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Towards a rational attitude to human sexuality (2)

By Douglas Anele

Continuing, Pastor Enoch Adeboye explains that “when a woman accuses you of something, nobody will listen to you whether you’re right or wrong. When you find yourself facing youthful lust, don’t wait to fight, flee. When you see a sister smiling at you in a coy way, run. Don’t say ‘I’m a great man of God, I’m highly anointed:’ ask Samson.”

To a large extent, the General Overseer of RCCG is right in pointing out that people tend to believe a woman when she accuses some particular man of sexual misconduct or harassment without even considering the issue of evidence. Indeed, most times when the question of sufficient evidence is raised, self-styled hypocritical and ignorant guardians of sexual morality tend to respond as if the person demanding for corroboration is actually supporting sexual abuse of women and as if the accusation must be true or else the woman making the claim would not have been bold enough to do so. The attitude of believing first before adequate evidence is provided, in my opinion, is unreasonable and dangerous. Sexual abuse of any kind, especially when it involves physical harassment and rape, are serious offences, which means that one should be careful not to jump to a definite conclusion of guilt in the absence of sufficient corroborating facts. Besides, some women, out of seething old grudge, desire for revenge, blackmail or plain mischief, have falsely accused innocent men of sexual harassment or rape. Therefore, no matter the degree of justified indignation and disgust one feels towards men accused of abusing women sexually, it is of utmost importance to avoid becoming part of a real or media lynch mob anytime such an allegation rears up without first looking at the relevant facts. In other words, people should always insist that evidence must be provided before believing such allegation due to the possibility that it might be false based on the reasons stated a moment ago. Of course, sexual abuse of any kind is not just a criminal offence; it dehumanises both the victim and the perpetrator since it negates the Kantian principle that we should treat one another as ends in themselves, never as a means to an end.

However, to advise men, whether clergy or not, to flee from advances from women or avoid hiring them as private secretaries on the basis of biblical teachings just because of the possibility of sex shows that Pastor Adeboye’s beliefs about human sexuality is rooted in the primitive, unscientific and suffocating ascetic sexual ethic in the Christian scripture. First, sexual relation which evolved for the noble purpose of replenishing the human population due to the ravages of death is invariably treated by Christians as a consequence of the alleged fall of Adam. This absurd belief led to the Christian notion that there is something fundamentally impure or sinful about the sexual act. Second, St. Paul, stated in I Corinthians Chap. 7 verses 1 to 9 that although it is better to remain a virgin, marriage is permissible solely because it provides the only legitimate outlet for sexual impulses and tension. St. Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval theologian, argued that humans should copy animals with regard to sex because the latter indulges in it for procreation only. One of the consequences of these bizarre beliefs about sex is the labelling of extramarital sex with words like ‘adultery’ and ‘fornication’ that generate very strong feeling of moral reprobation, which makes thinking sanely about sex outside marriage extremely difficult.

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Moreover, since Eve was alleged to have caused Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, woman is depicted in Christianity as the temptress who lead men into sexual sin. So, it is desirable to curtail her opportunities for tempting them, which fits into Adeboye’s ridiculous recommendation that young and aspiring clergymen should run away from, or avoiding working closely with, women. But for how long would a “man of God” run away from women for fear of sexual sin? Does it make sense to do that when Jesus himself, as depicted in the Holy Bible and other sources, had close interactions with several female followers? Now, because those that formulated Christian sexual ethic are men who lived in patriarchal societies, it is not surprising that Christian teachings generally portrayed women in a negative light especially on sex.

That said, there is nothing in Pastor Adeboye’s statements which suggests that he is acquainted with scientific findings on human sexuality, including psychoanalytic literature on the subject. Like other ignorant Christians, he accepts completely the ascetic Christian attitude towards sex enabled by an archaic phenomenology of sexual morality. Let us say it as it is: advising men, irrespective of their profession, not to work closely with women just to avoid the temptation of falling into sexual sin is both childish and unrealistic. Also, it concentrates too much on the negative side of the situation while totally ignoring the possibility that lifelong meaningful platonic friendship or erotic love can germinate from such interaction. Besides, it is based on the absurd notion that sex outside marriage is a sin to be avoided at all cost. Bertrand Russell, in his book, Marriage and Morals, argues that aside from the fact that although human beings can survive without sex but not without food and drinking water, psychologically the desire for sex is analogous to the desire for food and water. In most individuals it is enormously enhanced by abstinence, and temporarily allayed when the sexual act is performed. The major problems especially with orthodox or traditional Christian teachings on sex include its silly mystification of both sex and the sex organs, the false notion that sex is “dirty,” and “unclean,” and the extremely harmful idea that sex is the product of sin tolerable in marriage because of the necessity for procreation but to be completely avoided outside marriage. What puritanical Christians like Pastor Adeboye fail to recognise is that, like food and alcohol, sexual desire is enormously stimulated by prohibition. Likewise, Christian taboo morality on sex has led to undue preoccupation and obsession with sex among believers. That is why most preachers in various pulpits across Nigeria, just like children deprived of food who, as a result, think about food all the time, are preoccupied with sexual thoughts and waste a lot of time and energy sermonising against sex outside marriage, without realising that undue preoccupation with the topic is counterproductive.

That Christian and Islamic doctrines on sex have had serious damaging effects on generations of people has been demonstrated by research findings in clinical psychology, particularly psychoanalysis, which document innumerable cases of individuals suffering from various degrees of neurosis traceable to radioactive superstitious religious ideas and attitudes imbibed in early childhood. For example, in a conventional religious family, especially if both parents are puritanical Christians, children are taught from infancy to see sex as something queer, nasty and forbidden, something not to be discussed at all or, at best, to be talked about in hushed tones. The parents (especially mothers) discourage them with stern warnings (in some cases beatings) from mentioning or touching their genitals. The end result of all this is that the children grow up with a warped and unhealthy attitude towards sex: they become prurient and deceitful about it. And because the children would later realise that their parents told them stupid lies about sex (how children are conceived, for instance) they would likely get the relevant information in a garbled form from their peers at school and begin to experiment dangerously with sex without their parents knowing. We have already alluded to the bizarre teachings of St. Paul on the subject.

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