Archive for June 2007

Sex and the Social Order

June 21, 2007


The obsession of Americans with sexual behavior diminishes both the common welfare and sense of justice of both Islamic and American people. It leads both groups to exclude from society large numbers of people who would otherwise be of service to the larger society, people who have, in any event, a right to liberty and happiness equal to that of any other group.

Both Islamic and American societies rigidly exclude homosexuals from the community of the accepted. This is lessening in the United States on the popular level, but we still have the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy that in effect means that many homosexuals fail to serve in the military or are forced out before the end of their terms. One cost of this policy has recently been highlighted by a soldier’s report that he and many others who have trained as Arabic translators, soldiers willing to serve in Iraq in this badly needed role, have been forced to leave the military because of their sexual orientation.

Comparing our sexual obsession with the much freer world of other Western countries, we should take note of the recent election in France in which a woman came close to being elected President in spite of the fact that she was an unmarried mother of four who continued to live with the father (the head of her political party). The recently elected President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, is an unmarried mother, who after divorcing her first husband has had several affairs, at least one of which has produced one of her children. The French and Chileans rightly regard such behavior as private behavior that should not impact the public roles of these women.

Pedophilia is another area where Americans obsess in ways that does potential damage to both the supposed culprits and our sense of law and fair play. One cannot help but notice that the revulsion that lies below the surface in the minds of many Americans inhibits a more rational and fair approach to the problem. Certainly the tendency of conviction for such crimes to be open-ended, either openly so, or through exclusion of residence within x feet of where children might be, makes a mockery of the legal system.

This harshness reminds me of the whole area of law and practice regarding the more general crime of rape. I have often thought that rape should be viewed like any other assault, with penalties assigned carefully so that the perpetrator never comes to the conclusion that he might as well kill the victim. One suspects that many more molested and abducted children would be alive today if the vengeance of society were more tempered.

These considerations should make us all the more determined to control our public emotions rather than fall to the level of societies that prescribe the stoning to death of adulterers or homosexuals or allow relatives to kill one another to defend the honor of the family from being blackened by the sexual exploits of their errant women

Sexual behavior is, after all, natural behavior. Laws, the enforcement of laws, or the expression of social disapprobation of certain forms of this behavior should be as relaxed as is consistent with the rights of those directly affected. Definition of a “healthy society” and a “healthy relationship” in this area should be carefully and thoughtfully developed. The punishment model should be replaced by the treatment model wherever possible. The terms “sin” or “crime” should be replaced by “mistake” or “mental aberration” in most cases. There will be cases where this is not appropriate, but we should come to such conclusions only when we are free of the raw emotions that I see too often expressed in the discussion of such issues.

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