I was away without a television or Internet access most
of last week, so I missed the latest AP interview with South Carolina
Governor Mark Sanford. I caught a piece of it last night on the rerun
of the July 2nd Daily Show, and went online this morning to find out more.
the interview, Sanford declared to the whole world that his was a real
love story not an affair, that the Argentinian woman was his "soul
mate," and that he was trying to work things out with his wife. You
have to wonder how he doesn’t understand that the first two are going
to make the third much more difficult.
But I was also interested in this AP report about his admission of other relationships during his marriage:
also said that he "crossed the lines" with a handful of other women
during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with his
mistress. "There were a handful of instances wherein I crossed the
lines I shouldn’t have crossed as a married man, but never crossed the
ultimate line," he said.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Now perhaps he was talking about falling in love with other women, but I’m guessing what he meant was what I sometimes call PVI, penile-vaginal intercourse. It’s reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s saying "did not have sex with that woman," when he meant he didn’t have PVI.
And I find it both disturbing and amusing to see a grown man claim that it isn’t sex unless PVI
occurs. It’s an adolescent sexual ethic that says that sex doesn’t
count unless Part A goes into Part B. It’s what allows young people who
are having anal and oral sex to claim they are virgins, and it
discounts that gay and lesbian people have sex at all. It’s an ethic
that makes men with prostate cancer and women with vaginismus give up sexual contact with their partners completely because they can’t have "sex" anymore. It’s a construct that keeps people from understanding
that all sexual behaviors don’t have to end in intercourse. It’s a way
for people like Governor Sanford to break their commitments to their
wives because they maintain that intimate behaviors that don’t include
intercourse somehow don’t "count."
It’s an act-center morality that needs to be replaced with one based on relationships,
not on particular sexual acts or the gender of the persons involved. To
my mind, there isn’t an "ultimate line" that determines the morality of
a sexual experience, but it’s whether it’s consensual, non-exploitative,
honest, mutually pleasurable and protected — and consistent with one’s
personal values. I can’t know for sure, but at least on values and
honesty, it seems like the Governor crossed that line a long time ago.
Rev. Debra W. Haffner