Mon 26 Jul 2010
Debunking the concept of the trinity:
First of all, we need to lose the idea that the three X’s that often times represent straight edge in iconography in any way represent three distinct issues. They don’t, and it wouldn’t make sense if they did. One each for drinking, for smoking, and sex? Or maybe one X for drug use (which would include both cigarettes and alcohol consumption) and one for sex? That would still leave us with an unclaimed X. Its easy to see how this erroneous belief came about, but it should also be obvious that the representation of straight edge with three X’s is nothing more than an aesthetic device, and is not representative of three specific “I don’ts” of straight edge.
On to the heart of the matter…
The Source: Minor Threat
We can (or should) all agree that the primary source for the straight edge association with sex comes from a song by Minor Threat, who also (to a great degree) created the and initially spread the straight edge ideology. Other early (though still later) bands touched on the issue, but none in as direct a fashion as Minor Threat.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t fuck, at least I can fucking think”
– Minor Threat – Out of Step
The song Out of Step never once mentions straight edge in the lyrics, yet this is where part of the straight edge community has rallied around for an explanation of where the connection with sex originates. On the other hand, the actual song Straight Edge only talks about drug use, and doesn’t mention sexuality at all. It presents drug use as something unneeded, and promotes “staying in touch” – maintaining mental clarity. If any song lyrics should be taken as the basis for the straight edge ideology, then it should be the song of the same name. It should not be a song which makes no mention of it at all.
The Ambiguity of Out of Step and Hypocritical Interpretation:
Even if we assume that the song Out of Step is referring to straight edge, and what it is to be straight edge, the interpretation of those lyrics has been consistently hypocritical and irrational when it comes to the part about sex. The most common interpretation of the lyrics regarding sex is a message of “anti-promiscuity” – which is problematic on its own, because, of course, it is totally open to individual interpretation. It is also problematic because the line “I don’t fuck” is the only one out of the three that is interpreted figuratively instead of literally.
Celibacy, not anti-promiscuity
If (and I’m not saying we should) we as a community are going to use the lyrics from Out of Step as a basis on what is and is not straight edge (including those three words pertaining to sexuality), then rationally, we should apply all of the each of the directives in the same way.
To put it another way:
Why is it that I don’t smoke is interpreted as “I never smoke cigarettes,” and I don’t drink is interpreted as “I never drink alcohol,” but, I don’t fuck has come to mean “I might sometimes have sex in certain contexts?”
For the sake of clarity and consistency, the same principle should apply to all three points in the song equally, instead of having a different interpretation for one.
Conversely, if we are allowing such an interpretation of one of those statements, then we should allow it for all three, possibly taking the author’s own perspective into account. Ian MacKaye himself mentioned numerous times that the point was to not let anything control your thinking, and that he merely used those three as examples. He could also have been talking about (in his own example) “playing golf.”
If, as some claim, straight edge does involve human sexuality, and we are taking our meaning from that song, then people who are straight edge should either completely abstain from sex (as they abstain completely from alcohol and nicotine), OR they should be open to a less stringent “straight edge” that allows adherents to drink or smoke, but not to over-indulge to the point where it becomes an obsession and controls their thinking/lives. IF sex is prohibited depending upon context, then the same should apply to the other keystones of the belief.
The word “fuck” has been defined (self-servingly) to mean promiscuity, and not sexual intercourse. But even so, what defines promiscuity? Which acts are permitted and which are not? Who is to say if a relationship is going to be long term or “committed”? In reality, it’s entirely possible to be in a relationship with someone for a year without any sexual interaction, to then have sex and break up a day later.
In addition IF we use this as a basis, and straight edge is also anti-promiscuity, then straight edge should also be expanded to include other obsessive behaviors, gambling, video games, etc, and we should see straight edge shirts with big bold letters proclaiming “GAMBLING FREE”.
To be clear:
I’m definitely NOT saying that this is where our definition should come from. It is irrational to frame things the way they have been framed (fairly hypocritically) in the straight edge community. The current stance on sexuality has more to do with middle-class Christian values and (repressive) ideas of sexuality and purity than it does with the basic principles of what straight edge is.
The whole idea that straight edge somehow deals with such a nuanced realm as human sexuality should be dropped entirely. Not because I am some huge fan of out of control (and possibly unhealthy), obsessive sexuality, but because straight edge is about maintaining mental clarity at base, and has no rational connection to sex. Sex is (well, in the best case scenario) a natural and healthy part of the human experience. All humans are naturally sexual beings, and sexuality is a very important part of human life.
– There is no “third X”.
– There is no basis to believe that straight edge should have anything to do with human sexuality.
– And if it DOES have something to do with sex, then people are being completely dishonest in their practice of the principle.