Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Six brides for seven brothers?

From the BBC:

A man's sexual orientation may be determined by conditions in the womb, according to a study.

Previous research had revealed the more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay, but the reason for this phenomenon was unknown.

But a Canadian study has shown that the effect is most likely down to biological rather than social factors.

The research is published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Anthony Bogaert from Brock University in Ontario, Canada, studied 944 heterosexual and homosexual men with either "biological" brothers, in this case those who share the same mother, or "non-biological" brothers, that is, adopted, step or half siblings.

Writing in the journal, Professor Bogaert said: "If rearing or social factors associated with older male siblings underlies the fraternal birth-order effect [the link between the number of older brothers and male homosexuality], then the number of non-biological older brothers should predict men's sexual orientation, but they do not.

"These results support a prenatal origin to sexual orientation development in men."

He suggests the effect is probably the result of a "maternal memory" in the womb for male births.

A woman's body may see a male foetus as "foreign", he says, prompting an immune reaction which may grow progressively stronger with each male child.

The antibodies created may affect the developing male brain.

In an accompanying article, scientists from Michigan State University said: "These data strengthen the notion that the common denominator between biological brothers, the mother, provides a prenatal environment that fosters homosexuality in her younger sons."

"But the question of mechanism remains."


Time will tell whether this 'womb' theory has any validity at all, but it's perfectly obvious that there is some kind of biological element to some, if not all, homosexual orientation.

The attempt to deny this outright is of course an attempt to ascribe moral blame to gays for their tendencies, and is therefore one of the least edifying features of the sex-obsessed Religious Right.

49 Comments:

Blogger Duck said...

If this is the case, it makes sense from an evolutionary aspect for a social species where there is a survival advantage to be gained through the development of cooperative behavior. If too many males are born into a tribe, and they all compete at an equal level of intensity for the available females, then the tribe can easily be torn apart by inter-tribal warfare. If the "excess males" are less interested in the females, then the tribe benefits from their presence in the hunt and in protecting the tribe from outside threats, without paying a price in internal warfare.

June 28, 2006 7:52 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

It could just be a bug too rare to be selected against.

But if it's selected for, then the explanation might well be that too many related males competing for the same females is self-defeating from a selfish gene point of view.

June 28, 2006 8:16 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

It seems to me that our knowledge, about the frequency of homosexuality in males in primitive tribes existing tens of thousands of years ago, may be too limited to draw any conclusions about why such homosexuality might have existed.

Further, since women in centuries previous to the 20th often bore as many as five to ten male children, and if the defect shows up more strongly with the more male children there are, shouldn't the chronicles of history at least hint that maybe a third of all men preferred to have sex with other men ?

June 28, 2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

There are several very important things to keep in mind:

First, all mammals start as females.

Second, that female & male physiognomy differ is to state the glaringly obvious. Less glaring, but just as striking, female & male brains are structurally different.

Third, it is only through the expression of various hormones that a female fetus becomes male -- there are XY females, due to (IIRC) extreme andgrogen insensitivity. (Note that there is, AFAIK, no such thing as a XX male; see template, above)

Fourth, it is already well known that the fetus's immune system leaves its mark on the maternal immune system, sometime to mom's great cost.

Fifth. Gestation is a process. There is no such thing in nature as a perfect process. Because process failures are in effect noise in the system, and generally not the consequece of genotype, there is no need whatsoever to appeal to evolutionary explantions, so far as the process is sufficiently reliable to maintain the population.

In this light, homosexuality is no more selected for, or against, than cleft palate. Neither is heritable; both are the result of process failures.

The book "Red Queen" (Wright?) devotes a whole chapter to origins of homosexuality. While the precise mechanisms are unknown, as in the precise causes of smoking induced lung cancer, it is essentially a done deal that virtually all male homosexuality is a consequence of fetal development.

Which means, among other things, that there is no more moral component to homosexuality than there is to cleft palate.


Oroborous:

...often bore as many as five to ten male children, and if the defect shows up more strongly with the more male children there are, shouldn't the chronicles of history at least hint that maybe a third of all men preferred to have sex with other men ?

Well, let's pick some round numbers.

Let's say the immunologically induced homosexuality rate is 1% in the second male child, and doubles with each succeeding male child. That means the 16% of fifth male children would be homosexual, and the net rate for the whole population would be roughly 30%.

So far, so good. But that number is extremely sensitive to the assumption the effect doubles with each male child. If the effect is linear rather than exponential, then the rate over the population would be much, much lower -- in the realm of 3%, which is about the US figure.

There is something in all of this to set the irony meter spinning. Conservatives in general, and Christiaists in particular, assume the immutability of human nature.

Yet faced with explicit evidence supporting that conclusion, Christianists claim one of the most fundamental parts of human identity is a matter of whim.

Explaining why is straightforward, and is left to the student as an exercise.

June 28, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

The boy my youngest daughter took to her proms was homosexual and the eighth son of his mother.

So far, so good for the theory. But the seventh son was a heterosexual (to all appearances) as were the other boys.

If it only kicks in with eighth sons, there are not going to be many homosexual boys.

The other most obvious homosexual boy in my daughter's peer group was an only child, and a classic example of the overmothered son of an abandoned mother. There was every indication that he acquired his homosexuality post-birth.

I think the intense search for a queer gene is as dubious as the intense search for the immoral marker.

A pox on both houses.

June 28, 2006 9:38 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

To defend the Christians here I'd say that human nature may be variable at an individual level, but at an aggregate, statistical level there are certain common traits that remain consistent across cultures and eras. One such constant is the existence of homosexuality in some small percentage of the population. Other "constants" are greed, jealousy, etc. Everyone doesn't exhibit these traits in the same degree, but it is a solid bet that these traits will be a driving force in any social group. Thus the universal failure of utopian communes based on free love & shared belongings.

June 28, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

The first big myth is that it is an on/off question: that everyone is either gay or straight. There's every shade between, and in most cases overt homosexuals are a product of both nature and nurture.

However, it is apparently well documented that boys with several older brothers are more likely to be overtly homosexual.

There must be some explanation for that, so you can either come up with a biological just so story, or a Freudian/environmental/religious just so story.

But if it also is true, as is claimed here, that the fraternal order rule doesn't apply when the older brothers are not biologically related, then the explanation is probably biological rather than environmental. I haven't the faintest idea whether the 'womb rejection' theory has any scientific merit, but it might.

June 28, 2006 10:07 AM  
Blogger David said...

Brit: That comment makes you strangely attractive.

But, er, getting back to the article, which I also blogged:

It just occurred to me that this messes up another "Just So" story. In theory, more boys are born than girls because more boys die before reaching puberty than girls. Until recently (the end of the 18th century, give our take), the sexes reached a 1:1 ratio at about age 15. Now we don't reach a 1:1 ratio until about 35. But unless this used-womb thing is a recent mutation, it would seem we have to go back to the drawing board.

The other question is whether, as family size has fallen, has the proportion of homosexuals in the population fallen? Obviously, anecdotal evidence is of no use whatsoever here.

June 28, 2006 11:01 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

David:

I bet you say that to all the boys.

I haven't read anywhere that most homosexuals have lots of older brothers, just that men with lots of older brothers are more likely to bat for the other team than men in general, so there's no single-cause conclusions to be drawn.

It's bound to be complicated. At work some time ago a guy got found out with an absolute mountain of gay porn on his computer. He's married with four kids (all boys, funnily enough).

June 28, 2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Hey Skipper, what I want to know is how you averaged the values 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and got 30. Have you been taking lessons from OJ?

June 28, 2006 3:19 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Augh. I was so consumed with that question that I forgot to ask how you double 1 three times to get 16.

June 28, 2006 3:21 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

SH:

Hey Skipper, what I want to know is how you averaged the values 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and got 30. Have you been taking lessons from OJ?

Lessons from OJ? Perish the thought.

But I did it in my head, although that hardly serves any better as an excuse.

Assume all families that have boys have five. The rate of homosexuality in the cohort of first born males is zero; second born 1%, with an additional doubling for each cohort.

The total population of males consists of five equal sized cohorts having an incidence of 0,1,2,4,8 & 16% respectively.

Which is where my reasoning went off the rails, plunged down a hillside and went face first into a muddy ditch. I added the percentages, rather than calculating them for each cohort, then summing over all the cohorts and calculating the new percentage.

At the risk of further embarassment, the actual answer is 6.2%.

June 28, 2006 4:50 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

There's every shade between, and in most cases overt homosexuals are a product of both nature and nurture.

Well, maybe. I'll bet if you plotted degree of heterosexual preference, there would be bell curve with a very small sigma: the vast majority of preferences would be very close to completely heterosexual.

As for being a product of nature and nurture, I suspect that identical twin studies would lend credence to the notion there is some "nurture" involved, but only in the sense that phenotype & gestation can't fully account for homosexuality.

Based upon my fairly extensive experience (gay brother), there are simply too many feminine behaviors that only the most perceptive males could learn by observation. Note the oxymoron in that sentence.

Speech patterns are particularly obvious. In the 1990s, a psychologist had self identified gay and straight males read several paragraphs from a chemistry text into a tape recorder. Then, armed only with the recordings, both male & female listeners were asked to identify whether the speaker was gay.

They correctly identified the homosexuals about 85% of the time. More interestingly, almost no straight males were identified as homosexual.

Now, it is possible that "excessive mothering" leads to homosexuality, and is also capable of producing significant, and consistent, shifts in speech patterns, hand movements, and other non-phenotypical gender specific cues.

It is also worth remembering the tragic story of a baby boy (Canadian) whose circumcision (as medically useless a procedure as it is possible to imagine) was so badly botched that the doctors convinced the parents to emasculate the boy, perform corrective cosmetic surgery, and raise him as a girl. (The lead doc in the case was convinced gender is learned).

If there was ever a case where parenting should have created an altered gender preference, this was it.

But it didn't -- the child, born with a boy brain, had a pronounced preference for stereotypically male toys and activities, despite all efforts to the contrary.

IIRC, he found out about all this in his twenties, after suffering years of severe depression. Then he killed himself.

While there is no clear explanation as to the specific cause(s), either the vast majority of homosexuals are born that way, or human nature is a completely changeable plaything.

Can't have it both ways.

Homosexuality need not have a gene to exist. It also need not have any conscious decision to exist.

When the naturalistic causes are finally explicated, will Christianists fulsomely apologize?

Doubt it.

June 28, 2006 5:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Just now savoring the caption on this post. A classic.

June 29, 2006 12:27 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I did consider "Six brides (and one civil partner) for seven brothers" but then decided that was overkill.

June 29, 2006 1:18 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

The attempt to deny this outright is of course an attempt to ascribe moral blame to gays for their tendencies, and is therefore one of the least edifying features of the sex-obsessed Religious Right.

Hmm. Brit, I'd really like to hear you opine on some of the more edifying features of the sex-obsessed Religious Right. Thank goodness the modern gay movement isn't so sex-obsessed.

You and Harry are wrong about moral blame, etc., although I agree that this frantic desire on both sides to prove nature or nurture is futile and ultimately dangerous. It is only because of our modern and very recent belief that sexual urges must be acted upon regularly and repeatedly to prevent injustice, misery and psychic warping, etc. that you see that big, bad old Religious Right, which doesn't agree, as sex-obsessed. We're all Freudians now, but it is only a couple of generations since most people saw it as perfectly natural and desirable (although by no means easy) to sublimate the sexual urge in marriage. Bachelors and spinsters simply did without (for the most part) and whether one had homosexual tendencies was uninteresting and unremarkable beyond the school-boy snickering stage. That a gay person was frustrated by abstinence was as important as the fact that innumerable heteros were frustrated in or outside of marriage--which is to say not very much. Actual oppression was intermittant and limited and in response to acts of sodomy, not homosexual feelings. It is sex-obsessed modern man that puts such stock in the connection between his emotional desires and physical nether parts and who thinks that whether Florence Nightingale was a lesbian or not is really important. You may take it for granted that modern attitudes to sexuality as liberating, fulfilling and cruel to frustrate represent great progess, but the bulk of the history of civilization is against you. You will find different sexual mores to be sure, but not the sex-obsessed belief that living out sexual desires is the sine qua non of the fulfilled and healthy life. Even the wild and crazy Romans of the Nero era generated a huge reaction and much collective disgust.

But surely these ceaseless, desperate attempts of gays and their academic allies to prove gayness is "natural" bespeaks a sense that nobody really thinks it is. You'd better hope they never find the gay gene because you know exactly what will happen. And if you insist it is "natural", either biologically or socially, so what? As your comments in the post above on modern feminism show, that doesn't lead to an androgynous interchangeability when the two natures interact/collide and it is far from obvious that it should.

So, as to sex-obsession, J'accuse, although I do admit we are a little obsessed about your sexual obsessions.

June 30, 2006 4:39 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Peter:

Vous accusez, huh?

Well, I don't understand your accusez-tion. Or at least, I don't think it applies to me.

My personal view is not that men ought to sodomise each other if that's where their tendencies lie, but rather that it's nobody else's business, least of all mine, if they do.

How does it benefit you or anyone else if gays spend their lives in frustrated misery?

June 30, 2006 5:24 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I don't think it applies to me.

Probably not.

Brit, dear, you aren't paying attention. The gay rights movement is not about leaving people alone to indulge discretely in private passions. It's about demanding in very up front ways that society celebrate their passions (and their presence) as no different than anyone elses and of completely equal social and moral worth. If you agree, fine, but don't change the issue.

As to your question about misery, you either believe family and civilization hinges on sublimating and channeling sexual urges or you don't. There is plenty of evidence that ascendant civilizations do and declining ones don't, but that's worth a whole new post. Don't you find it strange that most of modern psychology holds we are psycho-sexual beings formed and deeply affected by the frustration of all our "natural" urges, but that, when we indulge in them, they are free, independant and completely unrelated to any other aspect of our personal and collective lives?

June 30, 2006 5:43 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

The thing about all human life is that all human life is there. No man is the the median in every category - if he were, he'd be a freak. The internet has only reinforced my understanding of this.

Some gays and some heterosexuals are genuinely miserable in enforced chastity, and some aren't.

The militant wing of the gay rights movement, and the anti-gay wing of the Religious Right are both equally ridiculous. What's more, they're only interesting to each other, and they're only perceived as a threat to anything by each other.

Neither has anything to do with the real world where, in my experience, there exists a surprising level of tolerance and disinterest.

It's always only been the busybodies who care what goes on in other people's bedrooms. They're the ones who need explaining. It's just a pity that the busybodies have been so powerful at various times in history.

June 30, 2006 6:38 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't recall that I've ever endorsed any part of the gay rights movement, though I have vociferously argued that heterosexuals should get it on more than the religionists approve of.

Peter's view of history may be wrong. Read Havelock Ellis on why villagers were so frightened of tramps in the late 19th century.

June 30, 2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

While the "be frustrated and quit whining" view of history is no doubt correct of various times and places, it's not all that there was, before our time and place.

Many peoples viewed male lusts as being as forceful as flowing water; that attempts to dam it or deny it would lead to mental disease and outbursts of debauchery.

From Brown University's Dept. of Italian Studies:

Prostitution in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages in Europe witnessed a universal paradox of tolerance and condemnation with regards to prostitution. While technically a sin (because it hinged on the act of fornication), prostitution was recognized by the church and others as a necessary, or "lesser evil" (Karras, 246). It was accepted as fact that young men would seek out sexual relations regardless of their options, and thus prostitution served to protect "respectable" townswomen from seduction and even rape. In 1358, the Grand Council of Venice declared that prostitution was "absolutely indispensable to the world" (Richards, 125). In general, declarations proclaiming the necessity of prostitution were not quite so enthusiastic. Indeed, the church did not hesitate to denounce prostitution as morally wrong, but as St. Augustine explained: "If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts" (Richards, 118).


Karras, Ruth Mazo. "Prostitution in Medieval Europe." Handbook of Medieval Sexuality. Ed. Vern L. Bullough and James A. Brundage. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996, pp. 243-60.

Richards, Jeffrey. Sex, Dissidence and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages. New York: Routledge, 1994.

June 30, 2006 12:58 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Many peoples viewed male lusts as being as forceful as flowing water; that attempts to dam it or deny it would lead to mental disease and outbursts of debauchery.

Poor dammed up men. If only women weren't so cruel in their fickleness.

Yes, and there is the rub, because the problem is that male lust needs a female to service it. Not exactly a great theoretical basis for non-exploitative sexual relations based upon equality and mutual respect. Of course, today we've solved that conundrum by telling ourselves fairy tales about how female lust is complementary, and so it's a win/win situation. Lucky gals. Don't forget to teach your daughters all about it. If only women hadn't wasted all those years hiding their wild, carefree and lusty natures and looking to Christianity to help rein men in.

Harry:

Of all the causes you have come up with, tolerance for tramps has to win some kind of award. Read Fifth Business and The Manticore by Robertson Davies for a good picture of the reality of tramp life in those years. If you think it wasn't dangerous, sordid and menacing, you have been listening to too many Woody Guthrie songs.

The point I was making was not that there was widespread tolerance for gays, although from all I've read incidents of atrocities and oppression were fairly rare. The point is that before modern times people put stock in actions and didn't give such weighty, determinative significance to what was going on inside heads and loins. Lewis Carroll would be under police surveillance today just for the company he kept. In that regard I agree with Brit about how the religious can make fools of themselves railing publically against "lustful thoughts". But when it comes to actions and the signposts that guide us through life, it's the modern world that is sex-obsessed.

July 01, 2006 2:05 AM  
Blogger Peter Kirk said...

An interesting comment thread! I have one point to add on calls for gay rights. As the other Peter writes, homosexuals are "demanding in very up front ways that society celebrate their passions (and their presence) as no different than anyone elses and of completely equal social and moral worth." Well, how does society celebrate the passions of "straight" men when these are expressed outside of marriage? Look for example at what has happened to Bill Clinton and John Prescott. Society still, and rightly, fully accepts sexual activity only within the marriage relationship. The refusal of for example the Anglican church to accept practising homosexuals among its leadership is entirely consistent with its refusal to accept those who practice heterosexual intercourse outside marriage.

This of course brings up the difficult question of "gay marriage". I hold that God intended marriage as the proper place for sexual relationships and for producing and bringing up children. As gay couples cannot produce children, marriage is rightly restricted to opposite gender couples. I realise that there are other difficult issues here. For example, is marriage without the intent to have children OK? I say yes, Roman Catholics say no. And if so, why not a "gay marriage" which would also not produce children? I don't have an answer to this question. Maybe others here do.

July 01, 2006 5:44 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

For example, is marriage without the intent to have children OK?

A man and a woman who enter a marriage not intending to have children can always change their mind at a later date. A marriage partnership between opposite sex members is always open to this possibility. A gay "marriage" isn't.

I oppose gay marriage simply on the grounds of not bastardizing language. A slice of ham between two slices of bread will never be a roast beef sandwich. You can't make applesause with oranges. I have no problems with the legal recognition of a commited relationship between two men, but lets not delude ourselves into caling it a marriage.

July 01, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

... this frantic desire on both sides to prove nature or nurture is futile and ultimately dangerous.

Sorry, but the desire to understand the causes of homosexuality are almost certainly not futile. As I noted above, that gays are almost universally born that way is practically beyond dispute, just as cigarettes cause cancer is beyond dispute. The exact mechanisms in each case still elude us, but that doesn't stop us drawing certain conclusions.

In the case of homosexuality, accepting the evidence that it is inborn raises very troubling theological questions. First, it simply isn't possible to morally distinguish homosexuality from heterosexuality. You may take no more moral credit for being straight than they can be blamed for being gay.

Consequently, the morality of any given sex act is wholly bound within context. Imposing Divine wrath upon gays is simply nonsense, unless you are happy to conclude that God has purposefully created a group of people in order to be abominable in His Eyes. Unfortunately, that leads directly to a dilemma: claims to objective morality on one hand, or attributing any sort of benevolence to God on the other, look even more ridiculous than they already are.

This has nothing to do with belief that sexual urges must be acted upon regularly and repeatedly to prevent injustice, misery and psychic warping, and everything to do with declining to impose restrictions upon gays that you would never impose upon yourself.

Tyranny of the majority is nearly always another name for hypocrisy.

What I desire everyone to take for granted is accepting gays' humanity just as fully as everyone else's, while putting anatomical details on complete disregard. People don't become gay, they are gay -- it isn't as if we have to worry about straight males suddenly opting for the down low.

But surely these ceaseless, desperate attempts of gays and their academic allies to prove gayness is "natural" bespeaks a sense that nobody really thinks it is.

That make no more sense than its inverse. A certain blogger prominent in these parts absolutely denies people are born that way, to the point of completely disregarding those who say they were. Does that complete denial mean no one really believes gayness is unnatural?

And if you insist it is "natural", either biologically or socially, so what?

It is the same "so what" that obtained once we came to terms with the fact that blacks really are fully human. The anatomical details of homosexuality are completely independent of social and moral worth.

Mr. Kirk:

This of course brings up the difficult question of "gay marriage". I hold that God intended marriage as the proper place for sexual relationships and for producing and bringing up children.

You are combining two different concepts of marriage in the same sentence -- civil marriage on one hand, and the religious sacrament on the other.

Civil marriage has absolutely no concern with the reproductive abilities, or desires. To be a fully invested religious adherent might, depending upon the religion, entail substantial concern.

So, with respect to civil marriage, there are no issues, difficult or otherwise.

With respect to gay marriage, however, there are very difficult issues for the religious sacrament. If a sect concludes that gay marriage is holy in God's eyes -- and some do -- on what basis do other sects prohibit that conclusion?

The more fundamental question is this: if every gay in the US chose to marry, what would be the cost to society?

July 01, 2006 8:49 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I never heard of John Prescott, so maybe I'm disqualified from having any opinions about this.

++++

Peter, you have turned my point about tramps on its head.

In my edition of the collected works of Ellis, there is a strange last section which he says was written by some unidentified person of experience about tramping.

The reason Ellis was interested was that the contention was that tramps originated almost entirely among rural and small-town homosexuals who had no possibility of finding sexual comfort in their native milieu.

Far from tolerance, the panic exhibited when tramps were around was a natural reaction to the fear that they would carry off their sons.

Puts a whole 'nother spin on the idea of running away to join the circus.

I haven't read Davies.

July 01, 2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Prescott is Britain's deputy Prime Minister.

Looks like Humpty Dumpty. Also known as 'Two Jags' because he owns two jaguar cars despite pretensions to working classdom.

Further known as 'Two Jabs' because he once famously punched a heckler square in the gob.

Anyway who cares?

Out on bloody penalties again.

July 01, 2006 3:12 PM  
Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Harry, John Prescott is the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, sort of our equivalent of your vice president, who was recently stripped of most of his Cabinet responsibilities, although not of his title and initially not of his country house, following news of an "affair" with his secretary.

Skipper, you accuse me of "combining two different concepts of marriage in the same sentence -- civil marriage on one hand, and the religious sacrament on the other". I don't know where you got that from, as there is nothing in my comment to suggest that I was talking about civil marriages at all, and I don't consider marriage to be a "sacrament" (that's Roman Catholic theology; to Protestants there are only two sacraments, baptism and the eucharist). I agree that a more careful discussion would need to distinguish between civil and religious marriages. The state has the right to decide whether gay couples can have civil marriages, and in a democracy each of us has the right to a say on this. For now here in the UK gay couples can have "civil partnerships" which are not officially called marriages but mostly have the same status. And I suppose each religion can decide whether to offer religious gay marriages. I would certainly prefer Christian churches not to, but not all Christians agree, and anyway churches are not supposed to be democracies. I won't say more on this, but there is plenty of discussion if you want to look for it!

July 01, 2006 3:18 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

...male lust needs a female to service it. Not exactly a great theoretical basis for non-exploitative sexual relations based upon equality and mutual respect.

Why would men having sex with women be naturally "exploitive" ?
Why wouldn't it allow for mutual respect ?

Unless the answer has something to do with:

...telling ourselves fairy tales about how female lust is complementary [to male lust]...

I remain puzzled* by your antifactual belief that women don't experience sexual lust; despite several invitations from myself to explain why you believe that to be the case, you have declined to do so, and continue to promote that idea.

So, again, why is it that you don't believe that women like sex ?
I can introduce you to many women who decidely do.

Male/female lust-satisfying is ABSOLUTELY a win/win situation - "Lucky gals" indeed.

Don't forget to teach your daughters all about it.

Most daughters find out in due time about the pleasures of sex - no instructions from Mom & Dad needed. (What they do need to be taught is how to stay out of trouble, baby & STD-wise, and one can always try to explain why "Bad Johnny Motorcycle" is probably not a wise choice for a mate - good luck there).


* And I do mean puzzled; you're obviously smart and fairly knowledgeable, yet you also don't seem to have read any of the thousands of books about feminine sexuality, despite having a forceful opinion about it - your obtuseness on this subject seems willful.

July 02, 2006 2:01 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

No, Oro, that won't do. That many women are "lustful" and like sex is obvious and well-recorded, but you keep turning that into "they are just like we are", which they are not. You are suffering from the (frankly) all-too-common conceit of assuming that anyone who doesn't share your perspective must, by definition, be a repressed late Victorian who belives women hate the sordid nonesense. As Harry says, Shakespeare wouldn't have got very far if everyone believed that. Nor would have the authors of the Bible, who did give us Jezebel, Salome, Eve and that wonderful woman, whoever she was, from Song of Solomon.

Skipper:

Now, I'm sorry sport, but I really don't know how to respond to an opponent who throws in loosy-goosy thoughts like: Tyranny of the majority is nearly always another name for hypocrisy. Whatever can you mean?

But, no matter, we have more serious things to discuss. Jeff, we have been arguing for three years now and I confess I cannot recall one instance where you have shown the slightest respect for a majority opinion that is against you. I have seen you rail against opinions from gay marriage to Muslim calls to the mosque in Dearborn to telemarketing to Sunday hours for restaurants in airports, but always from the perspective of your view of "rights" that you demand trump majority opinion on the basis of the rule of law and your own analytical rationalism. These rights, which you insist enure to the benefit of us all, always seem uncannily to jive perfectly with what you personally believe is the correct view of the issue at hand. Frankly, I wopnder whether you wouldn't prefer to be ruled by appointed liberal lawyers than by majority vote. Tell us, what issues do you believe should be left to majority vote--just income tax and traffic coordination?

I know you have stated many times that the Amewrican civil religion is your faith, but I have a hard time seeing from your srguments any evidence that you think democracy is much of a part of that, as opposed to all those scientific truths and "rights" swirling in your head that demand absolute priority on the basis of a vote of one. Too bad, because democracy (as opposed to "rights") is what the war on terror is all about.

Be careful, lest you end up like this guy:

The Angry Man
by Phyllis McGinley

The other day I chanced to meet
An angry man upon the street —
A man of wrath, a man of war,
A man who truculently bore
Over his shoulder, like a lance,
A banner labeled “Tolerance.”
And when I asked him why he strode
Thus scowling down the human road,
Scowling, he answered, “I am he
Who champions total liberty —
Intolerance being, ma’am, a state
No tolerant man can tolerate.

“When I meet rogues,” he cried, “who choose
To cherish oppositional views,
Lady, like this, and in this manner,
I lay about me with my banner
Till they cry mercy, ma’am.” His blows
Rained proudly on prospective foes.

Fearful, I turned and left him there
Still muttering, as he thrashed the air,
“Let the Intolerant beware!”

July 02, 2006 5:16 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

...assuming that anyone who doesn't share your perspective must, by definition, be a repressed late Victorian who belives women hate the sordid nonesense.

I thank you for the response.

Now, if you would be so good as to explain, since you apparently aren't a repressed late Victorian, what you mean by "male lust needs a female to service it. Not exactly a great theoretical basis for non-exploitative sexual relations based upon equality and mutual respect. Of course, today we've solved that conundrum by telling ourselves fairy tales about how female lust is complementary " ?

In my all-too-common and conceited way, it's hard to read that as "many women are 'lustful' and like sex".

I am actually quite interested in how you conceive of sex between two lustful people as being exploitive, and naturally leading to inequality and mutual disrespect.

July 02, 2006 9:57 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Sure:

A) Have you ever heard a man complain that "women don't commit"? Or how about one that turned down a willing woman-in-heat he was truly excited about on the basis that he wasn't ready yet?

B) How are the porn and sex trades based upon catering to female lust doing these days?

C) Be honest, how seriously do you take those cases where female teachers are convicted of rape or sexual assault in respect of their underage male students? Do you honestly see the emotional damage to the boy as equivalent to a comparable case involving underage girls.

D) Ever met a man who felt used by a woman who promised a relationship but actually just wanted sex and left after she got what she wanted? Or one who had to work out in therapy how his promiscuousness was leading him to self-contempt and disappointment by giving too much too easily?

E) Ever met a man who earned a reputation of contempt from all the women around him because he was too easy and would sleep with anybody?

F) Can you imagine yourself posting on a thread that any man who goes out to a bar and gets drunk is fair game and has no basis for crying rape or assault the next day?

G) We call a man who dedicates his life to seduction a Don Juan or Lothario. What do we call a woman that does the same? Do you imagine Mozart would have written an opera about one?

Yes, Oro, women have sexual appetites as varied as men, but they don't isolate or compartmentalize them from the rest of life and they often do a lot of damage to themselves when they try. Do you really need to be told that? Where have you been?

July 03, 2006 3:05 AM  
Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Peter, on your question D, the first one, yes, myself. We didn't actually go the whole way, but that is not the point, I felt used. I suspect that many single men feel the same about some women who come across their paths. There is also surely a significant market for "toy boys" for frustrated mostly older women, so your point B is not too strong. I don't claim complete gender equality in such matters, but things are not totally one-sided.

July 03, 2006 3:50 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Thank you, Peter. OK, on D I painted too stark a picture. There are always exceptions to general rules in relations between men and women, but I would argue it is a mistake to use these exceptions to try and disprove the general rules. Indeed, one of the major problems with modern family law is a preoccupation with the exceptions around the edges and not enough concern with bolstering and respecting the general middle. I have heard of some pretty awful cases of men being beaten up by their wives but I still get impatient with activists who try to insist spousal abuse is a gender-neutral social problem.

That being said, I invite you to reflect on that experience. Did you feel pressured and used by one you desired or disgusted by one you really didn't? Were you worried about your reputation as a result? That she might leave you if you didn't put out? Did you consider therapy? Have a long shower to symbolically cleanse yourself? Anyway, yes, men are not single-minded predators and many good ones are repulsed by that life, but shamed or traumatized by dabbling in it?

On B I hold firm despite the discreet charms of the gigolo life. Call me when there is a big problem with the international trafficking of male sex slaves who are forced against their wishes to service that predatory female lust.

July 03, 2006 4:21 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Yes to A, C, D, E.

B--OK

G-Mantrap

As to C, my paper reported a sentencing (no trial to save the pain to the victim) just last week of a 42-year-old woman tourist who found a 14-year-old boy in a hotel's game room, seduced him.

According to testimony, afterward he ran to his mamma and blurted out, 'I'm ruined!'

July 03, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

You would think that after all this time I would have learned my lesson.

July 03, 2006 3:30 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Peter Burnet:

Your points go towards establishing the fact that men and women are different.

They don't do anything to establish that the norm is that sex between men and women is naturally unequal, exploitive, and usually leads to contempt, which are the points that I had hoped that you'd expand upon.

I don't think that those ideas can be successfully defended, but I was interested in seeing what an attempt would look like.

Your examples C,D,E,G, and their feminine counterparts, are all of people whose behaviors are outside of the norms.
In America, and I assume in Canada as well, most people find fairly satisfying mates, and engage in serial committed relationships.

A) Have you ever heard a man complain that "women don't commit"?

Yes, of course, although usually young men; the tables turn when both sexes are middle-aged, and then it's mostly women who are aggrieved.

Or how about one that turned down a willing woman-in-heat he was truly excited about on the basis that he wasn't ready yet?

Again, yes - have done it myself, and have heard the same several times during my life from other guys.

B) How are the porn and sex trades based upon catering to female lust doing these days?

Very well indeed.

More info than you care to know, on request.

F) Can you imagine yourself posting on a thread that any man who goes out to a bar and gets drunk is fair game and has no basis for crying rape or assault the next day?

That's not at all what was said in that thread.

The point was that it's predictable that some women who go out alone and get drunk will also get raped, not that they have no basis for pressing charges the next day.

People who don't wear their seatbelts in automobiles, and end up flying through their windshields, are not denied treatment; they're just recognized as being idiots.
So are the drunk girls flying solo.

July 03, 2006 5:12 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I was gonna say, but forgot, isn't Canada's biggest export rape fantasy porn aimed at women?

July 03, 2006 6:07 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Okay, so asserting that tyranny of the majority is nearly always another name for hypocrisy might have been a bit of a rant. But consider:

Many states in the US make wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle mandatory. Fine. But most head injuries from motor vehicle accidents are occupants of cars, as a consequence of secondary collision with the car structure. Why no calls for a universal helmet law? Hypocrisy, perhaps?

I cannot recall one instance where you have shown the slightest respect for a majority opinion that is against you.

Well, as a congenital iconoclast, that somewhat comes with the territory -- I simply can't help myself.

But, more seriously, I find it very difficult to have any respect for majority opinions that are the very essence of hypocrisy. There is nothing hypocritical about Muslim calls to prayer in Dearborn, but there sure as heck is when bell-tolling Christians start having hissy fits. Similarly for Sunday hours at airports -- it is inconsequential when only one airport concession does it; but what about when all do?

With regard to gay marriage, the majority opinion seeks to impose a state of affairs upon a small minority that the majority would never tolerate for itself. That is hypocrisy. That is bad enough. What is worse is that there are substantial material benefits accruing to marriage that, because gays are excluded, are unavailable to them.

So I ask you: if every homosexual in the US decided to get married, what would be the cost to society?

As a libertarian, I believe that there is a large sphere of life that should be solely the domain of personal choice, subject to neither the whim of the majority, nor lawyers and courts. School vouchers are a good example. I don't think it matters whether a majority of people are against them, the choice of schooling is fundamentally individual, and parents should receive the per capita cost of public schooling if they choose to educate their children outside public schools, even if only 2% wish to do so.

Tolerance isn't the issue here. Rather, it is the willingness to resist the temptation to impose upon others when their choices for themselves aren't the ones you would make for them.

I have left several reasons on the table why I consider the jeremiad against gays immoral, and the prohibition of marriage (or a contractually identical arrangement differing in name, a la Britain) to them a baseless position that ignores the real elephant in the room.

Well?

July 04, 2006 4:32 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry/Obo:

Ok, you guys win. No differences whatsoever. Completely complementary lustful natures that mesh seamlessly in a spirit of freedom. The porn and sex trades are perfectly balanced, each sex wants just the same from the other and no more, and neither seeks or suffers any differently in the timeless battles between the sexes.

Of course, when those nasty feminists start ranting we quickly haul out our theories about different human natures, but when it comes to what we want, we see symbiosis.

Skipper:

Civil marriage has absolutely no concern with the reproductive abilities, or desires. To be a fully invested religious adherent might, depending upon the religion, entail substantial concern.

So, with respect to civil marriage, there are no issues, difficult or otherwise.


So, why bother? What is the purpose of civil marriage? Why does the state get involved with something that could be settled by private contract? I'd have thought you, as a good libertarian, would be enraged.

July 04, 2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It's difficult to discern any function of civil marriage any more, aside from sentimental traditionalism.

On the other hand, I've been to a couple of non-governmental homosexual marriages.

It isn't necessary to advocate rights of private contract, we already have that.

Although I'm not sure whether by contract two homosexuals could, for example, trump the rules by which hospitals direct decisions when their customers cannot make them for themselves.

But I think it could.

July 04, 2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 04, 2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

So, why bother? What is the purpose of civil marriage? Why does the state get involved with something that could be settled by private contract? I'd have thought you, as a good libertarian, would be enraged.

Ummm. Good question. Not being a lawyer, I dunno exactly, but I can make some guesses.

Customs lag circumstances. Before The Pill, marriages almost without exception included children, and civil marriage laws acted to protect the property rights of dependent women & children. Additionally, they also standardize inheritance, to the extent that (IIRC) it is difficult to be married and die intestate.

However, I don't think there is any justification to the vast majority of material benefits obtaining to marriage. Why are estate tax laws treated differently? Why are people unable to designate someone to make medical decisions other than a spouse or family member? Why are hospital visitation rules so different?

And so on.

As a good civil libertarian, I don't think that civil marriage laws should do anything more than protect the property rights of dependents (and, thereby, make it expensive to dump said dependents), and eliminate beggar-thy-neighbor marriage arrangements -- that is, polygamy.

July 04, 2006 2:50 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

For historical interest, perhaps, an except from a letter by Bobby Burns to his lawyer, 1788, talking about Jean Armour, who bore his children:

'I have been through sore tribulation, and under much buffeting of the Wicked One, since I came to this country. Jean I found banished like a martyr -- forlorn, destitute and friendless; all for the good old cause: I have reconciled her to her fate: I have reconciled her to her mother: I have taken her a room: I have taken her to my arms: I have given her a mahogany bed: I have given her a guinea: and I have f----d [sic] her till she rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory. But -- as I always am on every occasion -- I have been prudent and cautious to an astounding degree: I swore her, privately and solemnly, never to attempt any claim on me as a husband, even though anybody should persuade her she had such a claim, which she has not, neither during my life, nor after my death. She did all this like a good girl, and I took the opportunity of some dry horselitter, and gave her such a thundering scalade that electrified the very marrow of her bones. O, what a peacemaker is a guid weel-willy p---ple! [sic]. It is the mediator, the guarantee, the umpire, the bond of union, the solemn league and covenant, the plenipotentiary, the Aaron's rod, the Jacob's staff, the prophet Elisha's pot of oil, the Ahasuerus' sceptre, the sword of mercy, the philosopher's stone, the horn of plenty and Tree of Life between Man and Woman.'

July 04, 2006 7:25 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

Sorry, but that counts as lunchbag letdown. You have been fighting determinedly for the cause of gay marriage for several years now and hurling gigantic curses at those of us who demure, and now you admit you can't figure out what marriage is all about anyway. Were you fighting for gay rights or just deconstructing against those who saw a social significance in the institution?

July 04, 2006 7:28 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

What's a lunchbag letdown, and is it as exciting as a guid weel-willy p---ple?

July 05, 2006 6:49 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

You asked me what I thought the contemporary purpose of civil marriage is, not whether it exists.

I can claim an inability to answer the former, without denying the latter.

It is an accomplished fact that civil marriage exists, and that it confers significant material benefits upon those who choose to, and are able to, partake of it.

So long as there is no connection between children and marriage, it is an insult to Liberalism to assign group rights. Which is really the crux of the matter -- in the virtually complete victory of assertion over analysis, members of a group are unable to make the same sanctioned arrangement as everyone else.

I happen to think that not only is it important to secure the property rights of dependent spouses and children, but absent that consideration, there really is no justification for civil marriage.

So, how about this: There is no civil marriage for any couple until they have children.

The current state of affairs is indefensible, and is based largely upon some astonishingly ignorant passages in the Bible.

I'm still waiting for answers, Peter: if every gay who could marry did, what would be the cost to society?

How would it alter the aspirations of heterosexuals?

I'll bet that in another twenty years, arguments against gay marriage will be just as pleasant to consider as the ones against miscegenation.

July 06, 2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

So long as there is no connection between children and marriage, it is an insult to Liberalism to assign group rights.

Well heck, Skipper, I sure wouldn't want anybody to accuse me of insulting Liberalism. May I respectively suggest that the only reason there is any state interest in marriage is the protection of children and those who care for them? For compassionate reasons we celebrate companionate marriages in later life and our notions of privacy and decency keep us from demanding to know whether newlyweds plan to have kids, but these are just add-ons to the main purpose. I think you are going around in circles about property. Marriage is not about protecting property rights, it is about acquiring them. Without children, the whole project is silly and invasive and completely at odds with the libertarian impulses you adhere to. If you want to make a big statement about your love, sign a contract, have a party and move on.

Your question about how gay marriage would affect society generally or the health mainstream marriage is one we have tackled many times before. As you do not acknowledge high divorce rates or laissez-faire attitudes to adultery, separation, etc. as having any bearing on the health of the institution (or any particularly negative consequences for society even if they do), I can hardly persuade you gay marriage would. But then, you seem to see no particular need to encourage, celibrate or honour marriage. If it works, fine, if not, try something else because it is a big, exciting world out there. Measured against that perspective, I can offer no reason why gay marriage, polygamy, incest or anything else would make any difference.

July 08, 2006 8:54 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

You have badly misread my arguments.

I have never suggested anything other than that the primary state interest in marriage, in fact the only reason the institution exists, is the protection of children and the dependent spouse. Hence the emphasis on their property rights in the event the marriage dissolves -- the two considerations are inextricably linked.

Without children, the whole project is silly and invasive and completely at odds with the libertarian impulses you adhere to.

That is an ought, not an is. As things stand, marriage confers substantial material benefits upon those able to marry, some of them subsidized by those who may not (inheritance taxes, social security benefits).

Your question about how gay marriage would affect society generally or the health mainstream marriage is one we have tackled many times before.

You really have to refresh my memory here, as I can't recall any effect, direct or otherwise, that gay marriage will have on the institution itself, or heterosexual attitudes towards marriage, particularly when some religious sects are beginning to sanction gay marriages.

As you do not acknowledge high divorce rates or laissez-faire attitudes to adultery, separation, etc. as having any bearing on the health of the institution (or any particularly negative consequences for society even if they do)

Huh?

I have never said such. I have asserted that such decisions are inherently individual, because the circumstances surrounding each decision are far too complex for collective decision. I agree there are negative consequences, but there are also negative consequences attending legislative fiat. What's more, some of the consequences attributed to divorce are in fact due to the family environment itself. If you were to effectively prohibit all divorce tomorrow, the proxy stats for children would immediately go down. Would you then conclude that marriage is bad for kids? NB -- I'm not saying there are no negative consequences, only that the attested consequences inherently include a some component due to the differences in populations: the happily married population is not the same as the unhappily married.

But then, you seem to see no particular need to encourage, celibrate or honour marriage. If it works, fine, if not, try something else because it is a big, exciting world out there.

Huh?

I have never said such. When children are involved, I believe quite the opposite. But in today's world, like it or not, children are not a sine qua non of marriage. Yet marriage confers huge material benefits; excluding a group due to anatomical details is confers group rights, the direct antithesis of Liberalism.

Measured against that perspective, I can offer no reason why gay marriage, polygamy, incest or anything else would make any difference.

Well, you measured against a perspective I don't have. But ...

You certainly could think of a reason to oppose polygamy, because it is a beggar-thy-neighbor arrangement that has demonstrable, serious consequences if even as few as 4% of the population engages in polygamous marriage. Incest has obvious genetic consequences (as several small, close, religious sects clearly demonstrate).

Conversely, gay marriage doesn't deprive anyone of anything even if all who can, do. And, to the extent marriage encourages monogamy, it can only have positive health benefits.



My suggested solution? Eliminate civil marriage, and its material benefits to all couples without children.

And, for consistency, prohibit gays from having children. Of course, that leads to a whole new set of complications ...

July 08, 2006 9:26 AM  

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