Monday, May 28, 2012

Where Are Our Priorities?

Subtitle: Yet Another Sex Post

This is heavily inspired by this video, which I am assigning as required viewing:

I have been on a "police procedural" TV kick.  Despite the violence (both actual and suggested), these shows somehow increase my faith in humanity: There are people out there who devote their lives to catching killers and saving lives.  It is a nice reminder to not take the police, the FBI, etc. for granted.

That being said,  the amount of violence does disturb me on some level—and sometimes how little it disturbs me actually disturbs me more.  People killing and torturing each other is normal fare for TV, but language and sex are censored, at least far more than violence is.  (I admit that the violence that is on day-time and prime time TV could be worse—after all there are subscription-only channels that have more violent content).  But out of those three—swearing, sex, and violence—which one seems to be the worst for society? 

Certain swear words (like racial slurs) can represent hate, true; but those aren't the kind of words that I'm talking about getting censored.  When does sex hurt anyone?  The case I can think of is rape—but that crosses over into violence. 

The out-of-whack priorities particularly struck me yesterday when watching some episodes of Criminal Minds that had been recorded in the afternoon.  All of the swears had been edited out (we're talking words like 'ass').  But they could still go into detail about murder. 

I see this even inside of the church.  Sources like For the Strength of Youth do caution against viewing anything that is vulgar, pornographic, or violent.  But in other cases, I see the threat of violence taken less seriously.  Regarding standards that members of the church have, I hear things like not drinking coffee, not spending money on Sundays, not swearing, and not having pre-marital sex.  But I don't think I've ever heard "not getting into fights" or even "not being hateful."  How many times was I lectured to in youth about not having sex?  More times than I can remember.  But I don't remember hearing about not physically hurting someone—I'm guessing it was mentioned, but it wasn't memorable enough for me to recall; on the other hand, the principle of not having sex was severely stressed and mentioned often.  Pornography is a frequently-mentioned issue too.  It would be one thing if it was stressed that pornography that was violent or that subjugated women was (especially) dangerous, but that isn't the case.  It's pornography in general that is bad because of the sexual component alone.

This just doesn't make sense, especially relating to the belief that, even if it is next to, extra-marital sex isn't as bad on the sin scale as murder.  Judging by the movies that are popular with LDS YSA, I can see that movies with a certain amount of violence are tolerated, but a movie that showed a bare bottom or had a sex scene would be totally off limits.  Why is sex more taboo than murder, especially when murder is considered worse?

You could say that youth and young adults are more likely to engage in sexual activity than murder, which is probably true.  But let's extend violence to hate, which causes it.  Personally, I'd much rather have a teenager fornicating than calling a gay classmate a f--.  A large component of the chastity talks were preventing sin by controlling the factors (like thoughts) that lead up to them.  But factors that lead to violence—like intolerance, hate, judgment, and self-righteousness—are not stressed very much in my experience.  BYU wards usually have a chastity talk at the beginning of the semester, but where is the anti-intolerance talk?  

I think it's a huge reflection of our society—violence is just far more acceptable than sex for some reason.  I can offer guesses for why that is, like the fact that the U.S. has a huge Puritan influence and the Puritans were tight-lipped about sex but saw no problem putting people in the stocks to be ridiculed.  I don't know the exact reason why our society has its priorities so out of whack.  What I do know is that this needs to change.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Love Vs. Lust

Subtitle: Kimball's Pet Peeves

After reading a quote that apparently came from a 1965 speech delivered at BYU by Spencer W. Kimball, I decided to listen to the address on the BYU Speeches site to find out if that quote was really in it (it wasn't...but I admit that it could have been edited out [it was about homosexuality]).  I did hear some other interesting teachings though.

The main point of the talk was on the difference between love and lust.  As you may know from previous posts, one of the most problematic things about the Law of Chastity to me is how it sets up a dichotomy between sex and anything good, holy, wholesome, etc., which just can't be beneficial in the long run.  Kimball says, "The beautiful holy word of love they have defiled until it is degenerated and has become a bedfellow with lust, its antithesis."  So, lust is the antithesis of love? (By the way, this talk is also the source of a lust vs. love quote I heard all the time in Young Women's: "At the hour of indulgence, pure love is pushed out one door while lust sneaks in the other.")

But...what about lust within marriage?  Can't someone lust after his or her spouse?  Is that OK?  I can see where lust without any love could be condemnable, but what about lust with love?  He sets this up as being impossible.  If he means that lust is purely sexual self-interest (only the desire for gratification, unmotivated by affection for the other person), then I guess that makes sense.  But without more clearly defining it, it seems as though lust just means sexual desire.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines lust as "usually intense or unbridled sexual desire" or "an intense longing," neither of which seem condemnable as long as they're used within marriage.  He treats any sex outside of marriage as being impossible to represent love, but I just can't agree.  Especially when you apply the principle that people ignorant of commandments they break are not condemned.  It's such an unfair blanket statement to say that if you're not married, your sex can't possibly be an expression of love.

Another of Kimball's pet peeves—so to speak ;)— is petting.  He calls the practice a "terrible vicious habit of youth" and a "deep sin."  For the millionth time I ask, What about if it's within marriage?  Isn't it OK then?  You can't just brand petting itself evil and vicious and not expect people to get complexes that will affect them even after they get married.

Another problematic principle in this talk is the idea that chastity is the most valuable thing one can possess, yet it can be taken by force.  Kimball quotes the scripture from the Book of Mormon (Moroni 9:9-10):

"For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—and after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner...."
 How is that just?  How can a part of a person that is "most dear and precious above all things" be taken without approval?  I think the mistake is that chastity is being equated to virginity.  And again, what about within marriage?  Doesn't each spouse take the other one's chastity?  But within marriage, it (i.e. not being chaste) is beautiful and holy.  These definitions just don't match up.  Yes, the LoC includes being faithful to a spouse after marriage, which is how someone can break the law while still being married; however, it does not take into account that even within marriage, you're still apparently losing that "most dear and precious" part of you. 

It is also unjust that such an integral part of you, even if taken by force, can never be regained:

"The eighth of the Ten Commandments says thou shall not steal yet the immoral act is robbery in its worst expressions.  It’s taking with or without permission the most priceless, the most unrecoverable, the most unreturnable possession of an individual —chastity and virtue.  In one dark unglorious hour lives can be taken or shattered.  But in a long lifetime total restoration is impossible.  Health lost may possibly be regained.  Wealth lost may be accumulated again, freedom lost might be fought for and regained, but virtue stolen is gone.  Is not this one of the prime reasons why this forbidden thing is so heinous like murder for neither can everbe wholly compensated nor wholly returned or undone.  Thou shall not kill came from Mount Sinai and in the same breath, Thou shall not commit adultery—or fornication, we could add for they are the same.  Same act.  One can take a life easily but return it—never."
Live can be taken or shattered?  OK, let's totally ignore and neglect the Atonement.  That sounds good.  It's just like the object lesson that girls used to get: A hammer struck a nail into a piece of wood, but even when the nail was pulled out, the hole still remained.  (Disgusting.)  Also, I suggest that fornication and adultery are not the same thing.  Again, I turn to the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Fornication is "consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other" while adultery is "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband."  There is a difference!  He seems to try to make them the same thing as a way of increasing the apparent rascality of premarital sex—premarital sex is apparently forbidden by the Ten Commandments, the 10 Big No-Nos.  But it's not.  By calling fornication and adultery the same act, you're basically decreasing the severity of adultery.  Adultery involves violating sacred marriage vows, which seems worse than having premarital sex.

One distinction Kimball makes between love and lust is this: "Proper sex functions bring posterity.  Illicit relations are always intended to avoid posterity."  So...what about "proper sex function" that also is intended to avoid posterity?  What about birth control?  A married couple won't even necessarily conceive every time they have sex.  Again, a false dichotomy is presented: Sex that produces children is good, sex that is not supposed to produce children is bad.  

There is so much more about this talk that I find wrong and damaging, but I will cease my criticism for now.