From the Tao Te Ching 2,500 years ago, a reminder of the follies of materialism.
If the mind’s modest
I walk the great way.
is all I fear.
The great way is low and plain,
but people like shortcuts over the mountains.
The palace is full of splendor
and the fields are full of weeds
and the granaries are full of nothing.
People wearing ornaments and fancy clothes,
drinking and eating a lot,
having a lot of things, a lot of money;
Surely their way
isn’t the way.
From The Book of the Way and the Power of the Way, by Lao Tzu, from Ursula Le Guin’s beautiful translation.
Puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it.
Miss Manners has come to believe
that the basic political division in this country
is not between liberals and conservatives
but between those who believe that they should have a say
in the love lives of strangers
and those who do not.
» Judith Martin
As much as conservatives rail against the sexualization of society, they sure talk about it a lot.
But! they sputter angrily, are we to live in a society where everything is OK, where there are no boundaries, no limits, no sense of decency? Are we to simply let every behavior be OK and decline into a swamp of sexual depravity?
The short answer is, yes. If that is what your neighbors want to do, then it is none of your damn business.
I feel strongly about this one, as I am a victim to the endless prurience of the righteous, but to put it more politely, the quantity and quality of any individual’s sex life is a private and personal matter, and therefore nobody else’s business. If he likes his wife in a French maids costume, or she likes her husband’s privates shaved, or he likes his boyfriend in chaps, or she likes tying up strangers, or they like oral sex all night, or sex in a sling, or anal sex, or with whips and chains, or only in a bed, or with a third, or in groups, or smothered in whipped cream, or no sex at all, that is all the stuff of their private lives, and no concern of ours.
Religious moralists can fret about this all they want, and they cannot change the bottom line. Their fussing is nothing but nosiness.
There is a simple way to determine what is our business in other’s behavior. It is an ethic we all learned in grade school: we believe in personal freedom, up and until our actions affect others. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” Sex in private between consenting adults does not affect others, no matter how much you want to make it your concern. End of story.
As for me, I never think of Mormon sex. Mormons constantly flaunt their heterosexuality, yet I never actually think about them having sex. Yet Mormons are mesmerized by my sex. They cannot stop thinking about it. It tops their list of sins, it leads to aggressive membership purges, and it is the only issue that mobilizes them into active politics.
Mormons are not alone. As Dr. Ruth Westheimer once said, “War. Rape. Murder. Poverty. Equal rights for gays. Guess which one the Southern Baptist Convention is protesting?” And of course we know about Catholic priorities.
So who is the pervert? The person obsessing about the sex they like, or the person obsessing about the sex other people like? As a gay person I wish religious conservatives would keep their minds out of my bedroom. Their fixation on my sex is creepy. I certainly keep my mind out of theirs.
(photos by Scott Richard)