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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gay Men, Monogamy and Joy Behar

Posted by on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 6:37 AM

Good As You's Jeremy Hooper—a gay man in a monogamous relationship—is a bit annoyed with Joy Behar. When I was on Joy's show on Monday night, we were talking about Tiger Woods and I tossed out my position on monogamy (it's not natural, and people are going to want to sleep with others, even if they don't, men can be monogamous but it's long, hard slog). I made these comments to Joy about men generally...

I believe men can be monogamous. But I believe that it's a difficult struggle. You know, when you're in love with someone and you make a monogamous commitment, it's not that you don't want to sleep with other people; it's that you refrain from sleeping with other people.

The culture says if there is love there is no desire for others and that makes people—essentially puts them at war with their own instincts and leads to lies and deceit because you're lying and deceiving yourself.

Joy recounted the conversation on The View...

...and Joy said that I was talking about gay men and gay couples in particular, and that I said gay men placed less value on monogamy, and that I said affairs were much less likely to lead to the breakup of a male couple. But the transcript shows that I was talking about monogamy being difficult for all men, gay and straight, not just gay men, and we didn't get around to talking about gay male couples on the show (we talked through the breaks though, and it's entirely possible we talked about gay male couples during a commercial—I don't recall).

But here's the funny thing: Joy's right. Gay male couples generally don't view monogamy as the defining characteristic of a loving, committed relationship. Studies of male couples in long-term relationships have found that most gay male couples do allow for some "outside sexual contact," as they say, contacts that I wouldn't characterize as "affairs" or "cheating." If there are no lies, if there is no betrayal, if neither partner is doing anything that violates the commitment he made to the other, then no one cheated and no one was cheated on.

Which is not to say that there aren't monogamous gay couples out there. And all gay male couples—monogamous or not—value love, honesty, trust, respect, and commitment just highly as straight couples do. But it is generally true that gay male couples place less emphasis on sexual exclusivity over the multi-decade course of a relationship. I can see why this generalization might annoy a gay man like Hooper—a guy in monogamous relationship—but Hooper's annoyance doesn't make this particular generalization incorrect.


Comments (100) RSS

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Super Jesse 1
I'm a little curious where the notion of monogamy came from in the first place. It seems to be an idea that's been with us for all of recorded history. At some point, early human society hatched the crazy idea of only putting your penis in one person in particular. Even if you really wanted to put it in the rest of the village too.

But if men don't seem to be too keen on the idea, was it hatched by prehistoric women as some evil nefarious method of ensuring food for their children, protection for lions and a roof over their heads. Or was it the church trying to control people?

Wait, aren't there apes who pair up for long periods? Maybe it really is part of our nature to have a partner. But only part. The rest just wants to feed, fuck, and fall asleep.
Posted by Super Jesse on January 27, 2010 at 7:04 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 3
2, If you feel that gay marriage is going to cause you to cheat on your spouse, then that says something about your weak marriage, not marriage as a whole. Stop blaming gay people for your inability to be monogamous.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 7:18 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 5
4, If you feel that gay people's marriage arrangements are threatening your marriage, then you don't have a very good marriage.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 7:22 AM · Report this
roddy 8
Simple math would suggest that heterosexual women have just as much difficulty with monogamy as heterosexual men. After all, with the exception of men taking a walk on "the wild side," who are all of these men going out to be non-monogamous with? Women, right? Now, it's possible that you end up with a few women you have sex with dozens of men, but not vise versa--I suppose this is consistent with the phenomenon of prostitution--but in terms of non-monogamous, heterosexual incidents, by definition, there was a woman on the balance sheet each time, the numbers have to balance out. Basically, when one claims that men are less monogamous than women, one is either suggesting that math doesn't matter, or that straight men cheat with guys.
Posted by roddy on January 27, 2010 at 7:26 AM · Report this
@4: You don't have to be married to be monogamous or monogamous to be married—so long as you're straight.

@3: And men are bad at monogamy generally. Lesbian couples are likelier to be monogamous than gay male or straight couples. Want to ensure that marriages are overwhelmingly monogamous? Only let dykes get married.

Thank you for playing Slog.
Posted by Dan Savage on January 27, 2010 at 7:28 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 12
We should just ban anyone from getting married and have a public policy of fucking whoever whenever and whereever you want to.

Problem solved!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 27, 2010 at 7:33 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 13
6, If you cheat on your spouse, that is on you, not gay people and their marriages and living arrangements. Why do you feel gay marriage will cause you to cheat?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 7:34 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 14
she also dismissed dan's contention that many men would want to fuck the women tiger woods fucked - something like "i don't believe that. i know lots of men who wouldn't give those women a second look".

no you don't, and if you think you do, they're LYING TO YOU. tiger fucked SWEDISH BIKINI MODELS, dumb ass.
Posted by Max Solomon on January 27, 2010 at 7:39 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 20
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 27, 2010 at 7:48 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 21
I don't know where the concept of monogamy originated, but it's probably a pretty safe bet there was a woman involved.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on January 27, 2010 at 7:49 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 22
10, How will gay marriage adversely affect your marriage. Do all those married gay folks make you cheat? Do you always base your life choices on what others are doing?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 7:49 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 24
17, If you feel that divorce is a threat to you, then work to ban divorce. You can't blame gay people for your weak marriage and family. States with legal gay marriage have lower divorce rates.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 7:52 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 27
25, You are very weak in the area of history. Monogamous one man -one woman marriage is a relatively new social concept to human kind. It's not an evolutionary thing.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 7:59 AM · Report this
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:00 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 29
26, I also notice you just can't seem to answer how gay marriage is weakening your marriage.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:01 AM · Report this
Please don't link to that tacky Hooper website ever again. Even in defense of your various tv hosts. When Hooper slips and refers to himself in the third person you can tell he wishes he could write that way all the time.

Plus, the site design is unforgivable. I need a good de-chintzing.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 27, 2010 at 8:03 AM · Report this
onion 31
i'm fine with saying that monogamy isn't "natural." i'm not fine with saying it only isn't natural for men. there is a ton of precedent in the natural world for multiple mating in women. there is also a ton of precedent in real live women that shows that monogamy isn't all that easy for women either.
if anything, women are much more the victims of cultural restraints than men. if men are pressured to be "unnaturally" monogamous, quadruple that "unnatural" pressure for women.
Posted by onion on January 27, 2010 at 8:11 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 33
32, You don't seem to understand difference between the concepts of evolutionary, and social changes.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:14 AM · Report this
Baconcat 34
@11: Right, because the fascist approach to marriage is the one that works best, Dear Leader.
Posted by Baconcat on January 27, 2010 at 8:15 AM · Report this
igub 35
Proof that gays should be satisfied with a separate but equal relationship recognition structure. Gay relationships are different from heterosexual relationships and people should get it over and accept a separate but equal system.
Posted by igub on January 27, 2010 at 8:16 AM · Report this
hartiepie 36
Dan, you do realize you sound just like a fundalmentalist n this issue, right? Broad sweeping generalizations, straw man arguments and unsupportable characterizations. Who the hell says this?:"The culture says if there is love there is no desire for others ..."

It doesn't matter if it's natural or not. We do lots of unnatural things (wear clothes, read books, bury the dead).

I don't see why you don't just see monogamy as a kink like all the others and be neutral about it.
Posted by hartiepie on January 27, 2010 at 8:17 AM · Report this
@29 -- I hate hate hate arguing for this troll, but he never said gay marriage weakens his marriage.

His retarded argument goes something like this:
+ Heterosexual marriage is the only institution saving society from decay
+ The institution of Heterosexual marriage is inherently weak
+ Any change to the institution of Heterosexual marriage will break it's fragile hold on society
+ We'll all go to hell

His marriage is intact because he's not one of the people on the edge of society. It's only the other people he's worried about. He's worried the gays will influence the people who don't raise their kids right, the people who don't have common decency anymore, the people who don't know right from wrong, etc.. etc..

He's worried about the people different than him. The sum of his argument:

If people different than him (the gays) get rights, other people different than him (the blacks, the jews, the immigrants, the poor, the Catholics, the women) will expect rights too. If we give EVERYONE rights, this guy won't be special anymore.
Posted by six shooter on January 27, 2010 at 8:27 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 43
41, You're missing the point of the question.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 46
44, Again you failed to answer. How will gay marriage adversely affect your marriage? Why can't you seem to answer such a simple question? Why do you work so hard to avoid it?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:34 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 47
45, So your argument is that you feel you are superior to others, and that while you're marriage is strong enough to withstand gay marriage, others, who are lesser than you will get divorces? Really? That's what you're going with?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Womyn2me 48
Right on, Dan... being non-manogamous keeps my wife and I happy and rewakens our attraction for each other...
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on January 27, 2010 at 8:38 AM · Report this
@46 -- If gays are allowed to marry and the world doesn't end, he will have nothing else to talk about.

With no common enemy to fight, his wife will realize he's a cad and ask for a divorce.


If gays are allowed to marry and the world doesn't end, his wife might ask him to explore his deviant fantasies. We all know what happens when that genie is freed from its bottle.
Posted by six shooter on January 27, 2010 at 8:40 AM · Report this
igub 50
@40 - Don't be mad at me that gay relationships are different from heterosexual relationships. Read this article. They are and as long as the two options are equal then there's not a problem. Activist douchefags screaming about marriage in California while ignoring that gay men in most states don't have ANY fuckin' legal protections need to get over themselves. As the Washington vote proves, domestic partnership can get passed but marriage can't. Rather than being pissed at me, get off your ass and get domestic partnership legislation passed in those states where gay couples have no protections.
Posted by igub on January 27, 2010 at 8:43 AM · Report this
@33 Social and evolutionary change are strongly linked and it is difficult to separate them in any empirical sense, especially when the issue is reproductive behavior. Social pressures create selection, and adaptive changes create new social pressures. Repeat. Behavior is an evolving trait.
Posted by CG on January 27, 2010 at 8:43 AM · Report this
cheerio 52
I think what disturbs me about this, however, Dan, is that she, for some reason, took your statement as one from a sort of "liason" of the gay community, rather than a statement from a man, regardless of his sexual orientation, about the nature of men (gay or straight). I don't think she listened well to what you spoke about. Perhaps that is just me, however. I sometimes tend to misinterpret things.
Posted by cheerio on January 27, 2010 at 8:47 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 53
49, He certainly seems intent on avoiding answering the question. Now the claim is he's much stronger than others. He and he alone will save the lesser straights from evils of gay marriage.

Super Hetero! Able to withstand two married guys down the street without cheating or getting divorced! Better than all those weaker heterosexuals, who will immediately jump in bed with the nearest gay person available as soon as gay marriage is legal.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:48 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 54
51, Not even close.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 8:48 AM · Report this
igub 55
Gays are their worst own enemies. I became a parent through surrogacy but am totally judged by the gay community because I didn't get the gay parenting merit badge by adopting or the true gold medal - adopting a child of a race different than mine. I've actually had a gay parenting group tell me that I'm a racist because I didn't adopt a child of a different race. What the fuck bullshit is that? Additionally, several gay folks have told me that I'm selfish for having used a surrogate. Get over yourselves.

Now, you have non-monog gays claiming superiority over monog gays and acting as if monog gays are frauds or liars. What a bunch of douchefags.
Posted by igub on January 27, 2010 at 8:49 AM · Report this
@54 Well that's good to hear. Neurologists will be relieved to know that this silly "evolution" thing doesn't apply to brains.
Posted by CG on January 27, 2010 at 8:59 AM · Report this
sambone 57
I don't give a sh*t about who's more likely to be monogamous or not. Basic civil rights should not be denied because of sexual orientation.
Posted by sambone on January 27, 2010 at 9:01 AM · Report this
Dan, I really hate when you say "men are this way about sex." I know you are not saying women ARE naturally monogamous, you're just talking about men because you are a man and are in relationships with men, but not everyone takes it that way. You need to be specific. "I can't speak for women, but from my experience with men..."
Posted by kersy on January 27, 2010 at 9:02 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 60
56, Evolution has to do with small physical changes in species over millions of years, not with the social mores that change from one decade to the next.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 9:10 AM · Report this
@59 -- I apologize for the personal comments.

I know better. My comments @49 did nothing to advance the conversation.
Posted by six shooter on January 27, 2010 at 9:16 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 62
59, Typical non-response from someone without a real argument.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 9:17 AM · Report this
@53 -- Maybe a better argument our troll could make:

Allowing gays the rights and benefits of marriage is a big societial change. Big societal changes are scary and often have unintended consequences. Some of the intended consequences are scary, too.

We should slow down this march toward normalcy until I'm no longer scared. We should roll back some of the other big societal changes we've made in the last fifty years until our society is more like my idealized version of society from before those changes.

I believe this argument is the core of almost all social Conservative arguments against allowing people more rights.

It is also the implicit argument made when social Conservatives say, "if we allow X, Y will be next to demand their rights. Where will we draw the line?"
Posted by six shooter on January 27, 2010 at 9:23 AM · Report this
Monogamy is a byproduct of patrilinial societies. If you want to make sure that the child you feed and clothe and leave your property to is actually YOURS you have to keep the woman you mate with away from other men, as much as possible. In the same situation a woman does herself (and her children) a favor by trying to limit her man's procreation with other women, which will tend to divide his resources and his loyalties.

I honestly think that men and women are naturally inclined to have a variety of partners. Monogamy is an invention of society. And not one of it's best, either.
Posted by catherine_si on January 27, 2010 at 9:24 AM · Report this
@60 Speciation generally occurs on timescales of millions of years, but adaptive evolution can be observed on generational timescales. Allele fixation can occur quickly even when the selective pressure is weak. Attitudes towards monogamy have been generally stable for many generations. There has been plenty of time to genetically reinforce that behavior. Personally I doubt it, but it can't be discounted. Complex systems are hard.
Posted by CG on January 27, 2010 at 9:30 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 67
66. Monogamy isn't a species wide phenomenon. It varies by group, and society, and the concept has come and gone throughout human history.. It has nothing to do with evolution. It's a social trend, not evolution.

Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 68
65, You really just don't have a real answer to the question do you?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 9:41 AM · Report this
@67 It doesn't have to be a species-wide phenomenon to be evolutionary. Evolution is not speciation. Speciation is just a result of evolution; there are plenty of trait variations within a species, and sometimes it's pretty extreme (e.g. dog breeds). Evolution is genetic change. It can be subtle and vary across populations of a species. So to say that a particular trait is "human" is misleading, since different human populations have different traits. Some behaviors are known to be traits, and many more could be.
Posted by CG on January 27, 2010 at 9:59 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 71
70, You just making stuff up.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 10:02 AM · Report this
I've gotta say I disagree that women (and lesbian in particular) are wired for monogamy. I've known quite a few lesbians who were in long-term relationships but still open to 3-ways and the like...

So I guess it's my opinion that gay couples tend to be more open to non-traditional relationship boundaries specifically because our relationships on a very basic level are non-traditional to begin with. We don't feel that heavy social pressure to stay monogamous like straights do, nor the pressure to immediately end any relationship where monogamy failed.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on January 27, 2010 at 10:13 AM · Report this
Dan 75

Just making sure everyone say Cato's post.
Posted by Dan on January 27, 2010 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Dan, please explain to me then why gay men are okay with their partners having sex with another man, but straight men freak out at the idea of their partners having sex with another man? What is the difference there? Potential of children? That can't be it.

I know your thing is that men are horndogs, yes, and I agree with you. But isn't it highly unfair for a man to want one-sided polyamory?
Posted by Marrena on January 27, 2010 at 10:41 AM · Report this
Oh yay, another science-ish conversation to which I can contribute. A few points:

1) @ChuckieD (25) Humans taking 18 full years to 'leave the nest' is a relatively new development. Sexual maturity occurs 3-6 years before that, and weaning obviously far sooner -- and turns out, the breastfeeding period pre-weaning is really the most important period for paternal investment. It's also worth noting that while many apes wean much later than we do, human infants are more helpless for longer than apes (a consequence of increased brain and thus head size).

2) Polygyny in human evolutionary history may have actually increased the selective pressure for stable pair bonding -- if there are fewer marriable women because polygyny is the norm (or even if it only occurred at low levels), protecting the relationship you're in becomes more important. And in this case, more important for the man than the woman, for those of you who think monogamy is all about the woman.

3) Interestingly, alloparenting seems to contribute to unstable pair bonds, so maybe we should be blaming nannies and boarding schools for the Decline of Heterosexual Marriage.

4) While on the topic of pair bonds, the definition of one is a stable sexual relationship that at minimum lasts through conception, infancy and to weaning. It's not evolutionarily adaptive to have kids with single parents (same sex parents by this model are equivalent to hetero), but serial monogamy is not outside the norm.

4) There's a fascinating review from the APA Bulletin last year by Paul Eastwick on the phylogeny of human mating. Summary:

Eastwick identified seven unique features of human mating, identified whether they are shared by by our ancestors and if so, how distant were those ancestors? Three traits are shared by sexually reproducing animals across the kingdom. One trait, attachment and pair bonding, is more fuzzy. Infant-caregiver attachment is prevalent throughout the monkey line, but pair bonding seems to be exclusive to us and gibbons, so chances are good we evolved the behavior separately. This is interesting because there are many behavioral similarities between infant attachment and adult pair bonds, and so natural selection could have hijacked already-extant mechanisms to a dual purpose (this is a lengthy section in the review, and generates a really cool idea that Eastwick explains further, but this is good enough for now). Three traits are found to be exclusive to Homo sapiens, and Eastwick explores why they may have evolved by selection or due to cultural influences.

Take-home message: there are uniquely human aspects to our mating behavior that modify older adaptations. We have cognitive fluidity that allows us to compartmentalize our everyday interactions -- we don't have to think of everyone of the opposite sex as a mate and everyone of the same sex as competition. We have self-control, so we don't HAVE to listen to base sexual desires all the time. We have culture that heavily drives our views on bonding and sex. But deeper, the instinct to pair bond goes back about 2 million years in our evolutionary history, but due to individual variation, it's LIKELY to differ widely in practice which is, of course, what we observe. And likely what we feel, anecdotally. So @1, monogamy came about a couple million years ago, but it didn't have to be -- and we shouldn't assume it's adaptive for it to be -- LIFELONG monogamy.
Posted by doublehelix20 on January 27, 2010 at 10:41 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 79
People are throwing words around and I think using then to mean the same thing. Monogamy and Commitment. Cheating and Affairs (as was mentioned). I think the challenge is to be honest. PERIOD. It's not the "cheating" that does the damage it's the lies.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 27, 2010 at 11:10 AM · Report this
Keekee 80
I love Dan, but I jus' don't agree that monogamy is as hard as he is making it out to be. Sure, it's hard for hormone driven teen-agers & 20 somethings, but for middle-aged peoples?? Really??? I don't buy it.

I honestly believe that some people appear to have an agenda when complaining about how hard monogamy is. It shouldn't be that hard for middle-aged men or women. At least on a hormonal level.

Posted by Keekee on January 27, 2010 at 11:17 AM · Report this
Thinking about what damages and/or taxes social infrastructure the most...I suggest that it's NOT the same-sex couples in long-term non-monog relationships. It's the serial-monog heteros in short-term relationships. More specifically, it's the women cranking out tons of babies they can't afford and the irresponsible, often-unemployed screw-ups who keep knocking them up. I don't see how "strengthening" marriage laws will have any effect on people who don't bother to get married.
Posted by Obstreptician on January 27, 2010 at 11:33 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 84
I don't know where the concept of monogamy originated, but it's probably a pretty safe bet there was a woman involved.

That certainly explains why so many cheating women are murdered by their partners when the converse rarely happens. Because only women care about monogamy.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 27, 2010 at 11:47 AM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 86
When it comes down to it, people against gay marriage make nebulous claims that it will hurt straight marriage, but they cannot explain how it would hurt their own marriages, or that of anyone else. They just have some silly theory that is disproved by the fact that gay marriage already exists, and it hasn't hurt straight marriage one bit.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 11:53 AM · Report this
bigg 88
Um... I'm in a monogamous gay relationship. I don't really feel an urge to cheat. Keeping up with my partner is all the fun I need.
All of my relationships have been monogamous. I just prefer it - I just can't imagine having more fun with someone else than I do with my partner, and when I CAN imagine it (and therefore desire someone else), then it's time to end the relationship.
I get that not everybody feels the way I do. But isn't there room for me too under the big gay umbrella?
Posted by bigg on January 27, 2010 at 11:58 AM · Report this
cheerio 90

Totally dude - I think that's the idea; relationships and people come in all styles, and there's room in this world for all of them, methinks. I'm not really a monogamous guy at this point in my life, but I don't assume that everybody is or isn't as well. Same deal with you, from what I've read. Good on ya for that.
Posted by cheerio on January 27, 2010 at 12:11 PM · Report this

I am fundamentally more interested in the biological underpinnings of our behavior, but I'm not actually sure your point follows. Healthy parental figures -- one or two or four, male or female, gay or straight -- are important for a child's development. But when we talk about pair bonds being evolutionarily important for the pre-weaning period, it's because of resources: the mother has to spend extra energy breastfeeding, and extra time caring for the child, and a partner who can pick up the slack, so to speak, greatly increases the child's chance of survival. In modern terms, it's less about the baby's survival but more positive outcomes later in life. Often, this bond would be between the biological or adoptive parents -- the ones who HAD the baby in the first place.

After weaning, and after sexual maturity, I think you're still looking at resources. There is no inherent reason that a single mother can't raise a happy, productive, well-adapted child on her own. What hinders her ability to do so is circumstance: if she has to work two jobs and do all the cooking and cleaning because she's single, that severely cuts into the supervision, nurturing and teaching time the child needs from her. However steady, stable help from ANYONE: her lesbian lover, gay best friend, sister, father, two different long-term boyfriends...any of those will increase the amount of time the child spends with a parental figure.

NOT TO MENTION that marriage is not all about children. The pair-bonding behavior doesn't happen BECAUSE two people have a child together. It's completely independent, and there's NO reason to expect that everyone who pair bonds (or falls in love, if you like!) wants to or is able to have kids.
Posted by doublehelix20 on January 27, 2010 at 12:11 PM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 91
87, Mass isn't in the top 5 of states that have low marriage rates. Do you have anything that isn't a lie to back up your statements?
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 12:12 PM · Report this
If I was into dudes, I wouldn't have married a woman. If my wife wasn't into men, she wouldn't have married me. I just don't see how men marrying men or women marrying women is going to change that. If gay marriage becomes legal in most US jurisdictions, only the bisexuals would really have a choice whether to have a life partner or spouse of one sex or another. But I doubt, as a general proposition, that a bisexual person is going to use what's legal as the primary consideration when he or she chooses his/her life partner. So this threat-to-marriage crap is just that - crap.
Posted by Ivan on January 27, 2010 at 12:20 PM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 95
91, 93, Maybe a reading comprehension class would do you some good? Mass is not even close to having the lowest marriage rates.

Posted by Rob in Baltimore on January 27, 2010 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Loveschild 96
@2 It's called civil unions or domestic partnerships and they're already available.

It's interesting to note that beneath all the shouting and accusations being leveled at those of us who seek to keep marriage between one man and one woman, gays deep down all their anger know why marriage is a particular institution meant for heterosexual couples. When they're truly honest, gays themselves make the best argument for why homosexuality is not compatible with marriage.
Posted by Loveschild on January 27, 2010 at 1:01 PM · Report this
@91, 93, 95:

Marriage rate, US: 7.1 per 1000. Mass: 5.9 per 1000, ranked 10th lowest of 51 states + DC.
Divorce rate, US: 3.5 per 1000. Mass: 2.3 per 1000, ranked 2nd lowest.


Relative to the rest of the country, MA has a low marriage rate but an even lower divorce rate. Of course someone should check the statistical significance.
Posted by CG on January 27, 2010 at 1:05 PM · Report this
@96 So separate drinking fountains and sections on the bus made sense too? To protect racial purity and all that?

And I couldn't help but notice you assume only gay people are non-monogamous, and also that gays are incapable of monogamy. Pathetically inaccurate on both counts.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on January 27, 2010 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Gay monogamy exists, and I find it in bad taste for Dan Savage to generalize such a self-defeating stereotype....perhaps this is more of a generalization for his generation of gay, it's certainly not mine.
Posted by enolagay on January 27, 2010 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Cory 103
I don't think the invention of monogamy came from women... I think it came from fathers. Fathers don't want to see their daughters taken advantage of, don't want to take care of 'illegitimate children', and like being able to depend on someone else to take care of their offspring. A guy running around the village might ruin that. But on top of that, women don't generally have as much of wavering eye when it comes to sex, so it sort of solidifies the system.

I thought Joy's comment that straights stay monogamous because of the children involved was a little strange and stereotypical... Also, the comment that straight people don't have sex for sex? Not true in my experience.
Posted by Cory on January 27, 2010 at 2:54 PM · Report this
You Look Like I Need A Drink! 104
@ 96 interesting comment coming from a person born from a race of people known for their incredibly high out-of wedlock birth-rates (higher than the national average for all races in the US).

As for the laws/institutions regarding the notion of marriage between a man and a woman- it comes from the bible. Marriage between a man and a woman in the bible is A-OK as is concubines, slavery, incest and rape… And multiple wives if you subscribe to the Mormon interpretation of the Holy scriptures.

BTW: The notion that slavery is wrong is a fairly new concept and has nothing to do with the bible- which supports beating slaves when out of hand. The so-called Good Book explicitly, repeatedly and unequivocally endorses and approves of slavery, presenting it as an institution directly sanctioned by God.
"Thy bond-men and thy bond-maids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you… And they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-man forever." Leviticus 25:44-46
Dij’a hear that Loves- er I mean Hateschild. God loves for peeps to have slaves too!
Posted by You Look Like I Need A Drink! on January 27, 2010 at 2:58 PM · Report this
Monogamy and sexual exclusivity, at least in the short-term (on the order of a year to four) was around before towns.
Posted by doublehelix20 on January 27, 2010 at 3:02 PM · Report this
Or villages, whatever.

Oh, and what exactly do you mean by 'women don't have as much of wavering eye' regarding sex?
Posted by doublehelix20 on January 27, 2010 at 3:04 PM · Report this
As I understand it, monogamy was created by society around the advent of organized religion so that men would know which women and children "belonged" to them, and who to leave their wealth to when they died.
IMHO, it's not just men who are naturally non-monogamous, I have several female friends who are in open relationships, and they prefer it.
Posted by KatTheCanuckistan on January 27, 2010 at 3:20 PM · Report this
The concept of monogamy evolved so that bloodlines could be passed down from father to son. If women were not forced by society to be monogamous, there was no way for men to know who the father of the child was.

It is only relatively recently that men are expected to be monogamous too.

I am a woman in a heterosexual relationship and we are nonmonogamous. It has been wonderful for our sex life and our marriage. I would encourage more straight couples to try it!
Posted by ladynuca on January 27, 2010 at 3:28 PM · Report this
igub 109
@88 - You didn't get the message? Gays are just like Republicans. There is no room for anyone unless they buy into all the shit thrown at them by the "real" gays. Their first mantra is, "If you say that you're not cheating, then you're a liar or fat or ugly." If you want to have a child, then they tell you that you're selling out to heterosexual ideals. If you want to have a child that is biologically yours, then you're a greedy, selfish person because you might actually choose a path to parenthood that they didn't. If you don't think just like the gay moral majority, then there is no room for you under the gay umbrella. Again, it's much like the Republican umbrella.
Posted by igub on January 27, 2010 at 3:59 PM · Report this
DonBito 110
@109 - It's hiLArious that you point to the non-monogamy crowd as being the ones who have some big, inaccessible gay umbrella.

I mean, the gay movement right now is dominated by our demands for complete sexual freedom, right?

Or was it for marriage so we can have behbehs and love each other be NORMAL just like white upper-middle-class monogamous hets? I always get confused about that.
Posted by DonBito on January 27, 2010 at 4:14 PM · Report this
igub 112
@110 - The vocal gay movement wants total sexual freedom, marriage equality, and for everyone to kiss their ass over it. It ain't gonna happen, but the gay moral majority can keep demanding marriage equality while millions of gay couples go without any legal protections because gays are too damned selfish to recognize that domestic partnership laws can get passed while gay marriage will ALWAYS be voted down by heterosexual voters. Look at the articles on this website. Folks are all in a tither because BO may mention DADT. Big fucking deal. So, gay people can go and die for a country that won't give them marriage equality. Frankly, I've been judged far less in a heterosexual suburb than I ever was living in self righteous SF. The gay morons were actually mad because I didn't want to send my kids to an inner-city run down school. Somehow that made me a gay white racist who only wanted to be heterosexual. Nope, made me a responsible parent who wants the best education for his children.
Posted by igub on January 27, 2010 at 5:42 PM · Report this
igub 113
But the biggest problem with this article is that people will read it and they won't interpret it as referring to consensual open relationships where each person is operating with all the facts. Too many gay folks will read the post and view it as an approval for cheating or irresponsible sexual practices. If you want to be strapped to a harness and have 5 different guys fuck you while your boyfriend, partner, husband, or whatever watches, go for it. But, if you want to do that and have them not use a condom or you want to do that and not tell your significant other that you're doing it then you're a 'tard and the premise of this article doesn't make it ok and it doesn't make me a judgmental prick because I'm pointing out stupid, irrational, self-destructive behavior.
Posted by igub on January 27, 2010 at 6:04 PM · Report this
curtisp 114
Everyone is fixated on gay men fooling around. Straight men and women fool around enough that its obvious monogamy is difficult for many people. If the inclination towards non-monogamy is going to be used as an argument against gay marriage then it would be logical to use it as an argument against straight players getting married or many divorced people getting remarried. And something that is never mentioned about the monogamy issue is this; physically attractive men have more physically attractive women going after them and are more confident in approaching attractive women. This increases the temptation to cheat, therefore increasing the likelihood it will happen. There are plenty of rich guys and smart guys who find it hard to get laid but, unless they are complete deadbeats, rarely the good looking ones. Perhaps we should ban marriage for them too based on their increased likelihood of unstable relationships.
Posted by curtisp on January 27, 2010 at 6:28 PM · Report this
As I mentioned, evidence suggests pair bonding in the Homo (not homo) line -- and probably sexual exclusivity for a period of time -- has been around for two million years.

Monogamy did not 'evolve' for our peace of mind. That is not how evolution works. If you mean some guy came up with it, don't use the term 'evolved'. But by that model, the women have just as much invested in monogamy as the men -- if the men have other children out of wedlock, they may support them with resources that could have gone to her and her child.
Posted by doublehelix20 on January 27, 2010 at 6:49 PM · Report this
Posted by Adrian Ryan on January 27, 2010 at 7:35 PM · Report this
Cory 117
@106 What do towns or villages have to do with who a person screws?

As a general statement, women don't (or couldn't) cheat as often as men do. It's not to say that women don't like sex, or don't have affairs, etc... I've had to defend myself before for this statement, and you can argue with me if you want, but good luck convincing me otherwise...

The argument that husbands demand monogamy of their wives because of offspring is a strong statement... I suppose it could be a conspiring of father and husband-to-be, as well, that the woman be a virgin and loyal. The father wants to marry off the daughter, and retain respect, the suitor wants a good, complacent wife.
Posted by Cory on January 27, 2010 at 8:21 PM · Report this
curtisp 118
117 - Throughout history women have risked death to have affairs and still do in many parts of the world. Women don't have as many affairs cause they are stuck at home with the kids and there is no candy available. Put them in an environment where there is lots of candy and they are safe to eat it...well, let’s just say, there are plenty of women who are going to eat a variety of candy. This is pretty easy to figure out.
Posted by curtisp on January 27, 2010 at 9:10 PM · Report this
Any gay men taking offense to this particular topic should go to the loo, wash their hands, and change their tampons.

You know damn well that Dan's right. You're saying that every couple you know is monogamous? EVERY couple?

There are monogamous gay couples and there are the cheaters. Just like in the straight world. I think the point is that the majority of gay men are happy to be coupled, but want (and hopefully agree on) open relationships.

Either way, I know if my man ran around on me, I could forgive his transgression, work on the issues and move on. ONCE.

After that, I'm calling my lawyer.
Posted by TheLispBlog on January 27, 2010 at 9:47 PM · Report this
onion 120
Rob in Baltimore - CG (66 and 71) was correcting an earlier statement that you made "Evolution has to do with small physical changes in species over millions of years"
He/she was pointing out that you were wrong when you said that evolution only happens on the timescale of millions of years. It can happen faster. And that it doesn't necessarily involve speciation.

He/she is right. And he/she seems to know a thing or two about it. You are outclassed on this one.

And while behaviors are very much influenced by culture, they are also very much influenced by genes (it's Nature AND Nurture). CG was right, there COULD be a genetic component to monogamy, but CG was also right - it is a long shot that a genetic component is the most important factor.
Posted by onion on January 27, 2010 at 10:24 PM · Report this
A more reasonable argument. (I don't endorse this but it does seem to be the best one gay-marriage opponents have available)

1. If society is going to hand out rights and benefits, it has a right to demand certain concessions in return.

2. It is reasonable for society to believe that monogamy in general, but especially within the intuition of marriage, will promote many forms of social stability.

3. The current push to redefine marriage includes, in addition to changing the old gender requirements, a push to make the definition of the institution a matter of individual preference.

4. Many of the groups pushing for the change in marriage have been traditionally associated with a non-monogamous lifestyle. If they change the institution in the way they want the threat is that monogamy will no longer be seen as a central goal the institution tries to promote.

5. If that happens, society will have been suckered into handing out rights and benefits without getting the promotion of social stability that they desired in return.

6. Less social stability is a bad thing and so these efforts should be resisted.

Now if this is the argument prop 8 opponents want to make it doesn't seem to touch, for instance, civil unions. In fact given the harms caused to people in relationships that don't enjoy legal recognition it makes the promotion of civil unions all the more pressing.

This argument also seems to allow the state to set conditions on traditional marriage such an enforceable vow to be monogamous and, perhaps, justifies a repeal of no-fault divorce law.

The most interesting consequence is that it doesn't say anything about the gender requirements in marriage. If gays made vows of monogamy, and whatever other stability promoters the society demands (and these could be enforced), there should be no bar to entry into the institution.

Now can we debate this argument rather than the absurd caricatures of one another's positions as we have been doing?
Posted by NN on January 28, 2010 at 5:47 AM · Report this
Well, everyone's already said everything, so why am I talking?

Posted by Hannah in Portland on January 28, 2010 at 9:48 AM · Report this
@122 --

To hypothetically argue against your hypothetical argument:

1. The institution of marriage provides social stability through many means. An expectation of monogamy is but one stabilizing force

2. Married gays add more stability to society than non-married gays.

3. The total increase in social stability gained through gay marriage drastically outweighs any decrease in social stability caused by this particular redefinition of marriage.

Of course, we're taking a core assumption of this entire line of argument at face value without any evidence:

No one has proven that the legal benefits granted by our governments to married couples has done anything to promote social stability.

I imagine society would be just as stable if I never got a tax break for being married. I imagine my heirs would fight over and ultimately receive pretty much the same benefits with or without a sanction from the State. No more or fewer children will drop out of school should my wife not be allowed to make medical decisions for me.
Posted by six shooter on January 28, 2010 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 129
Holy pile of syllables, Batman..! Here's my 16 cents.

First there's the fight over what's the "right" kind of marriage - straight only, or straight & also gay. Which seems like a simple, logical, inclusion to anyone who feels that homosexual people are 100% equal to heterosexual people, because then their unions are 100% equal by default. & yeah, civil unions are great: let's fight for those along the way. But: separate but equal? isn't.

Now there's what's the right kind of relationship, what we're wired for or not - monogamy or wild hot swingin'. 'cause (insert deity of choice here) knows, there's no grey area. It's a yes/no thing - all or nothing. You can't be mostly monogamous, but let your partner kiss his hot friend on his birthday. You couldn't possibly acknowledge your animal nature (lust) by talking about it first w/ your mate (love). Why, that's be very un-hungup, very un-Puritan, almost reasonable - thoroughly un-American. ;)

Anytime I've gotten involved w/ anyone, guy or gal, the first time I catch them ogling a hot waitress while on a date, I bust their chops. ;) We're sexual beings. I wish we'd all get over it, & make our choices between ourselves & our partners w/out having to ram those choices down passerby's throats & insist they're the only way to go.

Monogamy works for you & your partner? Great! Polyamory? The occasional fling? The birthday kiss? Enjoy, & share an occasional story next time you buy me a drink. ;) But no one size fits all & the assumption that it should or does, from rom com movies on down, has always vexed the hell out of me.

I've been in both monogamous & open relationships; I was equally happy in both, FWIW.

Over half my friends are gay guys (I work in the arts & got started early in community theater). Most are coupled up by now. Out of..hmm..8 couples?..of which I know their situation, 3 are monogamous, 4 are not, 1 has "birthday kiss" level passes allowed. All have talked about what is & isn't okay w/ each other. Obviously not all is sunshine & rainbows like anyone else's marriage (3 of the 8 are married & in CA), but definitely longterm solid relationships. The kind I want next time around. ;}

Coffee break over, alas.
Posted by Eva Hopkins on January 28, 2010 at 11:04 AM · Report this
Three points and then I will stop defending an argument I don't endorse.

First the social stability assumption is shared by both sides. In fact that is the very basis for any claim for a married couple to have unique rights as a result of their status. If there were no benefits at all any claim to rights would be groundless.

Second, I'm not sure your premise 3 is true or if the same stability couldn't be gained via civil partnership. If, as the right fears, a new definition of marriage emerges that looks something more like a mere business partnership this would seem to result in less monogamy. If that happens I think it would be reasonable to expect that we see more breakups, more drama, more unhappiness and more single parent families. I don't know how we can predict in advance how many committed non-monogamous gays will be drawn to marriage and what their overall effect on cultural norms will be. I do know that, as far as cultural influence goes, they seem to be punching above their weight.

Finally, I think your standards of evidence are too high. Demanding 'proof' that benefits promote stability demands too much. Nothing could be offered which would meet this standard in any sociological study.
The real question is whether it is reasonable to expect that stability could be promoted in this way, and I think the answer to that is 'yes'.
Posted by NN on January 28, 2010 at 11:07 AM · Report this
Uriel-238 132
One of the elements that is commonplace amongst the gay community is a certain minimum level of introspection that comes with the realization and eventual acceptance (likely going through the usual steps of grief first) that one's personal sexual identity / orientation is not the same as everyone else's, and in the present social clime, not the same as what is expected and desired by the surrounding community. As a result, gays are often a more self aware, and hence more enlightened crew than those who never dwell from the mainstream.

Once one can come to terms with challenging one common social more (exempli gratia, that being gay is bad or wrong) it becomes easier to think critically of the other social mores that are commonly regarded (e.g. that commitment to another is about established trust, not chastity). Amongst those in het relationships for whom monogamy doesn't work, this could be the first event in their lives that challenges common sexual mores, hence their resistance to crossing that line.

As Allegedly demonstrates above (and I'll leave it to him to determine where), challenges such as this to mores as dictated by a revealed religion is corrosive, both to the standing commandments, but also to the authority from which they stem. Conservatives and, for obvious reasons, evangelists, find this particularly alarming since this process above divests an individual from the moral model these groups believe absolute, and based on their own dogma that we are intrinsically evil creatures, they envision the fall of human civilization as the result. Studies in human behavior, on the other hand, show that we are intinsically social (and thus intrinsically moral / ethical) creatures, and that once we break from one moral structure, we immedately begin to work out another that doesn't conflict with our identities.

And this is why I advocate we need to divest ourselves from revealed platforms in favor of morality that is derived from reason. Fortunately, the global community in general is doing exactly this (as per, for example, the extensive Geneva Convention). Even the Abrahamic sects continue to modernize (which is why divorce and wash-and-wear cotton-polyester blends are so in vogue even amongst conservatives). The Allegedlys Roves and Gallaghers of the world are merely in fierce denial of this process.

Regarding my opinion about monogamist tendencies between men and women, my opinion is over here.
Posted by Uriel-238 on January 28, 2010 at 12:18 PM · Report this
@130 -- Married couples get special status because they are a large and powerful voting force. The "benefits to society" arguments are justifications, not explanations.

Same goes with old people. Same used to go for white people and men.
Posted by six shooter on January 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM · Report this
DonBito 136
@112 - For somebody who bitches about the need for equality across the board and the rights of all gays getting left by the wayside for the benefit of a minority of our community (those who wish to get married) - on which I agree with you, btw - you sure aren't showing a whole lot of solidarity.

I mean you say things like "gays are too damned selfish" and refer to us as "gay morons" and you wonder why it is you feel left out of the movement? And you wonder why people think you might be a little self-hating?

How about you try showing anything other than disdain for us, and we'll think about letting you get under the umbrella. In the meantime, I wish you all the happiness in the world in your heterosexual suburb.
Posted by DonBito on January 28, 2010 at 1:23 PM · Report this
DonBito 137
@122 -

It is reasonable for society to believe that monogamy in general, but especially within the intuition of marriage, will promote many forms of social stability.

Is it? What is "social stability"? How are we measuring that? What is your vision (within the context of your argument) of a completely "stable" society? This term is thrown around a lot but no one ever bothers to define it, and an actual definition would seem to be crucial to determine the validity of the arguments you've made.

And if we are arguing that marriage is a contributing factor to this nebulous stability, presumably we mean successful, long-lasting marriages? I would argue that widespread acceptance of non-monogamy as a natural human trait (whether true for some or all is irrelevant) would promote successful, long-lasting and happy marriages.

But the arguments you make, while perhaps more rationally stated than the vitriolic blather generally spewed on either side of the debate, still represent my main issue with both anti- and pro-gay marriage activists, which is perfectly demonstrated by @128 when they counter with the pro-gay argument:

Married gays add more stability to society than non-married gays.

We are all making our arguments within this paradigm which dictates that coupled people (read also, in most cases: monogamous, straight) have more value to society than uncoupled people. Is that an argument you (we) want to make? And on what grounds?

It seems to me that if you (or, those who actually stand behind the arguments you've articulated) want to declare that those of us not involved in romantic pairings are inherently less valuable to society than those of us who are, the burden of proof is on you.

Posted by DonBito on January 28, 2010 at 1:53 PM · Report this
DonBito 138
@130 - and not to flood the comments section, but having read your second set of points, and amorphous specter of "stability" aside - why must these special rights that marriage confers in some way "strengthen" society?

You've already stated that whether or not marriage contributes to the stability of society can't be proven, which means that one possibility is that is actually doesn't contribute to societal stability. (That's the argument I'd make even if I believed there was actually such a thing as societal stability.) I which case, the rights that marriage confers are a matter of convenience, given to two people who are partnered as a way to strengthen the stability of their own bond. Rights, presumably, are things that people deserve for being human, not things that the government begrudges us in an effort to maintain stability.

Is there something essentially damaging or embarrassing about admitting that? Other than that it would obliterate any possibility of making a logical argument against gay marriage, of course.

I'm actually done rambling this time. I think.
Posted by DonBito on January 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM · Report this
Womyn2me 139
Look, monogamy and the legal aspects of adultery were all about men passing on property to one's heirs and men wanting to make sure their property went to someone they had participated in breeding... the woman was just the incubator of heirs. No one expected that MEN would be faithful, its right up there with 'obey' in the marriage vows for women, but not for men.

anyway the whole idea of marriage has already evolved so far from this concept that they seem like different topics.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on January 28, 2010 at 3:51 PM · Report this

I don't know why I am still defending this; playing devil's advocate I suppose

I don't think defining social stability is tough to define and I don't think anyone should equivocate and stability and value. Social stability just means that society is doing as well as practically possible. The following are all strong indicators of the kind of thing that most people have in mind, but this list is not exhaustive: low crime rates, esp. low or non-existent rates of crimes that highlight serious power imbalances (rape, exploitation, domestic violence, theft of basic services), high graduation rates, low incidence of preventable disease and malnutrition, high rates of home ownership in mortgages people can afford, low rates of drug addiction, low incidences of child neglect and out of wedlock birth. Now it does turn out that as a matter of aggregate data married couples do better on many of these categories than others. This doesn't mean anyone is less valuable, but just as aggregate data shows the elderly are less competent behind the wheel and so places greater obstacles in the path of their being licensed, there is reason to see this data as a reason to promote marriage.

Actually it turns out that the analogy with licensing may be more apt than you think. If you accuse the right of setting the terms of the debate by requiring that the change be justified by societal good, then you must also acknowledge that their opposition used their influence to cast this as an issue of 'rights'.

In fact the issue looks to be closer to that of licensing. Rights usually attach to individuals, not groups. Further rights are conferred by one's status as a human being, but marriage is not. Traditionally the state has had a recognized role in being able to prevent cousins and siblings, those under a certain age, those with transmissible diseases, those who fail to consent, those already married, and polygamists (to name a few) from joining in marriage. It would be very odd for you to assert that a 'right' exists here which attaches only to gays and straights but not to all of these groups that may be similarly disadvantaged. If you aren't willing to revoke this ability from the state then it seems that you must acknowledge that the state is trying to do something when it hands out marriage benefits and if its goals are not being served it can limit the benefits on that basis. Now it may be that you can show that stability will be enhanced by pushing for this change, but if this case were well made there is reason to think more elections would be won.

Posted by NN on January 28, 2010 at 9:55 PM · Report this
You have the luxury of being blase about guns and oil as long as someone else uses their guns to procure you oil. When Russia cuts off your natural gas perhaps you can burn your 'soft power' for heat.

What do you know about Russia, Gas, and Europe? If you have been reading US (and unfortunately much European) media on the subject, the answer is probably "not very much". First, Russia sells natural gas to Europe through pipelines. Pipelines are long term two party relationship, where both sides wield power. Sure, the producer could decide not to sell, but the buyer could equally decide not to buy. And whereas 40% of EU gas comes from Russia, 65% of Russian gas exports go to the EU. (…) The other two big ones are Ukrainia 25%, and Turkey 10%. Now, considering that Ukrania does not typically pay for its gas, at least not anywhere near market prices, one could loosely say that almost all Russian gas export income derives from EU markets. So, is the EU dependant on Russian gas? Well, yes, but to an even larger extent Russia is dependant on EU gas consumption. Russia does not have the option of selling gas elsewhere. The pipelines all go to the EU, building new ones are expensive and take a lot of time, likewise for LNG. On the topic of guns and oil and gas. Do you really seriously suggest that anyone should be playing hardball with military hardware with Russia? You do know that they are still sitting on the second largest store of nuclear weapons on our planet, right? Not to talk about the immorality of robbing others of their natural resources at gun point.

You are right, i would be very surprised to find that the traditional heterosexual family is not under threat and remains strong in Europe- in Sweden we hear it is nearly extinct.

Ah! But not due to gay marriage, it isn't. Equality has long been a social goal in Sweden. Equality is obviously not compatible with the 'traditional family', as the woman is no more pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen. Now days, parental leave laws allow both parents to stay home with small children. It is more economically favourable if the leave is shared equally between the parents. So we should see even more deviation from the 'traditional family', and good riddance to it, I say. You wont find many Swedes who would like to go back to the bad old days on this one.

The experience of the muslims shows the world that European liberals talk a much better show than they are willing to walk...

You do know that in Europe 'liberals' are right wing, right? On the left, we have actual socialists and communists. Occasionally we even vote for them. "C'est la lutte finale..."
Posted by Geequeer on January 29, 2010 at 6:08 AM · Report this
DonBito 149
@140 - Just up front:I appreciate your playing devil's advocate because I think we're untangling some interesting logical knots here. I continue to argue with you because I know even though your politics don't align with the reasoning you're presenting, you are presenting that reasoning as logical and I don't think it is.

First of all I strongly disagree that "social stability" is an easy thing to define or that its definition is somehow common knowledge. Any person or group that is basing the entire structure of their argument for legal discrimination on the concept of "social stability" has a responsibility to define that concept in very specific terms. A judge in a courtroom would expect no less.

Your list of possible indicators of social stability is, in fact, quite useful in forming some idea of its definition:

The following are all strong indicators of the kind of thing that most people have in mind, but this list is not exhaustive: low crime rates, esp. low or non-existent rates of crimes that highlight serious power imbalances (rape, exploitation, domestic violence, theft of basic services), high graduation rates, low incidence of preventable disease and malnutrition, high rates of home ownership in mortgages people can afford, low rates of drug addiction, low incidences of child neglect and out of wedlock birth.

But again, I have to wonder in many of these cases how you could argue that marriage alleviates these problems: rape and domestic violence in particular I would imagine are much more prevalent among coupled, if not married, people.

As for things such as high school graduation rates, low incidences of preventable disease, high rates of home ownership/affordable mortgages, and low rates of drug addiction: while these may see more positive numbers among married folks (I'll take your word for it though obviously that, too, would require at least a citation) any group making this legal argument would in addition need to prove that marriage is the cause of these statistical differences and not merely show that the numbers correlate.

And then even were causation proven, these are problems that could arguably be solved (or at least improved upon) were the government willing to institute useful social programs such as aid to public education and the institution of public colleges (so ALL high schoolers would have a reason to graduate), financial aid to prospective home buyers (and actual living wages so that individuals as well as couples could have a hope of owning a home!), improved drug education (scare tactics and blanket rejection of the reality that, yes, people DO drugs doesn't count) and rehabilitation, and for the love of god, ACTUAL sex education!

I know I'm being pie-in-the-sky here but to make the blanket statement that marriage stabilizes society while ignoring the fact that there are numerous, NUMEROUS more effective and more universal ways of doing so (I mean we're not even trying!) sort of dilutes the idea that marriage has any real value to society at all.

As for child neglect and out-of-wedlock birth, just for fun I'll point out that those numbers would likely be drastically reduced within gay marriages since for the most part we're either not reproducing or going to great trouble and expense to have babehs.

A final point:

Traditionally the state has had a recognized role in being able to prevent cousins and siblings, those under a certain age, those with transmissible diseases, those who fail to consent, those already married, and polygamists (to name a few) from joining in marriage. It would be very odd for you to assert that a 'right' exists here which attaches only to gays and straights but not to all of these groups that may be similarly disadvantaged.

That would be an odd argument, and as you may have assessed, that is not the argument I'm making. Since marriage, as I stated, is a right whose primary purpose is to contribute interpersonal stability to and bestow various legal conveniences upon those involved, I see no logical argument whatsoever for denying that right to cousins and siblings (who are hopefully marrying out of legal convenience and not because they're sleeping together, but honestly that's none of my business), platonic partners, those with transmissible diseases (can you really not get married with a transmissible disease? because that seems pretty fucked up all by itself), polygamists, etc. (People who aren't of legal age or are otherwise considered unable to consent have all of their rights restricted, so those examples don't really support your argument.)

I mean, even if we take for complete granted that marriage = social stability, wouldn't that mean more marriages would = more social stability?

All this is to say that I find your argument (and by extension the arguments of the devil you're advocating) to be riddled with holes, sir. Riddled!! And I appreciate the Freudian slip? of your use of "equivocate" in the second sentence. (Or perhaps that word does not mean what you think it means?)
Posted by DonBito on January 29, 2010 at 11:57 AM · Report this
So I think you are right about the obligation to define social stability. And while I can point to general indicators I don't think I'm up to the task of laying out an explicit definition. But as I see it this shouldn't block the progress of the argument and it shouldn't be taken as a decisive blow against the position I laid out. After all, those who hold such positions, I would wager, surely can lay out such a definition because they have very particular views about what the society they would like to see includes. Still, I bet that everything I have listed would be included as part of their list and then some. I also want to point out that my claim was not that all of these categories would be served by promoting marriage. It is clear that marriage may be irrelevant to some, indirectly relevant to others and directly relevant to only a few. I list them all because, as I understand my conservative friends, they see marriage as one part of a much broader social agenda and so the promotion of the marriage issue is just one part of their overall social outlook. I think it is fair to say that is true on both sides of the debate.

Now you claim to see a lot of holes in the argument. But I will point out, again, that you are wielding a machete when it comes to the standards of evidence you demand. Indeed I would go so far as to point out that none of our current social policies could survive the scrutiny you demand. First, I know of no statistical aggregate data that can be used to unarguably demonstrate causation. So your demand here, for instance: "any group making this legal argument would in addition need to prove that marriage is the cause of these statistical differences and not merely show that the numbers correlate" looks off base. In fact I take it that most courts ask of the legislature that they had mere 'reasonable expectation' that the policies they put forth would serve the goods they aim at. On this test, it does seem reasonable to look at aggregate data for clues about how to distribute benefits. Consider, for instance, that no politician has to prove that it is graduation rates that confer economic benefits to the community and not, say, the passing of English 101or x number of meals eaten in the cafeteria, to justify his plan to recognize and award honors to those who graduate at the top of the class - he can just assume it.

In fact if we really used your standards of evidence in an unbiased way I wonder if gay-marriage supporters wouldn't face a more difficult challenge than they do now. Would they have to prove that the lack of marriage caused their second class status? If it turned out that we noticed that married gays got divorced at a much higher rates and were, say, poorer as a result, I don't imagine you would take that to be an argument that their ability to be married should be revoked.

In short, the instrument you use to find my argument 'riddled' with holes might prove sharp enough to impale yours as well.

Lets take your final point. I agree that if marriage "is a right whose primary purpose is to contribute interpersonal stability to and bestow various legal conveniences upon those involved" then the rest of your claim follows. I just deny that it is. After all, the way you have that worded seems to meet the definition of civil unions precisely and I think that, in general, society is not really trying to do anything but make certain living arrangements easier for couples by granting civil partnerships.

If that is all you want, then your fight is already won.

I do deny that this is what society is trying to do with marriage. Marriage has a special moral status that unions lack precisely because society is trying to recognize the specialness of this particular institution. In part that it because it wants to promote loving relationships between people and to ensure a certain kind of stability by making monogamy and lifelong coupling an expectation. Your definition rides roughshod over this effort and so of course you end up treating it as a mere granting of rights rather than a recognition of two people striving to live according to standards drawn from outside of themselves. In much the same way, I would argue, we ought not treat a veteran and a former mercenary in the same way. One did something to gain a certain good; money. The other fought because he saw, presumably, something worth dying for. And that distinction holds even though the soldier got paid too.

I think your opponents would argue that just because marriage has lost much of its ability to bind people to those expectations since adultery laws are no longer enforced and divorce is now easy and no-fault, those expectations persist and have a defining role in the institution. It is not a granting of rights for convenience that brother and sister could avail themselves of. It is instead, a covenant with the state to strive to live in a certain way and so only open to those able to do so.

As a final note I apologize for my tortured use of equivocation. I meant to point out that you seemed to be equivocating on the word 'stability' in taking it to mean something like 'valuable'.

Posted by NN on January 29, 2010 at 2:09 PM · Report this
DonBito 151
@150 - you make excellent points all around. And you have made a point for me which I neglected to make myself, and might have illuminated my stance further: I am talking about civil unions.

Your assessment is correct: civil unions are rights given to bestow blah blah blah, you know what I'm talking about, and marriage does, as you say, have "a special moral status."

This special moral status conferred upon married couples - the fact there there even is a special moral status that can be conferred upon two romantically involved people - necessarily implies that those people participating in the institution are more valuable to society than those who are not. Relationships that exist outside of the regulations of marriage are necessarily marginalized by the institution itself (and have until very recently been criminalized.)

Michael Warner's "The Trouble With Normal" has helped shape my view of this matter. That's a link to wikipedia, unfortunately, but even the overview should give you a decent idea of Warner's main points.

So to clarify: I agree wholeheartedly with you view of marriages as well as of civil unions. What I was driving towards, but did not say, is that the government has no business conferring "special moral status" upon anyone (as, particularly in this case, they are choosing to promote a set of morals that is based in religion and not universally shared - not even close) nor in encouraging people to be monogamous or form life-long romantic bonds (issues which I believe to be matters of personal preference with no moral value, good or bad). People can have their personal sets of morals affirmed by their church, and that is where marriages should be granted. The government should be exclusively in the business of granting civil unions.

Of course, like many of the other things I've advocated along the way, the abolition of civil marriage is a lonnnng way off (given that most people haven't even considered its necessity) and there is an argument to be made that gay marriage, however paradoxically, is a step in the right direction.

It's been nice arguing with you, NN, and I would be interested to hear any further thoughts you have on the matter (perhaps to hear your own opinion, not the devil's?).
Posted by DonBito on January 29, 2010 at 2:52 PM · Report this
That was a very interesting link. I was especially intrigued to see Martha Nussbaum's comments; she is something of a hero of mine.

That said, I do worry about disarming the power of shame. To be sure, there is a lot of shame that appears misapplied to me and so alters behavior for the sake of mere conformity. But there is also another problem in contemporary culture; a kind of shamelessness seems to have taken hold and I would argue this makes us much worse off. The kind of thing I am reacting to can be found in, say, the comments on Savage's latest column. He advises a kind of deception to a bi-curious young man interested in a threesome. He is then rightly taken to task for advising a deception. But what is interesting is the response to his critics. Many people seemed to be saying 'get over it you're just a puritan'. It seems to me that some people got a taste of how to respond to shame in circumstances where there was no culpability and are now unwilling to feel shame about anything at all. If this persists it will be a great loss.

Ultimately, I suspect, I won't end up agreeing with the radical thesis Warner offers. I do think relationship's with children are special because there are unique and very vulnerable individuals involved. To protect them I see nothing wrong with setting up a cultural norm that values stability and commitment and distributing benefits in a way that supports that. This is a way of saying some relationships are more important than others, I know, but it seems defensible. They are more important because of the number of people that depend on them and their particular vulnerability. I also think the lifelong aspect of the institution does a good job of securing a dignified and secure life for the elderly. Too often people discount the importance of the future and I think the value of normalizing lifelong relationships comes in part from providing for a certain kind of future for the elderly who, lets face it, just have few options and less open minds when it comes to alternative strategies for living.

At the end of the day I would support the gay-marriage movement more if it recognized the norms of the institution and sought to participate in it on that basis. Perhaps that is not the best institution for people to live in but the radical transformation that erases societal expectation and just demands a package of rights looks like a way of mugging society that I can't endorse. So while I agree with efforts to reform the institution to make gender irrelevant; I can't endorse goals that run beyond that and seek to legitimize marriages of convenience, temporary unions or non-monogamous ones, and that goes for gays and straights.
Posted by NN on January 30, 2010 at 5:42 AM · Report this
Cheating, let alone sanctioning open cheating (as an open marriage) to avoid cheating and lying, is like taking an alcoholic to an open bar, as a means to cure his alcoholism. Lol! People who have open relationships still engage in “rules” to govern their relationship, but the reality is how can these rules be maintained when EVERYTHING is on the table? Rules like “no kissing on the mouth, always come home at night, only have consensual threesomes” etc. Are you going to vigilantly check that your partner is following both your rules? And how are you going to do that? And is that trust? That sounds more like control to me. The truth is people who cheat, will cheat anyway—that is the whole meaning of the word. People who lie will deceive. Trying to take away the ground rules for what constitutes cheating and lying does not change the reason it occurs to begin with. Think: the alcoholic has an addiction problem (hint: the addiction is alcohol, but the root is a psychological)—the addictive process is the same whether it’s alcohol, food, drugs, cigarettes, sex, bla bla bla.
People who have threesomes, open relationships, and agree to be in a non-committed monogamous relationship have incredibly low self-worth. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that gay men often feel worthless. Homosexuality amongst men is still considered really abhorrent. Gay men are emasculated often in school, frequently by their families and commonly by their neighbours. So of course one is willing to “settle” for any sort of relationship, rather than to be alone. Gay men struggle with monogamy not because men aren’t capable of it—that’s sexist hogwash. The reason is because we don’t “normalize” gay relationships—monogamous gay relationships. People who endorse open relationships equate sex with lust, and not with intimacy. They do not make the connection that it is an exclusive behaviour which is an extension of an emotionally invested bond. When you share your bodies ONLY with each other, and you’re partner’s body becomes an extension of your own, not as a possession but as privilege, there is a connection and a mental grounding which is soooo essential for self-worth and happiness. I’m not saying that monogamy alone makes you happy, but it helps a whole hellofa lot. And I haven’t met a couple or a person yet that endorses open relationships who aren’t miserable and insecure. Sure, correlation doesn’t equal causation but it does make me go “hmmmm.” When all is said and done, monogamy’s a beautiful thing (a thing to be envied), but like all beautiful things it’s a pain in the ass to maintain.
Posted by SamtElvis on February 9, 2012 at 6:51 PM · Report this

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