All things being equal: a contrast between celibacy and sterilization

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I recently read a provoking article in the Metro newspaper, often found scattered about in our local buses and subway transit system. It is entitled “The mother of all double standards,” and it rallies against the medical system which it accuses of offering permanent sterilization for men more readily than for woman.

 

We are introduced to Andy Prosserman who, though he never got a vasectomy in his 20’s because he “knew that this would be irresponsible,” did in fact get one at the age of 30. While I was under the impression that the journey of self-knowledge takes a lifetime, apparently 30 was enough.

 

In lieu of having kids, Prosserman is seen posing, ready for his new life of liberty and indulgence: in one frame of a six part montage he is seen holding a bottle of Glenlivet 12 year old scotch, in another a Nintendo controller, and in yet another his passport.

 

When I looked at these images of what must be at least in part the ideal life of Prosserman, I could not help but be overwhelmed by a sense of deep regret for this man, for the trade that he has made.

 

My reaction can be explained by another incredible social phenomenon.

 

Do you ever wonder why Isis has managed to capture the imagination of so many youth?

 

It is because we live in a world that tells us that scotch and video games, in other words unlimited personal indulgence, is the pinnacle of our existence.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

If someone told me that the meaning of my life was to stuff my proverbial gullet with as many pleasures as humanly possible before I died, I would go join Isis too. At least they understand sacrifice on some level, though they have a very twisted idea of what that means. At least they understand what it means to serve a higher cause, even though what they call a higher cause is actually darkness and death.

 

Our brothers and sisters join Isis because at least in the sands of the middle east, or even within the borders of their own countries, these young souls looking for meaning can die for something, because even the illusion of a meaningful sacrifice is more tantalizing than the alternative.

 

Humanity is made in such a way so that our own gift of self to the point of self-sacrifice is the very pinnacle of our existence.

 

It is said that Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve.

 

Meanwhile, Prosserman is going to find at the bottom of his scotch bottle his own emptiness looking up at him. One day he will ask himself, “Surely there has got to be more than this.”

 

What is disturbing is that the author of the article, Sofi Papamarko, doesn’t give any concern whatsoever for the wellbeing and the interior life of these individuals. She does not so much as ask as to whether permanently destroying the body’s capacity to produce life is questionable.

 

Her only concern: equal access for men and women.

 

Think about what happens to a society that favours equal rights, or anything for that matter, over a love and appreciation of life.

 

In The Gospel of Life by Pope John Paul II, it is pointed at that “in the Old Testament, sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing.” (44) Nothing is more natural for living breathing beings than to bring life into this world, to continue their existence through their progeny.

 

From the eyes of this ancient Jewish people, we are all clamouring over one another to have equal access to a curse.

 

No one seems to care, just so long as access is equal.

 

Undoubtedly, at this point, someone will remind me that the majority of Catholic priests (there are some married Catholic priests) and all Catholic religious live celibately, which is to say they do not marry, nor have sex, nor have kids.

 

The first difference between sterilization and celibacy is sex.

Sterilization in modern western society has one purpose: to be able to have sex while undermining its natural result, which is children. They want the maximum pleasure, with the least responsibility. Turning the pursuit and goal of sex into pleasure, however, naturally cheapens it and makes it into yet another item for consumption. Thus, the love within flees before an ever greedy appetite for personal gratification, at no cost.

 

Celibacy, on the other hand, is focused towards giving life. A priest or religious does not renounce marriage, and by consequence sex and children, because they fear responsibility, or because “they know what they want.” They do it because they want to dedicate their lives in the deepest way possible to the glory of Christ, which brings life in the fullest sense possible.

 

Take the priesthood as an example:

 

The man who does not have the desire to be a father, should never be a priest.

 

For a priest becomes the father of all, the caretaker and the intercessor for every soul. If he lives out his vocation, he gives up the luxury of caring about himself, and learns to die daily for those he loves.

 

Likewise, I was once told that to become a contemplative monk in order to flee the chaos of the world was a terrible reason, and a false one. Those brave monks and nuns live cloistered lives so that their life may bring fruit in the world via their heartfelt prayers to the Divine who participates in all life.

 

The difference is enormous.

 

Prosserman sterilized himself so he could he could pleasure himself; celibate priests, monks, and nuns refrain from the beautiful earthly pleasures of marriage and children in order to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.

 

The former sees only himself, while the latter see everyone at once.

 

What greater form of equality is there than to see others before myself?

Being Clothed in the Real “I”

Sliding into public awareness with a new intensity is the discussion over dress codes; what should, and should not be allowed in schools.
 

While some are outspoken against the methods in which dress codes are enforced, others attack the very existence of them. Discipline can take on an unhealthy form and efforts should always be made to right these excesses.
 

However, dress codes in and of themselves are a powerful witness to the dignity of our children.
 

One man quoted on thinkpress.org argued that “as far as I’m concerned, what a woman wears doesn’t give a guy a right to do anything to them [or] say anything to them.” This argument quickly gains an audience because it invokes emotion, but it completely sidesteps any meaningful point in the argument.
 

We can all agree that clothing says nothing of permission. It cannot be denied, however, that clothing can make an invitation, whether intentional or not. But even to discuss this is missing the point.
 

In the same article the author provided the suggestion that men and women just want to be comfortable in the summer heat. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts is not putting anyone in danger of overheating; not the point!
 

We could discuss the fact that men’s and women’s clothing choices do create distractions in the classroom, but even this is missing the point.
 

We could delve into how dress codes supposedly violate freedoms, but that’s a bit like saying I have the right to shop naked, or drive on the left side of the road if I please. Even still, this is not the point.
 

All of these arguments are straw man arguments in comparison to the heart of what really matters for both our children and for ourselves. 

There is a greater and more profound issue underlying both sides of this debate.
 

What is a woman or a man?
 

Is a human being a person?
 

Or an object, like a bowling ball?
 

Or, are we people with personalities, with love to give and receive?
 

What is unavoidable about clothing is that it alters how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Our clothing is a reflection of our self-worth.
 

Any man or woman is free to believe that their worth is derived from being sexually attractive. They are free to believe it, but that doesn’t mean it is not a lie.
 

We are greater than that.
 

Sexual attraction is a necessary and enjoyable part of a loving and devoted relationship. To treat it as the means to which we find love is a recipe for disaster, landing us in relationships with people who are emotionally or physically abusive, self-centered, and unloving.
 

Why would we encourage this understanding of our sexuality?
 

What message is a fourteen year old girl going to learn from being allowed to wear a miniskirt at school? What message will she take to heart when some of the boys at school pay more attention to her because of her choice to bear skin? Is that the attention that is filled with love and respect, the love and respect our children deserve?
 

Highly unlikely.
 

If the only factor which motivated someone to speak to me was the fact that I wore more revealing clothing, then I would be far better off without their company.
 

If my skin is what motivated them, then clearly they only have their own selfish ends in mind.
 

Lust; not love.
 

To confuse the attention we receive from being loved with the attention we receive from being lusted after is a great tragedy.
 

I am not arguing that sex or sexual attraction are bad things, quite the opposite. Sex finds its greatest fruition (and its greatest pleasure) in a loving, monogamous, and committed relationship. Neither am I arguing that we should neglect our physical appearance, for doing so would be to ignore a healthy part of living in a community.
 

I am arguing that our intrinsic worth demands more out of our clothing choices, and that this “more” is reflected by balanced dress codes.
 

Some feminists claim that men seek to control women by controlling their clothing choices, reducing women to objects, things in their area of influence.
 

However, men and women of integrity argue that dress codes should be in effect because men and women are more than objects.
 

What many feminists do not realise is that rules and regulations are often designed to protect and mature the very people who obey them.
 

I argue that a parent who encourages or is unconcerned with their child dressing provocatively both misunderstands this inherent value and hurries their child along a path which leads away from authentic love.
 

No human person knowingly would ever take this path, but if it is the only path we know, then we walk it willingly.
 

Having dress codes is a meaningful first step (one of many hopefully), to teaching our children that they have dignity and value, that they deserve to be treated with love and respect.
 

It is not about distraction, it’s not about freedoms, it’s not about permission or invitations, and it’s certainly not about being comfortable in the summer.
 

It is about understanding the true meaning of living within human dignity.
 

It is about living in accord with the undeniable and bottomless value that every human being has for no other reason than that they exist and that they are loved.
 

This value is never earned, never increased, never diminished, and definitely not altered in any way by our sexual or physical appearance.
 

To teach anything contrary is a lie.

Women and Men: Equal, But Not The Same

Have you ever noticed that it’s the same people who tell us that the only reason men and women are different is entirely because of socialization, are also the same people telling us that homosexuality is purely genetic, and has nothing to do with socialization at all? Though this standpoint is tempting, it represents wishful thinking as opposed to reality.
 

Genes are expressed differently depending upon our environment. Likewise, they predispose us to different environments. So the environment we are exposed to affects how/what genes are expressed, as well as having a profound effect on the human personality and behaviour. Nature and nurture are two complex and intertwined realities, but there’s one thing I know from my own experience: I have never been able to find an empirical study which showed that any particular behaviour or disposition was entirely the result of genes or environment. To make such a claim is not only unfounded, but also has an imminent risk of negatively affecting those we love.

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To illustrate my point consider this study: In Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding by Lilenfeld et al. (published February, 2013) several studies where referred to in which identical twins raised in separate homes were studied to try and understand which factor (genes or environment) produces homosexuality. In an Australian study done with over 1500 identical twin pairs, only 20% of the time when one twin was homosexual, so was the other. That means that 80% of the time only one of the twins was found to have a homosexual orientation, even though, they were genetically identical. The authors state that “the finding that a substantial percentage of identical twins aren’t concordant tells us that environmental influences play a key role in homosexuality, although this doesn’t tell us what these influences are” (Lilenfeld 452). Genes cannot be written out, but the idea of “100% genes” can be.
 

One reason this debate has become so heated is that people treat the statement “men and women are different…” as if it were the founding platform for the next point that “men are better then women at…” or “women can’t do ______ as a result of…” I do not, and never will, support such a view. The contribution of women to society during the entire history of the human family is immeasurable. I have a profound awareness and gratitude for this immense gift. Sadly, women have been treated, and are being treated, with injustice, with hatred, and with oppression. Women have been undermined and unrecognized for their irreplaceable contribution to humankind. I wish I had the ability to wipe the slate clean, but I do not.Feminists have seen and acknowledged the power of social and cultural movement, and so they are trying to alter its course for their perception of what is best. Don’t we all? Many feminists will tell us that a woman is not free until she is free from all societal pressures and preconceptions. We cannot forget, however, that the idea that a man or a woman is merely a blank slate waiting to decide who they want to be, is yet another societal pressure and preconception. If men and women are different, it is a misleading one; one that if continued will have a negative impact on future and current human beings.
 

I pray and work for a world where women and men will become two equal partners in the pursuit of human life, art, philosophy, love, science, medicine, and every other aspect of our lives. With that said, I will never support the idea that women and men are identical. We must never confuse equality, which is intrinsic in every human being, and sameness, the idea that they are the same. An apple is different from an orange, even so, this is not an argument that one is better than the other. A life of intellectual pursuit is different from a life of intense manual labour, but this again, is not an argument for which is better. Equal, but not the same. We already know and embrace this understanding when it comes to individuals. We know that just because a person lived their life in India doesn’t make them any better or worse then someone who lived in Australia. Yet, we don’t have a hard time acknowledging their differences, even though differences like these have been used in the past to effect certain forms of hatred or oppression.
 

Within the aforementioned text, one chapter dedicated to childhood development makes a clear statement on the subject of gender and socialization. The authors reveal that in regards to a child’s early years “a popular misconception is that gender differences don’t emerge until socializing influences, like parenting practices, have had the opportunity to act on Children” (Lilenfeld 402). They continue, “Yet some gender differences are evident in early infancy, rending this explanation unlikely.” Among the differences noted are children’s tendencies to play with gender specific toys, even when presented with either gender neutral options or equal access to gender specific toys like balls and fire trucks versus dolls etc. This raises an important question of the chicken and the egg. It is possible that the use of gender specific toys arose out of the preferences of the children, and not the parents preferences for their children. This study supports this hypothesis.
 

There is one commonly implied idea that I disagree with most of all. It’s the idea that our society cannot be deemed equal or fair until there is an equal balance between men and women in various places in the workforce. While it’s impossible to deny that unfair gender biases exist in the workplace, and that this is a tragedy, on the other hand, the constitutive differences between men and women will affect their inclinations, choices, and tendencies on average. If both men and women are allowed to be truly free, we will notice some gender dominated areas of society. This reality can be a symbol of our freedom, not our inequality. If a man or woman with equal qualifications is refused from a specific positi0n because of their gender alone, this is a grave and moral error, one which every effort should be made to fix.
 

I stand against stereotypes whole-heartedly, however, they do not exist in a vacuum. The difference between how women and men communicate is both noticed and partially understood. To pretend this contrast doesn’t exist is to throw ourselves backwards in our understanding of one another. Likewise, applying one simple stereotype over all men or all women, is equally harmful. Careful discernment, centered in love, is the gift every human being deserves, regardless of gender. Acknowledging our diversity is the first step in working towards communicating effectively and with care.
 

We stand to lose a great wealth of understanding of the beautiful dynamic of our genders if we toss the baby out with the bathwater. As a whole, great effort should be undertaken to ensure that gender stereotypes do not work to enslave, to subjugate, or to crush either men or women — in fact, stereotypes should never be used. Some have succeeded greatly in this good pursuit. Just because a particular institution has failed us on one occasion or another, is never a sufficient reason to comprehensively eradicate it. Our differences are not arbitrary, but complimentary. This reality gives birth to the great potential for a beautiful balance between strengths and weaknesses. Many assume that difference will therefore fuel separation or discord, but this thought misses the point altogether. In the pursuit of balance and harmony, our complementary differences give us all the more reason to work together, to love one another, and to strive to reach absolute and complete equality, because when we co-operate together, it creates something altogether more beautiful and powerful, then what we ever could have reached apart.