Monday, April 5, 2010

Constructing a righteous sex-positivity

"There is no should between consenting adults."

I'm seeing this meme spread more and more in the sex positive blogosphere, and believe me, I get the impetus behind it. It's incredibly empowering to cast off the social taboos that once bound you. It's a defiant affirmation that rape is the only sexual crime*- that all immoral sex acts must boil down to a disrespect for the autonomy of another individual. It's an affirmation of one's identity, a refusal to allow the message that say we are sick or perverted to deny us our happiness. Really, I get it.

Nevertheless, I have to disagree. There are shoulds between consenting adults. We should aim for enthusiastic consent rather than begrudging acceptance. We should aim to respect our partners and not treat them as means to an end. We should aim in all instances to practice the virtue of love in our sex life, which is not to say that we must feel a romantic attachment for a sex act to be positive or moral. Rather, the morality borne of empathy with our fellow humans ought to be our guide in sex as well as the rest of life. As Jens Bjornboe put it:

People speak of 'sexual morality,' but that is a misleading expression. There is no special morality for sex. No matter what you do with yourself, whether you go to bed with girls or with boys, and no matter what it occurs to you to do with them or with yourself, no moral rule applies to that sphere of activity other than the principles that govern every aspect of life: honesty, courage, common humanity, consideration.
This ethic eschews a facile checklist approach to morality and concerns itself instead with their underlying principles. Rather than blindly following a list of dos and don'ts, we must thoughtfully construct satisfying principles and figure out how to better live them.

No greater example of this poor sexual morality is found than in this comment from a conservative Christian online magazine:

There are so many of us who simply don't like living in a world where absolutely anything can be condoned. Man must have laws and rules and those who seek to destroy boundaries should think twice.
Let me first say that I'm disinclined to sacrifice my only hope for happiness in this world so that people like Maria may have the mental security that someone, somewhere, has been prevented from practicing a fulfilling life.

Part of this is a problem of perception, and part of it is a problem of articulation. Certainly, sex positive activists have been trying to convince the rest of the world that we have not abandoned all of our moral principles in favor of libertine anarchy, with greater or less results.

Yet I think we could be doing better at articulating a righteous sex positivity-not simply as an overturning of conventional mores in favor of sexual freedom, but as a framework in which to lead a morally satisfying life. We should be articulating why our outlook on the world is the one most consonant with the classical virtues, why Christ's outreach to the marginalized reflects on our sexual minorities, and why our opponents fall short of the only morally defensible principles.

Here's to the work of a lifetime.

*Which is to say that, pedophilia, bestiality, et al are immoral because of their affinity to rape, as the victims are incapable of consent.

2 comments:

  1. As a Christian, I am again shamed by the 'religious right' and how they view the world. Sexuality is but one way they judge the world--albeit a main way here in the states--and what always gets me is their hypocricy.
    'Hate the sin but forgive the sinner' is a common Christian belief based on various New Testament quotes; 1 Tim 15-16, Luke 19:10, & Romans 5:8. So though most Christians view homosexuality as a sin, they aught to feel compelled to forgive the person in question.
    Though I doubt anyone would volunteer for a life of condemnation at the hands of family, friends and society, as such the idea of sexuality being a choice is ludicrous. But there you have it.
    Since most people of my faith unfortunately ignore truth in this way, let's look at another Bible verse; Romans 3:23 'for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.' So here most Christians ignore that THEY have also sinned in some way in order to judge those around them who don't lead a similar life.
    Which brings me to my last Biblical retort to said 'believers'; Matthew 7:1-5: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother "Let me take the speck out of your eye" when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?'
    So if you made it past my soap-boxing there, the point is; Christian--as a group--here in the USA have put themselves on a hypocritical moral pedestal and have condemned their brothers and sisters to live in shame in their minds.
    It isn't right and as a Christian, please know that there are many of us out here that are fighting against these stereotypes in much the same way as you are.
    ~Stephanie B-Z

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  2. As a Christain, I'm completely repelled by the views that other Christians have about homosexuality. First of all; we believe that 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God' Romans 3:23. Second; 1 John 4-9, 'Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.' So those who say 'God hates gays' are obviously neglecting to read their Bible. Lastly, in Matthew 7:1-5 it reads;'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.'
    I don't know how to make things right here, but I'm committed to working towards a solution.
    Stephanie B-Z

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