The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 18, Issue 4, Winter 2018

Angela Franks
Pages 629-646

End-less and Self-Referential Desire
Toward an Understanding of Contemporary Sexuality

Is postlapsarian sexual desire primarily altruistic or disordered? This paper utilizes the resources in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and in the contemporary magisterium to argue that recent phenomena such as the #MeToo movement underscore the inherently unstable and aggressive nature of sexual desire when it is uprooted from its natural end (i.e., is end-less). Aquinas highlights three aspects of desire that more sex-positive accounts of sexuality would do well to heed: its natural infinity, its self-referential nature (grounded in amor concupiscentiae), and its power of rationalization. By directing the motor of desire toward its natural ends, virtue—led by reason—can redirect desire away from self and toward the good.