Imagine you are a Catholic who experiences a strong attraction to pornography. Imagine that, after years of experience with this attraction, one day, you decide to “come out” as a “PA Catholic” (“PA” as in “porn-attracted”). Quickly, among your circle of friends and parishioners, you readily observe, “Well, yes, I am a PA Catholic. Being PA doesn’t define everything about me, but it’s an important part of who I am, and I am indebted to the other members of the PA community for all the life lessons I’ve learned, so that’s how I choose to identify myself.”
Over time, however, well-meaning people approach you to offer you words of encouragement and numerous resources to support your pursuit of the virtue of chastity. In fact, the more you research how other PA Catholics are treated, the more you learn that they, too, have been subjected to such encounters, in which the primary concern seems to be about how the PA Catholic can remain chaste.
Now, imagine further that, from this, you conclude that you are being objectified and even reductively “sexualized” by this constant point of reference to being “PA”—all people seem to want to talk about is how you should avoid giving in to your attraction to porn! Isn’t that demeaning?
Is this really the most reasonable conclusion to draw from your experience?
The most recent head-scratcher from the “Spiritual Friendship” blog site is what has me thinking along these lines. “Gay and Catholic” author Eve Tushnet, who also regularly contributes to “Spiritual Friendship” (along with blogging at Patheos), has just penned a post titled “The Self-Defeating Sexualization of Gay and Same-Sex Attracted Christians.”* Her claim, also found in her book and in other blog posts, is that chastity is actually being over-emphasized in regard to “gay Christians” and that “This sexualization harms us (and our churches) in a lot of ways.”
In fact, Tushnet, quite seriously, also says this: “It reduces us to our sexuality, which is dehumanizing. And what I find sort of grimly ironic is that the assumption that gay people’s spiritual and moral problems center around chastity makes chastity harder.”
Needless to say, I find this stunning. Let me get this straight, so to speak. A person who publicly professes and affirms an identity that is intrinsically linked (even according to Tushnet) to at least some level of experiencing the moral problem of same-sex attraction is not being reductively “dehumanizing” by making such a self-reference, but another person whose first instinct is to respond to this self-admission by supporting and affirming chastity as the right solution to the moral problem of same-sex attraction is being reductively “dehumanizing”?
Further, does it really make chastity harder when someone assumes that the right response to SSA is the virtue of chastity and seeks to support a person with SSA in their pursuit of chastity?
Surely, one response to these two questions might be that Tushnet is claiming that it’s “dehumanizing” to only respond to persons with SSA with chastity support. There is definitely a kernel of truth in that idea, but I am honestly unaware of anyone who has ever concluded that chastity support is the only thing a person with SSA really needs. I am, however, aware that the Catholic Church teaches that chastity support is something every person on the planet really needs, particularly those whose interior struggles are directly related to sexual temptation and sin.
Do you want to know the very basic reason people publicly identifying as “gay” are more likely to encounter people who are concerned about their call to chastity? Of course, you already know it. The decision to make public our internal struggles has consequences. When someone chooses to identify as a “gay Catholic,” it establishes a direct link to a “moral problem” that is centered around chastity.
If you don’t want to encounter a world full of people who are predominantly concerned about your call to chastity, then perhaps you shouldn’t publicly identify according to a label that is predominantly associated at some intrinsic level with temptations to unchastity.
And if you don’t want to be harmed by reductive “self-defeating sexualization,” then perhaps you should stop reductively “self-sexualizing” your own identity.