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Morality, sex, and boxes

May 28, 2015

Libby Ann has a post on the warped morality now on display from some fundamentalists in the news:

Social conservatives tend to divide sexual acts into “marital sex” and “non-marital sex.” For social conservatives, child sexual molestation is in the same category as gay sex or consensual premarital sex. When divided in this way, sexual molestation doesn’t look all that different from consensual premarital sex — though both are considered sin. This is why the Duggars can talk about Josh’s “mistakes” the way they do — as though it were simply him going too far with a girlfriend, or viewing pornography. Because for them, they’re in the same category — sexual contact before marriage.

This news is the first I have heard of Josh Duggar, but it is hardly my first encounter with this kind of moral outlook. The problem I have with Libby Ann’s post is that a first reading of her post makes is sound as if progressives simply substitute “consent” for “God approves”:

Progressive sexual ethics center around consent. Sexual contact that is consensual is okay. Sexual contact that isn’t consensual is not okay.

Consent certainly is important, and the reason we make acts like molestation illegal. We want to teach our children to respect others’ boundaries, sexual and other kinds.

But consent is just the bare beginning in thinking about sexual morality. Let’s start with this: Sex can lead to children, and if you are not prepared to care for all your children, you are doing something wrong. Birth control isn’t just a convenience. It is a moral good.

If your sexual acts make you feel shame, you likely should revisit your sexual choices or what it is that makes you feel shameful. If you cannot form good relationships with your sexual partners, you likely should look at how you form relationships. If you have sexual addictions that interfere with your work or friendships, you should seek professional help with that. If your hectic and unhealthy lifestyle has led to you not getting erections any more, you should look to changing your lifestyle and talk to your doctor.

I could go on and on. Anyone who thinks seriously on moral issues knows there are many facets and nuances to human behavior. And doesn’t explain either the facts or the oughts with a pair of boxes. The problem with fundamentalist morality isn’t just that it fails to question why we should be concerned with what its god commands, nor that what gets counted as sin is silly, but also that such a binary take on morality is shallow and inhibits any kind of understanding how some moral concerns differ greatly from others.

Dana Hunter offers help to the girls and women who were raised in fundamentalist churches that coddle abusers and blame the victims.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2015 7:51 am

    Thank you for writing this, Russell. I’d like to reiterate that normal teenage boys’s “mistakes” do not last 2 years and victimize 5 children (that we know of so far.) The press hasn’t challenged these stupid assertions loud and clear, if they challenged them at all.

    He is a child molester and his victims should have been prevented from contact with him immediately and at least until they are adults (at which point, they can decide what to do.) All other girls around him should have been always accompanied. And needless to say, this man should get medical treatment (though I haven’t heard of actual “cures” for pedophilia.)

    Glad Mike Huckabee got some heat for defending the bastard. Though mostly from his fans, not the press.

  2. May 28, 2015 8:02 am

    And a couple of other things:
    1) I can understand protecting the identity of the abuser when he is a minor and as long as he gets treatment and his victims and potential victims are protected. That is really what matters to me. But when there is a cover up by the adults, like in the Duggars case, all bets are off.
    2) This not only happens in families, did you see the article about school districts also protecting child molesters? See http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/how-texas-schools-shield-teachers-accused-of-sexua/nmMx9/#ccd3d866.3932249.735745

    • rturpin permalink*
      May 28, 2015 8:17 am

      No, I didn’t see that. I suspect that dynamic develops in every organization — schools, police, hospitals — to defend colleagues.

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