Sexuality, CLAI and the Church: Experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean

Article excerpt

A few considerations

The reproductive function of sexuality is vital for maintaining the species. It is considered to be of lesser importance than the other functions necessary to maintain life, such as breathing, eating and defecating. Sexuality is more than biology; it touches on and directly affects psychological, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of human life.

It is impossible to deny or not to recognize the influence of sexuality on all aspects of our lives. However, throughout human history, for many reasons, sexuality has been suppressed and hidden; it has been disguised with false images; the same images that have managed to spoil it, mythologize it and even make it taboo.

Historically, mainly for philosophical and religious reasons (mind-body dualism), there was a long period of sexual repression, to such an extent that even marital sex was repressed--any sexual stimulation was considered to be a sin.

This sexual repression gave rise to various sexual deviances, many of which passed unnoticed, all within the context of a punitive and false morality.

The total lack of sex education meant that instinct, whatever that was, often replaced knowledge. Genital sex, rather than being a source of pleasure and satisfaction, became synonymous with pain and duty for the woman as, unaware of her needs, her husband used her as an object for his own pleasure. This heavy burden was borne stoically in the name of marital love and motherhood, and often resulted in frigidity.

This led many men to see prostitution as a source of sexual pleasure. At the same time prostitutes became the first source of "sex education".

This continued for many centuries, until the beginning of the 20th century, when scientific and medical interest in human sexual behaviour grew.

In the 1930s, the lack of training for doctors and gynaecologists on sexuality was recognized. In the following decades, this led to a wealth of scientific research into sexuality, such as the famous Kinsey and Hite reports and the research of Masters and Johnson.

At the same time, there was increasing interest in researching the impact of sexuality being repressed for centuries on the fields of psychology, sociology, pedagogy, politics and economics.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, triggered by the invention of the contraceptive pill, saw in a new worldwide culture. Sexual customs relaxed and the media and the entertainment industry eroticized society by making films, advertisements, books and magazines using images with a high sexual content. So the world proved the "pendulum theory"--that is, very rapidly swinging to the opposite extreme: from liberty to libertinism; from sex education to pornography; from scientific interest to exploiting an unhealthy curiosity.

This was also the period when sex education began, with some resistance as many societies considered it counter-productive, that is to say there was a fear it could promote sexual libertinism. Educational programmes and publications with dubious intent appeared, considered in some sectors to be "hidden pornography".

Today, being aware of and having an adequate experience of sexuality has become a life-and-death matter. Many phenomena show this:

* Every day in the world 16,000 people become infected with HIV, leading to AIDS, of whom 50 percent (that is 8,000 people) are young people aged 15-24.

* Each year 60 million abortions are performed worldwide, 20 million dangerously, killing 70,000 women.

* The alienation which we in the third world are prone to as a consequence of economic and social globalization, which pushes us towards individualism, dehumanization, the destruction of the family, idealization of money above people, exerts a great influence over sexuality.

* Growing male and female prostitution amongst younger and younger people, as a form of exploitation and survival. …