Changing Attitude and One Night Stands

Over on the Changing Attitude blog, Colin has (quite rightly) criticised Lisa Nolland of Anglican Mainstream for getting slightly confused in her writing about bisexuality:

Lisa introduces another favourite point of attack – bisexuals. Bisexuals, she writes, either sequentially or simultaneously have partners of both sexes: two is fine but three is better. I don’t know any bisexuals who construct their lives in this way, but it’s a favourite point of attack for conservatives.

This is what Lisa originally wrote, and I think we can all see where Colin is coming from:

Moreover, what is the response to active bisexuals? Bisexuals either sequentially or simultaneously have partners of both sexes:  two is fine but three is better. Will Simon feel able to validate committed loving trios?  How would he reply to, say, US bisexual ‘poster girl’ Jenny Block, whose book, Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, has made significant headway? Jenny loves her husband, Christopher, and she loves her girlfriend, Jemma, and she has a sexual relationship with both. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/jul/06/women.features3

I think Lisa is getting a little confused between sexual orientations and sexual activity. One does not necessarily necesitate the other.

That said, Colin goes and shoots himself in the foot again by trying to defend the document on Sexual Ethics which Changing Attitude produced a few years ago. He writes:

Lisa has again been reading the report on Sexual Ethics published by CA for the Clergy Consultation. She says the report challenges the whole concept of sexual exclusivity and affirms that ‘brief and loving sexual engagement’ with other people can be ‘occasions of grace’.
Lisa has, I suspect, read the whole report. Therefore she knows perfectly well that is doesn’t challenge ‘the whole concept of sexual exclusivity’.

The report says “the ideal outcome may be for mature adults to live in covenantal relationships that are stable, sexually exclusive/monogamous and permanent” – ‘may’, because it is clear that in every society and culture, heterosexuals find it hard to maintain this ideal.

Here’s the controversial paragraphs (page 10 and 11) in full:

There is often an implicit assumption in using the words ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’ in this discussion that we are always talking about sexual relationships persisting over a long period of time. And of course time provides the vital conditions for development, change and growth. To be committed is to take things seriously. It is to say ‘Tomorrow I will be here as well as today, which means that we have time. Time for facing up to the reality of each other. I am not going to run away (from you or myself).’

However, the biblical theme is primarily about the overwhelming demand to remain faithful to our covenantal relationship with God through the Spirit (which, as the gospels warn, may challenge conventional family obligations) Thus while it is clear to us as LGBTs when we survey the gay scene, and indeed much of contemporary social life, that casual sex can often be addictive and destructive, we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace. Risky, but then as Paul Tillich said ‘A Christian is safest taking risks!’

Now I agree with Colin that reading the rest of the report you cannot come away with anything less then a sense that Changing Attitude are putting forward a “Permanent, Faithful, Stable” model of gay relationships, but these two paragraphs seem to just wipe all that away. Given that the concept is all in one sentence, how can the “brief and loving sexual engagement” not be “casual sex”?

I would love for Colin to present us with an example of a “brief and loving sexual engagement” that constitutes not “casual sex” but rather a “Permanent, Faithful, Stable” monogamous commitment. I’ve asked him as much on his blog. let’s see if we get an answer.

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3 Comments on “Changing Attitude and One Night Stands

  1. Brief comment on all this as b-sexual and pan-sexuality seem to confuse some in the church…I am a pan-sexual man. I use the term pan-sexual as lots of people now recognize that things are not always as clear cut as 100% male 100% female. I fall in love with people not based on their gender. This does not mean that I feel the need to be having sex with a man and a women at the same time – or to have multiple relationships on the go at one time. If for example a “heterosexual” man finds women with big breast, and women with small breasts attractive this does not mean he needs to be in a relationship with both at all times or feel that he is denying himself something terribly important to his sexuality. The church often seems to read b-sexual as meaning in relationships with a man and women at the same time. It really really does not mean this. Sure some people do it, like wise some people who like big and small breasted women date both at the same time.  So to clarify – I as a bi-sexual man fell in love with a women and married her. This does not mean I am now “straight” I still find men attractive. As I do other women. I am however married in a mongomous relationship and so am not sleeping with other people not feel the need to.

  2. Do you not think, Peter, that AM should check the content of the material posted more carefully. To claim that the attitude of bisexuals is “two is fine but three is better” really is unjust and innaccurate when there are those of us who, like the last contributor, live our lives with integrity but cannot describe ourselves as exclusively hetereosexual.

  3. I think it’s beholden to all of us to make sure that we don’t stereotype or demonise people that we don’t agree with. There is also the issue when dealing with sexual issues to make the clear and unambigious distinction between attraction/orientation and activity.

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