Interact with people in our society about issues related to sex, and you’ll quickly discover how everyone seems to be a libertarian.
The dominant assumption is that religious people shouldn’t voice their opinions. Government should stay out of the bedroom. People ought to be free to engage in sexual relations with whomever they want whenever they want, as long as it’s not considered harmful to anyone. Even Christians who believe certain sexual activities (adultery, sex before marriage, homosexuality) to be morally wrong often grant the assumption that people ought to be free in their sexual decisions.
But there is no such thing as absolute freedom when it comes to sexuality. The moment we celebrate or endorse certain behaviors, we curtail freedom in other areas. This is the nature of freedom.
Here is an example.
- 100 years ago, men were known to be openly affectionate with one another.
- Men like Teddy Roosevelt wrote letters to other men that expressed great love and tenderness, to the point it makes modern day readers feel uncomfortable.
- Men took pictures of themselves holding hands and demonstrating physical affection.
- Abraham Lincoln was open about sharing a bed with Joshua Speed. Though some revisionists have sought to refashion this friendship a homosexual relationship, Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin is most certainly right: the fact Lincoln spoke so openly about Speed is a clear sign that his male friendships were just that, friendships.
Today, there is little freedom for men to be physically affectionate toward one another. Writing an affectionate email might be seen as “girly” or “unmanly,” although it’s hard to imagine Teddy Roosevelt as a wimp.
The Sexualization of Everything
As society has rushed to embrace homosexual behavior, the normal bonds of friendship between men have been curtailed. When Hollywood produced Brokeback Mountain, a movie that celebrated the relationship of gay cowboys, people began joking about men who go camping together and sleep in pup tents.
Men no longer express affection and friendship in ways they did a generation ago. The increasing acceptance of homosexuality and horror stories about child abusers like Jerry Sandusky are enough to cause men to think twice before doing anything that could be misconstrued in a sexual manner.
What were once normal expressions of affection and love have been romanticized and sexualized. Our culture is losing the opportunity to have men who resemble Sam and Frodo – lasting friendships forged through trial and suffering, and yet whose affections were not romantic in nature.
The Frightening Future
So what happens next?
Our society’s propensity for sexualizing everything frightens me. What other relationships will get sexualized?
Here’s an example. My four-year-old daughter loves to jump in my arms, kiss me on the cheek, and hold me tightly. She is a physically affectionate little girl, and I hug and kiss her right back. I cherish the moments I have as a dad with a little princess who has no inhibitions of expressing her love to her daddy.
But let’s say society’s path of celebrated sexuality continues to move forward. Let’s say a Lolita type movie were to come out in a few years that celebrates incest. Let’s say the elite in Hollywood praised the movie, scorned those who were morally outraged, and decided to celebrate the sexualization of the father/daughter relationship.
What would eventually happen? Over time, fathers would be less likely to hug and kiss their little girls, to twirl them around like princesses and snuggle with them as they read bedtime stories at night. They’d feel weird about it because the culture has romanticized and sexualized what was once a normal affectionate expression. (I feel sick to my stomach even alluding to such a thing.)
This scenario scares me. But surely it’s not unrealistic. (Want proof? A new movie is out that celebrates an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister.) Our culture’s hyper-sexualization of everything could eventually poison a family’s innocent hugs and kisses.
Once we celebrate all sorts of sexual freedom, we slowly eliminate expressions of normal physical affection between human beings. Everything gets interpreted sexually, and this causes human beings to move farther apart, not closer together. In the name of freedom, we put ourselves in chains.
There is no such thing as absolute sexual freedom. Our society’s choice to celebrate and elevate types of behavior once considered out-of-bounds has ramifications for interpersonal relationships.