Response to Shirley Richards’ Letter – All’s not well with sexual mores

Original Letter: All’s not well with sexual mores

S. Richards’ letter in the Gleaner of Tuesday, March 24, is a stark reminder of what drives antigay behaviour in Jamaica: the absence of solid, consistent and coherent reflection on the premises upon which all social exclusion rests. In her letter, Ms. Richards defended the maintenance of the legal provisions against buggery since, as she believes, they exist “to keep what is unnatural from becoming accepted”.
This appeal to ‘nature’ to buttress a legal provision that gives the government the right to peep into the bedrooms of consenting adults is very flawed. Taken to its logical conclusion, governments would be required to ban the cutting of fingernails and hair, the wearing of tattoos and of clothes, and the piercing of body parts because these practices are ‘unnatural’ and what is unnatural should be kept from becoming accepted.

Like the argument that justifies the proscription against sexual activities between men because these acts are ostensibly morally reprehensible, the appeal to nature ignores the fact that for an argument to be valid, it must be applicable to every situation that meets the criteria in its premise. So, if we understand S. Richards correctly, her argument is akin to that of those who treat homosexuality as an exceptional sexual sin. She now claims homosexuality (and alas, only homosexuality between men: the laws say nothing about lesbian sexual activities) to be so exceptional an unnatural act that it warrants criminalisation! So, no one is proposing the criminalisation of fornication and adultery, a logical necessity if we maintain that the anti-buggery provisions are moral in nature, but the criminalisation of sex between men is accepted and promoted as a Christian duty to nation and a dead queen. Further, no one is proposing that we ban unnatural acts such as the placing of dyes under the epidermis or the piercing of muscles such as the tongue, but we are to accept that what two consenting adult men do with their body parts in the privacy of their homes or a hotel room is outrageous that is requires interdiction.

It is time that as a people we begin to examine our prejudices and the assumptions on which they are based and name them for what they are: bigotry of the highest order. Government has no duty to criminalise subjectively defined morality or to legislate against ‘unnatural’ acts, whether they be shaving or wearing of jewellery. In a democratic society, that is left to individuals and their conscience and whichever imams, priests, rabbis or shepherds they choose to listen to. It is time that S. Richards and all who believe like her learn to distinguish their Caesars from their Gods. Jamaica is a democracy, not, as they imply, a theocracy.