Tag Archives: sexuality

Joseph Prever and Steve Gershom run into each other at the coffee shop. After they get over their initial surprise at seeing each other in the same place at the same time, and after they are done complimenting each others’ rugged good looks (but before it gets weird), they have a discussion about, what else, gender and sexuality. Joseph, apparently in a cantankerous mood, begins with a complaint.

JP: Why does everybody get so upset about gender and sexuality? Why do I get so upset about gender and sexuality? How come, sometimes, if I see somebody even start to talk about gender and sexuality, even if they’re saying something I agree with one hundred percent, I get agitated and want to smash things or quit the internet forever? It’s the most interesting topic in the world, but at the same time, I wish everyone would stop talking about it.
SG: I think it’s because it’s so personal, and therefore hard not to take personally. Because it’s not like gender and sexuality are just one more aspect of your personality — they go down to the root of you. They permeate you, they touch every part of you, the things that everybody sees about you and the things that noone sees. So hearing somebody else talk about them as if they know what they’re talking about can feel like a violation.
JP: What do you mean, “permeate”? Do you mean like in Freudianism, where every human interaction is secretly about whether you are going to have sex with that person or not?
SG: No, that’s the opposite of what I mean. If sexuality just boiled down to having sex, then it would be a lot easier to compartmentalize it. And it’d probably be a lot easier to remain objective about it, too. Can you imagine a world where sex was just something you did with some people sometimes, like playing Scrabble? It would be a very different world. Who cares if you like Scrabble or hate it? Who would be shocked if you had never played it, and who cares if you play it with a man, a woman, two men, two women, a goat, or your own daughter, so long as you play nice and nobody gets hurt? It’s just Scrabble.
JP: Okay, so sex isn’t like Scrabble. And when you say that human beings are permeated with gender and sexuality, you don’t mean that every human interaction is secretly about having sex. But you are saying that every human interaction has some element of gender-and-sexuality in it. Right? Maybe not having sex, but something else.
SG: Yes.
JP: Okay, so what is that “something else”?
SG: Maleness and/or femaleness. I think.
JP: So every human interaction is secretly about maleness and/or femaleness? You mean when I talk to a woman, all of my interactions with her can be reduced to the fact that I am male and she is female?
SG: That’s not what I mean — I wouldn’t reduce the interaction to those things. But I do think that those things are always in the background. Or maybe not the background: maybe gender-and-sexuality always has an influence on the shape, or the texture, of our interactions. So when I talk to another person, it’s not just an abstract person talking to another abstract person. It’s either a man talking to a woman, or a man talking to a man.
JP: That seems sexist. I mean, I get that men and women are different from each other, and I get that nobody is an abstract Person — everybody has their own individual personality, their quirks, their history. So when I talk to Jack, I’m not going to talk the same way as I would talk to Hilda. But that’s not because Jack is a man and Hilda is a woman. It’s because Jack is Jack and Hilda is Hilda. But it sounds like you’re saying that, when you, as a man, talk to a woman, you’ve already decided certain things about her — you come into the conversation with certain preconceptions. And that isn’t fair.
SG: Hm. It does sound unfair when you put it like that. I have to think about this for a while.

Joseph Prever looks insufferably triumphant. Steve Gershom ignores him. To be continued.

“I think,” says Fr. John from behind the confessional screen, “that we tend to see our sexuality as a burden, instead of a gift.” He laughs to himself a little, maybe thinking You and me both, buddy; you know as well as I do that celibacy is no joke.

“It feels like a burden because it’s so powerful,” he continues, “and so hard to control. But make this your penance: ask that the grace of this sacrament will help you to see your sexuality in a positive way. As a gift.”

Phew boy, okay. I’ll try. A couple of thoughts flit through my head — about fatherhood as an expression of masculinity and therefore of sexuality, about how all men, even (especially?) the celibate, are called to be fathers in one way or another — but mostly I put the question aside and hope I’ll remember to pray about it.

While Fr. John is still talking, I glance up at the screen. Usually I go face-to-face, because I like Fr. John and he knows all about me and it’s nice to visit with him and confess at the same time. But the screen’s good, too. You can’t see the face of the priest, so it’s a little easier to realize that it is in fact Jesus behind there, and that the kindness and humanity of Fr. John is at least equal to the kindness and humanity of the One he represents and makes present.

More than equal, of course. But I make allowances for my weakness of imagination. When I picture Heaven, I stop short of the Beatific Vision and just picture a place where there are always friends to go exploring1 with. When I imagine Jesus, picturing somebody more or less like Fr. John is a lot easier, and a lot more effective, than trying to conjure up an image of perfect love, and ending up with some saccharine2 unreality.

I’ve been nursing a grudge against the Lord, because I still don’t understand what to make of the hell I went through earlier this year, the hell He didn’t save me from; I’m still trying to learn what trusting Him could mean. But while I imagine Jesus behind the screen, listening to my silly little selfishnesses, the grudge melts for a moment, and I whisper, too soft for Fr. John to hear: How do you put up with this shit?

I don’t mean to swear at the Lord, and I hope he takes it the way I mean it: as a squalid little cri de coeur instead of a sign of irreverence; as a way of saying, I’m confused and angry and grateful and in love all at the same time, and I don’t know what to do with any of it because, like Philip, even after keeping your company all this time, I still don’t know you. I hope he takes it the way he must have taken it when his earthly friends slipped up and let fly with the occasional oath.

They were, after all, a bunch of fishermen and whores.

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