Tom Raue, the Greens candidate for Summer Hill in NSW, has recently been in the news for publishing two separate articles in Honi Soit—the weekly student newspaper of Sydney University—in support of both necrophilia and bestiality. Raue has since claimed that he was “only joking” and that he was merely responding to Cory Bernardi’s comments about same-sex marriage and bestiality in 2012.
In case you missed it, in a piece titled Drop Dead Gorgeous, Raue argues for the ethical legitimacy of sexual intercourse with a corpse – no, seriously! And note the explicit connection he makes in his argument to homosexuality having once been taboo but now being seen as morally permissible. The logic of his argument is as follows:
Necrophilia is classified as a paraphilia, meaning that it is a sexuality which deviates from the norm. Homosexuality was once considered a paraphilia, but it was decided that it was close enough to normal sexuality not to be a disorder.
I don’t think it’s the business of psychologists to define normality and stigmatise behaviours simply because they are unusual. If a person gives permission for their corpse to be used for sex, and the family has no issue with it, then what’s the harm? Fu*k it.
Likewise, as to whether Raue’s other piece on bestiality should be recognised as coming under the genre of ‘satire’, is also highly debatable. For instance, note how Raue concludes:
Whatever one’s views on animal rights and bestiality, the conversation needs to be more mature. The very mention of bestiality is greeted with guffaws or a quick change of topic. Perhaps our laws ought to remain as they are, but we should at least treat the matter seriously.
For most sensible people, Bernardi’s comments were deeply offensive. Despite his idiocy, he does raise a good point – there is a movement to allow consensual sex between humans and animals, and hopefully we will see more of this in the media in years to come.
Significantly, in the body of his article Raue explicitly refers to the work of the moral philosopher from Princeton University, Peter Singer, who along with Bob Brown, were integral in formulating both the political philosophy and policy framework for The Greens. In a now infamous book review ominously titled, Heavy Petting, Singer argues for the moral legitimacy of bestiality stating:
Not so long ago, any form of sexuality not leading to the conception of children was seen as, at best, wanton lust, or worse, a perversion. One by one, the taboos have fallen. The idea that it could be wrong to use contraception in order to separate sex from reproduction is now merely quaint. If some religions still teach that masturbation is “self-abuse,” that just shows how out of touch they have become. Sodomy? That’s all part of the joy of sex, recommended for couples seeking erotic variety.
What’s more, observe the following footage from Q&A back in 2010 where Singer unreservedly defends his position upon the issue.
Clearly, Singer was not joking whenever he has had the opportunity to promote these views. Why were people so upset then when two years later Cory Bernardi made a similar connection between same-sex marriage and bestiality, especially when Bernardi’s speech specifically referred to Singer’s own ethical position? As the transcript of Bernardi’s speech from Hansard demonstrates:
There are even some creepy people out there—and I say ‘creepy’ deliberately—who are unfortunately afforded a great deal more respect than I believe they deserve. These creepy people say it is okay to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step? In the future will we say, ‘These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union.’ It is extraordinary that these sorts of suggestions are put forward in the public sphere and are not howled down right at the very start.
We can talk about people like Professor Peter Singer who was, I think, a founder of the Greens or who wrote a book about the Greens. Professor Singer has appeared on Q&A on the ABC, the national broadcaster. He has endorsed such ideas as these. I reject them. I think that these things are the next step. As we accede to one request we will then have the next one which will be for unions of more than two people. We will have suggestions for unions of three or four people.
I notice the Greens are heckling, but the point is that they misled their constituent base and there was an outcry about this. Where do we go then? Do we go down the Peter Singer path? Those that say this is the end of the social revolution have no history of being honourable about that. They continue to push and challenge our social and cultural mores. We simply cannot allow such an important social institution to be redefined, especially when Australians do not see this as a priority issue.
With this in mind, it’s extremely difficult to accept the excuse given by Raue that he doesn’t seriously believe those things himself now. What’s more, it seems incredibly unjust that Bernardi should have been pilloried by the mainstream media for himself making such a legitimate connection. As none other than Clive Hamilton wrote in The Conversation:
In defending “consensual” sex between humans and animals Singer is concerned only with whether the sexual contact is “mutually satisfying”. What it means for an animal to give consent to sex with a human is unclear. Wag your tail three times for a yes, Fido?
And the same criterion of mutual satisfaction could be used to justify sex between adults and children. Indeed, paedophiles have been known to deploy just that argument.
If such a moral universe were to pertain, Bernardi would be quite right to claim that we are on a slippery slope to having sex with animals, a slope on which gay marriage is but a way station. Yet Bernardi is excommunicated for articulating a slippery slope argument while Singer is given its highest honour for celebrating it.
Notice how Hamilton went even further than Bernardi did, arguing that if Singer’s philosophical position was consistently pursued then there would be nothing preventing paedophilic activity between an adult and a ten-year-old child. Actually, as the following interview demonstrates, that is precisely what Singer believes.
Note in particular the following exchange between the interviewer and Singer starting at the three-minute mark:
Interviewer: If there is no harm psychological would that paedophilic encounter be justified?
Singer: I mean…well look I’m not going to answer that question because I think you have to really consider that question more thoroughly and I don’t think there is any kind of evidence about that and I don’t want to say things that some people will regard as justifying paedophilia when clearly there isn’t a…
Interviewer: Isn’t that the logic of your position though? As long as the child is not in the long term harmed you can’t rule out the moral permissibility of that behaviour?
Singer: I guess that the logic of my position is that, as elsewhere, I’m a consequentialist. I concerned about preventing harm of various kinds. I don’t have intrinsic moral taboos if that’s your point. Yes, I don’t have intrinsic moral taboos.
Interviewer: So, you wouldn’t rule that out as a morally legitimate action?
Singer: If you think that whether actions are right or wrong depend on their consequences you can’t rule anything out until you know something about the consequences.
The fact that anyone in the community—let alone a ‘moral philosopher’ from Princeton University—is arguing for something like this should be a cause for public outrage. And the excuse made by Raue that what he wrote previously should not to be taken seriously should itself be seen as the joke for which it truly is.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
Cartoon: Ben R Davis.
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