Debauchery Is Nothing to Be Proud of
by Donavon L Riley


In Tinto Brass’ nineteen seventy-nine film, Caligula, the viewer witnesses the tale a man’s descent into lunacy, painted against the backdrop of unchecked power and the spiraling madness it begets. A spectacle by any measure. Caligula’s reputation as a grotesque exhibition of debauchery and perversion precedes it.

In the story, the Emperor’s notorious obsession and whispered incest with his sister, Julia Drusilla, are woven into the narrative as crucial threads in an otherwise fractured narrative. The scenes unfolded, one after another, a relentless parade of depravity and moral decay. Yet, beneath the veneer of Caligula’s pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, the film captures with unsettling accuracy his relentless provocations against the Republic and Senate.

Here is a man consumed by a thirst for dominion and influence over the elite class, his paranoia a constant shadow, forever nudging him toward his inevitable undoing. A lust for control that eats at his soul until there is nothing left but the madness he can neither escape nor cares to understand.

The present manifestation of Tinto Brass’ Caligula resonates starkly, where the orgiastic spectacles of ancient depravity find new life in the public parades dedicated to the pantheon of LGBTQ++. As Pride Month plays itself out like a time-worn bacchanalian tradition , small communities and political Leftists tremble at the storm brewing around the ‘Kink at Pride’ debate.

The heart of the matter lies in the question: Is it safe for children to witness displays of kink—leather dog masks, chains, chokers, handcuffs, and other such paraphernalia? Those who claim to represent “progressive values” argue that this debate is a rehash of “respectability politics,” an attempt to uphold the pillars of a heteronormative society.

Yet, beyond the rhetoric of AWFLs (Affluent White Female Liberal) and socialites who defend these expressions of sexuality, often without awareness of their malice, lies a more insidious truth. The fervent advocates of kink understand well that Pride has its roots in acts of sexual rebellion. They recognize, too, the potential harm to the young, and yet they persist, knowingly steering the celebration into darker waters.

The Stonewall riots of 1969 stand as a landmark in the legacy of radical American queer politics. Fueled by the Counterculture of the 1960s, behaviors that once lurked at the fringes began to shamble into the public square in western society. The Stonewall Inn, a den operated by local criminals, catered to a mélange of marginalized groups, primarily underground transsexual communities, autogynephiliacs, and those engaged in underage prostitution rings.

When New York Police raided the Inn on charges of child prostitution, the resulting riots ignited a backlash that galvanized mass support and adulation within the Leftist-Queer community. This rebellion not only spurred increased political activism and social organization among queer youth but, over time, transformed into a mythologized symbol of defiance, despite its origins steeped in criminality.

Much like Caligula, the hedonistic spectacles of modern Pride parades aim to undermine Western culture, shock public sensibilities, and desensitize the populace to escalating public debauchery. And watching Caligula, one soon realizes that the relentless sexual display becomes tiresome, lulling viewers into a state of passive acceptance. The film, ostensibly a pornographic journey, ultimately overwhelms to the point of inducing a nonchalant stroll through the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This creeping degeneracy erodes the bedrock of stable culture, displacing the civilizational norms that guide the lives of the vast majority. 

From the decadent carnivals of ancient Rome to the gritty streets of 1969 New York, to the present day, grotesque exhibitions of debauchery and perversion persist wherever they are tolerated. So as we witness the unfolding spectacles of Pride parades and the contentious ‘Kink at Pride’ debates, it is crucial to reflect on the cultural currents that we allow to shape the trajectory of our society.

To respond effectively to these conversations and events in our communities, we must first engage in open dialogue. We must not be afraid to engage with those we disagree with, and encourage others to do the same. Understand the historical contexts and motivations behind these expressions while maintaining a critical eye on their impact. Educate ourselves and others about the balance between freedom of expression and the protection of vulnerable populations, particularly children.

Communities should advocate for events that celebrate the multiplicity of diversity that makes the United States such a vibrant, exciting, and rich culture in which to live. without compromising public safety or moral standards. Encourage local governments and organizers to establish clear guidelines that respect both individual rights and community values. Support initiatives that promote healthy, consensual expressions of identity while drawing firm lines against harmful behaviors.

In our shared cultural life, we ought to strive to cultivate a culture that honors both our past struggles and our future aspirations. By fostering thoughtful, informed conversations, and by taking action to prevent wrong from being allowed to thrive, we can build a society that upholds the dignity of all its members and ensures a stable, respectful, thriving environment for generations to come.

By Donovan Riley

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for 1517. He is also a co-host of Banned Books and Warrior Priest podcasts. He is the author of the book, "Crucifying Religion” and “The Withertongue Emails.” He is also a contributing author to "The Sinner/Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms" and "Theology of the Cross".

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