Monday, December 29, 2008

Promises Not Kept

By way of preface, let me just say that I think (a) we as a nation are as confused about human sexuality as can possibly be; (b) the Christian Churches do not help; (c) specifically my own denomination starts out well - by insisting the sexuality is a good gift from a good God - but ends up in the same confused morass as the rest of them, refusing to explain how it is a "good gift" apart from marriage.

Having said that, I have discovered, looking through my 1800 or so blog posts (!!) that I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two and a half years writing about sexual ethics, usually in a reactive way, i.e., reacting to something stupid I've read. I have yet to construct something positive as far as a healthy sexual ethic is concerned. I do think I have made some headway by clearing away what I believe not only does not work, but is actually counterproductive, including the whole "Purity Ball" thing, simple renunciation, and the current status quo. As far as reuninciation is concerned, atrios notes an item at Think Progress I was going to pass over without comment, but having said something, forced me to take up the subject yet again. First, the item itself:
A cornerstone of many abstinence-only programs is the concept of virginity pledges, which encourages “children as young as 9 to promise to wait until marriage to have sex.” But a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that “teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do”. . .

Now, Duncan's commentary, which is spot on:
While the fact that virginity pledges and abstinence-only sex "ed" don't stop teens from having sex is unsurprising, I doubt that even proponents are particularly surprised. They aren't interested in abstinence, really, they're interested in making sure "bad girls" get punished for having sex by being subject to the appropriate consequences. So it actually works as designed.

So much of what calls itself "Christianity" these days can be reduced to insisting that much of life is a snare, a trap waiting the unsuspecting. It is hardly new; for centuries the Roman Catholic Church viewed women as a sink of sin designed by Satan to snatch good men away from a life of purity. One great Christian saint, whose name escapes me for the nonce, referred to women as "ordure and vomit". It is hardly surprising, then, that the onus of chastity is placed upon women, who are the source of boys' and mens' weakness when it comes to sexual temptation. After all, if it weren't for women and their wiles, men wouldn't give their sexual urges even a cursory glance, right?

It should surprise no one that those who pledge their virginity for marriage are no more likely to refrain from sexual activity, and when they do have sex do so in ways that are far riskier, than those who make no such promises. This is not to say there is nothing noble about such a pledge, or that, given the right support network, such promises are a complete waste of time. It is only to say the entire system of sexual renunciation is based upon the false premise that there is something of intrinsic worth about sexual abstinence, and that marriage is the sole place for sexual activity. It would be nice if this were true; it might even be nice if we could escape the weight of time and history and develop a healthy ethic of sexuality that recognized its goodness and was open to the possibility that, by reducing it from a necessary evil to just another part of life, we could demystify it, the Church would go a long way toward a healthy sexual ethic.

We have a lot of heavy lifting to do first, however. Part of that includes ridding ourselves of the idea that if we only say a few magic words and think good, pure thoughts, we can avoid the temptations of the flesh, especially when said temptations are clothed in the tresses of the first temptress, Eve. Removing all the onus from women and girls would go a long way toward that goal. Until that time, I don't think there is anything to be gained by making promises disconnected from the rest of life.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More