Sex and Dignity? Seriously?

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Sex and dignity are two words that don't seem to belong together. Sex is innately and joyously undignified. Dignity often implies primness and good posture.

Yet in his treatise on "The Joy of Love," Pope Francis uses the word dignity 26 times, several times in a specifically sexual context. This led me to a different view of the meaning of dignity.

While the pope was issuing these views on love, I was reading American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. I think of myself as fairly liberal-minded, but several of the accounts in this volume -- example: eighth graders engaged in outdoor oral sex in view of a camera -- caused me to figuratively draw back and clutch my string of pearls. By any definition, dignity was missing from the reported episodes.

By what I've now learned is a Catholic definition, dignity is the unassailable value of every person, whatever his or her condition in life.

Pope Francis, often quoting other popes, takes a pro-sex stance (unfortunately limited to heterosexual marriage.)


Sexuality ... is an interpersonal language wherein the other is taken seriously, in his or her sacred and inviolable dignity.

His use of the word dignity is to argue, not for prim sex, but for awareness of the human value of one's partner. Basically, he's saying: don't simply use each other, don't think of each other as sex toys. Don't be calling anybody "ho."

I was also pleased to see that he noted the mystical nature of sexual experience, a theme that --ever to my surprise -- has turned up in all my novels.

A healthy sexual desire, albeit closely joined to a pursuit of pleasure, always involves a sense of wonder...

That sense of wonder surely enhances one's sense of the dignity and worth of the partner.

Of course if I were pope, I'd recognize gay marriage and delete the word albeit (which means though) in the quote above. I can't see the problem with the pursuit of pleasure. There's no reason pleasure or its pursuit should lower respect for the lover.