Article Title:Onan the Barbarian!
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:13th September 2004 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:414
Text:The Christian Right is fond of using a device entitled the 'slippery slope' in debate. For example, abortion access "leads" to infanticide, decriminalisation of homosexuality "leads" to increased tolerance of paedophilia and same-sex relationship equality "leads" to polyamory. However, two can play at that game, and have fun whilst engaged in playing it. As can be noted from the Conference of Catholic Bishops and Maxim Institute references posted on this website, the Christian Right is a believer in "natural law" theory. "Natural law" means that "nature" is based on mere surface observation and resemblance, and must not consult depth-focused visual technologies like microscopes or fibre optic cables. (It should be noted that I am not referring to more progressive interpretations of "natural law" which hold that all humans have some degree of 'intrinsic natural rights' to life, individual freedom and security, which provided guidance to the American Revolution of the eighteenth century, as well as US antislavery politics of the nineteenth century). What are the practical implications of the Christian Right version of "natural law theory" if it is carried to extremes, however? Remember, in this worldview, sex must lead to eventual children. Take masturbation, whether heterosexual, lesbian or gay. While you might think that what one does with Rosy or Roger Palm and their five siblings in the privacy of one's own room is one's own affair, conservative Catholics and allied fundamentalist Protestants beg to differ. (However, the Maxim Institute does believe that people with physical disabilities do have the right to sexual self-pleasure rather than visiting sex workers, according to their presentation against prostitution law reform before the Justice and Law Reform Select Committee. Or has it changed its mind, given its recent remarks about homosexuality and "natural law?") Conservative Catholics cite the papal encylical Persona Humana (1965), in which Pope Paul VI viewed masturbation as "a grave moral disorder," and "intrinsically seriously disordered." According to the conservative Catholic Living Tradition online journal, masturbation is the "Sin of Onan," which is a reference to a biblical Hebrew who God struck down dead for the heinous crime of spermicide. But conservative Catholics aren't the only ones who try to guilt-trip their congregations about this- the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance cite several online fundamentalist websites that accuse masturbation of being "addictive," "unclean,""sinful" and "impure and unclean." Stop it, stop it! As for conservative Catholic positions on gay masturbation, it goes without saying that we should feel guilty about it anyway, because it is allegedly "disordered" in itself and can lead to untoward fantasies about hot blokes in tight speedos or rugby shorts. Or women in nurses uniforms and military outfits, according to some Sapphic friends of mine. According to the Catholic ex-gay group Courage, you should feel guilty about "abusing" your body, as it may lead to other "intrinsically disordered" outcomes like eventual gay sex. While even conservative Catholics and their fundamentalist Protestant allies realise that they can't criminalise autoeroticism, the same cannot be said of heterosexual contraception. Alarmingly, I found an article about the role of "natural law" in litigation about heterosexual contraception in the United States. According to Princeton University's Robert George, "natural law" should be enforced through the state, regardless of other confessional or secular views about the ethics and morality of birth control. Unbelievably, George argues that the United States Supreme Court should never have relaxed restrictive laws against liberalised distribution of contraceptives in the sixties! Nor is he alone in this eccentric viewpoint, as his fellow conservative Catholic scholar John Finnis agrees on this. And while we're at all this, fundamentalists are getting in on the act as well. Or should that be, trying to prevent the rest of us 'getting it on' insofar as "sinful" and "unnatural" behaviour goes. One fundamentalist author recently admitted that gay people aren't solely to blame for the alleged 'decline' of heterosexual marriage- you remember, the one that is not backed up by current demographic stats, particularly not in Scandinavia? According to fundamentalist author, David Gushee, other culprits are (deep breath) sex, contraception, abortion, illegitimacy, cohabitation, reproductive technologies, heterosexual divorce and homosexuality. Well, at least it's multicausal this time. However, does Gushee intend to do something about the aforementioned 'threats to marriage,' which would involve wide-reaching legislative intrusions into the lives of straight women, couples, medical professionals and the rest of us? If so, what was that about a slippery slope, again? While this may seem far-fetched, remember that SPUC and Right to Life New Zealand support 'parental consent' for competent teenagers in the context of contraceptive and abortion access, although they uphold the right to continue pregnancy if parents coerce adolescents to have abortions. These anti-abortion/anti-contraception fanatics say nothing about incest or rape, which may lead to pregnancy, and the latter group does not believe in abortion except in the context of highly restrictive physical health criteria for women with unwanted pregnancies. Moreover, these anti-abortionists do not believe in contraception either if it is "abortifacient" when it intervenes with disruption of small fertilised eggs. Therefore, if the Christian Right has its way and succeeds in obstruction of lesbian and gay relationship equality, heterosexuals won't be safe from their incessant moralising or tangible harm to women, their partners and children when it comes to basic reproductive rights like fertility control in the context of contraception. What was that about slippery slopes again? Recommended Reading: Courage: "Pastoral Problems of Homosexual Masturbation:" Robert George: "Natural Law, the Constitution and Judicial Review:" David Gushee: "A Crumbling Institution" Christianity Today (24.08.04): Rev.Brian Harrison (STD*): "The Sin of Onan Revisited:" Living Tradition (November 1996): Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance: "Religious Perspectives on Masturbation:" Janet Smith: "Natural Law and Sexual Ethics:" John Finnis: Moral Absolutes: Tradition, Revelation and Truth: Washington DC: Catholic University of America: 1991. John Finnis: Aquinas: Moral, Political and Legal Theory: Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1998. David Gushee: Getting Marriage Right: Realistic Counsel for Saving and Strengthening Relationships: Baker Books: Grand Rapids: 2004. Thomas Lacquer: Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation: Zone Books: Boston: 2003: [A much-needed corrective to the conservative Catholic and fundamentalist nonsense above.] Craig Young - 13th September 2004    
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