5. It will curtail opportunities for deep and emotionally fulfilling friendships between members of the same sex, opportunities that are already few and strained. This is particularly true of men.
I ask the reader’s patience here; this argument repeats the point I made in an article in Touchstone, September 2005, "A Requiem for Friendship."
We in America and Canada now use the word “friend” to denote a passing acquaintance of whose company we may be rather fond. But modern life has necessarily driven us apart, even as in appearance we seem to be thrust together. For modern life has brought men and women, married and unmarried, into a kind of superficial contact with one another, constantly, at work -- where most of our contacts are made. That environment makes almost impossible the depth of friendship described by Cicero, when he said that a friend was another self, or one before whom you could without shame utter your thoughts aloud. Indeed, how many of us can even understand the passion of friendship in David’s lament for Jonathan, or Gilgamesh’s lament for Enkidu, without coloring it with the suspicion of homosexuality?
Let me give you an analogy. Our sexual customs constitute a language, one that we must all use, whether we like it or not. If, all at once, clothing becomes optional on a certain beach, then that beach is a nude beach. If you wear your suit to that beach, your action has a meaning it did not have before. At the very least it means that you do not approve of public nudity. It may mean that you are ashamed of your body. It may mean that your religion forbids it. It may mean you are a prude. But it does signify something; and it must. You cannot say, “It means nothing to me,” simply because language is by its nature public and communal. Suppose the incest taboo were removed. You may say, “I will hug and kiss my niece in any case,” but your actions will now have a significance they did not have before. The shadow of the thought must cross any beholder’s mind; it might cross the niece’s mind. If you were at all considerate of her feelings, you would hesitate before you did it.
The incest taboo is surely not irrational: it allows members of a family the freedom to share each other’s company, in what might otherwise be often embarrassing circumstances, and to touch, in ways that would mean something, were it not a brother or an aunt giving the kiss. On pain of expulsion from the group, that taboo must be upheld, so that the deep feelings and intimacy of a family may develop freely and sanely. In Japan, for example, families often bathe together in a hot bath; that freedom can only be enjoyed if everyone knows (despite the vicious few who will violate the taboo) that it is perfectly innocent, that it means nothing. If you are a close friend of the family, you may be made an honorary member of the family -- and thus brought under the umbrella of the prohibition -- by being invited to share the bath. Such an invitation is unthinkable unless incest is acknowledged by everyone, including hypocrites, as forbidden.
If homosexuality is at the least not publicly condoned, then that may clear away sufficient ground for men to forge the emotionally fulfilling friendships that they once enjoyed in the past. Such friendships have been at the base of many a cultural renaissance: the men of France who assisted Louis Pasteur in his work; the Founding Fathers of the United States; the explorers and pioneers of the American west; the friars and monks who built the first universities. I know quite well that, no matter what the prohibition is, there will always be a few who will violate it. But the point is that the prohibition is public, and helps constitute the meaning, to oneself and to others, of one’s attachment to a member of the same sex. Not so long ago, it was conceivable to suppose that two men might share an apartment merely as close friends; if Oscar and Felix of The Odd Couple did the same thing now, homosexuality would be the first thing to cross your mind, whether you support the homosexual agenda or reject it. One of my students related to me an incident that happened to him in a bar. His closest buddy had been abandoned by his girlfriend, and was weeping freely as the young man cradled his head in his arms. A young lady walked up to them and chirpily asked them if they were gay.
The effect upon boys is devastating; it is hard for women to understand it. Their own friendships come easily, and in general are not based upon shared conquest, physical or intellectual. It is simply an anthropological fact that male friendship is essential for the full development of the boy’s intellect: the history of every society reveals it. But now the boys suffer under a terrible pincers attack. The sexual revolution causes them to rouse themselves to interest, or to pretend to interest, in girls long before they or the girls are emotionally or intellectually ready for it; and now the condonement of homosexuality prevents them from publicly preferring the company of their own sex. This is simply inarguable. If a George Gershwin nowadays shows up at Maxie Rosenzweig’s house all the time, while his pals are outside on the streets playing stickball, then there must be something up with George and Maxie. If you do not think that that is the way teens and even children now talk, then you are not paying attention. We have forced them to talk that way. What was once innocent, or what both Maxie and George need have no worry about, now means something. Therefore unless they are comfortable with the meaning, they will shy away from one another; the friendship will not deepen. Confess, reader: if you come upon two teenage boys in a pond skinny-dipping, it is the first thing you will think, and you will think it despite the obvious fact that before bathing suits were invented it was the only way two boys could ever be found swimming.
6. It leaves us with no logical grounds for opposing any form of consensual intercourse among adults.
No culture in history has accepted (even celebrated!) homosexual acts between adult men or adult women. (I will deal with the case of Athens in a later post; it is lethal to the homosexual cause.) But plenty of cultures have accepted polygamy, or, more appropriately, polygyny, the marriage of one man to several wives. Certain religions allow it or encourage it: Islam allows a man to have up to four wives, and radical Mormonism is, as I understand it, even more generous.
There are natural justifications for the many instances of polygyny. A rich man can thereby father, and support, dozens of children; the tribe as a whole benefits from the fecundity. A man can beget several children virtually at once. The parentage of the children will be certain -- not the case if one woman marries several men, nor, barring the most freakish of accidents, will she be bearing more than one man’s child at a time anyway. An older and well-established man can continue to father children long after his first wife has grown too old for it. As I say, it is culturally common; not as common as monogamy, but common enough not to surprise.
What grounds could we possibly have to deny people the opportunity to marry more than one person? If we establish as a matter of law that marital relations are free to any two people who consent, why limit the number to two? Polygyny, after all, is much easier to justify than are homosexual relations: it does not violate the biology of the people involved; it brings forth many children; it preserves the ideal of the union of male and female. But what would happen if the door were opened to polygyny? Would we not find ourselves, almost overnight, in a world utterly different from the one into which we were born? Nor would it be enough to say to oneself, “I do not believe in it; I will never marry another.” What about one’s spouse? What about the members the opposite sex whom you may happen to meet? In every culture that allows polygyny, the pressure of the possibility of dalliance and marriage, no matter who you are (for it turns married men instantly into eligible bachelors), compels the severest separation of roles for men and women. Is that what we want?
On what grounds could we deny any combination of people who wish to “marry”? What of two so-called bisexual men, who want to “marry” one another and their shared wife? If homosexuals claim rights based upon their sexual actions, why not bisexuals? If the marital act is all about the fulfillment of one’s personal desires, how can even homosexual “marriage” fulfill the bisexual? And does he or she not have the same “right” to fulfillment as the homosexual? On what grounds could we deny a marriage license to an adult brother and sister? Reasons of health? Not if the brother can prove he has had a vasectomy, or not if she can prove she has had her tubes tied.
Why stop here? What about people whose desires cannot be fulfilled unless they perform sexual actions in public? Or with animals? Or with precocious children? Or with the dead -- so long as the dead can be shown to have consented?
The reader is correct to find the suggestions appalling. But logic requires an answer. If you affirm the false principle, you must go where that principle leads. As for now, the only thing preventing the collapse of all sexual constraints is a residual feeling of disgust. That is one rickety door to batter down.