The offensiveness of christianity and the non-offensiveness of erotica

Lately, I’ve been somewhat amused by a scenario played out in different forum threads concerning writing and reading online. The scenario is essentially the same each time. Someone will question the morality of erotica. This questioning tends to be driven a christian perspective. Those who write in the genre respond with a certain amount of indignation, demanding tolerance and decrying the intolerance of the questioner.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the morality of erotica, there’s a logical disconnect with that response if we honestly believe in freedom of speech and equality. The erotica writer cannot demand tolerance from the christian for something (erotica) that is in violation of the christian’s beliefs, and then declare the christian intolerant if she does not acquiesce, without allowing for the existence of a second demand: the christian demanding tolerance from the erotica writer on the matter of christian beliefs on sexuality, the marital relationship, purity, etc., and then declaring the erotica writer intolerant if she does not comply.

Bit of an impasse, eh?

The problem is that the two demands cannot truly co-exist. Therefore, I think it’s much more honest and practical for the erotica writer and the christian to acknowledge they are not going to agree on the matter and that they aren’t required to approve of what the other thinks. For either to talk about tolerance or respect for such a fundamental issue is not reality. A further step, though not one I really expect, would be an openness to honestly discuss their philosophical differences on the matter.

10 thoughts on “The offensiveness of christianity and the non-offensiveness of erotica”

  1. No, it’s not really an impasse.

    In my experience when folks from a Christian perspective disapprove of something they try to make sure it doesn’t exist. See current debates on abortion and gay marriage.

    I’ve never heard anyone suggest that those from a Christian–and, BTW, it’s not all Christians by a long shot–perspective not exist or that they not express their opinion, just that they not expect their opinion be legislated.

    Because, frankly, the perspective in questions feels it has the right to legislate to everyone who doesn’t share it.

    1. I’ve frequently run across the scenario in which christians are asked to (pressured, etc) be silent with their opinions. My first experience with that was back in the mid 80s. I was a teenager and visiting my brother in college. I sat in on a class (I think it was history or English) and the professor was rather aggressive about shutting out viewpoints that did not match up with his own. It was fascinating, to say the least.

      You’re correct that the conservative-Christian demographic tends to be in favor of legislating on issues like abortion and gay marriage (though, there’s quite a lot of difference on those issues coming from groups such as the Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc). However, I’ve always considered issues that like to be much more complicated than mere disagreements over freedom of speech.

    2. I’m afraid I’m with Gregory here. When you’re discussing the “morality of erotica as a genre”, you’re discussing whether it is allowable for people to write, publish and read in that genre. When you’re discussing whether christians (or any other strongly-believing people) should be “allowed to express their opinion”, it usually amounts to whether they should be allowed to tell others what to do or not to do. Or are you saying that the erotica writers are asking the christians to not publish and/or read literature that states their belief in the sanctity of marriage?
      It’s a bit like the smoking debate: I reserve the right to not have someone indulge in their unhealthy habit where the smoke blows in my face. That’s not telling them what to do to themselves, per se, it’s telling them what not to do to me – even though it happens to also affect what they can do. But I can’t ask them to never light up a cigarette in their home, even though I think smoking is a bad thing to do.
      There’s freedom of speech, and there’s unwarranted bossiness. They’re two separate things. And I’m afraid we christian folk have been all too prone towards the latter while claiming the right of the former.

      1. No, no. I think I might’ve been a bit sloppy in how I was writing. “As a genre” is confusing things a bit. I’m not saying erotica should be legislated against. I firmly believe in freedom of speech (other than the practical issues of shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater, of course), so I’m committed to defending someone’s right to write what they want.

        I’m trying to point out that neither side can expect or force tolerance and acceptance from the other side. Rather, there should be merely a practical agreement to disagree and to also (I hope) be open to a healthy debate on either subject (or any subject, really) in the public forum.

        Heavens above. I’m rather depressed now. I must’ve completely muddled what I was trying to write, and here I thought I was being clear. I’m going to go back and edit out that “as a genre” bit.

        For me, though, when I think of people being allowed to express their opinion, I’m thinking of it being a debate. I’m not in favor of telling others what to do, but I am in favor of being persuaded or being able to persuade.

        1. Oh! I get it. Quite.
          I’m somewhat allergic to the christian propensity for “being right”; I’ve spent too much of my life on it and now develop instant asthma in its vicinity. “…in favour of being persuaded or being able to persuade”, that’s exactly it – and it’s very different from the “more righteous than thou” which I was trying to speak against.
          Once again, it looks like we agree after all. How agreeable.

          1. I’m sure there’s plenty we could disagree on!

            Once again, I have proven my immense capacity for muddled writing. That’s why the Tormay trilogy took ten years to write.

  2. I think to some people tolerance means never acknowledging disagreement. As though the “don’t discuss politics, religion, etc. in context X” convention should just be 24/7 blanket rule. There do seem to be a lot of people though who act as though the existence of someone who disagrees is a personal affront and a source of great distress.

    Christians as a category are, I think, seen as more intolerant than other categories at least in part due to groups like Westboro Baptist Church and the seemingly endless attempts to get various conservative christian positions enshrined as law. And then there’s all the historical baggage. While there is equally rabid intolerance to be found within the “new atheist” movement, as one example, they don’t tend to make the evening news and their most high profile transgressions are things like the occasional kook suing to get “In God We Trust” removed from currency or some religious themed public art or monument removed.

    It has occurred to me that the emphasis on “faith” as the most important factor in salvation in some strains of christianity, the kind that leaves no room for “doubt”, might tend to be at odds with the sort mindset which allows for a live-and-let-live acceptance of other viewpoints.

    I also wonder if the seeming inability to tolerate the existence of disagreement has any relation to the common perception of the mind as some sort of magical logic box, most commonly manifested as a sort of shock and confusion when we realize someone else believes two things or holds two positions which we think of as contradictory or mutually exclusive. As if holding unexamined and contradictory beliefs wasn’t completely normal and we had none of our own. As if there was one right solution to every problem and it was never a matter of balancing values. It’s as though it’s human nature to want to reduce and oversimplify to the point that our models of the world and each other can no longer accommodate reality.

    1. Yeah, I think you’re exactly right on how a lot of people define tolerance. I’m perpetually amazed that people can’t argue about ideas without assuming that their own personhood is somehow inextricably bound up in the idea and, therefore, if the idea is being attacked, they’re being attacked as well. If someone isn’t willing to aggressively discuss ideas (and their own ideas) it’s a pretty good bet they’re living an unexamined life.

      But, like you point out, it’s normal for people to hold contradictory beliefs. Society is brimming with them. The whole “just be yourself, be an individual” philosophy vs the practical realities of social herd mentalities is a veritable traffic jam of contradictions. Anyway, I’m sure I’ve got a suitcase full. Examining takes a great deal of energy. It’s easier to watch Dancing with the Stars.

      Wesboro Baptist? Aargh. It’s a pity that the fringe secures so much attention from the media. That molds perception.

  3. “A further step, though not one I really expect, would be an openness to honestly discuss their philosophical differences on the matter.”

    Nail on the head! So many of our differences could be worked out, and so many of our unknown similarities shared if ONLY we could communicate, let me be so bold as to say, face-to-face.

    I will not engage in any of the online commentary following every snippet of news, opinion, sports, weather, you name it. We have lost the ability as a people to interact respectfully with one another. I blame technology for this. It emboldens us when it shouldn’t, makes us act more intelligent when we are not, and provides us with a venue through which we can shoot first, aim later.

    We suffered a great loss this week with death of Stephen Covey. I sat through his program in the early 90s. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” My God, so few today have any concept of what those words mean.

    1. Well said.

      “I blame technology for this. It emboldens us when it shouldn’t, makes us act more intelligent when we are not, and provides us with a venue through which we can shoot first, aim later.”

      That’s it, right there. We’ve turned into a brash, loud, rude, OMG LOL IMHO culture. Oh, for the day when I move to a tiny island off the coast of New Zealand, sans cell phone, sans internet…

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