I read a fantastic article today from Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute about how sex, even in its rawest, most illicit form, still represents more than a strictly natural, biological function. As anecdotal – but very convincing – evidence, she reminds us of the young man, Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate posted a video of Clementi in a homosexual tryst.
As Ms. Morse argues:
Now, if sex is really “just a normal bodily function,” why on earth would he be so distraught that he would end his life? Maybe he wasn’t embarrassed about the sexual act itself, only about the violation of his privacy. But what if his roommate had caught him in the act of picking his nose or going to the bathroom? It strains the imagination to believe that he would have killed himself over the display of these “normal bodily functions.” If sex is really “just a recreational activity,” would anyone kill himself over a video showing him playing baseball or checkers or video games?
The heart of Ms. Morse’s argument is that the sexual act is more complex – psychologically and spiritually – than the sum of its physical components. As such, sex ought not be commoditized or denigrated by reducing it to a purely commercialized or hedonistic venture.
I’m not inclined to disagree. Tyler Clementi’s death serves more than a rallying point for the LGBT community to de-stigmatize homosexuality; his death demonstrates that sex represents more than a purely pleasurable activity. What we can learn from Clementi’s tragedy is that the sexual act should be protected, respected, and honored.
Throughout history and across cultures, the marital institution has been treasured. Even throughout American history, the importance of marriage cannot be undermined. The Supreme Court weighed in on the matter calling marriage a “fundamental right.” Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). And within the context of marriage lies the blessing of sexual and procreative autonomy.
Though Morse’s article focuses on the anecdote of Tyler Clementi, her larger commentary considers the sad state of society’s perception of sexuality. Tyler Clementi became a casualty in the same promiscuous society that sought to convince him that physical sex comes with no strings attached.