Sex pleasure is not sex
Sex pleasure is an important part of sex, but it is not sex. It is not sex any more than the pleasure attached to eating is eating. Both are important part of the whole, but they are not the whole. The purpose of the pleasure in both cases is to lead to something more important than pleasure. In the case of eating, the pleasure is meant to make eating attractive, so that a greater good may be effected, namely, that the whole body may be nourished and that life may go on. In the case of sex, the pleasure is meant to make sexual intercourse attractive, so that an infinitely greater good may be effected, namely, that the human family may be nourished by the provision of new members, and that human life as a whole may go on. Because this particular good is so important, God made sexual pleasure correspondingly great. This pleasure is, in fact, meant to lead to an involvement of the whole person, so that couples who accept the possibility of procreation actually become “two in one flesh” themselves.
Teen-agers may be meeting these facts about sex for the first time in their gradually maturing lives. Some teen-agers may not accept them very readily. Anxious to please and to be acceptable to each other, they may allow themselves to be adversely influenced by the behaviour patterns they see all around them.
These patterns are often dominated by an undue and, what is worse, an unreal emphasis on sex (an emphasis which creates, rather than solves, problems for youth). Even without such emphasis, the propose of sexual urge is not, in adolescence, immediately apparent. The truth is that sex is not to be regarded as an end in itself, but as part of many other significant aspects of life, interacting with these aspects, influencing them and being influenced by them.
The first step in the study of sex should be to find out what its full significance is, and particularly what it has to do with love. For if love is one of the ultimate goals of youth, then an early preparation for love must be undertaken. This preparation must not be confused with sex experimentation. It is rather by learning to respect themselves and others that young people prepare, so that when the right person comes, they are able to undertake a lifelong commitment (offering themselves unselfishly and with an understanding of what love means).
Sex cannot be separated from the total personality. Just as we control ourselves in other spheres of life because we understand the purpose of control (in eating, in drinking, in our social relationships), so, in sex matters, we control ourselves for the purpose, namely, to be able to use sex meaningfully when the proper time comes.
The word “meaningfully” conveys a thousand things that make illicit sex sound cheap, shallow, and a waste of time. It conveys, for example, a growth of personality, a sharing of values, and a capacity for happiness. These come, not only from the procreative aspect of sex, but also from the sharing of ideals, of joy and sorrows. These are benefits which can be the by-products of sex-in-marriage carried to happy conclusion.
Finally, the goal of all our striving is happiness. But what is happiness? Certainly it is not the same as pleasure. And still more certainly, it is not casual sex experience. We know that we are forever striving, and that, as we reach each goal, its attainment is but a stepping-stone to the next. And so it is important that each step of the way should be meaningful. The only way sex can be meaningful is when it is an expression of love in marriage, when man and woman are truly fulfilled in a union which enriches their whole personalities.