On my recent drive to Virginia and back, I took this photo:Onancock!
For those of foggy Biblical memories, Onan is the fellow who lends his name to "onanism," a word for masturbation, and his story is the basis of many modern-day Christians' condemnation of the practice. Of course, the Bible says no such thing, but that's not terribly surprising.Allow me to digress a moment and talk about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah
, the main "anti-gay" tale in the Bible.
In brief, Lot is a good guy who lives in the wicked city of Sodom. Two strange men come into town and Lot offers them a place to stay. He doesn't know it, but the men are angels. When a gang-raping mob comes to Lot's door, demanding to rape the angels, Lot responds by instead offering his virgin daughters to be gang-raped. The angels finally step in and blind the potential rapists, so that they become tired trying to find the door to Lot's house. God then decides to destroy the people of Sodom, saving only Lot and his family, and giving them the arbitrary requirement that they shouldn't look back. Lot's wife does look back, and she is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters survive, although that must've been awkward, considering that Lot had just recently offered his daughters to a gang-raping mob.
Just for kicks, here is a children's version
of the story:
"Lot! We want to meet your guests," [the mob] shouted from outside the door. "Send them out so we can say hello." But they were lying. They really wanted to have fun doing terrible things to Lot’s guests.
"Have fun doing terrible things" makes it sound kind of sexy, doesn't it?
Anyway, this is the story from which much of the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality comes.
In a helpful act of exegesis, allow me to suggest several other, more appropriate morals to the story
- Rape is bad!
- In the case of "gay rape," it's really the "rape" part that's the problem.
- Fathers who offer their daughters to be gang-raped by mobs should hardly be rewarded by "God."
- If for some terrible reason you are forced to either turn over your daughters or some strangers to a gang-raping mob, you should probably turn over the strangers. In Lot's case the strangers happened to be angels, but Lot didn't know that. Ergo, see #3 above.
- Rapists deserve to be blinded by magic.
- Even if you aren't gay, "God" might turn you into a pillar of salt for an arbitrary reason.
offers both liberal and conservative perspectives on this story. The site also makes the fine point that if the entire gang-raping mob had been gay, it wouldn't have made much sense for Lot to even offer up his daughters in the first place; additionally, the site points out that, since women married at quite a young age, Lot's "virgin daughters" probably would have been around 14 years old).And now, back to the story of Onan:
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.
Boy, that God just smites like a bitch!
Side note: "Er" shares a name (well, minus an additional "r") with this Mooninite, from Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
Anyway, Onan wasn't masturbating; he was having sex with his widowed sister-in-law for the purpose of getting her pregnant, but then pulling out. Which just seems rude.
(Of course, he had a logical reason -- Tamar was the widow of his older brother, so succeeding in producing an heir that would be "counted" as his brother's would mean that that son would be the family's firstborn, rather than a son Onan might have later that would be counted as his own. Incidentally, the story gets weirder
, as after Onan's death, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute to get Er and Onan's father, Judah, to impregnate her, and from her illegitimate twins ultimately come David, Solomon, and Joseph, foster-parent of Jesus).
If Onan had had enough mojo to impregnate Tamar, keep his own wife (had he had one) as constantly pregnant as possible so as to produce soldiers for Israel, and also masturbate a bit on the side, it seems we wouldn't have had a problem. No need for half of Salt Lake City to tie their jerk-off hands to the bedpost at night
Anyway, "Onancock" is a hilarious name for a small Virginia town. (It is, of course, a Native American name, in this case meaning "foggy place." The official town website
is careful to indicate that the name is pronounced "oh NAN cock").
The Eastern Shore of Virginia also has a small town called "Assateague," which is neither here nor there.