Hugo Schwyzer smacks down relativistic green on the question of whether it’s okay to use porn while in a relationship. Here’s the view he wrestles with:
Ethan was a bit less than enthusiastic about my views on radical intimacy and relationship. He writes in a comment: The other issue is that I’m a real relativist when it comes to relationships. This mostly comes from my mother, who is a psychotherapist and feminist. I believe that the presence of pornography in a relationship–or its total absence–is something that should be discussed and agreed upon within a relationship. As in, there is no outside morality that holds any sway within the confines of your relationship. Only what you and your lover agree upon matters. That’s my view.
And in turn Hugo offers a counterpunch:
Yikes. That makes me very uncomfortable. As several other people immediately pointed out, no “discussion” takes place in a vacuum…. Sounds very progressive and mature, no doubt, but it ignores completely the reality that we all bring our people-pleasing, our control issues, and our pre-determined views into the discussion…. And when both parties to the discussion consider the discourse of the overwhelming male sex drive to be an incontrovertible fact rather than a myth, than the entire subsequent conversation will take place under false premises. And the outcome will not be the best.
I’m with Hugo against relationship ethics relativism. But his answer doesn’t quite gel. He seems to want to replace the notion that men are horny as a “fact” with the equally dubious charge that it’s a “myth”. Male and female sex drives are different, and relationships need to be structured in ways that respect those differences. In exchange for the “myth” of the Horny Man, Hugo advocates “acknowledging those pressures,” “copping to them,” and “exploring why it is we feel as we do” as universal values. He rejects green relativism in favor of a greenish-teal existential groping. He seems to see men as reaching out to cop values and exploring the depths of their feelings for some overarching explanation.
But what if the mythical Masturbating Man reaches out for depth and finds no wise guidance whatsoever? That seems to be the situation most gay men and lesbians are in today. Tradition doesn’t provide guidance that works, really, honestly works in our day-to-day lives. Ethics for gays is either cut-and-paste from bad heterosexual models or rejected altogether by “liberated queers”.
By and large, traditions were written by heterosexuals and closeted and repressed homosexuals. Many people today, gays first among many, find themselves groping in the darkness for reasonable guidance and finding the purveyors of wisdom have empty hands. Traditional monogamy just doesn’t apply to gay and lesbian relationships, I’m convinced. And relativistic negotiated openness has its own perils.
We need an evolutionary perspective at turquoise to chart our territory in relationship dynamics. And then we need new organizations, social structures, and institutions at indigo in which that counsel can be transmitted to future generations. Perhaps such structures can be found from the traditions, but they won’t be found in the conventional wisdom that holds heterosexual vaginal intercourse as the gold standard and ideal for human sexuality and imposes rigid limits on expressions outside those boundaries. The reality is more complex than that, and the future is more insecure.