A critical analysis of the basic principles of the proposed new sexual freedom has been indicated in the preceding chapter. In this chapter, we concentrate on examination of the salient features of the proposed new sexual liberation, especially on its reformatory content in relation to conventional morality. This will be conducive to a detailed analysis, which is not likely to be thorough otherwise.
That there are people who are already convinced about the reformatory content of the proposed new sexual conduct is to be recognized. At the same time, it is worthwhile - even necessary - that social problems, including those of sexual morality, are discussed from various angles. For, the question of sexual ethics has received the attention of famous thinkers of our age.
Above all, it is notable that the proposed new, approach to human sexuality has tended to be readily accepted by young people, without evidencing any skepticism. Views of well - known personalities of our modern times are apparently taken to be infallible.
In our considered opinion, it is necessary that the esteemed readers are made aware of all the implications of even any rudimentary assimilation on the part of our impressionable young people of the novel ideas from the West, including some with innocuous labels, such as freedom, and equality. This is because we must know in which direction we are applying our minds, to what purpose and towards what end. If whatever we think and do is believed to be correct without verification, does it necessarily enable mankind to continue progressing?
Or else, does the Western intellectual and cultural penetration of our society represent too ill - informed and too ill-conceived a propaganda strategy that, if allowed to spread, is bound to lead mankind towards self -destruction?
The above questions are intended to be discussed herein, in a necessarily brief manner.1
With regard to the modernistic reform of the traditional sexual morals, the speculative reformers claim that the very basis of the latter no longer exists, or is in the process of vanishing. Since the reasons, the causative factors and the original conditions have changed, or are changing, they say that we have no longer any justification to continue practicing the old morality, the severity of which has occasionally been evidenced.
Furthermore, they point out that, aside from the changed or changing conditions, there have been in the historical past events involving the old morality in an ignorant and cruel manner. They believe that the past experiences were inconsistent with the concepts of freedom, justice and human dignity. So, even for the sake of humanity and justice, they appeal that we must oppose all moral restraints on sex.
Opponents of the traditional sexual morals say that the old concepts gave rise to the following:
• Male sense of possession of his female,
• Male jealousy,
• Male concern for establishing his paternity of a child,
• Asceticism and monasticism based on the assumed sinfulness and wickedness of human sexual relations,
• Female sense of impurity arising from her menstruating nature,
• Male abstinence from sexual relations with a menstruating female,
• Severe punishments at the hands of men undergone by women throughout recorded history; and
• Causing women to remain economically dependent on men.
They claim that the above state of affairs is attributable to the conventional sexual morality, indicative of the cruel and superstitious individual and social restraints applied under primitive conditions. They seek to replace the old values by modernistic permissiveness. For one thing, they point out, modern wives are not to be treated as chattels.
In the same vein, they proclaim that today contraceptives preempt any need to ensure paternity of a child in a forcible manner such as implicit in the old moral prescription of the female chastity!
The supporters of the proposed new sexual freedom further affirm that old ascetic and monastic orders and beliefs are dying out. Knowledge and sanitary means of personal hygiene are said to have freed women from harboring any sense of pollution while menstruating. They are convinced that the days when men could manage to be cruel and oppressive are gone for ever.
They conclude that enslaving or ill-treatment of women and making them utterly dependent on men are now things of the past. For, women are regaining socioeconomic freedom. Moreover, modern governments are gradually taking upon themselves major socioeconomic responsibilities of a husband and father, including mothercare and childcare. On the other hand, human jealousy is on the decline with the spread of modern sexual attitudes and behavioral norms. Accordingly, they suggest that we should no longer cling to the old moral system.
The foregoing criticism of old morality is offered by sexual liberationists as the basis of their proposed new morals. Of course, this is to be expected of those who oppose conventional morals.
Now, let us examine the reformatory content of the proposed new morals. At the: outset, we recognize the fact that their intended casting away of the traditional moral constraints on human sexuality constitutes the axis around which the proposed new morals revolve. Accordingly, the very first thing that is likely to receive their attention is what they consider to be a need to ensure freedom of individual action towards fulfilling one's sexuality, or towards bringing about conditions of free sexual love.
In pursuit of sexual liberty, they affirm the unrestrained joys of not only premarital but post marital experimentation with one's sexuality. They point out that, through the least expensive and rather safe means of contraception, sexual enjoyment can be diversified without necessarily involving any risk of pregnancy, legitimate or otherwise.
Thus, they claim that any spouse can safely pursue his or her love affair to her heart's content, by taking lovers or becoming a love object without necessarily undermining their marriage. Moreover, they imply that not only illegitimate pregnancies can be avoided, but a wife can chose to have a legitimate child, without any moral concern about her extramarital affairs.
Any communism in sexual matters is obviously undesirable. Also, it is impracticable if the genetic need to ensure paternity of a child is to be ensured. Even those who propose the new sexual freedom seek to retain legitimacy of a child, or to safeguard the paternity as something not to be eliminated. After all, a father's blood relationship with his son and the latter's filial obligation and affinity towards the former are always recognizable.
This is the philosophy behind selection of a particular spouse and one's marital undertaking to voluntarily confine sexual relations to her or him. In fact, conventional morality highlights no other, or greater, need than for rendering sexual relations in marriage specific to the couples themselves.
Bertrand Russell's proposed new morals are cited below:
"... Contraceptives have made parenthood voluntary and no longer a result of sexual intercourse. For various economic reasons... it seems likely that the father will have less importance in regard to the education and maintenance of children in the future than he has had in the past. There will therefore be no very cogent reason why a woman should choose as the father of her child the man whom she prefers as a lover or companion.
It may become quite easily possible for women in the future, without any serious sacrifice of happiness, to select the fathers of their children, by eugenic considerations, while allowing their private feelings free sway as regards ordinary sexual companionship. For men it would be still easier to select the mothers of their children for their desirability as parents.
Those who hold, as I do, that sexual behavior concerns the community solely in so far as children are involved, must draw from this premise a twofold conclusion as regards the morality of the future. On the one hand that love apart from children should be free, but on the other hand, that the procreation of children should be a matter far more regulated by moral considerations than it is at present." 2
Bertrand Russell elaborates further as follows:
"When science becomes able to pronounce on this question (of eugenics) with more certainty than is possible at present, the moral sense of the community may come to be more exacting from an eugenic point of view. The men with the best heredity may come to be eagerly sought after as fathers, while other men, though they may be acceptable as lovers, may find themselves rejected when they aim at paternity ...." 3
Bertrand Russell's statements and proposals sometimes evidence a moral angle, too. For instance, he believes that traditional morality has been designed to cope with the strong and potentially troublesome human emotions, such as jealousy, which he advises men and women to consciously overcome. He says, in effect, as follows:
"According to the moral system that I propose, it is only right that couples should value mutual faithfulness. Alternatively, however, I, recommend that they overcome jealousy. A sober way of living is not possible without self control.
So, it is better to discipline the potentially strong and troublesome emotion of jealousy, and not to allow it to prevent or impair the growth of the feelings of love and affection. Any shortcoming of conventional morality does not lie in its justification of self- control, but in the manner of exercising it.”
In other words, what Russell indicates is that he recommends the same self control as prescribed by the ancient moralists. However, he envisages self-control, not in any conventional terms of ensuring self respect and rectitude, but in completely overcoming jealousy. He contends that the ancients sought to unduly limit human sexuality.
In contrast, he advocates jealousy-free attainment of human sexuality. Conventional morality, providing for personal honor as well as vindication of individual modesty and self-respect, is considered by him to be outmoded. Instead, it seems as if he would like to see husbands who are least jealous of their wives' intimacy with other men and who are even grateful for the social permissiveness that allows extramarital relations with third persons.
At the same time, Russell says to the effect that children ought to be born to married couples only. He would like to ensure this through adoption of different contraceptive means of sterilizing any premarital, extramarital or post marital sexual relations. Furthermore, he recommends that:
"It is also by no means impossible that the jealousy of husbands, by a new convention, adapt itself to the new situation, and arise only when wives propose to choose some other man as the father of their children. In the East, men have always tolerated liberties on the part of eunuchs which most European husbands would resent. They have tolerated them because they introduce no doubt as to paternity. The same kind of toleration might easily be extended to liberties accompanied by the use of contraceptives..' 4
The foregoing typifies a kind of reform of the extant social ethics, which in all probability would entail a never-ending process. No doubt, it will mean radical changes in the other ethics, too, including legal safeguards concerning the female modesty, incest, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, sexual intercourse during menstruation and similar others.
Some of these, like protection of female modesty and banning pornography are sometimes upheld. Other questions like homo- sexuality have been occasionally treated outside the purview of sexual ethics, and in a clinical manner, so that medical reasons, and not necessarily moral restraints, can prevent any deviant behavior!
The modernistic sexual ethics described above require to be thoroughly examined before any ready acceptance. In the present context, only its basic elements will be discussed and evaluated. Then, the philosophy underlying Islamic morals, which are quite distinctive from the Western - traditional as well as modern - morality, will be explained. This will highlight the Islamic position to the effect that:
"The only school of thought still capable of guiding humanity, through the distressingly unwholesome effects and untoward consequences of Western speculations concerning the dynamic philosophy of human living and sociological evolution, is that of Islam. It is high time that West oriented societies, with all their scientific and industrial advantages, realize their continuing need to turn Eastward in the process of their assimilating a salutary philosophy of life, as they have indeed done in their past epochs."
- 1. A more elaborate discussion of the relevant issues will be found in the author's book: The Rights of Women in Islam also available on line at: http://www.al-islam.org/the-rights-of-women-in-islam-murtadha-mutahhari
- 2. Marriage and Morals, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London. Paperbacks Ed. 1976,pp. 173-174
- 3. Marriage and Morals, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London. Paperbacks Ed. 1976,pp. 173-174
- 4. Marriage and Morals, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London. Paperbacks Ed. 1976, pp. 194-195.