We recently encountered these words in a novella length short story from nearly one hundred years ago, Out of Nowhere into Nothing (which is found in The Egg and Other Stories published by Dover Publications in 2000 as a republication of the 1921 work by Sherwood Anderson, The Triumph of the Egg: A Book of Impressions from American Life in Tales and Poems). These stories are fictional yet are the author’s attempts to portray attitudes of the time. (We will from time to time read books written decades ago to gain insights into how people thought at earlier times.)
We share these words (from pages 128 – 130) now as the starting point of today’s essay.
Ma Wescott is thinking to herself and then speaking to her 27 year old daughter, Rosalind, who is romantically involved with a man.
. . . . To her she must make clear the fate of all women. Young girls grew up dreaming, hoping, believing. There was a conspiracy. Men made words, they wrote books and sang songs about a thing called love. Young girls believed. They married or entered into close relationships with men without marriage. On the marriage night there was a brutal assault and after that the woman had to try to save herself as best she could. She withdrew within herself, further and further within herself.
. . . . . She had been thinking, all through the years she had been thinking. There was a dreadful lie in life, the whole fact of life was a lie.
She had thought it all out. There was a world somewhere unlike the world in which she lived. It was a heavenly place in which there was no marrying or giving in marriage, a sexless quiet windless place where mankind lived in a state of bliss. For some unknown reason mankind had been thrown out of that place, had been thrown down upon the earth. It was a punishment for an unforgivable sin, the sin of sex.
The sin had been in her as well as in the man she had married. She had wanted to marry. Why else did she do it? Men and women were condemned to commit the sin that destroyed them. Except for a few rare sacred beings no man or woman escaped.
. . . . . Life was a lie. Life perpetuated itself by the lie called love. The truth was that life itself came out of sin, perpetuated itself only by sin.
“There is no such thing as love. The word is a lie. The man you are telling me about wants you for the purpose of sin,” she said. . . .
. . . . “Men only hurt women,” she said, “they can’t help wanting to hurt women. They are made that way. The thing they call love doesn’t exist. It’s a lie.”
“Life is dirty. Letting a man touch her dirties a woman.” Ma Wescott fairly screamed forth the words. They seemed torn from her, from some deep inner part of her being. . . . . Ma Wescott had said nothing of what was in her mind. She had thought it all out, what she wanted to say to her daughter. Why would the words not come? The passion for denial within her was not satisfied. “There is no love. Life is a lie. It leads to sin, to death and decay,” she called into the darkness.
What do you think of these quotes?
The other extreme, to the current widespread sexual license that is disconnected from a healthy understanding of morality, is the hatred of sex and this leads to sexless, dead marriages.
I think this is sick. The quotes above appear to indicate a case of personal bitterness taken to a grotesque extreme where mental illness, even insanity, may be present. In addition to bitterness, religion may have been a factor in this woman’s thinking. The quotes above could pass for the writings of Christian monks during Scholastic times (11th to 13th centuries).
Extremism begets extremism. Hatred of sex. Extreme prudishness. A twisted, distorted understanding of holiness. An inhuman view of human sexuality. Sexless, joyless, love less, dead marriages. All this leads to, as it has done during the 20th century, to sexual anarchy. Sexual addicts. Widespread promiscuity. Etc. Extreme attitudes to sex do much harm to real people.
the rigid inflexibility of some churches
Causing much harm to our attitudes about sex, western Christianity (since the time of St. Augustine, died 430) has clung to an ancient pagan sexual pessimism that is not authentically Christian. For too long, the churches have had a negative attitude towards sex within marriage. Taken to a grotesque extreme, we have the sexual morality of celibates, the morality of the monastery or the cloistered convent. This “morality” seeks to emasculate husbands and de-sexualize wives. Of course, this morality ceases to be moral with the harm it does to married persons and becomes a tool of power and control. (Christians need to consider what Jesus taught in the Gospels. He calls us to live a moral, human life.)
For many, the Catholic Church comes to mind here. The institutional Church, as opposed to the Catholic faith, treads too heavily upon marriage. For many Catholics, it is hard to go along with all of the Church’s many positions on so many diverse issues. The Catholic Church with its bishops and lay apologists will bleed for convicted capital murderers on death row awaiting execution (thanks to Pope John Paul II’s personal animosity to capital punishment). At the same time, the Church will assert that the husband who desires to make love with his wife can be guilty of lust. (Again, John Paul.) But, this is not accurate as lust refers to unlawful sexual desire. There is talk of frequent sex within marriage leading to the “objectification” of the wife (especially if the couple is using contraception). What some of these church men and their lay apologists fail to grasp or fully appreciate is that women do have a sex drive. (By the way, you will be hard pressed to ever see the Church – in its voluminous writings on sex within marriage over many centuries – use the term “lovemaking” to describe what goes on in the marriage bed between the spouses.) As to the objectification of persons, that is what occurs not in marriage but with bed hopping, one night stands and casual sexual “hook-ups” between strangers. As well, it is offensive to many married persons when the Church complains about those husbands and wives who incorporate oral play (oral sex) into their lovemaking, which the Church chooses to forbid at all times, even on non-fertile days (when there is no possibility of conception occurring).
married lovemaking and the sexless marriage
Our view, not very popular with those of the extremes, is that sex ought to be reserved, saved for marriage. The spouses should practice and enjoy mutually fulfilling sexual love within their loving marriage. The lovemaking needs to be frequent, playful, passionate and enjoyable for both spouses. Thus, the marriage bond is strengthened. (Sexual frustration within marriage leads to sexual sin and marriage failure.)
There is a need for Christian marriage bloggers. These marriage bloggers are married women and married men. Thus, they can address the many challenges in marriage having the actual experience of being married themselves. What is one of the most frequent topics on Christian marriage blogs? Which essays have many painful comments submitted by readers, both by wives and by husbands? Answer: The topic of sexual refusal (and sexual neglect) within marriage and the closely related topic of the mostly sexless marriage.
One curious or odd thing to note is that many married couples stuck in a sexually dysfunctional marriage had frequent sex while they were dating and engaged to marry. We read many comments from both husbands and wives about how they had – while dating their then future spouse – lots of passionate sex prior to getting married. But, since their wedding day the frequency of sexual intimacy has fallen off significantly. This seems to us to be getting it backwards. Try to save the sex for marriage. Once married, let no one tell you not to engage in frequent, mutually pleasurable lovemaking with your spouse.
The lovemaking makes one vulnerable, yes, but it also opens us up to the mutual respect, the shared trust and mutual appreciation that we can build and experience with our spouse during our lovemaking. This shared emotional vulnerability need not be feared and thus avoided. In time, it can and will be supplanted by a stronger, deeper trust of one’s spouse, a greater respect for him or her, and a loving, embracing, deeper acceptance of him or her. But, this will not happen, cannot happen, when you refuse your spouse frequent sexual intimacy.
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