With the supreme court considering California’s proposition 8 regarding same-sex marriage*, my social media feeds are full of self righteous crusaders crusading for the cause. Leaving alone the legal considerations and even questions about the potential socio-moral fallout in denying people civil rights or alternatively in devaluing marriage, the supercilious sanctimony of so many of the morally superior proclaiming in favor presents an almost irresistible opportunity to play confounding contrarian, so–inspired by Jonathan Haidt–I’ve been posing the following questions as thought experiments:
Is having sex with your sister in the privacy of your own bedroom, with protection and the knowledge that neither of you have an STD, wrong?
Is eating your pet dog after it gets hit by a car wrong?
Is consenting to have parts of your body preserved after you die to be used as home decor for those interested in them wrong?
Is a cop who secretly gets off to infant pornography confiscated from a child sex offender before turning it in as evidence, but who would never buy the stuff or encourage its being created, wrong in so doing?
The crusader’s mental framework consists of an obvious moral good championed by ethical people being denied by homophobic bigots who nefariously want nothing more than to make gays miserable. But for many people–I’d guess most, actually–opposed to same-sex marriage, the opposition stems from a visceral reaction of disgust to gay sex, specifically gay male sex. That reaction is no more irrational or illogical than the negative reactions most people–supportive of same-sex marriage or not–have to the four hypothetical questions posed above. In fact, negative reaction to gay sex is, logically-speaking, more sensible than negative reactions to any of the four questions are because in those cases no one is harmed nor is the harm of others encouraged, while there are lots of negative real-world consequences of gay (male) sex, most notably AIDS. The rectal lining isn’t ‘designed’ to take the thrusting abuse of an erect penis like the vaginal lining is.
I took the moral foundations questionnaire and scored lowest on the purity/disgust dimension. Personally, it’s not difficult for me to find in favor of same-sex marriage and all four of the above, and am amenable to the argument that same-sex marriage should be permissible now since the majority of the country favors its becoming so, while the others should be publicly condemned at present in accordance to the predilections of the majority. But just like I’m worried that the society I live in is increasingly coming to share my sentiments when it comes to spirituality and religion, I’m similarly unsettled by the thought that the rhetorical devices employed above won’t be effective for much longer. Not much is sacred anymore (at least not in the liberalized West, anyway, but then again, the liberalized West is the past, Africa and Islam is the future).
* I prefer the phrase “same-sex marriage” over “gay marriage”, since it more accurately captures the essence of the issue in a strictly legal sense. There is no prohibition on gay people getting married–the question is whether or not a man may marry another man or a woman another woman, irrespective of their expressed sexual orientations. The Civil War vs The War Between the States vs The War of Northern Aggression, I suppose.