This week I watched the trailer for "No Strings Attached," which hits theaters on January 21st. The tag line pretty much describes the whole movie: "Can best friends be sex friends?" From what I could see from the trailer, it seems to be a perfect example of the "casual sex" and "friends with benefits" attitude that is so prevalent in our culture right now.
"Do you want to use each other at all hours of the day and night?"
"I'm okay with that."
How did sex divorce itself from love and become nothing more than just an "activity" that you do, and how has friendship become nothing more than two separate individuals in it simply for what they can get out of it?
A few years back, my senior year in college, I signed up for a one-credit, weekend-long class over Valentine's Day. The topic was "Love and Responsibility," a book by Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II. Since then, I don't think that anything else has impacted my life as much as the ideas that are contained in this book, nor I have I found a better way to fight back against the culture of "meaningless sex."
First is an understanding of friendship. A "friends with benefits" culture holds that friendship is nothing more than getting enjoyment for yourself from someone, whether that be sex, money, a date to hang out with on a Friday night, or just the feeling of knowing someone is there for you. The focus is on yourself. John Paul II, on the other hand, says that friendship occurs when two people "recognize a good and adopt it...when this happens, a special bond is established between me and this other person: the bond of a common good and a common aim," and from this "We begin to discern love, to catch a preliminary glimpse of it....love is unthinkable between two people without some common good to bind them together." (LR p. 28) Friendship is the beginning of love, a love that does not seek to use each other for enjoyment, but a love that looks outward to something that is true, good, and beautiful to discover together.
The second is the idea of what authentic love really is. And although I doubt I have even begun to honestly understand John Paul II's thoughts on this subject, the little that I do amazes me. The first thing that strikes me is that love, while it involves feelings or emotions, is primarily in the will. Love is a decision, a commitment, and a choice - a choice to love someone because of who they are and the value that they have as a human person. Sex is an expression and outflow of that commitment and decision. Ultimately, love results in a giving of oneself, a receiving of the other, and finding one's existence in another person. And because love is a decision and a choice,"Love in human relationships is not something ready-made" (LR. p. 29) or, as Alice von Hildebrand also writes, "Although love is a gift, it must also be learned."
Ultimately, "friends with benefits" or "casual sex" bring no satisfaction. We were made from Love for real love and won't be fulfilled until we live it:
"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. " - Redemptor Hominis