Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Anti-Equality Blogger: Trendy Gay Non-Monogamy Will Spread To Straights

Anti-equality blogger Playful Walrus has been doing a little reading about sexual practices among gay men and lesbians that has led him to opine on yet another way the gays will destroy marriage. In an article exploring non-monogamy among same-sex couples, Walrus argues that the push for marriage equality is part of a "concerted, misleading public relations campaign" to "change the sociology of marriage" by removing the expectation of monogamy from marriage.

He doesn't tell us who, exactly, is leading this hoodwinky PR campaign, he only tells us that it's out "there." Somewhere. Beneath the pale moonlight. Perhaps in a miniature Leonardo da Vinci print that is, like a set of Russian babushka dolls, nested within a codex that is nested within a softball bat that is nested within one of those phallic pylon-thingies in Chicago's Boystown gayborhood.

Anyway, conspiracy theories aside, his substantive argument is not a new one. It has been made many times before by "marriage defenders" and it goes something along the lines of:

a) Statistics show that same-sex couples (and by "same-sex couples" they mean gay male couples) have higher rates of non-monogamy than do heterosexual married couples.

b) If same-sex couples are allowed to marry, the idea that marriage can be non-monogamous will infect heterosexual married folks.

c) Therefore, same-sex marriage will lead to increased rates of heterosexual non-monogamy in marriage.

Indeed, this is the argumentative path that Walrus takes, albeit in a somewhat roundabout manner. First, he states his conclusion: "[Same-sex] marriage will reduce the expectation that marriage means monogamy." To support this conclusion, he first cites statistics on heterosexual marital infidelity and then cites a New York Times article that discusses a whopping two lesbian non-monogamous couples and a study about gay male relationships in the Bay Area:

"New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians [sic] in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners." (emphasis added)

While these statistics show higher rates of non-monogamy among male same-sex relationships, and that will be addressed in a moment, let's first note how both Walrus and The New York Times generalize the results of the study to female same-sex relationships even though this particular study involved only male couples. Not surprisingly, Walrus, busy mansplaining the gay and lesbian sexual experience, failed to pick up on this nuance in his blog post.

This nuance, however, is certainly relevant. For, this argument has been made and rebutted before, by law professors Amy Wax and Dale Carpenter, respectively. Professor Wax argued that same-sex marriage will lead to hetero non-monogamy, to which Carpenter responded:

"Professor Wax’s first concern is that gay couples resist sexual monogamy and that allowing them to marry might entice heterosexuals to follow their libertine ways. The force of this concern is blunted at the outset by the fact that two-thirds of legally recognized same-sex couples are lesbians, who are famously monogamous. The contagious-promiscuity argument is really about *guy* marriage, not gay marriage....

More importantly, there’s no reason to believe that heterosexual couples model their sexual lives on gay men....Consider the numerical obstacle to such influence. Male couples will be about 1% of all marriages. Some will commit to monogamy; others will be discreet about their non-monogamy. So we’re really talking about much less than 1% of marriages. That paltry number will undermine heterosexual morals? Undermine them more than our super-monogamous lesbian role models will reinforce them?"

In light of Professor Carpenter's statements, let's continue reading one of the very articles that Walrus cited to support his conclusion that same-sex marriage will cause non-monogamy. For, it explicitly counters his conclusion and supports Carpenter's argument.

First, the article notes that statistics regarding nonmonogaomy are "fuzzy" because people don't tend to be honest about cheating on spouses:

"...[E]ven the clinical research is fuzzy. A follow-up to the Chicago study showed that people interviewed without family members around had higher rates of infidelity. It stood to reason that many people simply weren't honest when there was a chance a loved one could overhear. Meanwhile, a growing number of swinger societies, Internet liaisons, and prostitution rings of the sort that snared Spitzer seem to provide anecdotal evidence that cheating is on the rise."

Say, I wonder, could it be possible that these hetero swinger societies outnumber the numbers of non-monogamous gay male relationships? Given that heterosexuals vastly outnumber gay relationships, it would be reasonable to conclude yes. Anyone else wonder why Walrus and co. aren't seeking to prohibit non-monogamous heteros from marriage? Why does he remain fixated on same-sex relationships and the idea that it will be gay non-monogamy that destroys marriage rather than the more frequent phenomenon of hetero non-monogamy?

And two, from the article, compared to 40 years ago, more Americans now believe that infidelity is immoral and the vast majority enter marriage with the expectation of their spouse remaining faithful.

"What is known: More Americans today (80 percent) say infidelity is 'always wrong' than in 1970 (70 percent). And a full 99 percent of Americans say they expect their spouse to be faithful."

It isn't clear whether the definition of "faithful" includes those who have their spouse's consent to have sex with another person. However, let's repeat this. Even though same-sex marriage is legal in 5 states, "if the statistics are to be believed," more Americans now value fidelity in marriage than they did 40 years ago, when same-sex marriage was not legal in any state.

Now, I know that gay men tend to be trendy and all, but let's break this down. One of the arguments against same-sex marriage is that it will de-link procreation from marriage and that is bad because men, who are naturally promiscuous, will father a bunch of kids out of wedlock.

So, on the one hand, "marriage defenders" imbue the institution of marriage with the incredible power to tame heterosexual men into being monogamous. Indeed they claim that is one of its important purposes- to make sure fathers stick around to help raise their biological chidren. But on the other hand, "marriage defenders" insist that marriage is a wimpy, fragile thing. So wimpy and fragile, in fact, that it does not have the power to be a monogamous influence on the 1% or so of the marriages that would be gay male. Instead, we are told, the sexual practices of this statistically tiny population would influence Everyone Else into being non-monogamous.



He believes that is something gay (and lesbian?) relationships are capable of and that that is our Top Secret Master Plan?

Gee-whiz, Walrus, if you could take your Oppose Everything Gay Goggles off for a moment, I'd like you to introduce you to Occam's Razor. It's a nice tool that serves as a reminder to be open to the idea that no matter how much one opposes a certain issue, it probably isn't the case that the most convoluted, illogical, and internally inconsistent conspiracy theory will turn out to be correct.

To end here, speaking of lady same-sex relationships, Playful Walrus has this to mansplain:

"I'm sure there are truly monogamous same-sex couples out there (some lesbian couples report the sex going away completely, which I don't consider monogamy, but rathjer [sic] 'non-ogamy')."

What his point here is, is difficult to say. It's not exactly a Startling Revelation that monogamous same-sex couples exist, just as "I'm sure" monogamous hetero couples exist. That they exist is just a statement of fact that does not hinder on Walrus' belief or non-belief about the matter. Uttered by someone who probably has little real-life interaction with same-sex couples which perhaps caused him to generalize a study of gay male non-monogamy onto all same-sex couples without him even realizing it, his statement of the obvious suggests that he holds a non-reality-based view in which monogamous same-sex couples are few and far between.

Yet, how much you wanna bet that he thinks he, rather than actual gay men and lesbians, has a better handle on the objective truth about gay and lesbian monogamy?

Nor is it a Startling Revelation that some lesbian couples stop having sex, just as there are some hetero and gay male couples that stop having sex. What is bizarre is that Walrus presents this parenthetical tidbit of info as though he's in-the-know about something he believes is unique only to lesbian relationships. He's also apparently thought about lesbian sex (or non-sex, as the case may be) enough to invent his own terminology for it.

Do you ever start wondering when, exactly, anti-gays have time to focus on, much less involve themselves in, their own families, relationships, and sex lives?

Yeah. Me too.

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