by Christian Ohnimus Wednesday, March 5
In his article, Against Heterosexuality, Michael W. Hannon argues that the concept of sexual orientation is harmful and erroneous. What’s more, its an entirely modern idea. Hannon states that “We do not need “heteronormativity” to defend against debauchery. On the contrary, it is just getting in our way.” Prior to the 1860s the prevailing sexual paradigm was Christian chastity in which sex was ordered towards procreative and unitive ends. This Christian framework has recently been abandoned by secular society, however, for the concept of orientation which categorizes people according to absolutist sexual terms.
According to Hannon, “With secular society rendering classical religious beliefs publicly illegitimate, pseudoscience stepped in and replaced religion as the moral foundation for venereal norms.” Psychology brought heterosexual as an identity into our conscious with its construction of heteronormativity. It was not long after that “homosexuality” entered the scene. Prior to the sexual psychoanalysis of the 1860s such a categorization did not enter the social mental framework. Sodomy was evil and those who partook in it committed evil; moral judgement focused on the action of the individual as the source of their sin but with the rise of homosexuality this judgement became misdirected to the person himself. In his History of Sexuality Michael Foucault wrote, “The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage,” “a type of life,” “a morphology.” In the new paradigm of sexual orientation, whether you were categorized as either “heterosexual” or “homosexual”, particular sexual tendencies eclipsed the person underneath.
Ironically, the pseudoscience of sexual orientation that was meant to establish heterosexual dominance ultimately led to the normalization of homosexual behavior first by eliminating the rational moral arguments against such behavior that had prevailed for centuries in the Christian narrative and, second, by mis-categorizing actions and personal identity. By turning sodomy between men (female homosexuality didn’t get much attention until later) into a morphology of the person we can no longer say that the act is wrong without also rejecting the individual. To do so requires rejecting the entire concept of sexual orientation itself. Our society rightly recognizes that you cannot discriminate against someone because of their identity or the nature of their being. As such, for the same reason we know that we cannot treat someone differently because of the color of their skin we are now learning that we cannot treat someone differently because of their sexual orientation. While the sexual orientation paradigm equates sexual tendency to the person, however, the longstanding Christian understanding of sex made no such categorization of people, making no judgement against any type of person but instead upholding a particular model of sexual behavior while condemning those actions, like sodomy, against it regardless of who committed them.
Ultimately, however, the idea of sexual orientation enslaves and it is a lose-lose situation for everyone. First, it undermined marriage, the family, and the procreative nature of sex but not by normalizing homosexuality. That came later. It was the heterosexuals who ruined it by legitimizing heterosexual acts contrary to the nature of sex and the family institution. By redefining “normal” sex as merely “between a man and a woman”, heterosexuals granted themselves license to act contrary to the Christian sexual morality that had constrained them for centuries. Contraception, masturbation, premarital sex, cohabitation, no-fault divorce, pornography, prostitution, abortion and so on were all gradually normalized by heterosexual libertinism. The new mentality that, as long as its hetero its fair game, spread like a cancer and wreaked havoc on society and the contemporary controversy of gay “marriage” is only the latest social experiment on a long list of things contrary to Christian chastity.
Sexual orientation hurts those with same-sex attraction too, however. Fr. Hugh Barbour of the Norbertine Fathers writes in an essay in Chronicles Magazine , entitled Do Homosexuals Exist? Or, Where Do We Go from Here?, “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?” By telling those who struggle with a given temptation that that is just who they are we deny them the freedom to be or do anything else. Categorizing someone with same-sex attraction as “homosexual” is as damaging as categorizing someone who is ever attracted to any woman other than his own wife as a polyamorist. It only serves to undermine their own free will and make them slaves to their appetites based on the lie that their temptation identifies them.
Additionally, while sodomy, which is usually associated with homosexuality, was long considered a sin of particular depravity, the idea of sexual orientation has led to especially severe transgressions against those with same-sex attractions. Gays in Uganda can now face life in prison merely for “being” gay not because Christianity teaches that those with same-sex attraction are evil and disgusting but because our social framework based on sexual orientation confuses what we do or even feel with who we are. The old Christian understanding made it much easier to “hate the sin and love the sinner” while the new pseudoscience of sexual orientation makes it near impossible for the fundamentalist Christian to distinguish between the two.
The truth is that sexual orientation only serves to disorient and anyone who finds the homosexual repulsive should find the idea of the heterosexual equally so. Both reduce the human person to his sexual tendencies and deny his free will, thus enslaving him. Instead, we must abandon both heteronormativity and the total sexual libertinism that is on our doorstep and instead return to Christ as the perfect model of human sexuality.
Christian Ohnimus is a husband and registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He hopes to raise a holy family with the help of his better and more beautiful other half.