C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, and Perceptions of Sex

Re-post because I’m tired.

Just to lay my cards on the table, let it be known that I have read The Chronicles of Narnia multiple times, and that I have only read the Harry Potter series once.

But, on to the post.

So, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, said that she had “a big problem” with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia because “there comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex.”

With all due respect, that is bunk. Here’s why.

First off, Lewis had absolutely no problem with sex as general sort of thing that people did. He was, in point of fact, a fan—so long as sex was had as it should be had. If you don’t believe me, go to your local library and read the final two chapters of That Hideous Strength. (Then go and read the rest of the Space Trilogy. You won’t be sorry.) However, for those of you who don’t have access to a copy, or those of you who just want to get on with the post already, the last part of the book involves the planet Venus coming very close to Earth—at which point all of the animals, and all of the married couples among the protagonists, become very amorous, and, while nothing is shown or described, it is made very clear that all the couples are having sex, or will be having sex very shortly.

Also, in the particular section of the Chronicles of Narnia that is being discussed, the problem isn’t that Susan discovered sex. The whole “nylons and lipstick” issue is merely symptomatic of the actual problem that Susan had, at least as Lewis saw it—namely, that Susan wanted to be a young adult for as long as possible—and possibly longer.

However, Rowling’s statement is symptomatic of a deeper issue with modern culture, and that is this: saying that there could anything negative in the least about realizing the twin facts that there is such a thing called “sex” and that having it is desirable (yes, I know there are asexuals out there) ends up getting turned into saying that sex is bad.

Now, the fact of the matter is that there has been a strain in Christian thought that has been convinced that sex is a Bad Thing, due to the influence of Greek philosophy and its denigration of the body in its attempt to honor the soul on the early church fathers. However, there is another strain—the one that Lewis fell into—that held that sex was an excellent thing, so long as it was practiced within the bounds that God set up for it (Note: I am not going to launch this blog into The Great Homosexual Marriage Debate at this time) and so long as it did not become an idol.  That was Lewis’ position, and it is evident in his writing, particularly in Mere Christianity and That Hideous Strength, the latter of which is particularly interesting because in it, it is one of the main villains who seeks to rid the human race of sex, and the only person who is on the side of good who is offended by the amorous goings-on at the end is the atheist among the protagonists. This was doubtless somewhat unfair of Lewis, but it does indicate his lack of a problem with sex as sex.

However, he did have a problem with what could be called “the four evers” of how some people wanted to have sex in his day, and still do in ours—that is to say, whenever, wherever, whoever, with however many—and the less extreme variants thereof. So far as he was concerned, this was a perversion of the original purpose. Also, he believed that there was a time to be a child, a time to be an adolescent, and a time to be an adult. All these things had their seasons, and Susan, unlike her siblings, her aunt and uncle, and Eustace and Jill, wanted to get through childhood too fast and wait too long to actually grow up—this is actually stated in-book, by the way, and the fact that Rowling, along with many of the other people who have criticized Lewis for throwing Susan out of Narnia because she “grew up”, missed that little bit of information simply proves my point.

This also raises some interesting questions about the linkage between sexual awareness and maturity both in reality and in the mind of society. While I don’t know how much these are linked in reality, it does seem to me that society as a whole does not seem to believe that one can be a fully functional adult without some sort of sexual experience, or at least that this is what the entertainment industry seems to be pushing. If you don’t believe me, I would like to request that you find me one known virgin who is a major recurring character in a current television series who is not a nebbish of some sort. The fact that you will probably have to hunt for one says volumes.

At this point you may be wondering why on earth all of this is important. Here’s why. What has happened is that modern society has developed the opinion that sex is something that is abnormal to not engage in, and that may be necessary to functioning well as a mature adult, but that it does not matter who one has sex with, so long as there are not blood relatives, children, or coercion involved, and to mention that it might be wise to have other strictures is the act of a repressed killjoy.

This causes, even from a non-religious standpoint, numerous problems, most of which can be guessed. Among these are teen pregnancy, single-parent homes—this is not to say that single parents cannot be good parents, but it is fairly clear that, on average, children in two-parent households do better than ones from single-parent households—and numerous amounts of emotional, mental, and relational baggage that will impair further relationships, combined with an unwillingness to acknowledge that there is a problem. From both a religious and a non-religious standpoint, it results in disordered desires—a desire for a bed partner instead of a wife being the primary one. From a Christian standpoint, it is an attitude of rebellion towards God, and a perversion of the gift He has given.

Now, I’m not attributing all of modern Western society’s problems to its attitudes about sex—in point of fact, I believe those attitudes to be a symptom of the problem. However, sometimes symptoms can cause secondary symptoms, and sometimes those secondary symptoms can be as deadly as the primary symptoms.

What one person believes may or may not affect a society. What a large portion of a society believes will affect that society, for good or ill.

Ideas have consequences.

‘Til next time,

 Lowell Van Ness

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