After a little break from any type of serious reading or writing I decided to pick up “Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us” by Jesse Bering. I am only through the first chapter but I can already tell I am going to enjoy it. Instead of only diving into the quirky physical nature of humans Bering wants us to both be more comfortable with the sexual deviant in each of us, and more understanding of others. He wants a world where people are judged for their actions, and not their thoughts.
Bering sees a problem with a world where we hide our fetishes. When we hide what we feel and crave we are putting on a mask, the same mask as everyone else, but we are pretending the masks are real. Our realities become a lie, a lie that we have all tacitly agreed to honor even though underneath the masks we are suffering. To ignore what you feel, to pretend it isn’t there, to act “normal” all the time bears a significant cost on your mind and can be harmful. And we go to great lengths to keep this sexual facade up, to the point where we work to dehumanize anyone with sexual perversions, we compare them to animals when they are very human.
Bering points out that all too often we fall into the “naturalistic fallacy” when discussing sexual norms. I know that I’m guilty of this in my defense of polyamory. We turn to nature and point out that other animals have open sex, homosexual activities, and multi-partner relationships, therefore it is not unnatural for humans to do this. Unfortunately this puts us in the same category as fundamentalist religious people who make the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” comments… basically they say sex is naturally for reproduction therefore if the act doesn’t lead to reproduction then it is unnatural. They are wrong when they resort to nature, and so have I been in the past. It may have strong rhetorical value but, as Bering says, “invokes a moral judgement against those whose sexual orientations are not found in other animals. Furthermore, even if we were indeed the lone queer species in an infinite universe of potentially habitable planets, it’s unclear to me how that would make marriage between two gay adults in love with each other less okay.” When we resort to the nature we spend so much time trying to defend it from an evolutionary point of view and stop asking the important question: is it harmful?
Sexual desires themselves to not cause any harm. They are firing neurons, a mental movie theater, an internal thought. Treating someone poorly or differently based on thoughts and urges that are beyond their control is a gross form of discrimination. We can’t help what we are attracted to. We should only pass judgement when someone acts on urges that cause harm to others, and maybe we should even congratulate the “perverts” who are open about their desires but don’t act on them if they are harmful.
We are all sexual beings. The lady at the grocery store, the old man on the park bench, your parents, grandparents, and siblings… they have all likely pleasured other people into orgasmic bliss. There is a serious danger when you criminalize thoughts or criminalize acts that do not have any proof of harm. Allowing governments to use force as an agent of morality means that someday those moral police may be turned on anyone if public opinion shifts.