But now that I’ve entered college and am studying at a school that’s far from Catholic, within the first week of orientation God sent me my first real test.
On the third morning of orientation, we were required to go to the theater for various events. After awhile we were informed that someone was going to talk to us about sexual consent. I sat in the huge theater and watched the screen, waiting for the speaker to put up her PowerPoint. Finally she did, and one word was displayed upon the white screen for everyone to see and laugh at.
Already I was worried about what the speech would be like; I had already heard at least two talks about consent since I had arrived at my school, and both mostly consisted of “if both people give consent, go ahead and have sex.” The speech was supposed to be about preventing sexual abuse. Even though I guessed that the speech would be less than holy due to the previous talks about consent which I had already heard, I decided to try it out and see if there was any semblance of truth to be gained from this woman’s talk.
The woman began her speech with this: “If you have chosen to not have sex, that’s great for you. It’s not messed up to make that decision, and I’m not here to change your mind. But what’s messed up is to say others shouldn’t have sex either.”
At that moment, all I wanted to do was stand up and protest her statement. As Catholics, we are called to preach against sin, not to condone acts that cause pain and strife.
Next the woman condemned a way of looking at sex, something she called the “commodity model,” which she declared was the prevalent idea of our culture. The model was that a woman’s virginity was something that men had to claim because it was a rare commodity. This model promoted sexual conquest and a woman’s virginity as the goal of that conquest.
Up until then, I expected a presentation that was associated with preventing sexual abuse – and she hadn’t mentioned that topic once.
The next model she presented was the “performance model.” Before she presented it, she proclaimed that there were only two views of sex: the commodity and performance model. In this second model she stated that sex was like making a musical performance – something any two people can do for fun and pleasure.
Immediately my mind rebelled against her statement. Catholicism teaches that sex is a beautiful act of love for the purpose of procreation and bonding reserved for a man and a woman who are married to each other – her statement strayed very far from that truth.
Throughout the time I sat listening to this woman, my anger and frustration was mounting. Why?
- The woman presented her “commodity model” as if it were the most common perspective — and it isn’t. Sure, plenty of boys act as if sexual conquest is the point of life, but that perspective is far from most prevalent
- The woman only presented two models. What about the Catholic model? The model in which sex is a sacred act of creation and bonding between husband and wife in a display of love?
- The woman did not present the facts of sex. She ignored scientific facts about oxytocin and bonding that make premarital sex harmful to one’s future relationships.
At this point I left the theater, knowing there was no wisdom to be gained from this woman.
How else was I to deal with it? What does one do in a room full of people who are laughing and shouting in agreement with a woman proclaiming immorality?
I did all I could do: I rebelled. I refused to listen to a talk that promoted sin and unknowingly supported future suffering. I stood up and walked out alone across the people I sat with, knowing they were wondering why I was leaving.
In that moment, I felt strong. I was doing what my faith required of me, and even though this rebellion was small, I knew it would allow me to stand up for my faith in even tougher situations in the future.
As my seminarian friend told me, “Sometimes, we have to protest simply by removing ourselves from such situations.”
I challenge all of you to do the same: to remove yourselves from situations that are most unholy in order to preserve your spirits and keep your faith alive as you live in this new, possibly hostile, environment. Allow God to empower you to rebel against the sin you come across – for in Him nothing can stop you and in doing His work you will find joy.