The truth and meaning of human sexuality

Introduction

I will begin by explaining that sexuality is not all about what we do with our genitals, as erroneously though by many. It is not all about intercourse or other sexual activities. This is a sexuality myth portrayed by popular media and culture.

What is sexuality?

According to the National catechetical directory for U.S.A Catholics, sexuality is the fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communication with others, of feeling, of expressing and living human love. It permeates and affects our thoughts, feelings and actions. As stated in Holy Scripture, God created man in his own image … male and female he created them. Our sexuality defines how we as males or females interact with each other. Let us now take a look at the major concepts that are embedded in sexuality. They are called the 5 circles of sexuality.

1. Sensuality

This is the awareness and feeling about your body and other people’s body. Sensuality allows us to enjoy the pleasure our bodies can give us and others. It affects our behavior in the following ways:

Body image—Feeling attractive and proud of one’s own body and the way it functions influences many aspects of life. Adolescents often choose media personalities as the standard for how they should look, so they are often disappointed by what they see in the mirror.

Satisfying skin hunger—The need to be touched and held by others in loving, caring ways is often referred to as skin hunger.

Feeling physical attraction for another person—The center of sensuality and attraction to others is not in the genitals (despite all the jokes). The center of sensuality and attraction to others is in the brain, humans’ most important “sex organ.” The unexplained mechanism responsible for sexual attraction rests in the brain, not in the genitalia.

2. Sexual Identity

Sexual identity is a person’s understanding of who she/he is sexually, including the sense of being male or of being female. Sexual identity consists of three “interlocking pieces” that, together, affect how each person sees him/herself. Each “piece” is important.

  • Gender identity – Knowing whether one is male or female. Most young children determine their own gender identity by age two. Sometime, a person’s biological gender is not the same as his/her gender identity—this is called being transgender.
  • Gender role – Identifying actions and/or behaviors for each gender. Some things are determined by the way male and female bodies are built or function. For example, only women menstruate and only men produce sperm. Other gender roles are culturally determined.
  • Sexual orientation— whether a person’s primary attraction is to people of the other gender (heterosexuality) or to the same gender (homosexuality) or to both genders (bisexuality) defines his/her sexual orientation. Sexual orientation begins to emerge by adolescence although many gay and lesbian youth say they knew they felt same sex attraction by age 10 or 11.

3. Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy is the ability to be emotionally close to another human being and to accept closeness in return. Several aspects of intimacy include:

  • Sharing—Sharing intimacy is what makes personal relationships rich. While sensuality is about physical closeness, intimacy focuses on emotional closeness.
  • Caring—Caring about others means feeling their joy and their pain. It means being open to emotions that may not be comfortable or convenient.
  • Liking or loving another person—Having emotional attachment or connection to others is a manifestation of intimacy.
  • Emotional risk-taking—To have true intimacy with others, a person must open up and share feelings and personal information. Sharing personal thoughts and feelings with someone else is risky, because the other person may not feel the same way. But it is not possible to be really close with another person without being honest and open with her/him.

4. Reproduction and Sexual Health

These are a person’s capacity to reproduce and the behaviors and attitudes that make sexual relationships healthy and enjoyable. The actual processes of conception, pregnancy, delivery, and recovery following childbirth are important parts of sexuality.

5. Sexualization

Sexualization is that aspect of sexuality in which people behave sexually to influence, manipulate, or control other people. Often called the “shadowy” side of human sexuality, sexualization spans behaviors that range from the relatively harmless to the sadistically violent, cruel, and criminal. These sexual behaviors include flirting, seduction, withholding sex from an intimate partner to punish her/him or to get something, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape. Teens need to know that no one has the right to exploit them sexually and that they do not have the right to exploit anyone else sexually.

 

The purpose of sexuality

Human being created in God’s image is the main reference point for understanding all aspects of humanity, including sexuality. Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure, the creator himself established as a means of uniting man and woman in a perpetual bond of love.  As man is marked with the indelible impression of God’s image he is exclusively different from the rest of creation. Human sexuality is one particularly area where this exclusiveness is profoundly manifested. For animals conjugal activities are merely a biological process for reproduction, but in man sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. Therefore sexuality in humans, the means of which man and woman give themselves to one another, through acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, are not simply biological but concern the innermost being of the person (CCC, 2361). The sexual act reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love. Under this light, there clearly appear the characteristic marks and demands of conjugal love, which is the consummation of sexuality. These marks are:

  • The sexual act is first of all fully human, that is to say it is of senses and of the spirit at the same time. It is not simply a transport of instinct and sentiment, but also a means of uniting two souls permanently.
  • Sexuality is ordered towards the transmission of life.
  • The act is total, whereby a couple generously share everything without reservation.
  • It is faithful and exclusive until death.

In summary, the conjugal love of man and woman stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity (openness to life).

Current trends

In modern times many people perceive sexuality as a license of sexual freedom. Sex has become a tool for self gratification and social exploitation. Social media, TV, radio, magazines are saturated with images of value-free sexual activity. In fact, if an alien were to land on earth today, it would think that without sex it would die. Sex has been over-hyped and elevated onto a pedestal of permissiveness. This attitude has lead to the development of an anti-life mentality, unbalanced relationships, heartbreak and failed marriages.

Chastity and sexuality

Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is training in excising human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he/she lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. Unfortunately, the latter is the case among most youths today. Chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to filter through the passions and appetites of senses with reason. It produces real liberation by freeing one’s self from the tyrannical excesses of sex when this has become a recreational activity. It controls without destroying the urges of instinct.  Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. It must be noted that it cannot be acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life.

Conclusion

The divine image is not just engraved on his soul but on his body also. Man’s body thus belongs to God. Therefore the dignity of man is to be understood in terms of his whole personality; soul and body taken together. The circles of our sexuality should be understood in this light. Our sexual identity, sensuality, intimacy, reproductive behavior etc cannot be separated from our relationship with God. Everything good created is good, including sexuality. Our sexuality becomes harmed when we abuse freedom and stray away from revealed truth.

 

 

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