Ignorance Be Not Proud – All Things Are In Sex Edition

The Iraq/Syria discussion or near-non-discussion reminds me of recent arguments on same sex marriage, in which, as we have discussed before, any suggestion of a reasonable concern, or the suggestion of the possibility of a reasonable concern on the part of same sex marriage opponents, is taken as “bigotry.” On Twitter last night, a strong supporter of SSM began to acknowledge that his political adversaries or those they represent might indeed have reason to be “upset” by the demotion of their ideals in the law and society, but we still ended up here:

@ Sincere question: Is there a problem with a unique place for and encouragement of the “biologically procreative family”?


CK MacLeod
@ Is there a problem with a special place for the racially pure family?


Jason Kuznicki

When I pointed out that race and therefore racial purity are, , unlike biological reproduction, dispensable and noxious fictions, Mr. Kuznicki turned to a claim that SSM opponents must believe that “straight people” require “approval” in order to go on about their procreative business.

We can turn to The Drones, or Torture, or for that matter to budget deficits, financialization of the U.S. and global economy, gun violence, or earnestly dismissive critiques of Zero Dark Thirty or bloody morning after reviews of The Walking Dead Season 3 finale: Politics as the ambulatory death of thought, often including the thoughts with which one might otherwise be inclined to agree.

17 comments on “Ignorance Be Not Proud – All Things Are In Sex Edition

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  1. no problem with people having a special place in their hearts and minds for it, Jason.

    but their sorta is a problem when the government uses the law to forbid other types of families from having the equal protection of the law …without being able to demonstrate a legitimate purpose for the ban.

    • Right, but we’re not arguing from the point of view of a “ban,” we’re arguing in relation to the diametrically opposite view of “complete” equality. The law and society remain unable to embrace complete equality, since it would require an end to all recognition of gender differences as well as of everything under the heading of blood relations. The sheer facts of life make total equality impossible. So what’s left is a home in the law for marriage, but an insistence on non-recognition of the “biological procreative family” as unique reference point. Whether or not you think that such an arrangement is practical and desirable, it should not require extraordinary intellectual or emotional capacities to understand that many could oppose it or the arguments offered in association with it without any ill will or “bigoted” motivation. Why shouldn’t they find it objectionable and offensive when someone like Kuznicki associates their consciousness of the biological bond with racism?

      • While I reject the base premise of opposition — that there is a societal reason for force to override the will of consenting individuals — there are levels between support and bigotry*. What I’d call bigotry is the reflexive “eww, gays!/GOD CALLS IT ABOMINATION!!” view. It can be seen that there are questions of it other than that, though I’d say they generally come from the original sin (wink) of merging the government treatment of relationships in the sense of license with that of the purely personal/spiritual (if they’re into that) sense.

        There’s a reason why some who oppose same sex marriage see it as co-signing and endorsing gay relationships, and I can understand. The conflict is in arguing that some relationships between willing adults should be endorsed and others not.

        (* – by any chance are you familiar with Justin Raimondo? He also opposes same sex marriage, though for a reason I find amusing: he himself is gay, and he views marriage as corrupting of homosexuality rather than vice versa)

        • Woah there – I never said I “oppose same sex marriage.” What I said is that I acknowledge an authentic interest on the side of those who do oppose SSM that does not reduce to “bigotry,” and that I find some typical pro-SSM rhetoric and thinking unsupportable. My basic belief is that the institution of marriage in the civil law ought to be able to admit gay couples just as it is able to admit childless couples, senior couples, serial-divorcing couples, and so on. I can understand why people want to say and believe that SSM is “the same” as OSM. I just don’t think it will ever be wholly true, even if in real life and the most important ways for real individuals, its element of truth may overwhelm its elements of falsehood, just as a given marriage between two homosexuals may be in some sense a far better marriage and make for a far better home than a given marriage between two heavily procreatin breeders, or for that matter what used to be more widely acknowledged as “common law” marriage might be better than a civilly certified marriage.

          As for the Raimondo position: There have been many self-styled radicals and other outsiders uninterested in SSM on its own terms, though more often from a critique of marriage and the state, than out of an idealization of homosexuality in particular. A milder version of that position, or at least of the position as you present it, seemed more common or at least acceptable among my gay friends before SSM was put at the top of the agenda, but it was in a context (I was younger then!) where the straights I knew, including myself, were also commonly “living together in committed relationships” rather than getting married.

  2. The question becomes whether we see encouragement as necessarily linked with discouragement. Personally, I do. Just as privilege is linked with oppression… and vice versa.

    If we encourage the biologically reproductive family, than we by definition discourage the biologically non-reproductive family. Given that my hunch is that sterile heterosexuals would benefit from the encouragement despite them technically being one of the latter families, it makes me weary that we are back to focusing on sexual orientation rather than family creation and growth. Which does not necessarily require bigotry. However, even if we truly offer the encouragement only to biologically reproductive families, two problems still remain: the aforementioned discouragement/oppression of biologically non-reproductive families -and- the need to demonstrate why we ought to encourage one over the other. What benefit to society does a reproductive couple offer that a non-reproductive couple does not?

    • The first benefit to society that reproductive couples offer is society itself, unless you think that the point of a society ought to be its own gradual dissolution, as some few may believe – including a few radical Christian sects or cults, and certain types of extreme deep-ecological anti-humanist and other ideological misanthropes.

      As for the rest of us, there’s a division on the pro-SSM side between those, like Andrew Sullivan, who frequently have argued that SSM would strengthen Opposite Sex Marriage or marriage generally as an institution, and those who largely in reaction to “procreationists” have perhaps unintentionally narrowed and de-valued the concept, almost as though marriage has “nothing” to do with families, babies are delivered by stork or conveyor belt, and close genetic or blood bonds are meaningless or approaching that state.

      If OSM has been eroding as an institution, the fact that there are people around who value M itself enough to fight for the privilege of joining in on the festivities may qualify as an unexpected endorsement. It could really be that SSM activists have made more than a few Breeders value their own boring useless stupid marriages than they did the day before, or made sexually depraved young people (i.e., most young people, including me when I was young, though not as much as I would have liked) more interested in the whole idea. Maybe marriage is suddenly cool again. I wouldn’t know. Put more philosophically, maybe the SSM push has reinforced an appreciation for the Platonic conception or higher erotic ideal of complementary souls. On the other side, The “magic” of marriage that SSMers want is partly an inheritance of something built up by the traditions that some, but not all, SSM activists seem to denigrate in their political speech, devaluing the institution they want to be a part of.

      In other words, I don’t think we have to view the matters as zero sum at all. I think we can think ourselves to acceptance of SSM as matter of law and policy without denigrating OSM, or forgetting that civil marriage is also an institution for the general regulation and administration of kinship relations in the law.

    • Kazzy: If we encourage the biologically reproductive family, than we by definition discourage the biologically non-reproductive family.

      sure, just as if we encourage we encourage our children to strive for excellence we’re discouraging them from trying to be very good.

  3. There is no such thing as OSM, there is only marriage, and it only happens between a man and a woman,
    it is the corner stone of this society, and the erosion in same, explains why the society is falling apart

    • Who made you Don of Definitions, Miguel? The word “marriage” did not exist until the 14th Century or so, when it took on the meaning of matrimonial union. Unions between “a man and a woman” existed before then. By law and convention the word got attached to the fact. The question is whether the particular state or condition about which Jesus Christ spoke during conversation with the Pharisees ought to be strictly evoked by the civil institution. If we apply the Biblical or other strict definitions literally, then divorce would be outlawed. It is therefore not clear at all that that kind of marriage is considered a cornerstone of society by this society, or, alternatively, that if so-called traditional marriage, or traditionally conceived marriage, actually remains the cornerstone of this or any society in some deeper sense, that it does so via the civil institution.

      In a pluralistic liberal democratic society, the civil-legal forms of such institutions will never conform perfectly to the strict ideal, just as they had not prior to the recent move to acceptance of same sex couples, which follows many other acts of inclusion of different types, as well as acts of exclusion.

  4. SONNET 116
    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove:
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved


    I can still see Prof Whittier strutting about the lecture hall pit, hands waving, slightly off balance in her high heels, taking apart a literal reading of this sonnet as self evidently simpleminded. If I may paraphrase: “Ths poem is about bodies children, not minds. Who gets married to unite their minds? The “O no!” is sarcastic “give me a break” spoken by a wronged partner to the rationalizing cheater.”

    Seems relevant somehow, or at least in the bounds of normal wandering far afield here abouts.

    • BTW, while we’re viewing the matter poetically, in case it wasn’t clear “all things are in sex” is/was my personally traditional re-write/memory-corrupted interpretive allusion to “Sex contains all” from “A Woman Waits for Me.” I’m agonna change the post title cuz I can.

      I often think of “marriage of true minds” in this context, too. One of my first “free associations” with the word. Have I already alluded to it somewhere recently? I know I have in unpublished drafts.

      While researching that question, I also just noted my prior attempt at a philosophical definition of marriage in an un-commented post, part 2 of my Marriage opus from May of last year. Not sure I have very much to add, although more recent reading in Aristotle, Hume, and scripture might have helped in evidencing certain “old” ideas about the institution and the absolute and concrete facts of life that underlie it, or that have very long been assumed without fear of contradiction to underlie it, and that I suspect have a very good chance of returning to default status once our current public-political discussion has run its course, and its framework has been discovered to be utterly unsatisfactory.

      • I guess I’m more with Whitman, sex is the container of all rather than marrige which in a sloppy bit of unresearched guesswork I’m gonna say dates from the invention of agriculture and the perceived need for men to control all fertility. Maybe then Marriage Equlity becomes a sign of the end of agrarian values organizing society.

        • I don’t think that that sloppy bit of unresearched guesswork will do. For instance, in nomadic and hunter-gatherer formations, there is typically very elaborate and strict, socioeconomically primary administration of “marriage” law – uses, purposes, expectations relating to sexuality. In some depictions “family law” is the law, the whole purpose of the tribe, as it remains the basis even of the modern nation-state. And it aint just so for human beings, of course, just more complicated. With or without “marriage equality,” all that everything in sex will continue to organize law, society, identity, and a lot else.

          • I’m uessin you’ve done way more reading on this than I. But to one point, (in a paper that supports your general conclusions) this:

            Modern hunter-gatherers are not Pleistocene relics and may not be direct, unbroken descendants of ancestral hunter-gatherers. Marginal habitats, pressure from agricultural neighbors, and assimilation and acculturation into state-level societies have all significantly affected hunter-gatherer lifeways

            A response to that paper contains a sentence that at least echoes my guess:

            I think that sort of mobilization of collective power to control other humans and bind social institutions with marriage ties is a feature of mass society and agricultural civilization.

            Further unsubstantiated guessing is that what one means by “marriage” needs definition. “Pair bonding recognized by other humans” covers a lot of territory. The Right’s current working definition, less so.

            • I wouldn’t limit “marriage” to pair bonding, since that seems to leave out polygamy and other less historically common forms of “social binding.” I do agree that we need better definitions, since even the notion that the second author supports, that what he and the author he references call individual free choice drives (or drove) evolution doesn’t tell us what that “free” choice amounted to in the real lives of pre-agrarian human beings. For all we know they “freely” chose monogamy, or serial monogamy, or polygamy. It also doesn’t tell us why we should want to emulate it, whatever it was, or even that we can under current conditions. Likewise, there are a range of patterns observed among higher primates and other mammals that might be deemed “natural,” but that doesn’t necessarily make them more desirable for us or even adaptive to human civilization.

              The main factors affecting our society’s marriage customs and eventually our laws are well-known, or should be, yet somehow exist only in the margins of a political discussion that mostly revolves around arbitrary moral-ideological assertions, like most political discussion. We’ve discussed those factors before: longer life spans, smaller families, reduced sexual division of labor, greatly reduced mortality in childbearing among both infants and mothers. One factor that does get discussed is the lesser ability of the mass of middle and lower income men, like me for instance, to support anything like a traditional family.

              On a civilizational level, the incentives have also greatly changed: Since the approximate time that human beings wrote down the instruction to “go forth and multiply” the total human population of the planet has increased an estimated 7000%. The increase was “only” 1500% 70 years ago. So I think we’ve done our multiplication homework pretty well. Even setting aside the fear that we may have overdone it and have a cataclysmic downward re-adjustment sometime ahead, birth rates are rapidly declining in many places, suggesting that we may taper off if we don’t go over the cliff first. That doesn’t mean that biological re-production is over for us, obviously. It must remain the fundamental determinative and organizing concern of human society like any “animal society.” In a beehive reproduction remains the central “concern” of the bees. It’s just not something that most bees participate in directly.

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