You may remember my promises to you when you were a baby. Among them were:
I will teach you how to spot and win the sexual
battles that will take place inside your head and your heart.
I will teach you why you should not masturbate. (Your wife will thank me — without ever telling me).
I will teach you how to have the sexual control you
will need for your marriage bed.
The most strategic battles on matters sexual take place in your mind, heart and imagination, just as they do still for me, and did for your grandfathers and all men who have ever lived. This is a battleground littered with fallen soldiers. Many men get wounded and pay a heavy price before recovering. Some men never recover. Some men cease to be soldiers and become “sexual terrorists”.
The sexual energy within us is much like the energy of the atom: it can be harnessed for great good. From it came you, your sisters and your brothers and all your cousins and all the friends you love to be with. However, like the atomic bomb, sexual energy can be massively destructive, when children are aborted, spouses are unfaithful and marriages break up, when sexual abuse or deep marital conflict distorts the sexuality of children, who, when they become adults, in turn often damage others.
The prefrontal cortex in the two lobes of your brain do two different types of tasks: one side is oriented to being creative in the discovery of new things and in exploring the world; while it is doing that, the other side spots and avoids dangers. As you drive a car, you need both sides working well: the side that gets you to your destination and the side that avoids the accidents you or others could cause along the way if you did not brake, or turn, or signal at the right moment. You could say one side is liberal and creative, moving on to new goals while the other side is conservative: preserving the good you already have by keeping it safe. Every issue in life needs both these capacities.
In matters sexual there is the creative dimension (union with an attractive spouse and the generation of children) and a protective dimension: avoiding traps and dangers. The dangers are not always on the outside. Many of them pop up from inside: the images that jump, unbidden, into your imagination, or when a beautiful woman passes do you “look” at her (as opposed to seeing her), i.e. assess her physical beauty and even begin to daydream about her. You cannot avoid developing habits in this domain; the issue is which habits you choose to develop. This is a big fork in the road in the life you will choose for yourself (and for your future spouse and children): letting “sex go wild” in your imagination or controlling it for its true purpose. Bad habits can grow from seemingly small habits: looking at an attractive woman a second time or, on the other hand, deliberately looking away and entertaining other thoughts and images. You will be tempted in many other ways in the years to come: watching movies that arouse you sexually (the directors know what they are doing — as do the actors and actresses); going to places or bars you know will lead to similar temptations; going to parties that lean that way. The list will grow as you grow older.
That you feel these attractions and sexual desires is natural – you are a man and your hormones are sending you all sorts of mating messages. But you have to decide — and decide early — you are going to enjoy these sexual pleasures only with the one person who will be yours for life, after you both have pledged yourselves to each other in matrimony.
To so decide, and to keep your promise, will take training. But the benefits are great — and will spill over into many other areas in your life:
- You will become prudent as you develop a sixth sense of when events are likely to lead in the wrong direction.
- You will develop the virtue of temperance as you deliberately grow the habit of not enjoying an innocent pleasure (like a good ice cream) so that you will have at your disposal the capacity to resist forbidden pleasures when you need to.
- You will gain wisdom as you talk these things out with someone you trust – me your father, or a good teacher, or a priest— someone you admire and can trust as you learn how to battle and learn how to heal the wounds from battles lost. These are people who love you and also understand this war (they have to fight it too) and will teach you how to move forward.
- You will grow in courage and humility as you talk about battles lost. Catholic Christians have the added benefit of Confession – for this and other wounds in the battle for virtue.
- You will grow in piety: having regular quiet time with God as you talk it all through with Him also. For Catholic Christians it makes sense to talk it through with the Mother of God. Everyone who does reports great help in this area.
- You will grow as a friend – as you help your friends avoid situations before they develop and as you call on your friends when you need support for a battle that looms.
The wonderful thing about this battle is the joy and happiness it brings; losing the battle always brings sadness and a big letdown. Beforehand, the temptation promises a false happiness that looks fantastic but afterwards leaves a bad taste. It is a fool’s gold. Did you know that the data show that those who are virginal when they marry, and who worship God weekly, have the best and most frequent sexual pleasure!! This is one of life’s biggest secrets. Virtually no one knows this.
These battles will come your way in your
teen years, starting with puberty. Twenty and thirty years from now you will
still have to fight them —when you travel alone or when you are in business
situations that could cause you temptations.
To be faithful to your wife and your children decades into the future,
you need to start now. It is wise to
learn to battle from the beginning, and it is much easier.
One area of battle for every male is the temptation to masturbate. Many moderns believe it is all right, but they are fooling themselves and ignoring ancient wisdom and modern research. Pornography addiction happens only through masturbation.
Masturbation, when practiced frequently, changes the mind, the imagination and the heart: the object of pleasure becomes an internal image, not a real person. When this becomes habitual — as happens with frequent use of pornography — it can lead to a sexual disability — erectile dysfunction (ED) — which means that a man cannot fully satisfy his wife because he has lost his capacity to be aroused except by pornographic images. ED used to be an old man’s debility. Now, because pornography is so widespread Viagra and other pharmacological props have a huge market among young men who suffer from this psychosexual disease.
Pornography is so destructive that boys and men can lose their natural interest in women — in Japan, which has a long tradition of pornography, a significant portion of single 30-year-olds have lost interest in the opposite sex. Married men can lose interest in their wives — and instead become obsessed with print and digital pictures, or only be able to make love to her by having these images in his mind. By this stage they are in deep trouble in all the areas related to their sexuality: their intimate family relations, their friendships and their readiness to relate with God. The good news is it is possible to overcome this addiction, but it is better by far to take the path to becoming a chaste young man.
There is another practical reason to live purity: to gain that control of one’s sexuality that a married man needs so as to be able to do without sex for a while, for his wife’s sake: A wife, who for whatever reason shouldn’t get pregnant, has to be able to rely on her husband’s self-control during her peak fertility days. Many women do not have such husbands and as a result use contraceptives. Thus, a husband who lacks self-control becomes a grave danger to his wife and his marriage.
Purity of mind, heart and imagination results
in a cheerful happiness that makes life worth living, a cheerfulness that is
very attractive, and that good women spot quickly. Purity is a great ringer of
wedding bells and a great aphrodisiac.
I hope you will come to me when you have
questions. And I hope you begin to pray
to your future wife’s guardian angel, too.
By the way, belief in guardian angels is universal. It cuts across all levels of religious
practice (including those who never worship), all cultures, and all
On every level there are very strong
reasons for deciding to be pure and wholesome. Your happiness, your future
wife’s happiness and your children’s happiness depend on it.
Within the year we will have a series of synthesis papers on the psychological,
sociological, demographic, biological and neurologica effects of contraception.
They are myriad.