A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 2

Here, I would like to present a proposition.

So, based upon my first post in this series, our “sexuality chart” might look something like this, with a different chart for each person:

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 3.46.30 PM

(If this chart doesn’t make sense to you, you may want to go back and read that first post.) In that first post, I divided off “same-sex-attraction” from “opposite-sex-attraction” and then further subdivided by context/time/development, individual persons, and attractive qualities. I ended up with a rather complex (and perhaps confusing) view of human sexuality. In this post, I will discuss some possible implications of the theory proposed in my first post on how we (and especially Christians) can view “homosexuality.”  In my first post, I divided off “same-sex-attraction” from “opposite-sex-attraction” and proposed that “opposite-sex-attraction” is a natural quality that may or may not be realized in every human being. In some people, it is a potentiality that has not been realized. This is not meant to imply that the absence of opposite-sex-attraction is purely genetic, psychological, spiritual, etc. It may result from one of these causes, a combination, or an entirely different cause, but I am not here primarily concerned here with the origin of opposite-sex-attraction or its absence.

Here, I would like to present a proposition…

The rest of this post can be found in my book, ā€œI Desired You: An Intellectual Journal on Faith and Sexuality.ā€ You can order a copy here

14 comments on “A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 2

  1. Pingback: A Theory of Sexual Attraction: Part 1 | Ideas of a University

  2. I’m not prepared to make a general statement with regards to the correctness (or incorrectness) of your thoughts in these two posts. For now, I will attempt to analyze your arguments by applying them to a different but related situation. Please correct any places where I misunderstand or misapply your ideas.

    In your first post, you determine that sexual attraction as a complex thing which is not simply one-dimensional, but in fact varies with time and differently with different individuals and even among different areas of attraction. In this post, you go on to propose that sexual attraction between two individuals is a potentiality [this cannot be disputed], and when this potentiality is actualized, it is a good. You refer to same-sex attraction above, but taking your arguments, especially in the previous post, there seems no reason this reasoning should not apply to any sexual attraction. This is what I shall attempt as follows.

    We shall consider Tom, who is courting a young woman, Janet. He sees marriage as his vocation, and both Janet and he know that their dating seeks toward that end, which means also that it ought cease when it seems marriage would not reasonably come about. During the course of their courtship, Tom’s potential sexual attraction to Janet will become actualized, and this is a good. Tom, being a good man, would not want to demean the marriage bed and would desire to protect Janet’s virtue and purity. They are drawn higher and indeed sanctified by this attraction. You could also consider Tom’s philandering friend Phil, who simply acts on his sexual urges as they come, and thus perverts what could be an otherwise good attraction. This all seems in line with what you say above.

    Now, fast-forward 15 years. Tom and Janet are married and have a small army of children. Tom has had to work hard to support his family and has been a good provider, father, and husband. Enter Delilah, Tom’s new secretary, who is young and very beautiful. The potentiality of Tom’s sexual attraction to his old secretary, the matronly Beatrice, was never actualized. The potentiality with respect to Delilah, however, is actualized. Can this, in any way, be considered a good? I don’t think Janet would think it ever could. Is Tom’s attraction to Delilah in line with his vocation (which has its own sacrament)? We could equally have posed the above scenario with Delilah being replaced by David, with the actualized sexual attraction between them being just as bad if not worse.

    Could an improper attraction or temptation be an occasion for growth? Of course! However, such attractions would not be a good in themselves but a reflection of mankind’s fallen nature.

    And this, I think, strikes at the heart of the questions I have, which may indicate either a flaw in the argument or at least a misunderstanding I have of it. Our human nature includes the sexual dimension: male and female in mutual complementarity. Bl. John Paul II articulates this quite clearly in the Theology of the Body. Aquinas teaches us that Grace perfects Nature. In order to support the premise that a potential sexual attraction, when actualized, is a good, I think you would need to argue that homosexual attraction must be natural (in the sense of being part of our nature) rather than disordered, to borrow the terminology employed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Likewise, with extra-marital attraction.

    I think that you are correct that our understanding of homosexuality has much room to grow, and indeed it must. I am just not sure whether this is the best direction to go.


    • I think it would largely depend upon what you mean by attraction. The desire for sexual intercourse is certainly one form of attraction, but it is not the only form of attraction. There are a host of other kinds of attraction, which could be realized in chaste ways among two unmarried people.

      I also hope that I didn’t suggest that the actualization of every sexual attraction is always unqualifiedly good. Certainly, fornication is not an unqualified good; it is a rather corrupted, that is, evil, thing. And so a desire for fornication would indeed be quite disordered, as you suggest. It might be considered good insofar as the people involved are good and sexual intercourse is a good, but it would be considered evil insofar as it is engaged in in a way improper to human flourishing.

      Regarding male/female complimentarity, I absolutely agree that it is an essential element of God’s plan for humanity. The seeking of this complimentarity is natural to man and to the creation of the family. The complimentarity between man and woman does not rule out other legitimate relationships and communities, however. Monastic communities and convents usually consist of only men or only women, but this does not diminish the significance of the intimate friendships had among these men and women.

      Regarding the possibility of “homosexual attraction” (at least as I discuss it here) not being unqualifiedly “intrinsically disordered,” I discuss that in a post here:
      There are a variety of ways in which we can look at sexual attraction, and I would certainly not condone attractions tending towards fornication. I wouldn’t rule out other forms of attraction as being legitimate, though.

      I hope that’s helpful.


  3. Chris,

    Perhaps I do not understand what you mean when you refer to “attraction” especially when contrasting “same-sex attraction” and “opposite-sex attraction”. By your comments, you don’t seem to want to reduce “attraction” to that which leads to (or desires) sexual contact. I don’t think you mean the sort of attraction mutually shared between true friends. Perhaps you could elaborate on that a little more, as I think the whole understanding of what you are trying to argue hinges on that.


    • Chad,
      It probably sounds confusing, and, to be honest, I don’t entirely understand it. Although I think that a desire for sexual intercourse is one aspect of sexual attraction, like you said, I don’t want to “reduce” sexual attraction to that one aspect. I do mean that this attraction can include an attraction that is often (though possibly not always) shared between true friends. We tend to be much more comfortable with this when we think about women. Women often desire various kinds of intimacy, including often physical intimacy with their friends. In some way, we can conceive of this as being a kind of “attraction.” This is perhaps one way in which I would begin to look at this.

      I hope that helps.


  4. I think you might be interested in a volume called “Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection,” edited by James B. Nelson and Sandra P. Longfellow. From the back cover: “This volume is rooted in two convictions: first, sexuality is far more comprehensive and more fundamental to our existence than simply genital sex, and, second, sexuality is intended by God to be neither incidental nor detrimental to our spirituality but a fully integrated and basic dimension of that spirituality. The authors address what our sexual experience reveals about God, the ways we understand the gospel, and the way we read scripture and tradition and attempt to live faithfully.” Not all the articles were of equal quality, but for me it was extremely helpful to have the ‘community’ of these authors – contemporaries! – to think about sexuality and the spiritual life. Peace and God bless. Thanks for writing and thinking, Chris!


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  10. Pingback: 20 Questions for the LDS Community on Both Sides of the Same-Sex Marriage Debate | Understand Then Be Understood

  11. Pingback: Homosexuality and the Resurrection of Disability – A Blog by Chris Damian

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