The Rotten Orange and the Kingslayer

Calah Alexander kicked off a Patheos Catholic-wide conversation about certain kinds of abstinence-only education with “Sloppy Seconds Sex-Ed” and Elizabeth Scalia has been aggregating the responses.  Calah is criticizing specifically the kind of program that sends students (especially women) the message that sex before marriage will leave them used up and worthless.

When I heard it, it was glasses of water. Women (and only women, mind you; the boys got a separate talk about cherishing each woman as if she were the prized treasure of another man) were like glasses of crystal-clear spring water. If you “fooled around” before marriage, it was like someone spit in your glass of water. If you had sex before marriage, it was like someone took a huge drink of your water, swished it around in their mouths, and then spat it back into the glass. The more sex you had, the dirtier your glass of water got. “So think of that before you have premarital sex,” we were admonished. “Think of the gift you’re going to give your husband on your wedding night. Do you want to give him a pure, untouched glass of delicious water, or a dirty cup of everyone else’s backwash?”

If you missed this message in class, you’ll get to see some of the consequences of it when Joss Whedon’s Much Ado about Nothing comes out.  In the play, Hero and Claudio are in love and engaged.  When Claudio is deceived into thinking Hero has dallied with another man, he throws her over at the altar.   He has deliberately waited to confront her until the wedding so he can humiliate her:

There, Leonato, take her back again.
Give not this rotten orange to your friend.
She’s but the sign and semblance of her honor.
Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
Oh, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
Comes not that blood as modest evidence
To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
All you that see her, that she were a maid
By these exterior shows? But she is none.
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed.
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.

Claudio doesn’t speak Hero’s name.  He has reduced her identity to her transgression.  (You may hear echoes of Javert and Valjean’s disagreement about identity: “You are a thief”/”I stole a loaf of bread”).  Hero is accused of something much more serious than simple imprudence; on the eve of a marriage, her crime would have been infidelity.  But it’s a mistake to take an act of betrayal and construe it as a revelation of character, irrevocable and immutable.

When Claudio essentializes Hero’s act, he objectifies her.  He gives himself permission to stop treating her as a person.  He can only speak of her negatively: she’s not a maid, and what she is is unworthy of acknowledgement.  He’s taken her lapse and turned it into a horrible Homeric epithet.  He starts interacting with a character instead of a person and turns himself into a cruel caricature.

Hero is falsely accused, but in Game of Thrones (I’ll be careful about spoilers, don’t worry), even a truthful claim can become an uncharitable fetter.  Ser Jaime Lannister is often called “Kingslayer” since, before the series begins, he betrayed his oath as sworn man to Mad King Aerys and killed him.  (Aerys’s own sobriquet may give you a hint as to why).  Other people Jaime interacts with keep referring to him as Kingslayer and Oathbreaker, and the constant repetition changes what they expect of Jaime and what he expects of himself.

Virtue ethics recognizes that your actions today shape who you will be tomorrow.  Your acts have a power over you, but so do the action of others, particularly when they seep down into your self-image.  Recognizing and repudiating an act doesn’t require us to treat each other or ourselves the way Claudio treats Hero or the way some abstinence only instructors treat children.

You shouldn’t simply disassociate from past acts and expect to be unmarked; that would be training callousness.  If Jaime looked back at the trust he betrayed and didn’t care or thought of his past actions as far enough away to be irrelevant, he wouldn’t be building up his power to keep his word (or avoid giving it when he can’t trust himself to keep it) in the future.  You can’t solve the problem by just training stoicism and indifference to the opinions of others.  If Hero steeled herself so she could never be moved by Claudio’s cruelty, she wouldn’t be in love with him, she’d be completely disconnected from him as a lover and even just a fellow human who deserves caritas.

Perhaps it would help to turn outward.  Instead of trying to ask what the act reveals about the actor, try to find the person who was hurt or betrayed and offer help.  Don’t look inward and just say “How could I/you do something like this?” but ask what you’ll do now.  Invite the person you’d like to cast out to help you help the person harmed.  And keep in mind that cruelty is unsafe at any dose.  It doesn’t matter whether its your first time or not, it’s never something to reinforce and repeat.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

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  • TheodoreSeeber

    The man who cannot forgive, should not get married. Ever.

  • Marta L.

    This reminds me of conversations I’ve been having on FaceBook about Mark Sanford’s character in the wake of SC’s recent election. It strikes me that in some contexts, a single act (or a few isolated acts) is all we know about a person. The one thing I really know about Mark Sanford’s character is that he cheated on his wife and misled millions of people. That makes me think he’s not very trustworthy in the future. I am not sure that he is a bad man, but there is a risk there, because I know he has betrayed other covenants that I at least would hold sacred. So I wonder whether single acts can play a role in how we appraise people we don’t know well. This shouldn’t apply so much in Hero’s and Claudio’s example because hopefully they’d know a little more about each other than I do about Sanford before they tie the knot, of course.

    Maybe “appraise” is the wrong word, though. When a single act or few acts alter what I think of someone, it’s more likely to alter my confidence in their character, my skepticism about whether in a situation where there’s something at risk I can count on them. And in any event, in cases where I know someone particularly well this shouldn’t be nearly the issue it is in cases like Sanford.

  • Iota

    I thought I’d share two mental hacks for not objectifying other people (I have pretty good self-esteem, so I have few issues with being objectified).

    In general, I tend to view the temptation of objectifying other people as a kind of moral myopia where we fail to apply the “love others as you love yourself” since most people (except pathological perfectionists) will be willing to give themselves a margin of error or provide a justification: “I was young and stupid”, “I was afraid”, “I got carried away” etc. A considerable amount of objectification happens just because we don’t extend this courtesy to others to any extent. Or to put it in terms of the ongoing sex-ed debate: I’d assume people “doing” sex-ed with the use of chewed gum, half-eaten cookies or used post-its wouldn’t consciously apply that metaphor to themselves or to their fiends, as in “Anne is now a used post-it note”. This is a big red flag that you should NOT be using that rhetoric with anyone else.

    (1) In casual encounters: use the person’s name, surname or any other personalized, appropriate form of address, specifically from the friendly “linguistic register” (there are ways to be contemptuously personal). If that is not possible, look at the person’s face and try to make your brain file their portrait away as belonging to a particular human (“This is what the lady at my grocery store looks like”). Avoid referring to people using faceless class-nouns on a regular basis (“civil servants this and that” “gays and lesbians that and this”, “old fossils that”). Your brain has a tendency to organize people into us-them groups anyway – no need to help it.

    For me personally, it’s much harder to use both a personalized style of address and de-personalize. On the internet this is also why I take the time to write a nickname, even when it’s obvious who I’m responding to, to read someone’s blog before I reply to them, etc.

    (2) In close relationships – avoid the temptation of slowly brewing in your own anger. Not having seen this version of Much Ado I would hazard a guess that this is one of the things that lets Claudio objectify Hero. With people you have actually come to know as people some mental effort is required before you can refer to them as “spoiled oranges” with a straight face. Avoid giving yourself the time to do this.

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

      For me personally, it’s much harder to use both a personalized style of address and de-personalize. On the internet this is also why I take the time to write a nickname, even when it’s obvious who I’m responding to, to read someone’s blog before I reply to them, etc.

      Great advice. One reason why the internet breeds such uncharity is that not communicating with folks face-to-face makes it much easier to objectify someone, makes it much easier to believe that you’re simply arguing with some sort of text-generating algorithm. Anything that can be done to metaphorically “put a face” to the person you’re talking to is going to go a long way towards changing that dynamic.

      • Iota

        > Great advice.

        Thanks.

        The whole “mental portrait” trick is why I actually kind of like Disqus on here. I simultaneously pretty much hate it for keeping a backlog of all my responses (“the Internet never forgets”) AND like the fact that it does that for other people, because it gives me a chance to get some quick ideas on who I might be talking to.

        Besides everything else, personalization also (IMO) makes communication more efficient, because many people (me included) have a tendency to not provide adequate relevant background on themselves in individual comments. The result is that, comparatively often, people end up accidentally mistreating each other, because our brain needs to fill in the gap, so, in the absence of actual data about the other person, it will fill the gaps with stuff that is similar to what we already know. Which is, relatively often, not the right stuff.

    • Clare Krishan

      Is not the rhetoric “Anne is now a used post-it note and since most men prefer blank post-it notes, her future as material for penmanship is compromised”?

      Is “penmanship” a good metaphor for the conjugal mystery? Perhaps, if your aim is to promote Islam’s rejection of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Koranic jurisprudence denies women equality under the law). Too many chastity apologists fall foul of a similar fault: eager to counter sex-as-dirty misapprehensions of purity, they reduce purity to a corporal act. Purity encompasses more than libido: mental chastity reciprocates fidelity exclusively with the betrothed, denigrating oral conjugations (f*ck and words of that ilk) that defile the mind in their trivial objectification of the starstruck act capable of creating new human life. The beauty of a ‘starstruck act capable of creating new human life’ is perceived in its natural coherence with the cosmic alignments that govern human fecundity — the lunar cycle — sadly clouded in the contraceptive mindset, cloaking the feminine libido in a chemical-chador far more oppressive to goodness and dignity than that chosen by a conservative Muslimah outdoors (her liberty restored indoors in intimate privacy of her bower).

      Focusing on pubescent purity exclusively shortchanges instruction by overlooking the greater part of what comprises pubent chastity: the truth of mature, flourishing, exuberant fruitful expressions of one-flesh faithful unconditional love, free of fear or taint of shame (L. pudor, from root pu- to beget) capable of sustaining ardor in heart and mind even as senility robs ardor of tumescent strength. So long as sex is seen predominantly as function not form, we will suffer the consequences of a degradation in love’s content: the communication of mystery’s promise. Where such vapid dullness prevails, youthful impulsiveness will resort to exhibitionism for thrills, quenching any spark of excitement anticipating mystery. In condoning ‘function-over-form’ sexuality we break their bruised reeds, a cruelty God promised never to resort to (Isa 42:3).

      On this Pentecost weekend perhaps we dysfunctional exhausted wicks and tottering reed-torches — in pondering the deeper mystery of flame formation — recognize how necessary we are as kindle for the Holy Spirit’s burning desire to renew the face of the earth? May I conclude with a parting aphorism of Dr Johnson “People need to be reminded ( ie of form) more often than they need to be instructed (ie in function).” (H/T http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/realityisreality)

  • Randy Gritter

    Hero is accused of something much more serious than simple imprudence;
    on the eve of a marriage, her crime would have been infidelity. But
    it’s a mistake to take an act of betrayal and construe it as a revelation of character, irrevocable and immutable.

    So we are talking about someone cheating the night before their wedding? I don’t know. I am inclined to give Claudio a break. So he calls her a rotten orange. I can’t say I would be speaking very charitably if I were in his situation.

  • Clare Krishan

    Worthwhile literary analysis on meme.
    Parsing for logic, rhetoric and grammar to elucidate acts*** of incoherent** concordia.* Granted identity isn’t act, but misdeeds may still be called to mind to purify reason’s memory, no? In forgiving we name the shame God aids us in rejecting.

    n.b. JPIIs phenomenological insight, reflexive conscience, links features, advantages and benefits of subjecting ourselves to an other (ie love is willing the good of another in VSO dialogue). Christian coherence comes from aligning natural faculties of heart, mind and strength to the supernatural opportunity for grace to act as V (verb) S (subject) O (object).
    __
    * concordia – grammatical voice of ascent to supernatural grace, faithful “we” in communio personarum with beneficent IAmWhoAm
    ** coherence – rhetorical proposition of developing “from here to eternity” tenable hope in purity as transcendent advantage, the Virgin’s culture of life
    *** act – existential logic of personal agency as features of homo sapiens faculty for flourishing or harm as an imago dei of the divine Logos

  • Clare Krishan

    To be human is to be capable of an hypocratic discernment of the facts of reality. To be seen to be human is to prefer the company of fellow acting persons engaged in rhetorical dialogue of mutual participating grammar (past performance of beauty in media arts; present experience of goodness in exploring encounter; reverent respect for truth’s future mystery) over disordered acting persons who deny any overarching universals such as beauty, goodness and truth, ie who reject unity as solidarity, an abiding social value in community.

    To be a Catholic human is to see God acting through any and all media arts, any and all social encounters, any and all aims, plans or commitments. To be seen to be Catholic is to surrender to grace acting in the other, to name-n-shame those who would usurp such felicitous opportunity with their contraceptive mentality of utilitarian control of creative subsidiarity as antithetical to community values.

    • Valkr

      So “to be Catholic” is not necessarily to be *Christian*.

      Expand on this, please.

  • Clare Krishan

    FYI, re: water in glass logic. This IMHO may still be a
    worthwhile approach to take in a biology class on human epigenetics and
    immunology (cells from every intimate contact course through human
    bodies for the rest of their days, females transfer them to their babies
    during gestation, siblings carry copies of riper fruits of the womb,
    IOW copies of genes from anyone who spent time in that vicinity other
    than their father). This is a burgeoning area in the epidemiology of
    poorly characterized chronic and fatal diseases (why childhood HPV
    vaccination is such a logical non-starter — “pretence of protection
    from a well-known disease-promoting agent to encourage you to expose
    yourself to untold risk of other diseases instead”?).

    Facts don’t speak for themselves. When it comes to proposing why certain facts
    are harmful and what, if any, reaction is warranted, luvvy-duvvy rhetoric often misses the mark of timeliness: a prompt work of mercy of fraternal correction. Promoters of the advantages of works of mercy can often miss the mark too. Benefits to mercy must be apparent, not merely to the do-gooder but first and foremost to the beneficiary. Are we patient enough to walk in their shoes “I stole a loaf of bread” and mentally adjust to “the other’s” lingo of VSO value (hunger kills)? Can we express eternal values in terms others can comprehend (man — corporal and spiritual — lives not on bread alone)?

    This “tender” approach is what Pope Francis http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1302187.htm adjures us to adopt to counter a disordered self-referential “serious” approach (“You are a thief”) that too-often provokes adverse reactions which harden hearts and congeal into formal heresy (essentially a mind/body split in personhood as imago dei).

    • Donalbain

      Well, HPV vaccination may be a “logical non starter” but in reality it actually works. http://www.medpagetoday.com/InfectiousDisease/STDs/38567

      • Clare Krishan

        reservedly, yes it “works” if innoculating from some strains of virus is what you mean. It does not prevent cancer, as the Guardian’s report on Michael Douglas’s battle with oral cancer lays out clearly:
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/jun/02/michael-douglas-oral-sex-cancer-facts

        • Donalbain

          OK.. now I am puzzled. Where in the article does it clearly lay out that the HPV vaccine does not prevent cancer?
          The article clearly states that HPV is a risk factor in cancer, and preventing people from being exposed to a risk factor will reduce the chances of getting that cancer. Reducing the chances of cancer will reduce the number of cancers. That is WORKING. That is what we want. We want people to have a lower possibility of getting cancer.

    • keddaw

      “logical non-starter”? So you’d have rejected the notion that people should be given cow pox to protect them from small pox? That is a seriously dangerous sentiment.

      • Clare Krishan

        HPV is not a lethal pathogen like pox. What kills is errors in your bodies’ cellular response to infection – increasing your risk for cancer. Being vacinnated lowers your risk for those cell errors that lead to cancer, it does not prevent cancer. Its a scam.

        • keddaw

          Over a population it lowers the statistical incidence of cancer. Therefor it saves lives, but we just can’t tell which people would have gone on to have gotten cancer and who wouldn’t.

          If you don’t like pox, then how about seat belts? Most people won’t be in a crash, and seat belts don’t stop crashes, but they reduce fatalities in crashes, therefor statistically save lives (hence the government decided to make it a legal requirement to wear one).

          I’m sure Leah can help you out with this, she loves math.

    • Ray

      “pretence of protection from a well-known disease-promoting agent to encourage you to expose yourself to untold risk of other diseases instead”

      Sex isn’t the only way to get infections. Arguably, if the red cross eligibility criteria for blood donation are any guide, even the riskiest sexual behaviors only warrant a 12-month waiting period (MSM, actually testing positive for something), but living in a country where malaria is endemic justifies 3 years deferral. So if you’re going to regard a non-virgin bride as irredeemably tainted, so much the worse if you plan to marry an Indian immigrant or a soldier returning from Iraq. (I hope the absurdity of treating either activity as inherently sinful is self-evident.)

      Granted, you’re talking about unknown risks, while the red cross seems more concerned about known risks, but there’s no reason to think the unknown risks are significantly differently distributed than the known risks. If you make no assumptions about how the unknown risks are distributed, then you have to treat ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE as potentially irredeemably tainted.

      • Clare Krishan

        Weighing risks is subject to who’s beloved you’re responsible for no? The State is responsible for all its beloved citizens while an association such as the Red Cross aims to keep their beloved invalids who benefit from the blood products they distribute globally secure (and thus since 1999 have declined me for my life time as a US donor as too tainted with risk of carrying fatal bovine spongiform encephalopathy — aka mad cow disease — a food-born pathogen with no identifying blood test, as I spent longer in toto than 6 months in the UK since 1980). Taint isn’t sin. Neglecting to acknowledge that taint harms is.

        • Ray

          I don’t know that I disagree with anything you say in your most recent post, but I have a few questions.

          Do you think the risk of contracting a life threatening STD from a mate who has had pre-marital sex, but tests negative for all the known STDs, exceeds, for example, the risk of contracting a life-threatening respiratory illness from a mate who regularly works with livestock or travels to the third world?

          If not, would you treat the taint of working with livestock or traveling in the third world the same way you would treat the taint of premarital sex? (taking all reasonable precautions short of avoiding the premarital sex in the first place, of course)

          If you can honestly answer yes to the second question, we have no quarrel on this issue. (Although, I am skeptical of your characterization of HPV vaccine as a scam. Seems even you agree it reduces the risk of cancer, which is all anyone said it would do.)

    • Ben

      “(cells from every intimate contact course through human
      bodies for the rest of their days, females transfer them to their babies
      during gestation, siblings carry copies of riper fruits of the womb,
      IOW copies of genes from anyone who spent time in that vicinity other
      than their father)”

      Source for these assertions?

  • Cam

    Well, excellent job repudiating the idea that sex before marriage makes a female worthless. ‘Why, it’s just a single transgression! Not a revelation of your character!’

    Let me do it for you.
    Any sort of consensual sexual act before any sort of marriage (social contract, magical binding or otherwise) is NOT in itself a mark on one’s character, nor a transgression, nor a betrayal, nor anything of that sort, and any moral failing in the matter lies solely with the person who negatively judges such acts or their actor.

    Until you accept and promote that statement or similar, you haven’t understood the problems with abstinence-only education, you’re not really doing better than those educators, your moral failure is the same as theirs.

    • LeahLibresco

      I think consent is necessary but not sufficient for ethical expressions of sexuality. Two people both consenting to use each other and be used as masturbatory aids involves consent, but also entails objectification. There’s a bit more about this in today’s Quick Takes.

      Edited to add: Dan Savage talks about more than just consent with his Campfire policy: you leave the person you’re sexing up better than you found them.

      • Cam

        I don’t disagree that you could find bizarre exceptions to the mutual consent rule (it’s a libertarian issue, not everyone can win) such as mutual sexual cannibalism etc, but as a general rule it can’t be beaten.

        That’s super irrelevant though- you’re tilting at “any sort of…” when the real issue is “before marriage”.

        I’ll rephrase my comment:
        An otherwise moral sexual act is not made immoral by the parties involved not being married.
        You original post does not show understanding of this, and rather seems to support the ethics of those who have chosen to embrace, rather than overcome, the universal internalized hatred of women and their sexuality.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          I *really* fail to understand how support of the idea of marriage is somehow misogynistic. And using a woman for sexual gratification and then abandoning her is somehow *not*.

          • Cam

            Women are being compared to used chewing gum and you fail to see how this is ‘somehow misogynistic’?

          • KL

            But this whole discussion is about how the “used up chewing gum” metaphor is abhorrent and contrary to the Catholic understanding of sexuality. I agree, it is misogynistic; but it’s not the Catholic position.

          • Cam

            Whether this is the Official Catholic Position™ or not is not the full story.
            Firstly, people aren’t getting the message. For example, Fr Sean above seems to believe that sex workers are in an ‘impure state’.
            Secondly and much more importantly, the OCP involves the same misogynistic attitudes when it references purity, chastity, virginity, or any nonsense like that, or if it holds sex between non married people to be in any way immoral or inferior.
            Edit: My entire point is that the Catholic position has the same flaws as this horrible abstinence-only position: refusing to respect women’s agency, denigrating their choices, criticising any sexual behaviour outside an illogically narrow approved range, not considering the needs of relationships of individual women and instead imposing broad rules that become silly in many circumstances, and so on.

          • ariofrio

            Cam, many people don’t really mean that sex outside marriage is immoral. Instead, they mean that a woman who has sex outside marriage is doing something immoral. Alternatively, the woman becomes the victim and sex outside marriage is immoral because it objectifies the woman (as if men could not being objectified in perhaps more dangerous and subtle ways!). And that’s wrong and misogynistic.

            Is there a reason why you think that the teaching that sex outside marriage is immoral, regardless of your gender, is misogynistic?

          • Cam

            Ariofrio,
            The distinction drawn so far has been between:
            a) those who claim that a woman who has sex outside marriage is damaged or reduced (the idea criticized in the OP) and
            b) those who claim she is not permanently affected, but is still committing an immoral act (the idea I believe the OP should also have criticized).

            There are multiple reasons why it is wrong and harmful to claim that the act of sex outside marriage is immoral.

            Harmful:
            -it works to control women (whether purposefully or unintentionally) and fuels systems and institutions that further impose control
            -it disrespects the right and ability of women to make choices about their lives.
            -it stems largely from hate, fear, jealousy, or a desire to control.
            -it’s uninformed judgment from an outsider/3rd party
            -it leads to poor sex education for adolescents.
            -it fuels the more extreme forms of hate-based control and denigration, such as depicted in the OP.

            Wrong:
            -it’s illogical and unfounded
            -it’s too broad/clumsy

            I’ve probably missed a lot, too.
            Basically, don’t go around making broad, hateful, fearful judgments rooted in millennia-old misogynistic values, about the actions of women you don’t know, in relationships you don’t understand, based on criteria that aren’t logical, in order to control their sexuality. And if you have a divine mandate to do that, don’t pretend there are good reality-based reasons for your claims.

          • ariofrio

            Thank you for a careful explanation of why you think it is wrong and harmful to claim that sex outside marriage is immoral. Let me assume you are right for the purpose of our current conversation.

            I’m still left wondering why the claim is misogynistic. Surely the problems you mentioned relating to women apply equally to men:

            – it works to control men (whether purposefully or unintentionally) and fuels systems and institutions that further impose control

            – it disrespects the right and ability of men to make choices about their lives

            The claim is “anyone, regardless of gender, commits an immoral act by having sex before marriage.”

            The claim might be illogical, clumsy, harmful, limiting, controlling, disrespectful, stemming from hate, fear, jealousy, or out of a desire to control. But how is it also misogynistic?

          • Cam

            See my reply to Alexander Anderson above @ “it’s always been about…”

          • ariofrio

            “Even when men are superficially included in the policing of sexuality, they aren’t oppressed anywhere near the scale women are, and not in the same way.”

            But the claim is gender-neutral. Is it possible, then, that the problem is with our society (myself and other Christians included!), and not with the claim itself?

          • Cam

            Sure, I suppose in a fantasy gender-equal society, it might be possible for religious conservatives to treat men just as badly as they treat women now, and for men to suffer just as much as women do, but that’s neither the society we live in nor one anyone should want to live in.
            As you say, that modern claim is gender neutral in its wording. But it’s never gender neutral in its implementation or its motivation, and I don’t think it could be, not in our world with our history.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Well, I guess we’re at an impasse and you will always see me as an enemy, then.

            I happen to believe that you can respect and even love a person without necessarily approving or applauding all of their decisions. For some reason, you don’t think this is possible, which I guess is ok, but such a position is anathema to any Christian that takes Christ seriously.

          • Cam

            I think it’s *possible* to criticize someone else’s personal choices in a way that does more good than harm, I just don’t think you’re doing that successfully.

            Think about who your claims hit- imagine a couple who have been together 15 years, completely monogamous, living together. According to you, if they have sex, they’ve done something immoral.
            Now it’s not the case that these sort of circumstances must exist for your argument to fail, but can you see why just saying ‘sex outside marriage is wrong’ is ridiculously overgeneralized? You may argue that this couple has a de facto marriage, but then it’s not *marriage* that matters, but whatever criteria you used to decide it was a de facto marriage- eg monogamy, security, love. You may argue that marriage is the best way to achieve these criteria, but then your position fails every woman who is married but does not achieve the criteria, and also every woman who has a fulfilling and good non-marital relationship, by unnecessarily pouring hate and shame on them.

            I think you can be a Christian without having to police women’s sexualities. ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?’ Edited to add: I understand Christ was allegedly actually standing by an actual stoning at the time, so if He was a good moral teacher he should have said “don’t ever throw rocks at women for any reason, you monsters”.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Hm. From your original post, it seemed like you were stating that all opposition to ore-marital sex is rooted in misogyny. If that’s not the case, I apologize and retract my question. One can certainly be misogynistic about how they *teach* that pre-marital sex is immoral, but that doesn’t mean that misogyny is the true motivator of all who hold that opinion.

          • Cam

            Oh, all opposition to sex outside marriage IS rooted in misogyny. Going around declaring that a non-married woman who has sex has committed an immoral act (even if you don’t go so far as the chewing-gum-brigade and claim her character is ‘impure’) is absolutely misogynistic.
            It’s one thing to say that sex between married couples is beautiful and magical and godly, it’s another thing to say that other sexual relationships are not.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Wait, so if I say that it is immoral for a *man* to have sex outside of marriage, is that misogynistic?

          • Cam

            It’s always been about women- treating women as the property of men, linking their worth as a human being to their sexuality (or lack of). And while you may believe that your motivations are noble, you’re advocating the exact same things as people who openly treat women like property, and that should be a warning sign for you.
            Even when men are superficially included in the policing of sexuality, they aren’t oppressed anywhere near the scale women are, and not in the same way. And this is even reflected in the abstinence-only education, quoting from the link in the OP:
            “…Women (and only women, mind you; the boys got a separate talk about cherishing each woman as if she were the prized treasure of another man) were like glasses of crystal-clear spring water.”

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I would say the opposite- all encouragement of sex outside of marriage is treating the woman like an object rather than like a rational individual who can sign a contract.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          My main problem with using the mutual consent rule, rather than the married rule, is that mutual consent is hard to prove in court without a contract.

          If we are to have an objective morality, let’s have an objectively objective morality, ok?

          • Cam

            Ted I don’t know what you’re talking about but i’m hoping it’s NOT that ‘when it comes to rape, marriage equals consent’.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I mean far more in general. In general, I would have a really hard time being a judge or jury on a rape case, especially a date rape case. I don’t understand consent well enough- especially when it changes after the fact.

            Therefore, non-married sex is inferior not because of the morality, but because of the ambiguity of consent. I can’t judge non-married sex to not be rape, because there is no contract explaining consent.

            I can possibly judge rape within marriage to be a breach of contract. I can certainly judge a married man having sex outside of his marriage vows as fornication and adultery.

            I don’t like ambiguity in anything, least of all sexual relations.

          • Cam

            Marriage has nothing to do with consent. Being married to a person gives you NO right to touch them. Actual consent is required before, and for the entire duration of, any sexual act.

            If you want to talk to somebody about this, there are help lines in many nations I believe that men call to get information and counseling.

            http://www.mensline.org.au/Are-you-using-violence-or-abuse-in-your-family-or-intimate-relationships.html

            http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/am-i-abusive/view/rape-sexual-assult/consent

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’ve tried those. They are as irrational and unpredictable as the rest of the neurotypicals on this issue. I have no way of predicting consent, because I’m not a mind reader. And it is not fair to ask me to be one. Especially that “thisisabuse” link which requires me to understand the emotions of other people- you’ve got to be psychic or else you are an abuser? What kind of irrational and illogical thinking is that?

            Give me consent in writing, or don’t have sex, seems to be the only reasonable options.

          • Cam

            Life can be hard for non-neurotypicals, I hear you. In this case though, too bad. The right of women to not be sexually assaulted or raped is the paramount consideration, absolutely trumping anybody’s desire for sexual gratification.

            There are ways that non neurotypical people can manage consent, but treating marriage like a contract for consent (ugh) is NOT one of these ways. Marriage imposes no duty or requirement to have sex under human law or God’s law.
            You may arrange consent by writing, I guess, but marriage is not the form that writing takes.
            If I can’t appeal to your compassion, think about it mathematically:
            -a marriage contract is usually only signed once, but consent must be given for each sexual act beforehand, which will usually occur more than once. Therefore, a marriage contract will not suffice as consent.
            -consent must be able to be withdrawn at any time without restriction. Do you think a marriage contract should/can be withdrawn every time someone wishes to not have sex? That’s ridiculous.

            The views you are proposing were killed off last century (sadly, still too recently) for being horrific and abusive.

            You are correct- a person who does not understand consent, must never have sex.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            ” but consent must be given for each sexual act beforehand, which will usually occur more than once.”

            Why? Why add this irrational requirement?

            “consent must be able to be withdrawn at any time without restriction. ”

            No fault divorce makes that easy with current marriage contracts, but it seems to be an irrational way of dealing with the subject.

            Especially given the fact that verbal consent can never be trusted, for it can easily be withdrawn *after the fact*.

            I prefer definitions of rape that are easily provable and make NO reference to consent. Violence, for instance, is easily provable (usually the proof is in the injuries).

            “The views you are proposing were killed off last century (sadly, still too recently) for being horrific and abusive.”

            Or is it that we suddenly decided to reverse the abuse?

          • Cam

            “Why? Why add this irrational requirement”

            It’s not an ‘additional’ requirement, it is the core requirement. Without this requirement, the result would be that a person could only consent to sex with a person once, and then they would have no right to refuse that person from doing anything to/with them ever again. Does that not seem wrong to you?
            For most people this is an obvious matter of conscience, but from a pure-logic viewpoint:
            -Since you can divide a person ‘s sexual behaviour into discrete acts/occasions, it is logical that each discrete act must have it’s own consent attached. (However take note about continuous consent below)
            -Since sexual behaviour can take many forms, it is logical that each form must be consented to. If I permit someone to kiss me, must I then let them sexually penetrate me?
            -People have changing emotions, desires, and wishes (this ties into the Christian concept of ‘free will’). If a person cannot refuse any act or stop at any time (continuous consent required), then they would be in a situation were someone is doing something to/with then that they don’t want them to do- how could that situation be described as consensual at all!

            “No fault divorce makes that easy with current marriage contracts, but it seems to be an irrational way of dealing with the subject.”
            If someone is doing something to/with me with my permission and I tell them to stop, they must stop immediately. This is logical and it is also the law. Since a divorce cannot be obtained instantaneously, on the spot, it is not an effective way to withdraw consent at all.

            “Especially given the fact that verbal consent can never be trusted, for it can easily be withdrawn *after the fact*.”
            Then get permission to have sex with people in writing, signed before witnesses, if you’re afraid. But a marriage contract is not a consent-to-sex contract, either in legal reality or logically.
            However this is a myth, educate yourself.
            http://manboobz.com/2010/11/11/mens-rights-myth-false-rape-accusations/
            http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/13/false-rape-allegations-ra_n_2865823.html

            “I prefer definitions of rape that are easily provable and make NO reference to consent”
            Apart from the staggering ridiculousness of having a definition of rape that doesn’t involve consent, I’ll answer this by saying that nobody cares what you prefer. Women have a right to safety and security and freedom of their person, and that is the moral basis for legal systems and moral rules which protect their ability to refuse anything at any time from being done to/with them. Rape is not an easily provable claim, listen to the experiences of survivors. Furthermore, the fact that rape and sexual assault cases are tricky in court or whatever is infinitely overwhelmed by the benefit of having a society where people can freely choose what happens with their body.

            “Or is it that we suddenly decided to reverse the abuse?”
            This is a myth, read the links above. It’s also monstrous- look at the rape statistics for your country, think about what rape involves for the victim, listen to the experiences of survivors and women in general.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No, that doesn’t seem wrong to me. That seems to me to be the way human families were built for the first 2 million years on this planet.

            I can’t divide sexual behavior into discrete acts/occasions, because human beings have memory.

            “Apart from the staggering ridiculousness of having a definition of rape that doesn’t involve consent, I’ll answer this by saying that nobody cares what you prefer”

            Exactly,which is why you don’t really believe in consent.

          • Cam

            ‘Its how it was done before’ is an informal logical fallacy and a terrible reason to do anything.

            Anyone who follows your logic can be charged with the highest degree of rape in most western jurisdictions.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You are right. Even apparently, Lesbian teenagers who have only committed seduction, can be charged with statutory rape in Florida now.

          • Cam

            No Ted- the problem is not with the law. A man who has sex with his wife against her will because he thinks a marriage contract is consent, is a rapist in fact and in law.
            I’m happy to talk this through with you- you haven’t rebutted my arguments. You said ‘human beings have memory’- that’s not an argument, that’s a sentence. What does that mean? How is it relevant? And what do you think of the logical arguments I offered, are they valid?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            What I’m saying is, news events I’ve learned about over the last few days, have moved me to your way of thinking.

          • Suburbanbanshee

            So if you give a store your credit card for one transaction, they can charge up your credit card forever?

            Or to put it another way, if I were to trust you with my credit card in order to buy groceries, does that mean that you’re perfectly virtuous if you use it to buy heroin? Or groceries for seven years at one crack? Is it okay for you to impoverish me or get me thrown in jail?

            Marriage involves a qualified consent — consenting to treat each other kindly, with respect, within reasonable bounds. It is reasonable to always ask nicely for sexual acts (although the asking may be non-verbal), and it is reasonable to allow both parties the right to turn down the nice asking. The same thing is true of offers of food, drink, clothing, etc., because we’re not supposed to be dictators to our spouses, and because it’s ridiculous to not ask.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            2nd reply- my whole take was from your statement “An otherwise moral sexual act is not made immoral by the parties involved not being married. “.

            True. It is made immoral by the lack of provable consent, which marriage provides.

    • Fr.Sean

      Cam,
      If you start with the notion that John Paul II talked about in the Theology of the body, that when Husband and Wife in an act of love and total self gift, they image God, with the potential of creating new life. It reveals what a beautiful gift sex is. But i think the notion of a secondary virginity really does need to be supported, otherwise the cross. i.e. forgiveness is nothing more than an idea. Even a prostitute who’s repented in my opinion returns to her original state of purity and holiness when she commits herself to Christ and to her husband.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      I’m always surprised at the dogmatic force in which people assert that any consenting sexual act cannot be judged, ever. In fact, the greatest sin is to think that a sexual act can be wrong! I wish I knew what sustains your faith.

    • Mariana Baca

      People don’t go from single to married via magic wand, usually — most people, even secular folks, include some period of engagement, going out, boyfriend/girlfriends, being exclusive, what have you, in anticipation, regardless of whether they engage in sex themselves, fidelity is by in large expected in this trial period (unless they plan on having an open relationship in general). The trial period allows them to ascertain compatibility — their ideas and behavior during that time definitely is relevant and infidelity can be a betrayal, a lie or a simple misunderstanding. I don’t see why this is a groundbreaking concept. Knowing who you are marrying/social contracting/etc. involves building trust and love — which includes being honest about your expectations prior to the binding.

      Where gender equality and personhood come in — every standard should go both ways, and some mistakes merit forgiveness and contrition, and honesty about expectations and consent should be paramount.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I wanted to add two things:
    -This is why Project Rachel is useful to the rest of us who haven’t had abortions. The story of the women who do, and regretted it, and found forgiveness is worth 10,000 busybodies blocking the sidewalk praying rosaries.

    -Abstinence education that compares having sex to a dirty glass of water, is as useful as assuring women that the birth control pill can prevent AIDS. If we’re going to have sex education, from whatever perspective, let’s have the Truth.

  • ariofrio

    There are a couple of things you mentioned that apply to some Christians, but not Catholics.

    Jesus was not sacrificed just for the sins of the Jews, but also for the sins of the whole world. (Actually, most Christians believe this.)

    Catholics don’t believe that Adam lived in a magic garden 6000 years ago. We recognize the Genesis story as mythology. Like any good myth, the Genesis story has a kernel of truth. In this case, it is something like this: man, who has free will and is thus able to choose good or to choose the absence of good (evil), chose evil, separating us, for a time, from God. (There is a bunch more, but this is the essence.)

    Taking this into account, I’d love to hear more details about why you think Catholics are abysmally wrong.

  • Rose

    ‘Beauty of sexual purity’?

    I think the emphasis on purity is about fear and lack of trust.

    Fear that if you’ve had sex that you’ll be seen as damaged goods.

    Fear that if your partner has had lots of sex you’ll be seen as inadequate. Or irrationally not trusting your partner to be faithful to you because they’ve had sex.

    I’d rather be with someone who’s had lots of sex and chosen to be with me than someone who just settled for the first person to come along.

    For me, part of being an adult is being able to see the principle behind the rules. Surely the idea behind Christian sexual morality is not that sex is bad, but that selfishness is bad? It’s possible for someone having premarital sex to be considerate and generous while a married person can be utterly selfish and indifferent to their partner’s pleasure.

  • haig

    Claudio’s actions in this instance is an attempt at causing as much harm to Hero as her apparent indiscretions caused him. If he approached her in private before hand, it would have lessened the impact of the public confrontation. He has an internal emotional drive to have her feel as bad as he does, to share in his pain. This instinct for revenge evolved in social groups so that bad actors would think twice, knowing that harm done to another will cause an emotional desire to return that harm, usually in an equal dose. Also, this example is not just a display of revenge, but an act of public shame, to make everyone look down at Hero for her actions. Shaming evolved to make social groups cohere towards adaptive social norms, the person shamed faces being ostracized, a fate worse than death (which is why people are more scared of public speaking than dying). Infidelity betrays a social contract and shaming serves to prevent such betrayal. Similarly, Jaimie’s dishonorable reputation is a way to shame him for breaking a social contract, an oath he promised to protect the king.

    The problems arising from these two examples could have been resolved with more information, particularly justified beliefs of what really happened. If the truth was revealed and made public that Hero was innocent, that both her and Claudio were victims of a deceit by a third party, then Claudio would recant and apologize to Hero, Hero would understand and forgive, the public would understand and remove the shame from Hero and everyone would place the blame and desire for revenge and shame on the conspirator who plotted this whole scheme. Similarly, if the public knew that Jaimie killed the king in order to prevent a massacre, they would forgive his actions and transfer their blame to the rightful target, the mad king.

    If these feelings of revenge, shame, etc. did not occur, then bad actors would operate with impunity and the group would suffer more harm, an unsustainable dynamic. However, these same behaviors often backfire within environments of imperfect information and uncertainties. Also, a side-effect of these emotions causes the agents experiencing them to become distrustful, xenophobic, and even preemptively bad actors in some cases, so that the same evolved emotions that were supposed to protect the group instigate the problems they were evolved to prevent. This disequilibrium has been the human condition for hundreds of thousands of years.

    How does this issue get resolved moving forward? The optimal condition is not just to trust that bad actors will suffer for their actions (ie consequentialism), but to eliminate bad actors from the group, meaning make everyone ‘good’ by working on their fundamental character. This is, or should be, the aim of a normative virtue ethics. It is tricky because you need a critical mass of people to be good or else they will just be victimized by the bad. How do you bootstrap this process? This is what mystical conscious states and religious traditions evolved to do, though so far unsuccessfully because of misinterpretations and dogmatic power struggles. It is necessary for a select few to be the innovators and act completely virtuous, ‘act as if’, no matter the consequences to themselves, in the hopes that this will propagate into the culture. This is the main concept underlying Jesus’ sacrifice for people’s sins. It is also the idea underlying the Buddha, the stoic sages, and so many other mythical examples. These are the early glimpses of a future virtuous society trying to emerge out of our current dynamic. Mystical conscious states, that of bliss, oneness, loving-kindness, etc. are the real-time next iteration of our moral psychology trying to break into our current cognitive architectures.

    Sorry for the long comment :).


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