|This is a diagramatic scheme of the typical brain of a straight male as espoused by lawyers for the Alliance Defense Fund.|
After some technical difficulties and work related issues, I am back and ready to roll. The past week has seen some fascinating stories come to light in the Catholic world, but I've chosen to hi lite an article from Huffington Post by Kent Greenfield for it's singular honesty about the gay marriage debate. He asks a very pertinent question: "Is the sexual promiscuity of straight men a reason to oppose gay marriage?" This is a pertinent question because the defense of marriage arguments will wind their way to the Supreme Court most likely sometime next year, and so far, the opponents of gay marriage seem to be making the case that marriage exists to control the sexual expression of straight men. I kid you not. The following excerpt contains Mr Greenfield's analysis of this defense of marriage strategy.
In the debate, Jordan Lorence, the Senior Vice President of the Alliance Defense Fund, argued that the main reason we have marriage is not to recognize emotional ties or validate meaningful relationships. Rather, the real reason is to protect society from the promiscuity of straight men. When men and women find themselves in close proximity, he argued, they produce children. It's the nature of men to want to have sex. Marriage is a way to constrain these urges and to channel them into long-term, exclusive commitments so that the children produced have a stable family structure. He bolstered his argument by referencing the decay of the traditional family in the "inner city," and quoting then-candidate Barack Obama's 2008 speech on the need for black men to be good fathers.
If we ignore the the race-based stereotypes implicit in his critique, we are left with an assertion that straight men cannot be trusted with their powerful sexual urges. We need the institution of marriage to constrain them. (Lorence is not alone in this argument, by the way. New York's highest court held in 2006 that marriage could be restricted to straight couples because "it is more important to promote stability, and to avoid instability, in opposite-sex than in same-sex relationships," in part because straight relationships "are all too often casual or temporary.")
This does not seem like a rational argument to me, and not just because it's more than a little bizarre to base an argument about gay marriage on the sexual proclivities of straight guys. Taken seriously, the argument overstates the power of marriage to constrain the urges of straight men (consider Bill Clinton, for example), and understates the power of marriage to validate and acknowledge loving, committed relationships between two people. (And it totally ignores the purposes of sex for women, other than producing children.)
But more importantly, the argument misses the point. The crucial question that the Supreme Court must answer is not whether it is rational to award the marriage right to straight couples but whether it is irrational to exclude same-sex couples from the marriage right. And the proclivities of straight men are neither here nor there in that analysis. You cannot judge whether denying gay marriage makes sense by talking about people (straight couples) who will not be affected at all.
Unless, of course, you believe that recognizing same-sex marriages will make straight men even more promiscuous or less likely to be good fathers. I am left wondering if that is the unspoken fear of many gay marriage opponents -- that men in straight marriages will find the lure of gay marriage so tempting that they abandon their wives and children. Does that sound rational to you?
I'm not sure Mr Greenfield's last sentence is the real unspoken fear of gay marriage opponents. I don't think it's about straight men leaving their marriages for gay marriages, I think it's about straight men leaving marriage off their sexual table altogether. Which says what about the maturity level of straight men? Not much. And it it says even less about the maturity level of those who think using this strategy is legally rational. Yet, I think there is a big core of truth in this idea that marriage primarily exists to control the sexual promiscuity of straight men and to additionally force them into taking care of the progeny that results from their promiscuous ways. It fits the male dominated fear based mind set that underpins so much of the conservative view of the world. Consequently, I don't find it the least bit surprising that the idea of woman as a sexual being in her own right isn't even part of this equation.
In this primal juvenile male view of sex, women don't have or need sex, the have, and need to have, their man's babies. Gay marriage upsets this neat little gender differential equation. It takes marriage out of the realm of controlling male sexual virility and puts it squarely in the realm of validating love relationships. Oh my, marriage then becomes a girly relationship thingy having very little to do with virile male sexual conquest. Can't sell a whole lot of porn if this relationship idea of sex and marriage takes hold amongst straight men. Why straight men might take to seeing women as real beings worthy of respect rather than objects for penis insertion.
I sincerely hope the anti gay marriage crowd continues to make this argument because it's core issue is just as demeaning to the humanity of straight men as it is to gay men and all women. But then so much of the current debate on so many issues is inherently about demeaning the dignity and value of others in order to shore up the fears we have about our own dignity and value. What makes the gay marriage issue so very important is that sexuality is a core human attribute and it's worth and value has historically been derived by a pragmatic survivability equation. It was important in this equation to define sexual moral expression on the basis of it's utilitarian value. Human survival depended on the over production of children. That's not true anymore. Human survival now depends on balancing child birth with resource availability, and one of those necessary resources is a stable home environment. And that resource is directly dependent on the quality of the relationship between the couple. But God is far sighted and good, and low and behold, human sexuality has an additional aspect of cementing the bond between two people, and that isn't dependent on one particular form of sexual activity. Oh, and it also explains why women are capable of orgasm without peg A being inserted into slot B.