The Puzzle of Sex (a short excerpt)

An excerpt I ran across on my old blog today (transcribed by me in 2009) from chapter 12 of the book The Puzzle of Sex by Peter Vardy:

It is rare for visits to a prostitute to start marriage problems – generally these visits are a symptom rather than the cause of difficulties.

Prostitutes themselves can have high ethical standards – certainly they make their bodies available for hire, but this does not mean that they do not have clear standards which they will not breach easily. A prostitute may have more integrity and be more of an individual human being before God than a priest – the prostitute is at least open and honest about what she does and there may be no other alternative open to her, whereas there can be cases where this may not apply to priests. She may conduct her life with care and compassion for her friends and relatives and may even have a family of her own which she loves and supports. Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables (on which the hit musical is based) portrays a woman forced into prostitution in order to care for her daughter – yet she remained a loving, tender, caring mother even as she died. A priest, by contrast, may be a hypocrite, pretending to be chaste and virtuous whilst, underneath, a very different picture emerges.

It is significant that the single group of people whom Jesus criticized and condemned were priests – certainly not prostitutes, whom he seemed to regard as being closer to his Father’s kingdom than the respectable and pious. This was not because prostitution is morally right, but because lives of humanity, of compassion, concern for others as well as a commitment to truth and integrity matter more than outward appearances. The person who uses a prostitute as a functionary or who has sex with a young girl purely for his own enjoyment, who uses a woman’s body whilst failing to see her humanity, may be far more culpable than the woman whom he uses in this way.

In Leo Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection, a young prince ‘falls for’ a young girl staying at the house of his aunts. He professes undying love, and she is convinced. They sleep together, which to the girl, seems a natural and right expression of their relationship. Shortly afterwards the young man leaves to join the army and gives the girl scarcely another thought. The girl discovers she is pregnant and is thrown out by the aunts. She has no money and no way of earning a living, but she is young and attractive and is taken up by an older man as his mistress. He soon tires of her and she is forced into prostitution, gradually slipping further and further down the scale. Eventually, some years later, she is arrested and brought before magistrates – one of whom is the young prince who seduced her. He recognizes her and, for the first time, realizes the damage he has caused to her. Tolstoy’s book is a moving story of his attempt to right his wrong in the face of an implacable system which prevents him doing this. This story is repeated constantly today – although rarely does the young man get to see the harvest that his action has caused. It is true that pregnancy is less likely today with the ready availability of contraception, but this does not diminish the psychological damage that can be done by treating another human being merely in terms of their function and without any depth of commitment.

To regard another human being primarily in terms of his or her function is dehumanizing. Any human being who uses another solely for their sexual gratification is degrading them in the worst possible way – they are, effectively, denying their worth as human beings. This approach must be resisted by anyone who wishes to take ethics seriously or, indeed, to value other human beings, and it will lead to strong rejection of an instrumental view of sex, which sees sexual activity in isolation from the whole individual. Anyone who fails to do this and who fails to recognize that, in making love, there is an engagement with the whole person is effectively degrading them. It simply is not possible to treat another person as, effectively, an ‘object’ for one’s sexual gratification without doing serious damage to the other person and to oneself.

Two persons may willingly decide to have “recreational sex’, in other words to indulge in sexual activity just for the pleasure it brings. They may humorously say:

“Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it is one of the best.” […]

That’s all I copied from that portion, and due to the high cost I don’t own the book. Just dragging it over here to this newer blog cave.

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