*Generally speaking an individual or nation should be very sensitive to dismissing others because of a difference in outlook or methods. I am the same person that wrote against colonization because indigenous peoples should be able to use their natural resources how they see fit – not as colonizers see fit.
Still there are limits to this philosophy. Attitudes about sexuality are often bring about exceptions to this rule.
For instance the populations of some states in this country would rather not recognize marital unions of homosexual couples. The live and let live stance of cultural relativism does not apply here because individuals are being held back from living their lives to the fullest potential.
Some countries in Africa attempt to control women by controlling their sexuality in the form of cutting off part of the clitorises of adolescent girls. Cultural relativism should not be a reason to ignore the harm being done in these instances.
In Afghanistan people are arrested on the mere suspicion of having premarital sex. The Afghan people should be able to live however they choose as a society so long as segments of that society, that are not harming anyone, be able to pursue their desires.
Sex and relationships can inspire some of the strongest feelings (positive and negative) so it might be understandable to attempt to control sex lest a society spiral out of control. Except that we have seen that each generation of elders attempt to control the sexuality of the younger people with a degree of failure and much handwringing. And when the younger generation matures and takes on positions of responsibility the society inevitably chugs along. No revolution, no zombies in the streets, nothing. As powerful as sex seems, in reality it is really quite impotent (I couldn’t resist). Strong feelings do not always lead to strong actions.
Sex and sexuality are never a core element when a society goes astray or thrives. The best example of this is the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Many conservative pundits would have you believe that it marked the beginning of the end of the United States as a great country. In truth the national economy has seen the regular distribution of ups and downs since then including the booms of the 1980s (finance) and 1990s (technology) and the current recession (real estate).
Sexuality simply should not be a reason for disfranchising a segment of society because its effects are never large enough to affect society at large.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org