On March 1st last year, I wrote in this blog a post entitled, “Sex and the USA” (available in archives). In it, I expressed my anger with those in power in America for its “archaic, backward, revolting, coercive” attitudes to how we deal with and express human sexuality. To those adjectives I now add retarded, insular, infantile and pathetic.

It has pissed me off in no small measure that the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), responsible for enforcing the law with regard to censorship on television, radio and press, have seen fit to have a spasmodic attack of fine-slapping since the Superbowl Boob a year ago. But, in a rare moment of agreement with Frank Rich of the New York Times, I not only fear for the product of THIS prudery, but also for the future. You see, evangelical groups and other lunatics actually feel that the FCC are too LENIENT. In principal, the very idea of a regulatory body that effectively, in a media-driven world, has the power to tell us what our moral standards should be, is, in my humble (but very logical) opinion, bound to create a very sick society. So, in desparation, let me take it down to basics here. What is going on?

Human beings are inherently sexual. There are very few (if any) human activities that can be performed without a trace of sexuality; from office relationships to clothes shopping, from socialising to entertainment. Sexuality is not limited to the explicit sex act – it is present in a multitude of our actions in a variety of degrees simply because we are human. Art, such as film and music, intends to present through aesthetics an exploration of some facet of human life or human observation. But exploration of sexuality in art tends to be regarded by a significant percentage of our society as taboo or even immoral; to such an extent that they see the need for lawfully authorised bodies such as the FCC to prohibit people in law from broadcasting or, in some cases, even PRODUCING such art. The reasons for this stem mainly from the influence and attitudes of American evangelicalism.

Today, my theology would be best described as post-evangelical. However, my politically-driven frustrations with the influence of the evangelical movement do not stem from any major departure from evangelical theology. My frustrations with the approach to sexuality of the FCC, other regulatory bodies and more generally in America derive from the fact that there is faulty logic at its source. Evangelicals have moral problems with many kinds of sexual expression, and in the execution of their responses to this they make two general mistakes:

MISTAKE ONE – To assume that morality is a collective affair.

Human rationality is, by nature, individual – personal. We are not part of a collective consciousness or corporate rationality which can make decisions of principal by a singular process of logic. There may well be objective truth and an objective ethical standard, but human beings do not have a means of establishing that to the satisfaction of every individual, because human rationality incorporates processes of thought on an independent, personal level, with the result that people disagree over what is right and what is wrong. The first general mistake of the evangelical movement is to assume that whatever they personally find offensive, immoral or wrong should automatically be construed to be such by everybody else. That would be bad enough. But evangelicals go on to do something much worse – they attempt to ENFORCE, through legislation, their blanket morality upon the rest of the population, all of whom have their own independent (and equally valid) ideas of right and wrong.

MISTAKE TWO – To throw the net of legislation wider than their own theology prescribes.

So they have chosen to coerce others, instead of merely persuade others that they are right. And in doing so, they make another mistake of logic Рthat being their failure to know the prescribed response to their own theology. The end result is that instead of merely targeting those depictions of sexuality that they find immoral, evangelicals object to virtually all sexuality in any form, in any piece of art, whenever. Not only is this illogical, but it is a major reason for the retarded sexual expression in mainstream society; where any discussion of sexuality is stunted by ill-educated, insincere, awkward, cliché-ridden rhetoric. This may not have been the intention of evangelicals, but it has had the effect, nevertheless. This makes almost any sexuality fair game for the morality-police.

So, now, the FCC can legitimately fine broadcasters for showing too much flesh on television. The filmmakers can have their movies banned from being shown in theaters for sex scenes that are regarded as too explicit. In fact, there isn’t any sexual depiction or discussion that can’t become the victim of coercion. We seem to have lost the ability entirely to levy responsibility at the individual, on behalf of their children or on behalf of themselves.

As a libertarian, I would like to see a voluntary ratings system entered into by broadcasters in return for the complete disbanding of the content-regulations arm of the FCC. To prevent children inadvertently seeing sexually explicit material or material that parents may find offensive, the ratings system would work in a similar fashion to that used in the movie industry for theater releases. The control of evangelicals would then be restricted to the only legitimate objects of that control: themselves and their children. What measure would there be in law to enforce the ratings system? None. Those broadcasters that did not enter the ratings system would lose a potentially lucrative family market, or may not be targeting families at all, in which case the ratings system need not apply. There would be a convincing incentive for a family or general broadcaster to adopt the ratings system and no incentive not to. Children would be protected by careful parents who take their responsibilities seriously and use the ratings system to ensure their children are watching appropriate television. Current technology can even be used by parents to block inappropriate material automatically. A very reasonable solution, while still ensuring that rational adult individuals can choose to enjoy material that is more mature in nature.

The day we realise as a society that we need not try and enforce our morals on everyone else will be a day to celebrate freedom.

John Wright