body body language

The Language of the Body--And a Kiss

6:00:00 AMMeredith Kuzma

What's in a kiss? Monica Gabriel asks this question in an article at VerilyMagazine about the recent viral video, FirstKiss. The video, which depicts twenty strangers kissing for the first time, resulted in an outpouring of heartwarming messages from viewers. Then it came out that the video was produced as an advertisement for LA clothing brand WREN. “The reaction was clear: we felt ashamed, deceived, betrayed” wrote Monica. Why? What is in a kiss? And what would Dietrich von Hildebrand say about this?

Monica discusses the difference between physical intimacy, which can be affected by chemical reactions in the body, and emotional intimacy, which requires trust, really knowing a person, and time. She concludes that the FirstKiss video illustrated the ability we have to deceive ourselves about not only what we feel for a complete stranger, but also what we feel when we witness this kiss. About WREN's video, Monica says “contrary to showing real intimacy, their deception taught us more about how easily our bodies can be used to create a false sense of it.”

Monica’s critique recognizes the reality that the body has a language. The body does not only operate by appetites, such as hunger. The body can operate in a dialogue that goes beyond the physical. There's an exchange going on between you and your body; the body does not exist in a vacuum. There's a famous quote that has been wrongly attributed to C.S. Lewis that goes something like this, “You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” But this isn't quite right. After all, after Jesus was resurrected, he ascended to heaven, body and soul. Another example would be when someone punches us and we reply “why did you hit me?” Clearly the body can say more than just “I'm hungry.” You are body and soul.

In Hildebrand’s In Defense of Purity, he writes that sex outside marriage is a desecration of sex itself. Entering into the union of two persons in one flesh outside of marriage not only removes the persons from the sacred character of sex but also corrupts the purity of each person. But people don't have sex outside of marriage because they want to desecrate the act and each other. People have sex because it has a magnetic pull, fascinating and mysterious. Hildebrand uses the phrase “honeyed poison” to describe how one might feel about this kind of union. This “honeyed poison” is sweet, but ultimately causes the death of the person.

Why would anyone want to keep consuming honeyed poison? Because it is sweet. We put honey in tea that is bland or sugar in coffee that is too bitter. When people have sex outside of marriage, they may use love or attraction or loneliness as an excuse, an attempt to patch the lack of marriage. Unfortunately, that's not how sex works. Having sex outside of marriage wounds the would be lovers in a way that no emotional or physical band-aid can heal. Yet, for some people, the fascination of sex is overpowers a fascination of virtue, purity, or holiness and the problems are ignored. Sometimes, we do something for so long that we feel like we don't have the strength to stop. If you put sugar in every cup of coffee, you forget what the coffee tastes like underneath; you become accustomed to tasting only the sugar.

If we were to admit the truth of our actions, we would not be able to continue with the same actions. So we deceive ourselves. We internally rehearse reasons why our actions are okay: “I really love him,” “it's a natural thing,” etc. The honeyed poison of this improper intimacy fascinates us. The importance of denouncing deceptive ways of thinking rises above all. Without acknowledging the truth about sex, we will be forced to live a life informed by a lie we have convinced ourselves to believe.


Dietrich von Hildebrand, In Defense of Purity (Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1962)

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  1. So, given the language of love, the First Kiss was a betrayal of the truest expression of love? Describing what he terms a "spiritual/moral physics," Robert Baron sites Karol Wojtyla as teaching that action entails an ethical dimension: "a moral agent does not only give rise to a particular act, but he also contributes to the person he is becoming. Every time I perform a moral act, I am building up my character, and every time I perform an unethical act, I am compromising my character. A sufficient number of virtuous acts, in time, shapes me in such a way that I can predictably and reliably perform virtuously in the future, and a sufficient number of vicious acts can misshape me in such a way that I am typically incapable of choosing rightly in the future."


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