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Center for Action and Contemplation

In Pursuit of Sexual Justice

Friday, April 20, 2018

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1

In Pursuit of Sexual Justice
Friday, April 20, 2018

If you’re paying any attention to the news, no doubt you’ve noticed a dramatic shift over the past several decades in how our culture views human sexuality. As we’ve mentioned this week, gender and sexuality are fluid concepts, so it’s only natural that our ideas about them change. But there is still a great deal about our understanding and care of all human bodies that needs to be transformed.

In his book Incarnation: A New Evolutionary Threshold, Diarmuid O’Murchu quotes American ethicist Margaret Farley. In 2007 she wrote:

History remains silent regarding sexual exploitation, harassment, battery, and rape. Without attention to these unchanging experiences of women, there can be no accurate analysis of sex and power, and indeed no real history of sexuality. . . . The meanings of sexuality are multiple—some creative, some destructive, some filled with love, some with the opposite of love. . . . At its most intense and most exhilarating heights, the experience of sex combines embodied love and desire, conversation and communication, openness to the other in the intimacy of embodied selves, transcendence into fuller selves, and even encounter with God. [1]

While I’m grateful for the recent vulnerability and courage of those who shared their “me too” stories of being sexually harassed and assaulted, we all—especially men and those in power—have more work ahead to bring about sexual justice, what Farley calls “just love.” O’Murchu notes that our culture has experienced a sexual revolution and freedom to live and love in more ways than simply reproduction:

Humans seek to reincarnate a dimension of intimate meaning that has long been suppressed, and worse still, repressed. Thus today, we witness an explosion of wild eroticism with much free-wheeling love making, with at best a vague sense of boundary or conviction. Much of this behavior, I suggest, is repression exploding in our faces. . . . It will take time to find a meaningful middle ground, the pursuit of sexual justice, and an ensuing empowering sense of intimacy. . . . [2]

Last fall in response to the “me too” movement, CAC core faculty member, James Finley, reflected on how our natural, human desires for connection can be abused when there’s an imbalance of power. Rape isn’t about sex; it’s about power and control. True intimacy requires consent, a mutual giving and receiving of ourselves and our bodies.

Watch Jim’s tender and healing message.

Read the unedited transcript of James Finley’s message, “Standing Against Sexual Harassment and the Abuse of Power.”

[1] Margaret Farley, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (Continuum: 2007), 23, 173.

[2] Diarmuid O’Murchu, Incarnation: The New Evolutionary Threshold (Orbis Books: 2017), 135.

Image credit: Study for the Libyan Sibyl (detail), Michelangelo Buonarotti, ca. 1510-11. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace. . . . All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. . . . The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. —John O’Donohue
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