Monday, February 20, 2012

The Pitfalls of Sex Positive Christianity

I realize that my blog seems to make me seem like a super reactionary person. Those who don't necessarily know me super well might get an incorrect impression, because I seem to mostly use this blog to criticize things that 'progressive' people say or do. I don't want that to come off as "So let's go back to tradition" because that's definitely not it. I just think that there are so many people already talking about those things in ways that are way superior to mine that I figure I might as well write about things that aren't beating a dead horse, so to speak. I might change that though, but just to clarify.

So, with that, I want to say that I have some serious reservations about how the embodiment/sex-positive Christian theology thing is talked about. Maybe that's just a hold over from my more conservative childhood, or perhaps it has to do with reading too many ascetic writers. But a lot of the rhetoric just seems to kind of make me feel weird. Obviously it is better than the whole "Sex after marriage only or you are going to hell" camp, but there are still some things I don't thing are very compelling. Or perhaps, over compelling to the point of seeming compulsory.

The first is that I find embodiment theology to basically be arguing so heavily on the side of sexuality being sacred and important that I overemphasizes it. The critique is that Traditional Christianity (TM [there is nothing wrong about that reification]) has been negatively obsessed with sex and sexuality; what the solution seems to be from many sex positive theologians is to be obsessed with sex and sexuality, but positively. I guess you might be able to make the argument that that is the only way to overcome the sex negativity of Traditional Christianity (ughuhguhguh). However, the lengths that they go to to reconcile sexuality with Christianity actually seems to have its own problems.

Most of the authors I've read have been in love with Audre Lorde's "Uses of the Erotic," which I personally don't have a great opinion of. I think it's a totally ahistorical way of looking at asceticism, along with being a bit essentialist and kind of sidelines asexual people. Why I mention it is because Lorde's essay is a great example of the trend in sex positive Christianity (even though Lorde wasn't Christian) to see sexuality as something that is necessary for spirituality, along with being completely universal.

The first problem here is that some people don't like sex. The idea of making the Erotic some sort of spiritual force or will to Power (or whatever) seems to be excluding asexual people from any sort of spiritual existence. I mean, it also presents everyone who doesn't agree with the sex positive theologians as people with a false consciousness, which is a really condescending way of doing theology. But moreover, I think it is sacralizing and spiritualizing something that doesn't necessarily need it.

Sex isn't some sort of mystical experience. It's not some sort of higher spiritual practice. Not inherently. It's an action. Like any other action, it can be made sacred or it can be made sinful. But don't tell me that somehow sexuality and spirituality are really tied or something and sexual desire is some sort of sacralized idea. Sex is just a thing that people do. I'm not trying to cheapen things, I just think that it is being afforded a great deal of more theological and metaphysical importance than it actually deserves. I'm not saying that it can't be a good or even great thing that brings people together. But I think many of these writers fail to realize that a lot of other things can also act in the same way; they are so busy arguing that sex is good that they make sexuality some sort of idol and reification. And in doing so, by pitting themselves as the "us" vs. the sex negative "them", they close out a lot of people from their theology.

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