Monday, September 19, 2016

Government in the Bedroom

"The government doesn't belong in the bedroom" means there should be no restrictions on what people do sexually in private as long as all parties are consenting. And I only say "private" because public acts inevitably involve non-participants without warning, which could be considered a violation of their consent (or in this case, lack thereof) to participate. In my view, seeing somebody engaging in an activity that you could easily turn away from doesn't count as participation - you don't become a player the instant you notice somebody playing tennis (that's what the term "spectator" is for - and even then, it only applies to people who specifically stick around to watch). But bringing sex acts out into public adds another dimension to the argument, and right now I want to focus on the importance of government not sticking its nose where it doesn't belong - in the privacy of people's bedrooms (and I define "bedroom" loosely, as any private place people might engage in any kind of sex or sex-related act, which includes masturbating in front of your home computer).

Potential problems I could see arising from the government not spying on people's sex lives is the possibility of 1) coercion (forcing somebody to engage in a sex act against their will, either by force or persuasion), 2) deception (obtaining consent for one act, and then switching the reel mid-show), and 3) casualties of ignorance (e.g., getting a girl pregnant because she wasn't aware of the importance of contraception). But I don't know that surveillance would even solve any of these problems. Nothing but the victim's own savvy and the possibility of outside intervention will stop a coerced sex act from occurring. But even if the government had a spycam in your bedroom, it presumably wouldn't stop the act from occurring, it would just make it easier to prosecute. Which is not a bad thing - but is it worth the government watching you every time you attempt to have an orgasm? You tell me. Their track record for permitting consensual acts of pleasure is not very good (remember when gay sex was illegal?), and I certainly wouldn't want to have to get a notarized warrant every time I wanted to search a person's orifices, much less have a chaperone supervising. Would you? This is one of those cases where we just have to trust to human nature. There will be people out there who will try to take advantage of others, and sometimes they will succeed. It's unfortunate, but it's inevitable. The best thing we can do is look out for each other, and try to identify and reduce the triggers that would cause a person to prioritize their own desires over the fundamental sanctity of another person's body and will in the first place.

As for the casualties of ignorance, I don't see how preserving ignorance by emphasizing abstinence (proven to be ineffective) is a superior methodology to simply combating ignorance by emphasizing education. At the end of the day, you're just not going to be able to prevent those who are intellectually disadvantaged and incapable of making good decisions in any context from failing to engage in proper safety practices. Perhaps you could make an argument for denying these people access to sex outside of supervised encounters, but I'm not sure that's the most effective or humane approach, and either way, it shouldn't affect the way the rest of us have sex. You put slow kids in slow classes with other slow kids. You don't slow down the regular class with the faster kids. I understand that the religious conservatives are doing everything in their power to keep the public ignorant of sexual matters, in the hopes that their decree that punishment awaits anyone who engages in "immoral" acts will actually prove to be true ("we said you'd pay for your sins, and by golly, it will be true, even if we have to be the ones doing the punishing!"), but how that's a platform anyone with one iota of good sense or compassion for their fellow man would support - I have no idea.

When it all comes down to it, there are not moral or immoral sex acts. Or if there are, it's your responsibility to choose whether or not to engage in them (and what happens as a result) - not to decide whether or not your neighbor gets to. If two (or more) people decide they want to engage in an act, it's their and their decision alone whether or not to go through with it. The extent to which they should be barred from doing so on account of consequences they may or may not be taking into consideration (which it is, at least, the government's responsibility - if they have any concern over people's sexual health at all, instead of people's sexual purity - to educate the public about) should, at most, determine which acts may or may not be "sponsored". (What I mean to say is, there should be beginner, intermediate, and advanced sex acts, instead of legal, questionably legal, and illegal sex acts). Barring individual considerations (which are always important, but never to be used to draw society-wide generalizations), I cannot see any justification for the criminalization of such acts, at the very least, as naked exhibition, vanilla masturbation (i.e., not involving, like, fists or gigantic cucumbers or power tools or whatever), or the pursuit of climax via gentle surface touching, or the recording and dissemination of recordings of such acts, when committed by consenting parties. There is no room in this society whatsoever for the shaming and stigma of people who claim their basic human right to pursue sexual pleasure and satisfaction within reasonable bounds. And if you want to pick up that power tool? As far as I'm concerned, have at it. But if you've got to sign a waiver or something, to avoid unexpected future litigation, the option should at least be there.

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