Now that we’ve established some commonality and you know I’m after a sexual ethic that can better us all, let’s get into it. We have this environment for sex that everyone is on board with, barring a few crazies no one listens to anyway. Now what? What can we deduce from this “wholesome marriage” concept? If you take that as the only acceptable setting for sex, then deviancy must happen all the time in our culture, right? It does seem that way.
That’s why I want my first topic after the common ground post to venture out a little bit. Really, everything that deviates from a simple marriage model has probably been labeled “Deviancy” by someone or other. For example, an adult who marries a child is, in our culture, pretty widely labeled a pedophile, and a deviant. Someone who forces someone else into a sexual act without consent is labeled a deviant. There is big debate currently surrounding homosexuality and whether gay marriage is “deviant”.
But those will be topics for later posts. At this point, my biggest question would probably be: “Why are we quick to label some things ‘deviant’ and others not so much?” Sex without consent is illegal, but when a group of willing adults want to get together and have an orgy, we simply ask that they keep out of sight so no one has to witness that without providing consent. And this is where things get more complicated, because we don’t agree on where lines should be drawn. Homosexuality is one of those areas, but there are others. Incest is widely disdained, but what about masturbation? Even those who say that masturbation is normal and healthy likely still have some public decency rules that ride along in the subtext.
So, for my own purposes I have made a rule of judging sexual behavior based on the Tenets I discussed in the last blog. They make for a great starting point for believers in the Bible because they outline the most important factors of spiritual sexuality. But I believe they also give us a good foundation to talk about sex without relying on Scripture because they identify the framework that is most widely accepted as positive. Then as we branch out, we have something to compare to. So we can ask questions about whether sex outside of marriage should be considered “deviant” at all. Is the rubric broken or is the rule-breaker in the wrong?
From that basis we can then begin to decide “how bad” an act of sexual deviancy is. Is it “worse” to be attracted to children or to actually act on that urge? That answer seems pretty clear, but then we can ask more complex questions. Is it worse to sleep with someone when you’re both single or if you and/or your partner are already married? We might then touch on negative consequences of each action or norms that are violated in each, or how valuable or sound those norms are.
Another way we can branch out in our discussion of deviant behaviors is in what context we are to judge each action. With only the most primitive background in sociology, I’ve come up with 4 contexts that I find valuable to discuss regarding sexual behavior.
I don’t know why every one of those has two names; that’s just a happy coincidence. Anyway, you might start to see why I have these outlined. The example I used above about taking a sexual partner outside of wedlock can (and should) be referenced against any one of the above settings. Having an affair with someone you’re not married to goes against my religious beliefs, and I personally believe it to be pretty unethical. But it’s not illegal, to my knowledge. And while our culture might cast a disparaging eye to the adulterer for lacking self-control, it’s not considered to be as antisocial a behavior as pedophilia.
My point is that it matters which context you’re referring to. I hear a lot of banter about social issues to which I am sympathetic, but it’s a completely different topic to start legislating those feelings or judgments. Yet those distinctions are rarely brought up in the tweets about this and that hotbutton issue that’s in vogue on the socials. I intend to do better than that.
And let’s circle back to judgments to wrap up this intro to deviancy. While I think quick assessments can be helpful in rhetoric to make a point, I don’t think it’s beneficial if that spills over to how I treat people. Regardless of what I say on the blog, I always am more concerned with the legacy I leave behind for my friends. If I question the legitimacy of a claim or even a particular mindset or lifestyle, I want to always rely on goodwill. If I find myself tearing down my counterparts with my words and I’m not actively finding other ways to build them up, then what can I accomplish? Yes, I want to convince people that I’m incredibly wise and thoughtful, and yes, I want to learn from others as well. But if I can’t disagree with someone without deleting them from Facebook, then how can I expect to inspire others to extend goodwill to me and my ideas? In other words, I love a good controversy, but I want to love people more. It’s not just the Christian thing to do; it’s what the world needs to grow. And at the end of the day, I have found that just because someone disagrees with me on an issue, even sometimes in an extreme fashion, doesn’t make them a terrorist or worthy of my public condemnation. I hope you will too.