of the particular Oprah episode being discussed.

Male and Female He Created Them–Re-examining Gender and the Catholic Difference.

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

man and woman

What  Does  the Church Teach about Men and Women?

I have to say that while I am aware that many people share her opinion of the Church’s vision of men and women, and while I have met many pious Catholics who I think, personally,  have rather retrograde views of masculinity and femininity, I don’t think they got them from an honest reading of the Church’s thinking on the topic.   In fact, my reading of the Church’s teaching on gender strikes me as rather novel and counter-cultural (and when I say that, I don’t just mean counter-secular feminist culture, but also counter-conservative stereotypical culture).

Male and Female He Created THEM.

My understanding of the Church’s view of masculinity and femininity is that maleness and femaleness is not, as many  conservative Catholics mistakenly think, determined by the preferences you have, the work you do, the things you like or the toys you played with as a kid.   The Theology of the Body (hereafter called TOB) makes the point that Genesis 1:27 says, “Male and female he created  them.”  TOB asserts that this passage does not mean that God created males and females.   Rather, it means that men and women have both masculine and feminine dimensions to their personalities.  Culturally, we may say certain traits (such as nurturance, gentleness, or sociability) are more  ”feminine” traits,  and that other traits (such as assertiveness, ambition, or  competitiveness) are more “masculine” traits, but from a TOB point of view, it would not be reasonable to then say that a woman who was assertive or ambitious was somehow less womanly or a man who was nurturing or gentle was somehow less manly.

The Body Makes Visible That Which is Invisible…

The TOB argues that what differentiates men from women is not traits, preferences, work, or habits, but their  bodies and how those bodies allow them to express—in complementary ways—the virtues and qualities that evidence their  shared humanity.   The short version is that being made in the image and likeness of God means that God takes all the virtues (i.e., all the qualities that make men and women human) from his own heart and shares them equally with men and women.   BUT he creates men and women’s bodies to be different and complementary to each other so that when they live out those human virtues through the bodies God gave them, they can emphasize different and complementary aspects of those virtues and, by doing so, present a more complete image of that virtue that reflects God’s face to the world.

So What?

Practically speaking, this means two things.

First, it means that men and  women  can both fully demonstrate all the qualities that make us  human.   BUT  because of the body (and mind, which is part of the body) God gave us, men and women will display complementary variations on those qualities.   For instance both men and women are called to be fully nurturing as a part of their human nature but he has created men’s and women’s bodies differently.   A woman, for example, is able to nurse her children and thus express nurturance in a particularly profound and intimately embodied fashion.   A man can’t lactate, but he is also required to be fully nurturing if he is to be fully human.   He also expresses his nurturance through his body.   For instance, because of greater upper-body strength, a man can more easily toss his kids in the air (and sometimes, even catch them!).   Likewise, even men who shave have more facial hair than the hairiest woman.   My little one loves to sit on my shoulders and rub my fuzzy face.   She loves when I put my scratchy, tickly  chin under her chin and go “phhhhhhhhhhfffffffffffffftttttttt!”

My wife and I must both be fully nurturing to our children, but we express that nurturance differently through the bodies that God gave us.   Our respective  efforts to be nurturing  feels different to our kids.   The masculine and feminine versions of nurturance are both sufficient on their own, but together, they are a more complete presentation of the virtue of nurturance itself.    When a man and woman are both fully nurturing in their unique and complementary way, they do a better job of making visible the nurturance in God’s own heart.

The same applies to any other quality or virtue.   Catholics have never believed that there is only one way to be a man or a woman, which is why we have saints like St. Joan and St Francis as well as St Therese of Lisieux and St Ignatius.

The second example of the practical significance of all this  is that although both men and women are capable of being fully human and living out the fullness of all the virtues that make them human, men and women’s versions of those respective virtues/qualities are appreciably different and complementary.     A man who is fully nurturing will always nurture differently than a woman would.   Likewise, the most ambitious, assertive woman will still be ambitious and assertive in a way that is, somehow, more feminine than the way a man is ambitious or assertive.  That doesn’t mean that one is inferior to other.   They are both perfectly complete, acceptable, efficient, healthy modes of being.   BUT they are substantively different from  and complementary to one another.  Even if a man tries to be effeminate, he only ends up coming off as a caricature of femininity and the same for the woman who tries to be  masculine.   Men and women can be fully human and live out the complementarity of the virtues that comprise their shared humanity, but they cannot ever be the same even  when  they try.

The Feminine Genius.

Which brings us to what  JPII meant when he wrote about the “feminine genius.”  I have never read the Church’s writings on this subject and found them to be patronizing.  To my way of thinking, the point of saying that there is a feminine genius is not to say, ”Oh, don’t worry your pretty little heads, ladies, of course you’re special too!”   Rather, it is to say that in contrast to secular feminism which  tells the world that only the masculine versions of the various virtues count, that the feminine complement to these same virtues presents a full, dynamic, vigorous, and valuable contribution to the human experience and that women, as well as men, serve their humanity best, not by trying to imitate the other, but by exploring the fullness of their own humanity which is beautifully, powerfully, and more than adequately expressed by the humanity represented in their own gender.

I’m really not sure what is so retrograde about that.   In fact, this view of gender sounds like nothing else I’ve read on the subject.   The Catholic vision of masculinity and femininity, to my way of thinking, goes beyond the too easy stereotypes of the conservative/historical patriarchal view of gender  and stands in opposition to the reaction-formation that is the secular feminist view.   It is a fresh, exciting, and freeing view of the person that presents a mode of being that allows man and woman to both be fully human and completely unique.

For more information on living out this vision of the sexes in your marriage, check out    For Better…FOREVER!   or to pass this vision of masculinity and femininity on to your children, pick up a copy of  Beyond the Birds and the Bees:   Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Children

Natural Family Planning and the Dignity of Women

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

dignity (2)The dignity of women is under assault like never before.   Thanks to the internet, pornography is more accessible than ever.   Young women, especially, are buying wholesale into the porn culture.    It’s become so pervasive that, surprisingly,  many  secular publications have recently been  complaining  about the negative effect pornography has had on relationships from a man’s perspective.   Men are beginning to report feeling put-off, intimidated, or even turned off by the behavior of women who have been “socialized” by porn.   One recent article in the  London Telegraph  decried the “striptease culture” we are living in and advocated measures that could encourage young women to discover their dignity.  According to a recent  Reuters  report, 30% of young adults have sent nude pictures of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend.   In fact, some studies show that among those who engage in sexting,  women are almost as likely to ask for a nude picture of their boyfriend as they are to send a nude picture of themselves.

NFP:   Challenging the Culture of Use

In light of all this, is there any better way to engage the culture than to promote Natural Family Planning?  At the beginning of the sexual revolution, women were told that the key to overcoming male oppression and gaining power in relationships was to “embrace their sexuality.”  The problem is that this phrase is deceptive.   The secular vision of embracing one’s sexuality is allowing oneself to be viewed and used as an object and the more one does this, the less power one really has. The more one embraces this attitude, the more used, lonely, and powerless one is likely to feel.

But NFP promotes a vision of sexuality that is worthy of embracing; a vision where the body is a gift; a vision that believes men and women are first and foremost sons and daughters of God; a vision that understands that sex is not merely recreation, but a re-creation of the promises a couple makes on their wedding day to spend their lifetime together creating and celebrating a love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful.

As with most things worth doing, NFP isn’t easy.   It requires sacrifice and struggle.   It can be helpful, though, to remember what we are sacrificing and struggling for.   I would never want my wife to think that she was anything less than my partner, my best friend and my equal.   In my mind, those things are worth fighting for.   If NFP is a struggle, it is only because I must sometimes  struggle against those fallen  aspects of myself that want to make me treat her as something less than my partner, my best friend, my equal.   The challenge of NFP is a challenge worth taking up because it asks me to consider whether or not I am truly approaching my wife in love.

Reclaiming Dignity

Likewise, for the woman, the challenge of NFP asks her to embrace her dignity.   Charting her signs helps her get in touch with how wonderfully she is made (Ps 139:14).   It helps redeem the dignity of her body in her mind.   It helps her assert her dignity to herself and to her husband by giving her the vocabulary she needs to articulate her physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual needs to her husband in a way that is virtually impossible without NFP.   It gives her a way of embracing her sexuality in a manner that doesn’t objectify her, but rather, sets her free to be loved as a person.

The most famous line from the Theology of the Body is that

“the body, and it alone,  is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it.”

NFP promotes the dignity of women by empowering them to know and respect their body and see that body as a sign of who they are—persons deserving of love.


By: Michael Aquilina

beautiful woman

The Thrill of the Chaste is a chick book. The author is clearly addressing female readers woman-to-woman. So why am I putting my masculinity on the line, by not only reading the book, but admitting that I read it – and even reviewing it? I have many good reasons, chief among them is that I, like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, have five daughters. And, like Tevye, I know that things can go very badly for young women today, even those who come from doting parents, a loving home, and the best shelter a pious-ghetto upbringing can offer. I believe that The Thrill of the Chaste has the potential to rescue young women from real danger, and so I want the world to know about it.

Confessions for the Modern World

I’m not exaggerating when I compare Miss Eden’s book to St. Augustine’s Confessions. The Thrill is, as the Confessions was, introspective, hip, a gorgeous piece of writing, and so brutally honest and self-revealing that it’s sometimes painful to read: “In a vicious cycle, single women feel lonely because they are not loved,” she writes, “so they have casual sex with men who do not love them. That was my life.” Miss Eden speaks of the gradual move from premarital sex to promiscuity, of “learning to detach, to feel as though I could separate the physical actions of sex from its emotional consequences.” She came to see lust as “a way station on the road to love.” “I had blunted my emotions for the sake of physical pleasure.”

She draws an analogy with eating disorders, calling her own promiscuity a sort of “spiritual bulimia.” “In attempting to escape loneliness, we accept a sexual act devoid of spiritual nourishment. Such nourishment can come only from the union of two permanently committed souls … [F]or a woman, the disconnected feeling that premarital sex brings can be emotionally disastrous.” Indeed, she says, “the same armor that enabled me to tolerate casual sex made me less attractive to the kind of man I most desired.” Then, for Miss Eden as for so many others, traditional morality was turned on its head: “good and evil themselves are redefined. No longer is it bad to allow oneself to use and be used sexually. The only sin is failing to ‘protect’ yourself by using a condom.”

False Promises

The author recalls that her relationships, devoid of love, often turned on “games” – the desire to control the other or to produce jealousy. In all cases, sex became a useful tool: “the main way I thought I could control a relationship was by either introducing a sexual component or allowing my boyfriend to do so. Either way, I would end up alone and unhappy –  but I didn’t know how else to handle a relationship. I felt trapped in a lifestyle that gave me none of the things that the media and popular wisdom promised it would.” The Thrill is very much a New York book, written by a New Yorker. Miss Eden’s constant foil is the character Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City.” A photo of the Manhattan skyline wraps around the bottom of the book. Surely New York needs the book, but I hope it will reach far beyond the city and even past the suburbs – because there’s not a corner of America that hasn’t bought into the “Sex and the City” ethic. It’s as universal as Cosmo in the supermarket.

One of the historical ironies is that the lifestyle has been promoted most ardently by women. (Miss Eden discusses Erica Jong and Helen Gurley Brown, among others.) They pitch it as liberationist and as a return to nature. As it’s played out, however, it has de-natured young women, objectified them, and locked them in rather cramped emotional prisons. Our author puts it in vivid, personal terms.

“This misguided, hedonistic philosophy harms both men and women, but is particularly damaging to women, as it pressures them to subvert their deepest emotional desires. Women are built for bonding. We are vessels, and we seek to be filled. For that reason, sex will always leave us feeling empty unless we are certain that we are loved.

When I was having casual sex, there was one moment I dreaded more than any other. I dreaded it not out of fear that the sex would be bad, but out of fear that it would be good.

If the sex was good, then, even if I knew in my heart that the relationship wouldn’t work, I would still feel as though the act had bonded me with my sex partner in a deeper way than we had been bonded before. It’s in the nature of sex to awaken deep emotions within us – emotions that are distinctly unwelcome when one is trying to keep it light.”

It was hard for me, as a dad, to read those paragraphs and think of the author as somebody’s daughter. And that’s probably as it should be. Miss Eden traces “the lifestyle” as we know it back to the divorce culture. She traces many of her own difficulties back to her parents’ divorce when she was six, and to her diminishing relationship with her father. “My past experiences with men … both the one-night stands and the attempts at relationships … were based around the idea of choosing the lesser pain. My big fear was that boyfriends would leave me –  just as I feared as a child that my father would lose interest in me if I failed to earn his affection.” She does not, however, blame her parents; and, not surprisingly, it was the healing of her relationship with her father that “jump-started” her decision to live chastely.

A New Perspective

In any event, Miss Eden did not write this book for dads. She has, rather, written a powerful apologetic addressed primarily to women who are having premarital sex or are strongly tempted to have it. And she is putting a name on emotions they’ll recognize immediately, but maybe have never possessed the words to describe. I don’t want to give the impression that the book is negative or a downer. It’s not. The bulk of the book recounts the author’s growth in chastity and her discovery of Pope John Paul’s “theology of the body.” It’s overwhelmingly positive. And it’s deadly funny, too. Miss Eden savages women’s magazines, for example, for saying that “all you have to do is … learn a new ‘sex trick’ (as if you were some kind of X-rated poodle), and then ‘he’ll fall in love with you.’”

The Thrill will win readers over with its satire and its positive apologetics. Nevertheless, it’s the book’s confessional beginning that will establish a common bond between author and reader, and that’s where this book has the potential to change the world. I don’t recall a gratuitous word or a salacious line in the entire book. Still, the telling of the story requires that Miss Eden give some detail, and it’s probably too much detail for the innocent. But it’s not too much to scandalize the open-minded or the sincerely repentant. It’s a tight line to walk, but this author gets it just right. A father hopes his daughters won’t detour down the path Miss Eden took at age twenty. But, if they do, we can hope they’ll come round to the path Miss Eden took at age thirty-one. If they do, they’ll be the kind of women we hope and pray that our sons bring home.

The Seal of Selfishness

By: Michael Aquilina


“Don’t knock masturbation,” goes the old Woody Allen line. “It’s sex with someone I love.” And Woody got a lot of laughs, since everyone knew it wasn’t true. The audience knew he was joking, not only because Woody’s comic persona was always low on self-love, but because most people understood that masturbation is a lonely, unsatisfying — and sinful — act.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out: “Both the magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” (no. 2352) But perhaps times have changed. Today, activists deliver Woody’s old line with far from comic intentions. A 1993 edition of The Utne Reader, for example, heralded “a veritable Age of Masturbation.”

 The “End” of Sex, as We Know it

Writer Caryn Brooks effused: “In the shadow of AIDS, and in the spirit of self-exploration, many people” choose to masturbate “as a means of self-expression… A new sexual vanguard is touting fresh and exciting ways to enjoy your body,” Brooks is happy to announce, “and they aren’t ashamed about it either.” Though the Church’s teaching hasn’t changed, the “moral sense” of the west apparently has. Today, even conservative Protestant groups, such as Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, teach that masturbation is morally neutral, or even “healthy.”

What’s wrong with this picture? Everything, from beginning to “ends.” The Christian tradition has always understood human sexuality as a great good, precisely because of the purposes for which God has created it. In humans, the sex drive guides men and women to join together in monogamous, lifelong marriage, the sacrament that is consummated in sexual intercourse.  The act of intercourse has certain legitimate purposes, or “ends.” It unites a couple in love. It sometimes enables the couple to co-create, with God, a new human life. Sex also seals and renews the sacred covenant of marriage.

That’s the positive truth, and Christians have always rejected any use of sex that contradicts that truth, or frustrates any of those ends. Put concisely, in the words of the Catechism: “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose” (no. 2352) An earlier Vatican document adds that masturbation lacks “the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.” The act of masturbation — the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive pleasure — flouts everything a Christian believes about the purposes of sex: union, procreation, sacredness and the love of two people.

The act of masturbation presumes that the purpose of sex is the individual’s pleasure. But such pleasure is fleeting because masturbation cannot satisfy a truly human sex drive, for a man or woman’s desire is not for mere physical release. St. Augustine said it well 15 centuries ago: We long to look upon one who looks back in love.

The sex drive is nature’s way of drawing two people together in that loving embrace. A married couple’s love seeks physical union, and their union is still more perfectly expressed in the procreation of a child. It is only by understanding sexual pleasure in a different (and un-Christian) way that people can begin to approve of masturbation. A hedonist, for example, puts pleasure first in all human activity. The pagan Romans sought the pleasures of eating without the natural consequence of a full stomach — so they induced vomiting and ate more. Modern hedonists seek sexual pleasure without the bother of a lifelong commitment to loving a family — so they masturbate.

Competing Philosophies  

Others misunderstand sex because they see people, essentially, as machines made of flesh. Such “mechanists” claim that the body “needs” sexual release for normal functioning, and this masturbating is as “natural” as sneezing. But this is simply untrue. The body does not need sexual release in the way it needs to eat or sleep or eliminate waste. What’s more, masturbation is not just a physical, morally neutral act (such as sneezing). It is usually accompanied by fantasies that make an object of — and thus dehumanize — another person.

Still others say that masturbation is inevitable, that people simple can’t resist the urge, so it must be “natural.” Such cynics usually cite studies (such as Alfred Kinsey’s) that claim 90 percent of all men masturbate — “and the other 10 percent lie about it.” But this view is doubly absurd: it appeals to morality by majority, and it denies free will. A majority can be wrong — and in a debased culture is likely to be wrong, especially in matters of sexuality, where desires are so powerful and the will so weak.

The human will is very weak in matters sexual, but it is not helpless. To say that all is lost, and to give up the struggle of sexual sin, is to give up Christian morality. The Catechism again speaks eloquently: “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (no. 1731).

 Hope Amidst Struggle

The Church does not deny the difficulty of the struggle, especially when masturbation has become a habit or compulsion. Indeed, the Catechism notes that such circumstances can even mitigate an individual’s guilt for the sin: “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or even social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability” (no. 2352).

Jesus himself was most generous in the mercy He dispensed to people who had repented of sexual sins. But His mercy required repentance first, along with firm resolve to change. Jesus’ parting words to one sexual sinner still ring true today: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:11). The question still remains: How can a person sin no more, in spite of long-acquired habits and disordered desires? The Vatican’s 1975 statement on sexual ethics, Persona Humana (“The Human Person”), presents a tough realism: “Living the Christian life by following in the footsteps of Christ requires that everyone should ‘deny himself and take up his cross daily,’ sustained by the hope of reward…

“The faithful of the present time… must use the means which have always been recommended by the Church for living a chaste life. These means are: discipline of the senses and mind, watchfulness and prudence in avoiding occasions of sin, the observance of modesty, moderation in recreation, wholesome pursuits, assiduous prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Young people especially should foster devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God” (no. 12). Dutch psychologist Gerard J.M. van de Aardweg, in his recent book “The Battle for Normality” (Ignatius Press, $12) offers very practical advice: “A good strategy is to make a firm proposal, every morning, and repeat it whenever necessary (in the evening or before going to bed): “The next part of the day (night) I shall not give in.”

“With such a mind-set, the first signs of the emerging desire are better recognized. Then one may say to oneself: ‘I will not give myself this pleasure; rather, I will accept the little suffering it means not to get what I want.’ ” But ultimately, it is chaste people who “get what they want,” because they get what God made them for — and that’s pure love. No matter what Woody Allen said, masturbation is not an act of love. It is self-loathing perpetuating itself, and mimicking a sacrament. Don’t believe the people who don’t knock it.

Men Can’t Read Women’s Minds

By: PaxCare Staff

man brain

To see whether men really did  have trouble reading women’s emotions, Boris Schiffer, a researcher at the   LWL-University Hospital in Bochum, Germany and his colleagues put 22 men between  the ages of 21 and 52, with an average age of 36, in a functional magnetic  resonance imaging scanner, which uses blood flow as a measure of   to measure  their brain activity.

They then asked the men to look at images of 36  pairs of eyes, half from men and half from women, and guess the emotion the  people felt. The men then chose which of two words, such as distrustful or  terrified, best described the eyes’ emotion. The eye photographs depicted  positive, neutral, and negative emotions.

Men took longer and had more trouble correctly guessing emotion from women’s eyes.

In addition, their  brains showed different activation when looking at men versus women’s eyes.   Men’s amygdala – a brain   region tied to emotions, empathy, and fear – activated more strongly in   response to men’s eyes. In addition, other brain regions tied to emotion and  behavior didn’t activate as much when the men looked at women’s eyes.  

The findings suggest that men are worse at reading women’s emotions.   This “theory of mind” is one of the foundations   for empathy, so the deficit could lead men to have less empathy for women   relative to men, the researchers write.

But exactly why this happens  isn’t clear. While men could be culturally conditioned to pay less attention to  women’s emotional cues, another possibility is that their differential response  is hard-wired by humans’ evolutionary past.

“As men were more involved  in hunting and territory fights, it would have been important for them to be  able to predict and foresee the intentions and actions of their male rivals,”   the researchers write in the paper.

Read entire article here  as reported by NBC News.

The Pill Makes You Hate Sex and Want to Leave Your Milquetoast Man.

By: PaxCare Staff

woman disses man

New research by the Royal Society says that women taking oral contraceptives,

“scored lower on measures  of sexual satisfaction and partner attraction, experienced increasing sexual dissatisfaction during the relationship, and were more likely to be the one to initiate an eventual separation if it occurred.”

Read the complete article here.

The study did also suggest that the same contracepting women were more likely to be satisfied with the non-sexual aspects of their relationships, but the researchers note that this is because the pill causes women to be attracted to lower testosterone men who lack passion and drive leading to a lower potential for conflict.

Superficially, it might appear that, despite the dissatisfaction in the romantic relationship, the increased satisfaction experienced in non-sexual interactions would make oral contraceptive’s effect on overall relational happiness a wash, but I can tell you from professional experience that it is easier to teach a manly man to wash a dish than it is to teach a milquetoast man to be passionate.

So, ladies, if you want passion and partnership, you might want to rethink that resistance to doing Natural Family Planning (or rethink marrying that man who resists NFP). Here’s where you can learn more about how NFP can work for you.

To get more out of your sexual relationship with your spouse, check out Holy Sex! The Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving.