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Against Heterosexuality

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  • Against Heterosexuality

    Source:
    Alasdair MacIntyre once quipped that “facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth-century invention.” Something similar can be said about sexual orientation: Heterosexuals, like typewriters and urinals (also, obviously, for gentlemen), were an invention of the 1860s. Contrary to our cultural preconceptions and the lies of what has come to be called “orientation essentialism,” “straight” and “gay” are not ageless absolutes. Sexual orientation is a conceptual scheme with a history, and a dark one at that. It is a history that began far more recently than most people know, and it is one that will likely end much sooner than most people think.

    Over the course of several centuries, the West had progressively abandoned Christianity’s marital architecture for human sexuality. Then, about one hundred and fifty years ago, it began to replace that longstanding teleological tradition with a brand new creation: the absolutist but absurd taxonomy of sexual orientations. Heterosexuality was made to serve as this fanciful framework’s regulating ideal, preserving the social prohibitions against sodomy and other sexual debaucheries without requiring recourse to the procreative nature of human sexuality.

    On this novel account, same-sex sex acts were wrong not because they spurn the rational-animal purpose of sex—namely the family—but rather because the desire for these actions allegedly arises from a distasteful psychological disorder. As queer theorist Hanne Blank recounts, “This new concept [of heterosexuality], gussied up in a mangled mix of impressive-sounding dead languages, gave old orthodoxies a new and vibrant lease on life by suggesting, in authoritative tones, that science had effectively pronounced them natural, inevitable, and innate.”
    Of course, given our immersion in a culture for which these categories seem as connatural as the English language, uprooting them from our vocabulary and worldview will not be anything like a simple task. So why bother? As long as we do not succumb to sinful acts, why does it matter if people—even we Christians—continue to identify as homosexuals or heterosexuals?

    First of all, within orientation essentialism, the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires (albeit with perhaps a few more options on offer for the more politically correct categorizers). Claiming to be not simply an accidental nineteenth-century invention but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.

    A second reason to doubt whether this schema is one that we Christians should readily use is that its introduction into our sexual discourse has not noticeably increased the virtues—intellectual or moral—of those who employ its concepts. On the contrary, it has bred both intellectual obscurity and moral disarray.

    As to the former, orientation essentialism has made ethical philosophy in this realm all but impossible: It has displaced the old marital-procreative principles of chastity without offering any alternative that is not entirely arbitrary. The older teleological view measured morality against man’s rational-animal nature; in the sexual realm, this meant evaluating sex acts by reference to the common good of marriage, which integrated spousal union and the bearing and rearing of children. The newer heteronormative system, on the other hand, cannot account for the wickedness of same-sex sodomy by reference to anything but a conditioned and unprincipled gag reflex, and one which, left unjustified, has weakened considerably over time.

    As to the latter result, moral disarray, the orientation takeover has counterproductively shifted our everyday attention from objective purposes to subjective passions. Young people, for instance, now regularly find themselves agonizing over their sexual identity, navel-gazing in an attempt to discern their place in this allegedly natural Venn diagram of orientations. Such obsessions generate far more heat than light, and focus already sexually excited adolescents on discerning extraneous dimensions of their own sexual makeup. This self-searching becomes even more needlessly distressing for those who discern in themselves a “homosexual orientation,” as they adopt an identity distinguished essentially by a set of sexual desires that cannot morally be fulfilled.

    There is a third reason this categorization should be disposed of, this one theological: It is at odds with the freedom for which Christ set us free. My future prior in religious life, Fr. Hugh Barbour of the Norbertine Fathers, has expanded on this idea in an essay in Chronicles Magazine , entitled “Do Homosexuals Exist? Or, Where Do We Go from Here?” As Fr. Prior argues, “Traditional moral theology evaluated acts, and did not generalize so unsatisfyingly about the tendencies that lead to these acts. That was left to the casuistry of occasions of sin, and to spiritual direction. If the sin is theft, then is the standard of evaluation kleptomania? If drunkenness, alcoholism? If sloth, clinical depression?” Even orthodox Christians, he writes, have given in to the custom of treating sexual inclinations as identities. Pastorally, we are meant to preach the freedom whereby Christ has made us free. In treating the sin of sodomy as a prima facie proof of an identity, are we not, in the guise of compassion and sensitivity, helping bind the sinner to his sinful inclination, and so laying on him a burden that is too great to bear without perhaps moving a finger to lift it?
    Discuss.

  • #2
    Condense. What do you want to discuss.
    Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

    Comment


    • #3
      Yeah.
      "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

      Comment


      • #4
        This article barely touches upon Freud, but never even mentions Carl Jung, whose anima/animus sexual continuum is really the opposing view of sexual essentialism. I do not know much about homosexuality, bisexuality, etc, but Jung's model was heralded in the pop psychology of the 1980s as the more sophisticated, natural, and comprehensive view of these questions. Essentially, homophobia and anti-heterosexuality were the two pathological extremes, with some vague bisexuality being the more healthy middle ground. Nearly everyone is said to have a sexual preference, but not a pathological obsession or extreme preference that was blind to recognizing what is attractive among people of the same or opposite sex.
        Last edited by robrecht; 10-20-2014, 09:37 PM.
        βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
        ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

        אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
          Condense. What do you want to discuss.
          Should we reject orientation essentialism and the terms ("homosexual", "heterosexual") that connote it?

          Comment


          • #6
            To a very limited degree the concept is accurate. It is a social decision, but based upon something real. It may be true that sexual orientation is not an absolute in every case. How does that change the fact that the characteristics that go with those terms are mostly concrete. So I say no, there is no intelligent reason to abandon the terms. Because it may get fuzzy at the fringes does not mean the majority of cases are not quite accurately described by those terms.

            ETA: The "theological" reason presented is not consistent with mainstream thought - at least as I understand it. In
            Christ we are not freed to do whatever we want. We are freed from enslavement to sin. The behaviors we classify as homosexual are pretty clearly a part of what we are to be free from, not free to engage in.
            Last edited by Jedidiah; 10-21-2014, 04:26 PM.
            Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by robrecht View Post
              Essentially, homophobia and anti-heterosexuality were the two pathological extremes, with some vague bisexuality being the more healthy middle ground. Nearly everyone is said to have a sexual preference, but not a pathological obsession or extreme preference that was blind to recognizing what is attractive among people of the same or opposite sex.
              I haven't read Jung, but I don't think one cannot be both homophobic and attracted to a person of the same sex.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
                To a very limited degree the concept is accurate. It is a social decision, but based upon something real. It may be true that sexual orientation is not an absolute in every case. How does that change the fact that the characteristics that go with those terms are mostly concrete.
                Could you elaborate?

                So I say no, there is no intelligent reason to abandon the terms. Because it may get fuzzy at the fringes does not mean the majority of cases are not quite accurately described by those terms.
                Is that so? The conceptualisation is not only rather recent, it is usually connoted with a dichotomy between "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" that cannot contain many cases both past and present.

                The "theological" reason presented is not consistent with mainstream thought - at least as I understand it. In
                Christ we are not freed to do whatever we want. We are freed from enslavement to sin. The behaviors we classify as homosexual are pretty clearly a part of what we are to be free from, not free to engage in.
                I'm not sure how you read from the article the idea that 'we are freed to do whatever we want'.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                  I haven't read Jung, but I don't think one cannot be both homophobic and attracted to a person of the same sex.
                  Huh? That's not what Jung or I was saying, but you may have to make thoughtful distinctions when applying his theory to the different ends of the spectrum. That said, I do think it is possible for some homosexuals to also suffer from self-loathing, but, of course, that was not the point that Jung was making.
                  βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                  ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                  אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by robrecht View Post
                    Huh? That's not what Jung or I was saying, but you may have to make thoughtful distinctions when applying his theory to the different ends of the spectrum. That said, I do think it is possible for some homosexuals to also suffer from self-loathing, but, of course, that was not the point that Jung was making.
                    I'm not sure how to read "homophobia and anti-heterosexuality were the two pathological extremes, with some vague bisexuality being the more healthy middle ground" other than homophobia and anti-heterosexuality being the two extremes of human sexuality.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                      I'm not sure how to read "homophobia and anti-heterosexuality were the two pathological extremes, with some vague bisexuality being the more healthy middle ground" other than homophobia and anti-heterosexuality being the two extremes of human sexuality.
                      That is correct (according to this Jungian theory). But, keep in mind that those at one of the spectrum are not the same peple at the other end of the spectrum. Thus, the point is not that 'one can be both homophobic and attracted to a person of the same sex'. Those at one extreme, the homophobes, would be blind to what is attractive among people of one's own sex. At the other end of the spectrum, the extreme homosexuals, would be blind to what is attractive to among people of the opposite sex.
                      βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                      ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                      אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                        Could you elaborate?
                        This conceptualization idea is an artificial construct. Even before the concept of a dichotomy same sex behavior was condemned in both the OT and NT. We are discussing concrete behavior and to play at this conceptualization is only slightly accurate. The behaviors are accurately defined for the most part.


                        Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                        Is that so? The conceptualisation is not only rather recent, it is usually connoted with a dichotomy between "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" that cannot contain many cases both past and present.
                        We are talking about terms here. My point is that the terms are only a slightly different way of describing something that is not in any way new.


                        I'm not sure how you read from the article the idea that 'we are freed to do whatever we want'.
                        Show me any other rational way to interpret "It is at odds with the freedom for which Christ set us free."
                        Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
                          This conceptualization idea is an artificial construct. Even before the concept of a dichotomy same sex behavior was condemned in both the OT and NT. We are discussing concrete behavior and to play at this conceptualization is only slightly accurate. The behaviors are accurately defined for the most part.
                          Not at all. Behavior describes what someone does; orientation essentialism describes what someone: something innate and unchangeable. In addition, the dichotomy hardly takes into account those who had sexual partners of both sexes.

                          My point is that the terms are only a slightly different way of describing something that is not in any way new.
                          And my point is that the terms are hardly a good representation of reality; instead they are inaccurate and misleading.

                          Show me any other rational way to interpret "It is at odds with the freedom for which Christ set us free."
                          It is at odds with the freedom for which Christ set us free "to treat the sin of sodomy as a prima facie proof of an identity", "helping bind the sinner to his sinful inclination".

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                            Not at all. Behavior describes what someone does; orientation essentialism describes what someone: something innate and unchangeable. In addition, the dichotomy hardly takes into account those who had sexual partners of both sexes.


                            And my point is that the terms are hardly a good representation of reality; instead they are inaccurate and misleading.


                            It is at odds with the freedom for which Christ set us free "to treat the sin of sodomy as a prima facie proof of an identity", "helping bind the sinner to his sinful inclination".
                            Sorry, I simply see all this as nonsense. Messing with the words does not change the facts.
                            Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jedidiah View Post
                              Sorry, I simply see all this as nonsense. Messing with the words does not change the facts.
                              Since you're dismissing everything, I suppose there's no point to this conversation with you.

                              Comment

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