Guest Post: P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ on Unnatural Sex

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus writes the Queer I Stand column here on Patheos Pagan. If you like this please check out his column, as well as all of our other fine columnists and bloggers.

For good or ill (and despite the best efforts of queer theory’s proponents), the word “queer” is something that people associate with sexual orientation. At the end of the day, “sexual orientation” is not so much about who one loves (as there are many kinds and definitions of love, and most queer people can love anyone of any gender in a variety of ways), it’s about who one has sex with, or with whom one would most prefer to have sex. And, being this column is called “Queer I Stand,” perhaps it’s time to reflect a little bit on what sex and queerness have to tell us about Pagan and polytheist religions.

As a further prefatory note, I’d like to clarify that this is a very important issue to consider in a great deal of the modern “debate” (and it’s really only a “debate” in the minds of certain forms of insistent creedal monotheism, on which more in a few moments) over same-sex marriage.

The Hebrew scriptures and the Christian testament do not condemn same-sex marriage; even the Qu’ran doesn’t condemn it. They can’t condemn something that they don’t even mention.

What all of them actually condemn is sexual acts between men; though Christianity does the Hebrew Scriptures one better by including women in that prohibition in Saul of Tarsus’ first chapter of the epistle to the Romans—and who ever said Saul of Tarsus was sexist and misogynist, because that was incredibly inclusive of him!

What the purveyors of greasy white cock-meat between two shiny sauce-soaked buns and their thousands of “let’s swallow this load to show our support” fans really mean when they talk about “spitting in God’s face” in relation to same-sex marriage is not the legal rights that would accrue to legally recognized gay or lesbian couples, they’re talking about sexual acts that turn their stomachs more than my unflattering description of their food earlier in this sentence. For being biblical fundamentalists, they’re sure taking this issue in a quite figurative manner!

Saul of Tarsus laid out their position nearly two millennia ago in his railing against “idolatry”—you know, that thing which Pagans and polytheists do in terms of reverence for nature (which should instead be given to the “Creator” in Saul’s view), and of worshipping what they call “false gods” (but which are no more false than their own various gods—and, based on what they say about some of those gods, our gods are considerably less false than theirs simply on a logical basis!)—namely, that it leads to “unnatural intercourse.” Exegetes and gay/lesbian Christian apologists have tried to point out that this means Saul considers idolatry a sin, and that these sexual “deviances” like homoeroticism are only symptoms of the sin, but it is not a sin in itself. (They also make a variety of other arguments about this passage, but I don’t think most Christians buy them, no matter how well intentioned and even well founded their logic might be.)

That’s right, folks: if you’re a Pagan or a polytheist and you’re not having hot gay sex all the time—UR DOIN IT WRONG! (At least, according to Saul.) Since he thinks you’re damned anyway, you may as well get as much damnation for your money as you can, right? Yeah, whatever…

But, all kidding aside (though much of the above isn’t really kidding at all), it brings up another set of questions. In the view of most creedal monotheistic religions, sex is for one thing and one thing only: procreation. You know, the way “nature intended.” So, if you use birth control, that’s also unnatural. If you like to have oral sex or anal sex (and lots of heterosexual couples do—and, in fact, in the days before birth control, a.k.a. almost all of human history thus far, those were pretty good alternatives to birth control that didn’t involve abstinence!), that’s also unnatural. If you like to have sex on your own, you’re an Onanist, back in the day the Hebrew God would have struck you dead for it (gosh, the good ol’ days, eh?), and that’s also unnatural. And, if you just sort of like to have sex because it’s fun and it’s a good way for people to develop relationships and emotional bonds with each other, then you should just be married, and then it might be kind of all right to do that; but, if not, and you just find it fun—emotional bonds or no, in long-term relationships or otherwise—then that’s also unnatural.

As Inigo Montoya said: I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Look at actual nature—you know, that thing from which we get the word “natural”—and some animals are having sex all the time, and not just for procreation. Especially the so-called “higher mammals”—those ones that are of advanced intelligence, social organization, and even possibly language-employing, like dolphins and bonobo chimpanzees—have sex for what would appear to be pleasure. Some animals know well enough that if they carry a fetus to term and the environment won’t be able to support another mouth to feed, it’s better to abort and try again another time: female kangaroos do that all the time in the wild. Some animals even have it within their ability to change gender if the population needs more of another gender than they happen to be personally, and they don’t need to see a psychiatrist and meet the Harry Benjamin standards to do it; and others—including many species of birds—can suddenly sport the plumage of another gender while still remaining their own birth-gender.

Looking at nature, which rightfully ought to give the most accurate definitions of what is “natural,” shows that there is pretty much no sexual act that humans do which isn’t also found in another species, and thus there is no such thing as “unnatural sex.” There is also what we would call gender-transgression, including transsexual transitions, that occur in many species, thus “gender-transgression” is also an unnatural concept in that it exists in nature, and therefore is also “natural”! Even for heterosexuals, this should be a supremely liberating realization. Just think of the possibilities! (Unfortunately, most people don’t, but that could fill another column at least this size, if not larger…and perhaps it will in the future.)

Now, look at the purveyors of this worldview where things that actually are “natural” are considered “unnatural,” and nature itself is considered “fallen” and something over which to have “dominion” rather than something to be cherished, respected, and even—their perception of their gods’ forbid—worshipped. Why on Gaia’s green earth would anyone think those people have any idea what is actually “natural” and what isn’t? People who have three gods, that they think are just a single god—which they think is the “only god” and about whom they haven’t the foggiest clues, and most of them say they “believe” in that god while not actually living as though that god really exists and pervades their lives—are pretty far off the mark in their basic theology from a polytheist perspective. Why, thus, would anything that follows from their ethics, which assume that only their singular (but in reality triple, at least for one of the major creedal monotheisms) god deserves respect and worship, be even worth considering as sensible for even a moment?

To them, acting like “animals” in any way is ridiculous for humans, even though humans are just as animal as any manta ray, baboon, great horned owl, secretary blenny, stick-bug, or North American bison. And yet, in this one area of life—sex—their insistence that what is “natural” is to only engage in sexual acts for procreative purposes, which is sort of like saying “you know: like animals,” they have made a very giant mistake, and an idolatrous one at that. They have mistaken their idea of what is “natural” for what is actually natural, and have worshipped that false image to the exclusion of all other gods in this situation, including the god of Love and who is Love according to some of their other scripture authors. Considering many of them have made an idol as well out of their “one God” that they “believe in” intellectually more than actually allowing those gods to be experienced in their lives, why should we take anything they say about nature, sex, or the gods seriously at all?

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About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Kilmrnock

    I agree with completly on this one , Lupus . And also with the statment that there is no such thing as unatural sex , all sex is natural . The way i look at it , if the gods didn’t want us be be doing it …………it wouldn’t feel so good .The fact us higher mammals can be sexualy active all the time , even when pregnancy is not possible says something in itself , for one that sex is a strong bonding mechanism . Humans and higher mammals don’t go it heat , as other animals do . Ladies  you have no idea how deep the desire is engrained in the young  male mind .Ladies want it too, they are just more subtle about it  .But as you have elequently stated the Middle Eastern Monotheistic Religions ideas on sex are absurd as to what is natural and unatural and  what sex is really for, not just for procreation.      Kilm

  • David

    Thank you, Lupus.  I am a Christ Follower & share your concerns about these issues.  It is frustrating & embarrasing how the expression of relationship with the Parent/Creator through Jesus and the plan of the ages for humanity is twisted up by ‘church culture’ which seems to truly think ‘God’ is altogether like them (Psalm 50:21). 

    It is my prayer that at the end of the Day we will all grow up together and make our Parents proud.

    may Sophia guide you, David

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    A lot of this is pretty spot on (especially food descriptions).

    About the only sexual activity I can’t think of other species doing is the use of sexual aids/toys. Not sure I want to know if I am wrong about this, to be fair.

    The other bit I’d pick up on is the transgenderism. Technically, what happens with many species ‘in nature’ is sequential hermaphroditism. The natural process of either protandry or protogyny happens without recourse for external aid and results in the altering of a specimen from functioning member of one sex to functioning member of the other sex. Whereas a ‘transsexual’ is a cosmetic change.

  • Richard Norris

    Natural law for humans is specifically rooted in our nature, not in the given nature of this or that non-rational animal.  If there is any specific critique you might have of the natural law philosophy started by Plato and Aristotle, and later carried on by Thomas Aquinas, I would love to see it.  (An interesting factoid:  Both Plato and Aristotle, two Greek pagans, were very much against homosexuality as it was understood then due to their philosophical rather than religious commitments.)  And I mean that sincerley, both as a pagan and bisexual man.

  • Gavin Andrew

    This is a fabulous. My only complaint is that you seem to have held back with the invective you might (with justification) have employed at some points.

    One other thing: Many Christians would violently disagree with your assertion in the final paragraph that humans are animals. To them, humanity is an altogether different creation – a word I use advisedly.

  • Varoom13

    The only think I can say is Bravo!!

  • Aidan Kelly

    Hey, PSVL,

    Good argument. May I please point out the argument in my “Aphrodiphobia” series on my blog in this venue. Fundamental Judeo-Christian theology is pro-sex, because of Genesis 1:28. The belief that’s there’s anything inherently wrong with having sex is a heresy away from that theology. That heresy is essentially of Pagan origin, not Jewish, and has grown into the endemic epidemic fear and hatrd of sexuality thatReich called the “Emotional Plague” and that I have labeled Aphrodiphobia, which means specifically and literally, “fear of having sex.”  I think that’s a little more precise as a name for the malady. It won’t be eradicated for a long time to come. I think all the genetic diseases will be cured first. But laballing it accurately, naming it. is a step toward that. It’s hard to fight an illness that the majorit of people have and think is normal.

    BTW, just for the sake of accuracy, that’s lots to be on Paul’s case about philosophically, but misogyny is not one of them. Read in context and correctly translated, his writings show thathe was just as liberal and enlightened toward women as Rabbi Joshua and as the whole community of his folloers was for the first few decades. Paul appointed women as heads of some of the communities he founded, and they had all the powers later held by bishops. The problem with Paul is that he was an apostate from the Law, as is even reported in Acts.

    I hope some readers have some idea of what the hell I’m talking about!

  • kenneth

    Why does every Christian apologist seem to think that quoting Plato or Aristotle’s paganism or ancient provenance somehow obligates modern pagans to accept their every utterance as true? They and their contemporaries thought slavery was perfectly cool and that women were basically physically and spiritually malformed men. Their attitudes about homosexuality were complex, to say the least. Even if marital procreation was considered an ideal, they also acknowledged and even endorsed male love between younger and older men. Most of their hangups about homosexuality were in fact rooted in their misogyny. They considered it disgraceful for the male who was playing the “female” role in the interaction, not homosexuality itself. 

  • Mark S

    If you think that “the majority of people” have a fear of having sex, I think you should consult the current population figures worldwide and have another think. 

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Bonobo chimps do use various things as sex toys, and exhibit other behaviors that might go under the name of “fetishism” if they were done by humans.

    I don’t think classifying transsexuals as simply having a “cosmetic change” is very accurate nor affirmative of them, though.  No, what is able to be done by modern medical procedures is not “real” or fully-functional genitalia, but it does actualize the gender that trans people know they are and have been in an effective manner for them, and that shouldn’t be minimized into the suggestion that they’re “just cosmetically female,” etc.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Thank you!

    I don’t really care that Christians would violently disagree that humans are animals.  I am pretty staunchly disagreeing with them on almost everything else in the above…that people I am arguing against do not hold certain categories as valid doesn’t mean they’re right in doing so.  I know you get that, but I’m just clarifying…!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Yes, I’ve read your pieces on that, and they’re quite good and correct, in my view.

    However, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as you’ve stated here.  While Genesis is pro-sex (as is most of the Jewish tradition, ancient and modern), bits of Leviticus are not, and it’s Leviticus that suggests people like myself and many in my circle of friends and wider community should be put to death for doing particular sex acts.  I don’t think one can easily explain those bits away, or argue that they’re not sex-negative, at least for certain values of “sex” (which would be the primary values for a number of people).

    I certainly agree that Saul of Tarsus was not “all-bad,” and that he did acknowledge women in positions of ecclesiastical power (which most English translations totally obscure), my references about Saul being sexist and misogynist above were in jest–I’m very aware that the worst excesses of misogyny in the so-called Pauline epistles are actually in the deutero-Pauline bits, and that his (genuine) statements in Galatians would be a great antidote to much of the misogyny that exists in the world and in these religions today, if it were taken seriously (which it isn’t!).  In his inclusion of women and men in his statements from Romans 1, though, he is being very egalitarian, even if it is in a homophobic manner…which may seem ironic to some, but there you go.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Also, re:  Wilhelm Reich, while I do know of and like some of his work, he’s also ultimately heterosexist in his views.  It’s amazing to me how many sex-positive queer people quote him approvingly, while not acknowledging that he directly stated that if everything went well in terms of people’s sexual development, homoeroticism would not exist; but, since society is screwed up and is therefore creating gay and lesbian people, it would be mean not to treat them with respect and equality.  The latter part is better than what many Christians have said, but ultimately isn’t particularly wonderful, either.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “Bonobo chimps do use various things as sex toys”
    …I was wrong.

    There is nothing ‘simple’ about the cosmetic surgery required to allow a transsexual to appear in a manner that does not cause distress, nor would I say that they are ‘just’ cosmetically female.

    Please, do not mistake my pedantry for condemnation or ridicule.

    What these people do is enact a deliberate change on their appearance in order to improve their mental and emotional states.

    It isn’t ‘simply’ to ensure the survival of the group.

    What they do is not natural (by my definition), but ‘not natural’ does not equate to ‘not good’. I think that, a lot of the time, words are stigmatised more than they should be.

  • Richard Norris

    No, their main issue with homosexuality stemmed from their philosophy.  Lets take a look in our minds eye at a set of male genitals.  We have two testes, and a penis.  The testes create semen, and after some sexual excitement on the part of the male, the penis becomes erect and eventualy ejaculates the semen from the testes.  The entire point, the primary reason why this organ exists, is for the sake of procreation.  Period.  This means that the organ has a teleology, a final causality, that points in it the direction of being used to produce children rather than the promotion of social bonds or personal pleasure.  To do this properly you kind of have to involve a female set of genitals.  The sense of bonding or even joy you get from engaging in and satisfying the sexual urge is ultimately secondary to the primary purpose of intercourse. 

      In the philosophy of Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas who would later pick up Aristotles work, the reason that all things do what they do is because of teleology, or their directedness towards certain ends or goals.  It is this directedness that supposedly points to a larger Mind behind the scenes, which essentialy gives all things their nature.  This means that the immorality of “unnatural sex” stems from the fact that we are not acting according to the teleology of our bodies, a teleology which can be perceived by our faculty of reason and thus leaves us free of excuse when we abandon the natural functions of the human body for unnatural ones.  This directedness starts outside of ourselves in nature, and continues on into our bodies and souls. 

       Philosophers have tried for years to answer the ontological and moral issues in Aristotlean and thomistic philosophy and have often wound up fighting strawmen or arguing past their opponent.  I have reason to believe that these philosophies are false, because the general metaphysics of Aristotle would make certain phenomena impossible, like reincarnation or precognition.  I would like to see a pagan philosopher develop a philosophical system that can challenge these limited views of human behavior while maintaining a rigorous metaphysical and moral system, but I suspect that it will be avoided for fear of dogmatism.