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What would keep me in the Mormon church

January 5, 2013

On the Mormon Stories Facebook group, there was a link posted to a Deseret News article that suggested that one reason for people leaving the church is what people perceive to be its problematic stances on gender and sexuality.

While the authors of the piece surely believe answers are available (and lament that people think otherwise and find the Christian tradition to be unable to address these sorts of issues), the article doesn’t really offer any clear solutions to the problem it asserts, which I would guess is par for the course, considering the ideological constraints of those who wrote it. (I really admire people who try to wrestle tough issues within a Mormon perspective… They’ve got tough starting material to work with…)

What is noteworthy about the article is that it doesn’t dismiss the reasons for disaffecting as merely “being offended” or “wanting to sin”. (or at least, If the authors hold these views, they aren’t overtly expressed in this article.)

But the thing that a few comments in the Mormon Stories Facebook discussion focused on was the fact that the authors recognized these social issues alongside issues like history.

And then came the comment that got me thinking.

Mark B wrote:

This raises an interesting question. Last week I had a conversation with a man who has exited Mormonism. He is reasonably intelligent and well-informed, and his opinion is that the church’s stance on gender issues and LGBT issues are the real reasons people leave, and difficult church history is something of a sideshow.

He proposed a thought experiment: Imagine an LDS church with female GAs and bishops, with gay people welcomed and celebrated, and which builds orphanages in Guatemala rather than malls in SLC. (I know, I know, but the key word here is IMAGINE.) How many people would then care about peepstones or various versions of the First Vision?

So, perhaps…social issues could not only be just as decisive, but even more decisive in disaffection than issues relating to church history?

Mark followed up by mentioning that he knows several folks who stayed even when they knew various things about church history, but the thing that ended up shaking them the most was Prop 8.

Perhaps because I hang out in the same circles as Mark online, this might explain why this story rings true to what I’ve heard from many unorthodox Mormons. It’s just not the case, as many Mormons prove out through their lives, that “if you only knew x, then you would leave too.” But matters of conscience tend to reach down deeper in the soul.

Anyway, my feelings are as such, and I posted them in the conversation:

I think that I wouldn’t have so much issue with the church if one of two things applied to me: 1) I thought the church and its truth claims were true or 2) I thought that the teachings of the church as to how I should live my life were relevant and uplifting for my development.

The problem for me is that I definitely don’t feel (1) to be the case. As for (2), I think that can be the case of you are a white, heterosexual, cismale with a degree of socioeconomic privilege, and are not empathetic to the experiences of those who are not the above.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for me either.

The church can’t really do anything about history… That’s literally in the past. I mean, the church could try to inculcate a different way of interacting with history, but this would probably have to be a gradual process to avoid shocking everyone who grew up with the church placing a lot of value on historicity and harboring such a rosy image of the prophets.

One thing the church really can do is make the church the most compelling place to be today. This is where the moral and social concerns come into play.

I would like to see the church just go all out here. Like, with stuff that we’ve never seen before in the 21st century of religion. Want to have distinction for gender? Fine. But I want to see priestesses with freaking majyyks. I want to see the church figure out a way to address trans issues in a way that speaks to the complexities of gender vs. sex. (let me arrange a few Lego blocks just as a possibility – if you think that gender is eternal, but that mortality [including bodies] are susceptible to flaw, then you can surely admit the possibility that one’s gender could be different than one’s birth sex. [Granted, there are still going to be issues with trying to stuff everyone into a gender binary, or to try to figure out what genders mean in the long run, but this change wouldn't be earth-shattering.]) I want to see the church doing something radically different rather than looking like a me too throwback from the 1950s.

I am not under any illusions that this will happen, though.

However great it feels to dream up possibilities or post in the echo chamber of like minds that is the liberal Mormon Facebook world, I have to recognize that social conservatives do exist as well. They will not be dismissed. Especially not in the church.

I don’t see a way to reconcile. Obviously, each side is going to disagree with one another. But while many many liberals simply take the view that their more conservative brethren are mistaken, going against the tide of history or whatever, I think there is a potential for folks to approach conversations in poor faith. (If your reasoning is that your opponents can only believe the way that they do because of some deficiency, then you’re probably not engaging them in good faith.)

… And I recognize those as well who put their feet down and brook no compromise on what they find to be pressing issues like these. At some point, maybe you stop trying to find common ground and instead concede that maybe there are irreconcilable differences.

So, that gives liberals reason to draw their line in the sand.

But what about the conservatives in the church? Why should they try to appease disaffected liberal members either? Liberal churches don’t appear to have the binding power of staying power of the conservative ones, so why would the largest denomination of the restoration movement – the one that people associate when they say the word “Mormon” – want to risk annihilating its brand cachet?

I’m sure someone might say something coy like “because it’s the right thing to do” or whatever, but that is presuming what is right.

In the meantime, while I’m not holding my breath for any of it,I’ll look with anticipation to see if Linda and Richard Eyes can get to showing how Christianity in general or Mormonism in specific can offer answers that actually resonate with me. We may be just too different of people for this to ever work out…

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39 Comments
  1. The comment that you posted about points 1 and 2…. are so exactly dead-on to how I feel. Thank you for summarizing it so succinctly:)

  2. Cylon permalink

    I don’t really understand this paragraph:
    “I don’t see a way to reconcile. While many liberals simply take the view that their more conservative brethren are mistaken, going against the tide of history or whatever, I don’t think that this approach is taken in good faith. (If your reasoning is that your opponents can only believe the way that they do because of some deficiency, then you’re probably not engaging them in good faith.)”

    Why is it necessary to assume your opponents have some deficiency just because you think they are mistaken? Doesn’t everyone think their ideological opponents are mistaken? Otherwise they would already agree with each other. I think engaging in good faith has to do with respecting who you’re engaging with and making a genuine effort to listen to them and try to understand their reasons. But I know you’re aware that people can absolutely engage with each other in good faith and still not come to any kind of agreement on their positions.

    Anyway, I think there must have been a few steps in your reasoning that you left out there, because I feel like you’ve got a valid point to make here somewhere, I just don’t know what it is.

  3. Cylon,

    It is not necessary to assume that your opponents have some deficiency just because you think they are mistaken. But if the reason you think they are mistaken is because they have some deficiency, then that’s probably not a good faith engagement.

    My paragraph was unclear. I’ll change it to clarify.

    • Cylon permalink

      Thanks Andrew. The new wording is more clear. I see what you’re getting at now, and I agree.

  4. “Imagine an LDS church with female GAs and bishops, with gay people welcomed and celebrated, and which builds orphanages in Guatemala rather than malls in SLC. (I know, I know, but the key word here is IMAGINE.) How many people would then care about peepstones or various versions of the First Vision?”

    An interesting thought. To ME, a [ex] conservative and hyper-religious Mormon who took the scriptures and church doctrine to mean exactly what they were supposed to mean, history bothered me – but not the history itself so much as the deceptive way it was presented to me. I believe if I would have been given the strange and quirky Mormon history in an honest way I would have stayed in the Church for a lot longer.

    Then again . . . maybe I wouldn’t have.

    Being “right” is more a feeling than anything else. We like to think we hold our opinions because of objective examination of all the possibilities, but few of us actually do, and NONE of us hold all of our opinions that way. One of the BIG queues we use to see if we’re right about something is looking at how we compare with the society around us.

    So . . . if the rest of society thinks we’re strange, we’re pretty likely to begin thinking that as well. For that reason the church has to stay up-to-date on social changes regarding things like homosexuality. If they don’t, they’ll become irrelevant and people will leave. I guess they can’t do anything about their history, so focusing on current relevance to public opinion would help them to look normal, and less people would feel that sting of doubt that their church may be wrong.

    Random thoughts. . . .

  5. Jefferson,

    I definitely know a lot of people who appreciate Mormon history because of the quirkiness. In the past year or so, I have seen a surge of people writing articles and books about how they appreciate various prophets and leaders not in spite of their warts, but *because* of those warts.

  6. Seth R. permalink

    Mark B’s comment is interesting more for what it reveals about Mark than anything.

    Mark is basically saying – “if the LDS Church conformed to all my expectations and rendered itself non-controversial and harmless, then people wouldn’t be upset about it. Then we could all laugh about the historical quirks.”

    This is a relentless theme I get from the “liberal” contingent of church critics.

    We’ll tolerate religion as long as it doesn’t actually matter, and as long as it doesn’t impose expectations on our lives. As long as religion confines itself to bake sales, Christmas pageants, and book clubs, and keeps it’s charities fashionably contemporary, and merely preaches bland platitudes on Sunday that everyone already agrees with.

    Then we’ll tolerate it and wink at these oddities. We might even forgive a few past atrocities if we’re feeling generous. Just make sure you don’t matter, abdicate all power to change human behavior, and THEN we’ll be OK with you.

    Prop 8 mattered because it symbolized something for the liberal wing.

    It symbolized that a church still claims the mandate to tell you how to live your life. And it claims that mandate, even if you don’t like the message.

    THAT is what the anger is really about. Some of the anger may have actually been about actual homosexual issues, but the vast majority of it was people who were appalled that a major church – in this day and age – would have the gall to tell people how to live their lives.

    That a religion would dare to try to be relevant in an age when churches aren’t supposed to be social leaders – merely followers of the conventional wisdom.

    But it is precisely this refusal to kowtow that will keep the LDS Church vibrant, powerful, effective and relevant. Unlike the anemic liberal churches that have bowed to the conventional wisdom and are shuffling off to a fashionably irrelevant and trite dotage hemorrhaging membership along the way.

    • Cylon permalink

      I actually agree with part of your comment. Mark B. does show a certain willingness to set aside truth claims if the other social benefits of the church are good enough, and that is a common theme I hear from liberal believers. As a believer, I fell on your side: if the church was true it didn’t matter whether some of its policies were personally distasteful to me. It cuts both ways, though. Now that I don’t believe the church’s claims to divine authority, it doesn’t matter how good the social club is. I won’t associate myself with a church that is based on falsehoods, and that wouldn’t change even if they embraced social positions that match my own. Truth matters.

      However, I think you completely misunderstand what Prop 8 meant to liberal Mormons as a whole. First off, I know many people who were actually supportive of the church’s position on homosexuality until Prop 8 (I was one of those people). But then all the publicity led us to do some research on the issue and we found that reality just did not match the propaganda the church was putting out at the time.

      But for the larger group of liberal Mormons who were supportive of gay rights both before and after Prop 8, the source of the outrage was not at all what you ascribe it to. After all, Prop 8 changed nothing about the church’s position. The church has always told its members how to live their lives. It told members they couldn’t be in homosexual relationships both before and after Prop 8. The difference is that this time, the church claimed a mandate to tell not only members how to live their lives, but also to tell people who have nothing to do with the church how they have to live theirs. And they used fear tactics and flat out lies in order to try to back up their position. That’s what got liberal Mormons so pissed off.

      • Cylon permalink

        Edit: That should be “Now that I DON’T believe the church’s claims to divine authority.”

      • Seth R. permalink

        No, I don’t buy it Cylon.

        The church was ALWAYS telling people not in the church how to live their lives. I don’t know a single believing Mormon who listened to a General Conference talk on the law of chastity and came away with the message that “well – that’s what WE do, but the rest of the USA isn’t bound by it.” Mormons have always viewed their church teachings as authoritative for the entire planet.

        I had the opposite experience you did. I started out opposing the LDS Church’s campaign in California as ill advised and was highly frustrated by how it was conducted. I was even pretty much OK with allowing a government gay marriage on the “what’s the harm?” argument. But as I encountered the backlash and arguments from the gay community, I hardened in opposition to gay marriage.

        It was the absolute hatred on the other side, the irrational appeals to emotion – devoid of logical sense, the false comparisons, the dishonest manipulation of the debate, and the duplicity of claiming to be a live-and-let-live movement while simultaneously trying to redefine the national sexual climate for everyone. As well as the hysterical overstatement of the wrongs being done.

        The more exposure I got to the pro-gay marriage camp, the less and less I liked it.

      • Cylon permalink

        Well, of course Mormons think their morality is authoritative, and they want everybody to become Mormons because of it. But there is also a strong tradition of respecting other’s agency if they choose differently. You know, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” There’s a difference between saying “here is God’s law, if you don’t follow it you’ll get punished in the afterlife,” and “here is God’s law, it’s now the actual law, too.” Also, to refute my point that this is the real reason liberal Mormons were upset, you can’t just say you don’t buy it. You have to show that they don’t buy it, either. Just because something isn’t persuasive to you doesn’t mean that it’s not the true motivation for others.

        I find your account of why you turned against the gay marriage movement fascinating. It sounds like you had a rational reason for supporting legal gay marriage, but then because some on that side of the debate had irrational arguments, you switched sides. You don’t describe how the anti-gay marriage side convinced you with good arguments. You don’t say anything about how the “what’s the harm” argument was refuted. It sounds like you had an emotional reaction just as they did.

        How exactly does legal gay marriage “redefine the national sexual climate for everyone”? You’re not implying that letting gays marry will cause more people to become gay, are you?

  7. Seth,

    Why is it that you always interpret “mattering” as a function of being “outrageous”? In other words, whenever liberals propose certain changes to the church, all of a sudden they are proposing a religion that “doesn’t actually matter,” “doesn’t impose expectations on our lives,” etc.,

    So, it seems to me that the only “expectations” and issues of “matter” that a religion could offer, in your view, are those that will be seen as outrageous, backwards, etc.,

    In other words, in a parallel universe where the church were an outspoken advocate against Prop 8, mustering up all its theological and institutional cachet to make a case for why gay folks should strive to marry as soon as possible, start families, do not delay, etc., etc., I don’t get the sense that you would make the same case that people who would oppose that would be “people who were appalled that a major church — in this day and age — would have the gall to tell people how to live their lives.”

    Because a progressive demand, a progressive expectation, etc., these things “don’t matter” and “don’t impose expectations on our lives,” allegedly.

    Let me put it in another way, since you come to this message so often (indeed, at the end of your comment here): It’s like you couple the authoritarian nature of religions like the church (which I’m guessing is the trait that allows it to “impose expectations on our lives” or be “vibrant, powerful, effective, and relevant”) with its politics (socially conservative, traditionalist, 1950s, etc.,)…and since you see that many churches that have different politics tend not to be authoritarian, then you assume that if the church changed its politics, then it too would not be.

    This is just uncreative, i think.

  8. Seth R. permalink

    I see us as going through a period of radical individualism and rejection of social structure of any kind. The refrain these days seems to be “leave me alone.” Any institution that swims against that social current is going to get outright hostility from the individualists.

    All I’m saying here is that the entire point of religion in the first place is a social group that imposes ethical and behavioral norms on the group. That’s the point of religion. That’s why it exists.

    If Mark, or others like him say “we’re willing to tolerate religion as long as it doesn’t impose behavioral and ethical norms objectionable to the individual” – then the truth is they don’t tolerate ANY form of religion.

    Their actual goal is the eradication of religion, and they should be honest enough to admit it openly.

  9. Cylon permalink

    Liberal Mormons aren’t rejecting behavioral norms. They’re proposing a different set of behavioral norms.

    And come on. The eradication of religion? I know enough people who actually do have the eradication of religion as their goal to know that the liberal religious do not belong in that category at all.

  10. Seth,

    I am reminded of something that Kristine Haglund said in response to John Dehlin’s request: “What is one thing that people should know about Mormon feminism separate from feminism in general?” (to pose the issue in his interview of Ralph Hancock)

    Kristine said something to the extent: any self-identified Mormon feminist is going to privilege an identification with tradition over the expression of individualism.

    So, if all you can see is individualism, then you’re going to not be able to get the difference of Mormon feminist to non-Mormon feminist. I’d say the same is true for the difference of Mormon liberal and non-Mormon liberal. (Hence why non-Mormons often don’t understand why a liberal Mormon would stay.)

    You say, “If Mark and others are suggesting…”…but what I’m saying is…YOU are the one who is saying that Mark or others like him are saying “we’re willing to tolerate religion as long as it doesn’t impose behavioral and ethical norms objectionable to the individual” because the liberal Mormon, at the very least, is not one who is calling for the eradication of religion. That is, I think, part of why the liberal Mormon and the ex-/post/former Mormon so often do not get along. Because the latter says, “Why stick with religion?” and the former says, “Because we do think there is value to being bound to a social group that imposes social and ethical norms.” (Cylon also summarizes the difference pretty succinctly).

    Where liberal Mormons disagree with conservative Mormons is that they don’t agree on what social and ethical norms should be the binding. And this is something I notice — you always seem to jump to the defense on certain social and ethical norms that conservative/traditionalist religions support, and claim that anyone who disagrees is normless, valueless, etc.,

    You have this tendency of latching on to one kind of folks, and then extrapolating their ideas, values, goals, wishes, whatever to the entirety of some group — regardless of if that group can or should be grouped together in that many. It happens whenever you talk about gay people, and it happens when you talk about liberal religious folks.

    • Seth R. permalink

      I haven’t seen a lot of indication that the liberal wing actually has an alternative set of norms they want to impose Andrew. That’s part of the central problem with religious liberalism. It lacks the will to impose values and norms on people who don’t like them.

      Don’t forget either – I actually identify with religious liberalism to a great degree. I don’t actually like the Christian Right or the more conservative brand of Mormonism. It’s just after years of being in the movement, my frustrations with it have come to a head.

      I used Mark as an example – but he’s simply repeating a theme I’ve heard dozens of times before on this subject.

      I suppose my frustration with the liberal Mormonism movement (and I still consider myself one) is that they don’t seem to know what they want. Nor can they seem to find it in their hearts to impose an actual agenda. So they end up getting dragged along by movements like gay marriage, by people who actually do have an agenda. But it’s not out of an identifiable set of ideals so much as just wanting to avoid being mean and intolerant.

      You might think think standing against intolerance counts as a value, but I’m just not convinced it is. Maybe that’s the problem – some of the values that the liberal movement claims, I’m just not sure are really values in the first place.

      • I suppose my frustration with the liberal Mormonism movement (and I still consider myself one) is that they don’t seem to know what they want.

        Probably because when you have a movement that recognizes diversity and nuance, then you can’t really subsume very different wants with a universal “they want” statement.

  11. This is another time that I wish that I had comment numbering instead of threaded comments, but

    responding to Cylon’s response to Seth:

    I actually agree with part of your comment. Mark B. does show a certain willingness to set aside truth claims if the other social benefits of the church are good enough, and that is a common theme I hear from liberal believers.

    I think this is because a lot of liberal believers are at the point where the basic literalistic truth claims of the church are shot apart/called into question, but they still have various experiences that they identify with. So, they make the locus of those identity/experience issues somewhere other than the truth claims.

    In contrast, conservative members probably still identify their experience with the truth claims, whereas disbelievers who leave tend not to have a well of positive experiences that can be re-assigned to good feelings about the community (since the ex-member may not have those.)

    And to Seth:

    The church was ALWAYS telling people not in the church how to live their lives. I don’t know a single believing Mormon who listened to a General Conference talk on the law of chastity and came away with the message that “well – that’s what WE do, but the rest of the USA isn’t bound by it.” Mormons have always viewed their church teachings as authoritative for the entire planet.

    …I think this is true only to the extent that the church thinks that everyone should *be* a member.

    And back to Cylon,

    Without getting the sense of this conversation being about talking about Seth behind his back (in front of his face???), I will say this with respect to this:

    I find your account of why you turned against the gay marriage movement fascinating. It sounds like you had a rational reason for supporting legal gay marriage, but then because some on that side of the debate had irrational arguments, you switched sides. You don’t describe how the anti-gay marriage side convinced you with good arguments. You don’t say anything about how the “what’s the harm” argument was refuted. It sounds like you had an emotional reaction just as they did.

    One thing I find interesting in Seth’s story (but certainly not exclusively to Seth…I see it a lot in disaffection stories and just about everywhere else…but hey, that’s psychology) is that it definitely does seem to have an emotional core, and then rationalizations come after.

    Not to say that the rationalizations are flimsy. I’ll try to channel Seth-ian arguments here, in fact.

    How exactly does legal gay marriage “redefine the national sexual climate for everyone”? You’re not implying that letting gays marry will cause more people to become gay, are you?

    Gay marriage really is the latest in a series of changes that have been about redefining the national sexual climate for everyone. So, things like the rise of relatively reliable contraception, no-fault divorce, cohabitation, delaying or avoidance of having children, etc., produce an environment where people see marriage as something that two adults who love each other do. In such an environment, children don’t really matter (considering as how children are not a sufficient condition to cause people to marry, aren’t necessarily a major concern for people once they are married, and are not a factor that would prevent people from divorcing). With this sort of environment, and with this way of thinking about the nature of relationships and the role of sex in relationships, gay marriage becomes possible to think (and to someone steeped in this way of thinking, it becomes a no-brainer.)

    So, while letting gays marry doesn’t really start us down this rabbit hole (straight folks have been doing this for a long time)…it takes us one step further in, without a way to get out.

    Seth also believes that gay people only claim to want to marry to stick it to conservative folks, but that once given the right, we will subvert it with the kinds of dastardly debauchery that we were doing long before anyone was even thinking about “gay marriage”.

    • Cylon permalink

      I’m in complete agreement with your comments regarding liberal believers, conservative believers, and nonbelievers. In fact, what you say about liberal believers changing the focus to their experience/identity pretty much exactly describes what my wife has done.

      In response to your Seth-ian argument, I have heard that one before and I actually have some sympathy for it. If marriage allows for more personal freedom, there can be cases where that removes some of the focus from children (not always, however. It’s good for kids with an abusive father for their mother to be able to get a divorce more easily, and allowing gays to marry increases the pool of prospective parents for kids who need to be adopted.) But conservatives see this and take it as a reason to oppose granting more personal freedom in marriage. Liberals tend to see it and take it as a reason to expand social support for children outside the institution of marriage itself. Either way, though, I’m not sure that this “one more step down the slippery slope” idea is exactly what he’s talking as being “the homosexual agenda.” It’s more the liberal agenda, not just for the gays.

      Gay people wanting to pull a bait and switch on conservatives with marriage, though, that’s a conspiracy theory worthy of a wingnut.

      • Seth R. permalink

        I think a bait and switch has occurred, but I don’t think it was necessarily intentional. I think gays and gay advocacy groups just got swept up in the societal movement being made, and got enthusiastic about the new concept of redefining marriage. It wasn’t like they were saying, back in the 80s: “Let’s SAY FOR NOW that we’re fine with merely being given sexual freedoms and certain domestic partnership benefits, but not marriage – and then once they give us that, THEN we’ll start demanding marriage from them too!”

        No, I think they simply had certain expectations of society in the 80s, and they’ve seen that something else can be obtained now – so they advocate for it. I don’t think the majority of gays had it planned out. There are some documented cases of prominent gay advocacy voices who have outright declared that they feel that gay marriage is just another essential step in destroying the barbaric concept of marriage altogether – and I agree with them – but I don’t think most gays are thinking that.

        There is however, a prominent stated goal of sexual fluidity in society stated by many gay voices. And I’ll bet you if put the question on Queerty, you wouldn’t get a lot of opposition to the idea of redefining sexuality as fluid – and that only makes sense.

        So it also makes sense that there would be a naturally-occurring agenda to break down institutions that impose barriers on sexual conduct. There is a real sense that the only thing that ended the wildly promiscuous experimentation period of the 1970s was the AIDS epidemic, and if not for that – there would still be wide call for its continuation. A lot of this is just the logical result of being part of a movement opposed to the existing norm.

        So, has society been told one thing, and then given something different?

        Yes.

        But did “the gays” have it all planned out in advance?

        No. Some few gay advocates had this game plan in mind, but I find it unlikely that the majority did. In fact, I think a lot of gays pushing for marriage are simply too caught up in the emotional bandwagon to bother thinking ahead to what this means for society much at all.

      • Seth R. permalink

        I don’t really think that adding gay couples to the mix really is going to have a massive effect on the adoption scene. Children are an increasingly less popular option in general and there’s a disturbing tendency in SOME minority liberal circles to try and brainstorm ways to minimize the inconvenience children pose on adult freedom – such as mandatory government day care outfits and so forth. Gay couples are already a small minority. It’s debatable if that minority would increase much with “marriage” as an option. Even if marriage happens, I doubt much more gays would be married in the long term than their heterosexual counterparts.

        Cohabitation, not marriage is the increasing direction sex is going in the United States. I don’t think gay couples are any more immune to that than heterosexual couples. In fact, I think gay couples are more prone to cohabitation arrangements than heterosexuals simply because the biological and psychological realities of sex mean homosexuals have less incentive to stay together long-term than heterosexuals. It’s hardwired into the biological reality of the relationship.

        And yes – I’ll probably get a lot of flack for being so “mean” as to state that bluntly – but there it is. Homosexuality is – BY NATURE – more promiscuous or less committed than heterosexuality. It does not mean that any given gay you meet on the street is promiscuous – I know several with more stable monogamous relationships than many heterosexual couples you’ll meet. Nor does it mean every gay is an experimenter. For instance, I think when you get older, you just want to settle down and quit playing the romance game in general. That’s true of homosexuals and heterosexuals, I’d wager. But the sexual structure of the interaction is fundamentally different. And that has behavioral consequences.

        Anyway, I don’t see gay marriage as contributing significantly to the adoption problem in the US. And the jury is still out on how well children from gay couples turn out. There are some troubling trends, but not enough for me to oppose the idea. But either way – I don’t see it as enough of a solution to bear much note in the debate.

        Now, what about the observation that divorce, cohabitation, friends with benefits, promiscuity, and so forth are already destabilizing the notion of family among heterosexuals, and that gays can hardly be blamed for that?

        Well, it’s true. You can’t blame gays for that. In fact, gays seem to be on the right track by even seeking a monogamous structure like marriage in stabilizing their own relationships. Why not encourage it?

        The problem is that neither divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, or any of that has yet tried to blatantly RE-DEFINE what marriage IS.

        All those things are viewed as outside of marriage or opposed to it. No one is saying “I’m going to sleep with five women this week whom I’ll never see again, but I want you to call it marriage anyway.” No one is saying that divorce is still-married. And none of them have tried to change what marriage is about.

        Marriage is about love and commitment to a consenting adult other. Sure.

        But it’s also primarily about children and providing an institutionalized setting for them. And I think the child angle is where the main government interest is. I don’t think the government has as much of an interest in your love life. Sure – the government can and should encourage relationships of trust between people. And in that limited sense, government has an interest in the love life of two adults. But it’s really the children that invoke the government interest. Something gay unions are incapable of naturally and easily producing.

        This is the unavoidable biological reality. Which is why the gay advocacy movement has an interest in re-defining marriage to take kids OUT of the definition. As long as children remain part of the core mission and definition of marriage – gays will always have second-class marriages, even if they get “marriage.”

        Marriage must be redefined with kids out of the definition if the gay argument is to succeed. I’m not saying gays don’t want to allow children into marriage (they want their own through adoption, surrogate wombs, etc.). Not at all. But children cannot be part of the core definition of marriage if gay marriage is to be viable.

        As such, gay marriage represents at it’s intrinsic foundational level – a refutation of marriage as primarily about the rearing of children. No development in marriage so far has ever tried to do that.

        All these other social concerns have damaged marriage. But only the gay marriage movement has tried to annihilate the institution completely and re-create it as something else.

        I see this issue as societal suicide.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Sorry for the multiple posts, but the threaded commenting thing confuses me.

      Your assessment Andrew is correct that my reaction was an emotional and intuitive one and the reasoning came after. I think that’s true of most people on most issues.

      For me it was a matter of stopping and asking “why am I reacting this way to these arguments? What is it about this debate that is putting me at unease?”

      I then tried to figure out why and arrived at the conclusions I’ve shared. So you are correct there.

  12. Cylon,

    I guess the thing is that it’s not really marriage that’s allowing for personal freedom. There are all sorts of societal factors and social changes that have allowed for more personal freedom (e.g., women being in the workplace, having more access to higher education, rather than being expected to be the appendage to the household). These social changes decrease the need for marriage period, and in the meanwhile, marriage as an institution about children really becomes less so.

    With the decrease in demand, I would put the differences like this: conservatives want to turn back previous changes (women’s reproductive freedoms, contraception, etc.,) and prevent future changes (gay marriage) that would continue the shift in marriage purposes. Liberals, on the other hand, do as you say — try to expand scoail support for children outside of the institution of marriage itself — but mostly because they think that institution as the binding institution that conservatives think of it as is dead.

    On the bait and switch point, Seth has several comments on that…I might have to look one up, since there is a lot to this point, and it should not be easily dismissed…but on the other hand, I think that Seth’s conclusion isn’t really the right one.

    For example, it is true that there are plenty of folks who see marriage as heteronormative, neoliberal, bourgeouis, classist, etc., and who either do not want it or who want to subvert it.

    But I mean, I think that Seth takes these people and infers that every lgbt activist thinks like that.

    • Seth R. permalink

      I don’t think they all think like that. Some of them don’t think at all, actually.

      Mainly I presented the argument that gay marriage will inevitably do just that. When I quoted a prominent lawyer and gay activist exulting how gay marriage would play the crucial and key role in obliterating the antiquated notion of marriage – it wasn’t to show “this is how gays think.”

      The purpose in quoting it was to demonstrate – this is the inevitable implication of what you are doing, like it or not.

      It also needs to be pointed out that – alongside the… let’s assume tiny minority… of gays who actively see gay marriage as a subversive antidote to the barbarism of marriage – there is also the much larger population of gays who see marriage as something that should be granted to their fellow gays who want it (on principles of equality and all that), but who still consider marriage to be an inferior option, or even just an indifferently equal option among many.

      I think it is entirely possible that the portion of the gay community who view marriage as actually more desirable and superior to other relationship forms is in the MINORITY.

      I don’t think the movement values the institution the way I do. Certainly not for the same reasons in most instances. That’s the sense impression I’ve gotten from the rhetoric. And it is certainly open to hard data refuting it.

  13. Let me try to comment so that we don’t have to do comment threading :3

    Seth,

    And yes – I’ll probably get a lot of flack for being so “mean” as to state that bluntly – but there it is. Homosexuality is – BY NATURE – more promiscuous or less committed than heterosexuality.

    Comments like these remind me of comments from race realists asserting how black people/Latino people/(insert race here) are — BY NATURE — more x or less y than whites.

    I mean, I’m not opposed to discussing differences, but the thing that gets me is that race realists disregard social context, social construction, etc., etc,. and immediately jump to the “BY NATURE” conclusion. That is the presumption — we can latch all of these other phenomena onto this one other trait. (Often, at the same time, the people who are doing this will deny that homosexuality is really a thing, or if they concede that it is a thing, they’ll say, “But it’s a minor aspect…” Even as they lump all of these other traits on with it.)

    I dunno; maybe Mormonism commits you to do that to sex and gender too, but it’s just as unamusing to me.

    The problem is that neither divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, or any of that has yet tried to blatantly RE-DEFINE what marriage IS.

    All those things are viewed as outside of marriage or opposed to it. (and other points)

    I don’t think you can really say that gay marriage is doing anything that divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, or any of the other things are not doing. In other words, you say that marriage is “primarily about children.”

    But supposing that gay marriage isn’t primarily about children (which ignores the many gay people who do adopt, have children from other marriages, etc., The continued use of the term “child rearing” in your comment, as opposed to child bearing is very problematic for your view point. Gay folks have no categorical barrier on rearing children at all.)…gay marriage certainly didn’t cause that change. I probably wouldn’t disagree that a lot of the reason why more and more people are becoming OK with gay marriage is because they don’t see the link so closely with children…but gay marriage did NOT do that. That was divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, and all of those other things. At best you can say is this: in an environment with these things, the arguments against gay marriage become weaker because people don’t understand marriage the same way you want them to. But that’s not gay people’s faults.

    You say the government has an interest in children. I would agree. But the government (and American people) have recognized that this interest is not, cannot, and should not be limited to heterosexual marriage. That is why the government has provisions in place for children out of wedlock, children adopted by non-birth parents, etc., etc.,

    So, the total of provisions and institutions surrounding children does not equate or coincide with marriage. That’s your problem — you want it to (your argument always eventually comes down to, “It makes sense for the government to use marriage in the interest of children, but not as much sense for the government to use marriage in the interest of the adults), but that’s simply not how most people view things.

    The problem goes the other way. The reasons for, values of, and virtues behind marriage do not equate to or coincide with rearing children. This is not something that gay marriage is changing — this is something that is already here. That is why when people think of marriage, they think of consenting adults who love each other very much. Gay marriage didn’t cause that change.

    So, when you say:

    As such, gay marriage represents at it’s intrinsic foundational level – a refutation of marriage as primarily about the rearing of children. No development in marriage so far has ever tried to do that.

    I’m like: are you kidding me? I don’t know how you can’t already see that marriage isn’t “primarily about the rearing of children” *even without taking gay marriage into consideration*. There are too many married people who don’t tie the value of their marriage to the rearing of children, and too many unmarried folks who are rearing children outside of any marital institution, for us to make this old statement anymore.

    So, when you talk about “annihilation and recreation,” this is poetic, but it is trying to reify something that hasn’t been alive in a stable state for a long time.

    I mean, think about it: don’t you hate that argument, “What about infertile couples?” or “What about people who choose not to have children?” Well, you might, but think about what that says about attitudes and about the perception of the attitudes in society. While someone in YOUR position might say, “But this is not the same as categorical inability to bear children as a result of the relationship,” here’s the kicker — most folks don’t think that way, about marriage or about child bearing (you yourself continually use the term child rearing anyway). They don’t have an issue with people marrying and not thinking about having kids, or marrying and being infertile, because they never tied childbearing in so closely.

    Moving on to another comment..

    When I quoted a prominent lawyer and gay activist exulting how gay marriage would play the crucial and key role in obliterating the antiquated notion of marriage – it wasn’t to show “this is how gays think.”

    And yet, your argument continually relies upon this sort of implication. When you say, “Let’s look at what this guy thinks!” you don’t imply, “And he’s not really representative of anyone.”

    And neither do you

    demonstrate – this is the inevitable implication of what you are doing, like it or not.

    like, that’s really lazy, man.

    It also needs to be pointed out that – alongside the… let’s assume tiny minority… of gays who actively see gay marriage as a subversive antidote to the barbarism of marriage – there is also the much larger population of gays who see marriage as something that should be granted to their fellow gays who want it (on principles of equality and all that), but who still consider marriage to be an inferior option, or even just an indifferently equal option among many.

    You’re projecting all of these populations and trying to make proportions, but you’re pulling all of this out of thin air. Given you already think that gay people are *BY NATURE* a certain way, then it wouldn’t really surprise me how you would lean to dividing gay people up in different populations of opinions.

    But you’ve got two issues:

    1) you don’t really know what the populations are.
    and
    2) you don’t really know why the populations are how they are. (e.g., your answer of, “they are BY NATURE x” isn’t going to fly as a napkin-math-calculation statement.)

    I think it is entirely possible that the portion of the gay community who view marriage as actually more desirable and superior to other relationship forms is in the MINORITY.

    This might be the most rhetorical humble statement you’ve made here, but I can’t help but get the sense that when you say, “it is entirely possible,” in your heart of hearts, you mean 1) you believe this is not simply possible, but probable and 2) you believe it is probable not because of social conditions that will also affect, say, similarly situated straight folks, but because of something you think is intrinsic to gay sociality or gay sexuality.

    I don’t think the movement values the institution the way I do. Certainly not for the same reasons in most instances. That’s the sense impression I’ve gotten from the rhetoric. And it is certainly open to hard data refuting it.

    Here, I would actually agree. But to the extent I would agree, it’s because I don’t think basically *anyone* values the institution the way you do, because the way you value the institution is very idiosyncratic.

  14. Seth R. permalink

    Andrew – I’ve already pointed out that the “childless couples” argument is completely irrelevant.

    The existence of childless couples does not change the fundamental sexual character of heterosexuality as likely to easily produce children.

    Gay couples do not belong to a group that has as a part of its definition – likely to easily produce children.

    It is the likelihood that invokes the government interest. As such, the existence of childless couples is irrelevant.

    And yes – I do say that the relationship TYPE of homosexual unions is, by-nature, more promiscuous than heterosexual. This is not a conclusion of data (though the data seems to support it). It’s a logical conclusion.

    Why is fidelity important? What motivators are there in a relationship to be monogamous? Why should two people commit to each other? Why historically was such commitment encouraged?

    Two reasons – and they have nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with sheer brute biology:

    1. to provide a stable nurturing environment for offspring

    and

    2. to remedy the natural imbalances (physical and emotional) between the sexes.

    Neither of which exist naturally in homosexual relationships. Therefore, despite the admirable efforts of fidelity by a certain percentage of the homosexual population – the incentives are not as great. After that, it’s just a matter of simple probabilities.

    The racism argument doesn’t work because in the case of racial discrimination – you were talking about two groups that had really no actual differences other than skin color. That is simply not the case here.

    Homosexuals are different from heterosexuals at a fundamental level. And no amount of legislation will ever change that.

  15. Seth,

    You literally, literally missed the point of my argument, and made the response I exactly would’ve expected you to make in a regular conversation (rather than in a meta conversation, like this.)

    Here you are, talking about “the fundamental sexual character of heterosexuality as likely to easily produce children.”

    Whereas for most straight people, they are thinking, “OK, I’m going to be using contraception, or maybe I’ll be open to abortion, because I’m not thinking about kids for a while.”

    Marriage doesn’t make sense as a, “Well, anytime you do it, out could come a baby!” sort of institution. I think this is why conservatives want to speak against contraception, abortion, etc., Because they want people to think about that connection more. But people don’t.

    As a result of that, the categorical difference between straight sex and gay sex doesn’t make any impact — because people already are not thinking in those terms.

    When you say

    And yes – I do say that the relationship TYPE of homosexual unions is, by-nature, more promiscuous than heterosexual. This is not a conclusion of data (though the data seems to support it). It’s a logical conclusion.

    You’re going to have to be entirely more explicit about what you mean about basically every word in this sentence. Because your premises are apparently not transparent, so what you call a logical conclusion doesn’t even register.

    Why is fidelity important? What motivators are there in a relationship to be monogamous? Why should two people commit to each other? Why historically was such commitment encouraged?

    Two reasons – and they have nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with sheer brute biology:

    1. to provide a stable nurturing environment for offspring

    and

    2. to remedy the natural imbalances (physical and emotional) between the sexes.

    So, let’s check this out: the crowning feature of humanity is to augment our biology through technology and culture. So, what happens when your two reasons (and all the other arguments you have relating to “sheer brute biology”) weaken or become decoupled because of human adaptation?

    These aren’t things that gay people did, btw. But they have a huge impact on how anyone — gay or straight — is going to see the value of fidelity, monogamy, commitment, etc.,

    If you ask anyone who is not LDS and not religious (especially since you say that these reasons have to do with sheer brute biology) about why they value fidelity, commitment, and monogamy, I am willing to bet that most people are not going to say anything about providing a stable nurturing environment for offspring *or* remedying natural imabalances between the sexes. Once again, people don’t think this way.

    So, these arguments that you are making fall flat. Gay people didn’t do that.

    And because human cultural and technological adaptation is something that affects us regardless of orientation, I’d say that, contrary to your statement:

    Neither of which exist naturally in homosexual relationships. Therefore, despite the admirable efforts of fidelity by a certain percentage of the homosexual population – the incentives are not as great. After that, it’s just a matter of simple probabilities.

    You’re going to have to say that “neither of which exist naturally in heterosexual relationships either. Therefore, despite the admirable efforts of fidelity by a certain percentage of the population (heterosexual or homosexual) — the incentives are not that great (in absolute terms).

    Here’s what I would say — human culture and society has a big impact on what we do. So, while you are pinning things on “sheer biology,” I would say that to the extent there are differences, we might look at culture as well.

    And to this extent, I would say that the social stigmas placed on straight folks is probably as much as — if not more so important — of factors to “sheer brute biology.” But the changes in stimgas is once again not something that gay people did.

    The racism argument doesn’t work because in the case of racial discrimination – you were talking about two groups that had really no actual differences other than skin color. That is simply not the case here.

    Homosexuals are different from heterosexuals at a fundamental level. And no amount of legislation will ever change that.

    In the same way you make your arguments about gays, race realists make the same argument on race. You accept that there are “no actual differences other than skin color,” and might even be willing to challenge a race realist’s arguments to the contrary (I really don’t know, though. Maybe you’ll have bad experiences with some racial minority and then start seeing the data differently. Maybe, if instead of Prop 8, it was race riots, you’d already be at that place)…but for whatever reasons, you do not do the same on sex, gender, and sexuality.

    But your statements of fundamental difference still don’t strike me as that different of race realists’ statements of fundamental differences among races.

  16. Seth R. permalink

    Yes, it absolutely does make sense as a “well any time you ‘do it’ there could come a baby” institution Andrew.

    At least as far as the government is concerned. Which is what this debate is mainly about.

    The likelihood is EVERYTHING when you are talking about reason for government oversight.

  17. Seth R. permalink

    As far as race goes the ONLY similarity homosexuality has to it is that people are being treated differently, and there is a history of abuse. But that’s about it.

    Abolitionists weren’t trying to redefine what being human meant. They weren’t talking about behavior – just a state of being. The weren’t trying to redefine what the notion of human rights meant either. It just isn’t even remotely the same issue. To me it’s just an opportunistic sort of argument that is trying to ride on the coattails of Martin Luther King Jr. to assert some sort of inevitability that is actually entirely manufactured and unwarranted.

    I am completely unconcerned with whose “fault” this is. So saying “gays didn’t bring this” doesn’t really move me whatsoever. I don’t care if it’s their fault or not. Nor am I saying it is.

    A same-sex relationship is a union of two biologically similar individuals and the same imbalance that exists between a man and woman does not exist between them. Therefore, the government concern with their relationship is less.

    A same sex relationship does not produce children any time the sex is working. Heterosexual relationships do. Thus the government interest. And thus the government relative disinterest in homosexual relationships. Birth control, abstinence and so forth doesn’t change this fact. If a class of people is more likely to produce dependents, the government has a greater interest in that class. It’s really that simple and it’s not a complex idea.

    Nor does a localized modern trend toward childlessness change what marriage OUGHT to be about.

    There are also trends toward cohabitation and divorce as well. But that is no argument that cohabitation and divorce should be part of the definition of marriage. Likewise, a decrease in children and a societal general hostility toward children does not change the fact that they are still primarily what marriage is about, committed romance coming in a close second.

    If romance and adult commitment is the only thing that marriage is about anymore (or event 70% of the definition), then I would submit we don’t really have marriage anymore, but something else.

  18. Seth,

    You’re trying to move to a different topic from the one I was making.

    When I bring up arguments about race realism to the discussion of homosexuality, I’m not trying to talk about “civil rights” or whatever — so I’m not comparing marriage equality to civil rights, or abolition.

    Rather, I’m bringing up that your reasons for opposing the former is what you call an essential difference in the character and nature of gay people and gay relationships. It’s not just about having children — you assert an essential promiscuity.

    And you’re asserting that these essential differences will redefine what marriage is.

    What I’m doing is pointing out that marriage is already redefined — it is always a thing that is in flux. And the issue is, the sorts of changes that make gay marriage thinkable are not caused by gay people. So, you can’t really say, “Gay people are redefining marriage” — marriage has already been redefined, not by gay people, but by straight people.

    A same-sex relationship is a union of two biologically similar individuals and the same imbalance that exists between a man and woman does not exist between them. Therefore, the government concern with their relationship is less.

    I just want to note that the government and most people do not consider a point of marriage to be to manage the imbalance that exists between men and women. So, this is another point where the basic argument that you’re using is going to fall tone deaf to most people, because you’re not even speaking in the same vocabulary as they are. And, once again, I’ll point out that the difference in vocabulary is not something that gay people did.

    A same sex relationship does not produce children any time the sex is working. Heterosexual relationships do. Thus the government interest. And thus the government relative disinterest in homosexual relationships. Birth control, abstinence and so forth doesn’t change this fact. If a class of people is more likely to produce dependents, the government has a greater interest in that class. It’s really that simple and it’s not a complex idea.

    And what I’m saying is that the government interest in the production of children is not the same thing as the government interest, or even the average person’s interest in marriage.

    This is the disconnect. You keep saying, “The government is interested in kids…therefore this is what marriage is about.”

    But I’m saying, “The government is interested in kids…therefore, this is what various mechanisms to help kids wherever they are are about…which is increasingly *not* marriage.”

    and I’m also saying, “Even for married straight folks, the prerogative is not on having kids, so “marriage” doesn’t mean “institutional vehicle addressing the interest in kids.”

    Keep in mind that *producing* dependents is different than *rearing* dependents, because then you get into a whole other set of issues where even though some straight couple produced kids at some point, those kids are nowhere near *both* birth mom and birth dad at a later point.

    Nor does a localized modern trend toward childlessness change what marriage OUGHT to be about.

    Too bad that when you talk about what marriage OUGHT to be about, you can’t really get people to agree with you just by saying what your ideal is.

    Basically, you’re going to have a huge problem if you’re missing both on what marriage IS and what people think marriage OUGHT to be. And I definitely really feel for your plight, because I know what it feels like to have this whole grand theory of how things should be…but most people don’t really agree with even the basic assumptions.

    There are also trends toward cohabitation and divorce as well. But that is no argument that cohabitation and divorce should be part of the definition of marriage. Likewise, a decrease in children and a societal general hostility toward children does not change the fact that they are still primarily what marriage is about, committed romance coming in a close second.

    HOWEVER, just to make the point even clearer about the separation of marriage and child-bearing and child-rearing, trends toward cohabitation and divorce *CERTAINLY* make an argument that cohabitation and divorce should be part of institutions concerned with children.

    Actually, I would go as far as to say that if you want marriage to primarily be about children, then you really DO have to include cohabitation, divorce, adoption, single parenting, parenting from extended families, etc.,

    …but you know, I don’t think you want to do that.

    If romance and adult commitment is the only thing that marriage is about anymore (or event 70% of the definition), then I would submit we don’t really have marriage anymore, but something else.

    Then by your reasoning, i would say we don’t really have marriage anymore. I think I wrote a post about that — that was my sentiment when I said earlier that marriage* is dead.

    (of course, where I would disagree with you is that I don’t think of marriage as this pure noumenal concept. Marriage is a thing that is always in flux. So where you would say marriage is a static point that we can either come closer or move farther away from, I would say that marriage is the thing that is moving with us.)

  19. Seth R. permalink

    No, I did not assert an “essential promiscuity” since that would label all gay relationships as somehow fundamentally promiscuous – which I was not trying to do at all.

    I was saying that due to the innate biological reality of homosexual unions, there is a greater potential for promiscuity, and less barriers to it than with heterosexual unions. Put simply, the partners have less reason (socially and biologically) to stay together than a heterosexual couple does.

  20. Seth R. permalink

    I think I have to reject your assertion that marriage has already been defined, or that the notion of it is in flux.

    This is actually a fairly key part of the argument. Divorce hasn’t redefined marriage. Co-habitation hasn’t redefined marriage. Free love hasn’t redefined marriage.

    The gay marriage movement however IS trying to do exactly that. I don’t see much flux. I see a social arrangement that has been remarkably stable for millennia.

  21. Seth R. permalink

    As far as holding a “grand theory” on the way things should be…

    It’s more like I feel that I’ve had to actually articulate something people have taken for granted for thousands of years. And since few people have had to actually articulate it before, it sounds strange when someone actually does.

    Also the ability to call a spade a spade has been kind of crippled by what we all know we’re “supposed” to say according to the conventional wisdom.

    I mean, it’s pretty obvious that men and women have differences between them – and that these differences create imbalances in their relationships, inevitably generating inequalities. And then it becomes equally obvious that doing something about that imbalance is probably a very good social idea. For instance, creating incentives and social structures to prevent the woman from getting dumped with all the responsibility for nesting and keeping the male in the picture when he doesn’t have any innate biological reason to. That was a problem for the ancients, and it’s still a problem today.

    But we’re all reluctant to say it because we’ve been born bred and raised on talk about how everyone is equal, and conditioned to recoil from any acknowledgment to the contrary (even if it’s true). But the biology doesn’t care about our scruples. It plows on remorselessly anyway, no matter how we feel about it.

  22. Seth,

    my bad then. I took

    Homosexuality is – BY NATURE – more promiscuous or less committed than heterosexuality

    the wrong way. Instead of “more likely to be promiscuous,” I thought you were saying, “more promiscuous.”

    That being said…don’t you think that one “less” social reason that gay partners might have to stay together than a heterosexual couple is the fact that rather than pushing for institutions around committed, monogamous relationships (e.g., marriage) for gay people, certain folks in society instead would rather just say that gay people are more likely to be promiscuous — and then do nothing about that?

    Or, to move a bit more tangentially…one social reason for straight folks to avoid promiscuity is that many (but again, decreasing numbers) are raised in a religious context that emphasizes marriage. However, the religious communities that tend to emphasize marriage most do not do similarly for gay folks — in fact, they often tend to promulgate this idea that the only two options are absolute celibacy, or a “gay lifestyle” full of promiscuity and short on any morals whatsoever.

  23. Seth R. permalink

    Actually Andrew, I don’t expect passage of gay marriage legislation to have much of a statistical impact on fidelity of gay partnerships.

    Certainly, I’ve never seen anyone bother to make a statistical case for it. It’s one of those frequently asserted, but rarely substantiated claims made in this debate.

    • Seth,

      If only because gay marriage legislation alone is not the same as cultural outlooks, I could definitely agree with that. I think this whole fidelity issue is more a matter of socialization anyway — for both gays and straights.

  24. Seth,

    I think I have to reject your assertion that marriage has already been defined, or that the notion of it is in flux.

    This is actually a fairly key part of the argument. Divorce hasn’t redefined marriage. Co-habitation hasn’t redefined marriage. Free love hasn’t redefined marriage.

    The gay marriage movement however IS trying to do exactly that. I don’t see much flux. I see a social arrangement that has been remarkably stable for millennia.

    I guess at some level then, we’re just seeing very different trends or making very different conclusions from the data.

    It’s more like I feel that I’ve had to actually articulate something people have taken for granted for thousands of years. And since few people have had to actually articulate it before, it sounds strange when someone actually does.

    I feel that when people start referring to things that “have been taken for granted for thousands of years,” then there are several problems with this.

    1) Things that have been taken for granted for thousands of years haven’t been scrutinized, leading to several things, like
    2) Things that have been taken for granted tend to actually not be static, but since we haven’t scrutinized what the thing was (because it is embedded in our lens), we don’t notice that it has actually changed over time
    3) Things that have been taken for granted tend to have confused “intuitive” reasoning that end up being faulty when we actually *do* scrutinize them.

    I think these things are all at play when someone actually tries to explain something that is taken for granted. It sounds strange because we’re scrutinizing something that was never meant to be scrutinized, that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and which isn’t as static or definable as we thought.

    I mean, it’s pretty obvious that men and women have differences between them – and that these differences create imbalances in their relationships, inevitably generating inequalities. And then it becomes equally obvious that doing something about that imbalance is probably a very good social idea. For instance, creating incentives and social structures to prevent the woman from getting dumped with all the responsibility for nesting and keeping the male in the picture when he doesn’t have any innate biological reason to. That was a problem for the ancients, and it’s still a problem today.

    Like, for example, conventionally, it’s easy to say, “It’s pretty obvious that men and women have differences between them?” But then, when we try to figure out what those differences are, we run into all sorts of problems. We can’t capture men and women effectively, or we can capture these things, but not in a stable continuous way, etc.,

    This is literally the same thing with race realism. It’s been pretty obvious to many folks that different races have differences between them, and that these differences create imbalances in the relationships, capabilities, etc.,

    But trying to figure out what these differences are…and what the source of the differences is (genetics? personal choices? culture? socialization?) is a lot more difficult.

    But in either case, yes, we do ask questions about what to do about these imbalances…but our starting assumptions about the sources of imbalances (whatever they are) lead to a lot different ideas.

    So, you say, “create incentives and social structures to prevent the woman from getting dumped with all the responsibility for nesting and keeping the male in the picture when he doesn’t have any innate biological reason to.”

    But we have also created incentives and social structures that give the woman reproductive freedom, economic freedom, more say about when she wants to have a child, and whether she requires the assistance and career of a man to do so (or to live even without a child).

    So, the field is considerably different than the ancients. Marriage is not a system where women are the “property” or the “wards” of property-owning, wage-earning men, as it was in the past. So, with just these changes (although there have been plenty of others), your narrative of how things were for the ancients and how things were for us now has to change necessarily.

  25. Seth R. permalink

    Aside from skin color, what are these differences between races?

    I mean, do people in Mongolia not get pregnant, or reproduce by spontaneous generation?

    • typically, race realists attribute all sorts of differences to race: intelligence, athletic ability, propensity to violence, and yes, even things like promiscuity.

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