4. Avoid sexual misconduct.
My mom may be reading this, so I won’t get into details, but I have done some seriously stupid things in my life while lust served as my guide. I hurt others, I was careless and crude, I hurt myself as well. It would have been easier if I had better guidance at the time.
My boys are teenagers now, and we have touched on the issue of sexual misconduct on a few occasions. Naturally, they’re not eager to discuss sex with the old man, but I think that they grasp the basics: Sexual misconduct means any sexual act that hurts, or may hurt another person.
The 4th humanistic precept tells us this: Before following our wild instincts, we should ask ourselves if anybody may get hurt as a result. This relates directly to our sexual partners, but extends far beyond them to ours, and their families, friends, other people we or they may be involved with, and, last but not least, ourselves: Are we ready for this? May we potentially get hurt?
This definition of a wrong sexual act includes scenarios that are too many to describe, but there’s really no need to. This is simply about not committing an act that may hurt others, and it is in accordance with the first precept, which deals with not harming other beings. If you teach children from a tender age to be nice to others, avoiding sexual misconduct later in life should come naturally to them.
So the question is, why dedicating a whole rule just for sex? We probably all know the answer… but I’ll spell it out anyway, just in case: Our sex drive is a force that can overpower our better judgment, and shatter our values. It’s called a drive for a reason. It deserves its own precept.
Being a humanist involves understanding human nature, and the ways that our brain works. The powerful force that lust and passion have over us at times are not our fault, and are no sin or something to be ashamed of. We’re built this way, and it has worked so well for us as a species, that now there are over seven billions of us on this planet. (Perhaps it worked too well, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Realizing the overpowering nature of our sex drive does not, of course, give us a license to blindly follow it. Only when our actions are harmless are we to obey the call of nature.
A few words about safe sex: STD’s are harmful; unwanted/unplanned pregnancies are extremely painful and difficult, regardless of the final outcome. Practicing safe and protected sex is a health issue, but it is a moral one as well.
Parents are often encouraged to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol abuse. Discussing sex, and sexual misconduct is just as important. As uncomfortable as some people may be around these issues, the consequences of neglecting one of the most powerful internal forces that children will encounter in their lives, may be even less pleasant.