William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Slow Death Of Perversion

My, what a pretty goat.

“Used to be, my boy,” said the grandfather, “We used to call people who wanted to bugger the creatures of the forests perverts.”

“What’s a pervert, grandpa?” asked Jimmy.

“A pervert? Why, somebody who engages in unnatural sexual acts. Or wishes they could.”

“My teacher says there are no such things as unnatural sexual acts, there are only bigots who want to impose their mortality of the rest of us.”

“That’s morality, Jimmy” said the grandfather, patting his head.

—————————-

Bestiality is legal in certain Enlightened countries (you know who you are), though the custom is under attack from animal “rights” activists who worry that the four-footed objects of lust are suffering because they cannot give “consent.” Animals also don’t give “consent” to being made into sausages because they are (what used to be called) dumb beasts, but that is a diminishing view.

The continuing legality of barnyard beddings is a battle between factions on the left and it’s not clear which side will win, lust or “rights.” Lust is making great strides in the West and it can’t be counted out, but I’m betting on “rights”, only because they have the edge in going public. Still difficult to admit that you think of your pet armadillo “in that way.”

But not for everybody. Like those (mainly women) who write “Monster Porn”. Heard of this? A genre—also called “crypto-smut”—where women imagine extraordinarily explicit and anatomically challenging encounters with anything from Bigfoot, to tentacled space aliens, to leprechauns, to squishy sea creatures, to satyrs, to lusty canines, to who knows what. Business Week (who else?) did an exposé on the subject. It discovered titles like “Alien Seed”, “Taken By the Monsters 4”, “Boffing Bigfoot”, and “the newly released ‘Bigfoot Did Me … And I Liked It'” [ellipsis added: the text at the link is NSFW and may not be safe for home, either].

Scientific American (a journal of politics), always at the forefront, caught hold of this in John Horgan’s “What ‘Monster Porn’ Says about Science and Sexuality.

Horgan is anxious to tell us he’s hip: “Prudes have attacked monster porn for promoting sexual violence and bestiality.” Prude is judgmental, a word which acknowledges there are lines between normal and perverse. Horgan thus hints that monster porn is not perverse, though perhaps bestiality is. But monster porn just is literary (to stretch a word) bestiality. There are distinctions between acts and imagination, though surely both can be perverse—if perversion exists.

Here’s what I love about monster porn: It’s a wonderfully wacky reminder that human sexuality is too weird, wild and woolly to be captured by modern science, and especially by theories that reduce our behaviors to genes…

Evolutionary psychology is hard-pressed to explain homosexual lust, let alone lust for Godzilla.

So Horgan is not a “prude” on this wild and woolly matter (Tom Cruise says scientology is the same) but that science can’t explain it, either. Which is not surprising because science is necessarily mute of the subjects of ethics and morality.

Not that long ago man-on-man sexual activities were held perverse by the majority. Yet when backwoodsman Phil Robertson described the nature of these acts in far less detail than the books noted above our notables took dramatically to their fainting couches and pretended to be horrified. Most of the horror was of the idea that anybody could say they found man-on-man sexual activities perverse. There has thus been a reversal: it is now perverse to be disgusted.

An example from our cultural elites, FX’s new show Chozen. Its Facebook page (also NSFW) says it’s “an animated comedy about its title character, ‘Chozen,’ a gay white rapper fresh out of prison.” The pictures and tag lines (one especially raunchy tag-line about prison has been removed recently) prove the emphasis is on “gay.” As Variety says, think “oiled-up teddy bears“. Even Forbes delicately enthuses, “Chozen knows exactly who he is and makes no attempts to hide it. He’s an openly gay, white rapper with a taste for the kinky and possibly illegal” acts. They say the series is “hard to judge.”

Others are wondering at the loss of perversion. Like Elizabeth McCaw, who concludes that if perversion are those acts contrary to natural human male-female mating, then man-on-man sexual activities are perverse. But then so are re-marriage after divorce, pornography, and masturbation. These acts are now celebrated, with elites championing the education of masturbation as early as grade school.

McCaw’s natural law position has the benefit of being understandable and clear, even if you don’t agree with it. Further, it has a sound philosophical basis and workable rules with a long tradition of common assent. Now, if you oppose natural law, you still must draw a line or no line, but based on what? Opinion, mostly, personal disgust or delight. “I don’t feel it’s wrong” is often heard. “As long as it doesn’t harm anybody” is too, but this is always a non sequitur because the opposition (e.g. holders of natural law) claim there is harm. But never mind that here.

The future? The chipping away by the elites will continue and fewer things will be called perverse. It’s already a toss up on which side of the divide polygamy lies. Sexual activities with children, especially infants, is likely to remain a perversion for the foreseeable future, but the age which a person is considered “consenting” will shrink. Like bestiality, necrophilia will come to seem less perverse, mostly because of the “no harm” argument, but considerable social stigmas will remain. Men pretending to be women and vice versa will gain in prominence and privilege; others will be required to play along (as it were).

Sexual activities in public, particularly man-on-man acts, will continue to be “celebrated”; see for example particular festivals in San Francisco, Rose Bowl (same-sex “wedding”) parades, Thanksgiving (Kinky Boots) parades, etc.). In one Enlightened country it is already now not illegal (saying “it’s legal” doesn’t capture the proper tone) to masturbate in public. The judge allowing this employed a “no harm” variant. Look for more open flies in your neighborhood; more nudity of every kind.

As above, it will seem increasingly socially but not sexually perverse to dispute these trends. To remain chaste or virgin is already an excuse for comedy and pity; these states will soon be badges of dishonor, they are already said to be “unhealthy.” People in the spotlight will be expected to name their objects of lust. The nascent movement in Christianity which identifies same-sex lust as a “gift” from God will gain strength (lust for children, animals, the dead and so on is not yet seen as a “gift”). It’s unclear how long until you’re expected to send visitors to your home out into the street so that passersby might have a go at them.

Recommended reading: Anne Hendershott’s The Politics of Deviance.

Update Even before the writing was dry, pixelly speaking, the predictions have proved correct.

26 Comments

  1. It seems like only yesterday the Democratic lust for curly light bulbs was our main concern. The world is hastily degenerating.

  2. Awaiting moderation? Was it the L word?

  3. Too much pathos lately, Briggs. Your readers need an uplifting joyful message to drag them out of the depths of despair. How about a review of a touching old fashioned love story?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798709/

  4. Old Tom Lehrer comment:

    “He was majoring in Animal Husbandry . . .until they caught him at it one day.”

  5. I’m glad I won’t be around for the worst of this trend.

  6. So “re-marriage after divorce” is a perversion? Man, those catlicks really done you over.

  7. Fletcher Christian

    January 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    “if perversion are those acts contrary to natural human male-female mating, then man-on-man sexual activities are perverse. But then so are re-marriage after divorce, pornography, and masturbation.”

    That follows, with the exception of re-marriage after divorce IMHO. After all, if humans were naturally monogamous then there would be no such things as extra-marital affairs.

    One might also ask whether “natural human male-female mating” is supposed to refer to sexual activity that might result in pregnancy. This seems rather too restrictive to me; this implies that not only sexual intercourse using contraception, but also sexual intercourse between partners one or both of whom is known to be infertile for any reason including age, is also perverse.

    Which means that this extremely narrow interpretation means that post-menopausal women who enjoy sex are perverts. I suspect that very few people would support that position!

  8. It is thought that humans can develop delusional disorder by having too much time on their hands. It is important for you to consult a local psychiatrist who can make a thorough examination.
    http://m.wikihow.com/Recognize-Delusional-Disorders

  9. Briggs

    January 12, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Tom,

    Oh very well. Tell us then, if you’re able: what lines do you draw and why?

    It’s useless and cowardly to say “I don’t like your lines” and run away, not saying what yours are and their justification.

  10. Brigs,

    Maybe it’s not so much your lines that he doesn’t like, but the idea of lines itself that bothers him.

  11. Always fun to read the stuff you write, thanks Briggs!

  12. @Fletcher Christian
    “… If humans were naturally monogamous then there would be no such things as extra-marital affairs.”
    That statement presupposes that everyone always acts according to human nature. By that logic one could rightly say, “Homicide is perfectly natural because there’s such a phenomenon as murder.”

    “One might also ask whether ‘natural human male-female mating’ is supposed to refer to sexual activity that might result in pregnancy.”
    Knowing the nature of a thing means knowing the end toward which it’s ordered. Openness to new life is a necessary criterion for authentic human sexual activity (basic biology tells us what the organs of generation are for), but it’s not sufficient. Sex is also for the building up of love and intimacy between spouses (“love” defined as a mutual and total self-gift).
    “Perverse” simply means “misdirected”. Since authentic sexual acts are naturally directed toward generating new life and strengthening the couple’s self-giving bond, any voluntary act that diverts sexual intimacy from either of these ends is by definition perverse.
    Divorce and remarriage belies total self-gift (total = permanent). Willingly sterile sexual acts frustrate both criteria. They obviously impede the life-giving aspect of sex, but still more insidious is the often overlooked obstruction of the self-gift (if either person’s capacity to transmit life is intentionally withheld, the gift is not total).
    In answer to the common objection regarding those who are stricken with infertility due to some physical disorder or advanced age, a malady that prevents the conjugal act from taking place is self-evidently contrary to nature. That’s why it’s called a disorder. Menopause, on the other hand, is perfectly natural. It would be absurd to expect a post-menopausal woman to conceive, so the first criterion doesn’t apply. And since you can’t give what you don’t have, copulation between spouses when one or both are infertile due to natural aging can still be a full and mutual self-gift.

    The last few generations have been conditioned to see sexual morality derived from human nature as arbitrary restrictions. That view is a lie. A being is most free when acting according to its nature. Chaos isn’t freedom. Sound morals provide the structure required for the proper exercise of freedom.

  13. “Evolutionary psychology is hard-pressed to explain homosexual lust, let alone lust for Godzilla. ”

    Too often, those who invoke evolution for their explanations imagine that it is perfect – every trait must have survival value. That is an incorrect oversimplification. As my physicist friend likes to say, in jest: “imagine a spherical cow…”

  14. Fletcher Christian

    January 13, 2014 at 2:33 am

    Homicide is natural. That’s what laws are for. It’s worth mentioning, perhaps, that no society defines homicide and murder as being quite the same. The two obvious examples are homicide in self-defence and homicide of people on the other side during a war. Often, homicide in a properly arranged duel has been socially approved, also.

    It’s quite simple. It was realised long ago that murder is destructive to society, and therefore all societies have provisions against it; the definition of murder varies somewhat and often doesn’t apply at all to outsiders.

    Regarding “relations” post-divorce; well, what does one do about the all-too-common situation in which one or other partner was grossly abusive in some way and the first marriage collapsed for that reason? Should the innocent party then be expected to be celibate for life thereafter?

  15. I think we are touching on the subject of teleology here. I’d like to understand Prof Brigg’s views on that subject – any possibility of producing some future posts on Teleology, Prof?

    The genetic fallacy has a tendency to be problematic – homosexuality is a well established natural phenomenon and the ideal of monogamous marriage based on romantic love fills up only a tiny part of the spectrum of human sexual and bonding behaviour.

    Based on this, using “Natural Law” arguments to justify a point of view about them hints of bias, but then again why not … this is a blog about the consequences of Bayesian logic – assumptions are all.

    I think that Prof Briggs and his philosophical inspirations start with the assumption that heterosexuality and monogamous marriage are the right path to a relationship with their God and a successful society (as an aside -I’ve always wondered if these two issues could be separated – is it possible that God could ordain something which while helpful for getting into the afterlife might be bad for this one – cutting off hands springs to mind I suppose!)

    My own feeling is that those who are unable to separate “the hatred of the sin” from hatred of the person they classify as a sinner (who, if they are Christian they should love; Islam on the other hand …) do much harm and disentangling the damage caused by this with any damage homosexuality/non-monogamy does itself isn’t easy. In a non-judgemental, and complex society how problematic is homosexuality?

    But this is a utilitarian argument which is based on assumptions very different from Prof Briggs’ – he at least has the comfort of believe him upstairs is on his side, something I am too doubtful to use as a justification for my beliefs.

  16. In their defense, that is one fine looking goat.

  17. Was there any doubt love of a machine was far behind, Scotian? 🙂

    Fletcher: The “rule” about no remarriage after divorce was in part to encourage people to make good choices. There are cases where this was not evident, but they not as common as people think. Knowing you can walk means you don’t have to put as much thought into the action as one would if you could not leave. No remarriage was to avoid having people make the same mistake over and over, as is often the case with people who remarry someone like the first person they left. (In Catholicism, can one remarry if there was infidelity? Also, if I understand correctly, individual “pardons” can be given and the person can remarry in the church?)
    I believe it’s impossible to “hate the sin” in today’s society, which is the problem. Any hatred of sin is automatically hating the sinner. It was a clever rewrite to keep people from calling things wrong.
    I believe the Roman Empire would have loved you. I can’t tell you how many things I have read and watched about how the leaders would have sex with the guests wives while the husband waited at the dinner table for the wife to return. Unfortunately, running amok means having to get more and more perverse to get that “thrill” people get from being bad. No judgment leads to more and more hideous and damaging acts. If you doubt this, watch what has happened as we raise kids this way–they kill for the thrill of it, they rape for thrill of it, they care nothing for others. Drugs fill the void for while, but even those lose their thrill and you have to keep getting more and more damaging in what you do to feel the thrill. History tells us no rules are not a good idea. We see this with murder and war, but just ignore anything else because it’s so much “fun”.

  18. Sheri, given how long the Roman Empire lasted I don’t think that you can generalize. Also you may be thinking of Caligula as I don’t think that this was common practice.

  19. @Sheri: “In Catholicism, can one remarry if there was infidelity? Also, if I understand correctly, individual ‘pardons’ can be given and the person can remarry in the church?”

    Excellent questions. I’m not a canon lawyer, but I’ll do my best to answer.

    Since the Catholic Church affirms the permanence of sacramental marriage as instituted by Christ himself, she does not claim the authority to dissolve validly contracted marriages.

    The Church doesn’t teach against divorce and remarriage because divorce is inherently sinful. (Civil divorce is allowed and sometimes advised in cases of abuse.) Catholic canon law simply points out that no man can dissolve what God has joined. I.e. couples in a valid sacramental marriage who divorce may sever the legal and financial contracts attending marriage, but the spiritual reality remains nonetheless. The issue isn’t that remarrying after divorce is bad, but that it’s impossible and those who try end up committing habitual adultery.

    To answer your second question, you’re probably thinking of annulment, which is the canonical ruling that a valid marriage never took place. Usually this means that there was some fatal impediment to the marriage such as lack of informed consent, gross immaturity, coercion, etc. Infidelity can be a sign of some pre-existing impediment but isn’t grounds for annulment in and of itself.

    To paraphrase your comment, if marriage is permanent then picking the wrong spouse could be a big mistake. Couples approaching the Church for the sacrament of matrimony are advised to give their choice sober and thorough consideration.

  20. @ Fletcher Christian: Your reply raises thought-provoking questions and reveals many underlying assumptions. Let’s take each point in turn.

    “Homicide is natural. That’s what laws are for.”
    If homicide (of which murder is a type)is natural, then laws prohibiting it infringe upon human nature and no one is obliged to follow them.

    “…[N]o society defines homicide and murder as being quite the same.”
    Granted. My first comment on this point was imprecise. Nevertheless, there’s an implicit consequentialism in your examples. I maintain that justifiable homicide still involves grave intrinsic evil. Killing to defend one’s life or country doesn’t make taking someone’s life good. It just reduces or removes the killer’s guilt.
    Also, the fact that objective moral standards aren’t always grasped clearly and immediately by all cultures doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    “…[M]urder is destructive to society, and therefore all societies have provisions against it…”
    I agree and point out that they reached this conclusion because murder observably infringes upon human nature (from which the right to life is derived). Adultery is condemned for the same reasons.

    “Should the innocent party then be expected to be celibate for life thereafter?”
    I acknowledge the moral difficulty of this question. For the innocent to suffer is manifestly unjust. However, I reject the implication that celibacy must be a punishment. I would say instead that all people are called to practice chastity according to their state in life. For the clergy, consecrated religious, and temporarily or permanently single people, chastity does entail celibacy. In marriage it means exclusive lifelong fidelity to one’s spouse, openness to new life, and mutual charity between husband and wife.

    Spousal abuse is a serious issue that resists simple answers. In many cases abuse may point to a grave impediment that prevented the abuser from contracting a valid marriage in the first place. Circumstances like that are grounds for annulment, which would free the victim to contract a valid marriage with someone else.

    Humans are fallen beings. Our nature is broken, and we often act against it. Among the most tragic consequences of our wounded state is the failure to love those entrusted to us. Everyone needs mercy. The Church recognizes this need and refuses mercy to no one; not even those guilty of repugnant crimes. To these the Church holds out hope for reform and reconciliation. She also affirms the victims’ rights to peace and safety, which sometimes require separation or even civil divorce. What she can’t do is condone answering one broken vow with another.

  21. Brian: Thank you for the explanation. It makes clearer why remarriage is not allowed within the church, though civil divorce is allowed. I was not aware of that distinction. I also agree that celibacy is not a punishment. There are many examples of where celibacy would have been the best choice in people’s lives, though not a popular one. None of these rules are punishments–they are designed to protect us and make our lives better. We just don’t want it to be true because humans love running amok, it seems.

  22. Scotian: I’m not sure what you mean with your first statement.

  23. Sheri, oh well what can be done. Also, I think that the Romans showed their disapproval of Caligula in a rather pointed fashion.

  24. Scotian: I don’t find that it was just Caligula that enjoyed a robust sex life, though he may have been the only one who had sex with his dinner guests wives. Let’s hope we don’t adopt the Roman method of leadership change, and many other of their most charming traits. It fascinates me that people think behaving badly can somehow have a good outcome. Oh, well, as you say, what can be done, except to stay out of the way as much as possible.

  25. for children, a woman
    for pleasure, a boy
    for love, a goat

    an old arab proverb

  26. Nullius in Verba

    January 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    “It’s unclear how long until you’re expected to send visitors to your home out into the street so that passersby might have a go at them.”

    Ah. Well. I believe the acceptable approach to dealing with passersby asking to have a go at your visitors is to offer to let the mob boff your two lovely virginal daughters instead. Although if your daughters do get to hear about it, don’t let them get you drunk later on.

    It’s an interesting choice of allusion. There are forms of behaviour that used to be acceptable, but aren’t any longer, just as there are those once taboo now back in fashion.

    But as they say, Resist not him who is evil. If a stranger spanks you on the right cheek, turn to him the left one also.

    😉

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