Pity for the Promiscuous

Jeff G. has posted a response of sorts to a certain strain of argument that seems to carry the day among a certain class of Mormons.

I’m not going to repeat his arguments.  Instead, I have a different take, because I think people can be fooled by these arguments, since they seem so warm, fuzzy, and compassionate.  However, these arguments are actually quite pernicious, and their ultimate end point is to undermine the gospel.

To illustrate, I’m going to just reword part of one argument:

———-

If someone is born with a strong sex drive, one that can only be filled by having multiple partners they aren’t married to … then what are the consequences for sexuality for those people?

I suppose the argument goes that “having those feelings is not a sin, but acting on them is”. That line of argument tends to equate sexual identity with temptation. Sexuality is not a simple matter of impulse control. Yes, we are made from our choices but we are also made from our genetics and our eternal spirits. We should take things more seriously and not compare promiscuity to say pyromania or the munchies.Indeed, if someone truly is “born that way”, then we need to consider the possibility that people are promiscuous eternally. To say to those people that they must never exercise that aspect of their existence is really tough.

——-

Or how about this:

If someone is born with a terrible, angry temper , one that can only be fulfilled by beating up other people when angry… then what are the consequences for those people?

I suppose the argument goes that “having those feelings is not a sin, but acting on them is”. That line of argument tends to equate emotional identity with temptation. Emotions are not a simple matter of impulse control. Yes, we are made from our choices but we are also made from our genetics and our eternal spirits. We should take things more seriously and not compare an abusive temper to say pyromania or the munchies.  Indeed, if someone truly is “born that way”, then we need to consider the possibility that people are angry eternally. To say to those people that they must never exercise that aspect of their existence is really tough.

Or:

If someone is born with a desire for power, one that can only be filled by becoming a totalitarian (but relatively benign) dictator … then what are the consequences for those people?

I suppose the argument goes that “having those feelings is not a sin, but acting on them is”. That line of argument tends to equate insular identity with temptation. Power is not a simple matter of impulse control. Yes, we are made from our choices but we are also made from our genetics and our eternal spirits. We should take things more seriously and not compare an a desire to dominate others to say pyromania or the munchies.  Indeed, if someone truly is “born that way”, then we need to consider the possibility that people are control freaks eternally. To say to those people that they must never exercise that aspect of their existence is really tough.

——

I think I’ve made my point.

In the past, I find liberal Mormons tend to brush these types of arguments off as irrelevant and baseless (as noted in the post – somehow a genetic desire to burn things isn’t the same as other genetic desires), yet they can never come up with a good reason why.  The reason is – they have no good reasons, other than their loyalty to the progressive tribe is greater than their loyalty to God and his prophets.

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About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was over 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has six kids and four stepkids.

26 thoughts on “Pity for the Promiscuous

  1. When I’ve seen arguments from progressives like the one looked at here, I ask the following:

    Is there *any* time a self understanding of innate sexuality is inaccurate or of an undesirable nature? If so, how can we entrust these feelings and statements of identity with such uncritical authority? If not, how is this one and only aspect of human nature somehow immune to the flaws that otherwise affect all of us in some way?

    I have yet to receive a cogent answer to this.

  2. Liberals always seem to try and carve out spaces where sin doesn’t exist or the effects of the fall don’t apply. I know one LDS art professor who sincerely believes that it is impossible to sin when doing art of any kind, period. He’s never come up with a good answer as to why this is so, other than good intentions (all artists always, apparently, have good intentions).

    I have parts of my personality I am pretty sure are innate/genetic, yet I strive to rise above them. The natural man is an enemy to God, after all (though, a quick search will show you that many progressive LDS types have managed to explain those verses away through complicated exegesis (actually, eisegesis) that argues “natural” in that context means anything but natural).

  3. ..they have no good reasons.. This is why I’ve pretty much quite commenting on the whole SSM/SSA discussion. They’ve been going on for years already, and they are all the same. I have the distinct feeling we’re being played. Remember Alexander Pope’s short poem on vice? I think progressives think if they endure (keep bringing up their arguments) long enough, surely others will pity and ultimately embrace same sex attraction. As it stands now. the gulf is insurmountable. You either think the FP/Q12 are “right” or you think they are wrong. Either acting on homosexual attraction is a sin or it isn’t. There is no in between. But, there will still be those who want to argue. Something I’ve noticed, and it’s something similar I noticed with MoFem’s. They argue that as the night follows the day, if you would just listen, you would change. Why? Because we know if you DID listen, you would change your mind, have sympathy for the cause, and agree that doctrine should change. If you do listen and don’t change, you’re either not REALLY listening, or you’re an unChristlike hater, one of the two.

  4. Millions of unmarried heterosexual Christians lead celibate lives. Probably more than the number of non-celibate homosexuals. There are many reasons why people remain unmarried. The outright dismissal of celibacy as an option by homosexuals and their supporters gets little if no sympathy from unmarried celibate heterosexuals.

    Their outright dismissal of celibacy lends credence to the observation that homosexuality is more often about promiscuity and just plain lust rather than about love or attraction.

  5. Bookslinger writes, “Millions of unmarried heterosexual Christians lead celibate lives. Probably more than the number of non-celibate homosexuals.”

    Exactly right. SSM advocates often argue as though Christian sexual morality places a unique burden on homosexuals, namely chastity, that heterosexuals are free of simply by virtue of being considered “normal”. But there are far more heterosexuals who are unable to have sex licitly at any given time for various reasons, due to the requirements of Christian morality, than there are homosexuals.

  6. In recent news a young man robbed money from his parents and then concocted a story that included unknown homophobic villains knocking him out and carving abusive words on his arm. Somehow the truth came out. The articles I read about the incident focused on how sad it was for him and his parents that he was homosexual and acted out this way. I suspect that if it were not for his homosexuality he would simply have been dubbed a thief and a liar. I do pity his parents and I’m sorry that they have a son that felt the need to abuse himself in order to create a screen for his criminal activities. However in today’s climate, I’m not surprised that the main focus seemed to be on his near entitlement to do so. In the musical ‘West Side Story’ there is a memorable song called ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ in which adolescent criminals plead excuses for their behavior. I have known too many decent, morally upright men and women from horrendous backgrounds to have sympathy for various excuses for any of the ‘uncontrollable’ behavior Ivan lists.

  7. Since when do individual humans have no choice?

    Even if an individual is constrained in all their movements and actions, yet they are free in their thoughts.

    Inasmuch as same gender attraction appears to, indeed, be at times something caused by prenatal chemical environment and post-birth “nurture,” why would not one then consider that this is like any other non-optimal situation? I certainly don’t expect my dead son to still have a defective heart in the resurrection. So if a hormonal stew prompted me to have abnormal reproductive urges (they are not the norm), then why would I expect that a perfect resurrected body would continue to have these urges?

    As for having the privilege of spending eternity with an individual that you deeply love, I personally don’t fear any lack of candidates for such a position. It would be delightful to spend eternity with the particular individual with whom you have lived in mortality. But to be eternally yoked to a same gender partner when your perfect resurrected form rejects same gender sexuality would be more painful than the supposedly unacceptable fate of same sex attracted people who decide to enter into heterosexual marriages.

    Does one have faith in the gospel? Does one hope for the resurrection and perfected corporal state? Does one have charity for all? It seems to me that this faith, hope, and charity suggests there are reasons for denying oneself any of the ungodliness mentioned in the OP.

  8. Radiolab has a story of a man who was arrested for possession of child pornography but got off on an extremely light sentence because he was able to prove that the pornographic compulsiveness was a side-effect of a brain surgery he had undergone for epilepsy. Before the brain surgery he had no compulsive sexual behaviour. But he lost control after the surgery.

    If we could enter into the neurons of murderers, etc. we might indeed find that their behaviours are the result of an abnormal brain chemistry and that they do not indeed have the same level of freewill as normal people. What do we do ethically in such a case?

    I think most people would agree that some kind of punishment must exist even if it is abstracted from the actual culpability of the perpetrator. Someone compulsively addicted to child pornography must suffer the consequences of that behaviour, even if he is incapable of resisting. The law is the law.

    In the case of homosexuality, it’s against God’s law, so even if someone is not responsible for their proclivities, they still must suffer church discipline. God is “an hard man” as Christ says in the parable. But outside of God’s law, in the world, God is more forgiving, as Paul says, “before the law, I could do no sin and was free. But when I knew the law, sin entered into me and I died.” So homosexuals out of the church, acting under irresistible impulse, have no incentive to even try to go against their nature.

  9. Ah – Meg – there’s the rub. Some would argue that homosexuality is not “non-optimal.” Therefore, there is no “defect” (by birth or choice or otherwise) and therefore we need to accept homosexuality on equal footing as heterosexuality.

  10. I think whether homosexuality is optimal/non-optimal, “born-that-way”/chosen, and the like is irrelevant.

    I know it’s rather standard anytime Orson Scott Card comes up online to denounce him as a homophobic bigot, so I know most progressive types won’t give any credence to what he says (I once saw an editor of Sunstone flat out lie on a ‘Nacle blog that Card approved of the fatwa on Salaman Rushdie, so I tend to give little credence to the name calling of Card), and I personally think some of his essays about SSM were way too strident – but, regardless of that, he was spot on when he wrote this:
    “The argument . . . that homosexual tendencies are genetically ingrained in some individuals is almost laughably irrelevant. We are all genetically predisposed toward some sin or another; we are all expected to control those genetic predispositions when it is possible. It is for God to judge which individuals are tempted beyond their ability to bear or beyond their ability to resist. But it is the responsibility of the Church and the Saints never to lose sight of the goal of perfect obedience to laws designed for our happiness.

    The average fifteen-year-old teenage boy is genetically predisposed to copulate with anything that moves. We are compassionate and forgiving of those who cannot resist this temptation, but we do not regard as adult anyone who has not overcome it; and we can only help others overcome those “genetic predispositions” by teaching them that we expect them to meet a higher standard of behavior than the one their own body teaches them.”

  11. Also, interestingly enough, now that the “battle” for SSM is won, some activists are calling for an end to the “born that way” argument:

    Eric Sasson: “it’s time for the LGBT community to start moving beyond genetic predisposition as a tool for gaining mainstream acceptance of gay rights . . . as compelling as these arguments are, they may have outgrown their usefulness. With most Americans now in favor of gay marriage, it’s time for the argument to shift to one where genetics don’t matter”
    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118194/rick-perry-homosexuality-alcoholism-hes-wrong

    Brandon Ambrosino: “It’s time for the LGBT community to stop fearing the word “choice,” and to reclaim the dignity of sexual autonomy.

    The aversion to that word in our community stems from belief that if we can’t prove that our gayness is biologically determined, then we won’t have grounds to demand equality. I think this fear needs to be addressed and given up. In America, we have the freedom to be as well as to choose to be. I see no reason to believe that the only sexualities worth protecting are the ones over which one has no control. After all, isn’t trans activism fueled by the belief that the government has the responsibility to protect all of us regardless of our sexual choices? . . . 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. I wonder how our LGBT discourses would be enhanced were we to fully embrace the dynamism of our sexuality. . . Arguing that gayness is as genetically fixed as race might have bolstered our rhetoric a few years ago, but is it necessary to argue that way now?”
    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116378/macklemores-same-love-sends-wrong-message-about-being-gay

  12. Ivan, thanks for those links. you make or at least illustrate my pointt I’ve been harping on for a few years. Once homophobia/stigma is removed from society (ie, k-12 academia and all forms of media) , it will be socially acceptable for the rising generation to choose to engage in same-sex sex acts regardless of one’s inborn orientation. In other words, you don’t have to be gay in order to do gay.

    Now connect that concept with the 15 year olds mentioned above, (who’ve spent their whole lives receiving messages at school and from Tv, music and film, that there is nothing inherently wrong with same-sex sex acts) and what do you get?

  13. In medical school we had several days in our curriculum of watching videos of every conceivable expression of sexual proclivity, and a lot of it. The intent of this prolonged video exercise was to make us aware of the great variety of sexual expression extant in the world and to come to have a nonjudgmental attitude towards it, as we might later encounter in practicing patients (and believe me, it happens). Well OK, fine, it all became essentially boring after a few minutes of any one particular “variety of expression.” But a fact of the matter is that every variety of sexuality is an expression of the character of the persons engaged in it and it is their way of “connecting” with other human beings (etc.). What struck me in the recent years of societal debate, in throwing out a few thousand years of judeo-christian-muslim++ mores and a fairly obvious natural anatomical/physiological procreative “fit” of most eukaryotic species, is WHY is homosexuality being privileged over all the other types of sexual expression of love between individuals? Indeed, once out of the restrictive norms of “tradition,” there is no reason why ANY type of sexual practice between consenting groups of any variety of individuals should not be allowed validity in our society, and such validity memorialized by the legal designation of “marriage.” Such is the world, and a brave one, in which we have taken the first step into, but there is only one logical direction in which to lead out, based on the thinking that has led to the place we currently find ourselves.

  14. You bring up fantastic counter examples!

    The problem- depending on one’s perspective – is that it assumes that such people care about consistency across cases. In the same way that I’m willing to compromise on consistency when it comes to following prophets, they are also willing to compromise on consistency in the name of social justice and human emancipation…. You are exactly right, though, when you say that they care more about their version of social justice than they do about following prophets our about rational consistency, for that matter.

  15. In my reading of the New Testament I recently encountered Paul’s sermon about his ‘thorn in the flesh’. I find it interesting that he doesn’t designate what his thorn in the flesh was but I believe that all of us need to deal with whatever thorn in the flesh we have and as Paul does, look at it eventually as a blessing.

  16. I suppose the argument that a condition that isn’t the norm is therefore not non-normal (or abnormal) is one used by various communities.

    For example, the deaf community is sometimes rather strongly opinionated in this area. And yet though obviously it will be possible for any language to persist in the eternity we believe in, I’m not sure anyone opines that someone born deaf in mortality will necessarily be deaf in eternity.

    As for the “you don’t have to be gay to do gay,” that is a truth long-known in most circles.

  17. “As for the “you don’t have to be gay to do gay,” that is a truth long-known in most circles.”

    Most? I beg to differ.

    It seems totally absent from public discussion. Most heterosexuals i know claim that the _only_ possible motivation to engage in same-sex sex acts is to have been born gay.

    The fact that at least some gay men are just in it for the kink (as Ivan’s quotes show) has been frequently publicly denied. The most common reasoning that is offered is “Why would anyone choose to be gay when there is so much homophoboa?” The rejoinder is “Ok, so what is going to happen, or at least _can_ happen, when there is a new generation with no homophobia or stigma about it?

    And the rejoinder to that is, anything can happen with hormone-crazed teenagers. If there are no societal or cultural barriers, people can go anywhere.

    Ivan seems to be the only blogger who has even remotely supported my predictions of what 15 year old boys, and likely girls too, will do, only a few years from now, after being programmed their _entire_ lives (by teachers, textbooks, and media) that there is absolutely nothing wrong with people engaging in same-sex sex acts.

    When states started legalizing ssm, textbook authors and publishers immediately started including same sex couples in new editions of school curriculm from K on up. Any books that mentioned or used a family or couple as characters in any example or story, regardless of subject, started to be rewritten to include same-sex couples.

    To see where the sexual revolution has recently been, as far as in relation to schoolchildren, look at some Dr. Miriam Grossman videos on youtube. Then connect in the concept that whatever is being taught to K-12 in terms of hetero sex acts will have to be re-written and republished to include examples of same-sex sex acts.

    Perhaps you have to be as old as I am to remember some catch-phrases of the sexual revolution from the 60’s and 70’s: If it feels good do it. Don’t knock it until ya try it. A hole is a hole.

    Again, thanks to Ivan for finding some references to illustrate what I’ve been saying for a few years now about where SSM was going to lead.

    We also need to remember that with the Left, the issue is never the real issue. There is always a “next step” in a continual permanent revolution. Dr Charlton explained this brilliantly:

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2014/01/living-in-new-left-society-of-permanent.html

  18. Maybe it’s just that I have various acquaintances and family who are various flavors of gay or lesbian.

    Anyone who has studied Socrates knows about homosexuality and that it was the favored sort of sexual expression among the elite of Greece. Heterosexuals were seen as mutts, lower than lesbians, who were lower than men who found their greatest friendships in mutual embrace of mind and body.

    Of course one formed marriages and had heterosexual relations to engender children. And part of why Symposium isn’t a banned work is that Plato portrays Socrates as refuting the celebration of same gender relationships.

    Yet classically trained scholars have been reading all about this stuff where same gender romane was the highest ideal for millennia.

    So to admit that you didn’t know about this is merely to admit that you were not classically trained, and that none of your acquaintances was classically trained.

    Aside from Plato, there is also the matter of prison sex. Last I was aware, most people knew that sex happens in prison. It appears as a theme in many movies and tv shows. Obviously the people in all male prisons are too numerous for all of them to qualify for the “I was born this way” argument.

  19. In this endlessly circular argument, one question keeps coming to me.

    If homosexuality was treatable, would I administer the cure to one of my children?

    Is aberrant sexuality any different from diabetes or astigmatism? These conditions are treatable. I seldom see anyone withholding treatment for those unfortunates out of “compassion”, “tolerance”, or “respect for diversity”. And I seldom see any advocates for “Building Bridges” for acceptance acceptance of social deviance.

  20. “The problem- depending on one’s perspective – is that it assumes that such people care about consistency across cases. In the same way that I’m willing to compromise on consistency when it comes to following prophets, they are also willing to compromise on consistency in the name of social justice and human emancipation…. ”

    Spot on comment, Jeff.

  21. I suppose, Jeff G., that one could go the Stanley Fish route:

    http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/two-cheers-for-double-standards/

    “[Some people argue to] back away from or relax your strongest convictions about what is right and wrong and act in a manner that grants legitimacy, at least of a formal kind, to the convictions of others, even of others you despise . . .

    [But I say that] What counts is who your friends and allies are. You keep your word to them and not just to anybody. Your loyalty is to particular people and not to an abstraction . . .

    If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair.

    I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.”

    Unfortunately, I really can’t live with that last part, but I find it telling most people, at least implicitly, can.

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