I’ve been in the mountains for a few days, recharging, relaxing, and reflecting. On my return I learned that a major political party in the United States has nominated for the United States Senate – a once august body populated by giants – a person running on an anti-masturbation platform.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. In Alaska the same party nominated a man who thinks Social Security is unconstitutional and believes that the federal government should quit sending tax dollars to Alaska. Alaska! Louisiana will probably return to the U.S. Senate a man who consorts with prostitutes, South Carolina Democrats nominated a man under indictment for viewing child porn, and, should the Republicans retake the House of Representatives, the new Speaker of the House of the United States will be a permanently tanned man who apparently sleeps – literally and figuratively – with lobbyists.
But back to anti-masturbation. I’m not sure that is a winning political platform. Most everyone does it and I’m guessing that, like me, they would just as soon government agents not watch. I’m pretty sure the government agents feel the same way.
First, let’s give the candidate her say. She says,
“It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be be abstinent alone. The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can’t masturbate without lust.”
Parsing that statement we see that her major premise is that one cannot masturbate without lust. Therefore, because lust equals adultery, masturbation equals adultery.
Suppose you are married and you fantasize about your spouse while you masturbate. How can that be adultery? Or suppose you have sex without lust? Many women and not a few men occasionally engage in the sex act without lust at all. I suspect it happens rather often in long-term relationships.
I think the candidate is confusing sex with lust. One can lust without sex and one can sex without lust.
At least she didn’t invoke Onan, the poor man God killed for not following orders. God instructed Onan to impregnate the widow of his brother so an heir to that kingdom would be born. Onan had sex with his dead brother’s wife all right, but he practiced coitus interruptus, thereby “spilling his seed on the ground.” Since sometime during the Reformation, some religious leaders have claimed that God killed Onan for masturbating, but God really killed him for disobeying orders. Moreover, people in those days thought that a man’s supply of seed might be limited. That concern was not uncommon in early societies with small populations. For instance, it is said that the Navajo Owl God, Neeshjah, warned his people not to masturbate. They did not know that men continue to produce sperm long after they have any business siring offspring. (Another piece of evidence that the Universe is a random, chaotic place. A designing intelligence surely would have coordinated men and women’s sexual desires and abilities and ended them at the same time rather than allowing the absurd continuation of male sexual desire long after women reach the age where they don’t much care any more. Oh wait! Maybe that’s why God invented masturbation! It probably has saved innumerable marriages.)
I can’t leave the subject of Onan and coitus interruptus without quoting Tom Stoppard who wrote this bit of dialogue for two characters in his play “Arcadia.”
Septimus […] I am sorry that the seed fell on stony ground.
Thomasina: That was the sin of Onan, wasn’t it, Septimus?
Septimus: Yes. He was giving his brother’s wife a Latin lesson and she was hardly the wiser after it than before.
But back to the anti-masturbation candidate. I see she also once announced on national television, “American scientific companies” had created “mice with fully functioning human brains.” A person less kind than me might suggest that the reverse may be true.
And so I conclude that this candidate in Delaware has little chance of winning, at least if the voters are honest with themselves. While masturbation is seldom a conversational topic in polite society, we all do it. As Lionel Trilling wrote more than half a century ago, “. . . there is almost universal involvement in the sexual life and therefore much variety of conduct.” No one wants the government in our bedrooms watching.
Speaking of adultery, as we were there for a minute, today is the 50th anniversary of Ted Williams last baseball game. He hit a home run at his last at-bat and John Updike was in the stadium and wrote a classic bit of literature about the experience. Read about it here. Read the real thing here.
Updike had scheduled an adulterous liaison that day and told his wife he was going to the ball game. When he arrived at the woman’s apartment, she was gone. So, he went to the game. Already, at the age of 28, Updike knew about marriage. He wrote, “The affair between Boston and Ted Williams has been no mere summer romance; it has been a marriage, composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories.” And, every so often, some lustless even listless sex.