Saturday 4 January 2014

Dave Sim: "Avoyd Fornication"

Cerebus #275 (February 2002)
Art by Dave Sim, photo by Ken Sim
(by fax, 29 December 2013)
Hi Tim!
Here's a first! I've never written anything for A MOMENT OF CEREBUS as part of my Sabbath observance. I'm doing so now because I read Susan's commentary of being "dumped" by me in favour of God. (Google image-heavy issues of STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND photo reference are, by forcing me into the coffee shop, perhaps, going to prove a boon to my contributing here).

I don't think "dumped" is an accurate way of looking at it: it was more that, as I became more familiar with Judaism, Christianity and Islam, I recognised that there's a reason that adultery is considered a comparable offence to murder or theft in the Ten Words (or the Ten Commandments as Christians refer to them).

Which, for me, casts a whole new light on my own choices: which choices had been, to that point, "fornication followed by adultery" (I was having an affair that Deni knew about and accepted and occasionally participated in at the time we were married and for about a year after) then followed by fornication (which -- depending on how you interpret Matthew 5:32, 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18 -- establishes a co-equivalence between divorce and remarriage AS adultery; and which I infer casts an unfavourable light upon post marriage fornication) (the Synoptic Jesus attributing the Bill of Divorcement in Judaism -- Deuteronomy 24:1 -- as "toward the hardheartedness of you he wrote to you the commandment this" seems to me to point quite sharply in that direction). You'll notice that I had Cerebus wrestling with this in the course of RICK'S STORY relative to what he was doing with Joanne. Is fornication just as bad as adultery?

I'm not God, so I don't have a specific "one size fits all" answer for that (I'm not sure that God Himself does: I think that's one of the manifold "Metaphysics of the Universe" spiritual questions that the universe itself was created to answer in excruciating detail over untold millenia and across a nearly infinite number of planets), but, examining myself, it came down to "innermost motivation" insofar as I was able to determine what that was.

I had realised while married to Deni -- pretty early on -- that marriage just wasn't for me: I was not, by nature, a husband. But my atheistic response to that (being a devout atheist at the time) was to get divorced and then "play the field" with what I saw as -- and what proved to be -- a kind of in-built immunity to marriage. Good for me (as I saw it at the time). Not Good for me in an Ethical sense as I became familiar with Scripture.

It seemed to me that there needed to be an "either-or" -- I either needed to be a husband and father or, having determined that that wasn't who I was (which I had definitely determined to be the case as early as 1979), I needed to be completely celibate. There was absolutely no Good that could come of saying "I'm going to adopt the protective coloration of a potential husband -- I'll be a good boyfriend -- but inwardly, I know that this relationship is only going to be temporary."

The General Good and General  Welfare of Society (it seemed to me, as I first examined the question in the late 1990s, and still seems to me) is better served if women are only being courted by potential husbands and potential fathers and fellows like me (or, rather fellows as I was prior to that) stay off the relationship "chessboard" completely. Particularly since women are deciding entirely on their own with whom they are getting involved and to what extent (as opposed to their beaux needing to ask permission of their fathers to become engaged as was the case until the latter half of the last century).

Having been a Bad Boy I can vouch for the fact that the Bad Boy has a disproportionate appeal for many, if not most, women. For some he gives them permission to engage in or endorse their own bad behaviour (not being "AS Bad" as him, she can see herself as being Good while sill being bad), for some he's a "challenge" (she wants to be the one who tames him), for some he's the female equivalent of professional sports (who among the women he's sleeping with is in "first place"? Who is on a winning streak? Who is on a losing streak? Where am I in the "standings"?), for some he's a status symbol equivalent to what the trophy wife is for men: "Look what I'VE got! Eat your heart out!"

But, in the context of the General Good and General Welfare of Society, he's basically a societal vandal: despoiling (or, if you prefer, "despoiling") other men's daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, aunts, etc. and constituting a distraction and a detriment to the orderly course of the female life well and truly lived. And not just in the course of the relationship, but in the carry-over emotional damage he causes to the individual female psyche. By being emotionally untrustworthy, he damages her ability to trust (in a foundational sense, since most women are emotion-based beings).

This is particularly important, I think, when you consider that science is just now discovering that there are far more serious consequences to female health than have been hitherto been suspected which result from delaying pregnancy, motherhood and lactation much past the mid-twenties. WAY too many women are wasting WAY too many good years -- their own very narrow individual window of individual opportunity -- they can ill afford to waste "dallying" with a Bad Boy -- or Bad Boys -- and/or recovering from the emotional ill effects of such relationships. To the extent that it was once possible for a Bad Boy to say, "Hey, nobody put a gun to her head" and chalking it up to a learning experience for her, that becomes less possible by the day. Fully engaging a female romantically so that she is unable to contemplate an alternative when you are just "playing around" is at least co-equivalent to putting a gun to her head -- or, more aptly, and more gruesomely, to her breasts and to her internal organs -- in terms of the potential long-term damage to her physical health.

So I would suggest it would be more accurate to say that in February 1998 I chose to repent of my fornication and adultery, having recognised that that's ALL my romantic relationships had been or could be when it came to my innermost motivations. A repentance meant giving it up and thereby (hopefully) atoning for it (I'm of the "Don't Continually Apologise And Whinge To God About It: IMPROVE" school of theology).

Summing up my like to the best of my abilities, in my own eyes: I was a completely unrepentant fornicator and adulterer from December 1976 to December 1996 when I began reading The Bible and a hypocritically repentant fornicator and adulterer from December 1996 to February 1998 -- I knew it was wrong but I was still doing it -- when I "dumped" Susan. A total of 21 years and three months.

And I will have been celibate for 16 years in February. If the basis is "time served" (it's always, I think worth remembering that it's God's timetable, not ours, which matters) then, by August of 2013, I had atoned for all of my post marriage fornications and -- God willing -- by May of 2019 I will have atoned for my pre-marriage fornications with Deni and my adulterous liaison of 1978-1979.


Anonymous said...

There is one bit of wisdom in here that perhaps we might all of us apply to our lives: Don't continually apologize -- improve.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, rev

Paul Slade said...

Quite right, Rev. As my parents used to tell me when I'd misbehaved in childhood: "If you were really sorry, you wouldn't do it again."

Anonymous said...

What if we actually take the scripture that Dave quotes seriously?

Dave quotes Mark 10:2-12 and its parallels.

According to these gospels, Moses changed the law to allow men to divorce their wives and to remarry. I’ve read that he did this to try to rein in easy divorce and infidelity, by imposing more onerous divorce procedures. The purpose was to protect women [and their children] from being ostracized by becoming unmarried with children, but to maintain societal disapproval for such a state.

Jesus says that Moses passed that law to respond to a contemporary problem appropriate for that time, but that those rules were now inappropriate and that divorce and remarriage should be condemned. Still, Jesus and Moses were trying to protect women and children from the social consequences of unwed motherhood.

So, both Moses and Jesus thought that the law should change to respond to contemporary manifestations of an underlying problem.

Feminism has addressed pregnancy and unwed motherhood in a way that responds to contemporary reality and to the underlying concerns of Moses and Jesus. Feminism has done much to mitigate the contempt society has for unwed mothers and their children, to prevent unwanted pregnancies in ways that don’t marginalize women, to ensure that children are supported, and to make women less dependent on men for their security and social standing.

Dave’s practice does nothing for women, doesn’t respond to Jesus’ and Moses’ concerns for women, and is not contemporary. Dave’s celibacy is not protecting women from the problems of unwed motherhood or women who get divorced from becoming disenfranchised: in fact, Dave has expressed contempt for divorced women, which is at odds with Moses and Jesus.

Dave alludes to health risks for barren women. Presumably he means the slightly higher risk of breast cancer? I would humbly suggest that a more effective way to combat breast cancer than celibacy would be by promoting early detection.

It seems to me that any scriptural interpretation that provides no meaningful benefit to others is bad interpretation.

-Reginald P.

Birdsong said...

I showed this entry to a woman I know yesterday and she said that whoever this man is he sounds like a much better catch now than he was before. Some ladies aren't interested in bad boys and thank God not all of them are militant Feminists or there would be even less stable marriages than there are now.

Tony Dunlop said...

This post is the sort of thing that shows why Dave can't be reasonably called a misogynist. The attitude that men should only "pursue" or "court" women if their goal is to settle down, in a faithful and monogamous and (at least intended to be) life-long relationship - ideally married - is a profoundly pro-woman attitude.
The feminist response to illegitimacy, or "single motherhood" if you prefer, is, as far as I can tell, one of coercion - extracting funds from those who are not involved in the…situation…by force of law, to support the woman and her child(ren) (I will not use the word "family" to describe such a situation).

Anonymous said...

Great comment Birdsong. Dave's post about not being husband material shows, more than anything else, what an improved catch he is.

Also, great comment Tony. Dave's desire not to be married because women should be pursuing childbirth is indeed profoundly pro-woman, does not exhibit a circumscribed view of women's roles, and should erase any confusion caused when Dave called divorced women "five-to-six-foot leeches [excised] from the surface of a [male] body" and when he called married women "emptiness, fear and emotional hunger" except for the parts of their husbands that they had consumed.

It would be morally wrong to question his pro-woman credentials after that.

-Reginald P.

Birdsong said...

Well Mister Reginald P. Sarcasm I was in church talking to a lady in her 40s who is single and can't find a decent man because they have all turned into cry babies that want to share their feelings all the time instead of being a responsible adult. The fact that she would find a man that strives day in and day out to do God's will attractive is no surprise to me, but I wouldn't expect such a reaction from someone that thinks killing children should be allowed, celebrated and given out as an absolute right no matter what for whatever reason because it might inconvenience some murderous broad's lifestyle or Heaven forbid, marginalize her.

M Southall said...

Dave's not saying now he's "a great catch," he abjures that forever. For someone who believes relationships can be built upon genuine love as myself, Dave made it clear - as is intimated here - that love has nothing to do with any of his relationships, as he emphasized in our fax correspondence. He was being entirely selfish - now he abstains instead of practicing that kind of selfishness. That is not to say he now has anything like love to now give. His explanation to me rejecting concepts of friendship and love - all our mutual long term relationships, even Harry Kremer, he did not regard as friends as I did - Harry was "not a friend, but a patron" - even if Harry himself thought otherwise, as Harry I know did. In my correspondence with Judenhass collaborator Lou Copeland, he told me "early on Dave told me he did not 'do' friendship."
Indeed, although I knew him since he was 12 and we spent time together at my parents' house, including collecting comics, writing and drawing for a number of years, he told me while we were working on CerebusTV - and before when we met for lunch annually during the eighties and nineties, even though my wife cooked for him at our home in 2009 - that I was not his friend. In one fax, he emphasized to me the point that he had no truck with "love" - "my life has consisted of hatred received and given, with no quarter asked nor given."

I personally could not consider a sexual relationship without love as moral. I still love my wife after almost 39 years and I have never committed adultery against her, because of that love - so I don't view relationships in quite the same way Dave does, even if our view of morality thus coincides.

I think one should respect Dave's integrity to take him at his word - and why, instead of becoming a "good catch" he has rather taken, in his circumstances, the ethical path of sexual abstinence.

Anonymous said...

Another great comment Birdsong.

I liked how you brought up the subject of child murder out of nowhere. No doubt this is a technique you picked up in church as a way to promote dialogue.

Although, just for the record, I think that when a child is murdered after it has been toilet trained, a celebration is totally inappropriate.

-Reginald P.

Anonymous said...

Tony, I had the opposite reaction to this post being "the sort of thing that shows why Dave can't be reasonably called a misogynist." Another way of reading it is as confirmation that Dave is a misogynist. As just once example, consider that Dave doesn't think women should have the right to choose their own spouses.

David, your arguments (or "arguments") presume that other people share your belief that your religious and social viewpoints are correct. But if I do not, not only do your arguments fail to convince, they fail to exist.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, mod

Birdsong said...

Reginald and Damian if you have a moment google Colpolscopy, a band from the US. Be sure to look for the album cover of their latest release called Ready For Gore. if you want to see real misogyny it is there for you to find with a simple Google search. I don't know why you seek to find it in Dave Sim, but your fixations are your own business.

Damian I don't presume that anyones share my beliefs. You can take them for what they are and dismiss them as you will. It's no skin off my back.

Tony I didn't bring up child murder out of nowhere. You did. If you want to pretend that abortion is a choice or some kind of inconvenience then go ahead, but I will not blow smoke up my own hinder and pretend it is anything except the murder of a child. I have no interest in sparing the feelings of someone that wishes to hide from the truth. With me you are going to get the absolute assertion that abortion is murder. I don't pull punches on that subject no matter what you say to me. It's up to you and each and every individual on the planet how you deal with that particular subject, but I will not be a part of it and I will not acknowledge any soft little cover words you use to describe the intentional ending of a life in the womb.

What do I know anyway? I'm just a dumb hick from the South. Me and mine tend to err on the side of life. If you want to smile on your way to hell then go ahead. I don't believe in begging people to accept eternal life. If you don't want it don't worry, it won't fall on you.

Anonymous said...

Another great comment Birdsong.

I referred to birth control, which is the "prevention" of pregnancies, the word I used. Abortion "ends" pregnancies, and was not the word I used.

So, you brought up child murder, unless you equate birth control with child murder.

If you consider yourself a follower of Christ, who preached neighbourliness as a first principle (Matt 22:37-40), I would think it behoves you to listen to what others say, ask questions where unsure, and then respond calmly and with respect, rather than inflame the discussion with hysterical language, anger, irrelevancy and accusation.

This is not the way of the Lord.

I recommend before you do something that you first ask yourself, "Would Christ have said this? Would Christ have used these words? Are my words consistent with the love of the Christ?" If you ask yourself these questions, and still feel like making comments as you have above, I would suggest rinsing and repeating step 1.

Go! And sin no more!

In Christ,

-Reginald P.

Anonymous said...

One interesting point: M.'s quotation from Dave that ""my life has consisted of hatred received and given, with no quarter asked nor given," should put paid to Dave's pretense to being a creature of pure reason.

David, I looked up the album cover you recommended. Gruesome! The image seems consistent with the "torture porn" audiences apparently enjoy, from Saw to The Walking Dead to Crossed (forgive me if my examples are outdated; it's not really my thing). Is the music any good?

It is instructive that you label that image misogynistic, but can't recognize Dave's blatant, repeated misogynist statements. Nobody has to "seek to find it in Dave Sim"; it's not part of the subtext, it's part of the text. But as Kim Thompson said in the TCJ "negotiation" thread, Dave's paranoid self-martyrdom is his own doing; his statements never cost him anything except readers who decided (for various reasons) that they didn't want to read his stuff -- which is of course their perfect right.

There are some Simcophants (sorry) for whom Dave can do no wrong. (David, you seem a minor member of the chorus -- not as bad as Michael wassisname from the TCJ thread or that guy Talon something or something Talon that I recall from other venues.) For them, it's not enough to say, "Yeah, Dave's a misogynist, but I like Cerebus," or even just, 'I like Cerebus." No, they need to have everyone believe that Dave is not a misogynist, even if it means sophistries like saying he's merely anti-feminist (when his critiques go beyond feminists to speak of women in general) or legalisms like "he's not afraid of women" (when that literal translation of "misogynist" is not the issue).

I think that Dave is a misogynist, and I observe that I agree with most people in this, hence Dave's decline in audience. Now, "most people" are not always right -- but if you find yourself as a complete outlier, it behooves you to question your position. Your mere status as an outlier doesn't prove you're an individual thinker; you might be simply wrong.

I don't think Dave is much of a thinker, and I don't think he's much of a human being. But I do think he's one of the best cartoonists in the medium. As Allen Rubinstein said, "Cerebus contains some of the all-time best and some of the all-time worst comics I've ever read." If Dave has chosen to pursue an avenue (photorealism) where his strengths clearly do not lie -- as Dave himself said, "Interest does not equal aptitude," -- I am interested enough to follow his work. We've all noted how Dave's work improved over the course of Cerebus; I'll bet he'll be a much better photorealist after 26 years of practicing that style.

As to his personal life: from his posted testimony, Dave realized that he was harming people with his dating behaviour, and chose to withdraw from that world (at least physically; he continues to denigrate it in words). For this action, he should be congratulated. As I said in the first comment here, Dave states a piece of wisdom that too many of us fail to apply in our lives (because it's hard: namely, that it is not enough to be sorry for your actions -- you actually have to behave better.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pdq

Tony Dunlop said...

Mr. Birdsong, I am pro-life, and did not bring up abortion in any way - I don't know why you're ranting at me.

I do regret saying that I don't consider single-mother households "families." That was uncharitable and judgmental, and I ask forgiveness from anyone who was hurt or offended by it.

I've never believed that "love" = "anything you want to do is OK." Jesus told the woman caught in adultery not to sin any more - was He being judgmental? He is clearly calling adultery "sin." And yet He had just told an angry mob not to judge her. Seems morality is a little messier than a lot of people want it to be.

The Bible (as a Christian, its morality is normative for me) is equally clear about sexual morality as it is about economic morality. I find it appalling that so-called "Christian conservatives" focus on only one of these.

M Southall said...

Dave's not a misogynist, any more than he is either a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew.

He might more credibly approach the description of misanthropy, but given his very atypical and independent approach, his views defy categorization.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, Dave once took a woman to task because she insisted that she could not be labelled a bisexual, even thought she had both a husband and a wife. The point is that it is your actions that decide who you are, not what labels you apply to yourself.

Dave is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew because his actions show him not to be. Eg. he can't be a Christian because he accepts Mohammed as the last prophet, and Christians don't do that.

Dave is a misogynist because his actions show him to be one. That his statement "my life has consisted of hatred received and given" seems to be evidence of misanthropy doesn't mean he is not also a misogynist.

Dave's views on gender politics and religion may be independent (he is after all self-taught), but they are hardly unprecedented or unclassifiable. He's not such a special snowflake in intellectual history as he seems to want to believe.

Speaking of religion, can anyone answer the question of when Dave ceased being an atheist? It must have been before Issue 23 came out, as he writes in one of the Swords introductions that he became convinced that "There was something out there." So that would have been, at the latest, late 1980. He started reading the Bible in late 1996, so that's at least 16 years of his religious beliefs evolving from "Something" to "God".

-- Damian T. Lloyd, div

Birdsong said...

Tony, when I saw the words "prevent unwanted pregnancies" abortion came to mind immediately. It was a knee jerk response and I do apologize for my assumption. I can get heated on that topic. The subjects of abortion and religion and all the endless debates and details most likely don't belong in the discussion unless directly related to the blog entry. I shall endeavor to stay on topic.

As for the question of when Dave ceased to be an atheist that might be a question worth asking the man himself. I have never known him to back off answering much of anything so I tend to be careful what I ask him anymore. Of course you will have to wait until The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is done to get the answer.

Anonymous said...

@ Birdsong

Just to be clear, I wrote "prevent unwanted pregnancies", not Tony. I think you've got us confused.

However, I accept your apology. In all honesty, that is gracious.

-Reginald P.

Birdsong said...

Danggit, all you guys look alike. Get an avatar. ;)

M Southall said...

Just like snowflakes, no two people, or their beliefs, will ever be exactly alike.

Gene Phillips said...

Thanks very much for this post. Printing Dave's remarks on divorce were very helpful to me in writing a recent Sim-essay-- which you can see below, if curious: