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  #1  
Old 12th September 2015, 10:07 PM
zzzz zzzz is offline
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Default sexual ethics - lust

So I have some questions about sexual ethics. I will be perhaps a bit blunt for the sake of the explanation, but not too much I hope.

I know that it is wrong to stimulate sexual pleasure with my mind (for example by looking at, or imagining a woman). However, I know that looking at a woman for her beauty (as an artist does) is not a sin. And I don't know where the limit is. What exactly counts as a sexual pleasure? Only physical pleasure? So my main question is : If I enjoy looking at, for example, a (real) woman's breast, but without physical or physiological effect (i.e. no erection and no sexual sensation in my body) and without imagining things (just looking) is it a sin? If yes, why? Does it depend of some circumstances? Which circumstances?
Other question : If I enjoy looking at a woman's breast in a painting (for example a realist painting, like Bouguereau's The Birth of Venus), but the reason I enjoy looking is a mixture of two reasons (the fact that it's beautiful, and the fact that I'm a normal straight man), is it a sin? If it was a painting showing a man, I would not have so much pleasure by looking at it. But at the same time, it's certainly not only sexually motivated. It's, I think, the sexual desire that increases the esthetical pleasure, and when I look at this kind of picture, I feel emotionally moved, as if I was looking the Beauty in itself. It's not at all like the reaction one has with pornography. But at the same time, as I said, the fact that the painting shows a nude woman helps it. So is it a sin or not?

I thank you very much in advance for your really needed answer.
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  #2  
Old 12th September 2015, 11:42 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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It will be difficult for you to understand any answer to your questions, unless you learn Catholic ethics first.

Looking at a beautiful woman in life or in art is not intrinsically evil; it is not necessarily immoral. So it depends on your intention and the circumstances. Will looking be a near occasion for sin? If not, and assuming the images are not pornography, it seems to me either not a sin or only venial.

If you need some guidance on ethics in general, see my book:
http://www.amazon.com/Catechism-Cath...dp/B004WE7K6C/

A brief quote from the book follows:

[Matthew]
{5:27} You have heard that it was said to the ancients: 'You shall not commit adultery.'
{5:28} But I say to you, that anyone who will have looked at a woman, so as to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
{5:29} And if your right eye causes you to sin, root it out and cast it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than that your whole body be cast into Hell.

Jesus condemns both the exterior act of adultery, and the interior act of lust. The exterior act of merely looking at a woman is not a sin. Admiring beauty in a woman is not adultery of the heart. Only if the man consents to lust with the will and intellect does he commit adultery of the heart. Jesus describes lust as adultery of the heart because any act of lust is a willingness to commit an illicit sexual act, including any gravely immoral sexual act, the primary example of which is adultery. If the person is not willing to commit the immoral sexual act, then even if there is some degree or type of sin, the sin is not lust.

This interior act of consenting to an illicit sexual act is an actual mortal sin only if it is done with full consent and full knowledge that the act is gravely immoral (or without caring if the act is gravely immoral). As is the case with any interior sin, a mere passing thought or temptation, to which one does not consent, would not be a sin at all. And if the consent or knowledge is substantially less than full, the interior act would be an actual venial sin, not an actual mortal sin.

.096. How do we distinguish whether a thought about a sinful act is an objective mortal sin, an objective venial sin, or not a sin at all?

Adultery is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. The act of adultery is an objective mortal sin. If the act of adultery is chosen with full knowledge and full consent, then it is an actual mortal sin. But a thought about adultery is not the same as an act of adultery. A person may think about the ten commandments, and about the mortal sin of adultery, without himself sinning. Therefore, thoughts about adultery, or about sexual acts in general, or about any sinful act, are not necessarily sinful thoughts. A thought about adultery is not inherently ordered toward the commission of the act of adultery. Nor are thoughts about any act inherently ordered toward the doing of the act itself. Thinking is not the same as doing. Thus, consent to a thought about an act does not imply consent to the act itself, and consent to a thought about an intrinsically evil act is not itself intrinsically evil.

However, if the consent to the thought includes a willingness to commit the intrinsically evil act, then the interior act of consent to that act is intrinsically evil. For every intrinsically evil act, even one that is exterior (e.g. murder, fornication, theft), always includes an interior knowing choice of the act by the will and intellect. If the will and intellect make fundamentally the same choice, but without the exterior act, then the sin is fundamentally the same sin. And so, if any exterior act is intrinsically evil and gravely immoral, then even the interior consent alone to the same act is also intrinsically evil and gravely immoral. But this refers to actual consent to the sinful act, not merely consent to thoughts about the sinful act.

If a person thinks about an exterior sinful act, with an interior consent to the act, not merely with consent to thoughts about the act, then he has committed an interior sin of the same type as the exterior sin. If the exterior act to which he consents is an intrinsically evil act, then the interior consent to the act is intrinsically evil. If the exterior act to which he consents is inherently gravely immoral, then the interior consent to the same act is inherently gravely immoral. If the exterior act to which he consents is only a venial sin, then the interior consent to the same act is only a venial sin. If the exterior act to which he consents is a sin, but not intrinsically evil, then the interior consent to the same act is a sin, but not intrinsically evil.

However, the exterior commission of a sinful act generally has more bad consequences than the mere interior consent to the same act. Therefore, the exterior sin is overall more sinful. If the exterior sin is a grave matter solely because of these exterior bad consequences, then the interior consent to the same sin would be a venial matter because these bad consequences are lacking. Keep in mind, though, that a gravely immoral intention can make any interior or exterior act whatsoever into a mortal sin. Thus, a sin that is solely interior may be an actual mortal sin, because of bad intention, even if the same sin carried out in the exterior (and without a gravely immoral intention) is only venial. Any actual mortal sin will have worse consequences than any actual venial sin, but this includes the interior consequences to the soul.

If there is no interior consent to the sinful act, but only consent to thoughts about the sinful act, then the interior act is not necessarily a sin. Such an interior consent to thoughts about sinful acts may be without sin, as when someone studying ethics thinks about the sinful acts discussed in examples. Or there may be some sinfulness found in consent to thoughts about sinful acts, if the person dwells on such thoughts in a selfish or disordered manner. If there is some sinfulness, the sin may be either venial or mortal. Thus consent to thoughts about a sinful act may be: not a sin, or a venial sin, or a mortal sin.
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Old 13th September 2015, 11:13 AM
zzzz zzzz is offline
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Okay, that's the general theory. But my question is more precise, as you can see. It's about the matter (grave or not?) of some particular acts.
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Old 13th September 2015, 11:30 AM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zzzz View Post
Okay, that's the general theory. But my question is more precise, as you can see. It's about the matter (grave or not?) of some particular acts.

When an act is not intrinsically evil, then a judgment is required to evaluate the intention and circumstances. So you have to make that judgment yourself. Looking at art that has some nudity is not necessarily immoral.
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Old 13th September 2015, 01:31 PM
zzzz zzzz is offline
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Ok, but if when I look I'm partially motivated by sexual desire, is it wrong? If I understand you, lust appears only when I agree to commit an immoral act, even if I don't commit this act exteriorly. However, I always believed that taking purely mental pleasure only by looking at a woman, even without an act or the thought of an act, was inherently wrong. Was I wrong?
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Old 13th September 2015, 02:12 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zzzz View Post
Ok, but if when I look I'm partially motivated by sexual desire, is it wrong? If I understand you, lust appears only when I agree to commit an immoral act, even if I don't commit this act exteriorly. However, I always believed that taking purely mental pleasure only by looking at a woman, even without an act or the thought of an act, was inherently wrong. Was I wrong?

I can't be the judge of your heart and mind. Based solely on your explanation, it seems to be moral to appreciate the beauty of a woman based partially, as you say, on the fact that you are a heterosexual male attracted to women.

A husband desires his wife, and he does not commit the sin of lust. However, if he desires her with no regard for morality, treating her as a sex object, then he sins by lust.
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Old 14th September 2015, 04:43 PM
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I think you are referring about the battle against the flesh.

A priest once told me that looking at a beautiful woman, per se, is not a sin for God created beauty.

Regarding paintings or works or art, there is some nudity on great masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel, yet, it is not pornography.

Now, lets say a man starts looking at a beautiful woman with no sexual intentions whatsoever, but he starts having arousal. It's the flesh that it's rebelling, so this is still NOT a sin. The man, at this moment, must start looking somewhere else or stop looking at that woman. God knows that it was not his intention whatsoever and that he tried to stop his impulses. If the man CONSENTS to this arousal and/or keeps looking now with sexual intentions or desires, it is here when he starts sinning because he willingly accepted.

We have concupiscence, so this is an everyday battle against our flesh. We also have free will, and therefore, the responsibility to choose good over evil.
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Old 14th September 2015, 04:49 PM
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I have to add something regarding looking at women, the most beautiful ones, are the ones who are modestly dressed.

Our eyes have to avoid un-modest women. Again, it is a battle.
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