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English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Free Response #1: Sexual Sub-groups Language

Lindsay1 Hills

This love is first of all fully human, that is to say, of the senses and of the sprirt at the same time. It is not, then, a simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and principally an act of the free will, intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection.*

Having promised at my baptism to raise me in the Catholic tradition, I was acculturated into a religion, and in doing so I slowly acquired a family, a community, a law, and a language. Language plays a huge role in both the oral and written tradition of the Catholic religion and more so it's Catechism.
Oral tradition I would say is present in the method by which parents are encouraged and more so responsible for educating their children in regards to Catholic teaching. The idea that parents are the fundamental teachers of children is a highly valued concept. It is through this oral tradition that language and in particular the language of sex is transmitted generation over generation amongst a family group.
The written language is expressed through the Holy Scripture, the Bible, whose stories attempt to articulate our past in a way that helps us live a better life in the future. Also our more contemporary written language is recorded in religious doctrine which is updated over time in an attempt to provide Catholics with a sense of reaffirmation of traditional values and beliefs in a time where everything around us seems to be changing and developing in a manner that continually challenges those beliefs.
Then, this love is total, that is to say, it is a very special form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously share everything, without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not only for what he receives, but for the partner's self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.

I vaguely recall my parents' answers to my insatiable curiosity regarding sex. It seems to me like every answer involved the words "abstinence" and/or "marriage," two words that continue to be the focus of the language of sex. Having attended public school for my elementary years, I was forced kicking and screaming to attend CCD or catechism classes, which we were told would teach us everything we needed to know about being Catholic, conveniently leaving out anything and everything about the sexual being I felt inside of me struggling to break free.
The example of so many married persons down through the centuries shows, not only that fidelity is according to the nature of marriage, but also that it is a source of profound and lasting happiness and finally, this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising new lifes.

I transferred schools in the middle of sixth grade to a Catholic school, where the language of sex and sexuality continued to be restricted to male/female, abstinence, virginity, and marriage. It was at this time that a mother protested one of the novels that the other seventh grade class was reading, and collected enough signatures banning the teacher from teaching the material. In her words the material was to "sexually explicit and immoral" to be in the hands of children. I think this was the first time I felt the real limitations my religion placed on me and my development. As soon as the book was banned, I was on a mission to find out what was so wrong with it, and realized that the explicit and immoral acts she was concerned about were the masturbatory acts of a teenage boy. Somehow these parents, including mine kept this language away from me and my other classmates leading us down a slippery slope of naiveté which some of my classmates paid for deeply, in the form of pregnancy, abuse, and abortion.
In an attempt to preserve our innocence the language we were taught to talk about our bodies and sex in general was very biological in nature. The same mother who had the book banned, brought in a collection of fetus' at each stage of development. They sat in the front of the classroom for about a week, and for about an hour each day we discussed conception and development of life. The intentional removal of all elements of language associated with pleasure, led my friends and I to believe that something was wrong with us, that we were feeling things we shouldn't, and more so didn't have the language to articulate what we were experiencing. At one point I remember my friend asking the groups of girls I hung out with if we had ever masturbated. She became the outcast at once, in the sense that most of us had no clue what she was talking about, and those of us that did, knew that this was a sin and that she would most surely pay for her actions.
The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed.
My junior year at a small Catholic all girls high school, I was enrolled in Christian Marriage. By far one of the most popular religion courses we offered I was one of the privileged few who made it into the class as a junior. In reflection the language used in this course was consistent with the Catholic language I had acquired to engage in a discourse about sex. The structure of the class, was done in such a way that we would have no confusion about what steps we should be taking in order to have children. The class developed from love v. lust, dating, rape, through single life in an apartment, to marriage, wedding planning and pricing, concluding with male/female anatomy, sexual intercourse, contraception, and of course babies. Interspersed throughout the course were messages of abstinence and marriage as well as what some may interpret as scare tactics issues of cohabitation, divorce, STDs and abortion. The language the Church uses to discuss such critical moral issues was tied into the course by the reading of religious scripture and doctrine, in order to reaffirm what so many of us had heard growing up, and those messages are the ones that resonate most clearly.

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.
The religious subgroup in which I belong, uses a limited language in order to preserve its teachings which are central to its beliefs. The ramifications of such a language may be seen throughout society, whether we are talking about sixth graders who believe engaging in oral sex is a means by which they can preserve their virginity, the high schoolers who have been closed off to the idea of contraception and consequently end up pregnant, or even the college student whose commitment to a spiritual life rooted in Catholicism has driven her to deny her sexuality all together for several years. The language that is used across the subgroup is only one side of the story, whereas the language which has been omitted may have as powerful effect on the individuals in the group, and is frequently forgotten.
* All italicized passages have been pulled from the following source
Of Human Life (Humanae Vitae, July 25, 1968; Pope Paul VI) Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Paul VI. Available: [ONLINE], 19 September 2002
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