But if our sexuality is our deepest and most important inner truth, and politics is about the promotion of the truth, then it was inevitable that sex would be politicized. Whereas cultures used to cultivate the virtues that made family and religion flourish, now the law would be used to suppress these institutions as they stood in the way of sexual “authenticity,” as politics sought to create a world where it was safe — and free from criticism — to follow one’s sexual desires. Hence, the push to redefine marriage legally was never really about joint tax returns and hospital visitation but about forcing churches to update their doctrines and bakers to affirm same-sex relationships. Affirmation of the sexualized self is the key to our new politics. And our new language.
The logic of porn is the logic of masturbation, where a drive that should lead a man out into the world towards the creative and self-transcending reality of relating to a woman and bringing children into the world is replaced by a selfish self-satisfaction that makes no demands upon him, which is sterile and impotent, and terminates ultimately upon himself. … The logic of porn and homosexual relations both render sex impotent and sterile, collapsing sex into little more than the stimulation of genitals and other erogenous zones for persons who end up trapped in the prison of the self. Our society is homosexualized as it reduces sex to a matter of self-stimulation and achievement of pleasure. Porn has normalized this view of sex for the society more generally. People don’t get pregnant in porn. All sex is sterile, a fruitless commerce of sexual fluids.
The transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian is one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center was sex. Kyle Harper examines how Christianity changed the ethics of sexual behavior from shame to sin, and shows how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution. “Harper brings a classicist’s expertise to this rich, provocative account of early Christian attempts to transform Roman sexual culture and the understandings of the body, property, sexuality, and the cosmos that formed its basis. This important contribution contextualizes Christian Scripture in a more exhaustive and extensive way than most theological and biblical studies treatments do. The author shows how Christian preaching and teaching responded to social customs and understandings. He indicates the ways in which Christians both borrowed and transformed notions of fate, fortune, and self-control found in classical novels and other Christian literature. Harper also traces the arc of development of Christian sexual ethics into the first few centuries of the church, showing that not only Paul but other Christian writers and theologians as well were deeply shaped by cultural debates over the sexual role of slaves and the value of virginity. Students of classics, Christian ethics, and the New Testament will find this outstanding book indispensable.” ~ A. W. Klink in Choice
Author Matthew Rueger openly embraces this hot topic, writing compassionately with a father’s heart and adamantly with a fierce determination to outline the truth from a reasoned, conservative Christian perspective. This book came to life following a series of presentations that Rueger gave on the subjects of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The audience? A skeptical, secular-minded bunch of college students in their ethics class at Iowa State University. Christians need to expect the unpleasant from their opponents, arm themselves with answers to common objections, and speak in clarity and love. Rueger shares a game plan for families and churches facing the future, moving from important accounts of history to the tangles of the twenty-first century.
Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body — what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us.
At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. “Sex change” is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.
One of the reasons I think our activism is so insistent on sexual rigidity is because, in our push to make gay rights the new black rights, we’ve conflated the two issues. The result is that we’ve decided that skin color is the same thing as sexual behavior. I don’t think this is true. When we conflate race and sexuality, we overlook how fluid we are learning our sexualities truly are. To say it rather crassly: I’ve convinced a few men to try out my sexuality, but I’ve never managed to get them to try on my skin color. In other words, one’s sexuality isn’t as biologically determined as race. Many people do feel as if their sexuality is something they were born with, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. But as I and other queer persons will readily confirm, there are other factors informing our sexualities than simply our genetic codes. ¶ Part of what it means to be human is to be adaptable and elastic, to try on new identities, to try new experiences, to play with the paradigm, to bend the norm to its snapping point and see if it cracks under the pressure of its own linguistic limitations. The re-inventiveness of our human condition is one of our greatest traits, and it’s worth protecting both legally and philosophically.
Only religions still take sex seriously, in the sense of properly respecting its power to turn us away from our priorities. Only religions see it as something potentially dangerous and needing to be guarded against. Perhaps only after killing many hours online at youporn.com can we appreciate that on this one point religions have got it right: Sex and sexual images can overwhelm our higher rational faculties with depressing ease. Religions are often mocked for being prudish, but they wouldn’t judge sex to be quite so bad if they didn’t also understand that it could be rather wonderful.
Pornography did breach the dike that separated a marginal, adult, private pursuit from the mainstream public arena. The whole world, post-Internet, did become pornographized. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training — and this is having a huge effect on how they interact. ¶ But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.
In 2006, a particularly informative (if also exquisitely depressing) contribution to understanding hookups was made by Unprotected , a book first published anonymously. The author was subsequently revealed to be Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who treated more than 2000 students at UCLA and grew alarmed by what she saw. In her book she cites numbers suggesting that psychiatric-consultation hours doubled in a few years and notes that 90 percent of campus counseling centers nationwide reported an upsurge in students with serious psychiatric problems. She also describes some of her own mental-health cases and their common denominators: drinking to oblivion, drugging, one-night sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and all the rest of the hookup-culture trappings.
My conservative instinct says there’s really nothing new under the sun. Technology almost by definition is developed to solve problems (necessity, recall, is invention’s mommy). But, as conservative philosophy teaches us, the “problems” of the human condition are permanent. So while technology is ever changing, the human desires we try to satisfy with technology remain constant. For example, every innovation in mass media has been a boon to the porn industry. You can be sure that when we finally create holographic technology, it’ll be put to good triple-X use long before we have a chance to see Hamlet in digital 3-D.
Another woman on the block, a ranking government official, told me, “You know, the one thing we really have to thank … [here she tugged at an imaginary beard; those less kindly disposed toward El Jefe of the Long Wind massage imaginary horns but similarly do not speak his name] … for is that he relieved us of the Catholic curse, and so we have fewer sexual hang-ups than anyone in the Latin world. We use birth control like happy whores and we can divorce with the drop of a jockstrap.” Some 82 percent of married Cuban women 15 to 49 regularly use birth control, compared with 70 percent in the U.S.. Abortions are free of stigma and charge, and they are readily available and volubly defended by government officials. Divorce, my neighbor tells me, is so common in Cuba that the joke is that the child who actually lives at home with both biological parents will surely require psychotherapy.
Back in the twentieth century, American girls had used baseball terminology. “First base” referred to embracing and kissing; “second base” referred to groping and fondling and deep, or “French,” kissing, commonly known as “heavy petting”; “third base” referred to fellatio, usually known in polite conversation by the ambiguous term “oral sex”; and “home plate” meant conception-mode intercourse, known familiarly as “going all the way.” In the year 2000, in the era of hooking up, “first base” meant deep kissing (which was now known as “tonsil hockey”), and the groping, and the fondling; “second base” meant oral sex; “third base” meant going all the way; and “home plate” meant . . . learning each other’s names. Getting to home plate was relatively rare, however.
Intimacy is the mutual mingling of souls who are taking each other into themselves to ever increasing depths. The truly erotic is the mingling of souls. Because we are free beings, intimacy cannot be passive or forced. And because we are extremely finite, it must be exclusive. This is the metaphysical and spiritual reality that underlies the bitter violation of self experienced by the betrayed mate. It also makes clear the scarred and shallow condition of those who betray. ¶ One of the most telling things about contemporary human beings is that they cannot find a reason for not committing adultery. Yet intimacy is a spiritual hunger of the human soul, and we cannot escape it. This has always been true and remains true today. We now keep hammering the sex button in the hope that a little intimacy might finally dribble out. In vain.
One of the first things I ever said to you was that I’m old-fashioned where romance is concerned. "A dinosaur I think I called myself. Being a dinosaur, I made a huge exception to my own laws of survival when I started living with you. But I didn’t start living with you because I’d changed. I did it because I couldn’t help it. There’s a big difference. I never really thought we were living "in sin” (I’m not that Paleolithic.) But we were living with dangerously little definition by my standards, which standards are based, by the way, on my belief that romance isn’t just romance, that it naturally leads to love-making, which naturally leads to babies, who are naturally helpless creatures in a naturally beautiful but lethal world, so they naturally need as many pieces of the ancient Father-Mother-Shaman-Tribe-Home-hearth Paradigm as we are able to gracefully give them.
Luna: But Miles, don’t you see, meaningful relationships between men and women don’t last. That was proven by science. You see, there’s a chemical in our bodies that makes it so that we all get on each other’s nerves sooner or later. Miles: That’s science. I don’t believe in science. Science is an intellectual dead end. You know, it’s a lot of little guys in tweed suits and cutting up frogs on foundation grants, and… Luna: Oh, I see. You don’t believe in science, and you also don’t believe that political systems work, and you don’t believe in God, huh? Miles: Right. Luna: So, then, what do you believe in? Miles: Sex and death. Two things that come once in my lifetime. But at least after death you’re not nauseous.
That era is as long dead as the time when Indiana barbers kept the Police Gazette at the bottom of their towel drawers. We live in an age so compulsively permissive that I sometimes wonder whether anyone under 21 would know a forbidden thrill if he felt one. Norman Mailer was on the right track in “The Armies of the Night” when he protested against those who would remove the guilt from sex: Without guilt, he wrote, sex would lose half the fun.
The Divine Conspiracy (HarperCollins: 1998), p. 163.
Intimacy is the mutual mingling of souls who are taking each other into themselves to ever increasing depths. The truly erotic is the mingling of souls. Because we are free beings, intimacy cannot be passive or forced. And because we are extremely finite, it must be exclusive. This is the metaphysical and spiritual reality that underlies the bitter violation of self experienced by the betrayed mate. It also makes clear the scarred and shallow condition of those who betray. ¶ The profound misunderstandings of the erotic that prevail today actually represent the inability of humanity in its current Western edition to give itself to others and receive them in abiding faithfulness. Personal relationship has been emptied out to the point where intimacy is impossible. Quite naturally, then, we say, "Why not?" when contemplating adultery. If there is nothing there to be broken, why worry about breaking it? ¶ One of the most telling things about contemporary human beings is that they cannot find a reason for not committing adultery. Yet intimacy is a spiritual hunger of the human soul, and we cannot escape it. This has always been true and remains true today. We now keep hammering the sex button in the hope that a little intimacy might finally dribble out. In vain.
Some forms of homosexuality today are of a similar nature, in that they are not just homosexuality but a philosophic expression. One must have understanding for the real homophile’s problem. But much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis. It has led in this case to an obliteration of the distinction between man and woman. So the male and the female as complementary partners are finished. This is a form of homosexuality which is a part of the movement below the line of despair. In much of modern thinking all antithesis and all the order of God’s creation is to be fought against — including the male-female distinctions. The pressure toward unisex is largely rooted here. But this is not an isolated problem; it is imperative that Christians realize the conclusions which are being drawn as a result of the death of absolutes.
We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman”. Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes).
Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christians virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, "either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence." Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.
The present generation has hardly any idea of the gigantic spread of prostitution in Europe before the World War. Whereas today it is as rare to meet a prostitute on the streets of a big city as it is to meet a wagon in the road, then the sidewalks were so sprinkled with women for sale that it was more difficult to avoid than to find them. To this was added the countless number of “closed houses,” the night clubs, the cabarets, the dance parlors with their dancers and singers, and the bars with their “come-on” girls. At that time female wares were offered for sale at every hour and at every price, and it cost a man as little time and trouble to purchase a woman for a quarter of an hour, an hour, or a night, as it did to buy a package of cigarettes or a newspaper. Nothing seems to me to confirm the greater honesty and naturalness of our present-day life and love forms than the fact that it is possible and almost normal for the youth of today to do without this once indispensable institution. It is not the police nor the laws that have restricted prostitution in our world. This tragic product of a pseudo-morality, except for a small remnant, has liquidated itself because of a decreased demand.
The official attitude of the State and its morality towards this shady affair was never a very comfortable one. From the moral point of view, the State did not dare acknowledge the right of a woman to sell herself, and from the hygienic viewpoint, on the other hand, prostitution could not be spared because it canalized the troublesome extra-marital sexuality. And so the authorities sought to avail themselves of an ambiguity, in that a distinction was made between private prostitution, which the State prosecuted as being immoral and dangerous, and legalized prostitution, which it supplied with a sort of trade license and which it taxed. A girl who had decided to become a prostitute was given a particular concession by the police and received her own book as a qualifying certificate. Inasmuch as she submitted to police control and complied with her duty of being examined by a physician twice each week, she had acquired the business right to lease out her body at any price she saw fit. Prostitution was recognized as a profession among the other professions; but — and here is the rub of morality — it was not quite fully recognized. So, for example, a prostitute who sold her wares, that is, her body, to a man and later did not receive the price agreed upon, had no right to sue him. For then suddenly her suit — ob turpem causam as the law saw it — had become an immoral one and stood without the protection of the law.
It was in such matters that one felt the duplicity of a concept which, although it incorporated these girls into a legally permitted profession, still considered them personally as outcasts beyond the law. But the actual dishonesty lay in the fact that these limitations applied only to the poorer classes. A ballet dancer, who was available for any man at any hour in Vienna for two hundred crowns, just as the girl of the streets was available for two crowns, obviously did not need a trade license. The great demi-mondaines were even mentioned in the papers as among those present at the Derby or the trotting-races, because they were already a part of “society.” And again, certain of the most fashionable go-betweens, who furnished the Court, the aristocracy, and the rich with luxury wares, were above the law, though usually procuring was punished with a heavy prison sentence. The strict discipline, the pitiless surveillance, the social ostracism, applied only to the army of thousands and thousands who defended, with their bodies and their humiliated souls, an old and long since undermined moral prejudice against free and natural love.
This gigantic army of prostitution, like the real army, was made up of various branches, cavalry, artillery, infantry, and siege artillery. In the ranks of prostitution the siege artillery was the group which had occupied certain streets in the city as their quarter. They were for the most part the places where in the Middle Ages the gallows had stood, or a leper hospital, or a cemetery had been, or where the “freemen” and other social outcasts had found shelter. In other words, vicinities which the citizens had preferred to avoid as residential quarters. There the authorities had set up certain streets as a love market; door after door, in the twentieth century, from two to five hundred women sat as they did in the Yoshiwara of Japan or the Fish Market in Cairo, one next to the other on display at the windows of their dwellings at street level – cheap goods which were worked in two shifts, day and night.
The cavalry or infantry was made up of the roving prostitutes, the countless girls who sought their clients on the streets. In Vienna they were commonly called “line girls” because the sidewalks had been marked off by the police with an invisible line where they might carry on their trade. By day and by night until the gray of the dawn, they dragged their dearly bought false elegance over the streets, in rain and snow, constantly forced to twist their tired, badly painted faces into an alluring smile for every passer-by. Every city appears to me to be lovelier and more humane since these droves of hungry, unhappy women no longer populate the streets, without pleasure offering pleasure for sale, and after all their wandering from one corner to another finally going one and the same inevitable way, the way to the infirmary.
But even these masses did not suffice for the steady demand. There were some who wished to be more comfortable and more discreet than in chasing these fluttering bats or sorry birds of paradise on the streets. They wanted love at their ease, with light and warmth, with music and dancing and an appearance of luxury. These clients had their “closed houses” or brothels. There the girls were assembled in a so-called salon, furnished in counterfeit luxury, some in evening gowns, others in unreticent négligés. A piano player supplied the music; there was drinking and dancing and conversation before the pairs discreetly retired to a bedroom. In some of the more fashionable houses, particularly in Paris and Milan, which had a sort of international reputation, a naive person could labor under the illusion of having been invited to a private house with some very merry ladies of society. Outwardly the girls in these houses were better off than the roving girls of the streets. They did not have to wander through wind and rain, through filthy alleys, they sat in warm rooms, were given good clothes, ample food, and, in particular, ample drink. But in return, they were actually the prisoners of their landladies, who forced the clothes they wore upon them at exorbitant prices, and did such magic tricks of arithmetic with the rent and board that even the most industrious and persevering girl remained in debt and could never leave the house of her own free will.
To write the intimate history of some of these houses would be interesting and also of documentary importance for the culture of that period, for they held the strangest secrets, well known to the otherwise strict authorities. There were hidden doors and a special stairway by which the members of the highest society and, it was whispered, even members of the Court — could pay their visits without being seen by other mortals. There were mirrored rooms and some that offered a hidden view of the neighboring room, in which a couple were unsuspectingly enjoying themselves. There were the weirdest changes of costumes, from the habit of a nun to the dress of a ballerina, locked away in closets and chests for particular fetishists. And this was the same city, the same society, the same morality, that was indignant when young girls rode bicycles, and declared it a disgrace to the dignity of science when Freud in his calm, clear, and penetrating manner established truths that they did not wish to be true. The same world that so pathetically defended the purity of womanhood allowed this cruel sale of women, organized it, and even profited thereby.
We should not permit ourselves to be misled by sentimental novels or stories of that epoch. It was a bad time for youth. The young girls were hermetically locked up under the control of the family, hindered in their free bodily as well as intellectual development. The young men were forced to secrecy and reticence by a morality which fundamentally no one believed or obeyed. Unhampered, honest relationships — in other words, all that could have made youth happy and joyous according to the laws of Nature — were permitted only to the very few. And anyone of that generation who wishes to look back honestly upon his first meetings with women will recall but few episodes that he can think about with unmixed pleasure. For in addition to the social pressure, which constantly enforced precaution and secrecy, there was at that time another element that overshadowed the happiest moments: the fear of infection. Here too, the youth of that era was neglected in comparison with those of today, for it must not be forgotten that forty years ago sexual diseases were spread a hundred times more than they are today, and that they were a hundred times more dangerous and horrible in effect, because medicine did not yet know how to approach them clinically. Science could not yet cure them quickly and completely as it does today, so that now they are no more than episodes. Whereas today, thanks to Paul Ehrlich’s therapy, in the clinics of the small and medium-sized universities weeks often pass by in which the professor is unable to show his students a freshly infected case of syphilis, the statistics of those days show that in the army and in the big cities at least one or two out of every ten young men had fallen victim to infection. Youth was reminded incessantly of the danger. Going through the streets of Vienna, one could read on the door of every sixth or seventh house, Specialist for Skin and Venereal Diseases, and to the fear of infection was added the horror of the disgusting and degrading forms of the erstwhile cures, of which the world of today also knows nothing. For weeks on end the entire body of anyone infected with syphilis was rubbed with mercury, the effect of which was that the teeth fell out and other injuries to health ensued. The unhappy victim of a severe encounter felt himself not only physically but spiritually spotted, and even after so horrible a cure, he could never be certain that the cunning virus might not at any moment awake from its captivity and paralyze the limbs from the spine, or soften the brain. Small wonder then that at that time many young people, once the diagnosis had been made, reached for their revolvers because they could not stand the feeling that they were suspected of being incurable. Then there were the other sorrows of a vita sexualis carried on in secret. Though I try hard to remember, I cannot recall a single comrade of my youth who did not come to me with pale and troubled mien, one because he was ill or feared illness, another because he was being blackmailed because of an abortion, a third because he lacked the money to be cured without the knowledge of his family, the fourth because he did not know how to pay hush money to a waitress who claimed to have had a child by him, the fifth because his wallet had been stolen in a brothel and he did not dare to go to the police. The youth of those pseudo-moral times were much more romantic and yet more unclean, much more excited and yet more depressed, than the novels and dramas of their official writers depict them. In the sphere of eros, in school and home, youth was rarely given the freedom and happiness to which its years entitled it.
The sexual impulse in all its degrees and nuances plays not only on the stage and in novels, but also in the real world, where, next to the love of life, it shows itself the strongest and most powerful of motives, constantly lays claim to half the powers and thoughts of the younger portion of mankind, to the ultimate goal of almost all human efforts, interrupts the most serious occupations every hour, sometimes embarrasses for a while even the greatest minds, does not hesitate to intrude with its trash, interfering with the negotiations of statesmen and the investigations of men of learning, knows how to slip its love letters and locks of hair even into ministerial portfolios and philosophical manuscripts, and no less devises daily the most entangled and the worst actions, destroys the most valuable relationships, breaks the firmest bonds, demands the sacrifice sometimes of life or health, sometimes of wealth, rank, and happiness, nay, robs those who are otherwise honest of all conscience, makes those who have hitherto been faithful, traitors; accordingly on the whole, appears as a malevolent demon that strives to pervert, confuse and overthrow everything; — then one will be forced to cry, Wherefore all this noise? Wherefore the straining and storming, the anxiety and want? It is merely a question of every Hans finding his Goethe. Why should such a trifle play so important a part, and constantly introduce disturbance and confusion into the well-regulated life of man?
[Editor: Schopenahauer goes on to answer his own question — why all the straining and storming? — saying that sex is what determines each successive generation, and that is of the highest consequence.]
Sex endows the individual with a dumb and powerful instinct, which carries his body and soul continually toward another; makes it one of the dearest employments of his life to select and pursue a companion, and joins to possession the keenest pleasure, to rivalry the fiercest rage, and to solitude an eternal melancholy.