Anita Chandra, a Rand Corporation behavioral scientist, just released a new study that the media is touting as "groundbreaking research."
Apparently, Chandra has discovered something many of us have known for years, but because of her credentials, her findings are getting coverage, though to describe it as objective coverage would be a bit off the mark. You see, the news report tells us that "shows that highlight only the positive aspects of sexual behavior without the risks can lead teens to have unprotected sex 'before they're ready to make responsible and informed decisions.'"
However, in the full study, published in Pediatrics, the following conclusion is reached:
This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.
What came to mind when I read this is that somehow, many in our contemporary culture have chosen to divorce the mystery of genuine love – based on self-sacrifice for another's good – from sex, which results in viewing sexual relations as nothing more than a bodily, mechanical function.
For example, what is the sleaze factor on most television programs these days? We all know the answer to that . . . It is, for lack of a better term, nothing other than hopping from bed to bed, to keep the story line going! If that sounds a bit juvenile, disgusting and downright insulting to those blessed with logic and common sense, then perhaps you and I are getting the same message from conclusions such as Chandra's.
Whatever happened to the mystery of saving sex for marriage? Why can't people discuss love in the context of friendship, dating and romance? Isn't it possible to focus on the attributes of remaining chaste because we want a marriage that will last?
As one of my favorite songs says so perfectly,
My romance doesn't need a blue lagoon standing by;
No month of May, no twinkling stars, no hide away, no soft guitars.
My romance doesn't need a castle rising in Spain,
Nor a dance to a constantly surprising refrain.
Wide awake I can make my most fantastic dreams come true.
My romance doesn't need a thing but you.
I don't think Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart had in mind the scenes we now frequently see in daily soap operas or TV series such as the popular Sex in the City when they composed this song in 1935, nor do I think they were inspired to write it after listening to something like a lewd rap song or attending a Planned Parenthood-style sex instruction class. No, I think in that bygone era, songs were written based on the undeniable fact that "love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage." Oh yes, that's another classic that simply wouldn't be appreciated in our sexually saturated culture these days.
But when I read analyses like Chandra's, which recommend balancing the viewing of sex-driven programs, regardless of the venue in which they are seen, with information about negative consequences so that the teen pregnancy rate might be reduced, I am more than concerned about the future of mankind as we know it. Such studies leave me wondering if the most fundamental reason why we face so many human relationship problems today is quite simply that human beings no longer appreciate the mystery of what it is that draws a male and female together in the first place.
Christopher West wrote in his article "God, Sex and Babies,"
In fact, the spiritual call to love as Christ loves is stamped right in our bodies as male and female, in what John Paul II calls "the nuptial meaning of the body," the body's "capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift and – by means of this gift – fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence" (Theology of the Body, Pauline Books, p. 63).
Man and woman express this bodily gift in numerous ways, but, as the Holy Father states, this gift "becomes most evident when spouses . . . bring about that encounter that makes them 'one flesh'" (Letter to Families, 12). Paul describes this union in one flesh as "a great mystery" that in some way images, proclaims, and foreshadows the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph. 5:31–32).
No higher dignity and honor could be bestowed on our sexuality. God created us male and female and called us to "be fruitful and multiply" as a sign of his own mystery of life-giving love in the world. Yet, if we are to embrace this grand, sacramental vision of our sexuality, we must also embrace the responsibility that comes with it.
Take that mystery away, that fundamental defining aspect of what it really means to be a man and a woman, and what you have left are sadness, heartbreak, disease, suicide and despondency. Rodgers and Hart got it right; but then, they weren't banking on increased income from the sale of contraceptives and abortion; they simply wanted people to appreciate the appeal of loving someone for all the right reasons.