Rubbing Body Parts Together

(I consider responding here fair game, as this post should link back to Dalrock’s blog.)

On Dalrock’s post (part of an excellent and highly recommended series) “St. Jerome on Marriage”, thedeti writes:

From St. John Paul II’s “Interpreting the Concept of Concupiscence” linked in Dalrock’s post:

“Even if he looked in this way [lustfully] at the woman who is his wife, he could likewise commit adultery in his heart.”

This is quite remarkable. The Catholic faith actually interprets this to mean that a man should not express his sexual attraction to his wife. Or, even, a man should not be sexually attracted to his wife. A man should not have sex with his wife for the sheer purpose of expressing that attraction.

I have just lost that much more respect for the Catholic faith. I can also see a part of the basis for many Catholics’ attitude toward sex, even in marriage.

(St. John Paul II’s sermon can be found here.)


Look, I think the majority of people who read my blog know the difference between lust and eros or erotic love. Lust looks at a person as a mere object to be used by another person to fulfill their desires, with no regard for the other person or for either the unitive or procreative aspects of sex – just the fulfillment of sexual urges. Eros, erotic love, sees sex as two becoming one flesh, an act that points outward – expressed in children – and looks toward each other – “the two become one flesh”.

I pointed out the distinction. thedeti later said this:

I don’t see how it is possible for a man to “look at his wife lustfully”. In the context of marriage, there is no “lust”; it’s possible only for a man to “lust” after that which is not his. His sexual desire for his wife is appropriate in marriage.

But the distinction doesn’t have anything to do with sexual desire. Sexual desire is a good and proper thing; in fact, if two people sexually desire each other – “burn with passion” – that is the reason they should get married. But it should be obvious to everyone that using a person only to satisfy your sexual urges is different from proper erotic love. It actually doesn’t have to do only with the wife, it also has to do with the act of creating children.

And in fact, desiring someone and having sex with them for that reason should lead to a better marriage and proper erotic love, at least ideally.

I know what’s said: It’s “lust” if the man is doing nothing other than meeting his own need, other than having sex because he wants to have sex. Basically using his wife’s vagina for self gratification with no regard for her needs. Rubbing his penis in or on her body.

Any expression of his sexual desire is appropriate in marriage, short of physical violence. But that’s not what is discussed in the thread or the sermon or the encyclical.


Marriage isn’t a magical place where sins become not sins. Marriage means that you can’t fornicate. But it doesn’t give blanket permission to sodomy, oral sex, contraceptive sex, or any number of depraved and immoral sex acts. “Any expression of sexual desire” is not appropriate in marriage, and in fact eros is superior to lust; sexual desire is a good thing, but it’s not a magical one.

For deti’s interpretation to be correct – as he admits outright in the thread – possibly the most pro-marriage pope since St. Peter would need to be anti-sexual desire in marriage, which is both absurd and contrary to basically his entire body of work. So I find it hard to take the argument that St. Pope John Paul II is anti-sexual desire very seriously.

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7 Responses to Rubbing Body Parts Together

  1. Zippy says:

    It is very Protestant to view marriage as an “anything goes sexually” license. The possibility of immoral lust in marriage triggers the false dichotomy circuit in the modern mind: burka vs bikini, anarchy vs Hitler, etc etc.

    There is just no way of getting through to people who live in the cartoon realities of modernity’s endless well of false dichotomy. They have to stop thinking that way for you to successfully talk to them at all.

    • Yeah. It reminds me of something I read once where Christianity was blamed for a loss of masculinity in western civilization because we believe “the meek shall inherit the earth”.

      It occurred to me that this was a very liberal attitude towards sex, but I didn’t want to use that for my title because I didn’t want people to confuse the issue with fornication.

      Deti flat out says in the thread that JPII is “apparently anti-sexual desire”, or something like that, which makes no sense.

      If one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century can manage to be pro-marriage and anti-lust, it’s a good rule of thumb to think that a couple lines in a comment box is not enough to prove a contradiction in his position.

  2. Chad says:

    From what I saw there was a very basic lack of understanding on what the people getting quoted were trying to say, and a great deal on what the individuals thought the words meant.

    As Zippy says, marriage does not make all sexual actions moral. Simple excess of the physical sexual desire can be negative if it distracts from higher things.

    I found it hilarious that “red pill” men can try to coherently argue there’s no such thing as too much sexual desire, when they constantly beat drums on men giving in leadership to women for the end goal of sexual pleasure.

  3. Mike T says:

    There are some Protestant nutjob sects that reduce sex entirely to procreation. My understanding is that they take that matter of pursuing one’s wife “soberly” quite seriously. The end result is effectively a denunciation of eros within marriage, and I suspect the unitive aspect of sexuality in marriage is often a casualty. I don’t believe one can quite literally denigrate, even hate eros within marriage and not reach a state of mind where one is openly hostile to the unitive aspect of sex in marriage.

  4. John says:

    ”But it doesn’t give blanket permission to sodomy, oral sex,”

    Are you refering to oral sex and anal sex where the sperm actually end up in the vagina and being fully open to life?

    Or are you refering to anal and oral sex where the sperm is wasted?

  5. Wood says:


    I have nothing much to say other than Amen. I’ve learned a good bit over there, but man sometimes you forget there are serious different frameworks that even conservative Protestants and Catholics approach such topics from.

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