Part 14: The Kind of 'Love' Has a High Price
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Apr 26, 2016)
The following is the fourteenth in a series on Homosexuality and God's Merciful Love. You can follow the entire series here.
According to Holy Scripture and Catholic Tradition, God intended human sexual bonding to be characterized by "faithfulness." This was meant to be a reflection of, and a mysterious participation in, His own relationship of spousal faithfulness as Christ the Bridegroom, with the Church as His Bride (Eph 5: 21-33). To be loved intimately and exclusively by one's spouse is therefore a deeply enriching human experience. It mysteriously participates in the spousal love at the heart of God's plan for the whole world.
Sadly, sexual faithfulness is almost always conspicuous-by-its-absence from gay relationships. In his book Our Social and Sexual Revolution, Evangelical theologian John Stott discusses the evidence for this:
The concept of lifelong, quasi-marital fidelity in homosexual partnerships is largely a myth, a theoretical ideal which is contradicted by the facts. The truth is that gay relationships are characterized more by promiscuity than by fidelity. A number of researches have been made. "One of the most carefully researched studies of the most stable homosexual pairs," writes Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, namely The Male Couple, "was researched and written by two authors who are themselves a homosexual couple." They found that "of the 156 couples studied, only seven had maintained sexual fidelity; of the hundred couples that had been together for more than five years, none had been able to maintain sexual fidelity." They added that "the expectation for outside sexual activity was the rule for male couples and the exception for heterosexuals." The result of these research studies led Thomas Schmidt to conclude: "Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience — it is virtually the only experience" ... There seems to be something inherently unstable about homosexual partnerships (Baker Books, third edition, 1999, pp. 206-207).
In Denmark, after two years of legalized gay marriage, the government reported that marriage relationships among young Danish homosexual men were lasting from one to one and a half years before break-up, and that "extra union" marital contracts permitting additional sexual partners were common.
The most extensive survey in the USA, entitled Sex in America found that among heterosexual couples, 90% of women and 75% of men had never engaged in extra-marital sex, and that heterosexual couples were 41 times more likely to be monogamous than homosexual couples. Robert Reilly (in Making Gay OK, pp. 59-62) cites and quotes from numerous studies that show essentially the same thing: promiscuity is pervasive in the homosexual community in general, and even among long-term same-sex couples. Perhaps the quote he provides from researcher Thomas Schmidt, PhD, sums it up best:
Even if we set aside infidelity and allow a generous definition of "long-term relationships" as those that last at least four years, under 8 percent of either male or female homosexual relationships fit the definition. In short, there is practically no comparison possible to heterosexual marriage in terms of either fidelity or longevity. Typically, lifelong faithfulness is almost non-existent in the homosexual experience (Reilly, pp. 61-62).
These tragic facts fit all too well with what we know about the origin of same-sex attraction (see articles 12 and 13 in this series). While to some extent the origin of same-sex attraction remains a mystery, in most cases it seems to be the result of wounds or traumas of various kinds (a genetic proclivity, perhaps, combined with a wounded relationship with a same-sex parent and/or experiences of sexual abuse). Thus, it only stands to reason that homosexuals tend to drift from same-sex partner to partner, looking for healing or relief from these inner wounds (in many cases wounds suffered in their relationships as children with same-sex parents). But healing cannot be found in that way; the result is repeated "let-down" from homosexual relationships, and frequent acts of sexual betrayal, both committed, and endured. Is it any wonder, then, that the statistics for suicide, depression and substance abuse among gay men and women are so high (see last week's article), even in places where homosexual relationships are widely tolerated and socially affirmed?
The physical dangers of homosexual erotic acts, however, are equally devastating. As Robert Reilly pointed out in Making Gay OK:
People have … found a great deal of pleasure in smoking cigarettes. This has been shown to be a misuse of the lungs, because tar and nicotine from the tobacco smoke cause lung cancer. Therefore, we can say with some confidence that the [natural] end or purpose of the lungs is not pleasure from smoking. The purpose of a thing cannot be fulfilled in an action that leads to its destruction. On the basis of this, the government has taken vigorous steps to dissuade people from smoking. Laws have been passed prohibiting young people from buying cigarettes and requiring the labelling of cigarettes as injurious to health.
No one today, however, can publicly suggest that our genitals are not made for sodomy, or even, without becoming the objects of obloquy, point out the deleterious health consequences of this unclean practice. …
As unpleasant as the subject matter may be, it is necessary to report on the … effects of sodomitical behavior and of other homosexual acts. … [I]gnorance or denial of these effects is one of the most remarkable barometers of the strength of the rationalization that insists this behavior is normal and normative (pp. 52-53).
John Stott gives us a summary of the grim medical facts about homosexual erotic activity (especially among males):
It is difficult to maintain that homosexual partnerships are just as much an expression of love as heterosexual marriages in the light of the known damage and danger involved in usual gay sexual practices. Dr. Satinover has the courage to give us "the brute facts about the adverse consequences of homosexuality," based on the most recent medical studies. He writes of infectious hepatitis which increases the risk of liver cancer, of frequently fatal rectal cancer, and a 25-30 year decrease in life expectancy. Thomas Schmidt is even more explicit, describing seven nonviral and four viral infections which are transmitted by oral and anal sex. It is true that some diseases can also be transmitted by similar activity between heterosexual people, but "these health problems are rampant in the homosexual population because they are easily spread by promiscuity and by most of the practices favored by homosexuals." And these diseases are apart from AIDS.... Thomas Schmidt justly calls this chapter [in his book] "The Price of Love." If these physical dangers attend common gay sexual activities, can authentic love engage in them? (p.207)
Reilly provides us even with more grim data to back up this assessment (see pp. 54-59). The most rigorous single study of male homosexual behavior, The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study of 1987, found that of nearly 5000 gay men surveyed, over 80 percent had engaged in receptive anal intercourse with at least some of their (in most cases numerous) sexual partners in the previous two years. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1982, the risk of anal cancer soars by 4,000 % among those who engage in anal intercourse (and Reilly provides the medical reasons why on p. 54 in his book). Meanwhile, a national survey of gay men published by the Advocate in 1994 showed that in the prior year 41 percent performed anilingus on their partners (tongue in the anus) and 46% had received it. In short, these medically dangerous acts are not just occasional features of the male homosexual experience: they are almost inseparable from it.
Among lesbians, while the direct medical dangers of their sexual behavior are generally less serious, the psychological dangers may be enhanced. This seems to be reflected in the exceptionally high rates of substance abuse among homosexual women (again, see last week's article for details). Former lesbian Melinda Selmys describes this in-depth in her book Sexual Authenticity:
The phenomenon of "lesbian bed death" has been written about, studied, and flogged to death by lesbian therapists and lesbian social scientists desperate to find some explanation for the baffling fact that so many lesbian relationships — stable, apparently healthy ones — seem to develop into sexless friendships. …
Fantasy seems to be the primary antidote to "lesbian bed death." You are comfortable together, you enjoy living together, but you want sexual variety — so instead of sleeping around, you read books that you find titillating and agree to become the characters in those stories for one another. A simple, satisfactory solution to the problem, and one that saves you the disappointment of a series of frustrating searches for an "ideal person" who doesn't exist. If they are ideal, they exist only in the realm of ideas — so why not go and find them there?
The problem with this playing with "ideals" is the disintegration of identity. … An artist creates characters, nourishes them within her mind, allows them a little breath of her own free will, and transcribes them in a flesh of word or paint. She does not marry them. She does not raise them to her own level, and try to form a union of soul and mind with them, much less attempt to imprint them over the top of the real personality of another human being so that she can have sex with them. …
[T]he risk, whether with imaginary or physical promiscuity, is a fragmentation of personality. … If you give yourself over again and again to people who will use you and squander your most precious gift; or you wed yourself to a host of your own creations, to the lesser fragments of your own psyche that populate your sexual fantasies, you lose the center and core of your being. It becomes like a pulverized mirror, returning a more and more shattered image until at last, it is dust and reflects nothing at all (pp. 215-216 and 219-220).
Perhaps now we can see that the Bible and the Church are right to call homosexual acts and same-sex relationships "disordered" and "unnatural." It is not because our Catholic Tradition is inherently "homophobic" (although Catholic societies have had their share of homophobes too, who sometimes vigorously persecuted homosexuals — more on that in upcoming articles). Rather, we just cannot turn a blind-eye to the wounds that usually cause the homosexual condition, or to the psychological, social and medical minefield into which those who live out a same-sex lifestyle have wandered. This kind of "love" comes at a very high price indeed.
Next time: Why Affirming Homosexuality Requires a Redefinition of "Love"
You can follow the entire series here.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.