Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Then All Things Are Permitted

Following the recent Supreme Court rulings dealing with "gay marriage", a couple of my more liberal acquaintances were enthusiastically posting pictures from gay pride parades. These put me in mind of this old Onion piece, one of those which treads such a delicate line between satire and commentary that you wonder a bit what the author's object was in writing it.
Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years

The mainstream acceptance of gays and lesbians, a hard-won civil-rights victory gained through decades of struggle against prejudice and discrimination, was set back at least 50 years Saturday in the wake of the annual Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade.

"I'd always thought gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth," said mother of four Hannah Jarrett, 41, mortified at the sight of 17 tanned and oiled boys cavorting in jock straps to a throbbing techno beat on a float shaped like an enormous phallus. "Boy, oh, boy, was I wrong."

The parade, organized by the Los Angeles Gay And Lesbian And Bisexual And Transvestite And Transgender Alliance (LAGALABATATA), was intended to "promote acceptance, tolerance, and equality for the city's gay community." Just the opposite, however, was accomplished, as the event confirmed the worst fears of thousands of non-gay spectators, cementing in their minds a debauched and distorted image of gay life straight out of the most virulent right-wing hate literature.
The piece itself contains a "commentary from expert" explanation which covers the rationalization that I've heard given in real life by gay pride supporters who are nonetheless willing to sheepishly admit, "well, yeah, I guess it does get a bit over the top":
Dr. Henry Thorne, a New York University history professor who has written several books about the gay-rights movement, explained the misunderstanding.

"After centuries of oppression as an 'invisible' segment of society, gays, emboldened by the 1969 Stonewall uprising, took to the streets in the early '70s with an 'in-your-face' attitude. Confronting the worst prejudices of a world that didn't accept them, they fought back against these prejudices with exaggeration and parody, reclaiming their enemies' worst stereotypes about them and turning them into symbols of gay pride," Thorne said. "Thirty years later, gays have won far greater acceptance in the world at large, but they keep doing this stuff anyway."

"Mostly, I think, because it's really fun," Thorne added.

The Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade, Thorne noted, is part of a decades-old gay-rights tradition. But, for mainstream heterosexuals unfamiliar with irony and the reclamation of stereotypes for the purpose of exploding them, the parade resembled an invasion of grotesque outer-space mutants, bent on the destruction of the human race.
Here again we have some of the modern reliance on irony without regard to whether what you're doing is actually good. I think there's something else going on here as well, however.

When trying to make-nice to conservatives, proponents of "same sex marriage" tend to emphasize it as a way of enshrining commitment and sexual morality. However, while this tends to suggest that same sex relationships should have the same moral obligations and boundaries as traditional ones, in practice I have never known anyone who believes that same sex marriages are moral from a Christian point of view, and yet holds that sex outside of marriage (and a host of other, related sexual issues) is definitely wrong. I'm sure that a few such people do exist, but in general even the "conservative" supporters of same sex marriage tend to have adopted a significantly loosened idea of overall sexual morality: Sex is very much what you make of it. Different people have different expectations. The key thing is that everything be consensual and that people never betray the commitments they make, whatever those may be.

This Atlantic piece (which from what I can tell is written from what it terms the progressive point of view on sex) argues that sexual traditionalists and progressives in our culture have fundamentally different ideas about what sex is and what it's for.

Trad View:
As religious conservatives see it, the great mistake we make when we masturbate is to claim our sexuality as ours alone. All sexual activity must be about "mutual self-giving" between a husband and a wife, the church claims, arguing that masturbation is "an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."

Prog View:
In The Ethical Slut, perhaps the best-known "catechism" of progressive sexual morality, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy make the case that "the fundamental sexual unit is one person; adding more people to that unit may be intimate, fun, and companionable, but it does not complete anybody." Masturbation matters, they argue, not merely because it helps you learn what you want sexually from a partner, but because it helps bring "your locus of control into yourself."
Especially given the source, this struck me as surprisingly perceptive. Moreover, it suggests that if one's sexuality is fundamentally one's own, defined by oneself and limited only by the commitments one makes oneself, there's nothing necessarily wrong in engaging in "depraved" expressions of sexuality, whether ironically or seriously.


Lauren said...

Despite not being raised in a traditional home by any means, I certainly rejected the "prog view" on pure reason long before I ever thought about Christian ethics. It is basic biology that sex makes babies, and babies are the primary reason for sex. We are not made for recreational sex. If we were, Women would not be fertile nearly as often as we are. We be like some mammals that are only fertile once or twice a year. The idea that human beings exist to just sit around having sex with themselves makes no sense from a biological or evolutionary perspective. How does that increase our chances of survival as a species? And we're called anti-science.

Kristin said...

"...I have never known anyone who believes that same sex marriages are moral from a Christian point of view, and yet holds that sex outside of marriage (and a host of other, related sexual issues) is definitely wrong."

I wonder if any studies or surveys prove that. I wouldn't be too surprised. I also wonder how opponents of same-sex marriage feel about other aspects of sexual morality.

Skywalker said...

Good article, and surprisingly perceptive. The people who I know who support gay marriage do not think out their position as far as I can tell. They seem to think "What could it hurt?" or "Who could be against equality?" They don't seem to think about the conclusions that lead from support of gay marriage.