Depravity is defined as moral corruption or a morally corrupt act. Christian theology calls depravity the innate corruption of human nature and ties it directly to original sin. Original sin has roots in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is quite a twisted little story involving a snake, a piece of fruit, an injunction to not touch God’s favorite apple tree and a wily woman as the ultimate temptress of a man apparently incapable of making his own decisions. Women though get their comeuppance in the end for leading Adam into sin by having to be subservient in all matters to men and also get to experience childbirth as a very painful event.
In doing just a bit of research on this fairy tale of original sin I did learn that the Quran lays the blame for falling into the devil’s snare equally on both Adam and Eve and does not pin the blame on the female partner of the cohort. My sense of this is that the whole Christian version was cooked up by a bunch of old men trying quite successfully to keep woman in their place. A thinly veiled attempt if you will to put words into the mouth of God and thereby justify their power over women. I view the various interpretations of the Genesis story claiming it as allegory for human frailty in general pretty much bullshit. I see it as a thinly disguised hetero male power play.
Something near and dear to the hearts of many LGBT peoples through the centuries that has been consistently labeled as depravity is sodomy. Sodomy including both oral and anal sex was still on the books as a felony in a significant handful of States here in the U.S. until June 26th, 2003. It was on that date the Supreme Court struck down the remaining sodomy laws on the books with their ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas. In many states this did involve oral or anal sex even between discordant i.e. male and female partners as well as between partners of the same sex. Oh and of course several states tossed in fellatio and anal sex with barnyard animals as a felony also.
In thinking about the strong historical connections between depravity, sodomy and homosexuals I am tempted to ask what is it that they were are actually afraid of? I suppose there could have been some argument made at one time that if everyone discovered how much fun it was to fuck your own kind that the human race might have sputtered out of existence. With seven billion souls running around the planet these days that argument certainly no longer holds any water. In fact very compelling arguments for the future survival of the human race can be made for sharply curtailing the reproductive imperative.
I am going to go out on a limb here and perhaps just make up some shit about why we came to be labeled depraved. It’s hard to believe that the joys of oral sexual stimulation or the delight in prostate massage in its various forms between two women or two men was at the root of centuries of destructive vitriol and near universal condemnation. What is the real reason for “the love that dare not speak its name” being viewed as such a threat?
Did perhaps the hetero-male monopoly see the real threat to their hegemony in the form of men willing to abdicate traditional masculine roles and truly love one another? Maybe it never really was the sex but the threat to the status quo. Now there is something really depraved as they see it in abdicating male privilege.
Harry Hay spoke often of what he called our subject-to-Subject inheritance. As I interpret this it is the ability of one human being to relate to another as subject-to-subject as opposed to how things usually work subject-to-object. As gay people we have an intrinsic leg up on being able to relate in this fashion. Man-to-Man or woman-to-woman carries with it the potential for a more egalitarian relationship than say man and woman or husband and wife. Even more so I would say than brother and sister.
Will Roscoe has described our Queerness as a “profound ongoing motivation”. We usually become aware of this motivation in isolation with no cultural or societal reinforcement for the genuine beauty of it. So then that initial discovery that I am not alone can often result in an amazingly equal bonding on a very deep emotional and physical level.
This subject-to-Subject inheritance is often not fully actualized understandably because we are acculturated into the dominant and all pervasive heterosexual worldview. That view is a male/female dichotomy where the power is clearly in favor of the male. Young boys are taught very early on to always beware of women bearing apples. Once these women learn their subservient role though we are encouraged to help ourselves to the apple.
We as little budding gay folk though view others not as potential threats or competition but rather as desired equals. Now you may say that many queer relationships are anything but subject-to-Subject but often unfortunately contain many elements of objectification. This is at least in part the result of internalized hetero-imitation. Our intrinsic nature or un-actualized inheritance though is to love one another as the same.
We are labeled as depraved as a means of controlling, isolating and extinguishing us. Keeping under wraps if you will our real threat to the status quo and that has little if anything to do with where we put our penises, tongues, fingers or objects of art. The threat is of course that if we are allowed to actualize our subject-to- Subject inheritance we will really upset the apple cart.