Scratching the Itch: Sexual Nihilism in a Libertine World

by Christian Ohnimus                                                                         Wednesday, March 26

In postmodern America there is perhaps no issue that has been more liberalized than sex. The latest example of this social trend is my home state’s decision to strike down its ban on same-sex marriage. This post is not meant to be about this decision per se but to use it as an illustration of how individualism manifests itself in our laws and what that means in regards to our sexuality. The reason this decision is an example of expanding sexual liberalism is because it was not decided in order to further any objective good. It wasn’t made to help families, support the common good, or even for the objective benefit of any individuals. It was purely based on the fact that such constraints treated people differently, sanctioning some choices and rendering others invalid, and that this is inherently incompatible with the ideology of liberalism itself. It was a decision that appealed not to morality of “the good” but to the freedom of the individual as an absolute. This individual absolutism, however, while expanding liberty and the choices society allows us to make, has other consequences.

By swallowing sexual libertinism hook, line and sinker we risk making our choices less meaningful.If all options are equally legitimate and whichever one we choose is merely a matter of individual caprice then why does our choice matter? Can we say that one is “better” or more “right” than another? If we really believe that our personal choice is meaningless beyond our own self-gratification then there’s no conflict but if we believe that our personal choice is in any way “better” then individual absolutism and decisions like Judge Bernard Friedman’s challenge that. If sex means anything then it means nothing. But for most people, even if they accept individual absolutism in regards to legislation, the choices they make in their personal lives, perhaps especially regarding sexuality, are not just mere preference. They make the choices they do because they believe that it is somehow better, and not just merely as a matter of personal taste. The choice is important because sex does mean something to them, quite a lot actually.

Judge Friedman, recognizing that people disagree vehemently on this topic, cites “equal protection” as the rationale for favoring sexual liberalism. We cannot agree on the moral law and what is good therefore differences must be protected so that a majority cannot impose itself on those not content with prevailing attitudes. Such was the case when the judge struck down the ban popularized by the people of Michigan in 2004. While majority rule can be equally oppressive as individualism, disagreement is no argument for laissez-faire. If it were, then it would require the abolishion of the State itself and all authority. After all, we disagree on everything. On the contrary, it is precisely on contested issues like sexuality that definitive laws are required. It is noncompliance that requires the rule of law and, while noncompliance and deviancy can and should be tolerated to some extent, it precisely on “important” issues that conformity to laws becomes especially vital. As one friend put it, “Of all the aspects of humanity, sex seems to preoccupy us the most. It is not logical that God, the creator of humanity, would not give humanity laws to govern the sexual appetite. The thing that preoccupies us the most is the thing that is most likely to have a law, not the thing that we would expect to be devoid of law.” We may certainly disgree on how those laws define our actions and constrain our behavior, and certainly a large part of the gay marriage debate focuses on that, but to argue that the law has no place to define what sexuality means and to guide our sexual behavior is folly.

To deconstruct our sexuality for the sake of human caprice is to invite sexual nihilism, to take perhaps the most personal and powerful aspect of our beings and render it without meaning, without taste, and without an ethos.

If sex is merely about satisfying a personal feeling then we’ve reduced it to the gravity of scratching an itch.

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.

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