By C.K. Persons
The United States of America just celebrated its 235th Independence Day. All superficial sentiments aside, the holiday reminds us of the great value of freedom: freedom from anything that strips humans of dignity and freedom for the pursuit of happiness. Much more can be said of freedom, of course, but I prefer to focus on independence – and interdependence – in this month’s Catholic and Kinky column.
The U.S. has boasted of its independence – which in large part means its rugged individualism – for generations. And while human persons undoubtedly must come to an understanding of their own individual identity so as to live as authentically as possible, independence is essentially a mirage. Humans are entirely social by nature. We cannot even survive without years of support after our birth. And when we seemingly can live on our own, so to speak, we do so at the very least supported by vast infrastructures created by our fellow humans. It is also no secret that humans are happiest when in healthy relationships with others.
Now onto some theology and sexuality …
Scripture scholars refer to the first eleven chapters of Genesis as the primeval history: a theological look at the origin of creation, including humanity and civilization. In essence, the ancient authors of Genesis describe God as the central character: the Creator and sustainer of all life. God creates humans – as partners – to care for creation. There are countless theological insights throughout Genesis 1-11; but it is especially interesting to note for purposes of this article that the more humans try to do their own thing – that is, function independently from God – the more things go wrong. Eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad leads to an apparent sexual shame – and the “first” pair of loincloths! (Genesis 3:6); jealousy and envy lead to fratricide (Genesis 4:8); revenge leads to widespread wickedness (Genesis 6:5); and even after the Flood and God’s covenant, humans still strive to “make a name for ourselves” by creating the so-called tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). In short, one theme throughout primeval history is that civilization is actually decline. In the minds of the authors of Genesis, life independent from God is no life at all.
Civilization is in no way a problem in and of itself. After all, there are some rather amazingly sexy “loincloths” nowadays! Seriously, much can be said about interdependence in relationships, but I’d simply like to encourage kinky Catholics to view their sexuality as a gift from God. All too often diverse sexual desires and expressions are seen as aberrations from the norm, though they are nowhere near as uncommon as many think. Due to both societal and ecclesial pressures, such sexuality is regrettably a source of shame for many kinksters, at least for a time. But I think that the good and bad, and natural and unnatural, experiences of our lives can help create a gift – a divine gift – of kinky sexuality. Such sexuality can unleash great creativity and intimacy in our lives, and it is not uncommon that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and the like accompany kinky sexual practice. And at least in the Christian tradition, if the fruits of a relationship are such things, then there is no doubt of God’s presence (Galatians 5:22-23).
Independence from others is not only an illusion; but independence from God, at least according to Genesis 1-11, leads to the diminishment of life. Life can abound, however, when we let go of the shame connected to kinky sexuality and live out of the understanding that our sexuality as kinksters is a gift from God.