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New euphemisms for an old sin

How the standard of “consent” seeks to reframe multiple sexual partners as ethical


New euphemisms for an old sin
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The number of ways American society indulges openly in sexual sin is growing, but Christians know that sexual immorality is not new and that it does not lead to blessing or joy. Instead, sexual sin leads only to costly consequences in this life and the next for those who continue in it.

The latest development in this sexual devolution is what’s referred to as “consensual non-monogamy,” which describes adults who engage in sexual relations outside of their marriage, with all partners supposedly consenting to the arrangement. Vogue recently published a long-form profile of its growing practice. In 2017, the American Psychiatric Association launched a task force committed to the advancement of normalizing such “family” arrangements, including but not limited to “polyamory, open relationships, swinging, and ‘monogamish’ relationships.” The APA committee classifies such arrangements as “consensual relationships, not to be confused with sexual infidelity.” Au contraire. Biblically speaking, it is the very definition of infidelity, no matter who consents to it.

Unlike the kind of polygamous arrangement that a 20/20 TV special might document on Mormon cults—where one narcissistic man has several wives and dozens of children—this new paradigm is closely aligned with the LGBTQ+ movement. There is now significant overlap between those identifying as LGBTQ and those practicing consensual non-monogamy. Some even consider this form of non-monogamy a new form of sexual orientation, making it part of the ubiquitous “+” at the end of LGBTQ. In Vogue’s article, we read the story of the Bhatias, a couple who left a life of married monogamy, exchanging it for one of mutually agreed upon promiscuity. “We are in a time of questioning institutional structures like health care, education, and, yes, monogamy,” Megan Bhatia told Vogue. “I think people are disillusioned with life right now and really starting to write their own rules.”

It seems the ongoing isolation caused by the COVID crisis led some to expand their most intimate relationships. “The pandemic has occasioned a cultural shift in the bedroom,” Vogue’s Michelle Ruiz reports. Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, says that many began to ask, “Why am I just skipping along to these unwritten rules?” Among the “unwritten rules” she refers to is that a man and a woman should commit to being faithful to each other “for as long as you both shall live” in a marriage covenant. In what world are such commitments only “unwritten?”

Sin has been consented to by adults from the very beginning, but consent can’t make sin good.

Christians know that lifelong fidelity to your spouse is not an “unwritten rule” but a very well-documented one that comes from the mouth of God, rooted in creation, and intended for the good of each one of us. “You shall not commit adultery” is the seventh of the 10 commandments God gave to Moses. The marriage of a man to a woman, where both “forsake all others,” is a picture of Christ and His church. It represents the love and fidelity between the Savior and his blood-bought bride. Not only that, the married love of one man and one woman is meant to produce children. And children are meant to be welcomed, by God’s grace, into the arms of their mom and dad, not into a confused and perverse arrangement that has nothing more than “consent” to recommend it. Sin has been consented to by adults from the very beginning, but consent can’t make sin good.

The creation of the APA’s task force “marked the first time a national scientific association committed to formally recognizing and supporting consensual multi-partner families and relationships.” As of now, the small Massachusetts cities of Somerville, Cambridge, and Arlington have passed municipal ordinances recognizing polyamorous relationships of three or more people with all the rights of married couples. Professor Moors, who is supportive of this trend against monogamy, recognizes that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia foresaw it happening when he argued that same-sex marriage and legal unions of multiple people might result if sodomy laws were overturned. Failing to heed Scalia’s warning, the court overturned such laws in 2003.

Beyond the push for consensual non-monogamy to obtain a special legal standing on par with marriage, the APA is also committed to “addressing monosexism and acknowledging the historical erasure of non-monosexual relationship structures.” In other words, any expectation that marriage involves only two people (a man and a woman) and that those two people be faithful to one another will now make you part of an oppressor class.

We are witnessing a loss of sexual sanity in the larger culture, but Christians understand one moral truth about human sexual behavior above all others: God has given His consent only to sex between a husband and wife.

Abigail Dodds

Abigail Dodds, a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary, is a wife, mother of five children, and member at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota. She is the author of (A)Typical Woman and Bread of Life: Savoring the All-Satisfying Goodness of Jesus through the Art of Bread Making. She regularly contributes at desiringGod.org.


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