A famous wit was once asked if he believed in having sex before marriage. “Yes,” he replied, “I believe everyone should be male or female prior to marriage.”
But when we refer to sex we typically mean much more than just possessing gender. We mean sexual relations between people, or even with oneself in the case of masturbation. [We should also note that the famous wit’s witticism unfairly excludes hermaphrodites.]
They say that authors should write what they know about and have a lot of experience with. According to that formula, if you were to compile a list of of authors who were qualified to write about sex, my name would regrettably appear close to the bottom. But, that’s alright; I’m not going to discuss my own sexual experiences here. This is due not only to an appalling lack of material, but also because it is irrelevant to the real topic under discussion: the Watchtower’s view of sex.
The Bible’s view of sex vs. the Watchtower’s view
What do you think the Watchtower would say about a man who was a bi-sexual polygamist, liked to dance around naked, and had many mistresses? I think we can all agree that an individual exhibiting such behavior would be quickly disfellowshipped for “conduct unbecoming.” Yet the man I’m describing is one of the most revered men in the Bible: King David! (1Sam 20:41; 25:43; 2Sam 5:13; 6:20)
What about an incestuous bigamist who, like the modern day Arnold Schwarzenegger, had sex with his wives’ maids? This is the Bible’s account of Jacob, whom God renamed Israel and “blessed abundantly.” (Gen:29:30; Gen:30:4; Gen:30:9; Gen:35:9-12).
Judah, one of Israel’s sons, was another prominent figure in the Bible. He had sex with a prostitute (just like the modern-day actor Hugh Grant did. Isn’t it odd how we’re quick to condemn the “celebrities” of today for the same actions of the “great men” of the Bible?) But Judah was a real piece of work: in the best tradition of hypocritical double-standards, he then sought to burn his daughter-in-law alive for having “played the whore” by becoming pregnant after her husband had died. In the end, Judah only refrained from the horrific murder of his daughter-in-law when he discovered that she was the prostitute he’d had sex with, and he himself was the father of her unborn twins! No, it’s not a storyline from a daytime soap-opera or trashy novel; it’s Genesis chapter 38.
So, is it really a sin worthy of disfellowshipping for a person to have more than one wife, to have mistresses, or to have sex with ones maids? Is it a sin to have sex with a prostitute? Well, Israel is honored in the Bible (in fact he’s known as one of the “heroes of the Bible” by today’s Christians, and the highest level a JW can attain to is to be a “spiritual Israelite”) so it doesn’t seem to have tarnished his reputation any. Also, we can ask: would God order someone to commit a sin? Well, the prophet Hosea was ordered by God to marry (i.e. have sex with) a prostitute (Hosea 1:2-3).
The Bible tells us that King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived or ever will live (1Kgs 3:12) [which makes us wonder about how dumb Jesus must’ve been in comparison.] In all his wisdom what did Solomon do? He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (1Kgs 11:3) That means he could have a different sexual partner every night and not see the same woman twice in over two and a half years! But he probably indulged in more than one woman at a time (just imagine all of the possible permutations!)
Solomon also wrote, in his “wisdom literature:” “Has one found a [good] wife? One has found a good thing, and one gets goodwill from Jehovah.” (Prov. 18:22) And: “Rejoice with the wife of your youth… Let her own breasts intoxicate you at all times. With her love may you be in an ecstasy constantly.” (Prov. 5:18-19)
Then, along came Paul (and then, maybe Jesus)
Saul/Paul, a true misogynist, said it was better never to touch a woman, and that it’s better not to get married. (1 Corinthians 7:1,8) Afterward, the creators of Jesus’ biographies had him extol the virtues of self-castration! (MT 19:12) So much for the wisdom of Solomon’s “constant ecstasy!” On the other hand, Jesus reputedly performed a miracle just to help a couple celebrate their wedding. (John 2:1-11) One would surmise from that action that he wasn’t entirely against the idea of men and women coming together and doing what’s necessary to bring about children.
Despite these minority opinions of Paul and the creators of the Gospels’ Jesus, the Bible seems to tolerate — if not outright advocate — a healthy indulgence of ones sexual appetite.
The View from the Watchtower
The Watchtower has always taken a hard-line stance against sexual activity, even though Rutherford is known to have had at least two mistresses in addition to a wife (though he was separated from the latter.)
The Watchtower is against premarital sex, bisexuality, homosexuality, and masturbation. They frown upon unmarried couples kissing or even holding hands. You’re not even supposed to “date” an individual unless you’re seriously considering them as a marriage partner. They have also been against certain private sexual practices between a husband and wife, though I’m told they’ve changed their minds on this more than once1 [Interesting how, on their own authority, they can change a practice from being a sin to being acceptable. All the while the Bible continues to say the same things it has said for centuries. It should’ve been a fairly simple matter to read the Bible and see that it contains no such prohibitions before blurting out opinions that ruin people’s lives.]
Somehow we came by these hormones which drive our sexual desire. [I recall mine fully raging out of control by the age of 14.] The WT would credit the creation of these hormones to Jehovah. So, according to the WT logic, Jehovah gives us these desires and then demands that we not act on them: at least not for several years until we’re of marriageable age and have, in fact, “tied the knot.” This tends to force young people into either marrying before it is economically feasible for them (and then suffering a life of poverty), or into “giving in” to their desires and suffering the consequent Watchtower-imposed guilt. I suspect most of them secretly practice masturbation as the most innocuous and only livable solution to the challenge of simultaneously being human and a Jehovah’s Witness. [I know I did.]
The Watchtower: Out of Bounds
“Do not go beyond the things that are written,” The Bible tells us (1 Corinthians 4:6) — and it didn’t mean the things that are written in the Watchtower. The Bible does not contain any writings about masturbation, nor does it condemn any sexual practices between married couples.2
Paul may have been a homophobe, but it doesn’t appear that anyone else mentioned in the Bible was. The Song of Solomon sings the praises of homosexuality, and despite his many wives and concubines, King David’s favorite lover was a man named Jonathan. (2Sam 1:26)
Yes, there’s that prohibition in Lev. 18:22, but as all Christians will tell us when we point out other absurd laws in the Hebrew Scriptures: “The old law passed away.”
Consequently, the WT has no business pontificating on these practices. When they declare that such practices are “sinful” They are the ones violating a Bible principle: by going beyond the things that are written.
“Why do you not decide for yourself what is right?” (Luke 12:57)
It is your duty and responsibility as a human being to decide for yourself what is appropriate sexual behavior for you. Such decisions, of course should give sufficient consideration to how your actions affect others — just as all of your decisions should. You must be guided by empathy in such matters where others are involved, and it goes without saying that it must always be completely uncoerced, consensual, and between adults.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not advocating that JW’s go out and enjoy all of the sexual activity they possibly can with complete abandon like oversexed bunny rabbits. For one thing: I certainly don’t want to be held responsible for breeding more JW’s! But more importantly, in a civilized society there must be some constraints to our desires. Fulfilling such desires should not be our top priority, and when we do fulfill them we need to do so in a respectful, safe manner with our eyes wide open to the consequences of our actions to everyone involved.
Discipline isn’t a bad thing. But neither is sexual activity properly self-regulated. I emphasized “self” very deliberately in the preceding sentence; the WT has no right poking its nose — or any other appendage — into our bedrooms [or into our kitchens, stairways, or the back-seats of our vehicles — for the more adventurous amongst us.] It’s especially ironic and hypocritical of them when you consider the pedophilia they allow to take place.
The reason you exist is that sex is pleasurable. Otherwise, your mother and father would never have “done the deed.” Somewhere along the line people would’ve gotten bored with procreation and the burdens entailed by caring for the young that are produced thereby [I’m speaking of that long dark period of human history before the invention of condoms.] It’s a really good thing that sex is pleasurable, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, and neither would the Governing Body be here telling us to live our lives in denial of our nature — hmmm, I guess there’s pros and cons to everything.
God, Love, and Sex
Sex is not love, neither is God love (in spite of what 1John 4:8 claims.)
Love is a whole other subject for discussion in a future article. For now I only want to point out that love should not be confused with God or with sex. Love is not that mass-murdering egotistical moron masquerading as “God” in the Bible. Nor is it the physical pleasures of sexual activity. You can have sex without love (which I imagine is fun and exciting for a time, but ultimately shallow). You can also have love without sex (ask anyone who’s been married ten years or more.)
But when love and sex come together in your life: well, it doesn’t get much better than that. It would be one of the greatest mistakes of your life to permit the Watchtower to interfere with such happiness in any way shape or form; they have no reason, no authority, and no clue.
1 “Nevertheless, if future cases of gross unnatural conduct, such as the practice of oral or anal copulation, are brought to their attention, the elders should act to try to correct the situation before further harm results, as they would do with any other serious wrong. Their concern is, of course, to try to help those who go astray and are ‘caught in the snare of the Devil.’ (2 Tim. 2:26) But if persons willfully show disrespect for Jehovah God’s marital arrangements, then it becomes necessary to remove them from the congregation as dangerous “leaven” that could contaminate others.” (Watchtower 12/1/1972 p.734-736)
“A careful further weighing of [oral sex], however, convinces us that, in view of the absence of clear Scriptural instruction, these are matters for which the married couple themselves must bear the responsibility before God” (Watchtower, 2/15/1978)
[Why hadn’t they done a “careful weighing” back in 1972 before opening their discreet mouths?]
[Which is exactly what Witnesses were trying to tell the Watchtower prior to 1978, and no doubt being disfellowshipped for their efforts.]