Religion And Sex

…it’s never simple. And when you add celibate men to the mix…. Well, you know.

An excellent analysis and commentary that everyone should read. From New Ways Ministry:

New Ways Ministry and many Catholic theologians, leaders, organizations, and individuals have long called on the church’s hierarchy to listen to the experiences of LGBT people as a way to develop doctrine and positions. The importance of consulting the scripture of experience–how God speaks through people’s lives–is nowhere more needed than in the development of doctrine about sexual relationships and expression.

The necessity of such consultation was brought home to me again when I read Jo McGowan’s article, “Simplifying Sex: What Some Priests Don’t Understand About Contraception,” in Commonweal magazine. Though writing specifically about the recent debate about insurance funding for contraception, McGowan’s piece rings true for hierarchical statements about sexuality generally.The thesis of her argument should be a mantra repeated by church leaders everywhere:

“Sex is never simple.”

McGowan’s article responds primarily to a New York Times article which contained an interview with a priest. She writes:

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Port...

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Portal:LGBT). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“. . .it is unsettling when men who may never have experienced sex feel qualified not just to speak about it but to pronounce on it with certainty. In an article in the New York Times (February 18), Fr. Roger Landry, a priest in my old diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, is quoted as saying, ‘What happens in the use of contraception, rather than embracing us totally as God made the other, with the masculine capacity to become a dad, or the feminine capacity to become a mom, we reject that paternal and maternal leaning.’ ”

“Well, no, Fr. Landry, we don’t. We don’t reject it. We make a decision about it. We recognize that pregnancy is a possibility, and we decide whether this is the right time for us to have a baby. We acknowledge that we are more than just potential (or actual) parents. One of the surest signs of youth—in any profession—is an unswerving adherence to literal interpretations. New teachers cling to the curriculum, whether or not the class is getting it. Young doctors focus on the clear x-ray, unable to see the patient in front of them writhing in pain. Parish priests preach the letter of the law, while their parishioners refuse to follow rules created without reference to the reality they know. But the rules aren’t just unrealistic. They are often irrelevant, based on incorrect or incomplete information.”

McGowan’s analogy to the penchant that young doctors and young priests have for relying on outside, abstract information makes the point vividly. Sexuality is not something that can be described or discussed from an outsider’s perspective in abstract terms. Accurate information and perspectives on it must come from people’s lived experiences. I would like to add another analogy to her already excellent one: Not consulting people’s experience of sexuality in order to develop doctrine is like an atheist trying to describe and define spirituality and religion without consulting the people who practice faith. Both spirituality and sexuality are intensely personal experiences that can only be understood fully from the inside out.

McGowan illustrates this idea best when she refutes Fr. Landry’s ideas about pleasure in sex:

“Fr. Landry goes on to say, ‘Contraception…make[s] pleasure the point of the act, and any time pleasure becomes the point rather than the fruit of the act, the other person becomes the means to that end. And we’re actually going to hurt the people we love.’ At one level, this is insightful and nuanced. When he laments how frequently such objectification happens to women in sexual relationships, Fr. Landry sounds almost feminist. And he is right that a relationship that’s only about the pursuit of pleasure is demeaning and ultimately hurtful.

“He is wrong, though, to assume that using contraception automatically makes ‘pleasure the point of the act.’ This is how adolescents think. Teenagers dream of constantly available sex, uninhibited by any possibility of pregnancy. That priests would talk the same way about sex between a husband and wife who have chosen to use contraception reflects inexperience and adolescent projection.

“Adults understand that good sex, with or without contraception, goes deeper than pleasure. It is complex and demanding. And pleasure isn’t necessarily a part of it. Any human encounter requiring honesty and surrender has the potential for both revelation and pain. The communication, healing, and strengthening that good sex ensures is foundational to a marriage. Pure pleasure the point of the act? What is Fr. Landry talking about?”

McGowan shows here that an outsider’s perspective is actually a distorted perspective which focuses on one potential aspect of the sexual situation. Since sexuality is so much more than physical acts, an outsider can not understand the deeply emotional dimension that is involved in the physical activity of sex. To theorize about sexuality based only on physical acts is to look only at the evidence that is able to be seen, and not to take the perspective of faith, which St. Paul tells us involves the “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Sexual license is not McGowan’s goal; responsible sexuality is. She makes the important observation that strict adherence to abstract rules about sexuality can actually lead to irresponsible sex:

“But every human activity has the potential to become unbalanced. Having children mindlessly, year after year, as former generations of Catholics did, is just as harmful to the social good as the refusal to connect sex with pregnancy. Visit India, Fr. Landry. Talk with the women here who are treated purely as producers of sons.

“To defend contraception within marriage is not to defend sexual license. Married couples who have pledged a lifetime of commitment to each other and their families have the right and the duty to make their own decisions about contraception. The church’s role is to help them arrive at the decision that is right for their lives. It is not to dictate one-size-fits-all rules that have no foundation in practical experience.”

I don’t think that I’ve ever read a defense of consulting sexual practitioners for their experience which was as honestly and matter-of-factly stated as McGowan’s is. Clearly, the principles that she states here can be equally and easily applied to the experience of lesbian and gay people, as they are to heterosexual people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Judgment Is A Two-edged Sword

ADAP Watch 4/19/12

Last week (while I was on vacation)- NASTAD released the ADAP waiting list. From NAPWA (emphasis mine):

There’s some good news on the ADAP front: the FY 2011 emergency federal ADAP funding has brought waiting list numbers down in a number of states. South Carolina has eliminated its waiting list altogether, for the time being.

The bad news is that the numbers aren’t coming down very much. Georgia and Virginia – big states with big budgets – account for almost two-thirds of the nation’s total waiting list, and it looks like they are accepting their waiting lists as the “new normal.” Other states have disguised their real unmet need by setting income eligibility ceilings artificially low, and that looks set to become the “new normal,” too.

It’s hard to understand and hard to forgive. Over five years, it will cost the states with visible waiting lists or waiting lists whisked away by lowering income ceilings more to care for PLWHA who become sick enough for Medicaid than it would have cost to give them drugs to keep them healthy. It’s already a dollars-and-cents blunder before we even think about the human cost.

Here are the latest numbers from our friends at NASTAD:

“Ex-Gay” Reparative Therapy Thoroughly Debunked

From The Maddow Blog:

We have gotten some nice feedback about Wednesday’s segment (after the jump) on the ex-gay movement and Dr. Robert Spitzer’s controversial 2001 study asserting that reparative therapy can change some gay people to being straight. Dr. Spitzer is now on the record as saying he wishes he had never published the study in the first place. Our segment was inspired by Gabriel Arana’s piece in The American Prospect called “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life.” Arana first broke the news about Dr. Spitzer’s desire to retract his study. If you haven’t read his piece yet, you should. It’s great. He also talked with Rachel on Wednesday about the study and about his own experience in reparative therapy.

After the show, the American Psychoanalytic Association sent this e-mail:

This issue deserves coverage in the news as long as individuals and the “ex-gay movement” use faulty science and bias to advance their agenda. APsaA states in its 1999 position statement on reparative therapy that efforts to “convert” or “repair” an individual’s sexual orientation are against the fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized homophobic attitudes. We emphasize that anti-homosexual bias, just like any other societal prejudice, negatively affects mental health and contributes to feelings of stigma and low self-worth. Reparative therapy is nothing more than quackery fueled by bias.

Keep an eye out for a followup to Wednesday’s segment. We’re working on another story about Dr. Spitzer’s study and how it’s being used currently — even though Dr. Spitzer wishes he’d never published it — to further anti-gay causes.

Full post and video here.

AIDS Outreach Names New Executive Director

AIDS Outreach, a local HIV prevention, testing and support organization announces that D Gregory Smith, MA, will be its new Executive Director.

Smith, a Montana native (Twin Bridges) and local mental health therapist, is excited about the opportunity and challenges the position offers.

“We have the opportunity to do some real good here,” he said. “Despite popular belief, HIV is in Montana. There is a tremendous need to inform people at risk, help them protect themselves and to get people tested- to give them that crucial information about their health. There is also a need to support persons living with HIV here. I believe as a community we have a duty to assist those in need- and people with HIV are often economically disadvantaged. It’s about human dignity, and I want to help AIDS Outreach be at the forefront in Gallatin, Park and Madison counties.”

Smith has been involved in HIV/AIDS awareness work since 1994, and was an original member of the Montana Governor’s AIDS Advisory Council in 2000. He continues to serve on the Montana State Community Planning Group for HIV Prevention, and has written articles and abstracts for national publications and organizations and given numerous presentations on HIV/AIDS, especially HIV in rural communities.

Founded in 2006 and based in Bozeman, AIDS Outreach is a 501(c)3 organization offering free HIV testing, HIV prevention and educational materials, as well as assistance and a support group for HIV+ persons.

For more information, please call (406) 451-5718, write info@AIDSOutreachMT.org or visit http://www.AIDSOutreachmt.org

Today- Canadia!

Calgary Tower, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary Tower, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I embark on my Spring Trip to Calgary, I will try to put content up whilst I am away, but no promises- after all, this is supposed to be a vacation. As usual, I’ll let you know what/where I eat/drink/dance in the beautiful Cowtown that is Calgary. With my guide, Nicole, I’m sure it will be amazing.

See you next Tuesday!

Study: Preventative HIV Dosing Could Be Cost-Effective

Science Daily reports that giving preventative doses of the HIV drug Truvada to high-risk groups could prove to be cost-effective:

A once-a-day pill to help prevent HIV infection could significantly reduce the spread of AIDS, but only makes economic sense if used in select, high-risk groups, Stanford University researchers conclude in a new study.

The researchers looked at the cost-effectiveness of the combination drug tenofovir-emtricitabine, which was found in a landmark 2010 trial to reduce an individual’s risk of HIV infection by 44 percent when taken daily. Patients who were particularly faithful about taking the drug reduced their risk to an even greater extent — by 73 percent.

The results generated so much interest that the Stanford researchers decided to see if it would be cost-effective to prescribe the pill daily in large populations, a prevention technique known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. They created an economic model focused on men who have sex with other men, or MSM, as they account for more than half of the estimated 56,000 new infections annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Promoting PrEP to all men who have sex with men could be prohibitively expensive,” said Jessie Juusola, a PhD candidate in management science and engineering in the School of Engineering and first author of the study. “Adopting it for men who have sex with men at high risk of acquiring HIV, however, is an investment with good value that does not break the bank.”

Although getting Congress to pass this- the same Congress who killed needle-exchange- is far from realistic. Even though (maybe even especially because) it makes sense.