No Affection Please, We’re Homophobic
Both my Twitter and Facebook feeds today have been full of condemnation of Adshell’s removal of a poster from bus shelters. The poster is part of a “Rip and Roll” safe sex campaign by the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities. I’m including the picture so that you can see which one I’m talking about and my comments do not relate to any other pictures that might be associated with the Facebook page that has been created explaining the background and protesting removal of the poster. Like all such sites, it’s better if you don’t read the comments. The poster was removed after complaints, the most vocal complainant seems, again, to be Wendy Francis from the Australian Christian lobby, helping to give Christians everywhere a bad name.
I like the picture, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
To be honest, I’m not sure of what to think about homosexuality. Yes I know that somewhere in Leviticus the Bible condemns it. But the Bible also commands us not to cross-breed animals, plant a field with different types of seeds, or wear clothing made of mixed fibres, so I guess most of us are stuffed on those grounds. I do know that consistently throughout the Bible God is concerned with the quality of relationships.
Feelings of sexual attraction are not straightforward. There are plenty of arguments about the basis being biological or a matter of choice or ‘lifestyle’ or whatever. I think maybe there is an element of choice in whether you pursue your passions, but isn’t that the case for all of us, straight or gay? The most helpful explanation I’ve ever had was from a friend who said to me ‘the way you feel about John, that’s how I feel about my partner’. That I can understand, and I will always respect that friend for his openness and honesty in answering my questions. So for me now, it is a matter between the individual and God. It is not my place to judge.
But this is beside the point. I like the picture because it shows two people engaging in what seems to be a genuinely affectionate embrace with only mildly sexual overtones. In a perverse repetition of the past, the important thing here is being lost in all the outrage and hullabaloo about homosexuality, just as it was in the congregation that I belonged to years ago when the Uniting Church released its sexuality report. What was important then, and what is important now, from my way of thinking, is the rightness of relationship. That picture, and the explanation on the Facebook page seem to indicate a loving—to me ‘right’—relationship. I’d much rather explain to my kids a picture of two men in a loving hug than some of the pictures in public places displaying considerably more graphically the stuff of supposedly heterosexual fantasies.
My kids are grown up now, but I would rather they had seen more images of affection than violence as they grew up. We seem much more comfortable as a society watching men be violent with each other than seeing them display love or affection to each other. That’s sad.
Apparently the complaints are based on the idea that somehow the picture contributes to the sexualization of children. What? First, children are sexual beings, even the little ones. Make no mistake: I am not advocating that children should be allowed free reign sexually, or that they should be introduced to ideas before they are able to understand them, or that they should engage in sexual behaviour with adults or each other, or that they should be dressed like little adults. But to deny that they are sexual beings is ludicrous. God-given human sexuality is a beautiful thing; sweaty, messy, sometimes funny, but beautiful nonetheless. We people degrade it. And we do that by focusing on the act and disregarding the full humanity of the people involved. I can’t see how images of people being affectionate is necessarily ‘sexualizing’ children. If anything, it seems to me that images of people being affectionate, and even suggestions that they might practice safe, healthy, sex, create a better environment for raising children than either one that denies sexuality in the presence of children or surrounds them with images of violence and degradation.
And I can’t help thinking that if the couple had been heterosexual, none of this fuss would have happened.