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[Dale Carpenter (guest-blogging), November 2, 2005 at 4:43pm] Trackbacks
The Traditionalist Case -- The Contagious-Promiscuity Argument:

An oft-heard argument against gay marriage is that it will hurt traditional marriages by loosening the ethic of monogamy among married heterosexual couples. The reasoning goes this way:

Premise (1): gay men are more promiscuous than either straight men, straight women, or lesbians;

Premise (2): married gay male couples will therefore be more promiscuous than straight couples or lesbian couples;

Premise (3): the non-monogamous behavior of gay male couples will, by their notorious example, weaken the monogamous commitment of married straight couples;

Conclusion (4): which will hurt and destabilize traditional marriages, with all manner of harmful consequences for children and for marriage as an institution.

Promiscuity and non-monogamy will have spread from married gay couples to married straight couples (and even married lesbian couples?) like a deadly, transmissible avian flu decimating whole families and moral codes that come into contact with it. (I'm only slightly exaggerating this argument for effect.) Let's call this the contagious-promiscuity argument.

Is there any reason to think it's plausible? Certainly if Premises 1-3 are correct, then Conclusion 4 is right. And if the conclusion is correct, gay marriage would indeed cause some harm. We should be very concerned if heterosexual marriages become more non-monogamous than they already are. It might cause so much harm, in fact, that it would more than offset the large individualistic and modest communitarian benefits that I argued for on Monday and Tuesday. If that's true, gay marriage should be rejected no matter how important it is to gay families. It would certainly not be a cause that any traditionalist should embrace.

But it's not plausible to believe that married gay male couples will spread non-monogamy to marriages between men and women. Here's why:

1. Problems with Premises 1 and 2

Premises 1 and 2 are at most half correct, and even the half that's correct is often wildly exaggerated. They're only half correct because they leave out married lesbian couples, who will probably be half of all gay marriages and may be even more monogamous than married straight couples. If it's fair to use the presumed non-monogamy of gay men in the argument as if it's some kind of contagion, it should also be fair to use the super-monogamy of lesbians as an inoculation against this presumed contagion. If gay men will set a bad example, lesbians will set a good example. Why are lesbians almost never discussed by opponents of gay marriage? Why do they not count?

Even as just a claim about gay men, Premises 1 and 2 are usually overstated. I have already argued, in my post on the magnitude of the benefit last night, that claims about hyper-promiscuity among gay men are empirically unsupported. They are based on untutored prejudgments about gay men, anecdotes, and junk science. There are differences but they are not large.

Further, as I also noted in last night's post, even to the extent that there are differences, those differences can be attributed somewhat to the fact gay men have been denied the social encouragement of monogamy through marriage. Marriage itself should help reduce any moderate differences that already exist, even in gay-male marriages where there is no woman to encourage it, weakening Premise 2. Also weakening Premise 2 is the fact that traditionally minded and monogamously committed gay male couples will be the ones most likely to marry, reducing the moderate differences between gay men and others at the outset.

2. Problems with Premise 3

We come to Premise 3 (gay male marriages will loosen the ethic of monogamy in heterosexual marriages), then, with an already weak set of predicates. For Premise 3 to be correct, straight married couples will have to overlook the example set by super-monogamous married lesbian couples in order to follow the moderately more -- and declining -- non-monogamous example of a few married gay male couples who might be openly non-monogamous. By itself, this makes Premise 3 very dubious.

But there are yet three more reasons to doubt Premise 3.

First, there is no reason to believe that heterosexuals look to homosexuals as role models for their own sexual behavior. Indeed, many heterosexuals seem to define their lives almost in opposition to what they see as the gay "lifestyle."

Second, women will always be present in straight marriages and women will for the most part continue to demand fidelity. Jill is not going to agree to let Jack live it up because she heard somewhere that Adam and Steve down the block are swinging from the chandeliers.

Third, as some commentators on this blog have repeatedly noted, we are talking about a very small group of people. (Gay marriage is very important to gay couples, but not terribly important to most others.) If married gay male couples were going to be, say, 50% of all marriages, we might expect their behavior to have some effect on the way the rest of married couples view the importance of monogamy in marriage. But that will certainly not be the case. It's not reasonable to think they will loosen the ethic of monogamy for everybody else, even assuming they are uncontrollably and openly promiscuous and that access to marriage will not change that.

To see why the truly troublesome gay male marriages will be such a small number, let's do some math.

As I noted on Monday, homosexuals are probably no more than 3% of the population. (Many conservative critics of gay equality argue that the number is even lower than that, perhaps 1%.) Gay couples will likely get married at a lower rate than the general population, at least at first, so gay married couples will likely represent less than 3% of all marriages. Male married couples will be even rarer at first. The experience of Vermont civil unions shows that twice as many lesbian couples as gay male couples get hitched. Half of gay marriages would be lesbian -- and they will be super-monogamous.

The potentially problematic gay couples -- the gay men -- will therefore represent perhaps 1.5% of all marriages (using assumptions most generous to the contagious-promiscuity argument). Some of them will manage to be faithful all or most of the time, so the truly troublesome unfaithful gay male couples will probably represent less than 1% of all marriages. Of these non-monogamous gay-male marriages, some portion of them will be very discreet about it, not wishing to incur the disapproval of their families and friends. Thus, the notoriously, openly, innoculation-resistant gay male couples setting a bad example for everybody else will likely represent somewhere around one-half of 1% of all marriages in the country. That's 0.5%. And I think that's probably high.

These paltry numbers will undermine the institution of marriage? Undermine it more than the large percentage of married people who already acknowledge in surveys that they have been unfaithful? Undermine it more than married straight couples who go to swingers' conventions and troll websites devoted to non-monogamous sexual liaisons among married people? Undermine it more than the super-monogamous married lesbians will help it?

Which is more likely: That the 0.5% of openly non-monogamous married gay male couples will exert an irresistible gravitational pull on the morals of the 99.5% of all the other married couples? Or that the 99.5% will exert tremendous social pressure on the recalcitrant 0.5% to change their ways?

I'll get to some better arguments against gay marriage soon. Next up, the polygamy slippery slope argument.

Joel (mail):
Dale needs to talk to Andrew Sullivan about this. Sully freely acknowledges that gay men are far more promiscuous than anyone else, and further acknowledges that a redefinition of marriage will be necessary in order to accomodate gay men's "need for extramarital outlets." He writes:

"There is something baleful about the attempt of some gay conservatives to educate homosexuals and lesbians into an uncritical acceptance of a stifling model of heterosexual normality. The truth is, homosexuals are not entirely normal; and to flatten their varied and complicated lives into a single, moralistic model is to miss what is essential and exhilarating about their otherness."

These quotes are from his book Virtually Normal: An Argument about Homosexuality, in which he rejects the idea that gay men, even if married, will ever be monogamous. A redefinition of marriage, to accomodate "extramarital outlets" will be necessary.
11.2.2005 5:55pm
Cornellian (mail):
Lesbians never get discussed by opponents of gay marriage because those opponents realize that gay men are perceived as far more threatening than lesbians. Hence gay men are a much better fund raiser than lesbians, hence SSM opponents make fund raising videos featuring semi-nude men in gay pride parades, not lesbians sitting in their living room watching television.

If it's fair to use the presumed non-monogamy of gay men in the argument as if it's some kind of contagion, it should also be fair to use the super-monogamy of lesbians as an inoculation against this presumed contagion. If gay men will set a bad example, lesbians will set a good example. Why are lesbians almost never discussed by opponents of gay marriage? Why do they not count?
11.2.2005 6:11pm
roy (mail) (www):
Perhaps critics don't mention lesbian marriage because they fear their wives will expect the same level of fidelity?
11.2.2005 6:19pm
Josh Jasper (mail):
Discriminated against minorites have almost always been called promiscuous. Jews, blacks, Mexicans, etc. It's a standard bigoted tactic.
11.2.2005 6:32pm
APL (mail):
I am an optimist and I choose to err on the side of hope, not fear, on the side of faith, not doubt. I believe that the powerful societal expectations of monogamy in marriage will hit same-sex couples with full effect when detractors are no longer able to proffer "of course, it's not a real marriage".

Of course, as I explained in an earlier post, it is my analysis, as it is Professor Carpenter's, that a large part of any differences in promiscuity are due to the fact that gay people have been denied the social encouragement of monogamy through marriage, and that such promiscuity is an understandible (if not desirable) result of self-acceptance after self-denial and self-loathing caused by societal approbation.
11.2.2005 6:35pm
anonymous coward:
"Certainly if Premises 1-3 are correct, then Conclusion 4 is right." I understand the utility of granting this point if attempting to argue to a conservative audience, but it is by no means obviously true.

Dan Savage had some interesting commentary touching on the subject of this post (warning: PDF).
11.2.2005 6:38pm
Joel (mail):
Josh Jasper, many gay leaders call themselves promiscuous.
11.2.2005 6:43pm
Former Student (www):
Joel,

How much of what Sullivan describes can , as Prof. Carpenter stated, "be attributed somewhat to the fact gay men have been denied the social encouragement of monogamy through marriage. Marriage itself should help reduce any moderate differences that already exist, even in gay-male marriages where there is no woman to encourage it"?

It is entirely plausible to me that the celebration of otherness that Sullivan refers to is simply turning societal disapprobation into a positve much, the same way that modern Hip Hop culture has appropriated the N-word to a degree. (Whether either are normatively positve developments is another question, BTW) If society becomes more accepting of homosexuality (such as by allowing SSM), then the need to redefine that 'otherness' into something more positive evaporates to a degree, no?

Finally, how far does the argument that 'gays will be bad at marriage' really take us? Judging by the numbers, which are likely to be a bigger influence of straight couples, the few non-monagomous gay marriages or the greater number (in raw number if not percentage) of similarly unfaithful straight marriages?
11.2.2005 6:44pm
Medis:
As a general matter, it seems to me like opponents of gay marriage address Dale's sort of numerical weight argument by hypothesizing some sort of magnification mechanism, one by which gay marriages will take on disproportionate effects. I take it this is the role that things like "marital norms" or "the socal meaning of marriage" play.

I don't find these mechanisms plausible myself, in part because they seem awfully non-concrete and speculative ... but it is precisely because they are sufficiently non-concrete and speculative that the non-existence, or at least limited effect, of such mechanisms is also very hard to prove.
11.2.2005 6:55pm
Xander (mail):
The idea of marriage, no matter what we do or say, is a social reality. What makes a marriage marriage are the social expectations. I think that we have to factor in this reality when weighing these policy decisions. Yet, personally I think these choices should follow social change, not lead the way.

However, I digress. I feel that if we were to open up marriage to same-sex couples very similar expectations would apply, no matter what. I cannot see my mother, or father, accepting promiscuity in my marriage, no matter who I marry.

These social "regulations" would be nigh impossible to separate from any union, I would hope. Frankly I wouldn't want them to be. Let gays have marriage, but monogamy is a necessity. I have no objections to the laws that my father and mother live under, because of his military service, that prohibit an affair.
11.2.2005 6:55pm
Roach (mail) (www):
I wrote at http://www.mansizedtarget.com, "I'd make an analogy involving my Catholic faith [regarding the likely effect of gay marriage on straight marriage]. I would argue that Catholic marriage has been weakened in the U.S. by easily available civil divorces. In the Catholic Church--and other Christian religions--marriage is truly "til death do you part." Annulments were infrequent until recent times. But now many Catholics get civilly divorced, civilly remarried, and act like nothing happened, even though they're still married in the eyes of the Catholic Church and their subsequent marriage is technically an act of adultery. In their eyes and in the eyes of the public, though, the civil marriage has equal dignity as the religious marriage. This view persists among many Catholic even though marriage is supposed to be a Sacrament defined by Church rules and procedures, and only available and only "annulable" under those procedures.

"The widespread availability of civil divorces have created pressure on the American Church in particular to grant annulments that are probably not theologically sound and that are based on fraudulent testimony by the couple seeking the annulment. Because both religious and civl marriages are called "marriage" and have the same attendant civil rights, I think it's plain that the easy standards of civil marraiges are corrupting the practices of individual Catholics and of American Catholic Church leaders. These two institutions existing side by side and having the same name and same legal benefits tend to resemble one another more over time. This is highly predictable. One can only imagine how the widespread description of legally recognized gay couples as "marriages" would affect heterosexual practices."

There is kind of a Gresham's law thing going on here. The bad money will drive out the good; in this case, it think the seductive appeal and normalization of gay marriage values, such as polyamory, will have an effect of normalization on heterosexuals once the door has opened, just as the chastity taboo has become completely unsustainable once a sufficient cohort of women acquieced. Who would want to be with a girl that doesn't occasionally "agree to have a three way" if there is a sufficient cohort that will.

Sexual taboos are fragile, assertoric, and in some measure inherently irrational. That said, there is a meta connection between them and other parts of morality. Learning manners and discipline in our lower functions and animal passions prepares us to have discipline in more weighty matters, such as general civility and law abidingness. I think this is why all cultures have a certain preoccupation with sexual morality; if it unravels, and if the taboos and myths surrounding it are examined too closely, the purely assertive nature of so much sexual morality will become apparent. Further, the sexual taboos have long been so strong and predominant, I would say, because habits of self-control are related. If the sex drive can be tamed and sublimated in marriage, then other passions, such as the passion for revenge, wealth, and power can also be tamed and thereby civilization maintained.

More important, if these matters are not regulated, these necessary habits will be hard to develop and sustain. Side by side a potentially addictive and overwhelming urge--for sex, for multiple partners, for status, for other men's women--will compete with the need for self-denial, regard for the community, and social peace.

There is wisdom written into the irrational taboos of the past. Sometimes we cannot see it, however, until those taboos are unraveled. In this case, because other peoples and civilizations have featured explosions of sexual license on the eve of their decline--ancient Rome, most notably, but also in some measure ancien regime France--we can learn from the mistakes and hard-taught lessons visited upon our forebears. I don't think all heterosexuals will overnight mimic the sexual practices of gays. But I do belive the regularization and stamp of marriage upon a community whose marraiges will undoubtedly feature greater degrees of unashamed and unhidden polyamory and promiscuity within marriage, will degrade the monogamy taboo at the heart of western marriage.
11.2.2005 6:57pm
Jack John (mail):
If we legalize crack, only a few crackheads will be high, everyone else will avoid crack. But those crackheads sure will love their crack! Let's legalize crack on behalf of the crackheads! Um, no. We don't want to live in a society with publicly sanctioned crackheadedness.
11.2.2005 6:57pm
Joel (mail):
The topic of gay male promiscuity has been addressed in this blog before:

http://volokh.com/2003_05_18_volokh_archive.html#200332704

(In a nutshell, most gay men are not particularly promiscuous, but there exists a significant minority who are extremely promiscuous.)
11.2.2005 6:58pm
Jim D (mail):
Joel,

When "many gay leaders" say they are promiscuous, they are at best speaking for themselves. Leaving aside the questionable validity of their status as "leaders", in what way would that say anything at all about the level of promiscuity in their "community? What does the promiscuity of straight leaders such as JFK, Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Swaggart or Dwight Eisenhower say about straight men's level of promiscuity?

It is possible to collect and present actual data as aoposed to cite quotes of questionable value. Research the law enforcement data on straight prostitution. There is a load of it.

The issue of promiscuity is a red herring anyway. As Sullivan says elsehwere, and often, gay men's promiscuity is a function of being male, not necessarily of being gay. That means it holds true for straight men as much as for gays. Don't take my word for it; ask some vice squads around your area. And we haven't even addressed the internet.

The issue of promiscuity is a red herring mainly because it certainly has not disqualifed men from marriage in the past. Hardly! After all, in civilized countries gentlemen are expected to take mistresses. Ask these mistresses how married their patrons are.
11.2.2005 6:58pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Discriminated against minorites have almost always been called promiscuous. Jews, blacks, Mexicans, etc. It's a standard bigoted tactic.
That's why Andrew Sullivan admits it?

That's why AIDS spread like wildfire through the gay community?

There are gay men who have nice stable relationships. But there is no shortage of them who are running from anonymous partner to anonymous partner on an hour to hour basis.

I can see an argument that marriage might be a stabilizing influence on someone who loses interest in his partner after a few months. Without the constraint of marriage, it is just too easy to move on, I suppose, especially if there isn't much holding the relationship together. But the crowd (and for sake of argument, I will accept that it is a minority of gay men) that has a couple different partners a night isn't going to be caged into a relationship by marriage.
11.2.2005 7:00pm
Jack John (mail):
As Sullivan says elsehwere, and often, gay men's promiscuity is a function of being male, not necessarily of being gay.

How dare you! I am offended as a male. You take it back right now. You're a heterophobic!
11.2.2005 7:03pm
Alixtii O'Krul V (mail) (www):

We should be very concerned if heterosexual marriages become more non-monogamous than they already are.

Why?

It might cause so much harm, in fact, that it would more than offset the large individualistic and modest communitarian benefits that I argued for on Monday and Tuesday.

In the presence of empirical data, this "fact" should prompt us to ask serious questions about causality versus correlation. In the absence of empirical data, it's just plain sexist.
So?

If that true, gay marriage should be rejected no matter how important it is to gay families.

Now that I can't accept. Does the fate of gay marriage really rest on empirical data? Are we going to reevaluate our civil traditions every time a new sociological report is published?

gay men are more promiscuous than either straight men, straight women, or lesbians;
11.2.2005 7:11pm
Alixtii O'Krul V (mail) (www):

gay men are more promiscuous than either straight men, straight women, or lesbians;

Oops. Something wen't wrong. I meant to say that in the presence of empirical data, the above "fact" is impetus for us to seriously cnsider questions about causation vs. correlation and the nature of social conditioning. In the absence of empirical data, it's just sexist.
11.2.2005 7:13pm
anonymoose (mail):
Thank you, for this insightful analysis of a straw-man argument nobody has made and will ever make, because it's dumb.

Here are a couple of real arguments:

1) Homosexuality is a violation of natural law - it is both counter-evolution (it is a persuasion that can't be transmitted genetically, since it is self-defeating reproductively) and counter-historical-mores (regardless of where they came from).

If you want to a draw parallel to homosexual behavior in nature, here is an apt on: have you ever seen a dog hump a table leg, or go at it with a shoe? Sexual attraction is fairly plastic across the animal kingdom. Foot fetishism, for instance, is the exact parallel of homosexual relations in this respect - an objective disorder. Even if it is acceptable under law since it doesn't necessarily hurt another _in itself_, it does not mean it should be promoted and subsidized, which is what so-disant "gay marriage" does.

2) Marriage is primarily about the children. It is not primarily a narcissistic pairing of adults, nor is it (as the Mass SJC held) about social acceptance of said adults.

Society accepts underwriting and specially protecting marriage in general for the potential and actual benefits to the children (which are the future of society). Especially intended in this larger compact are those tragic cases where the parents are unable to sire offspring themselves, but may supply additional resources to take children whose biological parents had proven unfit.

Homosexual marriage is intrinsically a direct attack on the natural right of a child to have two, stable, available genetic parents.

Obviously, society can try to support certain unfortunate edge cases (where a parent has died), but to put a child in this position willingly (through giving it up for adoption, through abandonment of a parent, through sperm donors) is an absolute detriment to the child.

Balancing detriments (adoption of a child by another couple whose natural parents are unfit - crack heads), is a very different thing than promoting the marriage compact because of the child's benefits.

Genetic parents have a unique insight into the proclivities and emergent behaviors of their children. Those who do not have this insight are going to be, necessarily, less effective parents along this line. These children also lose their extended genetic family, cultural heritage, and become at best attachments onto the new one - but often not even that.

Further, a couple of studies have shown children of same-sex couples to have problems with gender identity. These sorts of studies have been silenced and are rarely referenced: a small group of APA members reviewed the findings the APA used on the subject (the group including a fairly well-known lesbian who researches this stuff constantly), and found on statistcally significant bias on the sorts of studies the APA used in it's declaration of 'nihil obstat'. Overall, they found a nearly unanimous bias towards positive analysis of negative data about same-sexed couples, and themselves suggested institutional bias and 'wanting to be nice'.

The jury remains out - but anecdotally, it's already in. Adopted children (of SSC or not) have higher incidences of emotional and medical issues, suicide, depression, education issues, etc. There appears to be a built-in benefit to genetic parenting. And an even greater benefit to parents in stable relationships (married parents).

Try those two out, then get back to me.
11.2.2005 7:16pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think the comparitor is how promiscuous would straight men be if women were as sexually available as straight men wanted them to be. I think the answer would be "pretty damn promiscuous", certainly for single men in their teens and 20's. The fact that straight men are not as promiscuous as they'd like to be because women aren't available doesn't seem to me to point to any great difference in the strength of the straight male sexual appetite versus the strength of the gay male sexual appetite.

gay men are more promiscuous than either straight men, straight women, or lesbians;

Oops. Something wen't wrong. I meant to say that in the presence of empirical data, the above "fact" is impetus for us to seriously cnsider questions about causation vs. correlation and the nature of social conditioning. In the absence of empirical data, it's just sexist.
11.2.2005 7:21pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Don't stereotype men as being more promiscuous than women, or lesbians as being "super-monogamous."

The General Social Survey shows that lesbians have had more, not fewer, sexual partners on average than heterosexual women (so much for the idea that heterosexual men are always moving from woman to woman, unlike lesbians).

For every heterosexual coupling, there's a male partner and a female partner, so heterosexual men can't be having that many more partners than women.

I'm male, but I've certainly had fewer partners than most women have. The idea that all men are prone to promiscuity would come as a surprise to my wife.

From my observation, heterosexual men's desire for variety (which may well exceed women's) is typically more than offset by their countervailing desire for steady sex (which also appears to exceed women's). (It's easier for a man to get steady sex in a monogamous relationship than through promiscuity, unless the man in question is unusually rich and handsome. So men, especially middle-class men, pick monogamy (steady sex) over promiscuity (variety, but less sex)).

The result is that, in some counterintuitive respects, heterosexual men are more monogamous than heterosexual women. Some statistical measures bear this out.

For example, most divorces are no-fault divorces initiated by the wife over the husband's objection, as Sanford Braver, Margaret Brinig, and others have documented. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that women consistently seek divorce more than men.

Heterosexual men, it seems, are at least as attached to long-term relationships as heterosexual women.
11.2.2005 7:25pm
SacSays (mail):
I thought Joel's initial post was pretty illuminating. Why should Prof. Carpenter's opinion be consonant with Andrew Sullivan's? I've read both, and think both have valid points -- as do other gay writers on marriage like Jonathan Rauch and any number of others. And none of them make arguments that are in lockstep.

Like heterosexuals, each can (I hope) be allowed to look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions, or look at different evidence they find more persuasive, without having to look over one another's shoulder. Conformity on the left is bad enough in the gay community. Those of us in the center have fought that plague for years. The best thing about the debate over gay marriage now is that there are so many, different kinds of arguments now supporting it -- and we're not done yet.
11.2.2005 7:32pm
Matthew22v21 (mail):
"(G)ay men's promiscuity is a function of being male, not necessarily of being gay."

I would say gay men's self-reported promiscuity, as well as straight men's self-reported promiscuity. Whether either group actually is promiscuous in any objective sense is, of course, impossible to say. Though, given that societies are lazy or efficient (depending on which side of that normative fence one falls), the amount of constant rah-rah-ism for both groups implies that neither is as promiscuous as society-as-a-whole would like them to be.

Which leads to, interestingly:

"(W)omen will for the most part continue to demand fidelity."

For their partners, perhaps. As for themselves... ah, how wonderfully naive you are.

Here's a hint: With whom do you think the straight men are being unfaithful? Also, if women really do insist on faithfulness, why do they have to be constantly reminded they should? In other words, why would society spend the energy to spread both ideas (that women are more faithful than men, and should demand same from their husbands), if that's how they would behave without such encouragement?

"Lesbians never get discussed by opponents of gay marriage because those opponents realize that gay men are perceived as far more threatening than lesbians."

More than that, I'd say a good chunk of opponents to SSM don't really believe lesbians genuinely exist. The poor little dears are "going through a phase", or something. While gay men are of course a threat because Rev. Dobson acts as if he thinks in his heart-of-hearts if the right cute little boy came across his path, he would show us all how "switchable" orientation is, so of course he thinks that's also true for all men -- er, um, to the fabric of civilization itself.
11.2.2005 7:38pm
Jack John (mail):
Don't stereotype men as being more promiscuous than women, or lesbians as being "super-monogamous."

According to Arlen Specter, lesbians are super-duper monogamous.
11.2.2005 7:39pm
Ian Jass (mail):
Discriminated against minorites have almost always been called promiscuous. Jews, blacks, Mexicans, etc.

Hey, wait a second. Jews, blacks, and Mexicans are promiscuous. I mean, enslaved peoples will mate with any oppressor who points a gun to their head! Come on! Admit it! They're ALL sluts!

(TOTALLY SATIRICAL POINT HERE.)
11.2.2005 7:43pm
Op Ed. (mail) (www):
OK, we'll just cede this little strawman to Dale. Movie stars in general set a pretty low standard for married behavior. Most people I know think that reflects poorly on the stars, not on marriage itself.

This does bring up an interesting difference someone recently pointed out (was it Maggie?) between marriage and the neutered marriage Dale is promoting. There is no expectation of celibacy before neutered "marriage," even though that expectation is still quite common before marriage. Erosion of that norm in the marriage culture has been problematic for society in general. In addition to immediate problems like sexually transmitted diseases and out-of-wedlock births, this behavior has long term impacts on any eventual marriage, as well. Couples that lived together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than couples that did not. Couples that had more than one partner before marrying are more likely to be unfaithful during marriage. Eliminating mores against pre-marital sex entirely, as proponents of neutered marriage already have done, will only exacerbate the problem.
11.2.2005 7:46pm
Matthew22v21 (mail):
But, getting to the reference of my alias... Legalized homophobia is a flat-out prima facie violation of both Christ's teachings and the Establishment Clause. Some believe homosexuality is "sinful", some don't. There is no secular, public-policy reason to make distinctions on the basis of orientation. That religious believers are enforcing their framework of marital or sexual sins through the legal system is as much of an outright violation of the Establishment Clause as a Jewish health inspector shutting down a restaurant for not observing kashrut, or a Muslim one for non-compliance with halal, or a Mormon one for non-compliance with the Word of Wisdom.
11.2.2005 7:48pm
Jody (mail) (www):
SacSays:

While Carpenter and Sullivan are certainly entitled to different opinions, Joel has highlighted a difference of fact. Either gay men are more promiscuous than hetero men (as Sullivan asserts) or they are not (as Carpenter asserts).

Both assertions cannot be simultaneously correct.

With Carpenter's concession that 1-3 imply 4, taking Carpenter's argument seriously means you have to buy into his claim of fact in 1. Yet, other gay marriage proponents (presumably without suspect motives as is so quickly charged) disagree with Carpenter on the facts of point 1.

This lack of factual agreement is a very serious problem for Carpenter's argument. To have any hope of salvaging this particular line of arguing, I believe that Carpenter needs to cite studies that support his assertion in 1.
11.2.2005 7:49pm
Riskable (mail) (www):
An argument that I hear quite a lot regarding the numbers of infected gay men VS straight men is that gay men are somehow more promiscuous. Beyond the infection rate, is there a statistic to back this up?

Also, I have to wonder if one of the reasons behind the increased infection rate is a failing of our educational system. I went to a private school and our sexual education program did point out that anal sex was a method of transmitting HIV (very plainly and surprisingly frank &serious). A friend of mine who attended a public school in Florida stated that their sex ed program never made any mentions at all regarding gay sex.

Also, if you were to take the minds of 100 men and place them into women's bodies, what would be their likelyhood of being promiscuous VS 100 women in men's bodies? Assuming of course that hormones don't effect the decision-making process right away.

It isn't a far stretch of the imagination to consider the reason why gay men are more promiscuous is that A) Men are much more willing to have sex (generally speaking), and B) the reluctance of women to have sex never becomes a factor.

Based on this logic, I am inclined to agree with Sullivan in that gay male promiscuity is a function of being male, not of being gay. Hypothetical question to heterosexual men: If women were much less reluctant to have sex, would you have more of it with more women? Now imagine a world where marriage doesn't exist (as it doesn't for homosexuals right now). Besides the woman coaxing you to have sex only with her, would you or other men you know still stay with a single mate?

It seems only logical that gay marriage would reduce promiscuity in gay men by actually giving them a legal and societal tie with their partner.

I'll end this commend with one of my "in the future" speculations: If, in the future, we are able to cure all sexually transmitted diseases. What will be the ethical reasons for gay men to be non-promiscuous? With no children and no chance of disease, are there any reasons to frown upon this practice? Assuming of course that both are consenting adults who wish to be promiscuous in the first place (all it takes is one to fall in love... =).
11.2.2005 7:51pm
michael R (mail):
1. Gay men of 25 years ago were in general much more promiscious, more polyamorous than younger generations. Everyone of my gay peers is in a monogamous relationship. A lot of stereotypes are based on the crazy pre-AIDS night life, that still exists in the big city, but I don't believe it represents the life choices of most gay men over the age of 30.

2. Gay men who are publicly attached to polyamory (like Andrew Sullivan) are the least likely to get married. Andrew is a bit of a complicated conundrum, but is he married?

3. Lesbians will make up more than 50% of SSM, and they are overwhelmingly monogamous.

4. A significant number of heterosexual marriages are explicitly non-monogamous. I was shocked to discover my totally "square" cousin from Texas cheerfully indulges in heterosexual "swingers" clubs.

5. This argument against SSM can't really be argued against because it is based upon strong moral prejudice. That is to say, if the opponents find one married gay male couple who advocate non-monogamy, that will prove their point to them, despite the fact the vast majority of SS marriages will be monogamous. If you found another subgroup who, let's say, disrespected the laws of marriage, could you deny them the rights to marriage?

I imagine most people would say, even if they disagree strongly with non-monogamy, that divorce is ultimately a greater evil.
So if people from Arkansas had in 2001 a divorce rate of 6.6 and people from Massachusetts had a divorce rate of 2.4 (per 1,000) according to the Census Bureau -- more than twice as high -- aren't Arkansans destroying the institution of marriage and setting a bad example and shouldn't they be denied the right to marry?

So this arguments for and against SSM can't really be about whether gays "deserve" marriage -- unless there is someone seriously willing to argue that lesbians should be allowed to marry, but not gay men. Or perhaps gay men have to be interviewed to see if they are good enough?
11.2.2005 7:52pm
Jody (mail) (www):
Michael R:

You're making a common mistake looking at only divorce rates and not divorce/marriage which I discuss here.

Basically Mass. low divorce rate is skewed low because of its low marriage rate (6.2/1000) and Arkansas's divorce rate is skewed higher because of their high marriage rate (14.3/1000).

In terms of divorce/marriage, Arkansas is 0.45 and Mass is 0.37, which is pretty darn close.
11.2.2005 7:59pm
Justin Kee (mail):
"That's why AIDS spread like wildfire through the gay community? "

Straw man argument. Care to look at epidemiology of the spread of HIV infections among married men in South Africa? Similar patterns of initial infection rates followed by the spead among the "monogamous" heterosexual community.

"There are gay men who have nice stable relationships. But there is no shortage of them who are running from anonymous partner to anonymous partner on an hour to hour basis."

Much like there is no shortage of heterosexuals who are "running from anonymous partner to anonymous partner on an hour to hour basis." Visit any college campus and you will see the same. What does that have to do with the issue of married homosexuals?

"I can see an argument that marriage might be a stabilizing influence on someone who loses interest in his partner after a few months. Without the constraint of marriage, it is just too easy to move on, I suppose, especially if there isn't much holding the relationship together. But the crowd (and for sake of argument, I will accept that it is a minority of gay men) that has a couple different partners a night isn't going to be caged into a relationship by marriage."

Exactly. So why target the minority of homosexuals who engaged in this behavior and ignore the much larger population of heterosexuals who do so?
11.2.2005 8:06pm
Michael R (mail):
Thanks Jody for the info. I wasn't really making a serious point about people from Arkansas and I'm glad to know they're not all getting divorced.

I'm sure though that if you look at those statistics you could come up with some subgroup (geographical? racial? religious?) and assert that their marriages are substantively worse than the national average, and that their example brings down the rest... but can you deny marriage to them on that basis?

I think there are better arguments against SSM than the purportedly "bad" behavior of some members of a group?

I don't accept Andrew Sullivan's idea that gay men are basically oriented differently in terms of monogamy. I think, for various reasons, there is more sexual experimentation in youth, but upon turning 30 or so, like many heterosexual people, I think most single gay men as well as women just want to settle down with someone and monogamy makes the most sense. What Auden wrote, we all crave, not universal love, but "to be loved alone." That is the desire of the vast majority, even if they can't all successfully accomplish that, gay or straight.
11.2.2005 8:13pm
DJB:
Social condemnation of infidelity plays an important part in discouraging infidelity. If you increase the percentage of married couples who openly cheat on their spouse, you make cheating seem that much more normal, which in turn means that it becomes that much less condemnable, and thus more frequently practiced.

Of course, since the proposition "marriage will discourage gay male promiscuity" seems as reasonable as "gay male promiscuity will weaken marriage", I hardly see how this is a case against extending legal recognition to gay marriage.
11.2.2005 8:23pm
Julian Morrison (mail):
Says Op Ed., There is no expectation of celibacy before neutered "marriage,"

Says me: so start popularizing such an expectation.

Op Ed. also mentions: Couples that lived together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than couples that did not.

To which I query: has that statistic and the others like it been checked for skew caused by eg: the religious beliefs that led the couple to marry rather than cohabit? Post hoc isn't propter hoc.
11.2.2005 8:24pm
Xander (mail):
Michael R :
"I don't accept Andrew Sullivan's idea that gay men are basically oriented differently in terms of monogamy. I think, for various reasons, there is more sexual experimentation in youth, but upon turning 30 or so, like many heterosexual people, I think most single gay men as well as women just want to settle down with someone and monogamy makes the most sense. What Auden wrote, we all crave, not universal love, but "to be loved alone." That is the desire of the vast majority, even if they can't all successfully accomplish that, gay or straight."

Exactly. I think the thing most people are missing is that most gays who will probably marry aren't going to be living in the center of a big, gay, over-sexed, bohemian, inner-city, ghetto of a socially rebellious sub-culture. Many of these couples will be from middle and rural America. Guess what? Just these locations alone help to deter the so-called promiscuous life style many of you feel is concurrent with being gay. It seems that many people, including gays like Andrew, are still operating in a mindset that is very much anti-conformist and grew out of the years leading up too and after stonewall.

That said, wouldn't it be logically that the people most likely to marry, and this tie their financial and physical lives to another, would be the ones least likely to step outside of their relationship. I mean as fleeting as love is, no man would tangle his pocketbook and hard earnings to a person they didn't plan on being with down the road.
11.2.2005 8:28pm
DJB:
Discriminated against minorites have almost always been called promiscuous. Jews, blacks, Mexicans, etc. It's a standard bigoted tactic

Maybe, but it happens to be an empirical fact that gay men have more partners, and are more prone to open relationships, then straight men are.

The probable explanation for this is that men are more prone to promiscuity than women are. So we would expect gay men to have more partners than straight men, straight men to have more partners than straight women, and straight women to have more partners than gay women. Which, as it turns out, is exactly the case.
11.2.2005 8:32pm
Designbot:
Jack Johns: If we legalize crack, only a few crackheads will be high, everyone else will avoid crack. But those crackheads sure will love their crack! Let's legalize crack on behalf of the crackheads! Um, no. We don't want to live in a society with publicly sanctioned crackheadedness.

Your analogy can be read in two ways, both nonsensical.

1. Crack = gay marriage, crackheads = gay couples

If we legalize gay marriage, only a few gay couples will get married, everyone else will avoid gay marriage. But those gay couples sure will love their gay marriage! Let's legalize gay marriage on behalf of the gay couples! Um, no. We don't want to live in a society with publicly sanctioned gay marriage.

Since this provides no insight beyond assuming the conclusion (that gay marriage is socially undesirable) and the post was about infidelity, we can probably assume that the analogy was in fact:

2. Crack = adultery, crackheads = adulterers

If we legalize adultery, only a few adulterers will commit adultery, everyone else will avoid adultery. But those adulterers sure will love their adultery! Let's legalize adultery on behalf of the adulterers! Um, no. We don't want to live in a society with publicly sanctioned adulterers.

However, since no one is arguing that the legal status of adultery should be changed, this is equally irrelevant. Adultery would have the exact same legal consequences for gay married couples as it does now for straight married couples. It's hard to see what point you're trying to make, other than equating gay couples with crackheads.
11.2.2005 8:32pm
Justin (mail):
Jody,

.

Did you ever consider (given that the number of people who stay single their whole lives is fairly small) that the reason Massachussets has a lower marriage rate is because they have a lower divorce rate?

No, you probably did not. It's like the Chicken and the Egg, except with a specific chicken. We know which one came first.
11.2.2005 9:18pm
anonymous22:
I think we need to stop lumping lesbians in with gay males. It is a very different phenomenon, and laws against homosexuality were always targeted at gay men.
Remember, the issue back in 2003, when the issue was live (I believe it is now dead barring further judicial decisions) was whether there was a rational basis for not allowing gay marriage. The fact that gay males are more promiscuous is, I believe, a priori a rational basis.
11.2.2005 10:05pm
Jody (mail) (www):
Justin:

First for your assertion to work out, there would need to be a significant difference in the divorce/marriage ratio between the states. Arkansas has more than twice as many marriages/1000 as Massachusetts, yet has a similar divorce/marriage ratio.

More people in Massachusetts really don't get married. As found by the Census Bureau 2004 American Community Survey, Massachusetts has 34.1% of men over the age of 15 who have never been married (one of the highest rates in the nation) while Arkansas has 25.7 (one of the lowest rates in the nation).

In theory, Mass could have a lot of people aged between 15-25 (who are less likely to be married than those >25) which would inflate % of unmarried males, but this is counterindicated by the fact that that Mass is on average older than Arkansas.

So sometimes a state has a lower marriage rate simply because a lower ratio of people are getting married.
11.2.2005 10:28pm
Aaron:
Actually, Mass DOES have more males between 15-25: A huge segment of that demographic is composed of transient boarding school/college students. I would expect that Mass has a disproportionate number compared to Ark, or just about anywhere else. Further, I would guess that the number of married college students has declined significantly over the past 40 years.
11.3.2005 4:40pm
Chairm (mail):
It is amusing that Mr. Carpenter now attempts to minimize the influence of SSM on the social institution of marriage. And does so by pointing to how few people will bother with SSM.

The potentially problematic gay couples -- the gay men -- will therefore represent perhaps 1.5% of all marriages (using assumptions most generous to the contagious-promiscuity argument).

Contagious promiscuity? There is a vast difference in societal interest in the promiscuity of those who engage in sexual intercourse than there is in those who engage in homosex play and sodomy. For the latter the contagion is usually an actual disease that may or may not be medically treatable; for the former the risk of promiscuity is premarital childbearing, adultery and divorce, multiple fathers to children born the same mother, and so forth. Sure, STDs and other health risks are shared in both types of promiscuity, however, the two are not identical and do not share the kind and degree of state interests in monogamy.


Thus, the notoriously, openly, innoculation-resistant gay male couples setting a bad example for everybody else will likely represent somewhere around one-half of 1% of all marriages in the country. That's 0.5%. And I think that's probably high.

Mr. Carpenter is far too optimistic about taming the promiscuity of gay men through SSM. Still, if one-third of SSMs are designed to openly flaunt the marriage idea, how can that possibly be a good thing -- for SSM within the homosexual poulation, let alone for the rest of society?

By trying to minimize the measure of the impact of this "promiscuity contagion", Mr Carpenter tries to have it both ways. The subculture is not suited to marriage; but we must change marriage to be taylored to fit the SSM template, which is not that popular in practice amongst the homosexual population. SSM is a marginal idea, that barely has a beachhead in a subculture that already has an enormously disproportionate prominence, and yes influence, in our popular culture, if not in our schools, universities, and now in our religious foundations.

SSM is on the map because of that infuence. It is argued, as per Mr. Carpenter's own admissions, by deconstructing the marriage idea and replacing the conjugal relationship with some unisexed template for which the state has no purpose in replacing marriage with.

If there is a purpose, Mr. Carpenter has yet to articulate it. The me-too-ism is a lousy way to mess with marriage.
11.7.2005 12:07am