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Waarden en aantrekkelijkheid

Voorkant Abramson 'Sex Appeal - Six ethical principles for the 21st century' Paul R. ABRAMSON
Sex Appeal - Six ethical principles for the 21st century
Oxford ea: Oxford University Press, 2010; 140 blzn.
ISBN-13: 978 01 9539 3897

[Een boek geschreven in de context van de VS. En ook bijzonder Amerikaans qua waarden en normen t.a.v. religie en regering.]

(xi) Introduction

"Good advice, or more importantly, good sexual principles and habits, are worthy of attention."(xi)

"To simplify what can be confusing and complex subject matter, I have organized the major themes of this book into six key concepts—one per chapter. Memorize them now: Do No Harm, Celebrate Sex, Be Careful, Know Yourself, Speak Up/Speak Out, and Throw No Stones. Imagine them on a Post-it or on the back of a t-shirt. Even better, write them down, repeatedly if necessary.

Why? These six principles form the essence of my advice about sex. It is my belief that many, if not all, of the rewards of sex can be enhanced and its difficulties alleviated by adherence to these six easy-to-understand ideas. Think of them as the prerequisites for ‘‘good’’ sex in the twenty-first century."(xii)

"One final thought. Responsible sex is undeniably important. But here is the difficult part. It needs to be fun as well. Omit the fun and responsible sex is a rhetorical device void of tangible benefits. (...)

There is no getting around this fundamental truth, and I must stress that the ethical concepts I discuss here are by no means meant to be incongruent with the notion that sex is supposed to be enjoyable."(xvi)

(3) Chapter 1 - Do No Harm

"Imagine too that this instruction was extraordinarily effective. What would this world look like? What benefits would accrue?

For the most part, we would have an adult population that did not commit rape or date rape, did not sexually abuse, sexually harass, sexually assault, or perpetrate any of the other sexual harms of which people are capable. As the song goes, ‘‘What a wonderful world it would be!’’

The absence of sexual harm is not, I believe, unlike world peace. An all-encompassing reduction or elimination of sexual harm would have a profound impact on the planet. Better yet, I believe also that this scenario could be achieved more simply than world peace. With a few exceptions, sexual harm is an offense committed by an individual."(5)

"The principle of do no harm must be elevated to the societal level so that both the individual and society at large have equal obligations to prevent sexual harm (through appropriate constraints and punishments) and thereby practice the concept habitually. In this manner, no one is off the hook—we’re all responsible for helping to make the world a better place, sexually speaking.

Utopian aspirations aside, there is no avoiding the fact that despite our best efforts to teach the principle of do no harm, sexual harm will undoubtedly persist. There are those people who will harm others no matter what kind of instruction they receive: the bad eggs, so to speak. What do we do with them? What are our societal responsibilities?"(10)

[Bijvoorbeeld pedofielen = mensen die kinderen seksueel misbruiken. Abramson maakt geen enkel onderscheid en gooit alles op een hoop. En dus moeten ouders en potentiële slachtoffers leren ze te zien en dus moeten de straffen strenger worden, terwijl hij zelf al opmerkt dat misbruik van kinderen meestal in gezinnen plaatsvindt en door bekenden en al gesteld heeft dat strenge straffen niet helpen. Het is weer erg gemakkelijk en ongenuanceerd. Gevolg: draconische maatregelen zoals
- iedereen die met kinderen werkt krijgt een backgroundcheck (ook de ouders of stiefouders? nee, dus dat helpt niet erg);
- volwassenen, mannen met name, in de rol van coach, en noem maar op, moeten nooit alleen kunnen zijn met een kind, ouderparticipatie ter controle is nodig (maar geldt dat ook voor onderwijzers, leraren en zo verder? dan wordt het vrijwel een onmogelijke regel);
- en zo verder.]

"One of the difficulties here is in establishing procedures that will help detect or eliminate child sexual abuse without condemning all men, condemning all volunteers, or condemning all men who are drawn to positions or careers that allow access to kids. These issues warrant serious consideration if we as a society are to succeed in reducing sexual harm."(14)

[Dat is dus al een probleem aan het worden: veel mannen die geen zin meer hebben om dat werk te doen omdat ze voortdurend met wantrouwen te maken krijgen. En dan hebben we het nog maar niet over allerlei andere gevolgen van dit soort op angst gebaseerde maatregelen, bv. dat een onderwijzer een kind niet eens meer durft aan te raken om het te troosten.]

"Take child sexual abusers again. Most achieve their aims under the guise of affection. They establish friendships with kids, and often their parents as well. In fact, sexual abuse is usually only a small part of an overall relationship. This allows the (narcissistic) abuser to consider himself (or in rare cases, herself) a ‘‘friend.’’ When the abuse occurs, the abuser usually considers it a form of affection, and may also justify the behavior by setting some sort of ‘‘boundary.’’ For example, ‘‘I never used force’’ or ‘‘I never ejaculated myself’’ or ‘‘there was no penetration.’’ This boundary allows abusers to feel that they were truly affectionate. Furthermore, in those instances where they have exceeded the boundary, abusers will often apologize and promise not to do ‘‘that’’ again (even if they have to continually make this ‘‘promise’’). Despite all this, rarely are abusers able to truly empathize with the victim—or to appreciate the victim’s perspective. For example, they usually never ask themselves the question, ‘‘What will this boy or girl think and feel about this tonight, next week, or next year?’’ (Of course, if child molesters and other sexual abusers had the internal capacity to ask this question, and more importantly to empathize with the answer, they would not be ‘‘practicing’’ predators in the first place.) "(15)

[Dit zijn bijvoorbeeld de nuances waarmee je zou kunnen werken. Maar nee, zo gauw het element seks opduikt in de context van kinderen is elke nuance uitgesloten en pedofielen willen alleen maar seks en hebben geen empathie. Ook ergerlijk is dat de maatschappelijke context niet eens genoemd wordt van wat we 'abuse' noemen en wat niet.]

"I believe for example that sexual attraction to prepubertal children is hard wired in the brain. This means that despite all of the legal and social disincentives to such attractions (or, more accurately, to the behaviors they engender) they cannot be reversed; they are embedded in the brain. Teaching empathy to pedophiles (at least many of them) is an exercise in futility. Therefore as a necessary alternative, we need to devise better ways of detecting the absence of empathy. Detecting this form of narcissism (or lack of empathy) may be an indirect way of tracking men with the potential to do sexual harm."(16)

[Ook zo'n theorie. Geldt dat ook voor verkrachters en mensen die anderen seksueel lastig vallen? Goh, daar lees ik niets over. Geldt dat ook voor mensen die ontrouw zijn? Dit soort deterministische opvattingen leiden nergens toe.]

"Though this discussion has focused on extreme forms of sexual harm, there are other forms of harm that involve violations of trust. These ‘‘lesser’’ harms may have a greater impact on our everyday lives because more of us experience them on a regular basis. Take infidelity. In a culture that honors monogamy, cheating on a partner creates harm largely because of the violation of sexual trust. (...)

To me at least, it comes down to a matter of playing by the rules. If you commit to monogamy in a culture that cherishes monogamous relationships, sexual harm invariably results from infidelity. On the other hand, if the relationship parameters are more fluid, the outcome is dependent on the negotiated terms—whatever those terms may be. My argument here is premised on the concept of the freedom of choice. If you lie about infidelity, you have potentially robbed your partner of the freedom of choice; to me this means denying him or her a basic right of humanity.(...)

So for all of these reasons, I suggest the following: it is probably best not to cheat on the commitments you have made to your partner. Or, if you do (or have done so) you are obliged to inform your partner."(19-20)

" I also believe that Do No Harm is a substantially more important message to teach children and young adults than is the idea of ‘‘abstinence-only sex education.’’ When and where to have sex is a matter of each individual’s conscience, and a decision of choice. Egregious harm, on the other hand, is a matter of protection and survival. There are certainly compelling reasons for delaying the onset of sexual intercourse, emotional maturity being an obvious one. But to make this choice the cornerstone of sex education, from my perspective, is gross negligence in the service of religious ideology. Hence I would rather, as a nation, demonstrate our commitment to reducing sexual harm, making this a daily practice and a lifelong habit, than to reducing options or limiting choices. The world would be a much better place."(22)

[Nou, dat siert hem toch. Voor Amerikaanse begrippen is elke kritiek op religieuze ideologie bijna ongehoord.]

(23) Chapter 2 - Celebrate Sex

"It is meant to emphasize sexual enjoyment over and above procreation."(23)

"Despite advocating the celebration of sex, I am not doing so without limits. For example, I encourage young people to abstain from sexual intercourse until they have enough emotional maturity to act in a sexually conscientious manner. That sentiment is itself a form of abstinence. The difference between my view of abstinence and that of others is simply a matter of degree. One allows that the decision to have sex is age appropriate, the other that it is exclusive to marriage. Both inevitably promote some form of abstinence. (...)

Some educators go so far as to argue that the onset of sex should coincide with the ability to raise a child. To me that perspective is extreme, but it is an important point nonetheless."(29-30)

[Het lijkt hier wel of 'sexual intercourse' de enige manier is om van je lijf te genieten. Abramson noemt vele andere manieren, maar geldt daarvoor ook de regel van abstinentie die hij voorstaat? Daar heeft hij het niet over, vrijwel het hele hoofdstuk gaat over seks tussen personen.]

" I raise all of these issues simply to demonstrate that the age of onset for sexual relations is a complicated ethical concern. Where does this leave us? I believe that psychological maturity is perhaps the best marker for making any major, potentially life-changing decision, sexual or otherwise. Ideally, I would put the proper age of onset of sexual intercourse at 18, in industrialized countries at least, for the reasons stated above."(31-32)

(39) Chapter 3 - Be Careful

"Today it is common to assume that unwanted pregnancy (for heterosexuals and bisexuals) and sexually transmitted infections (for everyone) are the main risks associated with sex. These are major consequences to be avoided, and as we saw in the Introduction, the incidence rates are truly astonishing."(39)

"A certain level of experimenting may be a necessary developmental step toward growing up and making wise sexual choices—sowing one’s oats, so to speak. But there is a downside to sexual experimentation as well, at least for those who are relationship inclined. For instance, risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections is substantially higher when little emotional investment has been made in the relationship, because sexual conduct (I believe) tends to be more scrupulous with an ideal partner."(40-41)

"As suggested in the previous chapter, sex could be considered the superglue of humanity—and the glue is strongest when both partners are totally committed to their relationship."(41)

"But here is the curious part. Despite the failure rate, couples continue to tie the knot with increasing regularity. Though the buyer has been forewarned, most people pay the price again, again, and again. Why? Perhaps because, as suggested above, many people have a desperate need to create—or persist in—a relationship, regardless of how dysfunctional it becomes."(43)

Maar er wordt slecht gekozen: meer dan de helft van huwelijken / relaties loopt uit op een scheiding. And then some. Met alle ellende en kosten vandien.

"So what are we doing to prevent these consequences? The list of measures we take to prevent traffic accidents is lengthy. What about the measures for preventing bad marriages or other serious relationships? How long is that list? The simple answer is, there is no list! We do nothing from an institutional or societal perspective to prevent bad marriages. There are no mandatory classes for high school students about marriage or serious relationships. Instead, we waste precious time, energy, and resources launching dubious campaigns like those promoting abstinence from sex until marriage."(46)

"What then can be done to promote the ethic to Be Careful? First, the real risks of marital (or other serious relationship) failure must be clearly communicated to the young and old alike. The emotional, physical, and psycho- logical consequences of failed marriage (and its alternatives) must also be taught. This needs to be no less mandatory than drivers education is for teenagers. Ideally, classes focusing on marriage and relationship skills should be instituted in high school and continued in college.

More significantly, I believe that something on the order of the following might be useful to consider. Prospective newlyweds and prospective cohabiters could take a marriage class, much like the drivers education class required in some states to obtain a license. Couples would be ‘‘tested’’ on material presented in the class relating to facilitating emotional intimacy, pregnancy and conception, child rearing, communication and conflict resolution, alcohol, drug and spousal/partner abuse, economic planning, and so forth. The marriage class would also need to be gender and sexual orientation neutral, ethnically diverse, and reader friendly."(47-48)

"At this point I offer the following advice in the service of the habit of Being Careful: go slow. This is the best strategy for reducing the tendency to make impulsive (and perhaps unwise) decisions. Most relationships start off with a bang, sexual and otherwise. They are euphoric, self-affirming, and promise to resolve all of life’s difficulties."(52)

(61) Chapter 4 - Know Yourself

"In either case, the better you know yourself, the more positive the outcome. Meaning, simply, that if sex is involved, innumerable rules prevail and self-knowledge is an indispensible compass.

Take gender as another example. Having a long sexual resume is potentially good, or at least tolerated, for a man. The opposite is usually true for a woman. Having a long sexual history is decidedly detrimental. In either case, however, understanding the nuances is essential for making informed choices about the sexual person you want to be, regardless of whether you follow or disregard the rules in the first place. In fact, whatever sexual person you choose to be, it is beneficial to keep the following in mind: know yourself well."(63)

"Virtue, incidentally, is not synonymous with chastity, self-denial, or godliness. I do not mean virtue to be synonymous with sanctimoniousness either. The virtues listed above are a case in point: they are human values that facilitate social harmony and depth of experience. Justice, compassion, and love, for example, are excellent traits to cultivate in a sexual relationship because they create a sense of fairness, emotional intensity, and devotion, all of which are a far cry from self-denial. What I propose is that we avoid emulating the clergy (being pious and detached), in favor of an ethic that emphasizes becoming better people in the service of knowing ourselves."(75)

"Though being lonely can be painful, I believe it is preferable to being in a miserable relationship. Alone, we have control over experience. In a miserable relationship, the quality of experience is often out of our control."(76)

"But here is a warning. It is not for the faint of heart: knowing yourself is extraordinarily hard work. In essence, it is an ethical commitment for life. Most people are unwilling, or incapable, of making it. I said this before, but it bears repeating: if you are willing to try, I urge you to tap every possible resource to help you get there."(79)

(81) Chapter 5 - Speak Up / Speak Out

"Many examples come to mind—and these are more in line with the overarching theme of the First Amendment’s freedom of expression. Internet pornography, phone sex, erotic literature, nude dancing, and so forth all express a potentially controversial message about sex, and as such, have found protection under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech."(82)

"Sex, no less than politics, cannot flourish where censorship and retaliation prevail. If our goal is to optimize the depth and enjoyment of sex—and of human relationships in general—learning to speak up and speak out is an essential prerequisite."(82)

"So far I have introduced two kinds of communication (under the ethic to Speak Up / Speak Out), both designed to enhance the experience of sex within the context of a fulfilling sexual relationship. Inner monologue is the first. Partner dialogue is the second. They intermingle and overlap, and are meant to work in unison. I now introduce a third form of dialogue: public discourse. Though inner monologue and partner dialogue are confined to the couple, public discourse is not. Instead it is speaking up / speaking out in the public domain. Public discourse includes newspapers, books, and magazines. Television, movies, and the radio are other examples as well. So too are the Internet, art, plays, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, billboards, graffiti, music—anything, in fact, designed to convey ideas to the general, and not so general, public."(96)

"Everyone, it appears, has something to say about sex. Especially in the United States, which should come as no surprise. The First Amendment protects speech, public speech in particular. Often presumed, erroneously so, as limited to political issues, public speech is best conceived as facilitating critical topics relevant to public concern, morality among them. It is within the scope of morality that sex finds its home. All Constitutional debates about sex (such as contraception, sex between members of the same gender, pornography, and so forth) are ultimately debates about morality."(97-98)

[Chauvinisme is overal te vinden als het om Amerikanen gaat.]

(103) Chapter 6 - Throw No Stones

"Here is the last principle: Throw No Stones. Do not criticize, ridicule, or punish someone because they are sexually different from you. Make a habit of promoting acceptance and supporting diversity in human sexuality. This is the best way to ensure sexual well-being—and fun!—for all."(103)

"Sex is a private behavior. Humans typically prefer to have sex without observers and without judgment. The risk of observation usually precludes sexual expression. Similarly, most people also prefer to keep the details of their sexual lives private. Rarely, for example, does the average person give permission to have his or her sexual acts videotaped and posted on the Internet (celebrity bad girls notwithstanding). When done without consent, humiliation and outrage result. Though we might enjoy reading or watching pornography about someone else’s sexual exploits, we are generally not exhibitionists or sexual self-disclosers in the public domain. For most of us, if it happened behind closed doors, we prefer to keep it there—which creates a degree of vulnerability in terms of the risk of public disclosure of sexual acts, words, and fantasies, particularly when we challenge other people’s sexual habits. When doing so we then enter the spotlight as well. Therefore, if you intend to keep something private, it is wise not to attack the private behavior of others. Your own glass house may be shattered.

Most people have sexual feelings, desires, and fantasies which they prefer to keep secret—in many cases because they suspect that these desires aren’t ‘‘normal,’’ and that they would face shame or condemnation if they were made public."(104)

[Dit stukje zit vol met waarden en normen waar zo maar van uit gegaan wordt. Is seks iets privaats? Of zijn we dat gaan vinden onder invloed van het christendom en dergelijke? Was er vroeger, laten we zeggen: tot aan de 18e eeuw, niet veel meer openheid over? Heeft het terugdringen van seks naar de slaapkamer juist niet tot allerlei problemen geleid? Bijvoorbeeld dat kinderen niet meer weten hoe het zit? En zo verder. Is al die geheimzinnigheid nu niet net het probleem?]

"But surely there must be a downside when stones are prevented. Won’t the sexual floodgates thereafter remain open, sex flourishing without constraint? Where anything and everything goes? Where dark sexual secrets remain concealed forever? Yes, that would definitely be a downside. Therefore I must clarify that the specification to throw no stones is only meant to prohibit sexual hypocrisy."(106)

"As I described in the first chapter, there is a limit to what a society can tolerate where sex is concerned. Everything goes is no better than outlawing it all. The dividing line between the trampling of sexual rights and the protection of our citizens is the issue of harm. If it creates tangible harm, it should be prohibited. This is the very reason for government to intervene for the collective good: to protect the individual and society at large from the harms that confront us."(107)

"But, to some extent, this is all beside the point. Debates about gay marriage or sodomy laws are merely the tip of the iceberg, currently fashionable, but not at the heart of my concern. Instead, I want to make a different point: that many of our fundamental beliefs about promiscuity, sexual orientation, marriage, fidelity, and so forth, are both arbitrary and socially constructed. What we think is normal is not necessarily perceived as normal elsewhere. When we view sex through a worldwide lens, many surprises emerge. The cross-cultural findings also contribute to the ethic to throw no stones."(108)

"The point of this digression is to highlight the endless variability in sexual practices, beliefs, and identities. Though there are obviously many forms of sexuality that are comparable throughout the world, others are clearly subject to the customs of time and place. Age of first intercourse, age of marriage, number of wives, homosexual acts, premarital sex, extramarital sex, and so forth, have enormous cultural variability. In many cases, neither choice is inherently right or wrong, being constructed instead by specific cultural beliefs. Throwing stones in the form of criticism, ridicule, or punishment for sexual choices is therefore ill advised, no less so than throwing stones at variations in fashion."(113)

"Does throwing no stones elevate all sexual practices to tolerable forms of cultural diversity? No, not in the least. Genital mutilation of girls in the Sudan is a vicious harm, no matter how many people in the culture support it. The ethic of Do No Harm therefore supersedes Throw No Stones. If it has the potential to hurt someone, or is already doing damage, that sexual custom constitutes a crime against humanity. I urge no toleration for any such sexual behavior or practice."(114)

"Though I have no professed religion, and I am often critical of the manner in which sexuality has been regulated by various religious institutions, these beliefs have not blinded me to the many benefits that religion conveys. Its enormous popularity alone is testimony to its appeal, which is not surprising since religion is capable of profound inspiration, guidance, and solace. Religion also provides a strong sense of belonging, perpetual support, and comfort, and answers to basic questions about the meaning of life and death. For these reasons and others, religion deserves favorable recognition.

The same is true of the United States government. I firmly believe that while it may be prone to mistakes, our government is superb in potential. The parts I have criticized have no bearing on my perception of the whole. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution guarantee, certainly in the long run, the best government known to humankind."(116)

[Over waarden en normen gesproken! De VS hebben de beste regering die de mensheid ooit gekend heeft, jazeker. En religie is best heel geweldig. Yeah, right!]

(117) Conclusion

[Is niet meer dan een korte samenvatting.]

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