Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Some thoughts on morality

This year has made me think about morality, as in what is moral and what is not? To me it is a subjective question based on a person's personal views, probably as a result of their upbringing and what they have done and seen in adult life. I hear older members of my family give broad sweeping statements such as "the youth of today have no morals", yet if I open a History book it seems to me that ever since man has had conscious thought morality has been a battle between them! Some people or events are easily seen as immoral by most people, such as Hitler and his Holocaust and the Reign of Terror brought about by Stalin, or paedophiles to name just three. However these events are very much at the end of the spectrum, and I have met few or none who would consider them correct (including myself) But, where do we draw the line between what is or is not immoral on subjects such as a person's sexuality should they be sharing it with a consenting adult? It seems to me that people have differing opinions about this, and I would like to hear yours.
To me something immoral is doing something that may hurt another person, animal or the environment in which we live in for no good reason other than for one's own gain.
BUT, many people seem to be classing things as immoral simply because they do not understand them or do not wish to understand them. I say this since there are members of society who would call people like me depraved and immoral. But why? Do I hurt anyone? No (well not unless asked nicely and it is consenting, but certainly not lifelong damage!) does the environment become damaged by my activities on the scene? maybe, simply by my presence on Earth, but not to a significant level as a direct result of scene activities. I and others play in private when and where we can. We keep to ourselves and enjoy our time immensely, can the folks out there in the world hurling their insults at us honestly say they enjoy freedom of their sexuality? Are they sure they have not got something pent up inside them? Not understanding something is no excuse for labelling it Immoral.


Lancisto said...

I find it hard to give my opinion here as essentially you've captured a lot of it in your post.

As far as sexual mores are concerned I am of the view that as long as it is consensual, between adults who clean up their own mess and that I don't have to watch it if I don't want then what people get up to in their bedrooms (or kitchens or hot-tubs or dungeons or whatever) is not hurting me and I have no right to judge. I reserve the right to snigger a little, occasionally, mind.

Morality isn't just about sex, though. It is about how to live your life in general. "Big" morals are easy - thou shalt not kill or steal or stuff like that are pretty universal. Admittedly, there are grey areas about self-defence and judicial killing.

I think this distils down to small stuff too, if we all thought a little more and tried to leave the world a better place than we found it, then it would be a better place indeed.

Also honesty is important. Honesty with self most of all. In this scene we see a lot of people playing secretly outside of their life-partner relationship, convincing themselves that it's not really sexual so it's not really cheating. Well, I think that's deluding themselves - even if the person playing away really doesn't get anything sexual from it, if either of the other parties views it as sexual then there is a problem in store. Of course, this is nobody's business but the people involved (see para. 2 :) ).

One thing that I have observed over the years is that the moral high ground must be pretty high indeed, with a very rarified atmosphere - much of the time the people who reside there appear not to have enough oxygen to think very clearly.

L (unreconstructed hippie, at times puerile and sometime inadvertent needer of extra oxygen).

Redhead said...

Yes we see those emotionally laden words, depraved, illicit, and immoral every nearly day – and not only in tabloid newspapers. Even within the scene, we love; there are those who get perturbed when something goes a bit further than they want. Niki Flynn calls these, “The Only True way Spankos know exactly what they like; anything outside those boundaries is depraved.” (Dances with Werewolves - p.42)” On another board I was baffled when someone argued a sense of illegality was part of their spanking kink and then went on to chide a certain judge’s open acceptance of the ‘unconventional.’ That poster seemed unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

I’ve argued elsewhere that people’s tribal/survival needs become more pronounced in times of stress (credit crunch, unemployment, ratings wars, real war, gas prices… the list is endless). At such times those who think and behave otherwise, “Andersdenkende”, as the Hitlerites called them are easy prey to distract the followers in society from the real problems and their leaders' weaknesses to deal with them.

In Germany, we lost a whole generation of artists and their art – so called “degenerate or depraved” art because those artists, secessionists, cubists, dadaists, surrealists expressed themselves unconventionally, were different and thus suspect.

It is very hard to argue against morality as a personal code of conduct based on the values you mention. (Incidentally, I say, “I’ll hurt you more than you can imagine, but I’ll never harm you.” However, you, like everyone I have ever played with in the scene, have an intellect and intelligence of which the popular American and UK media and the salary-politicians beholden to them are truly afraid. We are seen as subversive. It’s not your morality that is questionable Leia-Ann, but those around us who are too scared not to be hypocritical, and have so little self-respect that they cannot trust themselves.

One of our mutual friends once said she’d trust her life in my hands. It was funny, because I’d just said the same about her, when someone had mentioned her to me. That’s morality.

A bit of a ramble, but I think those, “The youth of today…” phrases are just popular camouflage for deep seated insecurities. Because they’ve not let me down, I’ve much more faith in the next generation than my most of my parent's generation.


Leia-Ann Woods said...

Interesting responses from both of you, both well thought and measured....some things you have mentioned I had not previously thought, so will continue to "muse" on the matter. It is of course something that could be discussed until the end of time ( if that is possible)

Richard said...

"Where do we draw the line between what is or is not immoral on subjects such as a person's sexuality?"
I'm not very good at trying to decide whether or not something's immoral. It's not a concept that seems to bother me over-much. I DO concern myself whether or not something's right or not, this I suppose is my conscience, but I'm not at all sure if it's the same as asking if it's moral (or immoral). Whether or not it's right can be a difficult decision. Let me woffle on a bit more (you never know I might even then know what I think!) Immoral earnings: I'm pretty sure living off ill-gotten gains selling weapons to 3rd world countries clocks up as immoral for me. I certainly consider it wrong. What about the usual meaning? I can't see why a prostitute's earnings are immoral. It may be wrong for me to use her to satisfy my lustful desires. I would need to know why she was doing it. Suppose she has children to support, her husband's left her and she doesn't have a profession in any other sense. Then if she hates what she's doing, loathes every minute of it , I couldn't condone asking her to have sex, even knowing that what I'd be paying her would be helping her and her children. I'd rather give her some cash and try and see what ways there were to get her out of her predicament. Now let's suppose she's enjoying every minute of it. I can't see any 'wrong' here and certainly wouldn't consider it immoral, whatever that is.
I'm a switch. I would never dream of hurting a woman in any way , but if she enjoys it I'm happy to cane her. (I say 'her' as I'm completely heterosexual and would never wish to have a male partener, but am perfectly happy for men to wallop each other if they so wish.) We're all full of inner contradictions. I'm NOT happy watching a video of another man caning (or whatever) a woman. I somehow don't feel it's right that I should be getting pleasure at her expense( I know that it's at my expense financially and she's actually being funded by me.) I'm certainly not happy about a third party owning the business and making a profit out of the woman. I suppose I could justify enough money being made to cover expenses including paying the filming crew. But suppose the owner of the set-up runs round in a Mercedes and lives in a luxury flat? But to come back to the question of me watching a man punishing a woman. Why does this bother my conscience? Do I think it's ok for another man to watch? And why doesn't it bother my conscience watching a woman punishing another woman? I'm afraid like in so many things I can't come up with a satisfactory answer. After a lifetime as an electronic engineer there are many scientific and engineering problems I still don't know the answer to. Perhaps we must learn to tolerate other people's judgements of us and try ourselves always to be tolerant of others we don't understand in all walks of life. Easier said than done.

Heresiarch said...

It's hard to know quite why traditional moralities get quite so hung up about sex and sexual practices. The standard sociological explanation has it that there's a need to control access to breeding females and ensure paternity. I suspect it's more visceral than that. In her seminal work "Purity and Danger", Mary Douglas observed that in many societies sex was seen as a source of ritual pollution. Or as St Augustine of Hippo, that proto-prude, put it, inter faeces et urinam nascimur. We are born 'twixt shit and piss.

The very process of having sex, even the most vanilla-ish sex, confronts these normally tabooed bodily functions. When most children learn for the first time what sex entails, they think it sounds yukky. They can't imagine wanting to do it (unless they find out very late, and may be doing it already). This feeling stays hangs around. Hence comes shame: and the shame is turned away by a species of denial. Two forms of denial: concentration on romantic displacement- hearts and flowers, clean sheets, lurve; and social approbation - marriage seen as creating stable families, lifelong companionship, etc. There are others.

Dangerous, kinky or non-standard manifestations of sexuality put the dirt back. And that's a turn-on, of course. Because it's such a turn-on, it threatens to expose the artificiality of the devices society uses to make sex safe. But, being committed to those devices, having internalised them, people have a line of defence. It's called disgust. Of course, if they start exploring their fantasies they'll probably get over the initial disgust. But the social taboo will remain. Many people still haven't got over their disgust at gay sex, though they realise it's no longer acceptable to say so in public.

I believe that neurological studies reveal a very close correlation between disgust and moral disapproval. That explains a lot.

Leia-Ann Woods said...

More fantastic responses that have really got me seems i will cover more of these "difficult" topics from time to time, as it really brings out useful discussion. Thank you!

John said...

I don't want to go over ground covered by others too much but I do think it is too easy to think in morality only in terms of sexual morality. To me morality to a large extent relates to how one treats other people. Do those who pick over the lives of others for their own profit and the prurient "entertainment" of the public sleep well at night? If they do perhaps their moral sense has been blunted to a dangerous extent...?

OK, most of us who might frequent this blog will know which side of the debate we are on in the particular circumstances of this case. But let's not forget the other people whose lives are turned over and often destroyed by this type of, to my mind, immoral behaviour. If we didn't buy those newspapers or watch exploitative "reality" tv programmes then the profit motive would rapidly disappear.


Ms Slide said...

A "Morality Check" on my blog here that I hope will make you smile.

Love ya,

Slide x

Adrian Hardhand said...

Hello Leia

As Kundun (aka The Dalai Lama) gave one of his elevated discourses, a small voice from the back of the hall said "Rinpoche, what you say is beautiful, but I don't understand. Could you explain more simply, please?" Kundun gave his famous Cheshire Cat smile, looked around the audience, and said: "Be kind to one another."

In the '70s I hung out with Rajneesh in Poona. His POV: Politicians and prelates invented morality to keep the masses under their thumbs, to prevent mankind from flowering. Makes sense to me.

(I loved Rajneesh's slogans: "Easy is right. Loose and natural," distilled from the wisdom of The Song of Mahamudra.

Yrs in pervery, Adrian

Leia-Ann Woods said...

Ms Slide - yes it did...thank you for that!

John and Adrian - interesting thoughts there, thank you


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