Saturday, March 1, 2014

John Corvino, What's Wrong with Homosexuality?: "Man on Man, Man on Dog, or Whatever the Case May Be" (2)

In the midst of my continued nursing duties (and with warm gratitude to the many of you who left expressions of concern after I posted about Steve's illness yesterday): here's one final excerpt from John Corvino's book What's Wrong with Homosexuality? (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013). As with my last posting from the book, this is from the chapter entitled "Man on Man, Man on Dog, or Whatever the Case May Be":

Then there’s the fairness issue: The question of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry should no more hinge on the behavior of a subset of gay men than the question of whether Hollywood actors should be allowed to marry should hinge on the behavior of a subset of Hollywood actors. In terms of raw numbers, there are probably many more heterosexual "swingers" than there are gay men in open relationships, yet we still allow heterosexual couples (including swingers!) to marry (135).

As Corvino suggests, many of those on the religious and political right who oppose same-sex marriage argue that their opposition is morally grounded because gay men--have you noticed that the argument always ignores gay women?--are promiscuous, incapable of monogamous commitment, and oh, by the way, they also engage in unimaginably dirty sexual practices including anal sex. 

All of them do so. All gay men fit these stereotypes.

(But never mind the lesbians. These arguments don't address them or their "lifestyles.")

As Corvino points out, these arguments are prima facie eminently unfair, because 1) not all gay men fit the stereotype pushed by the religious and political right, and 2) none of those arguing for the exclusion of gay men from the right of civil marriage on these grounds ever advance the same arguments about heterosexuals--when, as Corvino rightly notes, the same non-monogamous sexual behavior occurs among heterosexuals (as does the same kind of "filthy" sexual behavior on which anti-gay religious moralists want to zero in as they stimgatize gay men). 

And since heterosexuals vastly outnumber homosexuals in the population as a whole, non-monogamous sexual activity on the part of heterosexuals is clearly much more prevalent, in terms of sheer numbers, than is non-monogamous sexual activity by homosexuals . . . .

As I said when I posted my preceding excerpt from this chapter citing Rick Santorum's infamous quote about how tolerance of man-on-man sex will inevitably lead to tolerance of man-on-dog sex or "whatever the case may be," the fixation of straight men opposed to tolerance for and inclusion of those who are gay on anal sex is curious. There is no recognition that not all gay men (at the risk of TMI, I'll tell you that I'm one of the "not all") have even engaged in anal sex--a point Stephen Fry made recently in his BBC series "Out There," when he noted that he himself hasn't had anal sex and is not inclined to do so.

It's pretty clear why those intent on stigmatizing homosexuality keep zeroing in on the claim that gay men are incapable of monogamy, and, oh, by the way, they all engage in filthy sexual practices like anal sex--when this argument 1) ignores gay women, 2) ignores the fact that many heterosexuals also fit the stereotype of gay men being offered here, 3) and ignores the fact that not all gay men fit this stereotype. It's pretty clear that the name of this game is stigmatization pure and simple.

It's all about eliciting what's often called the "ick factor" as people consider the issue of homosexuality and tolerance for and inclusion of gays. Again and again, religious right crusaders against tolerance and inclusion give this game away, as when Rick Scarborough recently expressed outrage that people didn't want him coming to churches to talk about gay men and anal sex. Or when David Barton recently praised Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" for his "graphic" remarks about anal sex and gay men, which make homosexuality "repugnant," as it should be, Barton noted . . . . 

Again and again in the past several days, as the right-wing outrage machine has exploded in fury that Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay bill presented to her by the Republican legislature of Arizona, one commentator after another has made crystal clear that the real goal of the bogus "religious liberty" crusade re: gay folks has never been about protecting religious liberty. It has been about asserting a right, in the name of religion, to discriminate.

As Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson tweeted after Brewer vetoed the bill, discriminating against gay folks is different from discriminating against people of color because "racism is wrong." Racism is wrong, but discrimination premised on sexual orientation is something entirely different, a case apart: it's defensible. Even though, as we all know, religious warrants were used just as freely to defend slavery and segregation and resistance to the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century as they're now being used to defend homophobia . . . .

And in the case of discrimination premised on pigmentation, we've all decided, as Ryan Anderson admits, that we were wrong. Dead wrong.

But homosexuality is something new. It's a case apart. Because marriage, for God's sake. Because religion. Because religious liberty! Because I am not a bigot and how dare you imply that I am.

As Rob Tisani points out (see the preceding link), Anderson's blunt statement indicating that discrimination against gay folks should be defensible--because religion--while discrimination against black folks is indefensible makes plain that the real concern of the "religious liberty" contingent hasn't been in the least with defending religion or religious values or religious liberty. It has been with demanding the right to discriminate against those who are gay. Because.

Because, as Mollie Hemingway insists as she laments the demise of the Arizona anti-gay bill, it's all about penis + vagina, and why can't you dunderheads get that obvious point that "all religions and lands until 15 minutes ago" have always gotten? (Hemingway appears not to know that for many polygamous cultures over the course of history, it has been about penis + vagina + vagina + vagina, etc.) Why, she rants on, do you insist on putting the phrase "religious liberty" into quotation marks when we are using it to talk about what would be so obvious: penis + vagina and the right to discriminate against those who see/do things differently becauseitwillallfallapartotherwise!

Shouldn't saying the magic phrase "religious liberty" end this discussion? Shouldn't it have convinced you dunderheads what's at stake here? Shouldn't we who claim that we unilaterally and univocally represent "the" values of religious groups be able to end all discussion of these issues by waving about our magic flag called "religious liberty"? Because it's us and we represent religion, after all.

Not you. Not you religious liberals: you don't represent religion. Not the majority of U.S. Catholics who--as Catholics and because of their Catholic values--reject anti-gay discrimination and move in a direction totally opposite to the tack Hemingway takes . . . . Not the ELCA church, which moves in a specifically Lutheran direction about these matters completely opposite to Ziegler's own particular Lutheran theology . . . .

And certainly not gays, who serve the convenient purpose, in these discussions, of being a convenient cipher for what is clearly the opposite of religion and religious values . . . . And so that's why we're having these discussions in the first place, because the religious right chose, several decades ago, to make that equation of "the gays" with "opposite of religion," and has found the equation so politically useful for a long time now, that the right just doesn't know how to quit its long, torrid love affair with gay-bashing now that the affair no longer pays the same political returns it used to pay . . . .

As Sarah Posner points out in response to Hemingway, it's hard to imagine a more clear-cut case of legislation that is blatantly pro-discrimination and anti-gay than the legislation that Jan Brewer just vetoed, when 1) Arizona already has on its books a law defending religious freedom, 2) Arizona already offers gay citizens no protection against discrimination, and 3) as Brewer herself noted in vetoing the bill, no one has been able to point to a single case in which anyone in Arizona is threatening the religious freedom of anyone else. And so the only possible conclusion to draw about the phony "religious liberty" bill Hemingway and other right-wing commentators are defending is it was all about discrimination.

As John Corvino says, "Then there's the fairness issue." It's everywhere in this social debate, and has been everywhere from the start, since what's framed as a debate about conflicting views regarding where to fit gay people into the structure of things is and hasn't ever been a debate at all. It's about the assertion of a bogus right on the part of people of faith determined not to debate, who ignore the building consensus in many of their own communities of faith against their views--it's about the assertion of a bogus right to discriminate against those who are gay. Simply because they assert this right. And wave the flag of religion about to justify the assertion.

What the religious and political right seem to be miscalculating very wildly at present is that there has been a fundamental shift in the thinking of many American citizens about these issues--and, in particular, about the fairness aspect of these issues. The recent PRRI poll to which I pointed earlier in the week demonstrates just how strongly the shift has become in the direction of fairness for gay citizens.

So that, increasingly, people are going to scoff heartily (and they should do so, shouldn't they?) at the claim of people like Rick Scarborough that he should enjoy the right--because religious liberty--to go into churches and preach about anal sex. About gay anal sex, since presumably no heterosexual church members hearing such preaching have ever entertained the notion that anal sex is a possibility for heterosexual couples . . . .

And people are increasingly going to laugh when folks like Mollie Hemingway argue that they have the right to discriminate against those who are gay, because religious liberty + penis + vagina. People will increasingly guffaw at such arguments as a basis for discrimination against those who are gay in a culture in which it's more and more a matter of public knowledge that, well, not every sexual act that takes place in the privacy of the bedroom of a heterosexual couple involves the ejaculation of a penis in a vagina.

And people are going increasingly to wonder why, when we rightly accord heterosexual couples the right to privacy as they go about the business of their bedrooms, folks claiming to represent religion for God's sake (!) want to yammer on about what they imagine is going on in the bedrooms of gay couples.

Just as people are going, more and more, to laugh uproariously at the Bill Donohues of the world, who have made a cottage industry out of gay-bashing, when they claim, as Dr. Donohue does in the clip at the head of this posting, that they've never, ever been about denying rights to gay people and have always defended gay rights, but are interested only in defending the rights of religious people when the gays trample on religion.

More and more, people are going to roll on the floor in hilarity at such claims, when the Bill Donohues of the nation have not said a single word--ever--about the significant percentage of U.S. states that afford no protection against discrimination to those who are gay. And when Bill Donohue himself has stood squarely on the side of the U.S. Catholic bishops as they oppose the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect gay citizens from discrimination . . . .

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