Moab is My Washpot

December 1, 2009

in Extracts, God Made the Rainbow

Stephen Fry’s riveting autobiography, Moab is my Washpot (derived from Psalm 60:8), never fails to make me appreciate the power of words. In particular, I have this passage permanently bookmarked. Warning: this is quite long.

"There are plenty of other things to be got up to outside the orbit of the anal ring, but the concept that gets the goat of the gay-hater, the idea that really spins their melon and sickens their stomach is that most terrible and terrifying of all human notions, love.

That one can love another of the same gender, that is what the homophobe really can’t stand. Love in all eight tones and five semitones of the world’s full octave. Love as agape, Eros and philos; love as romance, friendship and adoration; love as infatuation, obsession and lust; love as torture, euphoria, ecstacy and oblivion (this is beginning to read like a Calvin Klein catalogue); love as need, passion and desire.

All the rest of it, parking your dick up an arse, slurping at a helmet, whipping, frotting, peeing, pooing, squatting like a dog, dressing up in plastic and leather – all these go on in the world of boy and girl, too: and let’s be clear about this, they go on more – the numbers make it so. Go into a sex shop, skim some pornography, browse the Internet for a time, talk to someone in the sex industry. You think homosexuality is disgusting? Then it follows, it follows as the night the day, that you find sex disgusting, for there is nothing done between two men or two women that is, by any objective standard, different from that which is done between a man and a woman.

What is more, one begs to ask of these Tony Marlowes and Peregrine Worsthornes and Paul johnsons, have the guts to Enquire Within. Ask yourselves what thoughts go through your head when you masturbate. If the physical act and its detail is so much more important to you than love, then see a doctor, but don’t spew out your sickness in column inches, it isn’t nice, it isn’t kind, it isn’t Christian.

And if the best you can do is to quote the Bible in defence of your prejudice, then have the humility to be consistent. The same book which extorts against the abomination of one man lying with another also contains exhortations against the eating of pork and shell-fish and against menstruating women daring to come near holy places. It’s no good functionistically claiming that a kosher diet had its local, meteorological purposes now defunct, or that the prejudice against ovulation can be dispensed with as superstition, the Bible that you bash us with tells you that much of what you do is unclean: don’t pick and choose with a Revealed Text – or if you do, pick and choose the good bits, the bits that say things like "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", or "Love thy neighbour as thyself".

And please, whatever you do, don’t tell us that what we do is unnatural. For one thing if what you mean by that is that animals don’t do it, than you are quite simply in factual error.

There are plenty of activities or qualities we could list that are most certainly unnatural if you are so mad as to think that humans are not part of nature, or so dull-witted as to believe that "natural" means that "all natures except human nature": mercy, for example, is unnatural, an altruistic, non-selfish care and love for other species is unnatural; charity is unnatural, justice is unnatural, virtue is unnatural, indeed – and this is surely the point – the idea of virtue is unnatural, within such a foolish, useless meaning of the word "natural". Animals, poor things, eat in order to survive: we, lucky things, do that too, but we also has Abbey Crunch biscuits, Armagnac, selle d’agneau, tortilla chips, sauce bearnaise, Vimto, hot buttered crumpets, Chateau Margeux, ginger-snaps, risotto nero, and peanut-butter sandwiches – these things have nothing to to do with survival and everything to do with pleasure, connoisseurship, and plain old greed. Animals, poor things, have to copulate in order to reproduce: we, lucky things, do that too, but we also have kinky boots, wank-mags, leather things, peep-shows, statuettes by Degas, bedshows, Tom of Finland, escort agencies, and the Journals of Anais Din – these things have nothing to do with reproduction and everything to do with pleasure, connoisseurship, and plain old lust. We humans have opened up a wide choice of literal and metaphorical haute cuisine and junk food in many areas of our lives, and as a punishment, for daring to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, we were expelled from the Eden the animals still inhabit and we were sent away with the two great Jewish afflictions to bear out as our penance: indigestion and guilt.

I will apologise for many things that I have done, but I will not apologise for the things that should never be apologised for. … I will apologise for faithlessness, neglect, deceit, cruelty, unkindness, vanity and meanness, but I will not apologise for the urgings of my genitals nor, most certainly, will I ever apologise for the urgings of my heart. I may regret those urgings, rue them deeply, and occasionally damn, blast and wish them to hell, but apologise – no: not where they do no harm. A culture that demands people apologise for something which is not their fault: that is as good a definition of tyranny as I can think of. "

See Moab is My Washpot at Amazon.co.uk. And really, go find a copy from somewhere, even if it’s not through this link. Stephen’s book is truly one of the most riveting biographies I have ever have the pleasure and privilege to read.

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