Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Value of Virginity

I wasn’t aware of this show, but like many reality TV series, with “Virginity Diaries” you get the feeling even from a description of the first episode, that the people, situations and results are all predetermined or edited in such a way that it looks as such without actually reflecting the full truth of it or they’re just purposely picked to polarize the issues they’re discussing. The intent appears to be showing viewers the lives of virgins or people who are thinking about their virginity and whether to save it before marriage or not. This remains a fairly contentious issue in culture, surprisingly, what with people up in arms over so many other things, like abortion or same sex marriage. I suppose if you’re concerned about marriage in general, then sex before marriage should fall under that umbrella. The term “fornication” refers to illicit sex done outside the bounds of wedlock in the Christian tradition. I’m, of course, more secular in my ethics and don’t care so much about sexual activity as long as it’s consensual (between people that understand the seriousness of the act and aren’t being taken advantage of) and responsible (is done in a way that prevents STDs and unwanted pregnancies and also clarifies if the sex is leisurely or more serious in nature before it is engaged in). I’m not really the most socially conservative person, contrary to what you would think from my upbringing in the South. As far as I can remember, my family and most relatives I’ve interacted with haven’t made public displays of affection very commonly. They almost implicitly disapprove of it, particularly when children are around, but not even when there are other adults around. This might not be just a thing that’s prevalent in the Southeast, but in older generations. There’s also the argument that it’s an American issue, since many European countries are far more emotionally open and expressive. There’s the kiss on the cheek for greetings to start things off, but American culture seems to regard many displays of affection, even simple ones like a kiss on the lips between lovers, as taboo in public. Hugs are encouraged many times, but this is also commonly done with a degree of restraint. Handshakes are seen as a more basic way to interact and show a sense of connection and trust without any intimate or close bodily contact. I’m going on a bit of a tangent, but a lot of this could be pertinent to the larger implications of what this show is doing. Even if it’s trying to be more open about the different perspectives on virginity, more conservative virgins might react the wrong way and think this is stereotyping both sides and saying that the more restrained are always sexually repressed and the outgoing are more liberated and normal by comparison. I can assure people that my virginity is by choice and not because I was told it was morally wrong. I won’t deny that it was an initial influence, but I choose to remain a virgin because I don’t think I should just give it up to anyone, and I am also not so disciplined or detached as some might be to have sex and then not go further with the person. Some may be able to do this, but I still have a bit of old fashioned ideas on sex, I suppose. This isn’t to say I find free love, swingers or open relationships immoral by some secular ethics. It’s more that people shouldn’t stereotype all virgins in the same way and recognize that virginity can be valid or invalid depending on the primary justification for maintaining it.

The distinction between mental and physical virginity and innocence versus temperance are both important. Physical virginity is a mere temporal state, and even Christian theologians could argue that the mere presence or lack of a hymen in a woman, for instance, does not make her more sinful in terms of sexual activity, particularly if she was raped. In that sense, her virginity is more mental in that she has only known a very crude form of sex instead of the intimate act it should be. Her soul is where her purity lies especially, and as Jesus noted, it isn’t what goes into someone that corrupts them, but what comes out of them. I’m aware of the crudeness of the analogy here, but the point remains that Christianity does at least, at its core, focus on internal things as opposed to the external, which is why it was probably appealing to Gnostics, who viewed the physical as sinful, which of course, was an exaggeration of the Christian position. Of course much of modern Christianity has become fixated on the external in the moralizing position on premarital sex and sexual activity in general, resembling Gnostics more than their classical counterparts. This is a form of “virginity” I would see as invalid as opposed to a more figurative virginity maintained even if one has already committed fornication or the like. To reference King of the Hill, a TV series set in Texas and referencing religion from time to time, one could become a “born again virgin” and avoid the stigma associated with a non virgin marriage. Innocence is fairly distinct from temperance in that the former is ignorance and the latter is discipline. Anyone can be innocent, but to have temperance is more valuable in the long run, since it allows you to resist temptations, whether you think they’re from the devil or just a natural part of life as relates to human desires. Innocence can also overlap with naivety and gullibility as well. The innocent are those that are easily taken advantage of, which also relates back to my discussion of physical and mental virginity. It is far better to not be a mental virgin if you want to maintain any sense of physical virginity. Simply knowing of sexual things does not mean you will be compelled to do them if you understand that self control is beneficial to others as well as yourself. To be innocent is a potential hazard, but to be disciplined is to prepare oneself for maturity, both physically and mentally.

A common reasoning for saving oneself before marriage is based on a religious morality, which, as I’ve argued many times, is fine and well to believe in, but does not demand the same respect as trying to give a more concrete and practical explanation for why you think casual sex is not conducive to marriage; not to mention it isn’t based in reality to begin with or even a pertinent one if the beliefs are even metaphysically true as relates to the existence of God or an afterlife. I’ll talk about cohabitation in my own perspective, but for now we’ll make a presumption that this virgin doesn’t even agree with initially celibate shared living before marriage. The position of celibacy and abstinence hinges on the idea that your marriage will lack intimacy if you have already bared your “soul” to people in prior conjugal acts. The basis for this is linked to the claim of humanity’s innate, or at least inborn. sin nature, which compels them to not follow God’s commandments and whatnot. There could be a point made that virginity is beneficial to society in that it keeps marriages at least more secure in not having adultery exposed and families broken up by that terrible betrayal of trust between two people. But the virginity advocated in this position seems fairly extreme and suppressed in its views of sex.  It believes sex can only be done properly, and more importantly, morally, in marriage. Not between two people who are committed to each other and haven’t been bonded together by any Christian marriage ceremony, maybe not even any religious or civil marriage ceremony or license, not between people who have divorced and remarried someone else (because that’s technically adultery according to Jesus in most cases, except infidelity or disbelief of a spouse), and definitely not between two people of the same sex (because according to this stance, they can’t get married to begin with).  I would hope virginity is not confused with innocence, which is far more psychological in nature than virginity, which can be so, but can be maintained even while knowing of “carnal” pleasures and such. Consummating one’s marriage and/or relationship is a big step, to be fair, but to think that the consummation has to be done with no prior experience, even just of the abstract, is ridiculous even by Christian standards, I’d imagine. One can know about how sex is done and commonly learn about it in middle school. But this doesn’t mean the adolescent should go out and have sex merely because they understand the theoretical and technical aspects of it. The applied and concrete manifestations of the conjugal act are far more wide reaching in their influence on a person’s life and should be considered with some foresight in mind and introspection about oneself. All in all, the idea of maintaining physical purity for marriage is fine if we’re talking preventing STDs or such, but it shouldn’t neglect that we are physical beings with physical senses and desires. Understanding them is important, even if we also do not impulsively act upon them.  That much I can find agreement with Christians and more socially conservative people in general.

My own position isn’t exactly on the opposite end of the spectrum, which probably stands on the line of free love, open love or something to that effect. It can be done right, but there seem to be bad examples, particularly with those that flaunt the practice instead of simply behaving in a civil manner towards those who might disagree with them if they figured it out in another way besides someone throwing it in a person’s face, which doesn’t send the right message to begin with. I personally am a virgin and would at least prefer to remain that way until I meet someone I feel I have a deep connection with. Sleeping with just anyone does at least seem to me wasteful of yourself, which is one of only a few points that I might agree with the more reserved on sexual matters. This isn’t to say that I want to be a virgin before marriage, at least physically so. I would probably have sex before marriage in a cohabitating set up with my partner. But we’d have to decide this ahead of time and also determine whether we are really ready for the responsibility involved with it. Probably a great many people aren’t virgins when they marry, either because it’s a shotgun wedding or people just generally have sex to experience it and get some practice before their honeymoon as it were. I don’t have stats on this, but I would imagine the true physical and mental virgins getting married are fairly small compared to mere physical or mere mental virgins getting married, either of which is preferable to complete innocence to something that is not a bogeyman to avoid, but at least accept, if not outright embrace tentatively. It’s one thing to become addicted to sex, which is missing the point of sex’s uniqueness as an act of intimacy and unity. But if I merely experience sex with someone as an experiment, it can lessen the significance of it, so the connection should be deeper than that from the start. That would be my principle: don’t jump headlong into sex, but don’t be averse to it before marriage as if that is the ultimate determinant of commitment between people, when it’s communication and trust overall that does that.

Sex is viewed by people in many ways and valued to a greater degree or less. Some people may have no real interest in sex to begin with and thus this article really wouldn’t apply to them. Some people might have a problem with pornography or promiscuity and this would apply to them as much as the person who has both never had sex and doesn’t want to until they’re married. And then there are people who take sex too casually and need a bit of a reality check.  A middle ground, like many other things, is ideal, though many people may be more disposed or amiable to at least some imbalance either towards too much or too little restraint. If you do save yourself, at least save yourself physically, if only because of the risk of casual sex causing you to contract STDs. But you shouldn’t resist or repress sexual thoughts and desires, since they’re part of you, even if you are also expected to control them as well. This is, I think, a fair compromise. On the one hand, you satisfy those who want people to be as pure as they can before marriage and you also give recognition to people who consider sex an integral part of the human condition. There can be some variability here, such as having sex before marriage or in lieu of marriage for cohabitation and/or common law marriage as well as having sex but encouraging protection, especially if the sex is more leisurely in nature. But the understanding that sex should be handled with care, but not kid gloves, should remain in some sense. Even open relationships should have boundaries and free love should have restrictions as well depending on which you choose. Sex is beautiful, but as good as it is, any good thing should be done in moderation, however you practice it: free love with mental discipline, polyamorous love with communication and monogamous love with acceptance of sex as a part of it, but not the whole of it. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Special Treatment Or Inequal Treatment?

With things like affirmative action still looming over our head in some form or fashion, it’s not unusual for people to think that minorities are getting special treatment by the government. This is especially pertinent and topical with GLBT people. Stories seem to indicate that there is a push in some segments of GLBT activism to force acceptance of homosexuals in political culture. These may be isolated in nature, but that sort of mindset is troubling to me, since I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, you have people steeped in traditions that oppose it or just have a lack of experience with GLBT people that inhibits understanding them as people with the same wants, needs and traits that straight people have. But then there are those that have been persecuted, isolated, ostracized and scapegoated as GLBT people by the majority and feel like they have to fight for their rights that much more forcefully in return. That sort of vengeful posturing might have some justification in the sense of being aggressive, but it can also send the wrong message about the community as a whole, both gay activists and straight supporters. There is a middle ground that should be publicized more. Combative language doesn’t make things seem more justified on the side that has more supporters but no defense for why they behave in such a headstrong manner. It’s not damaging to be enthusiastic about social justice and other associated goods in the world, but the methods we seek to attain them through should align with the values that are sought to be realized. Equality and tolerance demands equal treatment and congenial behavior towards even those we strongly disagree with.

Accusations continue to fly in this proverbial culture war that the GLBT community is being treated unusually well in America as of recently, “getting away” with things other people, like pedophiles, couldn’t ever do even in today’s more liberal climate. But GLBT people are not getting special treatment unless the government officializes a homophobic registry or otherwise passes legislation that would give them undue favor and protections. Simply having the option through a privately funded group is certainly iffy, but it doesn’t make disagreeing with homosexuals illegal and any hate crime legislation already has qualifications in place about imminent fear being how it can be prosecuted. A qualification between the culture being concerned about GLBT rights and the government being concerned is important, since the former is more grassroots in nature and the government’s organization and power being put behind something is a bit more direct, especially with the legal ramifications.

Some employees at colleges have been fired (technically they resigned, more likely) because of their refusal to counsel people who were struggling with homosexuality in a way that disagreed with their religious beliefs. The problem with this line of objection is that the college in question where this incident occurred was public, so one could argue this is a public accommodation issue in that you can’t claim your religious objections are grounds to deny service to someone or refuse to do your job consistently, such as employees of adoption agencies refusing to take requests from gay couples. There are times when firing someone merely because they disagree with a company about gay rights is questionable, but the company may very well have the right to do so if they are privatized. Gay rights should be a priority, but we should be civil to each other in advancing this cause. We shouldn’t treat the intolerant with further intolerance, but only their beliefs, which are not absolutely identical with them as a person, who deserves respect regardless of what heinous beliefs they hold.

When speaking about rights, we have to understand first and foremost that they are protected by the government, but not forced through legislation without justification. GLBT rights are not something we should determine through popular opinion if it stands to reason that the traits of GLBT are not malleable and essential to their person. Religion is protected due to the cultural and societal significance it possesses, even though it is quite easily adjusted with changes in convictions and new evidence and consideration. But sexual orientation and gender identity, while somewhat malleable, are not so changeable as to be regarded as a matter of caprice. We don’t just choose to be attracted to a certain sex, both or none, nor do we entirely choose our identities in terms of what society judges as masculine and feminine. Guarding them does not have to imply special treatment by any means, but it doesn’t mean we protect any so called right to be a bigot, especially if it involves treating those you disagree with harshly, unfairly or even as social outcasts when they don’t deserve it. Of course we have a right to disagree with people, but equality under the law should also mean we are treated equally as much as possible by the government, which means that disagreements are acceptable within reason. There should not be such divisiveness and negativity based on things we disagree with, since tolerance can be exercised without people contradicting their religious beliefs that see certain things as immoral or wrong. It’s better to treat people equally and not give special treatment that is unwarranted than to try to justify inequality in any sense when it can be done in an equitable manner. Protections extended to groups that are considered special cases, such as GLBT, races, etc, have limitations, but are not unjustified when the likelihood exists that they could be targeted because of their being part of that group by bigotry and prejudice. As tolerant and open as America is, it behooves us to protect citizens from hate crimes in order to truly be a free and just country. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

You Can't Boycott The Gay Away

The recent string of gay pride support from companies like Oreo, Pop Tarts, Chevrolet and the like has inspired anti-gay individuals to suggest boycotting the companies. And in response, supporters of gay rights have taken this suggestion to its most absurd and amusing conclusion: those people should boycott all companies that support gay rights in order to be consistent, which includes Facebook where they first started these protests. The question arises, of course, as to whether political involvement by companies is ever appropriate. It goes without question that limitations on political support and funding from companies are justified. But merely taking a general political position such as supporting marriage equality or the like is distinct in the same way that churches can hold such positions, but not directly support or oppose political candidates, as I spoke about in “Where Religion and PoliticsShould Not Cross”  This sort of qualification of the degree to which a corporation, like a church, can be involved in politics, which should fundamentally be done by the public, composed of individual private citizens, enables the political process to be as fair and objective as it can with so many voices coming together about the big problems, such as the economy and human rights. To outright prohibit that interaction of private groups in public affairs stifles what should be a free market of ideas. But there should be reasonable restrictions based on considerations of the relevance of those private groups to politics. Both church and corporation can have involvement, but economic prohibitions should apply as consistently as those on houses of worship And the involvement doesn’t mean that there is any attempt to force the issue on the buyers, but merely that the company’s ideals are in line with GLBT rights. One can still shop there without aligning politically with those beliefs. Economics and politics can be fundamentally separate in practice even if they can be lumped together in principle.

Any individual can personally disagree with something, but boycotting a company because they don’t share your views, especially on gay rights and such, is not only ridiculous in that the corporation is not forcing gay rights on you, but it’s also not going to change them unless you get a large enough group. Not that the group would be terribly large or have a huge affect on sales anyway. On the contrary, the evidence is pointing towards more and more people supporting gay rights.  And if you really want to boycott all companies that support gay rights, with a bit of research, you’d find there are more companies that support GLBT than those who are more “traditional”, such as Chik Fil-et. And boycotting them as a supporter of gay rights isn’t solving the problem either, since they’re inevitably losing business anyway. A better solution is merely to not be a customer without formally boycotting them. At times, this sort of practice is more beneficial than making a large political statement, though as civil rights in the past were threatened, boycotting those establishments who were the most egregious in violating those rights sent the right message. Simply supporting “traditional” marriage is not the same as treating GLBT employees unfairly, which would be grounds for boycotting justly. While corporations shouldn’t really get into politics, especially when it comes to funding candidates and the like, stating that you stand for basic civil rights for minorities like GLBT is not bad as long as it doesn’t become intrusive. A policy of neutrality is prudent, but at the same time, it can be a business venture, but also reflective that corporations are not just focused on profits, but people as well, so it can work for both aspects.

The economic and entrepreneurial aspect focuses on the likelihood of expanding your demographics. It isn’t just the GLBT community that you’re appealing to, but those who support GLBT rights, which is fast becoming more and more acceptable to one degree or another. It makes perfect sense to state in commercials that you support gay rights. It isn’t necessarily breaching any unspoken ideas about whether companies should speak about these sorts of things. It’d be one thing for companies to start funneling in exorbitant amounts of money to radical gay rights groups (if there are any) in the same way if Chik Fil-et was funneling money to particularly mean anti-gay groups. But merely saying they offer their name in the quest for further advancing GLBT civil liberties isn’t excessive by any means. Just as other companies would have a right to make an advert saying they support the traditional family, it wouldn’t bother me. It just means they’re really hoping that the social conservatives are going to buy their stuff in lieu of many social liberals choosing not to. Either way, there’s a business risk, but that’s what you do in such situations; you gamble.

But companies are not just about advancing in the business world, but also existing in a world of people with feelings, with basic needs and a responsibility on the part of a corporation to not be greedy, but merely covetous of profit and efficiency. The notion of virtuous egotism seems contradictory with a common ethic in American culture rooted from Christianity, which is about selflessness and essentially sacrificing your ego for the advancement of a greater good. While this can be beneficial in a particular setting, it is not absolutely forbidden to be interested in one’s own good alongside being concerned for the welfare of others. One should not coddle or provide excessively for those in need, for this makes them complacent and not motivated to work for their own profits. With companies, this is a matter of moderation. Individuals can become greedy within a company, but that should be restricted as well with principles of self control and not seeking out money at the cost of those under you. The idea that they can be replaced or outsourced is not only callous, but can be considered fairly un-American in the sense of not granting jobs to those who are willing to take them in the very country your company exists. To not give those jobs to the skilled and those who even want to creates a sense of hopelessness and even could encourage the unmotivated to seek more government welfare to provide for them in lieu of gainful employment. In that sense, providing jobs and even being charitable are not signs of any sort of weakness or flawed economic logic, but simply a way everyone can benefit in some sense, though not equally, but within the means of each individual and group associated with them. Families, communities, companies, the interactions are sometimes unrecognized, but are as important as the predictions made for each quarter.

While the controversy of gay rights may eventually become a thing of the past and accepted by a majority of the world’s population, or at least the U.S.’s, corporations have their own responsibilities to consider in relation to minorities even as they progress to greater acceptance and tolerance in society. To help those less fortunate in charitable ways is a method that has been used for a fair amount of U.S. history, at least since the post Depression era. Advancing the cause of social justice by offering one’s influence and voice within the public sphere is another way. Just saying you support gays and will not turn them away is encouraging a tolerant and progressive America without giving special treatment. Keeping political involvement as a corporation to a minimum; that is, sticking to issues instead of candidates and in general instead of partisan terms, can allow a business to be encouraging of the political process, but also be considerate of the public citizens who are the true source of change in the country, not those with the greatest profits. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.