Editors Note: As a Roman Catholic, Christopher West here provides important cultural commentary on the fallout of the sexual revolution which divorced sexual activity from children and family entirely. While we find West’s commentary helpful, we offer the following caveat: Although children are a profound blessing from God and there is a theological link between complementary sexual organs, sexuality, and procreation, this does not mean that those who cannot have children or those who choose to not have children for special reasons are not fulfilling God’s purpose for sexuality. Nor does it necessarily mean that sexual intimacy is limited to pro-creative functions.
What happened during the 20th century sexual revolution, and how did this affect our culture’s views on sexuality? View this Seven Minute Seminary video from Christopher West, the world’s leading spokesperson on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
Hello, I really appreciate this perspective and I am glad to see that you are tackling this issue head-on. With respect I’d like to disagree with the premise of the argument. If I understand right, West’s argument is that sex was primarily understood as principally procreative until “sometime in the 20th century.” Cursory glances at history should illustrate West’s idea is interesting but unfortunately inaccurate.
Artificial birth control is well-attested in ancient literature and is regarded neutrally in most places (though, admittedly, Onan is condemned in Genesis 38).
2 Samuel 11 is clear that King David’s attraction to Bathsheba was carnal, and in fact he is distressed to find she is pregnant. David is not condemned for wanting sex without children; Nathan rebukes him only for his treachery to Uriah.
Ancient Greek and Roman sexual customs were far from merely procreative and examples to this effect are easy to find.
In many non-Western cultures and places, non-procreative sex is not a problem. The famous Kama Sutra is clear that pleasure is a legitimate aim of sex and life in general.
There are hundreds of other examples available to us to indicate that many cultures and times have regarded sex as “about” something other than producing children. I would also caution against the ethical/biological statement that body parts are normatively FOR something. Eyes are for seeing–does that mean they can’t be used to cry? Ears are for hearing–should we restrict piercings and forbid making earwax candles? Concluding that genitals are for generating children only is a normative slippery slope that, I submit, may be troublesome when we consider what we use our bodies for day to day. Thanks for your time and God bless our discerning together.