- Katie Hartfiel
There's No Such Thing as "Safe-Sex" For the Heart
Several years ago I read the book Unprotected, by campus psychiatrist Miriam Grossman. Dr. Grossman bravely reveals the magnitude of the heartaches and lives she personally witnessed that were ruined by the culture of death. Reading this book changed my approach to speaking on chastity and gave me a sense of moral obligation to spread the good news of sexuality. A quote of hers that stood out to me in particular is that, “There is no such thing as a condom for the heart.”
The reality of this statement cannot be underplayed. The truth is that there is a biological reality that occurs when two people join together in sexual union. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: God doesn’t need to compete with science and biology because He created them. Studies have shown that a hormone called Oxytocin is released in excessive amounts during sexual activity. Oxytocin is the same hormone that is dispensed in a woman’s brain at the time that she is nursing her new child. It is nick-named “the bonding hormone” because it literally creates a chemical bond in the brain of a mother. This subconscious connection tells the child and the mother that they belong to one another.
When it comes to topics of sexuality, this hormone has another powerful role. During intercourse an incredibly large dose of this hormone is released in the brain creating a concrete chemical bond between two individuals. God’s motivation for creating this exchange is simply genius! When a man and a woman speak their vows, they give themselves to one another completely for life. The physical reality of this is made present in a biological way when they give themselves to one another through intercourse. Oxytocin is a scientific representation of the Lord’s will for the couple to be “no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:8). God intended for us to bind ourselves to our spouse. What an incredible gift!
Unfortunately, we know that this isn’t always the context for sexual expression. If the above is true then it is easy for us to see problems arise when the sexual act is taken outside of marriage. During sex, the body is speaking a language. As Christopher West (referring to the teaching of JPII) is known to explain, sex clearly says, “I give my entire self to you without holding anything back. I am binding myself to you for life, and I am yours freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.” During sex outside of marriage, the body is saying one thing, but it fails to echo reality. Pre-marital sex is the act of two bodies who are effectively lying to one another.
While an individual may be able to deceive themselves, they cannot fool biology. I have often encountered couples who are sexually active and continue to break up only to get back together over and over. Their friends can clearly see the relationship is not working, and often it seems that the couple knows it as well! This bond within their brains and their hearts is so strong that even their obvious incompatibility can’t seem to break it. When we act outside of God’s plan, our vision tends to get blurry.
Author and speaker Neal Lozano speaks of the spiritual implications of this unity between two people as a “soul-tie.” I love this image in conjunction with the biological truth of the bond of oxytocin. Our brains tell us that we are united, but our souls bare this reality into eternity. Lozano speaks of soul-ties outside of marriage and the spiritual break that needs to take place to be truly free. Through confession, acknowledgement of this bond, forgiveness of self and others and renunciation of the tie to another, the Lord wants true healing and freedom for us all.
God is Father. He wants to keep us safe in every way: physically, mentally, and emotionally. When we trust in His word and His plan He promises to have our hearts at the center of His intentions every step of the way. We don’t have to trust in other barriers for protection when we have a Father who has given everything to set and keep us free.