On a recent episode of NPR’s “This American Life,” Luke Malone filed a report on people who report having a minority sexual orientation. These people have an enduring pattern of sexual attraction that does not match the norm. Malone argues that such folks must deny themselves the pleasure of acting on their attractions, no matter how strongly they feel them. He says there needs to be a plan to help them abstain:
Imagine being a teenager and being told never to act on your sexual feelings ever for the rest of your life. That’s what we’re asking of these people. At the moment, there is no clear plan for how to do that. But maybe there should be.
What happens when a teenager is asked not to act on his sexual feelings? According to the article, denying such urges can cause depression, self-loathing, and fear. Nevertheless, Malone insists that such persons must abstain from acting on such attractions, and they must refrain for the rest of their lives.
If you read the article, I’m certain that you will agree that such people must not act on their orientation. For them to do so would be immoral, harmful, and evil. Why? Because everyone recognizes that it is not just the behavior that is wrong but also the attraction.
It is common today to say that sexual orientation is a fixed, immutable characteristic. It is cruel and discriminatory, therefore, to require anyone to deny the attractions that they feel they were born with. What this report shows is that you cannot give a moral assessment of sexual behavior merely on the basis of one’s orientation. Some people’s attractions–even if experienced from a very early age–are wrong and should be changed. The moral assessment of both the orientation and the behavior that comes from it must be made on other grounds.
Some of this is difficult to read. But if you want to read a transcript of the report, start about halfway down the webpage at “Act Two: Help Wanted.” You can download the audio here or listen below. Start at 30:15.