This is not a chastity lecture, and thank heavens because I don't like giving chastity lectures. This is also not a learned talk on sexuality because I am not qualified. (I got a good grade in my Sexual Ethics course, though.) It is definitely not a Grade A piece of theological work to which a bishop would stamp his imprimatur. However, it is an observation that you may have sexual tendencies that aren't helping you be the best woman you can be and you can change them. Some of them anyway. Perhaps gradually.
Sexual attraction has been the dominant religion of the Western world since 1963, and the television is its prophet. I heard a woman state quite happily on the television the other night that without the bisexual "Captain Jack" character on Russell T. Davies' 21st century take on "Doctor Who", British people would not be so supportive of "same-sex marriage." I don't know if "Will & Grace" was broadcast in Britain, but if it is true that television has such an effect on the British mind, I think "Will and Grace" might have a prior claim. "Doctor Who", incidentally, is still considered a children's show. It isn't--it has been stolen by grown-ups for grown-ups who loved it as children--but dashing Captain Jack and his dirty flirty talk was broadcast long before 9 PM all the same. As the fan enthused, the children of Britain saw Captain Jack, an exciting adventurous character they acted out in the schoolyards, kiss the Doctor passionately on the lips. There's no going back!
Incidentally, the Members of Scottish Parliament have voted in large numbers for the redefinition of marriage, and one of the few brave MSPs to vote against it wants assurances that Christian dissenters will not be punished, e.g. forbidden to foster or adopt children. This is a good idea because if the history of Scotland shows us anything, it is that those in the ruling-class religion persecute those in the larger minority religions. The Catholics oppressed the early Protestants. Then the Anglicans oppressed the Catholics and the Presbyterians. Then the Presbyterians oppressed the Anglicans and, until the 1980s, the Catholics. And my guess is that the newly ruling Sexual Attractarians will have all our guts for garters.
This adds spice to my mild observations that unbridled sexual attraction is not in itself a wonderful thing but fortunately you are in charge.
Reader Margaret asked about her tendency not to feel sexually attracted to anyone to whom she is not emotionally connected. My first thoughts were that this was wonderfully lucky and mature, and St. Augustine of Hippo is rejoicing for such a prelapsarian connection between reason and sexuality. But then Margaret mentioned that it has led her to become attracted to men with SSA. Well, depending on how deep-seated those SSA are, that's a recipe for disappointment and diminished self-confidence.
Interestingly, although Margaret laudably refused to define those men by an orientation label, she applied two to herself: demiromantic and demisexual. I looked these up on the internet, and the first thing I found was this. Whoever runs this website, he has a vested interest in categorizing and defining people by their sexual attractions. But Margaret doesn't have to define herself according to hers. She is she, unique and loved by God. And she might be happier if, instead of getting annoyed when a relative stranger gives her flowers, she appreciates how pretty the flowers are and that this man spent his own money on something he thought she would like. Unless he is an utter ass, he doesn't expect her love in return: just her good opinion of his gift.
Being annoyed by normal nice male behaviour was, unfortunately, a tendency I had to get over myself once upon a time.
When I look back over my own attractions, which began with a cartoon mouse when I was five or so, I see that they were random and irrational, and had little to do with who the people were, or their existence outside my blinding imagination. This may have been "normal", but it did not make me happy. Let's see. There was a small boy with very long, dark eyelashes who didn't like me at all. Then there was Frodo Baggins. Then there was a blond boy who, in hindsight, had the peevish expression of a Canada goose and didn't like me either. And there was a dark-eyed redhead with bunny teeth; he didn't like me. There was Prince Edward--then a blond university student whom, of course, I never met. There was a female camp counsellor--she had to give me a sort of Talk. All that was before high school, although my love for my camp counsellor continued into my first months of high school.
High school memory reveals another depressing list of random and irrational crushes on boys who had no interest in me. Really, I'm amazed at my almost total lack of analytical ability and understanding of the male psyche. When a nice boy in whom I had no interest showed interest in me, I was terribly annoyed. How dare he? I had courtship backwards, and when my mother tried to explain to me that women are not supposed to court men, i.e. badger men until they magically fell in love with you, I thought she was behind the times. Ah ha ha ha.
By university I had sort of got the message. I went out out with guys who liked me and made the first "real move" and that I liked okay and thought were flattering and cute, if ultimately not who I was looking for. (Those sorts I continued to pursue in my irrational way.) This was not my finest hour, and to say I was careless with my new-found power is an understatement. Mea maxima culpa. Let's skip ahead a decade. La la la.
Okay, so by the time I was in my thirties, I was less attracted to men by what they looked like and SEEMED like and more attracted to them by how intelligent and fun they actually were. This was an advance, one that probably came naturally with age. The problem was, I got attached to them before I knew their core values or if we were at all compatible in the long term. Although I had been burned horribly by marrying a non-Catholic who by the time we married hated my Catholicism, I had not learned that I had to marry a Catholic. And not just any Catholic but a GOOD Catholic making a sincere and free effort to work out his salvation.
Many of you complain that good Catholic guys are boring. Well, I certainly thought the same. None of the ones I knew from undergrad days seemed to be interested in things I was interested in, and they also seemed terribly prim. But then I went to theology school, and I met absolutely fantastic, intelligent, cultured, non-prim Catholic men. And every last one was off the market because they were Jesuits.
But that didn't matter. Just associating with fantastic, intelligent, cultured, non-prim Catholic men reset my inner compass. By the time I graduated, I was no longer attracted to men just because they were at all handsome or because they were grad school material. They also had to be Catholic and good OR, to reflect on my amusing German mid-life crisis, Catholic and in theology school. And this, I am happy to say, is the tendency that still holds sway in my life, although it certainly does not rule my life.
I'm 39++ and married; sexual attraction is no longer such a big deal, at least, not compared to my concrete, him-and-me-alone marriage. And thank heavens. It's terribly inconvenient when you're married, not to mention when you start to look like a wrinkled apple or Gollum. (Why oh why do we not all turn into Helen Mirren, weep weep?)
Oh dear. This has turned out to be all about me. Well, what I wanted to say is that you are not helpless before your feelings of attraction for "the wrong kind of men" or feelings of repulsion for nice men who are actually interested in getting to know you better, as irrational as their interest may seem to you. I don't know about changing a deep-seated "orientation"--although I've definitely heard of gays and lesbians "going straight" and of straight women forming lesbian attachments--but I do know you can change your attitudes, both consciously and unconsciously, by intentionally associating with the right kind of men.
Incidentally, I no longer think those "prim" men of my undergrad days are so prim. Hanging out with the right sort of men helped me to see that male modesty is more likely to be prudence than neurosis. Falling in with the wrong kind of men can influence you, too. No doubt Captain Jack inspired a few curious boys to see what forcing a kiss on a boy as uninterested as the Doctor might be like.
EXCITING UPDATE: I now blog for Ignatius Press on Tuesdays. Look, look!