Thursday, July 26, 2007

In defence of Onan

Warning: this post deals with religious themes of a highly repressive nature.

Onan has had a bad press over the years. Associated with lonely masturbation and sin his tale of woe has been used down the centuries as evidence of Biblical opposition to little hands that wander in the night.

But I'd like to stand up in defence of Onan for a moment, whose seedy reputation, it seems to me, has rested on an erroneous interpretation of the Good Book. Let's turn to Genisis 38:6-10 and take a look;

"And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. "

God's strong arm tactics in regards those who displease him are not in doubt here. Er was struck down for some unspecified sin and then Onan is sent in his brother's place to fertilise the lucky bride chosen by Judah to begat future generations of little Ers.

So was Onan's sin masturbation?Well, even if a little chicken choking was involved it's clearly not the sin he's been charged with by God. Not getting his brother's wife up the duff is the charge. Of course I might be wrong on this, but I doubt there have been many pulpit speeches railing against a refusal to impregnate your dead brother's wife in the last couple of hundred years.

All this wanking business is just a distraction from the edict in hand. I'm sure you all remember Deuteronomy 25:5, but here's a reminder for those who missed this day at Sunday school.

"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her."

This is Onan's "sin", clear as crystal for all to see.

Added to this it takes some sort of obsessive pervert to think that spilled it on the ground *has* to mean Onan was a player of the Pink Oboe. What about premature ejaculation... is that a sin? Or the rhythm method? I thought that was actually *advocated* by some sections of the Church. There are a whole number of alternative explanations far more probable than this dubious jerk off story, many of which I'm far too delicate to mention here.

Was Onan a bad lot though? Did he deserve to be struck down?

I don't think so. Although he is disobeying some weird misogynist tradition connected with women, children and property rights, what he's doing is obeying his own moral imperatives. He *knew* it was wrong to have sex with the woman either out of loyalty for his brother or distaste for having intercourse forced upon this woman he barely knew.

Either way he was trying to do the right thing and was brave enough not only to disobey the stultifying conventions of his backward nomadic society but the murderous God who'd killed his brother and he was commanded to Love. No, Onan was not a cheap villain skulking in his bedroom with a box of Kleenex and a Littlewood's catalogue, but a man trying to obey his own moral principles in the teeth of a vindictive and conservative society.

But the ancient scholars weren't looking for the real meaning of this story. They wanted something to represent the digusting practice that was fixated in their minds. The sin of enjoying your own body and they were using these verses to justify their own self hating, flesh loathing tendencies. They were bedevilled by a horror of sex. A terror of it even which led them to search for any textual evidence that God agreed with them. So they could say "God thinks touching yourself was wicked", and then used their rank and status to shove these creepy obsessions down the throats of the rest of us.

Onan's name came to hand and it was a case of any stick to beat a dog. Sadly these Bishop's are no longer alive to take a good bashing for their calumnies against Onan, these monkey's certainly deserve to be be spanked for their cheek but they're long gone. But as we toss the neurotic guilts that dogged previous generations into the dustbin of history it's worth just tipping your hat to a man whose one good deed led not just to his fatal smiting but also to two thousand years of slander.


Earthpal said...

This is so brilliant. It very humorously illustrates how religious leaders have, along the years, misinterpreted the scriptures to fit their own agenda. And they all do it - all the religions.

Red Maria said...

Its only brilliant to someone who hasn't read much. A more discerning reader would recognise it for faux-iconoclastic, uneducated adolescent rubbish that it is.
Poor Jim Jay simply doesn't know enough about the subject matter - as demonstrated by his confused comments about homosexuality and the rhythmn method - to achieve his ambitious ends.
Charitably, one assumes that he dashed the post off in a hurry after having had something to drink.

Jim Jay said...

I think you'd be better off countering the substantive argument of the post Red Maria... that whilst Onan (and his accompanying -ism) should not be synonymous with masturbation. Otherwise it looks like churlish pouting on your part.

If I've not read enough perhaps you could point out the Biblical reference that shows Onan to be guilty of and punished for this supposed sin. If it exists.

Anonymous said...

i may be wrong, but to my understanding onan never masturbated, he simply pulled out when he was about to climax, spilling his seed on the ground. See, when he got his orders to "go into his wife" and "furtilize" her, it wasn't the sex part he had a problem with, he actually was ok with that, it was the part about "spilling inside of her" that he didn't want to do. so while he was having sex, when it came time to climax, he pulled out at the last minute and ended up "spilling his seed on the ground."
THIS is what displeased God and thats why God killed Onan.
again, this is my understanding and i might be wrong

Roger Owen Green said...

Which begs the question, what the heck did Er do to tick off God so much?