Saturday, July 21, 2012

Total Gift of Self?

Seraphic recently wrote on her blog that she and her husband don't really like the phrase "total gift of self" from John Paul II's theology of the body. They think it is weird, kind of funny, and rather unsexy, but that perhaps it is a phrase that sounds better in Polish than in English.

When I think of the total gift of self, I think of spider mating habits and the "nuptial gift" of the spermatophore.

The spermatophore, also produced and given away by many different male insects, is a ball of fatty, protein-rich food mixed with sperm that is made of most of his body weight. That little male spider on the left in my blog photo is holding a white spermatophore, about to offer it to the big brown female. He gives this to his mate. The food may be essential for her to get the nutrition to make all the eggs that will become their 1000s of adorable baby spiders. Alternatively, eating the food may just be a big distraction that keeps the female from mating with other spiders.

Either way, the male has just given away most of his body weight in the form of a big ball of food and sperm. He doesn't get to mate again (usually). He doesn't get to live very much longer.

Praying mantises and black widow spiders, who kill and eat their mates, are an obvious cliche, but though it's a little more total, it doesn't seem much like a gift.

When you know all of this stuff about weirdo invertebrates, it's hard not to think that human sex pales in comparison (in terms of the self-gift idea). That's not to say that I want 75+ lbs of fat and sperm placed in my ovipore by a spouse in his last minutes of life!

Speaking of which, I really must get to writing "The Ovipore Monologues" some day.

I'm just sayin' that it's a lot easier for me to conceptualize "self-gift" as the acts of charity and service that take place throughout a marriage than to be very impressed with the gift of semen. Or is that not what the Pope meant? Perhaps I have interpreted his writings too literally. Wouldn't be the first time that's happened. Human men have to give other stuff to their wives to keep them happy. The engagement and wedding rings, a significant portion of the man's salary, could be seen as a nuptial gift. Oh, because it is! Riiiight, the spider thing was named AFTER the human marriage convention.

Now I am more confused about sex than ever.

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