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May 25, 2005



I have run into this in myself so many times, just from the opposite direction. I have been making decisions based on "right and wrong" for years now. But if I want to keep doing so, I somehow become judgmental of others in the process. That feels like collateral damage of a point of view I will not, cannot, shake. If I believe, as I do, in real absolute Truth, there must likewise be real, acutal falsehood. and if i order my life around Truth, I silently or otherwise judge that falsehood.


Wow - I really appreciate this post. It is very true that tolerance focuses greatly on sexuality, and not on matters like racism or sexism. I don't think that by holding to a notion of chastity, Winner (or you) is imposing her _personal_ way, what 'works for her' on others. She is rearticulating what most Christians in most places have believed for two thousand years. Orthodoxy may be incorrect, and it needs to be tested, but it is far from personal opinion. If anything, it is 'majority' opinion (across time and place). Orthodoxy raises more questions about power (who gets to speak 'truth', who has authority, and is the majority correct) than about individuals asserting their beliefs on others. Christianity is a communal faith. Each of us holds personal beliefs, but within a community of living saints, dead saints, and a living Word.

I actually came over here, Hugo, to ask whether you might have anything to say about the media surrounding the wedding of Mary Kay LeTourneau and Vili. I keep thinking that if it were a male sex criminal marrying his victim, it wouldn't seem so lovely, nor gain much media attention.


Jenell--maybe my strategy of avoiding all press coverage of said wedding is shielding me from such interpretations, but on what planet does this wedding seem "lovely"? It seems downright creepy to me. Perhaps I'm insufficiently inclined to the romantic notions attached to some mystical substance of true love conquering all else.


I watched coverage on Access Hollywood or ET or something like that, and it was soft-focused with people weeping and nice music playing. It was spun as a "love conquers all" story. I haven't heard any commentary about her rejection of her other biological children or her husband, or of what it means to continue a sexual relationship with a person who had been a child when it began. I just think that if a man had impregnated a 6th grade girl twice, and then later married her, the public view would be very different. I don't think people really believe that a boy can be abused, or at least that it isn't as serious as when a girl is abused.


I think that the right often mischaracterizes liberal "tolerance" as meaning that liberals believe that there should be no moral standards.

I am pretty darned liberal on sexual and social issues. That does not mean that I don't believe in moral absolutes. I just don't believe the moral absolutes are what the religious right says they are. I also don't believe that the moral absolutes are as easy to identify as the religious right claims, especially since I do not rely on the Bible.

I believe that people of good faith can (and should) use their reason, and yes, their personal experiences and emotions, to make sound moral decisions. In sitations where moral wrong-doing may infringe upon the rights of others, the State should step in and prevent or punish it, i.e. the State should prevent and punish murder, theft, and assault (which everyone in their right mind accepts as moral wrongs).

Most liberals would surely agree that there are all sorts of sexual wrongs that society should not tolerate, and we which should condemn and judge, such as sex by coercion, or sex with those who do not have the capacity to consent (children, animals, etc.) I also judge it as wrong to irresponsibly court or spread disease, or to risk conceiving a child for whom one is not prepared to care, and I bet most liberals would agree (although I would not advocate government interference in these matters). Pornography is a greyer area where the answers are unclear.

The point is that I do not see a double standard in liberal "tolerance," nor do I believe that liberals do not accept the concept of morality. Where we draw the lines on sexual issues is different than where conservatives do.

La Lubu

I think the analogy between "private sexual choice in the bedroom" vs. "private political choice in the voting booth" is a poor one. Our political choices can and do have a tremendous impact on the lives of the community, whereas our sex lives do not. Politics is something that takes place amongst/within a community, and sex....for most of us anyway....does not.


janell: The issue you raise is off-topic for this particular thread, though it's a good one. Perhaps Hugo can place it in a thread of its own. OTOH, I fear that few around here will be much interested in looking into that particular issue. It features the wrong flavor of sexism, and is inconvenient for the faithful of the "male privilege" persuasion.

La Lubu

"It features the wrong flavor of sexism, and is inconvenient for the faithful of the 'male privilege' persuasion."

Care to name any names, stanton? ;-)

Not to get too off topic, but I have yet to meet any feminists in real life or in the blogosphere who think of Mary Kay LeTourneau as being anything other than a child molesting rapist.


Stanton, as a faithful member of the Orthodox Feminist Church, I appreciate your efforts to understand my interests and ideas, and anticipate any inconvenience they might cause. However, I must assure you that my fellow congregants and I are fully capable of articulating our own conversational likes and dislikes. Your insights in this matter are very thoughtful, but go above and beyond the call of courtesy.


yami: I was not answering the call of courtesy, though I truly do try to understand the (extremely diverse) interests and ideas of the members of your faith. I was expressing an opinion which I expected to be unpopular, but which was based on personal experience. That opinion, stated as a "fear," is that members of your church tend to dismiss the idea that there may be major social implications to such events as the one janell brought up.

This thread certainly is pertinent to this particular turn in the discussion. How would you rate your church in terms of tolerance for those of other faiths? (Actually, I believe that you have been more tolerant than most, in your posts here.)

Note: I would be the last one to suggest that the OFC congregation falls short in the matter of expressing their likes and dislikes! :-)


Jenell--I'm sorry. I didn't know. I tend to find access hollywood nauseating on general principle, but this is obviously much, much worse.

stanton--I'm with la lubu. I'm a card-carrying feminist (sorry, "male feminist ally") and I'm literally surrounded by feminists in my social and professional circles. None of us have any sympathy at all for MKL and her creepy criminal exploits. You're right to be critical of those who present this as a nice happy love story, but you're wrong to confuse the producers of Access Hollywood with the High Priestesses of Feminist Orthodoxy. (Can you consider the possibility that just this once, feminists might be on your side?)

(sorry to contribute to thread drift)


La Lubu:

Private sexual choices have no social dimension?

Of course they do. That's why marriage is so important, because it does have a social dimension. Each one of our sexual choices affects at least one other person, and the sum-total of all those choices creates a moral climate which affects the whole of society.

Why are gays and lesbians demanding "equal access to a fundamental social institution" to quote several gay marriage activists, if marriage and sexual relationships have no social dimension? Of course they do.


Jesus answered Pilate's question, you know. In His High Priestly prayer, He said:

"Sanctify them by Your Truth. Your Word is Truth"

That's really the source of the much-maligned certainty. My moral opinions don't matter. I'm a speck of dust. God's do. And He's told us what they are.


I hate to agree with John, La Lubu, but it could be argued that in a nation of millions, who we love and how we love them (in the physical sense) has a greater impact than a single vote. When I marry and divorce, it affects my family and countless others. If I'm unfaithful, everyone around me suffers. Look at how one person's poor decision (sexually speaking) can affect everyone in their family, sometimes multi-generationally!

Sometimes, I wonder if anything we do is truly "our own business." What we eat, what we drive, how we vote, maybe even who we f*ck and who we hug -- maybe all of that matters more than we know.


djw: Actually, as far as ending discrimination is concerned, I and feminists are in full accord. I am husband to a wife, and the father of daughters, and I am a fierce advocate for all of them. (But I know that they don't need college freshmen to be herded into sensitivity training workshops to protect their delicate psyches from 'chilling effects' of non-PC behavior.) And feminists and I often/usually agree about which behaviors are honorable and which are reprehensible. We sometimes do not see eye-to-eye about what constitutes discrimination and how much the government should intervene in our lives to assure PC outcomes and to enforce the fundamental right to not be offended.

And we almost always disagree about discrimination against males. The case in question involves a slimy woman - we generally agree on that. We part ways when it comes to the implications of this. Janelle raised the proposition: "I don't think people really believe that a boy can be abused, or at least that it isn't as serious as when a girl is abused." I believe she's right. And I believe that you, yami, LaLubu, mythago, and others will disagree, possibly with a certain amount of indignation. I would be happy to be corrected on this.


Folks, I promise to post soon about the topic of the marriage. In the meantime, please help me keep the comments in this thread on-topic.


Hugo: I apologize for continuing this tangent. I will stop now.

La Lubu

John, and Hugo:

Do you know how often your neighbors have sex? Do you know which days, and what time of the day, they prefer to engage in sexual activity? Do you know their favorite sexual positions? Their favorite techniques for bringing their partners to orgasm?

And if not, can you possibly believe that the reason you don't, is because this is private information that is immaterial to your life?

Granted, Hugo, if you cheat on your wife, it would have an impact on her, and on you, and on the person you were cheating with. But if you lived next door to me, it wouldn't have any impact on me.

The conservatives' assertion that private sexual decisions impact the public at large is a smokescreen to cover up for a lot of bigotry against gays and lesbians, and an excuse to scapegoat any nonmarried, sexually active people for all the ills of the world.

And John, gays and lesbians want access to that social institution of marriage because it legally confers rights and privileges that the unmarried don't have. If there were no legal ramifications to marriage, it wouldn't be an issue. In any case, I'm a firm believer in the separation of church and state, and think that denying gays and lesbians the right of marriage is imposing religious beliefs in the public arena. Denying civil marriage to gays and lesbians is plain, old-fashioned bigotry.

And either of you are free to try and explain to me how my private decision to have sex with a consenting adult harms you or anyone else.


"The conservatives' assertion that private sexual decisions impact the public at large is a smokescreen to cover up for a lot of bigotry against gays and lesbians, and an excuse to scapegoat any nonmarried, sexually active people for all the ills of the world."

How do you know this? Seems there's plenty of bigotry to go around.

I tried in a different blog to differentiate between the erotic and generative aspects to sex. La Luba, you are quite right that I haven't the foggiest idea of the erotic practices of my neighbors' or friends' sex life and it doesn't impact me.

Nevertheless, the generative outcomes impact me and everyone on this blog greatly. Consider the social costs associated with out-of-wedlock births: increase in welfare, greater liklihood to continue cycles of poverty, markedly increased rates of incarceration for those born to single parents, 50% higher chance of divorce for children of single mothers, etc. etc. It's your business but the impact hits all of us.



Damn, I hate it when I agree with Stephen. I guess that means I have to buy him breakfast tomorrow. (And for the record, Stephen, it's La LubU not Luba.)

I think there are sound, non-bigoted reasons for wanting to deny marriage to gays and lesbians. That said, I favor gay and lesbian marriage! But I do my opponents the favor of understanding the roots of their arguments, and the primary argument against gay marriage is rooted less in homophobia and more in a fundamental vision of the role of marriage in society. I don't share that vision; La Lubu, I am on your side. But I'm convinced that the majority of those on Steve's side are well-meaning, thoughtful people who simply have a different notion of what society is and ought to be.

When my ex-wife and I divorced, I watched no fewer than five kids in my youth group cry. One girl said to me "Hugo, I wanted it to work so badly for you. But I'm crying for me too cause I want to see just one marriage work." Talk about gut-wrenching! How is it that I can call marriage/sex private after something like that?


Well, actually, the activists I heard said civil unions with all the benefits of marriage was "separate but equal" because "Marriage is a fundamental social institution".

Stephen is right, as usual. And while I hate agreeing with Hugo less than he hates agreeing with me, this time, he's right too.

La Lubu

"How do you know this?"

Well, Stephen, I read a lot. I've seen/heard all the quotable quotes from conservatives who like to present people like me as "exhibit A" for why the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Do you really need a list of names?

Yes. People like me. Single mothers. And for real information on single parenting, you can head here, courtesy of Trish Wilson. I am not on welfare, and neither are my single-mother neighbors. We're not Murphy Brown types, either. Just normal, average, working mothers....just like our married neighbors. And our kids are indistinguishable from theirs. Deal with it. Demonizing single mothers makes some people feel good, I guess, but in the meantime it sends the entirely wrong message to a lot of women....the "a man in the house at all costs!!" message. The one that causes them to keep an abuser, addict, or philanderer around, instead of kicking him to the curb where he belongs. It's not a message I buy into (anymore), and it's one I don't want my daughter to ever buy into, even if she ends up getting divorced someday. I want my daughter to know that divorce is the best solution for dealing with a philandering or abusive partner, and usually the best solution for dealing with an addicted partner. There are far, far worse things than divorce.

Considering that my daughter is as physically, emotionally, and intellectually healthy as my married neighbors' kids (I mean, on objective measurements, rather than pulling assumptions out of one's culiddu); perhaps you'd like to try again on how my sexual business impacts you?

Hugo, that's sad. Those kids care about you, and didn't want to see you hurt. But at the same time, are we investing marriage with too much power? Frankly, I think we (as a society) give marriage a weight that it doesn't warrant. We shed a lot more tears over "failed" marriages (when really, the failure existed long before either partner ever saw a lawyer) than we do over other struggles that have every bit the impact divorce does.

I just see moralizing over sexuality as the "easy" path. It's easy! Hell, even I could do it! You just find a person or subgroup with a different view or practice of sexuality, then start putting them down. Simple! And the reason it is so simple, is because the sexual practices of other consenting adults have little or no impact on your life.

It's a helluva lot less simple to moralize over issues like wealth disparity, poverty, human rights, ecology and the like, where we are all implicit structurally in the system. It's easy to blame others. Hard to look in the mirror.

Anyway, I'm right with jenell up above, with questions about Orthodoxy and power. As someone who doesn't get any power within the Church, I'm not apt to put much faith in the assertions of the men who run it, and their interpretation of what my faith ought to be. I learned far more about my faith from my grandmothers than from any priest.


Yeah, the fight for gay marriage isn't just about getting the government to recognize all unions. It's also about your grandmother coming to your wedding, and your youth group kids seeing your relationship as a triumph of true love.

I do believe that nearly everything we do has a social component, but I also winced at the analogy between voting and sex. The difference to me is that the process by which one's private acts in the voting booth are translated into public impacts is itself public. By contrast, the process by which one's private acts in the bedroom turn into social impacts is sometimes clear, as it is with adultery (which most liberals I know have no trouble condemning), but it's more often obfuscated, indirect, and intensely personal.

If I'm going to make consequentialist arguments about the immorality of a particular sex act, I need to be able to make some assumptions about how human sexuality and emotions work together. As far as I've been able to figure out, people are both exactly the same and staggeringly different in this regard. Perhaps the Bible describes limits on this aspect of human diversity, but as an atheist, I don't consider that sufficient reason to deny others' experiences of fulfilling, beneficial sexual unorthodoxy.

So sure, private sexual decisions have a social dimension, and that social dimension provides a legitimate ground for a publically enforced sexual morality. But the assumption that the relationship between private sexual decisions and their social consequences will be the same for everyone is, like, totally not spring break, and it's that assumption that underlies a lot of the Universal Chastity stuff.


La Lubu:

Let me get this right. You are vilifying the conservatives, en masse, for vilifying you. "They" demonize those they don't know and are afraid to look in the mirror. But you read a lot of things by conservatives so can ascribe to "them" base motives. Can you at least smile a bit at the irony?

"And our kids are indistinguishable from theirs. Deal with it. Demonizing single mothers makes some people feel good, I guess ,....”

I'm not entirely sure what is meant by, "Deal with it." I don't need to see you or your daughter as the cause of any evil. The question was "Is there a social aspect to sex?" The answer is "Yes, there is," and one piece of it is the cost of out-of-wedlock births and divorce. There is also a huge cost (as in billions) to treat sexually transmitted diseases. So, there is a very public aspect to sexual expression.

I am not demonizing you, La Lubu, or any single mother. I am a divorced father with two children who knows that kids from divorced homes have a much, much tougher time in life.



Interesting discussion. I'm afraid I don't have much to add but I just wanted to wish Hugo a happy belated birthday!

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