Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Sexual Authenticity

I recently finished Sexual Authenticity (blog) by Melinda Selmys, and I thought it was good. One could say many fine things about how Melinda speaks honestly and openly about her own experience as a homosexual and her journey thence to her current state as a happily married Catholic mother. One could laud that she doesn't regurgitate the stereotypical or ideological polemics in treating the subject as it is dealt with in the media and literature (on both sides). One could reflect on how she deftly catches the average Christian mentally red handed in his prejudices (and in that group I include myself).

As I said, one could and should offer many commendations to her for her prose, but the thing I found most praiseworthy was her integral treatment of sex in the human person, including how it pertains to God. She identifies rightly that the essential ailment of our society is not the current trends towards the acceptance of homosexual unions but rather an impoverished understanding of sexuality and marriage in general. It is heartening to find I am not alone in this perception, though I certainly lack the depth of experience and research Melinda has on the topic of homosexuality.

I learned from her, and I found her treatment of the theology of the body to be insightful. I have yet to take up that work of John Paul II, but I have encountered a number of accounts of it, many of which seem to me, not even being familiar with the source, superficial. Melinda's treatment resonated deeply, and perhaps as a result of her own recounting of her penchant towards philosophy, and just seeing it throughout her writing, I am inclined to think her treatment is true to the source.

Similarly, I have taken up other books on sexuality from a Catholic perspective. Too many of them are self-congratulatory and, dare I say, sickeningly pious. I consider myself one more inclined to religious fervor than your average Joe, but they were too much, even for me. Not so with Sexual Authenticity. One of my favorite bits was this:

Lighten up. Sex is fun, it's relaxing, it's ridiculous. The problem with all of us Catholics is that we have this airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky, ├╝berserious understanding of sexuality. For the rest of the world--and even for most of the sane Catholics--it's nothing like that at all. When was the last time that you made love to your husband, or wife, and thought "Oh! We are becoming one! We are the sacramental manifestation of Christ's love for His Church! We are the Image of the intimate life of the Holy Trinity!" Never. What you're really thinking is, "The baby had better not wake up halfway through like last time. I wish he'd had a shower in the last week. Did I remember to turn the dishwasher on?" Right? So don't give me all this nonsense about how sex is holy and must be kept in a shining tabernacle, protected from the blasphemy of condoms and fur-lined handcuffs. Get real, take yourselves less seriously, put your high horse in the stable, and have some fun like everybody else.

!! I was laughing out loud reading this. And it goes on. It was so good of her to do this, to balance out the saccharine treatment sex often gets from Catholics. This is part of what makes the book so authentic, that and the fact that she doesn't let this acknowledgment contradict the real truths that we can indeed get so sappy about. As she follows on: "How a person experiences sex--the individual, and in some sense unrepeatable, experience of making love on a particular day--is a different matter from what sex, as an element of human reality, means." And thus begins her exposition of the theology of the body.

There's a lot more to say, but I'll leave that for you read. It was honest. It was instructive. It was relatable. It was true. It's a good book that you should read no matter where you stand on these issues. You'll get something good out of it.

Thanks to the Catholic Company for sharing this book with me.