Now that we’ve strayed from the sensitive topic of consent, we can discuss another deviation from the “ideal”. I think it’s also a good time to point out that in this blog, I occasionally compare my Facets to each other in terms of morality, biology, etc. Thus, I’d like to point out that that doesn’t mean that I think the violation of one is equal to the other. If I compare the Facet of Gender to the Facet of Adulthood, for example, I am not automatically saying that gay marriage is tantamount to pedophilia. Our culture, and I believe rightly so, looks down on pedophilia far more than homosexuality. But in comparing the two deviations, we can think and learn about the two tenets and the merit of our beliefs. Capisce?

Now, let’s break down our idealization of sex being between two people.

For some reason, the sexual ethic that favors two people seems to be the most widely violated of all of them. By that I mean that people find the most creative ways to deviate from the status quo. Now, deviancy in this regard ranges from mild to extreme, so this is one of the harder tenets to define. There are several deviations I can think of from the “Two People” ideal, and probably each one deserves its own blog post. I’ll try to be as clinical as possible, so as not to venture into topics that don’t bear fleshing out. Here’s what I could come up with:

Serial Monogamy – Lots of people, but only two at one time

Polygamy/Polyandry – Multiple spouses

Masturbation/Pornography – Alone

Dildos – Alone, but with objects

Threesomes/Orgies/polyamory – More than two people

Bestiality – Animals

Necrophilia – Dead people

So these things run the gamut from pretty tame to pretty repulsive. Mostly I think that has to do with other taboo factors compiling into the concept of deviating just the one sexual norm.

I think it’s safe to say that our preference for two people is tied pretty closely to reproduction. Since it takes a man and a woman to reproduce, the idea of two people having sex seems to follow logically. Some ideologies hold the twosome more highly than others, and Christianity is included in that number. Polygamy is moderately common in the Bible, even among spiritual -ahem- “Fathers” like David and Solomon, but it always seemed to me like they consummated two at a time. I admit I’m not entirely sure about that.

What at least I consider to be a more interesting question is along these lines: When considering the ideal sexual context, most of the facets are the way they are because of biology. ‘Two people’, ‘sexually mature’, ‘male and female’: all of these are necessities for reproduction. So why is the most extreme deviation in our culture considered to be consent?” It leads me to believe that there are other factors beyond a survival instinct that affect our sexual ethics. It doesn’t have to be God, or Allah, or Vishnu, but that moral must come from somewhere, and I think that origin is important to know about. Especially if you want to have any grounds for authority in an argument about sexual norms and what should be acceptable. We’ll get into all that later.

Photo by Anthony from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/beach-black-and-white-boat-coast-133339/

 

Consent

The Great Sexual Predator Purge of 2017

I just happen to be writing this blog in the midst of a firestorm of sexual assault/misconduct allegations and scandals. It’s overwhelming to hear about each new report of some well-liked celebrity or public figure being forceful or sexually crude. It’s sparked a national discussion about consent. On topic you’d think could bring some unity, we’ve instead seen more judgment and division.

With this deluge of victims coming forward, I see some themes that give me cause for pause. One of the first thoughts that pops into my head is one I’ve been conditioned to have. The culture expects me to pick a side between the jingoes who loathe political correctness and gender blurring, and the progressives who detest traditional gender roles and the patriarchy. And the large media companies have gone on an all-out, zero tolerance rampage against the accused sexual deviants. I daresay it’s led to a Hollywood blacklist not seen since Joe McCarthy.

I Have Some Thoughts About This

I have some thoughts about this. The first observation is to switch gears from the normal narrative and tell a little anecdote about what it might be like for a Christian trying to wrestle this issue. Imagine for a second that you’re a conservative Christian who’s been told by the culture that your take on modesty and sexual purity is radical and archaic, and c’mon, loosen up and have some fun! Then when the free sex culture comes back around to be harmful to women, and it turns out that we should probably have some stricter rules around this topic to curtail mischief, now there’s absolutely no flirting at work, mister. You get one strike and you’re canned. And don’t you dare disagree with my rant on Facebook or I will damn you to deletion as a misogynistic heretic. The culture somehow becomes more black-and-white than the contemporary Christian ethic.

Now, this outlook isn’t perfect. There are some obvious counterpoints I’d have to such rhetoric, and there are systems in place in many conservative churches that tolerate and even protect sexual miscreants. It’s complicated; I get it. All I ask is that you consider the allowance of other viewpoints. What I see is the potential for “opposite sides” to agree on the fact that women and children being sexually assaulted is awful and destructive. Begin with agreement rather than geared up for a public Facebook spat and you’ve already changed the game. Then you can begin to understand why a discussion on modesty might not automatically equate to slut-shaming, but a possible step toward a solution. Or maybe you’re a Trump supporter but you can commiserate with someone feeling uncomfortable with a president who’s said he likes that women let him touch them. Listen first. Ask questions. Find your parallel values, even if you can see where they go horribly awry. The understanding that a person is trying their hardest to make a better world is important. Even if they’re so obviously wrong.

Some Thoughts On Consent – Government

When I listen to the TV or radio or Facebook, I don’t hear a lot of disagreement with how we’ve legislated the consent norm. I find some of our laws to be even elegant in their structure. Sexual acts without consent are illegal, to varying degrees. But the idea that there are people who cannot provide legal consent, like children or inmates, I find to be wisely instituted.

HOWEVER, there is certainly room for improvement with how these laws are executed or judged. It is difficult for women to report rape and be taken seriously. Even if they are, unless it just happened and they can gather evidence from the “crime scene” or the victim herself, much of the evidence just becomes unusable. Rape prosecutions from the past quickly disintegrate to hearsay and circumstantial evidence. It’s an incredibly difficult job, and there are almost certainly cognitive, social, and political biases that muddy the waters of justice.

I think the crux of the issue is that consent is incredibly complex – read: unclear. This doesn’t just apply to criminal investigations. It plays out in social interactions as well. Sex is intimacy and play. Allure is delicate, and if it’s an expectation in a sexual partner, there may not be much allowance given for demanding an outright statement of consent. It can even change in the middle of the act. To sum up, it is a whole fog of grey area. I’m confident that we’ll become more effective at executing and judging the law with fewer biases, but it is by nature a tangled web.

Some More Thoughts on Consent – Ethics + Culture

In my opinion, the morality of our culture is more or less in line regarding sexual assault. It is stigmatized and that taboo is further legislated by placing the convicted offenders on a list to protect the public. What I doubt more and more is the propriety of making judgments about high-profile accusations. In some cases, the offenses are so numerous and so well-documented that passing judgment makes sense. And in these examples, I certainly feel the disdain for the perpetrator. But I think it’s wise to know that I’m reacting to a story being told to me by the news outlets. In it, the heroes are the victims and there is generally one male antagonist. All the same, the story might effectively mimic the true incidents, but they are oversimplified. We may see only one or two variables and think the aggressor a beast, but lives are complicated enough for most of us to fail with only one. But with a lot of issues, we’re very quick to blast the accused online – I call it “Twitter Justice”. 280 characters of only the most profound opinions available less than five minutes after a story breaks hardly inspire me. But then I don’t know, do I? Maybe I could learn from some of these Tweeters.

You see what I did there? I turned it back around on myself for your sake, gentle reader! Think critically; question constantly.

From what I can tell, the primary conflicts regarding consent are peripheral. Perhaps we differ on topics of victim-blaming or gender roles or politics surrounding how men treat women and vice versa. Since they are apparent bones of contention, I’ll try to give them each their own posts. But as I said before, I think this is something we generally agree on. We want to protect people from sexual assault and punish those who deviate from the norm. But also that the fuzzy areas are many and varied and there’s some level of willingness to at least turn a blind eye to the more undefined stuff.

But let none of that seeming agreement downplay the triggering danger surrounding rape. You bring it up on social media and everyone has some sociopolitical “reason” that rape is so prevalent and they will tell you about it at length. Therein lies the true danger of having an honest conversation about it. Don’t get me wrong, the stakes are high. The emotional trauma of being raped can be devastating. But when all the anger at the injustice and the wickedness of the wrongdoers is then projected onto someone who has different political or religious views, then the crusades start. And it’s hard when you’re convinced that one policy or another contributes to the problem, and that problem has a face – or several faces – in your life, and then some cocky douchebag romps all over the issue and won’t see reason. It’s enraging. Yet, there are others who might have other, good reasons to disagree. And they might not show it, but they hate rape just as much as you do. Their disagreement can be misinformed, illogical, or just annoying, but treating them with the same hatred that you have for sexual assault would be a mistake. In any longstanding conflict, demonizing the opponent means that you can be justified. And every lie has roots in the truth. The true path to peace isn’t usually as easy or rewarding. It often means putting your moral high ground aside and showing kindness to your enemy – indeed, examining whether you need to be enemies at all.

Weird Sex

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.

  • Government/Law
  • Spirituality/Religion
  • Morality/Ethics
  • Culture/Society

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.

Sex 101

Sex is positive. It’s beautiful. Without it, we can’t carry on in future generations of our kind. It’s the closest interpersonal bond we can experience. But we humans still find a way to screw it up, and in the worst imaginable ways. Sex in the wrong context, without the proper ingredients, has led to some of the most despicable crimes in our dark history. Even where possible, getting over some sexual trauma takes years, sometimes lifetimes.

With all the talk about sexual conduct in our culture these days, there are a few sides who want their voices heard. Facebook becomes a battleground with a sprinkle of vulnerability and a whole heap of aggression. And it’s mostly worthless, as are most arguments on the internet. Even in Christian circles, the lack of unity on sexual morality can leave us feeling disillusioned and anxious. People are quick to tweet condemnation, but not many are facilitating discussion. And the ones who are, I find to be pretty uninspiring.

So I want to separate myself from the mob by limiting my pushiness to one concept: “What is the common ground we all share regarding sexuality?” Instead of drawing all our lines to exclude people, let’s start from a place we can all agree on and work outward. That’ll be my version of ground rules. I want to set the stage for discussions, and if there’s no common ground we won’t have much productive debate. This is the post on the homepage that I’ll link to to read before anything else. Normally I aim to frame my thoughts closer to questions, and you’ll see that later, but you gotta earn it. If you can get on board with these initial observations and be respectful to others, your comments, questions, and insights are welcome. If not, you’ll have to find another blog to confirm your dumb ideas about sex.

Because no one else seems to be doing it, I want to start out by outlining the most widely accepted setting for sex. We talk a lot about which things are right and wrong in our society, but not why. What I will outline below is not a rulebook or law. I’m not asking you to agree that everyone should limit themselves to this list. I’m putting forth an “ideal” setting for sex so that we have an example to compare to.

Without further ado, I present to you my thesis statement: The most-accepted context for sexual congress is one where an adult male has a life-long and consensual marriage (or marriage-like commitment) to an unrelated adult female. That’s it! You could add, “and they’re both hot”, but that’s just what People Magazine wants you to think. Throw some kids into the mix too, and wham! You got yourself a nuclear family, and the government has itself some new future taxpayers!

In case you blinked, I’ll break it down for you. These are my trademarked “Accepted Tenets of Wholesome Sexuality”(, or “Facets of the Nasty”):

  1. Consent – Both parties are willing
  2. Two people – Not one, not three. Two people
  3. Not (closely) related – Incest is a taboo
  4. Adults – Both of proper age to make informed decisions about their own sexuality
  5. Lifelong commitment – Till death do us part
  6. Different sexes – Male and female

Now there are some other items that crop up as sexual taboos, even if the above list applies entirely. I think it would behoove us to touch on some of them:

  • Similar ages: Sometimes even if both parties are legal adults, extreme age gaps are disconcerting to some. (I have thoughts on why this is, but it’s more speculative, so I’ll get into that in another post)
  • Childrearing: Some people do believe that the sole function of sex is to reproduce. However, I would venture to say that even they would accept a couple who is unable to have children going ahead and having sex anyway…
  • Contentment/happiness: There may be an argument against married couples staying together despite being unhappy together. But again, if such a couple were to have sex (with each other), I’d think it would seem odd to most to forbid it.
  • Interracial marriage: This was at one time looked down upon as indecent, and I’m sure there are segments of society who still do. Those people are ignorant and/or evil. This is the one exception I will make to the “no passing judgment” rule in this post. Skin color nor any other genetic trait has any bearing on this conversation.
  • Cross-cultural marriage: Often confused as identical to interracial marriage, cross-cultural marriage actually does have an effect on marriage. This is because cultural upbringing changes values, roles, and expectations within a marriage relationship. It can make a marriage quite a bit harder. BUT, I see no reason why this should result in an ethical problem, so it’s not on the list.

I think it’s important at this juncture to point out that this list does not indicate that anyone who deviates from these rules is bad or gross. I don’t want to get a bunch of comments about me pushing my patriarchal beliefs down your throat. Whether or not you think Christians are crazy for denouncing homosexuality is irrelevant as it pertains to this list. If you believe heterosexuality is immoral, on the other hand, then you’re in an extreme minority regardless of why you would believe that. In other words, I’m not saying that sex outside of this is necessarily bad, but that sex inside of it is necessarily good.

I’m all about increasing the quality of our questions, so let’s ask it as a question: If there is an adult man, consensually married to an unrelated, adult female, is it ok for them to have sex? If you believe that the answer is “yes”, and agree that most people probably would also answer “yes”, then we’re on the same page. The idea is that there should be a million questions sprouting from this being the common ideal. Should this be the common ideal? What about these things makes this sort of relationship just seem ok? Is this sort of relationship better, worse, or the same as others that don’t line up with it? There are many answers to these questions, and some will have more merit than others. But we need to at least start by asking the same questions. Then, with the trust that our “opponents” care about human flourishing just as much as we do, we can begin to learn. Some things will never be agreed upon, but we can react with hatred and moral positioning, or we can react with tolerance and wisdom, and perhaps even grow our understanding of the world.

There you have it: the cornerstone of the blog. It is my sincere hope that, despite my logical progressions and whether or not you agree with them, we can find commonality here. We’re the most important part of our government, you and I (if you’re an American; moreso if you’re Nebraskan). So at the very least, we MUST work together to create law that serves every one of us. Outside of that, we can agree to disagree and still live peaceably. And you don’t have to read my blog.