Newsflash: Sexuality Is Already in Scouting

I ran across this article from May1, from yet another conservative Christian Scouter who seems to be convinced that by accepting gay Scouts into the BSA, the end is near for all morality in the Scouting program. As comments are closed, my responses are here. I hope the author’s blog registers the trackback and he sees it.

First, the condescending tone in the post (see the paragraph about liberals and “the choir”) makes it clear that he thinks there is absolutely no discussion that can be had, nothing to learn from an alternate point of view. This is the kind of closed mind that is the most dangerous to any youth program anywhere. Leaders need to balance between a firm and strong sense of what their pillars are and the willingness to learn new insight from those of opposing views. The only people that Jesus didn’t waste his time with were the Pharisees – the ones whose minds were rigid and unyielding.

Second, I agree 100% with him about the need to ensure that no overt acts of sexuality (regardless of orientation) have any place in the Scouting program. However, if he really thinks that sexuality is not already in Scouting, I have unwelcome news for him:

  • I remember from my own time as a Scout: when the Scoutmasters aren’t around, there’s a large amount of sexual humor and indoctrination that gets passed around from boy to boy. From fairly benign (calling Scout camp “memories without mammaries”) to merely inappropriate (streaking through a camp site) to more potentially unhealthy activities and peer pressure, these activities were there when I was a boy. From what my son tells me, they’re still there today. He’s in a great troop with a lot of amazing leaders, but no matter how great the parents/leaders/boys, when you push a prevalent and powerful aspect of humanity under the carpet, it will find ways to express itself. Adolescence is exactly the time when the humans are dealing with powerful feelings of sexuality, for the first time, and it is confusing. Scouters are often trusted adults, especially when the boys don’t have a good relationship with their parents.
  • As Scouters we have to model responsible behavior to our Scouts, including appropriate forms of sexuality. Sexuality is far more than physical intimacy; it includes our attitudes on gender, orientation, sexual roles, and more. Our Scouts watch us closely; if we are disrespectful of women and dismissive of non-masculine men (as many Scouters frequently are), they will learn that behavior is appropriate and they will indulge in it too.
  • Alaric attended the recent National Scout Jamboree. The Jamboree selection process, if you’re not familiar, limits the number of Scouts per council; there’s an interview and recommendation process that in theory ensures the Scouts who went to Jamboree are living the Scout Oath and Law. Yet despite all the precautions, they had problems with Scouts treating the female youth attendees (American Venture Scouts and international Scouts) with a marked lack of respect, including peeping tom incidents at their showers. Sexuality (of the heterosexual nature) is alive and well in Scouting. The answer is not to ignore sex; it is to address it in the appropriate context and with the appropriate limits and boundaries for Scouting activities.

Third, expecting gay Scouts to be silent about their orientation, *even when they are following Scouting guidelines about sexual activities*, is explicitly unequal.

After all, how many times have you heard of a heterosexual Boy Scout declaring for all to hear that, “I’m a heterosexual and I’m sexually active and I lust after girls?” Why is it that the GLBT crowd needs to publicly share their sexual preferences? And why on earth would a parent go on national television, or go into a court of law, to show support for their teenage son’s sexual preference for other boys?

Heterosexual Scouts make that declaration (or have it made for them) on a regular basis. When there’s an adolescent joke about boobs, or Scouts ogle another Scout’s sister, heterosexual Scouts are non-verbally (but nevertheless clearly and loudly) making the declaration that they are heterosexual beings who are attracted to girls. That doesn’t mean that they are sexually active. It is not a hallmark of “the LGBT agenda” that parents don’t want their boys to be forced to assume a mantle of silence or be assumed to be sexually prolific just because they aren’t attracted to girls. Again, I’ll use poor Alaric as an example; I know he likes girls and I know what types he likes, as do his friends and members of his troop, but he feels no need (I like to think in part because he can be open with us) to become a sexually active fourteen year-old. This is because of his character, not because he likes girls.

The mistake the blog author makes here, and he makes it consistently, is to conflate “gay” with “sexually active.” There is no reason to assume that homosexual teenagers will be any more sexually active than heterosexual teenagers (and if he wants to dispute that, I’ll be happy to point him to the studies showing increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases among Christian, abstinence-only youth who engage in risky alternatives to vaginal intercourse, because their rigid upbringing gives no thought to failure modes). In fact, homosexual youth who have access to a variety of caring, responsible adult role models are more likely to make informed, intelligent choices about sex. If the author really wants to keep kids from acts he believes are immoral, he can do far worse than encourage them to get into Scouting where they can be around leaders and other boys who will help reinforce the desired standard of behavior.

Finally, the author needs to drop the martyr complex he displays in his last paragraph. Although it was never a prominent or prevalent practice, historical research shows that the Christian church throughout the ages has at times and places supported homosexual members, including through the celebration of marriage for homosexual couples. Many of us who support Scouting’s long-overdue change in policy do so from our own religious principles. Thought we differ from the author on this issue, there are many aspects of character that we do agree on, including the points of the Scout Oath and Law, even if we do not see eye-to-eye over every point of interpretation.

Scouting is a worldwide movement. American Scouting and our particular struggles over the interpretation of Christian doctrine are not the acme of the Scouting ideals. If this one issue is really so important to him that he feels he has no choice but to cede his involvement in Scouting in the event of a legal challenge, I for one will miss the richness and depth he brings to the overall tapestry of Scouting. However, that tapestry has to be a living tapestry. Scouting is supposed to be inclusive enough to be an umbrella for multiple religions and views, to adapt and grow as our society changes. I refuse to believe that this one issue is the one that will destroy Scouting.

That’s not the vibrant Scouting program I know.