All is/ought distinctions and naturalistic fallacies aside, whilst monogamy does occur in some non-human species, apparently humans have a evolutionary and biological predisposition of sorts to polygamy.
But is this really newsworthy? Even the most prudish of “just lay there and think of the queen” conservatives would admit off the record to the fact that being married to one person doesn’t remove all attraction to all other potential mating partners. Yet again, science is giving us technical and detailed accounts of what we already knew. We like sex. We like sex a lot. We like a lot of sex. Which is good news for the pornography and prostitution industries, though perhaps not for monogamy.
If both the above science and near-universal human experience is correct, then monogamy necessarily always involves a kind of saying ‘no’ to a desire that is as natural and normative as it gets. There are two interesting points of relevance here for the current global discussion of same-sex marriage.
1) Legal same-sex marriage and legal multi-marriage are logically related. It is hardly ‘scaremongering’ to point out that polygamy is the next step in the current progression, if not one of the next steps. There is no shortage of online pro-polygamy groups which have been arguing for its legality for years (and plenty of challenging of other ‘no-marriage-for-you’ lines un-challenged in the currently proposed legislation). Methinks that those pushing for the law change don’t want to talk for too long on this point, so they play the ‘scaremongering’ (or religious ‘fear’) card as quickly as possible.
2) Saying no to sexual desires may not be so inhumane after all. If indeed the natural tendency toward polygamy is there in the vast majority of humans, then the widespread monogamous habit of routinely dousing of the flames of desire for multiple sex-partners is infinitely more backwards and sexually repressive in scope and number than expecting a relatively small percentage of the population to do the same with (homosexual) desires which are arguably just as natural, though incredibly less common.
But of course I do not think that sexual self-control is repressive or backwards. Neither do I think that sexual expression (or marriage for that matter) is some kind of thing that makes you human – and therefore is a ‘right’. All this goes directly against messages both implicit and explicit in movies, media and advertising whose suggestion is hardly a gentle one: namely that to err is virgin, and to get it on is divine.
And the church doesn’t help much either. Marriage is on such a pedestal that single people feel like unfortunate, illegitimate, inconvenient accessories accompanying we normal married folk. We need to affirm those who are both single and celibate as being just as human as any other.
Admittedly a bit dated, but a 1998 paper by the Joint Methodist-Presbyterian Public Questions Committee suggested that for those “whose emotional or physical make-up means that it is unlikely they would ever be able to enter a mutually acceptable and honest physical relationship with another person’, prostitutes should be provided, and that “to deny such people any opportunity to express their sexuality physically seems almost inhuman.”
I’m particularly interested in the last bit. It’s not hard to see that the statement locates physical sexual expression at or near the core of what it means to be human. In the sexualised West, it’s perhaps not surprising to see such an assumption. Transpose this specific statement (“It’s [almost] inhuman to deny people the opportunity to express their sexuality physically.”), into general key: “It’s [almost] inhuman to deny people the opportunity to express any/all forms and expressions of all desires & identities.”
The ‘proper’ basis for the personal identity of any given human is a hard thing to derive… if you’re limited to the tools of, say, science. Science wonderfully (and tragically in the case of murder, hate, discrimination, etc.) describes what humans ‘do’ (human doings), but not what/who humans ‘are’ (human beings).
I’d want to affirm that ‘doing’ (as well as ‘knowing’ and ‘feeling’) is a necessary component of what a human ‘being’ is, but not the whole composition. Any identity based on only feelings, actions and intelligence alone is incomplete and leaves out something. Continue reading sex & identity
Conversations about sexual ethics often are had without reference to assumed/unstated/unconsidered ideas about:
- (in particular) goals for human(e) sexual acts – ‘what is the telos (end, goal, purpose) of human sexuality?’ (i.e. ‘what is sex for?’)
- and (in general) the relationship between sexual acts and being a human – ‘what is the relationship between sexual actions and human identity?’ (i.e. ‘how dependent is human identity on sexual actions?’) Continue reading humane sex
The word ‘teleology’ (from Greek τελος ‘telos’ – meaning ‘goal’, ‘end’, ‘purpose’ or ‘that toward which things tend’) is not a street-level term. However, the concept of a purpose, goal, function or ‘end’ to things most certainly is. It’s a common as anything. Teleology is blindingly relevant.
Continue reading teleology & ethics
…that a video game like this even exists.
Obama’s recent statements on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, remind us all (like it or not) of the immensely divisive issue of abortion. The article says… Continue reading wisdom for a divisive issue
This post over at Scoop highlights the reality (whether we like it or not) that the ‘anything goes’ mindset (and more specifically the outworking of that mindset) toward sexuality is not healthy – literally. It does matter where you put your bits.
For me, an interesting angle is that of self-control. We have the ability to control even the most basic and ‘natural’ desires.
Clearly, none of us controls our ‘self’ as well as we may want to (if we are audacious enough to believe that we even should control ourselves). Apparently, something more than short-term national campaigns is needed – according to the article:
The effects of the ‘Hubba Bubba’ campaign haven’t lasted. More young people are getting STIs, not fewer. What’s needed is a renewed emphasis on education and personal responsibility. Young New Zealanders need an attitude change.
Maybe re-claiming the value of the human body and sexuality would help just a tad?
Judge Nicola Mathers had this to say in regards to the ‘Boobs on Bikes’ parade in Auckland.
It is ‘not offensive per se for women to be topless’; her court was not one ‘of morals and it was her job to stick to the law’; and that “It may well be that the parade is tasteless but equally it may be that in a more mature society the vast majority might consider it harmless.”
My comments on each: Continue reading the logic that allowed public porn
The Erotica porn industry exhibition (forgive me for not hunting for a link – !!!) got free advertising by way of the now infamous and highly controversial ‘Boobs on Bikes’ parade.
Auckland City Council tried to stop the topless ride down Queen St., but Judge Nicola Mathers allowed it, commenting that it was ‘not offensive per se for women to be topless’, and that her court was not one ‘of morals and it was her job to stick to the law.’ She also said, “It may well be that the parade is tasteless but equally it may be that in a more mature society the vast majority might consider it harmless.” (source) Continue reading porn parade – questions