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Talking about sex in light of Catholic teaching

| Thursday, October 6, 2016

It seems to me that every campus conversation about sex right now is centered around one thing: consent. For most of the country, it seems that consent has become the minimal standard for the morality of sexual activity … but shouldn’t we expect more of Notre Dame? What if sex was about more than just consent?

When the Gender Relations Center held a panel last October, the focus was on consent: They talked about the effects of alcohol and the dorm party culture in getting and giving consent. During Hall Staff training this year, almost all of the information received was on how to promote a culture of consent. At the “Sex Signals” show, we talked about … you guessed it: consent! What was neglected? Promoting a culture of healthy sexuality in line with Catholic teaching and encouraging our men and women to reserve sex for intimate, committed relationships.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that sexual acts are not exempt from the rules of morality; they must always be marital, unitive and procreative: “The deprivation of any one or more of these meanings from the moral object causes the sexual act to be intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.”

So given the context of sexual relationships established in the Catechism, how has consent become the paramount concern in talking about sexual activity on a Catholic campus? We need to not only be reactive to the dangers of not providing consent (i.e., unwanted sexual encounters), but also proactive in instilling Catholic ideals into the conversation around sex.

Consent is important and we should absolutely continue to talk about it. For our secular peer institutions, talking about sex mostly in terms of consent makes a lot of sense (some secular schools are starting sexual integrity training). But as a Catholic institution, I expect more. I expect us to talk about the beautiful side of sex, which involves more than willingness and a verbal “yes.” I expect us to talk about sex that is self-giving and mutually respectful; sex that is life-giving and intimate. Notre Dame has an opportunity to continue its role in educating the whole person, including the heart, so let’s take it.

Julia Murray 


Oct. 5


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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