As I teach at every MPC school in the opening lecture on God’s holiness, we live in a nihilistic age. The contention that being has no meaning attacks our view of humanity in general, and sexuality in
particular. On the Meaning of Sex by J. Budziszewski is a winsome antidote that bolsters not just clear thinking but also greatness of soul. Budziszewski challenges the popular assertion that sex doesn’t have to mean anything, leading us into clarity where the slogans of the culture foster confusion. He intentionally leaves religious themes in the background for most of the book in order to help us look logically at the nature of sex and therefore get a firmer grip on what we already intuitively know is true. He challenges the fuzzy thinking that enables a nihilistic view of sex:
“What you intend subjectively can’t change what your act means objectively… To join in one flesh is to say, ‘I give myself to you in all that this act means,’ even if my mouth shapes the words, ‘This means nothing’” (27).
Budziszewski must have prayed for conciseness of speech on this project, because he covers every facet of what it means to be sexual beings in a slim, readable book.
The meaning of sexual powers: Although pleasure motivates us to use the sexual power we’ve been given, Budziszewski shows why sex is really about procreation.
The meaning of sexual difference: Budziszewski helps us see that difference between men and women is not constructed or invented by culture but exists in our nature, and offers a sound and inspiring definition of the two sexes.
The meaning of sexual love: Budziszewski cuts through our confusions about eros and romance to paint an exciting picture of what faithful self-giving and sexual love really are.
The meaning of sexual beauty: Budziszewski differentiates between dehumanized and humanized sexiness, restoring an understanding of sexual beauty as delight in the otherness of the other.
The meaning of sexual purity: Considering both the single and married states, Budziszewski points to the sweet disciplines of decorum, modesty, and temperance.
Understanding the true meaning of sex helps us have better lives, but there’s a much greater reason why this book (and the truths it conveys) is important. In his final chapter, Budziszewski connects all the dimensions of sex to their ultimate purpose: God. “An image of mortal love can’t point beyond itself unless it is faithful at its own level first” (139). We need books that help us think and live rightly as sexual beings so that we can rightly image. Awesomely, God created our sexuality in order to draw us to Himself!