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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Irony and contradictions abound in the sex culture wars

In case you missed it, a lot of folks are worked up about gay marriage, even people who are neither gay nor married, nor wish to be. So important is this issue that it is to be put to the people (maybe) in a referendum. Let’s put that in context. We, as partners in the coalition of the willing (if that doesn’t describe marriage I don’t know what does) before God, man and John Howard participated in the invasion of Iraq. This invasion turned a relatively stable and prosperous country into a failed State leading to the rise of ISIS, the creation of an Islamic (sic) Caliphate, endless atrocities, and a global refugee crisis. Neither the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia nor the people of Australia got a say. It was a captain’s call.
Not so gay marriage, and perhaps that’s fair. After all a ‘yes’ vote would for the first time in history amount to a vote that children do not have a right to a father (in a lesbian relationship) or a mother (in a male gay relationship). A ‘yes’ vote would say that these roles are not different, significant or necessary to parenting; or else that the right of adults to have children is more important than the right of children to have a father or a mother. Perhaps mother’s day and father’s day will become person day. Sweden is already making moves in the direction of greater androgyny.[1]
Whatever you think of this one thing is certain, heterosexual marriages will not evaporate (well mine won’t anyway) even of some think they will.[2] My generation whose parents all got divorced (well it seems that way) have been pretty shy of marriage but it seems the referendum on gay marriage in Ireland has sparked a renewed interest in the whole idea. Celebrants in States in the US where same sex marriage has been legalized are recording an upsurge in heterosexual marriages across the land. Rates of heterosexual marriage have actually increased, [3] although among our GLBT brethren though the uptake has been modest;[4] partly due to existing civil unions but also because many gay couples find monogamy too cruel a rule.  Meanwhile some male homosexual partners agree to open relationships as a way around this unfortunate demand of marriage.[5] Being men they can do that. Pity us poor heterosexuals who have to give money to Ashley Madison and creep around furtively at night in order to be regularly unfaithful to our…um…wives.
Which kind of begs the question: “At what point does marriage cease to be marriage?” Surely monogamy is kind of the basis of the whole commitment thing – unless you are into polygamy which as the anti Bible bashers point out was tolerated in Bible times. At this point the Bible bashers point out the God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve et al which to me is proof that Genesis is not a story that a man made up. If it was, God would have made Adam, Eve, Evelyn, Evita, Elizabeth, and this good looking young bloke called Steve who has a certain quality…
So perhaps we need different categories of “marriage” to cater for all. Reflecting on those who I know and have known the following spring to mind: the ‘I have to have you in the public rest room now’ marriage; the ‘We have kids and that’s wonderful so approach me for sex sometime after 2025’ marriage; the ‘no one else will put up with us so we had better stick together’ marriage; the ‘I’m not in love anymore but I’m too old to be bothered breaking up with you’ marriage; and the ‘I still love you dear but I’ll settle for a cup of tea’ marriage. Then, heartbreakingly there are those who marry with the hope of children and can’t have them but are no less married.
Then there are those like Kentucky marriage clerk Kim Davis who was recently hailed and jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. According to the ABC, gay activists cheered when she was led away to jail while supporting protestors carried placards demanding religious freedom.[6] So here we have a Christian being jailed for not being tolerant and loving enough while the love and tolerance brigade cheer outside the court house and Christians proclaim that God is loving but perhaps not in the way that their GLBT brethren would like. Love it seems, does insist on its own way.
Meanwhile those in organised religion who actually listen and care struggle to reconcile moral boundaries with the vagaries of human need and dysfunction. They seem the only ones willing to talk about the stuff that no one wants to talk about because it’s icky and um doesn’t sit well with the onward march of sexual freedom. Like for example STD’s. In his article Why I will keep fighting the culture war on sexuality[7] conservative psychologist and educator Dr Thomas Lickona argues that sexual restraint is a necessary ingredient of love and a sign of personal maturity. He points out that we create the world children grow up in and blames a variety of factors for heterosexual teen pregnancies and STD’s. According to his review of a raft of studies[8] one of 13 teenage girls in the USA becomes pregnant each year, one in four has a sexually transmitted disease and across the population there are 19 million new infections each year. Some researchers have predicted that a majority of single sexually active female adolescents and adults in the USA will get at least one STD during their life time. For many the consequences are infertility.
The figures for Australia are different[9] but where the US goes Australia follows and infection rates in general are climbing.[10]
Perhaps it’s not surprising in a sex saturated culture. My local shopping centre features a nearly three metre poster of a young model posing in very little. It is at least an image of youth and beauty but it does communicate a message that goes beyond advertising clothing. The picture of the woman in the car magazine at the local library was not so beautiful. When I took my eight year old son he went to the magazine rack and came eye to eye with a picture of a woman presumably modeling prostitution draped over a car bonnet legs apart and mammaries spilling out while pouting seductively at the viewer through heavy makeup. Parents complain that at schools senior kids surf porn on their phones and it often filters down to the younger ones. Chances are someone else’s freedom will rob my children of their innocence. So pervasive has this problem become that some conservatives and progressives have found common concern with the sexualisation of children. Come to think of it, I don’t recall a referendum on becoming a sex saturated culture. Perhaps it time we all made a captain’s call.
Ultimately people will do as they please with their bodies. It cannot be otherwise. Nor should it be. Why then do sexual issues arouse so much passion? Perhaps it is because sex cuts us to our core; because it is deeply emotional; because it is sacred ground; because our sexual mores confront us with existential questions. What is right and wrong, and ultimately, who are we, and who will our children become?  

[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/youre-a-hen-im-a-hen-gender-neutral-pronoun-gains-ground-in-sweden/article4107472/  See further: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2315193/Swedish-school-brings-gender-neutral-changing-rooms-avoid-teenagers-labelled-male-female.html
[10] http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Jun+2012 Note that statistical increases can also be due to greater awareness and hence greater reporting.

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