For my second post in a series about finding common ground between the religious right and the progressive left, I want to tackle a tougher issue – lust.
Christians view lust as a sin. In fact it is one of the seven deadly sins. In the Christian view, lust involves ‘inordinate’ cravings of the body. While the interpretation of inordinate varies within Christianity, it normally means they are uncomfortable with lusty thoughts toward: those with whom you ore not in a relationship, those of the same gender, actions that are not the pretty standard, vandal variants of sex. In a nutshell, lust is something to be very tightly controlled and directed… toward your spouse and in a very reasoned and cautious way.
In practice, for the religious right, they support broad sanctions against most forms of extra-marital lustful expression. They support bans on pornography and believe most forms of sex work should be illegal. Within marriage, both thinking about or acting on feelings of lust toward someone else is very wrong; this would include lusting after someone in real life or virtually (e.g. watching porn). In terms of types of sex, I believe those who are more observant probably prefer missionary only, but I would think that for most religious people, as long as it is between a loving male/female couple, you;re pretty free to get your kink on.
The progressive left has a more varied and, I would say, complex perspective on lust. Firstly, they acknowledge it humans are designed to lust after multiple partners. They are not as categoric as the religious right in opposing extra-martial lust. They are generally pretty OK with porn and it is even becoming fairly common for couples to watch it together. For sex work more generally, like strippers and prostitution, the progressive left tend to, in my experience, look down upon those who engage in it but seem more-or-less ok with peoples rights to indulge and provide sex services. Within marriage, while those of the left are more accepting that you will lift after multiple people, in my experience, they just as intolerant and insecure about their partners acting on that lust. Despite more discussion on non-monogomy, I find that the left, like the right, are still a pretty monogamous lot and sex is still pretty stigmatized.
As Christians and Non-Christians, what can we agree on; I think:
- it is natural to feel lust, even lust toward someone(s) with whom we are not in a committed relationship;
- acting on every lustful thought is very likely not a good thing. It can damage your relationships, it can become overly consuming, it can even land you in jail
- religion and society have created some ‘norms’ that encourage us to curtail these natural lusts.
Where we should be able to strive toward consensus:
- because sex and lust is natural, we should be able to discuss it and create rules around it that are right for us
- we should be able to recognize that not all couples and individuals will have the same rules
- we don’t want our kids engaging in sex before they are ready and able to be safe and, as such, should be able to discuss sex with our children and our sex education should be informed by imperial evidence on what works.
- within a committed relationships we should be able to (i) be open about our sexual desires and (ii) decide whether and how to act on these sexual desires in a way that works for the couple
This is not a huge step