One keeps seeing such stories: Syphilis spikes among New York gay men. Officials suggest that the situation “‘reflects increased sexual risk-taking behavior … possibly due to factors including the availability of effective treatment, prevention burnout, misperceptions of risk and the impact of other health problems such as depression and substance abuse.'” Such things are no doubt present. “Prevention burnout,” for example, means that homosexuals get tired of being goody-goodies, which sounds about right. It seems to me though that what’s behind the factors officially recognized is that homosexuality, despite recent efforts like the decision of the Boston Glob to publish homosexual unions, stubbornly resists normalization. It’s intrinsically anarchic and transgressive.
To be normal, after all, is to be part of a stable pattern of productive human life. Sexual impulses are deeply rooted, powerful and protean. Bringing them into stable relation with normal human functioning has its difficulties, but it’s necessary if a way of life is to be tolerable. Within the bonds of marriage normal sexual relations between a man and a woman become part of an integrated biological, interpersonal, social and legal scheme of things that deprives sex of its radically self-seeking quality and gives it a settled function and significance at the basis of human life in all its aspects. Homosexuality, in contrast, has no biological function, and any interpersonal significance it may have is a matter of personal interpretation. The attempt to stabilize it through recognition of homosexual couplings as marriages is an attempt to bring about the triumph of social artifice over overwhelming impulse with no aid from instinct, biology, the social necessity of stable home life for the rearing of children, or even social attitudes that give social artifice any particular authority. The attempt is bound to flop. Its main effect will be to disorder social understandings of marriage yet further, and it is important to resist it for that reason.