Birds, Bees, and Human Beings



The idea is almost laughable, but for the fact that large swaths of humanity accept it as modern common sense.

Songs like this, backed by the media and even mental health professionals, have fostered the notion that sexual restraint is inherently bad for us — and many of us have believed them. But does this make sense? We encourage self-restraint all the time: don’t hit your sister, share your toys, don’t eat the whole cheesecake.

These, and a great multitude of other restraints, are considered normal and healthy. But why do people cry “pathology” as soon as someone suggests restraint for the sexual appetite?

It’s certainly true that a puritanical and repressive approach to the sex drive is not healthy. No one (I hope) wants to return to the days of deafening silence about sex when the sight of a woman’s ankle could cause scandal. But is unrestrained libido the answer?

Our society has come to champion sexual indulgence as a right. And we wonder why molestation, rape, abortions, “fatherless” children, adultery, divorce, pornography, and STDs are rampant. Could it be because human beings, both men and women, are behaving like animals?

When push comes to shove, do some people really believe “we ain’t nothin’ but animals”? If a woman says of her date, “He was an animal,” we know immediately what she means: he did not respect her as a person; he treated her as an object to satisfy his own instincts. If we “ain’t nothin’ but animals,” where’s the problem?

Take this behavior to its extreme. Suppose a man forcibly indulges his “animal instincts” with a woman. What makes this a crime? Blood hounds can’t be charged and prosecuted for sexual misconduct. The very words “crime” and “misconduct” indicate a moral order, a meaningless concept for animals. And this is precisely the point.

So often behind the modern push to equate human beings with animals lies the subtle or not-so-subtle agenda of moral relativism, the rejection of a moral order to which all are accountable. And so often behind the agenda of moral relativism lies the desire to indulge libido without any restraint — that is, the desire to behave like animals when it comes to sex.

A world that teaches “chickens are people too” is inevitably a sexually confused world. When we raise animals to the level of human persons, we’re not really dignifying animals, we’re debasing ourselves. And one of the first human mysteries to be debased in the animals-are-persons and persons-are-animals world-view, as the above song points out, is sexuality.

Although biologically similar, the joining of man and woman in “one flesh” is worlds apart from the copulation of Fido and Fidette — at least it’s meant to be! Fido and Fidette are merely following an instinct intended to continue their species. Man and woman are meant to be loving one another in the image of a life-giving God, something impossible for a being ruled by instinct.

Because of the effects of original sin, we often experience our sex drives acting upon us as if we were animals. But if we are ever to find happiness, we must, with the help of divine grace, raise our behavior above — far above — what the musk oxen and jack asses are doing on the Discovery Channel.

Christopher West is a fellow of the Theology of the Body Institute.

His books and tapes on the “theology of the body” are available from our online store.

Christopher West

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Christopher West is a Catholic author and speaker, best known for his work on Pope John Paul II’s series of audience addresses entitled the Theology of the Body.

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