When sexual orientation breaks from the norm

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.


  • Terry Galloway

    Sorry Denny that I can’t read the article because I immediately think about Jesus saying that if you can’t accept that marriage is between one man and one woman for life and it is better never to marry. That means that Jesus was saying essentially no sex at all to those who don’t want to be married for life on this earth. His ways are so different from the world, but we are not our own but have been bought with a price.

  • Chris Ryan

    Is this a trick question? These people in this article need a tremendous amount of help and a tremendous amount of prayer. I suppose there are good medical reasons, but in addition to the prayer and counseling I’d really like to see these folks on Depo Provera. If I had these kind of thoughts I really don’t think I could live with myself. God save them… I was a bit startled when the article suggested that 1-3% of American men have these temptations, but then when I considered that I know 2 or 3 people who for a fact were abused, I could accept that estimate. In none of these cases were the perps ever prosecuted–they just didn’t come to light in time.

  • buddyglass

    “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.”

    From where I stand, this isn’t accurate. You note how the larger culture has no problem asking someone to deny his or her fixed, immutable sexual attractions when those attractions do harm to others and are “wrong”, as in the case of pedophiles. So you’re on the same page as the culture with regard to when fixed, immutable sexual urges should be denied: when gratifying them would be “wrong”.

    Where you differ is on the matter of which sexual urges are “wrong” and therefore worth denying. Culture sees pedophilia as wrong because it harms children; children can’t consent, so to engage in sex with a child is to rape a child. Homosexual sex isn’t seen as wrong since it takes place between consenting adults.

    So no, the culture isn’t being hypocritical when it simultaneously argues against asking homosexuals to deny their fixed, immutable urges while asking pedophiles to do that very thing.

    • David Powell

      “…children can’t consent….” That’s an arbitrary statement. I know plenty of 17-year-olds fully capable of “consent” (just not legally). Pedophilia is wrong because it harms children, yes (and is an abomination in the sight of God). Beastiality is wrong because it is harmful to both adults and animals (and is an abomination in the sight of God). Adultery and fornication are wrong because it harms all parties involved–and a lot of people who are not involved (and is an abomination in the sight of God). Homosexuality is wrong because it harms adults (and is an abomination in the sight of God).

      • Ian Shaw

        I would agree David. But the other piece is that every time you sin, you are never the same again. That concept, secular culture does not understand or refuses to understand.

        • David Powell

          Absolutely, and that’s exactly what I wish OTHER CHRISTIANS would get on board with. By condemning sin in the world, we are not in some way inhibiting the happiness of others; sin is never for the good of those who commit it or those who are victims of it. Law–good law, in accordance with the revelation of God–servers to preserve good order and the prosperity of the citizens under that law. For us to agree with the God of infinite wisdom regarding the welfare of society is by no means foolish.

          Just as an addendum to previous post, I left out polygamy and probably some other things, but you get the gist.

      • buddyglass

        “I know plenty of 17-year-olds fully capable of “consent” (just not legally).”

        Legally, 17 years olds can consent. And I personally don’t consider them children. I’d actually be in favor of lowering the age of consent; it’s ludicrous to treat 16-year-olds as capable of consenting to marriage, as the law in many states does, but not capable of consenting to sex.

        • David Powell

          13-year-olds have been capable of marriage and reproduction throughout history. Would you take it down there? Or are we still going to draw arbitrary distinctions about “what goes on in people’s bedrooms?”

          • buddyglass

            I’d say that the age of consent to sex should be fixed to the age of consent to marriage. If someone is incapable of consenting to sex then how can that person possibly consent to marriage given marriage will almost always involve sex?

            As to where the single age should be set, I’d use the following guidelines:

            1. It should be the same for men and women,
            2. It should be no earlier than the age at which most women will have reached “reproductive maturity”, defined as “the ability to carry a child without a significantly elevated risk to the child”,
            3. It should be no later than the age at which most people will have acquired the external physical characteristics of an adult.

            The majority of states put the marriage age at 16. Some have it at 17, some at 15, some have no limit at all, and some have different limits for men and women. Sixteen seems reasonable.

            • Ian Shaw

              Call me crazy buddy, but making consent and age of legal marriage at 16 seems a bit irresponsible. Again, I may be way out in left field, but say your 16 and married. How are you to support yourself and your wife? You’re still in high school and you can’t work more than 20-25 hours per week (depending on your state) until school is out.

              How can you support a child at 16? If you are truly onh yoru won with your spouse, how is that going to work? Unless they change other parts of laws, 16 is still a minor, even if you are married. You’d have to imancipate yourself as well. Do we want married 16year old couples forced to apply and eat government cheese just because the law “allows” them to do things, when perhaps they shouldn’t?

              Say on some off chance you mamnanges to finish high school by the time you were 16 and youi want to go to college. How can you apply for financial aid at that age?

              Reprodutive maturity has no causation or correlation on someone’s intelligence of common sense. It’s a two way street on that catalyst.

              Again, I could be way off here thinking this coudl create massive social issues.

              • buddyglass

                Age of consent to marriage is already 16 in most states, but you need parental permission. That’s the catch. But a parent can’t force his or her child to marry; the child still has to consent. Which sort of implies he or she is capable of consenting to marry. Which means he or she is capable of consenting to sex, since that’s what typically happens in marriages.

                I’m certainly not going to advise someone to marry at age sixteen. My point is that it shouldn’t get you on the sex offender registry to have sex with someone one day shy of their 17th birthday. Someone we deem capable of consenting to marriage and who we deem responsible enough to get behind the wheel of two tons of deadly, fast-moving steel.

        • David Powell

          Please understand, Buddy, that I do actually respect you and your posts. You mostly try to maintain intellectual honesty and remain reasonably objective, even if you almost exclusively approach these issues from the left. But these are massive sin/culture/general welfare issues that are getting swept under the rug under the guise of ridiculous mottos like “Gay is the new Black” or “I want the government to stay out of people’s bedrooms.” Yes, I don’t want Barack Obama or Justice Ginsburg in bed with my wife and me, but what does that have to do with legislating basic PUBLIC institutions of the society like marriage. Nothing could be more public than marriage. Christians acknowledge that (Hebrews 13:4). Nothing could have more to do with issues of social justice than the stability of homes. You know exactly how much demographic statistics hinge on the presence of a father and mother in the home. It makes every difference in terms of the well-being of children. So, yeah, we should get up in arms about homosexuality–along with adulterous affairs and divorce and propaganda for the normalization of sexual deviance like beastiality, polygamy, incest, pedophilia, etc.

          Anyway, again, I mean all this with respect, but this is a heavy, heavy cultural issue for Christians deal with.

  • Nathan Cesal

    Denny would rather make a political dig than confront the major component of the article: people with non-standard* sexual attraction have no where to turn. Thanks for helping, Denny!

    *broadened beyond the topic of this post

    • Ian Shaw

      It’s not really a political dig if it a truthful observation as how secular culture lays out who and by what we are defined as, before we can even call ourselves human beings.

      I think it’s a moot point that Denny gave no place to turn. It’s clearly implied the obvious place would be turn to Christ and His word.

      • Chris Ryan

        You know, Ian, I’d like to hear more of a discussion of what to do with Adam and his friends. I think these guys need more than an Exodus Int’l-style intervention (which IIRC had a poor conversion rate). And there are real issues. In most states preachers have to report child abuse. You might not even be able to (confidentially) minister to them without running afoul of the law. These people (and their potential victims) need real help. I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything more troubling than this.

        • Ian Shaw

          I would agree. There needs to be a plan on how to help those that struggle with strong sinful urges/temptations.

          As much as I would want to just give a heartless answer to the problem, by telling someone to “walk in the Spirit”, that’s only the answer and not the method or way to do it.

          There’s things we all struggle with, especially when it comes to sexual sin (which encompasses a lot of things). I know some guys that don’t really deal with it, but for 99% of men, it’s a struggle. You have to be willing to fight. Most men will have to struggle the rest of their lives with some form of sexual sin. But thruogh Christ, you can have victory in the struggle.

          Christians need accountability partners. Christians need local churches that aren’t afreaid to speak on subjects like sexual sin. Christians need encouragement from other believers. Christians need to realize they shouldn’t leave a broken brother on the ground, but to pick him up and need to fight arm in arm with their brothers and fight hard (Nehemiah 4:14).

          Regarding people breaking the law, you have to be reconciled back to Christ and realize that there is an earthly reconciliation that you will have to face as well.

  • James Bradshaw

    Do I really need to explain the difference between pedophilia (which is essentially rape) and adult consensual sex?

    ” Pedophilia is wrong because it harms children, yes (and is an abomination in the sight of God).”

    Unfortunately, our objection to adult-child sex isn’t from the Bible. Can you show me a passage that says it’s “sinful” for an adult man to marry a woman under the age of 18 (or 15, for that matter)?

    “Said Rabbi Joseph, “Come and take note: A girl three years and one day old is betrothed by intercourse. And if a Levir has had intercourse with her, he has acquired her.”
    Sanhedrin 7/55B

    • Paul Reed

      @James Bradshaw
      Most of the morality in the Bible is completely and utterly foreign to our society. In general, the Bible is viewed as a smorgasbord of verses, where we cherry pick some and ignore others. Most of the liberal morality is made up on the spot, whereas conservatives give their morality from this idealized version of the 1950s.

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