By whose standards?
I think debauchery can only be talked about it terms of moral codes. Which is unfortunate to those who consider themselves debauched, as they probably actually only managed to do it by other people’s standards. Unless they are doing things against their own will. Which is utterly not cool.
So do animals do debauched things by human standards?
All the freaking time. Bonobos famously have sex as a way of saying hello, or comforting a friend, or saying goodbye, or apologising for a slightly awkward silence. (This is all projection of course, we have no idea what they are saying when they constantly have sex with each other, but it does appear to be some kind of social lubricant. It is unclear if they’ve come up against a barrier of needing actual lubricant.)
If I had sex to everyone I politely said hello to, I’d be pretty debauched. And quite busy. And I would’ve quit my job a long time ago, because my job requires me to politely say hello to a hell of a lot of people. Many of them smell. (I smell too, which is just one reason why I ask people before I have sex with them).
I’m being facetious, but it does come down to moral codes and social expectations. It’s hard to know how animal thought processes work. There are philosophical treatises on the difficulties of imagining how a bat feels. Just imagine extrapolating that to ‘how a bat feels about BDSM’.
We see social politics in animals. Take the pride of lions, with the strict order of superiority and role sex plays in that. The dominant lion has some kind of sexual power structure. Does this mean that sex outside of that structure is seen as deviant?
We don’t know.
It’s complicated enough within our own species. So many weird fucking attitudes about what is and isn’t okay, along with so many hang ups around expectation and the impact that has on consent. Let’s get this straight. You can do whatever the fuck you want as long as everybody consents wholeheartedly and free from pressure (and nobody gets hurt hurt; hurt is okay, as long as it’s what’s expected).
This attitude probably makes me debauched to a large chunk of the population (even though I’m not actually getting any).
In fact, simply talking openly about sex, sexuality and bodies seems to be seen by some as debauched. How our society managed to inculcate a culture of silence about one of the fundamental activities of life, (and one of the most fun ones) is one of those depressingly twisted freaks of history.
You know what I say? Fuck debauchery.
I don’t think it’s a term we need any more. You don’t have to measure things in terms of contempt and excess in order to have a moral system that doesn’t fuck people over.
Don’t fuck people over.
Fuck people. Fuck yourself. Consensually, lovingly, and anyway you want to.
Illustration by Rosie