Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cat And Dogs Living Together

Chances are, if you're here, you support the right of gays and lesbians to marry. I do, too.

But let's talk about this a little bit.

What is the logic that leads us to the conclusion that they should be married? We can figure that out by trying to draw some parallel examples.

One example that the bigoted like to use against these rights is the suggestion of bestiality. Calling those who suggest this as a parallel example "bigoted" is, I think, very accurate. One creature is capable of reflective and abstract thought, the other isn't. That is, of course, assuming that the bigots do believe gay people are capable of thought on the level of ordinary people.

A comedian, whose name I'm sad to say I cannot remember, made an interesting observation on this subject.
They like to say that next people will want to marry box turtles. I'm a vegetarian. By that logic, I can say that you all are only one step away from eating gay people.

So, obviously, the animal comparison is right out.

That said, there are other taboos on marriage. We don't tolerate polygamy. We don't tolerate incest. How do we differentiate these?

Incest is a tough one. Assuming that both of the participants are consenting adults, how do we say that they have no right to be together? Certainly, they risk genetic abnormalities with their children. However, gay couples can have no children. The production of children isn't the purpose of marriage. It's neither necessary to it, nor sufficient for it.

This is the toughest one for me, because I do feel that it is rightly illegal but I cannot explain why. Perhaps my feelings on it are simply a matter of societal conditioning. Osiris and Zeus married their sisters. Without the assumption of harm to potential children, whose conception cannot really be linked with the marriage in question, there is no victim.

Polygamy I find less challenging. It should be legal.

Before you disagree with me, consider that every negative thing we associate with polygamy is wrong on its own grounds. Marriage to a minor, for instance, we find just as repugnant in monogamy. A forty-year-old married to a fifteen-year-old is disgusting whether or not he has another wife. We can make that illegal by itself, with no need to stigmatize polygamy with it.

Often, polygamy is associated with arranged marriages. Women are assigned to a husband and expected to serve him. This is wrong, because it is a violation of the woman's rights. But, again, it is still wrong in a monogamous example. We can make arranged marriages illegal, though such a law is perhaps unenforceable when the victims refuse to believe that their rights have been violated.

There is nothing inherent in polygamy to suggest that it values men any more than women. Simply because we never hear stories about a woman choosing to have three husbands does not mean it does not and could not happen. That it always seems to be a man with many wives is just a reflection of the gender bias that still runs through our world's societies. Nothing about polygamy is sexist unless sexism is forced onto the topic.

Separating polygamy from its unsavory associations, it makes more sense. Adultery is not illegal. We do not demand fidelity as a society. Orgies are even legal. In our society, people are free to love as many people as they will. Polyamorous individuals become more common as people start to question the validity of the "mate for life" tradition. There is no reason that any consenting adult should be forbidden to marry as many other consenting adults as he or she wishes. There is nothing to force a spouse to stay in a polygamous relationship if that is no longer what that individual desires. There is no harm and no victim.

That said, I still think the vast majority of us prefer monogamy. I believe, very fiercely, in fidelity to one person. But that doesn't mean that everyone has to live the same way. I have no reason to believe that my way of life is any more justified or reasonable than the above examples.

We may look askance at polyamorous groups and have our doubts about the nature of their relationship. We may look at an incestuous couple and privately feel disgusted.

But then, that's exactly how the bigots feel about homosexuals. Maybe we still have some tolerance to learn.

Lucky for me, I'm planning to die alone so none of the above is really my problem.

2 comments:

Sarah said...

An interesting and insightful post. I would like to point out though that an incestuous couple is 92% likely to have a normal child - a non-incestuous couple is 96% likely to have a normal child. There's really not a lot in it. And of course, in gay incest cases, that's not even a consideration.

I myself have the same ick factor that you describe in your post, and I won't ever be getting it on with any of my family, but logically, I cannot see how it should be illegal. It should be a matter for the individuals to live as they will and in the case of Genetic Sexual Attraction (a condition where close relatives meet for the first time as adults and immediately fall in love) a health issue which should not result in imprisonment.

What I would ban is relationships between anyone where there is an abuse of power - it's unlikely, for example, that any relationship between a father and his daughter is going to be between equals. But the incestuousness of itself, regardless of my own personal reactions, should not be punishable. That's between them and God.

Q said...

I suspect the reason that most polygamous marriages are one many to many women is more of a biological imperative/instinct than a sexism or political one.

It's easy for one man to impregnate three women and generate many offspring, it's quite a bit more difficult for one woman to generate offspring for three men, much less guarantee that each of the three has the opportunity to be a father (without modern science, since I'm considering the evolution of the principle).

That being said, I have no objection to either scenario, just suspicions as to how they developed.

The interesting thing about incest, is that the justification for it being illegal is to avoid birth defects, but we don't prevent people with mental retardation from breeding, or hemophilia, etc. Thusly, I would submit, that it is simply our puritanism and 'yuck' factor standing in the way of incest rather than any eugenicism plans.