Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Scientific Findings Confirm Catholic Magisterial Teachings about Sex? Semen as "Better Gift Than Chocolate" for Women

This is one of the crazy corners of American scientific research about which I'll freely admit I know next to nothing.  I first became aware that this field of research--re: the male-female union-cementing properties of semen--existed, when a proponent of the theology of the body logged onto a Commonweal thread some months ago to argue that new research shows that women crave semen (as it were), since a good dose of semen in their vagina gives them an upper-type experience unparalleled anywhere else in nature.

Really.  I'm not joking.  As crude as this proposal sounds, that's essentially what I read the TOB proponent to say on the Commonweal thread.  (TOB = theology of the body, and is the acronym beloved by the Catholic right as it sagely discusses these inanities in the mystogogical, pseudo-theological language of John Paul the Great.)

And science proves what the Catholic church has been saying for some years now, don't you know, the TOB proponent also argued: contraception that thwarts the injection of the upper-inducing semen into a woman's vagina is not "natural" or real sex.  It doesn't give women the thrill they crave, which nature has designed for them to have when their man does his business with them.

And as soon as I read this load of malarkey on the Commonweal blog site, I knew that quite a few (male heterosexual) Catholics of the TOB school were certain to latch onto this new pseudo-scientific finding and would try to make much of it as "proof" of the validity of TOB.  And of the validity of the Catholic magisterial opposition to homosexuality.  And to artificial contraception.  And to the designs of women who want to escape from male control and male domination and the male injection of that relationship-cementing magical substance they so desperately need to be whole women.

And now that I'm reading about this controversy (first link above) involving Lazar Greenfield, Steven Platek, et al., I'm no more convinced than I was by the summary of this research at the Commonweal site that we're seeing some stunning new scientific breakthrough that has finally vindicated Catholic sexual ethics, via rigid scientific research.  Let me count the ways that I'm dubious--while freely admitting I have done no careful reading at all in this field, and am basing my doubts on the Commonweal thread I mention above, and this article about Greenfield:

1. Research by psychologists confirming a biological thesis that semen acts like an anti-depressant for women?  Really?  What biological mechanisms, pray tell, are being confirmed here?  And how do we define something so nebulous as depression?  And how do we know that it's the semen per se that gives the uplifting experience to college-aged women whose male partners don't use condoms, or some other factors that go beyond the biological--say, the sense of cachet provided by knowing they have a man, and that their man is a real man who eschews condoms?  There are too many uncontrolled variables in this research, as it's described here, for me to be overwhelmed by its conclusion that semen provides that natural lift women are looking for in life.

2. And when Platek et al. also grant that the vagina is also "a very hostile environment for sperm," I wonder why they'd conclude at the same time, on the basis of their observation of the anti-depressant properties (on women) of semen in unprotected sex, that the "numerous semen testimonials from other women who attest to the anti-depressant effects of semen exposure" point to a conclusion that semen is a natural anti-depressant.  Designed for women.  A natural anti-depressant when injected, mind you, into the vagina.  In the only kind of sexual activity the Catholic church endorses as natural.  If the vagina is "hostile" to semen, if it compromises the female immune system, should we be touting the natural anti-depressant virtues of semen in unprotected male-female sex--the "better gift for that day [i.e., St. Valentine's day] than chocolates," in Dr. Greenfield's formulation? 

3. And my inquiring mind also wants to know: have comparative studies been done to discover whether semen functions as a magical substance with similar uplifting effects for gay men?  Or have studies been done to find out whether men coming into contact with vaginal secretions find themselves curiously elated by a better gift than chocolate?  If not, why not?  Why is this study, and why is this field of research, framed from the outset as a discovery that semen is men's gift to women--the better gift than chocolate?  (And we all know who craves the uplift of chocolate, and who gives chocolate to whom.)

Count me an unbeliever.  I'm just not yet seeing anything in this slice of research--admittedly, a thin slice, since I haven't read more in the field--that convinces me that the Catholic magical-mystical approach to human sexuality promoted by John Paul the Great and beloved of the TOB crowd is anything other than scientific and theological nonsense wrapped up in high-flown rhetoric disguising its long-since outmoded scientific conclusions about gender, sexuality, and male-female roles.  Or that this crude male-skewed scientific "research" is a solid basis on which to build a theological system that justifies male domination, female subordination, and condemnation of those God makes gay and lesbian.

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