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Sex Is a Right, Contra Christian Hypocrites

The night time is the right time...

I generally avoid Bob Ellis's "Dakota" Voice in part because it is not a "Dakota Voice." Ellis's regurgitations of Tea Party talking points could come from anywhere. With nothing original to say, he often reposts in full commentators from elsewhere who have nothing to say about South Dakota (or North Dakota, or Dakota trucks, or Dakota Fanning...).

Today's case in point: Dakota Voice prints this ramble from David Mann, a Florida man who wrecked his family by getting into Internet porn. In an all too familiar pattern, this professed Christian tries to expiate his sins by turning his private mistakes into a public crusade against sex. Because his own obsession with sex messed up his life (and the lives of his wife and children), Mann claims sex is not a right:

People tend to think of sex as an inalienable right, but it is not. It is a privilege, and one that carries tremendous responsibility due to its power. Not only does it have the power to create life, but it creates a strong bond between the man and woman involved. Its very design assumes that a couple will produce children and stay together while raising them, and beyond. Even with the reproductive aspect not being fulfilled, the bonding aspect is there. Thus, when sexuality is misused, it has great power to damage [David Mann, "Sex Is Not a Right," Florida Dakota Voice, 2011.05.31].

Odd: in his thousand-word pile of baseless assertions and confessional self-aggrandizement, Mann never manages to explain just why sex is not a right. He certainly doesn't explain how government may presume to dictate who can have sex with whom, a pretty fundamental test of the extent of a right. Mann just slaps a sloppy headline over anything he considers a "misuse" of sex: casual encounters, "shacking up," homosexuality... pretty much any non-marital tingly stuff that doesn't produce offspring.

If I work hard, I can maybe read in Mann's above passage an argument that actions that carry tremendous responsibility due to their power are not rights, but privileges. Again, odd: speech has great power that demands great responsibility, yet free speech is a right.

Sex is a right, albeit a complicated one. It takes two to tango. You can't force anyone to tango with you; folks have a right not to tango. But if you find a willing partner, you two can tango pretty much all you want. Thanks to our right to privacy, neither Mann nor the state nor anyone else can tell us to stop tango-ing.

That's still not an absolute right: you and your partner still can't do your thing in a public place. No right is absolute; every right exists in tension with others, and the balance with which we resolve that tension varies with time and circumstances. But sex among willing participants, like free speech in a democracy, is still a right.

Related: Not that public opinion surveys define rights, but Mann should check out these stats from Gallup via Constant Conservative. Majorities of Americans consider gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, and extramarital sex morally acceptable. An even larger majority (66%) says pornography is morally wrong.


  1. Bob Ellis 2011.05.31

    In an effort to shine just a little bit of light on the amazing darkness of your ignorance, I thought I'd explain a couple of things to you.

    First, while it might come as a great shock to you, there are things which occur outside the state of South Dakota which are important to the universe at large, and even to those of us in South Dakota, too. What's more, the opinions of people who live outside the state of South Dakota (hold onto your hat) are often very similar to the opinions and observations of people who live inside our state. Hard to believe for some people, I understand, but it's really true. And while I could point out that a significant number of the articles at Dakota Voice do indeed examine issues and events within our state (just as, conversely, a great deal of posts at other South Dakota blogs--gasp--deal with topics outside our state), that fact largely speaks for itself and so warrants little further examination despite your, um, inconvenient oversight on that matter.

    I should also point out that your favorite newspaper (be it the Madison Daily Leader, the Argus Leader, the Rapid City Journal, or even the LA Times) almost certainly "reprints" articles from syndicated sources (e.g. AP, Reuters, etc.). You apparently don't have a problem with these news outlets reprinting material that their readers may find interesting. It seems rather petty that you would fault Dakota Voice for doing what many news outlets do in abundance. But then, petty is par for your course.

    Additionally, I should add that some of these writers are not even syndicated, but offer their writings exclusively at Dakota Voice. No, many of them are not citizens of the great state of South Dakota, but many people still find their writings informative all the same.

    I should also point out that I don't "regurgitate" Tea Party talking points. If anything, since I have been a leader in the Tea Party movement since the very beginning of the movement, I make those talking points rather than regurgitate them. But no, actually I am simply saying what every patriotic and fiscally responsible American knows--what we hope the uninformed and uneducated can learn before our great nation slips forever into the socialist abyss.

    Finally, I'll invite any of your readers who might possibly have the maturity and intellectual integrity to actually consider information from an objective point of view to examine David Mann's article for themselves. It's rather obvious to most people who aren't self-centered and hedonistic that human sexuality has been regulated as long as there has been human government (regulation of marriage, regulation of incest, regulation of prostitution, regulation of childbirth and child care, etc). History and the facts speak for themselves: you don't have a right to unrestricted sex.

    So no, Mann is not bringing some great revelation that should be hard to understand. Hard for an indulgent, self-serving liberal to accept? Yes. But not hard to understand.

    Why not do your community and your country a favor by, for once, putting the good of society ahead of short-sighted lusts and do the right thing. Take a stand for responsibility instead of championing irresponsibility and wanton behavior. I guarantee: you'll find it immensely rewarding.

  2. Lee Schoenbeck 2011.05.31

    Corey - this may be your strangest post ever, and that is a competitive field. I found it interesting, but failed to see why you spent the effort to share with us the great debate about sex as a right vs privledge. As for the Florida dude, sounds like a flawed character (Isn't everyone) that shared some interesting perspectives. I'd rather hear your Kusinich rants for entertainment

  3. John Hess 2011.05.31

    But religion aside, in the context of human relations is anonymous sex healthy? Unless a cause of my conservative upbringing I tend to agree with his statements it's not outside a meaningful relationship which is what he is really trying to say. While I disagree with Fundamentalists eager to set boundaries for other people, there should be some sympathy for his having to learn the most painful way. While Cory is not advocating free love, why not advocate healthy love!

  4. John Hess 2011.05.31

    With a little commitment.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.05.31

    John, I can roll with promoting commitment and discouraging porn and promiscuity. But when Mann heads his article "Sex Is Not a Right," that calls for a different conversation. Consider free speech: I encourage healthy, intelligent speech, but I can't outlaw unhealthy, stupid speech (cf. Bob's insults and distractions above).

    Lee, I just missed Bob's ranting and needed to draw another example of his predictable ad hominem-framed comments. Mission accomplished!

    Now stay tuned, Lee: if Dennis Kucinich doesn't pick Washington State, I'm going to mount a campaign to get him to move to Madison and run against Noem in 2012!

  6. Anne 2011.05.31

    People who obsess over what other people do in their bedrooms and impose their own sicknesses on others always want to be the moral consultants in this world. It is like Hitler telling others how to love Jews. But in some ways you have created a kind of pornography, which gave Ellis occasion to engage in a wild masturbatory orgy with his own nasty little ego. It is obscene. Best not to invite such displays.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.06.01

    My apologies, Anne. Dakota War College hasn't been satisfying my desire for argumentation. I had to release my tension somehow. ;-)

  8. Bill Fleming 2011.06.01

    I think it's a spring thing, Cory. The sun comes out and people start thinking about such matters. Hey, even professor Blanchard just did a thing on "the parts down under." I have to confess that such topics bring out the worst in me, humor wise, and that I am biting my lips and both fingers — tears in my eyes — trying to exercise a little restraint here. (Unfortunately, I lost the battle with my satirical instincts on KB's page. I hope he'll forgive me.)

  9. Douglas Wiken 2011.06.01

    Ellis should attack "satirical insights" not to be confused with "Satyrical insights" however.

  10. Troy Jones 2011.06.02

    I'm with Lee. This is confusing as I'm not sure what the point of the post is. I don't know if it is an attempt to take a shot at Bob Ellis' blog, Bob Ellis personally, or disagree with the post on Dakota Voice (sex is not an inalienable right but a privilege).

    Part of the problem is the fuzzy use of words which creates fuzzy communication of ideas. In particular, I'd like to address three words that are used in a fuzzy way.

    Right: While there is no "absolute right" because rights are always limited by the impact on another, there are three types of rights.

    1) Inalienable Right: This is a right in which nobody or government has the ability to deny of another person. These rights come from the Natural Law are bestowed on an individual solely as a result of personhood. The right to reasonably and proportionately defend oneself from unlawful assault is an example of an inalienable right. Assuming sex means having sex with another adult, because sex requires another's permission, I have no inalienable right to have sex.

    2) Defined Right: These are rights which the body politic requires the government to protect/allow/not infringe upon. Most of these rights are inferred by inalienable rights and delineated in a Supreme Law (ala the Constitution). For instance the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is an example of a defined right derived from an inalienable right. Sex certainly isn't defined in the Supreme Law so it is not a defined right.

    3) Inferred Right: This is a right which when looking at either inalienable rights or defined rights another right is reasonable. In the hierarchy of rights, an inferred rights is the lowest form as it must subjugate itself to other rights. The right to PURSUE sex with another is probably an example of an inferred right derived from the inalienable right to Liberty among others.

    Then, we have to ask ourselves what is a privilege. A privilege is giving another permission to do something for which they have no obligation to do.

    So let's summarize this discussion about if sex is a right.

    The pursuit of sex is an inferred right. But because it requires the free consent of another, having sex is not a right. In fact, since another has unrestricted authority to determine if I have sex, having sex is a privilege granted to me by them. Concurrently, if I have sex, I grant that person the same privilege.

    In summary, sex is a privilege granted by another and pursuing sex is an inferred right. And this is my confusion.

    It appears Cory understands sex is a privilege because he admits it requires another's permission.

    So, does this mean Cory is confused on the difference between a right and a privilege?

    Or did he infer Mann's article meant PURSUIT of sex was not a right? When I read the article, it seems pretty clear the context of his words was having sex and not pursuing it.

    More than once, I know I've rambled without alot of clarity so I don't want to sound hyper critical of Cory's post but in one in which he goes to great pains to criticize Mann's clarity, it is a bit ironic.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.06.02

    Troy, your discussion of rights is exactly the sort of detailed, thoughtful explanation I was hoping for. If Mann wants to couch his "argument" in terms of "rights," he needs to offer similar clarity and rigor.

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