La pudeur and our sexualized culture

A good sign of the fact that we live in a hyper-sexualized culture is the way the term “sexy”—which used to have a distinct meaning of sexually alluring—has morphed over into a variety of spheres where the adjective has no business being used: course descriptions, cars, and cameras, for example, are all sexy—or not, as the case may be.

Personally, I can’t stand this abuse of the adjective, and especially when even Christian authors routinely use it in such ways. But surely the latter simply indicates that even among Christians, the hyper-sexuality of our culture is re-shaping their world as well—witness the adoption of the frankly absurd eisegesis of the Song of Songs that sees in the ancient text all kinds of blatant sexual activities that titillate the modern palate. Contrary to the arguments of certain recent commentators, the Song of Songs is not a “holy” sex manual about such things as fellatio!

Here we need to step back and take a lesson from the French language (my Francophone friends will love this!). The French have a wonderful word to capture the veiling of one’s intimate feelings and doings, pudeur, a “holy bashfulness” (HT Alice von Hidlebrand, the Catholic philosopher). Surely, the time is ripe for such a response to this moment of our cultural sexualization. This is not Victorian prudishness, but—if I read the Puritans aright—a proper biblical approach to sex and the marriage bed.