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November 26, 2003

Fun with the GMH

One of the things that really chaps my ass about the people who oppose gay marriage is that so many of them seem to believe that allowing guys to marry guys or gals to marry gals will tumble the entire nation into a festering cesspool of carnal inequity, in which everyone suddenly turns into lustful raveners who engage in group marriages with dogs and close relatives, like recursively genetic unfortunates or characters from a late-era Robert Heinlein novel. Aside from being patently irrational, it also points to a certain worldview that is simultaneously fearful, smug and insulting:

1. It suggests that the gay marriage-haters (henceforth referred to as "GMH") believe that the vast majority of people in the country are sexual degenerates who can only be kept from pets and the consanguineous purely by hard rule of law.

2. Or, should we wish to be charitable, it suggests that the GMH seriously believe that the rest of us cannot see or reasonably formulate a moral or legal difference between allowing a man to marry another man, and allowing a man to marry a bichon frise. This suggests the GMH think we're all stupid and unreasoning and therefore need to be guided by our intellectual and moral superiors, i.e., them.

3. It clearly suggests that the GMH believe that gay men and women are morally and legally equivalent to dogporkers and uncleboinkers, despite so many of the GMH who suggest they're perfectly fine with gay people, it's just those dirty nasty unfathomably evil gay acts they do that are so darn bad. Actually, they do hate and/or fear and/or feel disgust over gay people specifically, it's just that with the exception of Fred Phelps and a few drunken frat boys cruising the streets outside gay bars with pickups and bats, they realize that announcing that fact to the rest of us marks them as unsavory and intolerant, which should be a hint but is not.

4. It likewise clearly suggests that the GMH live in constant and overweening fear for their own personal morality in the face of differences in others; i.e., that should they encounter a legally married gay couple, their personal moral compass might swing so wildly askew that the next thing they know it's 3am and they're being bent over an interstate rest stop picnic table by a leather bear named Chuck while a fetching chocolate lab is licking their heroin-dusted nipples. They didn't want it to happen. But they just couldn't help it.

Now, naturally, I entirely expect the GMH to violently object to this, and maintain that they don't think the rest of us are brain-damaged perverts or that they're morally weak fag haters. But if you don't and if you aren't, well, then, what is the problem? Really. What is the big deal, here? If we're not all glory-hole-seeking morons, how will the prospect of happily-married gay people change us? And if you're not all prejudiced and on the verge of a lapse of sexual ethics, how does possibly getting an invitation to the marriage of Sue and Jill threaten you?

(Please don't come at me with the arguments that marriage is about the possibility of procreation or that God says it's between men and women. There are a number of religious denominations, Christian and otherwise, which offer religious blessing on same-sex unions, and unless you're willing to ban the infertile from marriage, the second goes out the window as well.)

Allow me to make a radical suggestion here, which quite obviously I don't think is radical at all. I submit that I believe that gay marriages, on average, are likely to be more stable and happy than straight marriages -- that is to say, more likely to be "model" marriages in which the two partners are committed to each other in a loving fashion. And the reason for this, naturally enough, comes down to sex, as in, sex is not why gays and lesbians will get hitched.

Come on, you abstinence types. You know sex plays a significant role in marriage among the conservatively religious, who trend toward marrying younger than other groups. Indeed, it's one of the selling points: You can have all the sex you want! And God approves! But I submit that someone who marries for access to sex -- or has it in his or her unspoken top three reasons, as I strongly suspect any heterosexual human who reaches his or her early 20s as a virgin might -- will find he or she has a weak pillar in the marriage after the first bloom of sexual activity wears off. And you know how humans are when it comes to sex. They're all screwy for it. It makes them do things like have affairs and try to serve divorce papers on their wives in hospital recovery rooms and whatnot.

Now, take your gay couple. He and he (or she and she) don't have the same hangups about sex and marriage, for the simple reason that gay people have never had the need or expectations regarding marriage and access to sex. They have ever had their sex independent of the marriage institution. So it would seem reasonable to suggest that if a gay couple decided to marry, the fevered idea of finally getting to have sex (and the irrationality such a desire can bring) would not be one of the major motivating factors. Instead the decision would be based on other more, shall we say, considered factors, like basic compatibility, shared life goals and expectations, and a genuine and well-regarded appreciation for the other, in the relationship and out of it.

Let's be clear that I am not suggesting marriages between the religiously conservative are doomed once the rush of newlywed sex wears off (they're not) or that every gay person who marries will do so in a sober, well-considered manner (they won't). But I am suggesting that those gays who do decide to marry have one less distorting pressure on the marriage vow than many straights do.

For now, at least. Because here's the really interesting blind spot the GMH have on the matter of gay marriages -- they have the potential to make people rather more "moral" than less. After all, if gays and lesbians have the right to marry, the GMH, who we may reasonably assume have a large overlap with the religiously conservative and those who wish to promote abstinence before marriage, may then do just that -- promote sexual abstinence to gays and lesbians in a reasonable manner.

Let's grant that in their heart of hearts, most GMH wish gays and lesbians didn't have sex at all, and would go through their entire lives miserable and sexually thwarted (see point number three above). But realistically, that's just not gonna happen. So allowing gays and lesbians to marry is the next best thing, since it creates a structure that allows the abstinence-loving not only to limit gay and lesbian sexual activity on an individual basis but also on a larger scale. After all, the gay teenager who commits to abstinence before marriage is one less gay teenager having sex with other gay teenagers, and wallowing in the ancillary gay culture. It also quickly and efficiently stuffs the gay person into a monogamous relationship, thereby trimming away the promiscuity that (to the religiously conservative) defines the whole "gay lifestyle."

True, these people are still gay. But at least they'd be gay like the rest of the religiously conservative is straight. Honestly, for a religious conservative, that's as good as it's ever going to get.

But of course, I don't expect the GMH to see it that way (I also don't imagine gay men and women will go for the abstinence thing in any higher numbers than straight men or women, but that's another matter entirely). What I expect is for the GMH to continue to declaim that gay marriages will bring on zoophilia, incest and polygamy (or polyandry -- I mean, why not?), and to continue to hate and fear and hate and fear and hate and fear some more long after the rest of us have welcomed the new gay married couple down the block to the next neighborhood cookout and traded wedding and proposal stories and have then gone on to other reassuringly mundane topics of conversation.

And to the GMH I say: Knock yourself out, kids. Just don't do it near me. Also, when your moral compass gets whacked off course because you just couldn't fight off the decadence, stay away from my dog.

Posted by john at November 26, 2003 10:31 AM

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