This is a time of collapsing laws. Even in doubt are what has seemed like immutable physics as determined by Newton (gravity, inclined planes, the three laws of motion), the sort of thing only defied in cartoons when Wily Coyote runs past the edge of the cliff and is pedalling in thin air. Marriage had seemed like a basic God-dictated law.
The basic convictions of nation, democracy, and capitalism are now questioned by the very people who benefit from them. Even deeper are issues we hardly dare think about, the assumptions of invented ideas like money, ownership, and religion -- which we had thought were bedrock. Along with these travel ideas about love and sex.
Robin Edgar has left a new comment on my post "WHAT WE DON'T WANT TO KNOW": "In order to have irony, one must remain in touch with reality but our problem is that reality has been lost." Indeed.
Edgar is still as enraged as any jilted lover about a case against a minister accused in 1993 which Edgar has pursued with the zeal of a Puritan insisting on the historical reality of Jesus the Christ. What he doesn't want to know is that he's obsessed with something that's not there, a displacement of his hurt feelings when his mysticism was brushed aside. So I won't make the link of a comment.
I've thought about this issue quite a bit from a lot of different angles except from that of participation. I mean, I certainly had opportunity to act out from the pulpit when I occupied that formal role, but I didn't do it. Nor do I now that I'm retired. I see that many UU ministers find it important to say that they are not just welcoming of the LGBTQ sexual versions but that they freely participate in one or another position. EXCEPT I've never seen celibate on this list. No one puts in their ministry packet that they are a dedicated celibate when they are looking for a job. In fact, the euphemism for monogamy is "happily married" and for those who care, the faithfulness may be to either a same sex or het-sex relationship. I've never seen anyone advertise they were happily committed to a threesome.
What I'm saying is that we're just as stubborn about boundaries, but we've moved where they are. Faithfulness is still open to negotiation, as is fertility or wealth. The relationship between intimacy and sexual relationship is troubled. Not everyone is convinced that the two can be separated or sequential or even rejected. I don't read much about the human wish to comfort other people with their bodies, though they will comfort their pets with intimacy without sex. Or can find a certain kind of comfort-- or at least relief -- through sex with another human without any emotional intimacy. Most of the troubles come cross-gender since the male "role" is seen as more sexual and the female expects intimacy unless the relationship is commercial, frankly monetary. This is structural.
Male clergy who sleep with women in the congregation, particularly when either or both is married already, are stigmatized. Should they be? What about female clergy, echoing nuns.
Sex isn't really about the actual sex. No one really cares about who's too dumb or numb to find a clit or who gave a woman the idea to have her labia cut off or who insists on strangulation. Nothing but paying attention will create a good lover in that sense. Sex is really about status, one's role in the world, and intimacy, who you can really trust to understand you. Sex in the narrowest sense is about human blood-stream molecules -- they are the actual actors reacting chemically.
Masters and Johnson wrote about such things. Some of the more extreme kinksters show it on video. Combat veterans hooked on adrenaline and pain have explored it. To some it's religious.
Protestant therapy-influenced liberal clergy are sort of giving people what they want. Catholic priests who prey on children are no longer anywhere near either intimacy or sex -- they are simply predatory, sadistic powermongers in a system that gave them a disguise called "celibacy". That's why no Protestant clergy talk about celibacy, though probably most female versions are in fact celibate.
Many intimate and sexual acts are illegal, meaning criminal to some degree. A crumby old guy came suddenly out of a dark alley one night and peed on my shoes. To him it may have been sex (a fetish) -- to me it was just disgusting and should be discouraged, even punished. Movie stars who nearly decapitate their ex-wives and incidental witnesses should be penalized, as they say, "To the fullest extent of the law" -- which is execution. If you can convict them. Celebrity trumps even murder.
My former ex-cop boss at Animal Control, middle-aged, had accepted the idea of female friends with benefits. That's one thing. In regard to everything else, he had a simple principal: law and order are on a continuum with total chaos on one end (think areas of today's Third World wars) and legal bondage at the other. Think Sharia law. The principal is that what should be done is what will move human behaviour towards one end or the other, whichever is needed and approved by the culture.
One's sense of which direction should be chosen depends upon one's history as a child and as a young citizen, which are what teaches the limits. The biggest source of trouble now is the lack of families. Without a deeply internalized idea of where the "sweet spot" for the behaviour of people might be, it's just too easy to go berzerk and pee on people's shoes.
We are such a mix of styles, families, cultures, and so on that we are forced to consider context as the real content of issues strewn across the continuum. Even such a hoary and rigid institution as the British monarchy was forced into change based on marriage in the interest of fertility. In the old days when royalty was considered almost a higher species, prestige and politics overcame the need to bridge the generations so that in-breeding destroyed the goal of continuing a certain germ line. Sterility and disease prevented the creation of healthy heirs. But reaching out to the sturdy genetics of commoners opened the door to improper behaviour that was hard to govern. So now Prince Harry is able to choose an American movie star divorcée with black ancestors and a balky white father. The consequences are still unknown.
Marriage as a licensed bonding with certain parameters, such as faithfulness, sharing of property, and rights of descendants, is no longer observed by everyone. Sequential marriage, same-sex marriage, long-distance marriage, are patterned on the convention, but many people simply move in and out of each other's lives. Any rules of morality, even inside the church and clergy, are either ignored or reinterpreted. The indignation of parishioners observing and objecting has become old-fashioned. Irrelevant. Irritating.