Celibacy and the Skopts

Thu, 14 Dec 1995 10:54:08 CST

Lauren Hasten's reference to the Skopts--of 18th-century Russia, I
believe--is interesting and relevant. The surgical removal of certain
sex organs as a rite of entry seems to have been a natural conclusion ba
sed on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, in which he says it is better to c
ut out a sinful eye, or cut off a sinful hand, than to continue
sinning.As I recall, these hard words were preceded immediately by the
warning that adultery in the heart is as bad as adultery in the flesh;
is there any doubt, then, that the Skopts were striking at the heart of
the problem? Striking at, but not solving! They found that even this
radical approach did not free them of sexual urges and fantasies (of
course). In any case, the Skopts' extreme measures, in the name of
religion, seem to me something of a warning against assuming that
Spiritual-Victory explanations of celibacy are always, and merely, an
ideological disguise for a church's self-enrichment. No, I think we
need to keep open the possibility that religiously-explained celibacy is
at least partly a symptom of cultural evolution's curtailment of direct
sexual gratification, in order to make availble psychic energy for the
"aim-inhibited" bonds, of friendship--or cooperation, or at least
coexistence!--increasingly required by the larger and larger societies
into which social evolution is forging us. (Freud's argument is detailed
in *Civilization and Its Discontents*.) --Bob Graber