Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Puritans vs. Playboys

Puritans vs. Playboys. This has changed our nation in a way I find comparable to the Civil War, or World War II. From what I understand, it got started in the 1950s, when Marilyn Monroe took the nation by storm. Rising with her was a young publisher named Hugh Hefner. It was a racy centerpiece of Monroe in Playboy that shot him into infamy. I think of that magazine every time I think about the sexual revolution. Monroe, Hefner, Kinsey, and all the other people who got it started were fighting against the old moral order, whether they meant it or not. 

Clearly, they won. I'm assuming you're familiar with the popular culture in the U.S.A. of 2010. If you aren't, watch the film “Superbad”. Even better, take my word that my country is drenched in sex.

It's almost a total 180-degree spin. Only decades ago, husbands and wives on television shows slept in separate beds. Now unmarried couples make out in swimsuits on CBS. There seem to be two camps of sexuality in American history: harsh restriction, and total license. Puritans and Playboys.

Who’s right?

Neither. I’ve thought about both attitudes and decided neither is healthy. When I was young, I would blow up when my father showed a PG-13 movie. I even deleted a song when I heard the lyrics “I want to touch you”. I had a pistol of righteousness, and I was trigger-happy like no other.  Now that I look back at those days, and at the sexual revolution as I understand it, I don’t ever want to be a Puritan. Sex cannot be repressed. It is integral to who we are as humans, and men and women. I can’t hide the way I feel when I see a woman. It’s tantamount to denying I have a soul. My sexuality is too deeply grounded in my identity to ignore. To be a real human, I must embrace sex, and be unafraid to talk about it. I refer all opponents to former Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

Now, about Playboy. Their attitude won’t do either. Expressing your sexuality does not mean going out and sleeping with twenty different people in as many hours. I certainly don’t blame the people who do that, depending on what they know. For people that are totally ignorant, confused, or mislead about morality and sexuality, it may be better to have sex than deny their natural desires to do it. 

But that rests heavily on individual cases, and I’m not convinced there’s enough of those to convince me to support promiscuity as a whole. In fact, I denounce any sex outside of marriage. I have read things, heard things, sensed things in my own blood; sex is an act of utter euphoria. It is a connection that should be the pinnacle of any union between a man and a woman. And if it’s a pinnacle, then it must be saved for… well… the pinnacle! For marriage, the pinnacle of love! And not a moment before.

Do you agree with me? Whether or not you do, question the things I just said. I firmly believe them to be true. But I am human, and I can fail. I need your help in figuring this out. You need mine, too. We all need each other’s help. For this is a debate we cannot abandon. Over the past fifty or so years, the United States of American has opened wide the floodgates of sexuality. The duty is ours, the children of the aftermath, to say where the U.S.A. will go from there. 

What we say about sex, we say so much about ourselves that we might as well be talking about ourselves. When we speak of how we treat sex, we are thus charting the course of souls, and by extension a nation.


  1. "For people that are totally ignorant, confused, or mislead about morality and sexuality, it may be better to have sex than to deny their natural desires to do it."
    Wait, what? Sorry to disagree Sean but there is no way that it is better to commit a gravely sinful act than to not commit that act. An uninformed conscience can mitigate one's own culpability but the act itself is still evil. Sexual Puritanism is wrong but at least it is motivated by a desire to obey God. In fact, I don't think that the vast majority of puritanical behavior is even sinful. Foolish certainly, but not sinful. I would rather go to heaven as a prudish puritan, than to hell as a promiscuous playboy. (Not that I have the interpersonal skills to convince anyone to be promiscuous with me, but you get the idea)

  2. We discussed this at breakfast, but I want to clarify my thoughts from that discussion in text. I'm horrible at expressing myself in person.

    One of the requirements of a moral sin is awareness of the sin. Someone could theoretically grow up and never be taught or shown that premarital sex is wrong. And considering the messed-up cultures (like ours) that have been around and are around today, I'm sure that's happened to someone. That's the kind of person I was trying to reference.

    With that said, however, you're dead right that it does not change the nature of the act. The instant anyone gets even an inkling of it, whether by instinct or otherwise, the fault is theirs if they do it. And seeing as we are speaking of natural law, instinct should pick that up easily. Especially with those darn Christians running around. A situation like I described should be extremely rare, so rare it isn't immensely significant.

    I must qualify "prudish puritan", though, as another minor point. Going to heaven for that depends on whether you have a reason for it. If a prudish Puritan is being a prudish Puritan because that he is blindly adhering to prudish Puritan laws without trying to understand them, he is susceptible to temptation if someone shakes his worldview. But if he understood them, then absolutely he'd go to heaven.

    Did that make any sense?

  3. And on further reflection, I see your point now. When I first wrote it, I had not thought to think of the culpability of the act. THAT would not be present in a case of total ignorance. The act itself would still be harmful. But once again, those cases of total ignorance should be so few that this whole discussion is nitpicking. It's a good kind of nitpicking, though, so I thank you truly for bringing it up.

  4. No problem. Your post is very well written as always.

  5. 1: From what I gather here, you guys have some very interesting discussions at breakfast.

    2: Talking about the changes from the 50s to now basicly covers my lifetime (give or take a couple years). & as a representative of my generation, I am not proud of what we helped bring about.

    3: "The duty is ours, the children of the aftermath, to say where the U.S.A. will go from there." To a large extent true. But that doesn't absolve the rest of us from doing our part to help turn things arround.

    OK, that having been said, you guys show a whole lot better insight into things than my generation did at your age. It is kind of hard to add much to the conversation. But there area couple things I can expand on.

    I don't know if Marilyn Monroe intended to attack the old moral order. From what I have come to know, i think she was looking for something to fill the void left because of her childhood & she thought she found in in her lifestyle.

    On the other hand, Kinsey & Hefner, among others, lead an all out attack on Judeo-Christian morality. While I will admit some things were a bit too prudish in the 50s, like Lucy not being able to use the word pregnant, hence the use of the Spanish word for it in the title of the episode. My question with that is did they not think people knew Spanish, or that a foreign language made it more respectable?

    But things were like they were because of how far the pendulum had swung from where it was in the Roaring 20s. I will grant that by today's standards much of what was in those movies like 32's "Sign of the Cross, including those of Mae West, seems tame by today's standards. But it was the reaction to what was in those movies that brought in the Haye's Office & the twin beds etc.

    1 of the big controversies in the 50s was that a movie (The Moon is Blue) used the word virgin. Unfortunately rather than swinging back to a more central, sensible position or even a little the other way, the 60s & early 70S went way off the scale.

    Sadly something else that got thrown out was, as you know, what the Catholic Church actually taught in most circles. That is, until Pope John Paul II & his "Theology of the Body" came along aided & abetted by the Catechism in the early 90s.

    Without going into details, yes, I thought that what was being taught was correct as I didn't have anything else to go on. But even then, I think I knew that I wasn't being told the whole story.

    I don't know if I can adequately put it into words, but the sexual revolution basicly took us from being made in the image & likeness of God & lowered us to the level of animals. Thus abortion is OK etc.

    We took what was, as Sean said, a pinnacle & turned it into something else. Like I said earlier, you guys show a lot more insight than many will give you credit for as to what should be done to turn things arround. & that includes the "nitpicking".

    Well at this point I have to go so for now I'll leave things where they are. If I muddled up anything or didn't make things clear, let me know. I will gladly, to the best of my ability expand on things.

    PS On lighter note before I go, the Puritans have gotten a bad rep. They weren't so puritanish as they were painted. They enjoyed life much more than we give them credit while keeping all in a proper moral perspective (mostly).

  6. Al: A nice summation of 20th Century sexual mores. I didn't know about most of those things and being a history major and all, I find it very interesting. As for the puritans getting a bad rap, you're right there. They were major producers of alcohol!

  7. Patrick you get an A+ in early American History. They were big producers of alcohol. Something that makes a lot of the modern day "puritans" very uncomfortable.

    & what I shared is only a very Reader's Digest version. & then there is the influence of Margaret Sanger & her compatriots with birth control.

    Youse guys (a DBQism) have a great opportunity at the college you are at to learn the proper Catholic persective on sex & sexuality. Sadly there are way too few places like that.

    I am no prude or "puritan" & not easily shocked, but some of the late night garbage on TV, esp cable, is soft core porn. What it really says is how we have objectified people & perverted sexuality so badly from what God wants it to be.

    Again puritans get a bad rap in this area as well. They had a strict morality, but clearly they expected husbands to do their "duty" as a spouse. & large families were clearly the norm.

    It seems to me the key question Sean is asking is what can each of us do to change things & how can we help each other as well? Am I right?