You and Me Together…

Today in the USA is “The Day of Truth“. You’ll see the little advert on the right-hand side of the page. Essentially, the idea of the Day of Truth is to follow the “Day of Silence” (a day when students in US schools go around saying nothing as a protest against homophobia – quite valid a thing to do in some places I think) with a day where “the truth” is shared. The truth of course in this case being the “real” truth behind homosexuality, that it’s not a fixed thing, that people can change their orientation and move from gay to straight.

I’m broadly in agreement with that viewpoint. I do think that sexual orientation isn’t a fixed thing, that one’s sexual and emotional life isn’t dictated by genes, chromosomes or biology or even one’s current affections. But the canny amongst you will have noticed that unlike Exodus and it’s ilk I describe myself as post-gay and not ex-gay. Why is that?

I think the main problem with ex-gay is that it is an ontological statement. It presents, intentionally or not, the one who calls himself as ex-gay as one who’s sexual orientation has changed from gay to straight. He/she is claiming to have gone from one state of being (gay) to another (straight). And while that is the case for many who are ex-gay, for others it isn’t so clear. For some their sexual desires move more towards those of the opposite sex but not to a point where they are exclusively heterosexual in their attractions. That then raises more questions of an ontological nature – are they really “bisexual” (though one wants to ask where the bisexual/heterosexual continuum switches – 95% hetero, 96%, 98.64738%?) and not gay? Are they therefore lying?

I think “ex-gay” also presents a pastoral issue for some who undertake that journey. If the ex-gay ministries promise change to heterosexuality and that change doesn’t occur, does that mean that the ex-gay model is fallacious? While there is a pretty impressive “success rate” for those who go through ex-gay ministries, there is also an equally large number of people who drop-out or reject it. While some of that drop-out is embittered and angered other parts of it are intelligent and articulate and raise a number of important issues that need to addressed.

So this is my problem with “ex-gay”. It seems to suggest a bi-polar, ontological model of sexual attraction – gay to straight. In doing so it unfortunately sets itself up for a fall with those for whose experience that bi-polar model doesn’t seem to fit. So what is the alternative model for those of us who want to affirm the redemption of same-sex attraction and broken sexuality?

The alternative is “post-gay”. Post-gay isn’t an ontological statement, it’s a vectorial statement. For those uninitiated in the deeper arcane magicks of mathematics, a vector is simply a description of a direction and magnitude. It describes a movement, not a position (which is ontology). Post-gay then is less about being straight or gay and rather about a choice of a journey.

Perhaps a personal example to clarify. I’m post-gay because I chose to leave “gay” behind. I chose to no longer accept “gay” as an explanation of who I was and instead to begin a journey away from it. I chose to do so because I was convinced from the Scriptures that “gay” wasn’t a suitable way to describe myself, that it wasn’t a valid way for a Christian to establish identity. I was compelled not just by reading the normal passages on the subject but also from the story in John 8:1-11 of the woman caught in adultery. In particular Jesus’ last words to her are “Go now and leave your life of sin”.

He doesn’t magically transform the women from a harlot to a saint (and contrary to common belief, there’s nothing to associate this woman with Mary Magdalene) but rather simply gives her an instruction of direction – leave this place you’re at (adultery) and move on from it. His command is vectorial, not ontological. It is the call of discipleship – it says “follow me to wherever I take you – I don’t promise you riches or immediate perfection, but I do promise you hope”.

This is why post-gay is a far better description for those who have left homosexuality behind. It describes a journey away from a false identity constructed around one’s emotions and a true one constructed in following Jesus. For some of us that journey involves changes in our sexual orientation, perhaps marriage and kids. For others they see no change in their sexual attractions, but they have left behind the place of false-identity, of seeing themselves as “gay” and that as a defining a unchangeable aspect of their being.

Some aspects of that journey have been clearly marked for us. A dispassionate reading of the Scriptures shows very clearly that God didn’t intend for us to have sex outside of the marriage of male and female. So I could see very clearly that that life option (same-sex activity) and those things that celebrated it (“gay”) were not the direction God wanted me to take. But other parts of the journey only become apparent as we set out to walk the road God has called us onto.

What’s interesting in my case is that I only walked the first of those two possibilities above (change and celibacy) after having reconciled myself to the second. I remember on my post-gay journey reaching a point where I was seeing no change in my attractions and was getting angry with God about it. Wasn’t this ex-gay choice meant to work? Shouldn’t God be doing something about it? God challenged me over the course of a few days with a clear message – “If I want you to stay like this for my purposes, why can’t I do that? Will you follow me wherever I take you, not just only to the places you want to go?” That night I surrendered my sexuality and future to God, reconciled to a life of celibacy but not a life of “gay”. It was only in the surrender to God’s path for me that I then later saw him taking me on the journey to where I am now happily married.

Now the one challenge you might still make to me from an ontological perspective is whether I still have same-sex attraction. Am I 100% heterosexual or not? But as if that matters on the journey. The idea of gay/bisexual/straight is an attempt to ontologically categorise men and women and normally continues into trying to define morality as dependent on ontology. It sees “homosexual” as a statement of one’s being and therefore prescriptive of the “normative” behaviour that derives from that being. Post-gay rejects that way of thinking about sexuality.

A friend of mine is an alcoholic. He hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol in over 20 years, he runs a successful rehab centre, but he would still freely call himself an alcoholic when each week he attends his 12 steps meeting. Why? He knows that he could always return to drinking alcohol to solve emotional and relational issues in his life – it worked in the past and it could work again. In the same way, I’m happy to be described as a homosexual. I know that when I’m down or tired or feeling inadequate I could seek catharsis in the embrace of somebody of the same sex in an attempt to shore my own masculinity. But I’ve also, like my friend who realises that he’s an alcoholic, discovered that that behaviour is counter-productive in the long run because it is simply catharsis and not actually redemptive.

So post-gay is quite happy to admit to a myriad of sexual attractions, but it refuses to be defined by them, not least because the Bible never refers to men and women as homosexual or heterosexual. Rather it is defined by a direction, a journey, a path towards God and his will for our lives.

On the way back from a wedding on Saturday evening I was listening with my wife to Judge Jules on Radio One and a fantastic remix of a Jimmy Somerville / Bronski Beat track was played – You and Me by Blue Ray. Absolutely loved it and the words are still as powerful as they were over 20 years ago. “You and me together, fighting for our love”. While that might in the past have been a call for gay pride, now for me it’s a rallying cry for my post-gay journey and the journey of others. We want to love in the way, reading Scripture and listening to Him, we understand God made us to. We’ll step out on the journey away from polar definitions of sexual identity, whether gay or straight, and instead we’ll simply go where God calls us, trusting for now what’s he already given as sign-posts and waiting upon him for the rest. Our mark of success will not be defined by reaching a certain goal (“straight” or whatever) but rather by still being on the right road, despite whatever comes at us before Glory.

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  • Carla

    I have really read what you have written. You said ..that your orientation had not changed though you are ‘happily married’ now.

    And I am saying, that’s nice for you. Please leave others alone who do not perceive that loving as homosexuals is sinful and who have also had the experience of God’s redemption in their lives.

    You are not a paragon for how God may choose to redeem homosexuality in people who identify as so. You are simply one for whom God chose this path for you.

  • Carla,

    Where did I write that my sexual orientation hasn’t changed? Please give the exact quote.

  • Carla

    What does

    “I’m happy to be described as a homosexual.” mean if it does not mean that your orientation has not changed, Peter?

    I can see what you’re trying to say in the above article. You are trying to say that instead of using any kind of sexual label to define your meaning, you have chosen to define your meaning in being a son of Christ and to follow his will for your life.

    You go on to say:

    “I know that when I’m down or tired or feeling inadequate I could seek catharsis in the embrace of somebody of the same sex in an attempt to shore my own masculinity. But I’ve also, like my friend who realises that he’s an alcoholic, discovered that that behaviour is counter-productive in the long run because it is simply catharsis and not actually redemptive.”

    You have not stopped being homosexual. You have simply stopped practicing the orientation which it seems you were born to. You compare it to ‘alcoholism’, a disease, an addiction. This is an obviously inadequate and poor comparison to make. Alcoholism kills people, it hurts them, it poisons livers, destroys braincells and so on. A person who is unable to control drinking alcohol sets themselves up for a life of misery and it is obvious why they need to stop. That is not the case for being gay, necessarily. Being gay does not necessarily lead to a broken life of loveless, meaningless sexual encounters, a Godless life, a debauched lifestyle, and an anti-social, selfish existence, though it can (just as this can occur with heterosexuality).

    And believe it or not, not everyone who identifies as gay and who loves God and follows his will for their lives experiences conviction that they must choose either a life of celibacy or heterosexual marriage.

    It seems completely reasonable to me that God leads some to this, and others, elsewhere. But still leads along redemptive paths. Perhaps people like yourself need to exist for the sake of those who are gay who feel they can never marry and have children but would actually like to. Perhaps you were lead to where you are because God simply needed to let those who feel hopeless or trapped in their sexuality that ‘with God, all things are possible’. But I reject the idea that God lead you to where you are and therefore God wants to lead all gays along the same path (that or celibacy).

    Not every homosexual views being homosexual as having a ‘broken’ sexuality, as an ‘addiction’, as a pathology.

    And again, I say, it is possible for a gay person to be married quite happily, anyway. Being gay does not mean one is incapable of learning to love and care for a member of the opposite sex. Goodness. In THAT way, I would agree with you that such an idea of what ‘gay’ is (or bi or anything which deviates from completely heterosexual) can be extremely limiting. Like those who appreciate ideals of women’s rights on certain issues not needing to be man-hating, militant feminists to do so.

    I think it is preferable to encourage people to trust God to take them by the hand to where it is HE wishes to lead them, rather than you telling them, with your theological understanding and your theological convictions, what they ought to believe and ought to do with an implicit message that to do anything else will lead them to hell and/or outside of God’s power to redeem.

  • “You have not stopped being homosexual. You have simply stopped practicing the orientation which it seems you were born to.”

    And this assumption demonstrates why you are not engaging with what I’m saying.

    So – a little challenge for you Carla. Please produce a link to any academic paper that proves your statement (that people are born gay) together with the peer review that confirms the research.

    While you’re doing that, let me clarify the alcoholic analogy as you don’t seem to have got it. An alcoholic is an alcoholic whether he drinks or not because it is the catharsis produced by the behaviour that makes one an alcoholic. But does my friend spend every day thinking about having a drink? Far from it – he can go weeks or months without contemplating it.

    So is his alcoholism some kind of defining ontology that dictates who he is and what he should do? Not at all – it’s simply one coping mechanism that he no longer practices. Is he still an alcoholic? Yes?

    So, am I still a homosexual? Yes. Does that mean I am constantly thinking emotionally and sexually oriented towards those of my own sex? Not even vaguely, but I know, like the alcoholic I could always return to that behaviour if I chose to. It just so happens I don’t want to and actually wouldn’t want to.

  • Tom

    Peter, I think Carla is simply stating what a huge number of gay people say about themselves. They discover they are gay at some point in their growing self awareness. At this stage I think Carla could point to some twin studies or Hamer’s studies that might point to an indication that perhaps genetic mechanisms are involved but as a propensity rather than something determined. On the other hand there are studies of the hormonal environment in the womb which also has to be further investigated. Nothing is conclusive but that doesn’t mean the opposite: that the behaviour is all learned, or even chosen. We should all be careful, especially the churches, lest suddenly the evidence is sudden;y forthcoming and we find ourselves backing the wrong side. But I am amazed at your reaction to remove Carla’s postings if she cannot produce a single study which ‘proves’ what you call outlandish and unscientific. Take a step back and you will find a huge number of gay people honestly think that homosexuality chose them, not they it. They think they were born that way. Since they are the ones who find they have to live the condition surely their opinion should count as much as a theologian who has no experience of it but finds the possibility that God makes people that way immensely threatening to his view of the world.

    Your final paragraph is confusing. What are you arguing about? You seem to accept that you have changed from behaviour to which you could return, so you liken that to alcoholism. Indeed, I agree so far that so far a gene has not been discovered that ‘makes’ people alcoholics. But I think you do not rule out that there may be some heritable characterstics that predisposition some people to substance addiction. I think applying that model to sexuality is straining it somewhat since alcoholics have to take a drink first before thay become alcoholics. Gay children on the other hand find themselves drawn to someone of their own sex long before they experience sex. In fact they may never experience it and keep themselves virgins for life. I do not think a person who has never had a drink could ever know that he craved one.

    I know that this is your site but you do invite people to engage. Carla has not been abusive. She has made a strong statement that you don’t agree with. You have challenged her to produce the evidence. So far so good. But once you threaten to expunge her posts for such a reason you reveal yourself intolerant and authoritarian. How can anyone think you are interested in debate? Your mind is made up and you are only interested in telling the rest of us who are also gay that we don’t know how it is but you do. Carla’s view of the aetiology of sexual orientation may be subject to scientific verication, but so is the churches’ behaviourist view that it is chosen or learned.

  • Tom,

    You have quite rightly pulled me up on being too intolerant by threatening to expunge Carla’s posts. I withdraw the threat, apologise to Carla and I’ll delete it from my reply when I’ve finished posting this reply to you.

    As I’m sure you know, the Hamer Gene Study (looking at Xq28 if I remember rightly) was never duplicated in repeat studies. To this day NO scientific research has proved a genetic causation of homosexuality. If I’m incorrect then please give me a URL to the relevant paper. As for twin studies, unless they have the perfect level of concordance they actually prove that there is a developmental element to the behaviour / trait that is being assessed.

    So you’re absolutely right – I do take a “bit of nature / bit of nurture” view. What frustates me then is that people start claiming that I haven’t changed because homosexuality is a fixed thing, but they do this without any evidence of total biological determination and refuse to present such evidence.

    If we are being truly open about the subject then let’s all be honest that the belief that homosexuality is “something that you are born with” and that it is static is simply that – a belief. There is no definitive proof that it is so and plenty of evidence, researched and self-reporting, that it is more fluid then some will allow it to be.

    Ultimately, my arguments against homosexual practice are theological not biological, so the discovery of a gay gene or the like would not worry me (though I think it would disturb many conservative Christians who seem to fixate on specific bizarre and minority sexual practices as “unnatural” in order to denigrate homosexuals – hey, what if we found a gene for rimming?) as I’m coming to this from a different position (as it were). But the societal assumption that sexuality is inbuilt and fixed, that I will always challenge because it is a huge unproven assumption that has gripped our culture today.

    • Paul Mc

      Peter, sorry about replying to such an old comment.

      We can't go into epistemology here, the level of evidence needed to 'prove' something, especially something as complex and mysterious as sexuality. You incorrectly interpret the research findings thus far. The twin studies' levels of concordance are indeed less than 50% for identical twins so there is more than genes at play. But there is no need to invoke a conventional developmental contribution. A process of epigentic variation and variable synaptogenesis in in the few years of life is more than sufficient to describe the increased concordance of being gay in MZ and dizygotic twins and fraternal brothers in these studies. Other studies (Lundstrom & Savic, Rahman/Veera/Wilson etc) implicate neural factors that are not likely to be 'learned' or evnironmental. A Dr. can't prove that drugs will save a particular child's life but nonetheless they will rely on evidence that will literally mean life or death. IMO, sexuality of different kinds, will turn out to be a set of complex interactions, rooted in evolution, beginning at conception and reaching fulfillment within the individual in the first 2 years of life.

      "Total biological determination" – what does that mean? I remind you that since there is unlikely to be a single gene determining being gay then neither is there one single gene that determines being straight. There is no 'straight gene' you might say.

      It is quite wrong to state that there is not sufficient evidence that being gay does not have a compelling biological and neonatal hormonal causation. That is the working hypothesis for all scientists researching in this area (I don't count Jones and Yarhouse self-published longitutudinal study). However these are only proximate causes. Why would these processes be there?

      Ultimate causes must be rooted in evolution along with every other aspect of our biological selves. We see strongly homosexual behaviour in many other species, even to the point of joint nuturing of offspring. It seems to me that being gay is in nature and of nature. If there is a 'natural law' then being gay has its part in that.

      Fluidity of sexuality in some is a paradigm of behaviour and not of the fundamentals of the sexual self that we all have.

  • Tom

    Thank you Peter for being gracious. A good summary of the recent research and the conclusions that could be drawn so far is Born Gay?: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation by Glenn Wilson and Qazi Rahman. I like your idea of a gene for rimming – the only thing is that it would be evenly distributed across the homo and heterosexual populations as likely as not. One of the things conservative Christians never take on board is that all, without exception, of the repertory of gay sex acts, “unnatural” or not, is practised by straight couples all the time. They only have to read the sex advice columns or listen to the web casts of Dan Savage available on iTunes to find out. I read recently that Jews don’t exclude anal sex with their wives – only with men

    A man’s wife is permitted to him. Therefore a man may do whatever he wishes with his wife. He may have intercourse with her at any time he wishes and kiss her on whatever limb of her body he wants. He may have natural or unnatural sex, as long as he does not bring forth seed in vain. However, it is a sign of piety not to show too much levity but to sanctify himself at the time of intercourse… A man should not depart from the way of the world and its custom because its ultimate purpose is procreation. (Mishnah Torah Issurei Biah 21:9) See also Talmud tractate Nedarim 20 b

    which reveals that it is not the act of penetration itself but rather the act of male submission that is objectionable. I found that mighty interesting.

  • Carla

    Peter, I understand that you took what I said as some sort of fatalistic judement upon you regardless of what decisions you have made in your life and how you have acted upon them. In fact, I used the qualifying verb ‘seems’ in response to your own implied reasoning that you are essentially homosexual(If you were not, you would not be ‘happy to be described as homosexual’ and you would not, except in ‘moments of tiredness or feelings of inadequacy’ behave homosexually. I would hazard a guess you probably wouldn’t do so now anyway. Still, the implication that you were ‘naturally’ homosexual or ‘born homosexual’ was how I interpreted what you yourself have said.)

    Anyway, that aside, being one who also reacts strongly to perceived attack and has trouble getting over myself when shown to be reactive rather than responsive, I can appreciate how much strength and humility of spirit it took for you to apologise and admit to ‘too much intolerance’ (That little bit gets a bit of a wry smile from me, hope you don’t mind)

    Jesus took the donkey, not the high-horse. People seem to be more receptive to that. You can share your story, but attempting to enforce your views will more likely invite slingshots to take you down to a place where you learn to listen…not only to what people are saying, but what they’re not saying, and what they’re trying to say.

    That’s about it from me.


  • Tom,

    Amen. Without being too lude, God made the prostate for every single man, not just the ones who listen to Barbara Streisand.


    Thanks for your kind words. I’m afraid you got some of the anger that was actually directed at someone who had been far more personally rude to me. Not that you were rude of course. I was. Once again, my apologies.

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  • I think I like the concept of postgay a lot better than exgay. Even in sound. Exgay, to me, just always has an undertone of sounding like you’re against gays. But postgay just doesn’t really have that. It’s like you said, it suggests that you’ve simply moved beyond indentifying yourself as gay.

  • Thanks for your comments Brandon. Yes, post-gay doesn’t make ontological claims and therefore is a more comfortable place (IMHO).

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  • martin

    As a man who has only acknowledged to myself same sex attractions within the last couple of years I find this blog very interesting reading. Having read many arguments for and against same sex relationships and, while sometimes I would have liked to convince myself that a loving sexual relationship with a man could be scripturally supportable, it is clear to me that God intended sex as an expression of oneness in committed heterosexual relationships. The truth of Gods word is greater than the truth of our experience. As far as the physical expression of my sexuality is concerned I am convinced that this should be within heterosexual marriage or not at all. As some one who has never identified myself as gay, I can’t really call myself ex-gay or post-gay however I think I understand the heart of what you are saying. I have not fully worked out my position yet as regards change i.e. whether change is something to reach for or accepting that I may always have to live with SSA, but am gravitating towards the former as it seems to me that sexuality is not so static ( I would appreciate some direction to literature/research on this subject) and it would make sense to me that if heterosexual marriage is Gods’ plan then change (at least significant change) towards heterosexual attractions should be possible, however that might occur.

  • Thanks for your comments Martin.

    If you get back to me via the “Contact Peter” page I can give you a list of resources and perhaps also find someone local to you who you can sit down with and chat these things over with.

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  • Jeremy


    I have read this page with great interest.
    I wonder if you have a view on the Karolinska Institute research and the research that has come out of St Mary’s recently – the former suggests that there may be significant differentiation between the brain sizes of gay and straight men (gay men’s correlating with those of straight women and those of straight men correlating with those of gay women). The St Mary’s study on the amygdala was important because of its role in “orientating”, or directing, the rest of the brain in response to an emotional stimulus – be it during the “fight or flight” response, or the presence of a potential mate.
    In other words, the brain network which determines what sexual orientation actually ‘orients’ towards is similar between gay men and straight women, and between gay women and straight men. Dr Rahman of St Mary’s said “As far as I’m concerned there is no argument any more – if you are gay, you are born gay”.
    I know orientation is not entirely fixed, and is somewhat malleable – but only somewhat. I understand your choice to be post gay, and reading some of what you write is very moving and rather poignant. I wish you well. My own path is that I have only just arrived at the point of finding my own gayness after years of refusing to countenance it, at least in part because I so strongly believed that it was not what God wanted. Now I know that some manage this for ever, and believe that they are being faithful in so doing. For me it nearly wrecked my health – and it meant I lived a huge internal lie. But in the end coming out to myself was analagous to being converted ( by which I mean I know what both experiences feel like – that is not a reported comment). It sort of completed what conversion had started – I stopped feeling ashamed of myself and began to feel like the real me at last. I certainly don’t live with a sense that by being a gay man, with the potentiality for gay relationships, that I am estranged from God – indeed coming out was and remains a profoundly spiritual experience.

  • Hi Jeremy,

    Let me take your last point first. Coming out is a *hugely* important experience, whether you choose to remain celibate or become sexually active. Coming out is about being real with what you are feeling and your emotional / sexual drives. A huge problem with the conservative church is that we do make people feel ashamed and embarrassed about their sexuality, when in reality the Scriptures place no moral condemnation whatsoever on this kind of sexual desire. The moral condemnation in the Bible is to do with sexual acts, not sexual orientation.

    As for the Karolinska Institute study, let me tell you that in my opinion as a statistician (I had a day job before this God stuff took over) the research is far from conclusive. Here are the main problems with the study:

    1. The sample size is way too small to come to a definitive conclusion
    2. If there was a direct biological indicator then you would expect *all* the “gay brains” to be identical. This is NOT the case.
    3. The research cannot tell whether the brain structure caused homosexual attraction or was caused by homosexual activity. We know that repeated activity of any kind alters the brain.
    4. There has been no repeat study to replicate the work

    This leads us to the conclusion that the quote from Dr Rahmen is, to put it politely, utterly overstated and highly un-scientific. The evidence, even from this study, does not support his conclusion.

  • Jeremy

    Well – time will tell if the Karolinska/St Mary’s material will lead us towards the answer to the question why homosexuality.

    I am a bit foxed by the orientation/acts distinction. I don’t think I accept it. If I am gay then I am also open to living life fully as a gay man – and that means that I am affectively open to same sex attractions. Indeed allowing myself to feel this, and I am not wanting to specify too much how or what that means (not for coyness sake, but because I don’t think it is the point), is part of accepting what I have found to be a blessing and a given that i have refused for far too long.

    I am also wondering about what it means to have a God who gives so generously this capacity to a fairly small minority of people. I don’t accept all the scare-mongering and slippery-slopeism from conservatives, that to accept gay relationships threatens family and society. Of course there are sides of gay culture that are not good or helpful to anyone much, but that is true of heterosexual culture too. I don’t know of any heterosexual people who find their marriage and family life threatened by my homosexuality. If there are such it suggests that there may be something of a pathology in that marriage. Nothing in normal life is going to make hetero people fancy their own gender – they just don’t. So what we have is a relatively small (you as a statistician will know that estimating percentages is nigh on impossible in this field – no one tells the truth about sex full stop!), and relatively persistent minority, who “just happen” to be sexually attracted to members of their own gender. We are, if you like, God’s wrinkle on the face of human sexuality. As we know from our anthropology, societies tend to cope badly with difference – and this minority have been supressed, repressed, banned, punished and excoriated for generations. These days we are learning that difference doesn’t automatically mean bad or threat. So what is bad about gay relationships? From a reasonable point of view I think the answer is nothing INTRINSIC. Of course there can be bad gay relationships as there can be bad straight ones. But I fail to see structurally why this should be seen as a bad thing per se any more (indeed our society is moving away from doing that – the astonishing thing is that once it was led by the church in so doing – after all it was a report of the C of E that prefigured the Wolfenden Report – O tempora, o mores!).

  • Jeremy,

    The activity/orientation distinction is made by myself and others because its a clear understanding of what the Scriptures are saying on this front. The Bible speaks very clearly against any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. It doesn’t address orientation.

    Let me put this another way. Say you were sexually attracted to children. Would your sexual attraction automatically make any sexual contact with a minor valid, or would you make a distinction between the morality of desire and activity in this instance? What if you could find a 14 year old who wanted a sexual relationship with you, so it was entirely consensual?

  • William

    The distinction between orientation and activity, to which Peter draws attention, is certainly a valid and reasonable one, and the examples which he gives, viz. sexual attraction to children and a “consensual” sexual relationship with a 14 year old, show clearly how the existence of a sexual attraction doesn’t mean that the physical, sexual expression of that attraction is morally permissible.
    (I put the word “consensual” in inverted commas because the law in most civilized countries wisely doesn’t regard a 14 year old as competent to give free and meaningful consent to a sexual relationship with an adult, just as it doesn’t regard a 14 year old as competent to do quite a few other things, e.g. to make a will.)
    All other things being equal, does the fact that the attraction is to someone of the same sex make the physical expression of that attraction wrong? Some people would say yes: I would say no.

  • I don’t regard the law of a land as any arbiter of morality whatsoever. If you argue against under-age sex on the basis that the law forbids it, you open yourself up to having to support it were the law to change (i.e. to permit sex between a 12 yo and an adult).

  • William

    It isn’t a matter of the law of the land being the arbiter of morality; in fact it’s the other way round. It’s that the law of the land in this case is based on a moral consideration, viz. that it has a moral duty to protect the young against those who would take unfair advantage of them. It won’t allow a 14 year old to make a legally valid will because it doesn’t regard someone of that age as fully competent to dispose of his or her property free of the undue influence of adults. I remember asking my parents about this years ago when I was a child. They explained to me that it was to prevent children from being pressured or tricked into signing away all their inheritances; it can’t be assumed that they would fully understand what they were being told to do, and so the law protects them in this way. It is on the same moral basis that the law doesn’t regard anyone under 16 as being able to give meaningful consent to sex with an adult and won’t allow anyone under 16 to contract a marriage. It was for this same moral reason that the age of consent for girls was raised from 12 to 16 some time during Queen Victoria’s reign; it was the Salvation Army, I believe, that first started agitating for the change. Until that time it was said that a girl of 12 was “mistress of her person”. All ages of consent or competence are, of course, to some extent arbitrary, but the age has to be fixed somewhere.