On agape and sex.

Last week, after my third sex essay printed in the Tampa Bay Times, I received an email from Dr. Lodovico Balducci — a faithful Times reader who has responded to each sex essay I’ve written for the paper since 2009.

He sent the letter to the editor that he submitted, which printed in part this week. With his permission, I’ve pasted the full version of his letter below. I’m grateful for it and hopeful you’ll find his points about agape and sex as insightful as I did:

I would like to add three comments to Arleen Spenceley’s eloquent defense of chastity. Appropriately she claims that sex, like all human activities, should be sacred. From the Latin sacer sacred means “reserved for a special function.” The world “sacrifice” from sacrum facere means to render sacred, to reserve our activities to the pursuance of the unique mission assigned to each person.

Unless it is experienced as an ongoing sacrifice human life is an exercise of futility and a prison of addictions. The love Ms. Spenceley mentions is a translation of the ancient Greek agape, a love that springs from the awareness of being endowed with unique talents and is fulfilled in the opportunity to share these gifts with other individuals.

Unlike other forms of love (eros or sexual desire, filia, friendship, and Eusebeia, respect for one’s elderly) agape looks for opportunities of giving, rather than receiving. Finally, the article provides a clue to one of the most vexing problems of our times: what is normal sex.

All the studies of this topic (starting from the Kinsey’s report) used as golden standard of sex the current sexual behavior. According to these standards breathing in the 60s would have been best accomplished through cigarette smoking, as the majority of the population at that time was smoking.

Ms. Spenceley makes a powerful and convincing claim that normal sex is that form of sexual activity that best fits the individual aspiration to agape. Any other form represents an estrangement from ourselves, an experience that George Bernanos would have defined “disincarnation.”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Dr. Balducci seems like a pretty smart guy. It’s good to have someone like that saying good things publicly about your work. I’m not so sure about his discussion of the types of love, though.

    Unlike other forms of love (eros or sexual desire, filia, friendship, and Eusebeia, respect for one’s elderly) agape looks for opportunities of giving, rather than receiving.

    I think that a couple of missteps here, besides being a little off on the meanings of the words, queer the point he tries to make in his boldface. Eros, for instance, really isn’t limited to sexual desire. Ideas such as divine eros go back a long ways, and in the Christian era the Church Fathers made use of eros to refer to intense yearning that was not by definition of a sexual character. Some of the Fathers have ascribed the quality to God too, which would hardly be fitting if it were just sexual desire. Eusebeia, on the other hand, while it can be expressed through respect for one’s elders (or the elderly) is really better understood as good piety or proper veneration. It’s used a nice little number of times in the New Testament, and it is by no means just a matter of respecting the elderly, and i think that its meaning actually indicates that it is in pursuit of giving rather than receiving: that is, in eusebeia one looks for opportunities to give to, rather than receive from, God, to borrow Dr. Balducci’s phrasing.

    Nevertheless, what I would give to have a chap such as Dr. Balducci in my corner. So double congratulations to you: on your publication and on winning over such a devoted and thoughtful reader.