Friday, October 12, 2012

Sex at Dawn

Shabbat Bereishit
26 Tishrei, 5773
12 October 2012

I’m reading a very unrabbinic book, Sex at Dawn – a book on the prehistory of human sexual relationships. The book has a clear agenda: to destroy the notion of monogamy as writ into the genes of humans.

I love books like this one, whose effect is to poke holes in what everybody surely knows to be true. Whether one agrees with their conclusions, it is delightful to open the windows on values grown musty after generations of unquestioning assumption.

There is a disease of humans in which personal instinct is construed as universal truth. The authors quote George Bernard Shaw on this idea, “[H]e is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” Nowhere is this tendency more strident than when it comes to sexuality. My culture’s sexual behavior is normal. Yours is aberrant.

To my mind, the opposing tendency is no better. In declaring sexual mores outmoded and crusty and embracing a universalist sexuality (whatever feels good as long as there is consent), we abandon to anarchy and chance the most powerful way we create relationships with one another. Anyone who has been to college can tell you that few leave the free-for-all without some very serious regrets.

 I believe the world would be a better place if we separated our life-choices from the kinds of lifestyles we accept. People should invest in their particularity. They should invest in creating frames for sexuality (and most other things) that ground them in their values and fill their lives with meaning. But they should never mistake their choices with the necessity that, for all others, this is the way things should be.

No comments:

Post a Comment