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October 25, 2004

Who Are You to Judge?

Ry's parents have always encouraged her in her relationships with men, provided they approved of her choice. When she was 16, she fell in love with her first boyfriend but was unsure of where to take things. Several months into the relationship, there were a couple of weeks, her parents recall, when she mooned around the house, talking around and about the relationship, seeming stressed out, uncertain, in need of counsel. ''Finally, my dad said, 'You should just go have sex with him,''' Ry recalled.

Okay, I did change one detail.

(via Marriage Debate blog)

Posted by Justin Katz at October 25, 2004 7:13 PM
Marriage & Family

Aside from all the unspoken hesitations toward whether a child's hetero relationship would be acceptable to gay parents, here is also a good example about the way progressive ideology views fornication as normalcy. It brings to my mind my sister-in-law who has spent years looking for that special someone special to marry and spend her life with, but when they can get it free, they never seem to want to buy into the commitment. Chastity is another battlefield in the war over whether or not to desconstruct marriage.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 26, 2004 2:10 AM

Now, that reminds me of my sister - she wanted to marry and settle down and spend her life with.

She's been married now for about, oh, ten or eleven years. Guess getting it free didn't matter to her husband.

And regarding the sixteen-year-old girl in the original story - nice to know that all parents have to do is disapprove of fornication, and teenagers remain celibate (and chaste, as well).

Yes, I know, I'm being snarky, but I sincerely hope that when _my_ son is a teenager, I'll have something more helpful to say to him than "Don't".
My husband certainly will - he says his advice will be, "Don't get her pregnant, or I'll make you wish you'd tied it in a knot."

Posted by: Robert at October 29, 2004 6:51 PM

Well, Robert, this could get into sticky personal areas, but let's just say that the reason I rewrote the paragraph in that way was that I think the great majority of Americans would be aghast at a father telling his daughter to just go and have sex with her boyfriend. The point: it makes a difference when the parent is a man or woman and when the child is a boy or girl. We might think it somewhat uncouth for a father to tell his son to "go get 'em," but we'd think it near child abuse for him to say the same to his daughter.

Beyond that, there're quite a number of possibilities between "don't" and "maybe you should." Note that, in the anecdote in question, the lesbian mother offered the suggestion based on the girl's general disposition — not upon uncomfortable suspicion that something was already going on, not even in the course of advise-seeking discussion.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 29, 2004 7:05 PM

And you think teenagers aren't observant enough to pick up on what you and your spouse think is more important Robert? To me it sounds like you aren't teaching the kid chastity, you're teaching the kid it's more important to not get caught. Guess what though, that attitude is more than likely going to get carried over into some other aspect of your child's general attitude toward life and society.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 31, 2004 11:07 PM

I look at it as "yes, you can learn how to drive the car, and yes, you can drive the car when we feel you're ready for that responsibility, but if you damage the car, there will be consequences."

The main lesson we're teaching him now (at age 7) is that ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES (caps lock intentional). Good actions = good consequences, bad actions = bad consequences.

In this scenario, you would teach him that any sexual activity outside of marriage = bad action. We are not going to teach him that. We ARE going to teach him that he is responsible both for his actions and their consequences.
This is not the same as "do whatever you like , but don't get caught."

Posted by: Robert at November 1, 2004 12:06 PM


I note that you've had nothing to say about the actual advice in question: "Why don't you have sex with him." I don't know how well the gut implications of this question will translate from me to you, but imagine your child were a daughter. Can you imagine suggesting that she have sex with some particular boy?

At any rate, I've had some experience, personally and through friends, of the general form of parental sex-ed that you seem to be indicating. Sex became heavily a central focus, and that focus and approach manifested in multiple objectionable, even tragic, ways throughout adolescence, including a teenage abortion. (That's one of the "through friends" experiences.)

These things compound. Sex outside of marriage isn't just inadvisable because God says so. Independently of belief, sin brings layers of consequence beyond direct repercussions, and that's especially true as we attempt to chip away at the territory of what we deign to call "sinful" or "bad action."

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 1, 2004 12:17 PM

Two points. To answer your first question, no, I would not _suggest_ that my child have sex with a particular prospective partner.

Second - your phrase "independently of belief, sin brings layers ofconsequence. . ." makes several assumptions simultaneously. From where I stand, there is no sin independent of belief. If two Hindus convert to Buddhism, and marry each other in a Buddhist ceremony, remaining faithful and continent within that marriage, there is no sin - based on their belief. If the boy had been born into the Dalit caste, and the girl was born a Brahmin, their respective families would believe that a monstrous sin had been committed.
A presumably neutral Christian would argue that the only sin was that the marriage had not been performed by a 'real' man of God, and was therefore invalid in the eyes of the 'real' God.

Last night, we (me, husband and son) went out to the backyard, and had a brief ceremony honoring our deceased ancestors for Samhain. Some would find that objectionable. In some places, at some times, it would have been a capital offense. I'm glad to be here and now.

Posted by: Robert at November 1, 2004 2:10 PM


(I think you meant to reply to me.)

It's somewhat peculiar, although not uncommon, for you to insist that we take a relativist's definition of sin. Obviously, if something is not a sin to a certain person, that thing is not a sin according to his beliefs. What I meant to suggest is that I believe that sex outside of marriage is sinful, and if I'm right, then it will have consequences apart from whether one agrees with me. The libertarian impulse is to declare nothing inherently sinful and then to look along the direct line of likely consequences; such an approach misses the broader consequences that might be coded within either a Spirit-imbued sense of sinfulness or a cultural suggestion of "bad action." Rejecting both as an assumption is dangerous.

I'm glad, as are you, that pagan (or whatever) rituals aren't capital offenses. That doesn't mean they don't do lasting damage to your soul, or that perpetuating them doesn't damage our society, even if doing so is your right.

(And now we're quite far beyond shared territory, I suspect.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 1, 2004 3:09 PM

Justin -
Thank you for the clarification; yes, I was responding to you.

As far as insisting on anything, I would not insist that anyone take a relativist's definition of sin. My argument, to the extent that I had one, is that to argue that 'sin has consequences' is to presuppose shared territory (in your felicitous phrase) regarding the nature of sin.

If you belief, fiercely and unequivocally, that a certain act or behavior is a sin, you will certainly be predisposed to see the negative social and cultural consequences of permitting it to continue. If you believe that an act or behavior considered by alien societies as sinful is actually meritorious (suttee, for example), you will be disinclined to see those negative consequences.

I appreciate the courtesy with which you have participated in this discourse.

Posted by: Robert at November 1, 2004 3:50 PM
If you belief, fiercely and unequivocally, that a certain act or behavior is a sin, you will certainly be predisposed to see the negative social and cultural consequences of permitting it to continue.

Right — that goes without saying. But the only way it in any way undermines my intended point is if you take it to the relativist extreme of claiming that there are not objective measurements of negativity. Much of my problem with the worldview that ushers in same-sex marriage is that the range of actions that must be redefined as unsinful necessarily expands, sometimes in unforeseen ways.

I appreciate the courtesy with which you have participated in this discourse.


Posted by: Justin Katz at November 1, 2004 6:10 PM