Sunday, March 25, 2007

Taking Back Sexual Morality From The Hypocrites

Posted by olvlzl.

Paglia’s view of sex – that it is irrational, violent, immoral, and wounding – is so glum that one hesitates to suggest that it might be instead, well, a lot of fun, and maybe even affectionate and loving.

I Am The Cosmos, Molly Ivins: Mother Jones, October 1991
Thinking about Peter Pace’s recent fatwa on gay sex, it’s pretty astounding how much use conservatives have made of the issue. Having some experience of how the Bush regime works I couldn’t believe that the issue being raised just then could have been entirely by chance. In the coming year you can bet on issues involving gay rights to spring up at the most opportune times for Republicans. It’s kind of odd, considering that we’re not really that big a minority group, how obsessed conservatives are with us. But I digress, hope you enjoyed the pictures.

One of the great benefits of realistic sexual morality would probably be that it makes sex more sexy. Instead of the guilt ridden product of Axial era prohibition which sanctions sex only as the exploitation and objectification of a subservient inferior by a dominator, wouldn’t sex as expression of friendship and even, pardon the expression, love, be more fun? As Molly Ivin’s implies, it’s supposed to be enjoyable, isn't it? Why would anyone want to do “it” any other way?

Any morality in human interactions starts in the mutual respect of rights, the practice of not doing things that aren’t freely agreed to. It also means not doing things that endanger or hurt someone, not even if they think they want it. Traditional morality grew up with the assumption of dominance and submission, males were assumed to rightfully dominate women - and, in practice, economically, socially and racially inferior males. It was often considered immoral or wrong to have sex in any way that didn’t act out these dominance-submission relationships. Screwed up traditional sexual morality and it’s equally evil twin, unofficial, domination-based, license have so twisted peoples’ sexual identities that a lot of people can’t seem to recognize sex without Grand Guignol, S&M shtick. And sex also became a commodity. The inevitable results of this were that sex, even within officially sanctioned marriage, often took on aspects of commerce. Arranged marriages were often little else.

Morality is a concept in disrepute. That is because people mistake the system of taboos based on authority for morality. Those tediously repeated, hypocritically observed taboos are the officially recognized “morals”, the only ones that are allowed. But those taboos, based in inequality and disrespect for the equal rights of individuals, are alien to a modern democracy. Their utter failure, even within the most tradition ridden families and communities, show that they are false. They inevitably break down and the results will be to compound their inherent immorality with more violence and injustice. But we don’t have to continually play out the cycle of misery and exploitation.

Real sexual morality has to be democratic, it has to be responsible and it has to be realistic. The real results of it have to be the final criterion for evaluation. Consent of the individuals involved is the basis of it, not the gender or contractual status of the participants.* It has to be mutually beneficial, not endangering the partners. In other words, sexual morality is just an extension of justice and respect. If presented as an expression of fairness that kind of morality might have a better chance since all parties have a stake in observing it.

The left shouldn’t abandon the concept of morality for the facilely stated and rather brainlessly accepted “anything goes”. Anything goes most often turns into “might makes right”, the real moral outcome of conservatism. The kind of morality I’m talking about wouldn’t be enforced by punishment, that would invite in other parties who have no business getting involved. It wouldn’t be universally practiced, people will still make their own choices, however bad. But I think the world is ripe for this kind of democratically based, sexual morality.

* The age of the participants is important because children aren’t mature enough to protect themselves. Pretending that children are little adults is dishonest and leaves them without the protection that they are entitled to. Dealing with the fact that children are sexual beings is difficult but that doesn’t make it impossible to at least try. Not lying to them about masturbation, contraception and disease prevention are the least they are entitled to. Educating them about the detection and avoidance of con-men is at least as important.