On being an object

Have you ever been objectified?  If anyone has ever thought about you (including yourself), than yes you have.

Some time back, I wrote a post arguing that traditional Catholic sexual morality (pre-“theology of the body”) is less demanding than modern, personalist sexual morality.  The old system just had a few simple rules.  Follow them, and you can enjoy your spouse without worry.  The new system demands vaguely that we never treat anyone as an “object”, especially not a “sex object”.  Therefore, for a man to be able to rightfully couple with his wife, he must be sure that he’s motivated entirely by a Platonic desire to express love, symbolize Christ and the Church, or some such thing.  Carnal desire for one’s own spouse is sinful (“sexual objectification”, “adultery of the heart”).  Anyone who seriously tried to follow this new sexual morality would be forced to embrace permanent continence.

Alte, at Traditional Catholicism, makes a related point from the wife’s perspective:

I sometimes think all of the talk about “wives as sex objects” misses the obvious point that men who think of women as mere sex objects don’t usually pledge their life to one. Furthermore, a wife is a husband’s sole legitimate “object of desire”, and I think that is something women value, rather than something that devalues them….

I think I’m less concerned with “objectification” because I used to work in software, where the word “object” doesn’t carry such a negative connotation. Of course, I am an object, of the class “wife”, in the instance “Alte”. I have various states, attributes, and functions.

I am an object that he desires. I like that, and I am glad that I am the primary object of his desire. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to get worked up about that. Should I prefer not to be an object of desire?

Amazing how a bit of sanity can give one a jolt.  I read this, smacked my forehead, and said to myself, “Of course wives want their husbands to desire them!”  The new sexual morality is even more obviously silly than I’d realized.

13 Responses

  1. How does one get the wife object to inherit the state “in lingerie and frisky”?

  2. Oh, it’s easy!

    Every wife inherits that one. But you have to call a special method like so:

    wife.woo(flowers, chocolate, dinner, candles, tux, cologne, bad_poetry, compliment, listen, tv_remote, babysitter_for_kids);

    See API documentation for further details on the parameter listing.

  3. I can see that it is critical not to pass the wrong argument between classes, no?

    Maybe that is why there is so much trial and error during the “beta” testing phase.

  4. I hate to burst Renee’s bubble, but while a little romance will go a long way, esp if you haven’t romanced her in awhile, this sort of thing will get old quickly. It’s more about doing something she is not used to OR exhibiting a behavior she has not come to expect from you. In other words, surprise her and keep her off her toes. Once she is excited then you can tease her with the lingerie suggestion unless she brings it up herself…

  5. Well, that’s the trick. You see, each parameter is either a variable-length array or a boolean flag. Behavior implemented in various versions of this class also varies. API documentation is also vague.

    But the return value on the method is very worthwhile once you get the right parameter combos. 😉

  6. Thank you, Renee. I finally understand marriage and am ready to apply it to my own life. In C++:

    bool marriage_courtship_success(wifeclass mywife) {

    if(mywife.willingforsex()) {
    return true;
    while(!(mywife.willingforsex()) && !(mywife.annoyed())) {
    mywife.woo(…);
    }
    if(mywife.willingforsex()) {
    return true;
    } else {
    return false;
    }
    }

    Of course, there are no guarantees that this returns “true”.

  7. This is a very important thing that I also have recently got my mind around. I hope more Catholics come to understand this simple concept.

  8. That post you wrote a while back is very thought provoking.

    I have been thinking a lot about how to reconcile TOB with reality….the reality being that I don’t want my husband to be thinking about his love of Jesus while on top of me.

  9. Hello Paige,

    Perfectly stated. Thank you for liking my old post. You may also be interested in its sequel: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/ex-opere-operato-in-the-bedroom/

  10. Here is another example of a pious, yet somewhat strange sexual practice: I remember reading somewhere that Lord Acton, very shortly after performing the marital act, would leave the bed, kneel down, and pray for a child to be conceived. The writer speculated that Lady Acton might have been somewhat disconcerted by her husband’s practice.

  11. I think this is a good example of the harm that Kant has done to the Church with his categorical imperative. It sounds very noble to say that we should never treat our fellow man as an “object” or “use” him. But, there are plenty of legitimate ways to “use” my fellow man. There is nothing wrong, for example, for using a fellow man to help with my work. (For a funny criticism of the impact of Kantian language on Christian ethical discourse, see Sancrucensis.)

    Another question: Might not some of this notion that a man’s intentions regarding sex must be so “pure” that he does not treat his wife as an “object” go back to Augustine? I’ve read (I forget where) that Augustine thought that it was a venial sin to take pleasure in sex. That reading of Augustine would definitely fit with Book XIV of The City of God, where Augustine turns almost immediately from original sin to lust. It also fits, if I remember correctly, with Book IX of Milton’s Paradise Lost (which follows Book XIV of The City of God quite closely), where Adam and Eve eat the apple and then immediately begin copulating. In any event, if it is a venial sin to take pleasure in sex, it’s no wonder that the TOB-ers feel the need to emphasize the purity of their intentions.

  12. Hey that’s right! I’d forgotten what a “personalist” Augustine could be. Self-consciously modern theologians should give him more credit for it.

  13. […] Throne and Altar Some time back, I wrote a post arguing that traditional Catholic sexual morality (pre-”theology […]

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