Monday, February 20, 2012

Incest and Homosexuality, Oh My!

I wrote this about incest and gay marriage and thought it might be worth hanging on to (if nothing else as a beginning of my attempt to articulate how I feel about public and private morality).

People make their own relationships: this is largely unavoidable, and it sometimes ends badly (as in really badly, not just badly from your overly inquisitive neighbor's point of view).  Our laws against incest don't really prevent it from happening (any more than our War on Drugs stops people from smoking crack).  Prohibition had a noble aim (get working men out of the bar and set them up providing for their families instead of beating them).  This noble aim did not prevent it from failing miserably: it took a bad situation (people are stupid) and made it worse (stupid people now get their stupid fix via gangsters who operate under the law, endangering innocent bystanders to keep the stupid stuff happening).  The real solution to these moral problems is not more severity, more scrutiny, more censorship, but less.  The less people care, the less likely they are to get involved in fights (which strike me as nature's worst means for solving problems).

As matters stand in the marriage business, we have a significant portion of the population (something like 10%) whose only "acceptable" outlet for sexual fulfillment is the equivalent of a nineteenth-century whorehouse.  I don't know how many gay Mormons you know.  They tend to escape notice.  It may surprise you to know that the vast majority of them are not at all interested in moving to San Francisco and hanging out in sleazy bars in the hopes of finding true love.  They value things like chastity, fidelity, decency, etc. (good old-fashioned virtues), and they want to settle down (and start families, not group orgies).  For natural reasons, most people (gays included) are not going to want to have sexual relations with their closest relatives; for natural reasons, a small group of people will diverge from this norm (they already do; beating them up, whether literally or figuratively, is not really going to stop them).  We don't go bananas every time a farm animal has sex.  If sheep can do it without destroying the world, why not humans?  What is the point of criminalizing behavior that is fundamentally harmless?  Lumping gay people with incestuous people and then combining both groups with sexual predators is just silly: the only way it makes sense is that they all make us "normal" folks say, "Yuck!"  But consenting adults who love each other (and manage their relationship such that they aren't having sex in public) are not really anything like predators (who often as not are heterosexual men: the difference between them and other folk is not in their sexual orientation per se, but in the violent way they choose to express it; for natural reasons, there will never be a society that embraces the sexual fetish that allows you to kidnap victims and murder them with impunity).

I think Prohibition was a well-intended idea that failed in practice.  I think allowing gay marriage would free a significant number of people to have better relationships (relationships more like the one I have with my wife).  I do not think that the slippery slope from allowing gay marriage to tolerating serial killers exists.  It is a figment of the imagination (an imagination that does not know human limits because it has never really thought about what makes us moral beings).  As for incest, I am personally not interested.  In the case of gay twins, at least we can be certain that no deformed offspring will result.  As long as no one is being raped or murdered or otherwise coerced against his will (I support restrictions on pedophilia, since kids are fundamentally vulnerable), I have no objection to people doing what they feel they need to do.  That does not mean that I "approve" whatever they do (I support my neighbor's right to heterosexual marriage even when I think him a cretin unworthy of reproduction: until he commits a really serious crime, I am not going to butt into his love life).  It does not mean that I want to watch.  It does not mean that I waste time teaching my kids how to have incestuous sex (or whatever).  People are wrong when they think that all supporters of gay marriage want to push it as some kind of public erotic display.  "Now we are going to learn how to have anal sex, kids!"  No.  The truth is that many of us care less about sex, not more.  The less focused I am on learning (and trying to "fix") all of your quirks, the easier it is for me to develop healthy relationships of my own, relationships in which I don't try to dictate how you think or who you are, relationships in which I have the freedom to hold and practice my own morality precisely because I give you the same freedom.  I value my personal religious freedom too much to risk losing it by trying to impose myself fruitlessly on others (who are not always going to be like me, just as I am not always going to be like them: the question is not who shall submit to whom, but how we are going to get along as equals).  From my standpoint, religious freedom is safeguarded best when I leave you as much alone as possible, allowing you the widest license feasible in terms of marriage, lifestyle, etc.  If I treat you with fascist disdain and attempt to over-rule your moral decisions of which I do not approve, then I forfeit my right to be indignant when you respond in kind.  The best decision for both of us is to walk away from the fight: you cannot win by fighting.  The most you can do is model in your own life the standards you find most compelling: if you are a really good model, you will inspire yourself and others (no matter what your sexual orientation).  To me, this is Christianity (or just plain old human decency).

1 comment:

  1. I really don't have too much to add to this well reasoned, if mildly confrontational post -- except to add polygamy to the list of marriages that shouldn't be scorned or dictated against. Regardless of how "immoral" one thinks such unions are, forcing those who practice them (because they will be practiced, legally or otherwise) into secrecy increases the likelihood of abuse.