2018 so far has seen an explosion of awareness and discussion surrounding sexual misconduct and the wider context of sexual attitudes in our culture. Social media campaigns such as #MeToo and #IBelieveHer have highlighted society’s inability to mix “modern progressive” sexual attitudes with respect for the dignity of the human individual. I would go as far as to say that the two are incompatible and even assert that it is these very same “progressive” attitudes, anchored in moral relativism that cause the problems these movements seek to address.
There exists a prevailing logic on the modern college campus that anything goes as long as it is “consensual”. Such attitudes fail our youth and create what I would call a culture of sexual self-harm. Consent while obviously necessary in all cases should not be the gold moral standard for sexual activity. We all know too well that increasingly many young men and indeed some young women view the opposite sex as mere objects for their own sexual gratification, a means to a sexual end. As the saying goes; “men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love”. But this is not genuine love, it is exploitation plain and simple. Love is to will the best in the other, what’s best is not short-term gratification but rather long-term commitment, i.e. unconditional unwavering love (typically to be found within marriage).
Yes, we must accept that humans have free will, but that does not mean we should shy away from giving justified criticism of our peers’ behaviour. Promiscuous behaviour is a freedom of course, but that doesn’t mean that our actions do not have consequences, consequences for which often one should have to take personal responsibility for. It’s easy for anyone to look at events in Northern Ireland or Hollywood and to be outraged when you hear about the abuses of sexuality that people (women especially) suffer around the globe, what’s not so easy is to propose decent solutions to fix the culture from which such problems arise.
Deputy Ruth Coppinger seeks to do just that. While her intentions might be noble I believe her new Bill (“Objective Sexual Education Bill 2018”), which would remove any ethos from sexual education and include topics such as consent and alternate sexualities, would not only set our youth further down the path of sexual self-harm but seriously violate the rights of parents and the religious freedom of our nations Catholic schools. Article 42 of the Irish Constitution makes clear that; “the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children…… due regard, …… for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.” Deputy Coppingers’ Bill would seek to push her worldview on, “gender theory”, abortion and sexual orientation onto parents who chose to send their children to Catholic Schools. Article 42 thankfully exists to protect the Family and Church from such state overreach.
This new sexual culture did not arise from nowhere, recently schools have often taken the backseat to TV and even more so the internet when it comes to informing young people’s attitudes towards such matters.
Thankfully alternatives do exist. Recently I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Anna Halpine of World Youth Alliance (an accredited NGO working with the UN) at a conference in Rome. She put forward the merits of the WYA Human Dignity Curriculum, this holistic sexual education programme has been adopted by Croatia and various locations in the USA. In such a programme, students learn what it means to be a young man or women not just from a biological but also an anthropological lens. They deal with topics such as “biological development of the two sexes” “Human Dignity and Freedom”, “Habits for Human Excellence” and “the Hierarchy of Living Beings”. These later three points are key distinctions between the Human Dignity Curriculum and Coppingers’ Bill. The WYA programme emphasises that humans are capable of rational higher thought, that we have an innate God given dignity and what separates us from the animal kingdom is our ability to resist and transcend our base animalistic urges.
We need to build a society where young people understand male empowerment not as the quantity of their sexual conquests but rather quality of responsibility and self-sacrifice, and female empowerment not as displaying promiscuity but rather displaying one’s virtue and intellect. This is what I was taught at home and at school and hold true to this day. Yes, many laughed when our middle-aged male secondary school teacher came in and wrote “ABSTINENCE” in big blue marker across the whiteboard. Some said “that’s too difficult” or “in an ideal world maybe” but believe it or not most students in that Kerry classroom silently nodded and knew he had a point. He taught us that everything had a purpose and a context, and so too did human sexuality.
Obviously human beings aren’t perfect, we all fall in lesser or worse ways, but it’s our ability to pick ourselves up and strive towards an ideal that helps us grow. Coppinger and her socialist allies seek to simply reject this ideal. It is comparable to a high jump athlete lowering the bar rather than training to jump higher. The answer to this crisis is not to pump up our young girls with hormonal drugs and throw condoms at our young men, then act outraged when the inevitable disastrous consequences arise.
If sexual intimacy were a currency it would have certainly lost its value, the easy supply of meaningless sex in our modern “hook-up” culture and easy access to disturbing sexual material online puts us as a society in uncharted territory with negative social consequences to follow for our generation. Consequences such as skyrocketing rates of divorce, single motherhood, sexually transmitted diseases and depression.
This “modern progressive” sexual culture can also go a long way to explaining why young men today are seemingly so afraid or dismissive of commitment. The culture of promiscuity that certain brands of feminism promote does more to hurt women than liberate them. It removes the human relationship element of physical intimacy. This type of feminism is just a blank cheque to certain men with questionable motives and a clear lack of respect for women, to use women and the next morning discard them.
We should have the conviction and honesty to say to our young people that you probably will not find Prince Charming or Cinderella on Tinder, meaningless sex will not give you a true sense of fulfilment or happiness and pornography will not teach you anything meaningful about real human relationships.