The slippery slope of sexual boundaries
If you imagine different kinds of sexual activity on a linear, horizontal axis it is possible to see what happens when the basis of what constitutes acceptable (some would even argue ‘right’) sexual activity keeps moving.
We start with the first notch on the axis as the type of sexual relationships that is prescribed by the Bible. This is probably the right place to start because it has been the dominant, cultural default of the Western world for a long time and is currently probably the most conservative main stream position to take on sexual worldviews.
The Biblical position can be described as sex being permissible only within the boundaries of married relationship between husband and wife as an expression of love and duty. The key aspects of this behavioural framework are:
- Expression of love (emotional context)
- Consenting within a marriage (nature of the relationship)
- Male/female (parties who involved)
It seems a little quaint now, doesn’t it?
All three of those boundaries have been challenged and moved in our post-modern world where secular values dominate. The key point I want to make here is that once you abandon the absolutes of God’s boundaries, and introduce relative standards by which you judge acceptable, there is effectively no boundary because an argument can always be made to move it just a little bit more. Whilst I address each of these shifting parameters sequentially, in reality they all of course are part of a constantly shifting moral landscape.
Firstly, the notion of sex being an activity that should be (primarily) about love, and heavens above, occasionally about duty and only finally about pleasure, was the first premise to be challenged. The basis for sexual relationship was re-defined to be about pleasure. Whatever feels good can’t be bad. We are sexual creatures and we should be allowed to enjoy our sexuality without the ridiculous demands for ‘love’ to be involved. If and when love came into play, a marriage may follow but until then casual encounters just for the fun of it.
Sex is not about committed, sanctified love, it is about personal enjoyment.
Consequently, the notion of a fixed/permanent contractual relationship based on a promise to God therefore had to go. Surely there is no harm done if sexual relationships happen before you get married? Initially the argument was that the couple was in a committed, loving relationship and marriage was only a matter of time anyway, so a little bit of pre-marital nooky would be just fine. Being free to explore our personal sexual appetites for our individual pleasure meant that opportunities to do so had to be maximised. We had to start sooner and be with more people. No foul, no harm — just a matter of sowing some wild oats.
The line shifted slowly and progressively, to end in a place where we not only now live in an aggressive and shallow (Tinder) casual sex culture. It did not take long before pre-marital became extra-marital (Ashley Maddison) and everything is justified and justifiable.
Finally, since sex is now about fun and since sex can happen at any time, it is only logical that it should also be able to happen with anyone. The notion of sex requiring opposite genders was abandoned. The defining standard has become about consent. Since both parties are in it for their own pleasure only, all that mattered is that there was consent involved.
Most of what originally defined appropriate sexual behaviour has been abandoned.
Love does not matter — as long as it is not harmful.
Marriage does not matter — as long as there is consent.
Male and female does not matter — as long as it is adult.
The downsides of the original conception of appropriate sexual activity were that couples who had drifted apart remained together in unhappy unions — usually ‘for the sake of the kids’ — and that one party at least found that sex had become a chore.
In our post-modern culture where there is no right or wrong, we now have a promiscuous society where almost anything goes. And what doesn’t quite yet ‘go’ will soon be normal. If the standards are ‘no harm’ and ‘feels good’, how can you really argue against necrophilia if there is no harm possible? Or paedophilia? How long is it before adult consent becomes mere consent? At what age is consent deemed consent? At the moment most people will claim that it is beyond the pale, BUT there is actually no real reason (by modern standards) why not. The Philippines has the lowest age of consent in Asia at just 12 years old — an age shared by Angola, Mexico and Zimbabwe. Are you happy with the idea that a twelve-year old can have sex with sixty-year old? Fifty year old? You can’t argue for a maximum gap based on any logical standard when the standards are relative. It is only a matter of time.
The final barrier will be bestiality. Hence this.
The consequences of this modern culture are clear to see. To be clear, some of these downsides (just (like kinky sex) I am about mention has always been around forever — it is a reflection of our sinfulness — but its sheer proliferation is no doubt attributable to removal of the absolute boundaries and adoption of relative standards.
· Under-age sex
· Pre-marital sex
· Extra-marital sex
· Date rape
Whilst all of these deviations from the ideal have always existed to some degree — we are sinful creatures after all — the societal normalising of these practices continually pushes those boundaries down that slippery slope where sex will one day cease to have any meaning whatsoever.
If ever there was a clear argument against the power of evolution vs free will, then this is it: we wilfully, freely override our basest instincts — not for good (procreation and love) as demanded by God — but to facilitate our own extinction.
It doesn’t get any slippier than that.