On a stormy Tuesday night, 40 students, faculty and staff made the trek across campus in the snow to talk about sex. In the Terrace Room below The Commons, students filled the chairs, anxiously waiting to begin the sometimes awkward conversation. No, it wasn’t to talk about the physical aspects of sex, but to discuss whether good Christians can have good sex in today’s world.
Fr. Jim Gallagher, director of Campus Ministry, Villa Maria Hall Director Jacob Guckenberger and his wife Kelsey Guckenberger, Residence Life Housing Coordinator Jessica Wode, and Joe Pavlish, who serves as an organizer to Fish (a non-denominational Christian group on campus), joined together to engage in an ongoing conversation about sex here on campus. The panelists touched on the spiritual aspects of sex, and also talked about breaking down common misconceptions of the Christian view on sex.
Gallagher encouraged students to voice their opinions on what kind of conversations and activities they'd like to have regarding the topic of sex on campus.
“I really liked the people they had present because when I heard of this panel, I was definitely concerned it was going to be four or five priests up there talking about the Catholic Church and their teachings,” said Elizabeth Tripp, a sophomore biology and theology major.
Tripp said she appreciated the diversity of men and women with different denominations in the panel as well.
Though the event was almost cancelled when the university closed early Tuesday due to snow, many students still came to have questions answered. A better turnout than expected showed the need for more conversations like these to happen on campus.
“A lot of what they said wasn’t ‘because the Church teaches this,’ but protection of the person and the best type of relationship and intimacy,” Tripp said. “I think they did a really good job with that.”
Throughout the event, panelists specifically talked about maintaining a healthy and righteous relationship with God to have good sex. Pavlish explained sex is an opportunity to create or deepen a bond with another person. With sex comes vulnerability, and essentially spiritual nakedness along with physical nakedness.
“God created sex and it was meant, yes for procreation, but beyond that it was created as an opportunity for people in deep and intimate relationships to submit that and take it into a deeper and even more intimate place,” Pavlish said.
Along with the spiritual aspect of sex, the panelists also addressed the issue of the restrictions the church puts on sex. The Catholic Church does not believe in premarital sex, and students often times find themselves struggling to put restrictions on certain parts of their lives.
“To me, the question of restriction is because God has something so much better for you than shallow sexual encounters and sleeping around with your neighbor,” Pavlish explained. “Because to me, that’s not an abundant life.”
Pavlish explained that Jesus offers a good life, in the sense that people can have an abundant life if they follow certain guidelines. A healthy sexual relationship has to do more with the spiritual and emotional connection with another person, and to commit oneself to forming and deepening a bond with him/her. The panelists explained how learning to have a healthy sexual relationship with one another leads to a better life-giving opportunity.
“Religion is not just concerned about your physical health and safety, but also about your emotional and spiritual health,” Wode explained.
And panelists discussed their personal lives and experiences to create a more relatable conversation on intimacy and sex. Many times, panelists made light-hearted jokes, and students chuckled, appreciating the attempt to make this conversation more friendly and inviting.
According to Tripp, the next step in continuing the conversation would be to encourage more people to attend. This would allow for a more diverse group to ask more questions, and even harder ones that may be more beneficial for everyone.
“It’s not something a lot of people talk about or not really a conversation that we have,” Tripp said. “It’s a conversation that we are starting to have and I think it’s a good thing getting more people here.”