Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Egocentrism of Anti-Autonomy

BrianWS's post at Shakesville, regarding his experiences as a gay pro-choice advocate, inspired today's post. In it, he talks about having briefly dated a man whose anti-choice ideology was only one facet of his basic lack of respect for individual autonomy.

In short, and especially for men who might not think abortion rights are all that relevant to them or their lives, if a person supports using the state to force a person into gestating and giving birth, what other interventions into personal bodily autonomy are they not willing to support?

Let me relay a story of my own.

In conversation with an opponent of same-sex marriage, let's call him Protagonist, he relayed that he personally is not entirely okay with "sodomy" being legal because he has had two friends die of AIDS. Protagonist, by the way, is a heterosexual married man who also opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

From his anecdote, I was to therefore believe that this man wasn't a bigot or anything, it's just that he Knows What's Best for gay people ("gay people," of course, to this guy seems to mean only men who have sex with men), and thus the liberties of "gay people" should be restricted.

Now, I'm not going to question this Protagonist's sincerity in being sad about his friends.

Indeed, I do think that just as he is sad about people engaging in "sodomy" and contracting HIV, many people who oppose other people's abortions might also feel sad and angry about the fact that some people get abortions.

But, I think what's important to point out (and what feels kind of.... odd to have to point out) is that the heterosexual man who opposes "homosexual sodomy" because it makes him sad when people die of AIDS doesn't, of course, have to actually live his life as a "gay person" who is celibate, or as a person living with HIV.

Kind of like the how the person who opposes other people's abortions is not, of course, the person who has to actually live with the pregnancy, the resulting child, or the guilt (or sadness or fear or resentment anger or [insert other emotion]) of actually having had an abortion.

What the person who opposes abortion or "sodomy" for other people feels is, instead, sadness or anger or discomfort about that other person's exercise of autonomy.

Indeed, the straight man who opposes legal sodomy, in this case, goes home to his lawfully-wedded wife, presumably has sex with her, hangs out with his celibate gay BFFs sometimes, and gets to feel smug, self-righteous, Not At All Bigoted, and totally moral about life.

What I question about this reason for denying other people's personal autonomy is the premise that I, or anyone else, am a supporting cast member whose freedom hinges on engaging or not engaging in activities that make Protagonists with no skin in the game sad, angry, or uncomfortable.

When we understand that this profoundly self-centered worldview is the basis for some people's opposition to other people's exercise of autonomy, we better understand why their entitlement to restrict other people's autonomy seemingly knows no bounds.

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