The Ick Factor

Most of those who seem to have the loudest problem with homosexuality are those who insist it is “morally wrong.” When pressed, it usually comes back to religion, specifically Christian religion in the US: homosexuality is morally wrong because it violates God’s Law.

Now this is a bizarre argument.

We’ll skip over the question of whether Christians are actually Jews and thus subject to Jewish Law as outlined in the Old Testament. That has been a long-standing argument within the Christian church, going back to some of the earliest pre-Nicene days, and it has never really been settled. Let’s just assume that Old Testament Jewish Law does have something to do with Christians today.

The Old Testament has a lot more to say about diet than about sexual practice. Eating pork or shellfish, for example, is an abomination before God. Far worse, the crucifix is one of the worst possible offenses against God’s Law, violating as it does the Second Commandment against graven images.

Yet we don’t see Christians being ejected from church for their unrepentant enjoyment of all-you-can-eat clam night at HoJo’s, nor for gluing a bobble-head Jesus to the dashboard of their car.

No one who pays any attention to this issue has failed to note how selective and arbitrary Christians are in their application of Old Testament law. So it seems obvious to me that this is yet another case of poring over Scripture until an excuse can be found to declare an objectionable behavior an affront to God. It doesn’t start with Scripture as a reason — it ends with Scripture as an excuse.

I’m very grateful that the Old Testament has nothing whatsoever to say about overgrown lawns.

Let’s leave aside the hypocrisy, however, and focus instead on the more interesting question: why is homosexuality objectionable to heterosexuals in the first place?

Some have blamed it on latent homosexuality in the complainers. That may be true in some cases, but I have a hard time believing it is the only reason. It would mean there are an awful lot of latent homosexuals out there.

I have my own theory. I’d like to suggest that it’s nothing more than what I call the “ick” factor.

Think back to being ten and seeing your older brother (if you had one, otherwise make it your best friend’s older brother) kiss his girlfriend. Maybe you were nine, or twelve. But most children go through a stage where they see kissing and they say, “Ick!” They turn their heads away.

Remember Fred Savage in the movie The Princess Bride? “Is there kissing?” he asks his grandfather with an expression of utter disgust.

I think it’s telling that this stage in children immediately precedes the point where hormones kick in and make that “kissing” behavior change from icky to irresistible.

Assume for a moment that those hormones never kicked in. Would any of us ever kiss? Or engage in any sort of overtly sexual behavior with each other? It’s hard to imagine because the hormones DO kick in and pretty much take over our brains. But if they didn’t, I think we’d go through life watching other people kiss and wondering why they would do such a disgusting thing. Much less the things they do in the dark with the lights out and their clothes off.

I think the heterosexual response to homosexual behavior is exactly what it would be like if those hormones never kicked in — if we remained ten forever. That’s what I call the “ick” factor.

I remember my own “ick” reaction to seeing Matthew Broderick kiss Brian Kerwin in Torch Song Trilogy. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen two men kiss on film, other than the mutually-grimacing-spit-afterwards vulgar comedic kiss. It was an interesting reaction for me, because I’ve never had any personal prejudice about homosexuality. That broad-minded attitude had no bearing on my visceral reaction. I felt like a ten-year-old again, watching two adults lock lips. Ick.

In later years I found myself in sex-friendly environments where I saw a lot of sexual activity, both homo- and heterosexual. My responses have remained pretty consistent, though with time and exposure, the shock value has worn off.

What I find appalling now is that such a puerile, ten-year-old response is apparently the foundation for calling homosexuality a “sin” against God, and a potential crime against society. Now that is truly disgusting.

Though it makes me wonder: do you suppose the Old Testament has anything to say about eating lima beans? I could get behind that….

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