Faith…tries to retain a primitive mental condition on merely sentimental grounds. It is unwilling to give up the primitive, childlike relationship to mind-created and hypostatized figures; it wants to go on enjoying the security and confidence of a world still presided over by powerful, responsible, and kindly parents. – Carl Jung
The universe is a very complex place. When human civilization was young we weren’t really able to grasp how complex, so we imagined that most things were largely as they appeared to be and that the mysteries of the world were all caused by intelligent, free-willed beings like ourselves, only more powerful. Thus was religion born; in its earliest form it served to explain the world, to give emotional comfort and to provide a unifying structure over related (but separate) groups of people, thus allowing organization of tribes into cities and nations. But as time went on, humans developed science (which explained things better than religion ever did), civil government (which organized things at least as well as religion ever did), and social and political philosophies which…well, two out of three ain’t bad. And thus religion became a solution in search of a problem, and so it remained until the increasing complexity and uncertainty of the modern world caused many people, overwhelmed by a world they could not understand, to retreat into religions and religion-like belief systems which promised them simplicity and certainty. Since these systems are rigid and simplistic, they cannot possibly describe the world as it is; they therefore exclude facts which do not fit the picture by denying or simply ignoring them. A simple, static view of the world is impossible unless one considers only part of the picture.
Sex is one of the most complex of human realities; it is dark, violent, chthonic, animalistic and occurs in a bewildering multiplicity of forms, yet forms the basis of our most powerful emotions and most enduring social relationships and is an intrinsic part of the human life-cycle (every one of us is the product of heterosexual copulation). Small wonder that it makes nearly everyone uncomfortable to one degree or another, and that humans have been trying to control it, individually and collectively, since practically the dawn of civilization. Primitive societies and religions had few sexual laws, but as humanity aged cultures felt an increasing need to make laws against sexual behavior they considered somehow disturbing. Due to the fact that though the mother of a child is always known, the father never actually was until DNA testing was invented, most of these laws at first concentrated on controlling female sexuality so paternity could be ascertained with a reasonable degree of certainty (in theory, anyhow); the laws which applied to males mostly dealt with incest, bestiality and that sort of thing. For reasons we’ve discussed before Judaism had an unusually high number of sex laws, and when the followers of a certain 1st-century rabbi managed to build their sect into an international phenomenon those sex laws went with them; when combined with the Platonic distrust of the material world absorbed from the Gnostics, they engendered a rejection of sexuality more aggressive and complete than that of any previous religion.
But though Europe was entirely Christian in name by the end of the first millennium CE, a pagan view of sexuality was still the norm among most of the population (especially the lower classes) until the Protestant Reformation, when the Church’s light-handed supervision of politics and broad tolerance of what it considered minor vices were replaced in many areas by near-theocratic governments and total suppression of vice. Laws derived from religious teachings became more and more common, ebbing and flowing in waves until the “social purity” crusade of the late 19th century succeeded in establishing anti-sex laws based in a rigid, Protestant interpretation of Christian morality over virtually the entire Western world. And though these laws are still the norm in the United States, they are beginning to erode here and have already largely decayed in most other Western countries. Those of us who believe in self-determination, individual liberty and other such rational principles feel this is a good thing, but those who are disturbed by moral complexities and afraid of self-reliance yearn for a time when puritanical notions of Christian morality were enforced at gunpoint. So they join religious groups whose avowed doctrine is the eradication of “sin” and the promotion of laws against prostitution, porn, homosexuality and other behaviors they perceive as “immoral”.
But lest one believe that these people are thoroughgoing hypocrites, consider this August 21st article from CNN about various Christian anti-porn “therapy” programs (the link seems very temperamental, so I’ve saved it in PDF form just in case you can’t get it to work). Most of those interviewed are men who have bought into the twisted delusion that masturbation or even looking at pictures of women to whom they aren’t married is a form of infidelity, largely based on a literal reading of Matthew 5:28 (“whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”) and an 18th-century interpretation of the story of Onan. This is really nothing new; the idea that some kind of “therapy” can prevent masturbation and “lascivious thoughts” dates to the end of the 19th century. What is new, though by no means surprising, is the fusion of Christian dogma with feminist rhetoric and “sex addiction” pop psychology; “addiction” is portrayed as an outside force which tempts the “pure” mind to fall into “sin” and thus causes it to depart from “God’s plan”, just as devils were once imagined to do. Some of the programs are simply ordinary therapy with a Christian component; others are a more equal fusion, and still others rely largely or entirely on the imagined power of prayer to exorcise unholy lust. Web-based services hawk porn-detection spyware that sends copies to the user’s spouse or a friend in order to shame him into refraining. And as you can probably guess, practitioners of each method strongly criticize all the other ones.
Nor is it only men who join these programs; because women are generally less at ease with normal sexuality than men are, the majority of anti-sex crusaders are and always have been women. In the past female sexuality was not a subject “proper” women would discuss in reference to themselves, so the fingers of accusation were (and still are, in the case of neofeminists) pointed outward at other women. But now that female sexuality has been removed from the dark cupboard in which it was kept for centuries, women who are uncomfortable with their own sexuality are now free to hop on the self-loathing bandwagon and pronounce themselves “sex addicts” and “porn addicts” just like men. The CNN story rightfully treats Crystal Renaud’s “Dirty Girls Ministries” as part of the larger Christian anti-porn, anti-masturbation movement, but an article in the September Utne Reader rather oddly chooses to portray it as an isolated phenomenon. Considering the magazine’s target audience this was probably done in order to sell the “feminist” angle, but I wonder if the fact that some feminists really do believe male masturbation to be adultery might not have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, the writer, like a Christian anti-sex “therapist”, is only presenting part of the picture.
One Year Ago Today
“Whore Madonnas” offers an anecdotal refutation of the Madonna-whore duality by relating the stories of three women who only became whores because they were Madonnas first.