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The sexes

Natural functions and marriage

Over at MarriageDebate.com Maggie Gallagher has been dealing with one of the standard arguments for “gay marriage,” that there can’t be an essential connection between marriage and procreation because after all 70-year-old women are allowed to marry even though they can’t have babies. Miss Gallagher handles the question very well, but there’s a lurking point worth bringing out.

She says,

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Where we are

Here are some of the fruits of the movement for full inclusiveness in religion, and more generally of the search for this-worldly transcendence: a mini-conference on homosexual sado-masochistic religion at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, a leading scholarly organization (search for the word “gay” on the linked page), and a respectful review in the New York Times Book Review of a new book by former Balanchine ballerina Toni Bentley on transcendence through getting buggered. (The same issue of the Times Book Review, by the way, also features an immensely long front-page review of what appears to be a hate-filled fantasy in the form of a novel by Philip Roth about the apparently notorious tendency of his non-Jewish fellow-citizens toward Nazism.)

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More AI follies

I’ve noted the Amnesty International view that violence against women is the greatest human rights scandal of our times. Their campaign against that scandal continues, with their submission of a report to the UN that complains, on human rights grounds, about the failure of the Spanish Government to do away with violence against women. The only hard figure that appears in the news report is that during the first half of this year 32 women died as result of violence by their “partners.” Since the population of Spain is around 40,000,000, that doesn’t sound like an unusually high murder rate. Nonetheless, it’s the thing picked out for concern.

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Family values return!

Too much inclusiveness is a bad thing, British homosexualists have discovered. The Lords have voted to open up “civil partnerships,” designed by the Blair government as an exact replica of marriage for same-sex couples, to caregivers and others who live together in stable domestic arrangements. The move has transformed “gay rights” rhetoric in a radically conservative and indeed exclusionary direction.

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Anti-gay FAQ

From the standpoint of the liberal public philosophy now generally accepted, the question of homosexuality has an obvious answer—treat it on a par with any configuration of sexual habit and impulse, as something people say they find rewarding and in any case are very reluctant to give up.

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The secretary, the general and the private

When assigning responsibility for the misconduct at Abu Ghraib prison it’s odd to have to choose between Lynndie England and Donald Rumsfeld. I thought the normal thing when something goes very wrong in a military unit was to hold the officer in charge responsible. In this case that would be Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib and indeed all U.S. military prisons in Iraq.

Her responsibility is treated as aside the point. One commentator points out that she’s a woman and so untouchable in the present-day military (and, some men have been tempted to say on occasion, never responsible for anything in any event).

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Fundie fathers

No big surprise: sexist homophobic fundies who leave the household chores for the little lady make better husbands and fathers. It’s an interesting result, because it contradicts any number of current views:

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    Dreams of impeachment

    A Massachusetts state representative has indicted Chief Justice Marshall for violations of the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct in connection with the “gay marriage” case. The story of how Mrs. Lewis acted out her judicial ideals is worth reading. I’m told that such an indictment is the first step in an impeachment proceeding.In fact, of course, it’s unlikely that an attempt at impeachment will get anywhere. It’s more comfortable for politicians to let things happen that have influential supporters and trust the media to put a good face on them. Still, it’s good to keep track of how things stand. Chief Justice Marshall’s actions are similar to those of other highly-placed feminist judges in cases regarding gender issues. Mark Steyn’s account of the antics of Canadian Supreme Court Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dube in his Rise of the FU Movement provides a case in point. Beyond feminists and gender, the habit of abusing the judicial process for political goals has deep roots on the Left. Felix Frankfurter’s private communications with lawyers for litigants he wanted to win—a gross violation of judicial conduct—are a notorious example.The moral? The liberal state denies its attachment to any set of substantive goods, and claims that process is everything. In reality, of course, the more process the more gaps can be found in the process, and the more avenues of manipulation become available to those who can make use of them. The basic question in politics is what goods have public authority. Questions of procedure are always secondary.

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    The abolition of man gets into the specifics

    It’s good to know the basic principles of the legal order under which one lives. One principle that’s so self-evidently persuasive that it applies even when the only relevant legal provisions anyone ever agreed to are to the contrary, is that there’s a fundamental right to wait until a child is almost born, puncture its skull, and suck its brains out. Who says this isn’t the greatest country in the world?

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    Business as usual in the abolition of gender

    This story is absolutely routine, so the Irish Examiner doesn’t bother with any discussion: EU tells Ireland to reform childcare and gender equality. The basic point is that in accordance with EU standards and initiatives the Irish government is to provide almost half a billion Irish pounds for childcare and place a renewed emphasis on “gender equality measures.”

    Ho-hum. Nonetheless, on occasion it’s worthwhile pointing out the obvious:

    1. At one time people might have gotten married, established a household, had kids, worried about how to support the arrangement, and split up duties so that childcare, household management, the production of income, and pursuing whatever else in life seemed worth pursuing could be taken care of in a civilized and satisfactory way. Since households and families were functional, they featured functional differentiation—more specifically, sex role stereotyping and a strong principle of parental authority—and defended themselves with rather strict rules of sexual morality.
    2. That arrangement, in which people made their lives together in accordance with community experience and habitual understandings, isn’t good enough anymore from the standpoint of our rulers. Among other things, it makes the aspects of life that our rulers control directly—large formal public institutions—subsidiary to other concerns.
    3. Consequently, as a matter of basic social principle, obligations relating to family and childcare—and therefore the family as a significant social institution—are to be done away with to the extent possible because they might interfere with the universal availability of everything and everybody to the economic machine, the care and feeding of which is now the summum bonum.
    4. That organizational demand corresponds to an understanding of human life and destiny: to be human is to be fully integrated as a productive and hedonic component in the universal rational economic machine. To be a wife and mother, except as an optional leisure-time activity, is oppression. To be a husband and father is bizarre and discreditable. To be a consumer and a functionary in some bureaucracy is fulfillment and communion with what is now understood as the Good, Beautiful and True.
    5. The institutional abolition of something as basic as the family in favor of rationalized technological hedonism naturally has endless repercussions. One such is the abolition of sex as a principle of human connection and its consequent reduction to a pure consumer good: consider, for example, Friends, Friends With Benefits and the Benefits of the Local Mall, a New York Times account of “hooking up” (absolutely casual sex) among young teenagers.

    The accepted view is that if you have a serious basic problem with any of this you’re really weird. Personally though I don’t think it’s going to work. We shall see.

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    Ever more tolerance

    The state of California recently held back millions of dollars from a local school district because three board members voted against the state’s demand they adopt a policy designed to protect public display of sexual disorder in the district’s elementary and middle schools.

    The logic that’s usually applied to such situations today goes as follows:

    1. Students have a right to a safe environment.
    2. That means they shouldn’t be bullied.
    3. Students get bullied who are different in a way that strikes most people as repellent.
    4. Most people who haven’t yet been re-educated find sexual disorders repellent.
    5. Therefore, to vindicate the right of all our children to safe schools, it is a fundamental goal of any tolerable system of education to eradicate among children any sense that any configuration of sexual behavior and feeling is better or worse than any other configuration, so long as the conduct remains consensual as to immediate participants.
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    HRW’s Filipino flap flops

    How things work: the well-known group that calls itself Human Rights Watch doesn’t like conservative sexual attitudes. One result of those attitudes in the Philippines is a low HIV rate (in a nation of 80,000,000 people, a total of 2,000 known and an additional 4,000 estimated infections). Another is that the Filipino government accommodates cultural and Catholic sensibilities by abstaining from a wholly technological and therefore libertine attitude toward sex, and focuses its prevention efforts on high-risk groups like prostitutes and homosexuals.

    So what does HRW do? It issues a report accusing the Filipino government of “pandering” to the Catholic Church. The report complains that failure to promote condoms is a human rights violation, because it’s unhealthy, and health is a human right. There’s not much AIDS in the Philippines now, but maybe there will be more in the future unless everyone has condoms.

    The complaint is an odd one. On similar grounds any policy with which one disagrees would be a human rights violation, since any policy that doesn’t promote the common good violates the human right to a government that works for the common good. Be that as it may, it’s extremely obscure why viewing sex as basically a matter of technology would make it better, from a health or any other point of view. Aren’t things really more complicated than that? Nonetheless, it’s an attitude toward which our governing elites are uniformly committed. Perhaps by chance, it’s also one that helps well-placed people get their own way, in sexual as in other matters, and indeed strengthens their position generally by disordering the family, local cultural standards, and other informal and traditional authorities that simply by existing compete with formal institutions and limit their power..

    Meanwhile, on other fronts having to do with sex, the San Francisco Chronicle is in a snit because the founder of Curves (the chain of ordinary-user-friendly women’s exercise clubs) has been giving money to pregnancy crisis centers that a somewhat radical pro-life group says it likes, the chief of Selective Service wants to draft women, and my college alumni mag concluded its most recent issue with a heartwarming human-interest interview with an alumnus who’s in the pornographic video biz out in LA.

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    Maple Leaf continues its fall

    Here are some worthwhile if rambly reflections on the implications of the recent passage of Bill C-250 in Canada, which would add sexual orientation to the list of things with respect to which you’re not allowed to stir up “hatred.” In principle, the legislation makes any general expression of traditional sexual morality a crime in Canada: if you say there’s something seriously wrong with some kinds of sexual activity, then you’re stirring up hatred against those who define themselves by reference to that activity.

    I was wondering with some friends a week or so ago whether American exceptionalism would continue forever, or whether we would go the way of Canada and the rest of the Western world. Our official instructors, authorities and theoreticians—experts, educators, academics, top media people, leaders of mainstream religion—all want us to go the way of managerial PC, no doubt partly because that would mean that official instructors, authorities and theoreticians control everything. On the other hand, there’s still a lot of kowtowing to the idea of free speech, and various innovations of the past 20 years or so (right-wing hate radio, the internet, homeschooling) have made it possible for more and more people with no official status to make use of the idea.

    We shall see.

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    Gays and merry oldsters

    I’ve argued that sex is right only when it helps constitute an enduring union between two persons that points beyond personal interest because of what the union is, and that can be so only in the case of sex within marriage that is open to new life. Someone who commented on my Sexual Morality FAQ asked why then “gay marriage” is so different from marriage between two 60-year olds, since both unions will be infertile. I replied that a union between two men is sterile by what it is—by the identity of the parties—while one between a 60-year-old man and woman is sterile by particular circumstances, their age and physical condition.

    Any thoughts on the argument would be welcome. It seems to me it depends on three points: (1) persons and acts have an essential nature that’s not the same as their factual effects, (2) one’s sexual nature (as a man or woman) is essential to what one is, so that violating it violates oneself, and (3) the nature of sex includes a natural procreative aspect that is somewhat fuzzy, so it’s lost when we intentionally do something that defeats it but not when it simply fails to go to completion because of failure to act (i.e., abstention) or because of circumstances (e.g., time of month or physical defect).

    All comments are welcome. It’s hard to think about these things abstractly, but it seems necessary now, when the modernist attempt to reduce reason to formal logic and means-end rationality has caused such practical problems in this and other connections.

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    Sexual Morality FAQ

    Sex is a more contentious topic than ever. The view easiest to articulate in the language of public discussion today is that the only appropriate public standards are that it should be consensual and precautions should be taken to avoid disease and unwanted pregnancy; everything else is a matter of individual choice that others should respect. Since the world seems more complex than that, and many hold a different view, I thought I could contribute to the discussion by setting that view forth as clearly as I could.

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    Anti-Feminist Page

    Introduction

    Welcome to the Anti-Feminist Page!

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    No techno-fix in Vancouver?

    Condom promotion seems to have its limitations as a public health measure: more use correlates with more STDs. The result isn’t surprising. Nonjudgmental “safe sex” education says that sexual well-being is basically a matter of correct use of technology. The slightest attention to human experience would show that’s not so. If you want to live well, there’s no substitute for living well.

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    Let boys be boys

    The notion that there really are differences between the sexes worth taking into account for reasons other than their more effective eradication seems to be creeping back into respectable discourse. The most recent example: a USA Today article confirming what I think most American men remember from childhood, the bias against boys in female-dominated elementary schools. The particular topic of the article is the much higher rate at which boys are identified as problem readers, a tendency apparently induced by greater feminine ease dealing with girls rather than a higher incidence among boys of actual reading problems.

    The sexes are different, and often do better in different settings. Wouldn’t more extensive use of same-sex schools be a helpful step forward?

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    The waxing Crescent

    A couple of weeks ago I noted the move among Muslims in Canada to use the new arbitration law there to make Shari’ah binding in civil and domestic cases. Wasting no time, they’ve already set up an Islamic Institute to formalize the process.

    At present the stated plan is for the parties to a particular dispute to consent to arbitration of that dispute, and then to agree whether Shari’ah or Canadian civil law should apply. If the system is at all successful, I can’t help but think that Muslims entering into marriages, partnerships and the like will more and more demand advance agreement to arbitration and to Shari’ah. Even apart from the specific requirements of Islam, there are reasons for doing so. For example, Muslim family law isn’t perfect, but it’s family law and it corresponds to an idea of fitness that people have lived by for a long time. In contrast, North American family law is increasingly not family law at all, it’s messy sexual entanglement law, and it corresponds to a welfare bureaucrat’s idea of fitness that no-one could possibly want to live by. In the long run Shari’ah is going win any competition between the two, and people who don’t like that will have to set up their own arbitration systems.

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    Family in England, 2003

    The dialectic of the state and the family in England:

    • The state continues to prove itself unable to do anything for children beyond what their families have already done for them: Schools crisis deepens under Labour. Despite all the programs, the gap between the attainment of working-class and middle-class secondary school children has actually widened.
    • The proper bureaucratic response to failures in education and other branches of family policy is greater rationality. One part of greater rationality is to treat parents as agents of the state who are untrained and difficult to supervise and so must be granted only the most limited authority so they won’t murder anyone: British parents set to lose right to smack children. In response to the death of Victoria Climbie, a little Ivorian girl who was killed in London by her great-aunt after social workers missed glaring signs she was in danger, Labour MPs are planning to outlaw parental smacking. The system broke down, so the natural conclusion is that stricter central controls are needed.
    • Judged as a job, however, parent-as-state-agent really isn’t that appealing: You thought children would make you happy? Not really - just poorer. If it’s a job rather an identity, status and destiny, why not choose other more manageable roads to happiness? The proposals for tax credits the article mentions would in effect raise the salary paid for being a parent, but somehow they seem to miss the point.
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