April 2012

Is sex a sin?

by Pitt Griffin on April 30, 2012 · 0 comments

in Politics, Religion

Religion tells us which sex is moral and which isn’t. But there is no one standard. Some fundamentalists believe that raped women should be stoned to death. Some liberals see sex as a pleasure to be enjoyed by any consenting adults. So where to draw the line? Or should there even be a line drawn?

To many followers of the Abrahamic faiths the Bible holds the answer. But difficulties arise as different people have very different interpretations of the text. Orthodox Jews reduce sex to a mechanical exercise to produce children. Fundamentalist Christians increasingly celebrate marital sex as a God given joy. It seems that sexual morality is in the eye of the beholder.

Criminal and Civil law provides the rules that a society imposes on itself to promote coexistence. Moral codes are the rules that interest groups would impose upon everyone else to conform our behavior to their taste. Authority for these codes comes from their interpretation of what some supreme being supposedly told someone years ago.

Consistency in interpretation might grant authority, but today’s moral judges cherry pick which sins are still relevant and which we can safely ignore. Consider two verses from Leviticus – 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.” This oft quoted verse is used to call gay sex a sin. But then what of 20:9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death.” Why has Congress not passed a “Defense of Parents Act” (DOPA)? Why has no state referendum addressed the issue? Why is there no campaign to make parent cursing unconstitutional?

Biblical sexual morality does not fit with today’s philosophy of granting equality to women. Biblical sex rules assumed that sex was a male prerogative and women should just lie there and take it.

The moral history of sex within marriage is quite horrifying. Women were not granted any sexual rights after marriage, it was acceptable for a man to demand sex from his wife and if she withheld it he was morally (and legally) entitled to take her by force. No man was prosecuted for raping his wife, if they lived together, until 1978 and it wasn’t until 1993 that North Carolina became the last state to allow for marital rape. Senator Bob Wilson CA summed up a prevailing moral philosophy. “If you cannot rape your wife who can you rape”.

And yet people who saw no sin in marital rape, would piously intone on the immorality of unmarried or gay sex. It calls into question how they can claim any moral authority.

Churches are no better than people.  The Roman Catholic Church in particular presumed to lecture on premarital sex while condoning child rape, which surely is a sin. This was not a case of a few bad apples. This was a systemic, international, institutionally mandated and approved cover-up of the basest of crimes. It makes the Catholic Church a useless arbiter of sexual morality. If you chose to follow your religion’s proscriptions on sex so be it, but you can only chose for yourself.

If religion provides no moral basis for calling sex a sin, is there a legal basis to discriminate against certain types of sex. Yes and no? Yes, we can make illegal sex with minors, sex with animals and non-consensual sex. No, there is no basis for constraints on sex between consenting adults, in their own homes, with the curtains closed.

A true conservative should support the right of an individual to have any consensual sex he saw fit. It is inconsistent for someone to fiercely resist government regulation of public corporations but assign it a role in regulating private behavior that doesn’t infringe on others’ civil rights.

However, although there is no moral basis for constraints on consensual sex, you shouldn’t abandon common sense or common courtesy. There are negative consequences to sex – most notably, pregnancy and disease – and there are psychological and emotional repercussions. As a society it behooves us to provide a source of information about sex to adults and teens so that they may make better and more informed choices, including the decision to not have sex. Something like Planned Parenthood for example.

 

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