Sexuality Good and Bad

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One of my Facebook friends posted an article about a gay couple who have been accused of molesting several of the boys they adopted. The article is written pretty objectively. It didn’t assume the allegations were true. Some would write it as exemplifying how evil homosexuals are, and this particular friend frequently posts messages about that. I suspect that was his intention this time too. I frequently disagree with him. It would be one thing if heterosexuals automatically behaved better than homosexuals. They do not.

My wife tells me of a girl she knew when they were both in their early teens. The girl told her she and her father were having sex, and showed her the building where this was going on. My wife told me about a day when they were taking a walk and encountered my wife’s brother and some of his friends. One of his friends called the girl away to have sex with her. She went and came back. Another called her, and she went and came back. Then another.

I don’t know, but suspect that the girl had a sad life. It sounds very much as if she didn’t feel she could say no to sex, whether she wanted it herself or not. Because of heterosexuals.

Perhaps we should warn people about the heterosexual agenda, which seems to be about molesting children.

The sentence above sounds counter-intuitive. It’s also at least an exaggeration. Many heterosexuals  are perfectly decent people, contrary to negative stereotypes about them. A lot of people have trouble believing the same is true of most minorities. Almost all of us like scapegoats to blame things on.

It’s easy to assume that gay men like to molest children. Actually, a significant number of pedophiles have sexual relationships with adult women too, and don’t confine their molestation to one gender. Heterosexuals are probably less likely to be used to being used as scapegoats than minorities are. They don’t like it any better than minorities do either, often claiming to be victims themselves, of reverse racism or anti-Christian bias, for instance. They seem not to imagine that anyone else might resent being blamed for bad or even criminal behavior.

Sexuality is, for better or worse, one of the main sources of human motivation, which means that power comes into the equation. If a person can, through being larger and physically stronger than a woman, force her to have sex with him, there are always men who will be tempted to do just that. The same is true in same-sex relationships, especially if men are involved. Testosterone can encourage men to be over-aggressive.

What’s the lesson here? If you’re powerful, you can punish someone for not having sex with you. You can also punish people for having sex in ways or with people you disapprove of.

The American South has long been notorious for racism, and disapproval of mixing the races. It took me a long time to realize that this, and the lynching that took place during segregation (we seem to have other forms of that now), were because white slave owners used black women sexually, and were afraid black men would return the favor. I really should have realized that sooner. As a favorite writer commented, no one erects a taboo against something that isn’t tempting.

A modern example of this was Strom Thurmond, a very conservative and racist member of Congress for a long time. It was reported that one of his colleagues said that he really believed the stuff about miscegnation. Imagine popular surprise then when it came out after his death that he had an illegitimate daughter with a black woman. That suggests he hated himself as well as others.

Reaction formation is the term for a type of behavior which reduces anxiety by asserting the opposite of one’s original feeling. Mr. Thurmond may well have felt humiliated by having succumbed to temptation. According to a news story, he gave his daughter money but never, when she and her mother visited him, called her mother by her name or acknowledged her as his daughter. Her mother had been a servant in his family home suggesting that Thurmond had felt entitled to have sex with her.

There’s some plasticity in human sexuality. That’s been noted in a number of circumstances. One was English public (private) schools, where upper class adolescent boys were segregated from women. Homosexuality became prevalent enough in that class that the word for it in Yiddish meant literally “the English disease”.

Another area was among sailors, especially before technology made voyages much shorter. Sailing between continents took months. Whaling expeditions could last two or three years. Pirates in the heyday of piracy in the Caribbean rarely had access to women. Women were not included in more legitimate voyages either.

A third area is prison. An acquaintance went to prison for a year or two for marijuana, and someone who had been in prison himself advised him to find a protector to have a sexual relationship with. The friend had the advantage of being gay, he did find a friend, and his stay in prison wasn’t too unpleasant.

But that’s not necessarily how it is. In a movie based on a Stephen King novel a prisoner is subjected to rape numerous times, though he manages eventually to get revenge on everyone who misuses him. Apparently, that kind of thing happens too.

What are we to make of people condemning homosexuality? Probably some sincerely believe it’s wrong, often because it’s condemned in the Bible, not imagining that people might engage in such acts because that’s their orientation, or that they might actually love each other. Maybe those condemning simply have never experienced that kind of desire. But if they’re vehement about it, we might suspect something else is going on.

The Bible condemns eating pork and shellfish, and wearing clothes made of two different fabrics. I’ve heard pork condemned, by a Muslim friend, but never shellfish or clothes of more than one fabric. That suggests cherry-picking.

Of course sexuality is one of the most intimate and  pleasurable things we can experience, so the experience can also be corrupted, or condemned for corruption even if unfairly. It’s notable that ancient Greco-Roman culture was quite tolerant of sexuality in general, and perhaps homosexuality in particular. Alexander the Great was certainly bisexual, Julius Caesar had that reputation, Plato seems to have had little interest in women, etc. Why exactly did Jewish and Christian culture condemn homosexuality?

It seems that an anti-sexual movement began about the same time as Christianity (whether Christianity was responsible for it or not) which influenced the new religion. Camille Paglia suggested, in Sexual Personae, that it may have been a reaction to Roman emperors like Nero, who behaved pretty outrageously in homosexual ways, but by no means only in those ways. In the case of Judaism, it’s been suggested that the ancient tradition reacted against some of the rites of the Great Mother religions, which featured homosexual behavior.

For many of us, the behavior seems strange, because unfamiliar. That in itself causes us to fear, but the word itself is negatively highly charged too. I noticed this when I found out my favorite high school teacher was gay, at a time when I was pretty unclear about sexuality in general. My assumption at the time was that most people’s sexuality is what it is. I didn’t feel much choice about MY orientation, so I thought it reasonable to assume most others didn’t either. Obviously, that’s not entirely true, but I don’t think it’s entirely untrue either.

When I used to listen to right-wing radio shows I used to hear the hosts say that homosexuality was a choice. I always wanted to ask them if they’d been tempted. G. Gordon Liddy I recall saying (in what sounded like a tone of wonder) that he had never indulged in homosexual acts while in prison. I never got the opportunity to ask him if he ever wanted to, but I wish I had. Would he have admitted to the temptation, or would he have denied it? I wonder.

A recent post on Facebook told of a woman who, some thirty years ago, decided to take care of people (usually gay men) dying of AIDS at a time when little was known about the disease and little research was being done on it. Many if not most of them had been abandoned by their parents, though often not by their lovers. She said she was deeply touched by the love shown by their partners.

That raises the question of just what constitutes marriage. Is marriage something that has been approved by the community, even though the two people involved no longer care about each other (or may never have)? Or does it have to do with the quality of feeling each person has for the other? I think it’s pretty clearly understood by most that relationships are never unchanging unless they have died. As long as they live, they change. Thus, the quality of heterosexual relationships can be inferior to homosexual ones. It would be more convenient for many if heterosexuality was equivalent to virtue. Unfortunately for we heterosexuals, it is not.

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