johnmac's rants

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sex and Sanity In A Non-Taliban Nation.

I was reading Professor Elizabeth Wood's blog (she is one contributor), "Sex In The Public Square", this morning and was dismayed (not really -- but I wish I was dismayed) to find that she has been under personal attack for signing, with many other academics, a "Letter to Members of the Rhode Island State Legislature", asking the state legislature to refrain from passing a low to criminalize indoor non-street solicited prostitution (The letter explains "Rhode Island is currently the only state in the U.S. without a statute expressly prohibiting prostitution. State law bans loitering in public places, which is used to arrest street prostitutes, but does not ban solicitation itself, which leaves the indoor trade untouched because no loitering is involved.").

One may certainly have issues with the practice of prostitution, even think it is morally reprehensible, but does not mean it should be illegal. I think personally that sex should be between two consenting adults (of any gender) who have to same understanding and goal of the particular act -- expression of love, mutual pleasure, whatever (in other words, no duplicity, cohesion, or force). Others may feel that it should only be between people of opposite genders, or in marriage, or to have children, or on the Wednesday after the full moon -- that's all fine -- as long as it's not the law.

In recent years, we have seen, in places where the law and personal morality (really imposed morality) are mixed, people condemned to death for converting to Christianity or becoming pregnant out-of-wedlock (she maintained that she was raped -- the religious court said "so?"), a father excused for murder of a daughter because she 'dishonored the family", and a court-ordered gang-rape of a girl who was considered to have behaved in an "unseemly manner".

While all of these examples may seem extreme in the context of the United States experience, we should remember that we have had, in the recent 20th Century, laws in various jurisdictions against the sale of contraceptives, fornication, the sale of liquor (prohibition), the sale of liquor and beer during "Sunday Church Hours" (the Jewish and Muslim Sabbaths weren't considered as important), interracial marriage, and sodomy. The mixture of morality and law is a slippery slope.

Some say that "decriminalization" is the same as "condoning", even "advocating". This is, in my judgement, another spurious argument. Very few people (at least those in their right minds) "advocate" smoking. Yet it is legal and we tax it and we maintain standards for ingredients and labeling. I personally think that casino gambling is dumb and can be addictive but I do not recommend banning them and sending gambling back into the cellars, numbers rooms, and criminal-sponsored gambling dens.

I'm also not "an evangelist for prostitution" -- I see the act as demeaning to the beauty of the sexual act as I described it above ("between two consenting adults (of any gender) who have to same understanding and goal of the particular act") -- for one party, it is simply the act of "getting off"; for the other, it is an act of commerce. Yet, I realize that this view is certainly not shared by everyone; that my understanding of sexuality and its purpose differs from many, if not most (and certainly from the prostitute and her / his clients), and that I have no right, even if I wished to do so, to impose my view on others. So -- decriminalize it, tax it, inspect it, etc.

All I have done so far is to express my support for the position of the academics; what may be even more important is to condemn the personal attacks on Professor Wood and her cosigners. All too much, the vehicle for disagreement seems to have become the attacking of the opponent's motives, sanity, patriotism, and character, rather than finding fault with the ideas and policies that the opponent supports. In days of memory, some of the most passionate proponents of points of view -- such as John Kenneth and William F. Buckley, Jr. -- would debate vehemently and then go off for a drink together or a skiing weekend. We seem to have lost that -- the respect for humans who may disagree with us on certain issues but are still worthy of respect as human beings.


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