I chose to give this post the title “principles of (gay) secular sexual morality” putting the word gay in brackets because, although to form my opinion on the subject I have referred to my environment, that is gay people, the result of my reflection is independent of sexual orientation. The reflections are very general, I start by acknowledging a discomfort and therefore a conflict and tend to resolve it with a proposal.
Discomfort, as such, and in this case the moral distress identified as guilt, it is believed originated from an conflict inside the conscience between what you should be and what you are. According to the most common schematization, the transgression of a moral precept leads to guilt, but it is actually difficult to define both what you should be and what you are.
The real action can be more or less free, but also the moral norm with which the concrete action is compared often derives from more or less forced internalization of external regulatory assumptions on which very often it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to have any rational control. If the concepts of good and evil are defined for passive assimilation of external codes the meter itself of moral judgment falters.
In front of the definition of the criteria of moral there are two substantially different attitudes, dogmatic one for which the distinction between moral and immoral is objective and morality looks like a system formal and legalistic, and the other that focuses on the size of individual freedom and of the subjective judgment. The first trend “teaches moral norms”, the second “opens the door to the individual conscience” and of course, at least within broad areas, to the subjectivity of conscience. The moral of individual freedom is not the moral of individualism, selfishness, etc.. etc.., but the moral of the individual pursuit of the good. In this individual research, indeed, the fundamental principle is the realization of the good of the other, an altruistic principle.
Beyond the individual rules of behavior, which are left to individual freedom, what is altruistic has to be considered moral and what is egoistic has to be considered immoral. It is clear that certainly continue to exist behaviors that should be considered “objectively” immoral and must be attentively prevented and are those who are in the criminal law that punishes acts objectively detrimental to the others rights.
While the champions of the objectivity of the moral norm spread a teaching of well defined moral principles, that despite the stated objectivity are strongly characterized historically and culturally (there is no objective morality shared by all), the champions of moral freedom of individual tend to spread a pedagogy of freedom that merely indicates the pourpose (altruism) and leaves to the individual conscience the search for ways to realize it.
In a prescriptive morality, beyond the predictable statements that try to bring up the opposite, it makes no sense to distinguish between the one who commits an error and the error itself because what matters from the moral point of view is not the person but what that person does, the individual conscience is really considered a poor thing, on the contrary in a morality of freedom, except in cases of major criminal behavior, moral judgment is subjective and internal to conscience, I mean that evaluating the good and the bad outside the conscience of the individual completely loses meaning.
The society in which we live is the result of centuries of moral precepts and for this reason the prescriptive moral is generally perceived as the only possible moral. The transmission of value systems and moral codes thus tends to perpetuate the prescriptive moral from one generation to another creating the illusion that that moral is absolute and eternal.
When the moral code absorbed from the outside is not properly fitting to the life of the individual, a conflict raises up, this conflict could be resolved adjusting the individual behavior on internalized moral norm but since this method tends to reduce the freedom of the individual, it is better to look for a different way and weaken the moral norm, its interpretation becomes flexible, and this way creates less discomfort, but in reality flexible interpretations leave survive the whole edifice of formal moral, which is the very reason for the discomfort, because the norm is imposed by forcing freedom of individual morality. In essence, the need for moral freedom almost always returns to the surface (when it has been suppressed not too violently) and internalized normative codes, without being challenged, are actually removed or weakened.
I wonder if no longer it makes sense to respect the individual moral freedom from the beginning. Doesn’t it make more sense to educate people about freedom of choice? There are some countries in which the pedagogy of freedom has existed for many years and not only did not facilitate the abuse but educated to a sense of responsibility
Let’s try to bring the theoretical discourse in practice.
A guy growing up realizes that he is gay, if he has been educated according to a prescriptive moral, he can perhaps feel in trouble, in conflict with the family, the religion and the society, and can also live very deep hardship. If he doesn’t end up giving up entirely to himself, sooner or later the individual freedom will emerge, will eventually the norm too much rigid will weaken, the guy will follow in appearance the standard behaviour in front of the family, the religious community and other public places, but sooner or later, that guy will find ways to get back his freedom.
On the contrary If that guy had been educated from the beginning to the moral freedom there would be nothing with which to come into conflict and he would wonder how to live responsibly his homosexuality, that guy must be aware of some objective limits that cannot be eliminated and that while leaving freedom on how to implement the welfare of others, however, requires not to damage them in any way. In this case the first moral duty is the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. It is clear that the first postulate of morality is “objectively do not harm others.”
How may that guy trying to do right, realize what is the good of the other? The answer is quite simple, he has to try to see situations from the point of view of the other, it is certainly not easy to try to evaluate the effect of our actions as they appear in the eyes of the other. Good and evil are not measured on the intentions of the agent but from the point of view of the persons to whom actions are addressed. In this sense, no behavior in the context of moral freedom is good or bad in itself because the assessment can be given only by to those who act trying to understand the effects of what they do (principle of responsibility).
Let’s go to a concrete example: sex yes or no? The answer is obtained immediately starting from the point of view of the other. No sex if sexual contact is not wanted by the other, or if it may cause him, later, remorse or situations of discomfort; sex, yes, if your personal desire meets the one of the other in a free and spontaneous. And if things are not very clear? Here, too, the answer is simple, the solutions to the questions must be seek in two, the other is not only the recipient of our assessments, but chooses with us and sharing doubts and uncertainties helps prevent misjudgements. On the other hand among people accustomed to moral freedom, the judgment about a man depends on his honesty, on his lack of ulterior motives, on the consistency of the manner of his speaking with his way of being and on his willingness to get involved on equal terms with other persons.
From this discussion we arrive at a necessary conclusion: the basis of sexuality education and, I might add, of all forms of education should be the education for freedom. Our freedom and that of others form the foundation of morality and our happiness and that of others constitute its purpose.