Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What's wrong with gay sex?

Here's a chpt of my book The Philosophy Gym on homosexuality.

Mr Jarvis, a Christian, was asleep in bed, dreaming of the Last Judgement. In his dream, Jarvis found himself seated next to God in a great cloud-swept hall. God had just finished handing down judgement on the drunkards, who were slowly shuffling out of the exit to the left. Angels were now ushering a group of nervous-looking men through the entrance to the right. As the men were assembled before Him, God began to speak.

God: So who’s next? Ah, yes, the active homosexuals . So tell me, Jarvis, what shall we do with them?
Jarvis: You’re going to punish them, aren’t you?
God: Why do you say that?
Jarvis: Because to engage in homosexual behaviour is wrong, of course.

The Appeal to The Bible


God gently rubbed his chin and looked quizzically at Jarvis.

God. Wrong? Is it wrong?
Jarvis: Yes. You say so yourself in The Bible.
God: Ah. The Bible.
Jarvis: Yes. Look right here. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18.22
God. Well, I may have been a little hasty. I’m not sure about that bit now.
Jarvis. Not sure? You’re God! You don’t make mistakes!
God: Perhaps I am not the real God. Perhaps I’m merely a dream God – a figment of your imagination.
Jarvis: Oh.
God. Also, why do you assume The Bible is one hundred percent reliable?
Jarvis: You mean it’s not?
God: I didn’t say that. But look, if you plan entirely to base your morality on the contents of just one book, you had better be sure it is the right book. And you had better be sure to what extent it can be relied upon, hadn’t you?

The Lord pointed to The Bible lying in Jarvis’s lap.

God: Flip forward a couple of pages. Scan down a bit. That’s it. Leviticus 11.7-8 What does it say?
Jarvis: “And the swine, though he divide the hoof; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat.”
God: Ever eaten a bacon sandwich? Then you have sinned! Now a little further down.
Jarvis: “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales…”
God: “…ye shall not eat of their flesh.” Didn’t your last meal include moules marinière? Why aren’t you Christians out boycotting seafood restaurants and warning of the perils of lobster thermidor?

Jarvis turned a little pale.

God: If you read over the page from the passage about homosexuality, you will discover that it’s also wrong to wear a jacket made from a linen/wool mix.
Jarvis: I hadn’t noticed that bit before.
God: Further on it says it’s sinful to lend money for interest. Yet you condemn not one of these things, do you?
Jarvis: No.
God: But you confidently cite that particular passage of Leviticus to justify your condemnation of homosexuality. It seems you are picking and choosing.
Jarvis: But surely you no longer mean those other passages about seafood, jackets and lending money to apply? They’re outdated, aren’t they?

God looked sternly at Jarvis.

God: The word of God? Outdated? Okay, I don’t blame you for failing to condemn those who wear jackets made from a linen/wool mix. But you’re using your own sense of right and wrong, your own moral criteria, to decide which passages of The Bible to accept and which to reject, aren’t you?
Jarvis: Yes, I guess I am.
God: Indeed, it’s because the morality of The Bible does generally fit in with what you already think about right and wrong that you are prepared to accept The Bible as my word, isn’t it? If The Bible recommended stealing, lying and killing, you would hardly be likely to take it as My word, would you?
Jarvis: I guess not.
God: Then I think you should be honest. Rather than picking those bits of The Bible you like and rejecting the rest, and then claiming that your particular selection has my divine stamp of approval, I think you should just say that you think homosexuality is wrong and leave me out of it.
Jarvis: Very well.
God: Right, so if you believe homosexuality is wrong, can you explain to me why it’s wrong? Why do these men deserve punishment?

Homosexuality is unnatural


Jarvis looked out at the assembled crowd and scratched his head.

Jarvis: I didn’t say you should punish them. Perhaps they should be forgiven. But they have sinned. I can give you a number of reasons why.
God: What reasons?
Jarvis: The first is that homosexuality is unnatural.
God: Ah. That’s perhaps the most commonly held justification for condemning homosexual acts. But in what sense is homosexuality unnatural?
Jarvis: Well, most people aren’t actively homosexual. So homosexuality is an aberration from the norm.
God: In a sense. But then most men don’t have red hair. So red hair is also, as you put it, an aberration from the norm. Yet there is nothing unnatural about red hair, is there?
Jarvis: True. What I mean is that homosexual acts are unnatural because they are not what nature intended.
God: Not what nature intended? Hmm. Again, you need to clarify. Do you mean that homosexual acts run against those tendencies that nature has instilled in man, those that come most naturally to him?
Jarvis: Yes, I suppose I do.
God: I see. But now what about cleanliness? Cleanliness is next to Godliness, they say. Yet it hardly comes naturally to most human beings does it? Children seem positively fond of dirt. Man, for the most part, is pretty filthy, and doesn’t much mind being so. Your human obsession with hygiene is a very modern development. But then, by your own reasoning, cleanliness is morally wrong.
Jarvis: Oh dear.
God. Indeed, much that comes naturally to man is immoral. But he also seems naturally inclined towards greed, avarice, selfishness, infidelity and aggression. Humans have to struggle to control these natural inclinations. In fact it’s only those who succeed in thwarting these repugnant natural tendencies that are considered virtuous. Yet you would now reverse this and say that these tendencies, being natural, are good and what runs against them bad! Let me introduce you to someone.

Suddenly, Jarvis felt another person sitting close by. He turned to his right and saw a bald, serious-looking man dressed in a dark suit.

God: This is John Stuart Mill, who lived from 1806 to 1873. Mill here didn’t always give me a good press. In fact meeting me came as something of a surprise to you, didn’t it Mill?

Mill smiled nervously.

God: But he does has something interesting to say about what is natural. Don’t you Mill?
Mill: Conformity to nature, has no connection whatever with right and wrong….To illustrate this point, let us consider the phrase by which the greatest intensity of condemnatory feeling is conveyed in connection with the idea of nature – the word unnatural. That a thing is unnatural, in any precise meaning which can be attached to the word, is no argument for its being blameable; since the most criminal actions are to a being like man, not more unnatural than most of the virtues.

No sooner had Mill finished speaking than he vanished in a puff of smoke.

God: A fine mind, that Mill. So what do you say now?

Jarvis looked a little irritated. He remained convinced that there is something unnatural about homosexuality, something that makes it morally wrong. But he was struggling very hard to identify exactly what this unnatural and immoral feature is. Then, after a few minutes, Jarvis had an idea.

Jarvis. I have it! The penis has a specific function, doesn’t it? It’s designed for procreation: for the production of children. Homosexual activity is thus a misuse of that particular body part. One is using a body part contrary to the way nature intended.
God: I see. But then most sexual activity is morally wrong. For most sexual activity – even heterosexual activity – involves the thwarting of the procreative natural function. Masturbation is sinful: it cannot result in the production of children. Oral sex is sinful. The use of any sort of contraceptive device is sinful. Is that what you believe?
Jarvis: It’s certainly what many Catholics believe, isn’t it?
God: True. But look, if the justification for considering all these sorts of sexual activity sinful is that they involve using body parts contrary to their “natural” function, then what about, say, wearing earrings? It hardly looks like a “natural” use of the ears, does it, hanging lumps of metal off them? Yet it’s not considered sinful. No doubt you would deny that wearing earrings involves, as you said, using a body part “contrary to its basic, essential function”. But why?
Jarvis: I’m not sure.
God: And in any case, the question remains: Why is it wrong to use a body part contrary to its basic natural function? I just don’t see why it follows that if something comes unnaturally to us, or to a part of our body, then it’s wrong.

Homosexuality is dirty


Jarvis was struggling to answer God’s question adequately. So he decides to try a different tack.

Jarvis: Okay. Suppose I accept that Mill is correct. Morality has nothing to do with what’s “natural” or “unnatural”. Still there’s another much more obvious and better reason for condemning homosexual practices. I hope you won’t be offended if I speak frankly.
God: Be as frank as you like.
Jarvis: Very well. Homosexuality is dirty, isn’t it? Sodomy – placing ones penis in someone else’s anus – means that it is probable that one will come into contact with faeces.
God. What you say about sodomy is true. But does this show that all homosexual acts are wrong? No, it doesn’t. There are plenty of active homosexuals who don’t practise sodomy. You can’t condemn them, can you?
Jarvis. No.
God: Also, there are heterosexual couples that practise sodomy, aren’t there?
Jarvis: There are?
God. Take my word for it. But in any case, just because an activity is dirty doesn’t make it wrong.
Jarvis: Why not?
God: You’re a keen gardener, aren’t you?
Jarvis: Yes.
God: Well, gardening is a pretty dirty activity, isn’t it? Particularly where you live. There is rarely a day you spend in the garden that doesn’t result in you immersing your hands in cat faeces, is there?
Jarvis: I guess that’s true. You are right. Gardening is dirty, but it’s not immoral. So I can’t really use the alleged dirtiness of sodomy to justify my morally condemning it, can I?
God: You’re catching on, my boy.

Homosexuality is unhealthy

Jarvis now tried a different tack.

Jarvis: To engage in homosexual activity is unhealthy. That’s why it’s wrong.
God: Unhealthy?
God: Yes. Take HIV for example. HIV is an infection that results in AIDS. AIDS kills millions of people. And it is through homosexual activity that HIV is spread. Correct?
God: You are partially correct. HIV can be spread through all forms of penetrative sex. Indeed, many heterosexuals are infected too.
Jarvis: That’s true.
God: Also, homosexuals may practise safe sex. Heterosexuals too. Practice safe sex and the risks are pretty low.
Jarvis: Hmm. Also true, I guess.
God: Perhaps it’s true that homosexual acts are more likely to pass on the disease than are heterosexual acts, even if they are of the comparatively “safe” variety. But does that make it wrong? If it were found that drinking wine is similarly a bit less healthy than drinking beer, we wouldn’t morally condemn those wine drinkers who refused to switch to beer, would we?
Jarvis: I guess not.

Homosexuality corrupts the young

Jarvis: But what of homosexuals who prey on innocent young men? That’s wrong, isn’t it?
God: But it’s no less wrong when men seek to seduce innocent and impressionable young women, surely?
Jarvis: Well, yes, that is wrong too. But what the homosexual seducer does is more wrong.
God: Why?
Jarvis: Well, because the young man involved may then end up adopting a homosexual lifestyle himself. He may be corrupted.
God: You’re assuming, I think, that homosexuals tend to be made, not born. That’s contentious, is it not?
Jarvis: Well, isn’t it plausible that some men who would, other things being equal, go on to have only heterosexual sexual relationships may have a tendency towards homosexuality that, given the wrong sort of experience at an impressionable age, may result in them then pursuing homosexual liaisons later in life?
God: That’s not implausible. But notice that you’re begging the question. If there’s nothing morally wrong with homosexuality, then what difference does it make if a young man does end up engaging in homosexual acts? Why insist that this young man is corrupted?
Jarvis: Well, homosexuals live miserable lives. In many societies they continue to be vilified. So, as a result of his early homosexual experience, this young man may end up having an unhappy life. The homosexual who initiates the young man into this life must know this. So what the initiator does is wrong.
God: Perhaps. But even if what you say is true, is the blame for the young man’s misery to be pinned primarily on the homosexual who initiates him?

God pointed an accusatory finger at Jarvis.

God: Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to blame people like you for making homosexuals miserable by vilifying them?

Homosexuals are promiscuous

Jarvis didn’t bother to answer God’s question. Instead, he pointed out something about male homosexuals that does appear to be true.

Jarvis: Male homosexuals tend to be rather more promiscuous than heterosexuals. Doesn’t that, at least, make them worthy of your moral condemnation?
God: This, at best, would give me reason to condemn those homosexuals that were promiscuous. It would not justify my condemning homosexual acts per se. In fact there are many homosexual couples that remain faithful throughout their lives. And plenty of heterosexuals are promiscuous too.
Jarvis: True. But homosexuals tend to be more promiscuous.
God: In fact, there’s a scientific explanation for that. Males seem naturally much more disposed towards having no-strings sex than do females. Ask heterosexual men if they would accept the offer of no-risk, no-strings sex with an attractive stranger of the opposite sex and over 90% say “yes”. Ask heterosexual women the same question and the vast majority say “no”.
Jarvis: That’s interesting.
God. Yes. So you see, in heterosexual relationships, women act as a natural brake on the male’s impulse to have sex fairly indiscriminately. For male homosexuals this brake is missing. It is unsuprising, then, that they tend to be more promiscuous than are heterosexual males. It’s not that they are any less moral. It’s just that they have more opportunity to do what most men, whatever their sexual persuasion, would do given the opportunity.
Jarvis: Nevertheless, you admit that male homosexuals do tend to be more promiscuous, and promiscuity is not to be encouraged. So male homosexuality is not to be encouraged, surely.
God: Your argument rests on the assumption that promiscuity is itself a bad thing. But is it?
Jarvis: Isn’t it?
God: Can you explain to me why you think it is?

Homosexuals use each other as means, not ends

Jarvis: Well, take for example those bathhouses in San Francisco. You know, the ones in which homosexual orgies are supposed to have taken place. Men having sex with complete strangers at the drop of a hat. These men would be treating other men not as ends in themselves, but merely as a means to an end, that end being their own immediate sexual gratification. Now that is morally wrong, surely. It was the philosopher Kant (1724-1804) who said: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.” And that is quite right, isn’t it? One ought to treat others as ends in themselves, rather than as the means by which one might obtain a quick sexual thrill. That, surely, is why such promiscuous behaviour is wrong.
God: An ingenious argument, I admit. But not persuasive. Let me conjure up for you another philosopher, Lord Quinton (1925- ), who has something interesting to say on this matter.

A figure began to materialize to Jarvis’s right. First some hands appeared; then a nose. Finally, there was Anthony Quinton standing before him (Quinton, incidentally, bears an uncanny resemblance to God).

God: Ah. Lord Quinton. My friend Jarvis just suggested that it is wrong to use another person not as an end in themselves, but merely as a means to sexual pleasure. Homosexuals are less likely to enter into lasting, monogomous sexual relationships. They are, perhaps, more likely to engage in casual sex with a complete stranger, on a whim. Is it that a problem, morally?
Quinton: It is certainly true that long-term, morally and personally profound relationships are less common among homosexuals. How much does that matter? If I regularly play tennis with someone but do not see him except on the tennis court and at the health juice bar afterwards, if, in other words, I am interested in him only as a tennis partner, am I ignoring his status as an end in himself? More to the point, if I pick up different opponents every time I go to the courts, on a purely casual basis, am I acting immorally?
Jarvis: But hang on. Sex is not like tennis is it? Sex is a much more important part of life, surely.
Quinton: Except for a minute number of people sex is a more important part of life than tennis. A life in which it is merely a source of short-term gratification and not an inseparable part of a whole shared life is to that extent trivialised. But triviality is not a moral offence; it is, rather, a missed opportunity and one which, in fact, many homosexuals do not miss.

God waved his hand and Lord Quinton began to dissolve into tendrils of cloud. As the last wisps drifted away, God looked intently at Jarvis.

God: So you see, it may be true that some homosexuals use each other as means to an end and not as ends in themselves. But, as Quinton just explained, it’s difficult to see why there is anything morally wrong with that. It may also be true that some homosexuals miss out on the kind of deeper connection that can be made only within a stable, lasting and sexually exclusive relationship. However, as Quinton also just explained, this is surely not a reason morally to condemn them.

Jarvis scratched his head. He now felt very confused.

Jarvis: But I felt sure that you would condemn homosexuality.
God: If two consenting adult males want to enter into a sexual relationship, why not? So far you have not given me a single convincing reason why such activity demands my condemnation. Homosexual sex does no harm to others. Nor does it appear to do much obvious harm to the individuals involved. Why shouldn’t people engage in it if that is what they want?

Homosexuality and “family values”


Jarvis: You say that homosexuality does no harm to others. But perhaps it does. Perhaps it has a corrosive effect on society as a whole. For doesn’t it eat away at the institution that lies at the heart of any civilized society: the family?
God: Why do you say that?
Jarvis: Well, for a start, if everyone was exclusively homosexual, then there would be no families, would there? The human race would die out!
God: Does that make homosexuality wrong? I think not. For, similarly, if every man became a Catholic Priest, that too would mean the end of the family. Yet there’s nothing immoral about being a Catholic Priest, I hope?
Jarvis: No. But look, societies that fail to condemn homosexuality crumble. Once homosexuality is considered a morally acceptable alternative to heterosexuality, the result must be the breakdown of the family. And the family is the glue that binds society together, is it not?
God: You seem to be suggesting that homosexuality is like some sort of disease that will inevitably eat away at the vitals of society unless strongly dealt with.
Jarvis: Yes, I am.
God: But why must a society that tolerates homosexuality crumble? Actually, it seems to me that societies tolerant of homosexuality thrive just as much if not more than intolerant ones. And why do you believe homosexuality is a threat to the family? Why can’t we have both strong families and tolerance? You really have made no case for any of these conclusions, have you?

Jarvis grimaced.

God: In fact, it seems to me that your attitude towards homosexuals is driven less by reason and more by emotion: by feelings of disgust and revulsion.
Jarvis: I do have strong feelings about them, yes. They do revolt me. And shouldn’t society take into account the strong moral convictions of the great many who have such feelings?
God: But it’s clear, isn’t it, that morality isn’t simply a matter of emotion? Just because most people feel that something is disgusting or abhorrent doesn’t make it wrong. After all, plenty of people feel strongly about the moral inferiority of Jews. Plenty feel similarly about blacks. Plenty feel sickened by foreigners. Yet all these feelings are without justification. That kind of “them and us” sentiment on which “they” are held to be dirty, nasty and immoral comes very naturally to you humans. Perhaps you should be more vigilant, more on your guard against letting such feelings get a grip. As Ronald Dworkin points out, you certainly shouldn’t mistake such feelings for moral conviction. Isn’t that right, Ronald?

Another shadowy figure started to take form next to Jarvis and began to speak.

Dworkin: If I base my view about homosexuals on a personal emotional reaction (‘they make me sick’) you would reject [it]. We distinguish moral positions from emotional reactions, not because moral positions are supposed to be unemotional or dispassionate – quite the reverse is true – but because the moral position is supposed to justify the emotional reaction, and not vice versa. If a man is unable to produce such reasons, we do not deny the fact of his emotional involvement, which may have important social or political consequences, but we do not take this involvement as demonstrating his moral conviction. Indeed, it is just this sort of position – a severe emotional reaction to a practice or a situation for which one cannot account – that we tend to describe, in lay terms, as phobias or an obsession.

Jarvis looked uncomfortable.

God: See? You’re in the grip of a phobia or obsession.
Jarvis: Oh dear.
God: Having said all that, let’s get on with the judging.

God reached forward and pressed a small red button on his armrest. Immediately, the hall was bathed in an eerie red light and the air filled with the deafening “Parp! Parp! Parp!” of a claxon. Jarvis noticed that over on the left of the hall a number of doors had sprung open and little horned creatures with long tails were pouring out. These devil-creatures immediately began to prod the assembled homosexuals back in the direction of the doorways with their spiked forks. Many of these unfortunate men were now holding each other and whimpering.

God: That’s right. You all burn.
Jarvis: In hell?
God: I’m afraid so. They didn’t follow instructions. Couldn’t be clearer. You pointed out one of the relevant passages yourself. Homosexuality is an abomination. I razed Sodom to ground, didn’t I?
Jarvis: But a minute ago you said…
God: I have been testing you. I have pretended to be a bleeding-heart liberal in order to establish your commitment to The Bible. I do tests. Don’t you remember Isaac and Abraham – Genesis 23?
Jarvis: But what about forgiveness? Aren’t you going to allow them into heaven?

God pointed to the men being herded about by the devil-creatures

God: Let them into heaven? How can I?
Jarvis: But I thought you said...
God: There you go, thinking again. It’s all in the book: The book you hold in your hands. Take a look at Corinthians, 1, 6:9-11. It says very clearly that ‘abusers of themselves with mankind…shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of you, but ye are washed…ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Now these men are not ‘washed’ are they? They don’t repent. In fact, they flaunt their activities proudly before us. That one even has a ‘Gay Pride’ banner.

There was indeed a worried looking man standing at the front with a slightly droopy cardboard placard.

God: It’s all very clear: they go to hell.
Jarvis: Really?
God: Rules are rules. So who’s next? Ah yes, the lobster eaters. Come on down!

At this Jarvis woke up, his bed soaked in sweat.

70 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

Not too shabby*!

You have a little typo:

Jarvis: There you go, thinking again. It’s all in the book: The book you hold in your hands....

I think you want to have God saying that.

*in the sense of profoundly excellent.

Jeremy said...

Indeed, that's the way it appears in the excellent (truly excellent) "The Philosophy Gym". Thanks for the excellent blog, Stephen.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the kind words. And well spotted BB - I've fixed it.

Geoff Coupe said...

Yup, I always did think that, deep down, God was a thoroughly nasty piece of work... Excellent piece, by the way...

Geoff Coupe said...

Oh, as an afterthought - it might just be a clerical error... See http://youtube.com/watch?v=C8i4le0BIFc

Steelman said...

I bought the Philosophy Gym last year, after reading this chapter online. Although, I haven't yet finished the book (got distracted by Dawkins, Dennett, Warburton, etc.), it's been good so far.

The only bad thing: I felt it necessary to select for myself the most religiously fundamentalist dentist possible, just in case.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I do, however, want to point out the (half?) enthymeme in Dworkin's argument: If we wish to have an objective morality then the moral position should justify the emotional reaction, and not vice versa.

The argument from disgust is really the only argument that can justify humanism: We disapprove of involuntary suffering precisely because involuntary suffering disgusts (or some other emotion you prefer) us.

The argument from disgust fails with regard to homosexuality because it is empirically the case that people who actually know homosexuals—even Altemeyer high RWAs—are not disgusted by them; what disgust actually exists is entirely artificial and requires both unceasing propaganda and considerable factual ignorance to sustain.

Steelman said...

BB said:"The argument from disgust is really the only argument that can justify humanism: We disapprove of involuntary suffering precisely because involuntary suffering disgusts (or some other emotion you prefer) us."

It sounds like the above argument from disgust fails, according to Dworkin. If we substitute gay sex for involuntary suffering it fails as well, I think: We disapprove of gay sex precisely because gay sex disgusts us. Instead, Humanists might say "involuntary suffering is wrong because of good reason X, that's why it disgusts us," yes?

BB said: "The argument from disgust fails with regard to homosexuality because it is empirically the case that people who actually know homosexuals—even Altemeyer high RWAs—are not disgusted by them; what disgust actually exists is entirely artificial and requires both unceasing propaganda and considerable factual ignorance to sustain."

Well, RWA's have been known to say, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." So for them it seems it’s really homosexual behavior that disgust them, not necessarily the homosexuals themselves. I agree there's plenty of anti-gay propaganda and ignorance there, but are you saying those people would changer their minds about gay sex if they only had the facts? I think that sort of change, as in the case of racism, might take generations. And even then there's an innate human tendency to put certain types of people in the out-group, if for no other reason than their behavior (physical appearance, language, etc.) is in the minority.

To SL:
God said: "God: You’re assuming, I think, that homosexuals tend to be made, not born. That’s contentious, is it not?"

I would say from my own anecdotal experience, in the case of women, homosexuals can be born or made. I know a number of divorced women who ended up in homosexual relationships simply because they found a more emotionally suitable and stable partner in a woman (had "given up on men"), not because they had finally admitted to themselves that they were homosexual. I also know women who say the opposite, that they were homosexual all along but couldn't face that fact.

However, I don't hear the first ("made") case with men (maybe I haven't known enough gay men?). I think part of the reason for this, psychologically and sociologically, may be that a woman, unlike a man, can't "lose her masculinity" if she becomes involved in a same sex relationship. Also, in a still (mostly?) male dominated society, to put it bluntly: straight guys tend to find gay male sex uninteresting (at least!), but they think lesbians are sexy. Not actual lesbians really, just the fantasy ones available at the adult bookstore.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Steelman,

Instead, Humanists might say "involuntary suffering is wrong because of good reason X, that's why it disgusts us," yes?

Not this humanist. I go the other direction: Involuntary suffering disgusts me, that's why I consider it wrong.

Well, RWA's have been known to say, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." So for them it seems it’s really homosexual behavior that disgust them, not necessarily the homosexuals themselves.

If you look at Altemeyer's research, there's some indication that merely by virtue of knowing someone who is gay, high RWAs actually diminish their emotional evaluation of homosexuality.

The research isn't conclusive, though; it's not Altemeyer's primary research topic. But it fits in nicely with his additional findings that High RWAs in general become less authoritarian the more contact they have with non-authoritarians.

I actually think it takes generations not to actually change people's opinions, but to change the course of the familial and social propaganda. And that task is getting even more difficult now that the ruling elites have (re?) discovered the effectiveness of authoritarian propaganda. And once the elites start pushing authoritarian propaganda in a consistent, coordinated manner, I think the culture is quickly doomed.

That doesn't change the subjectivist point, though.

(Also, I don't think the born/made distinction is especially fundamental; Law's arguments would equally well apply to eating shellfish.)

The Barefoot Bum said...

Oops...

... high RWAs actually diminish their emotional evaluation of homosexuality.

Should be:

... high RWAs actually diminish their negative emotional evaluation of homosexuality.

Steelman said...

BB said: "Not this humanist. I go the other direction: Involuntary suffering disgusts me, that's why I consider it wrong."

I agree that involuntary suffering is repugnant. However, if I'm reading both you and Dworkin right, you disagree with him about feelings and morals. So you agree with Jarvis' initial moral judgement: X is disgusting, so X is wrong?

But maybe your terse reply has me misjudging your position? You posted the following on your blog under the entry On Humanism:

"The big issue with this sort of humanist ethics is forming opinions about specific activities which cause some people happiness and others suffering. There are no rigorous, logical, objective answers to these sorts of issues: I must, rather, consult my feelings, discover how I feel about the various consequences and how I feel directly about the various actions available, and come to some conclusion.

Because I am a philosopher, I've examined my feelings in some detail. Although I've done some work in making my feelings consistent, on the whole my ethical beliefs are a matter of discovery rather than construction."

I'm guessing you put your feelings aside in order to ascertain what "the various consequences" and "the various actions available" might be, so emotion doesn't cloud your judgement in discovering those facts on your way to coming "to some conclusion"?

You say you've "done some work in making my feelings consistent." Does that mean you've made some rules you follow for how you handle certain moral situations consistently, in order to guard against the possible inconsistencies of your feelings from day to day?

Thanks for the link to Altemeyer's book. I read the introduction and it sounds interesting.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Steelman

So you agree with Jarvis' initial moral judgement: X is disgusting, so X is wrong?

You're phrasing the implication differently than I would. "Jarvis feels that X is disgusting, therefore Jarvis believes that X is wrong."

Assuming you're speaking precisely without implied antecedents, you're saying something that I consider incoherent: I do not believe that actions or states of affairs have intrinsic moral properties.

I'm guessing you put your feelings aside in order to ascertain what "the various consequences" and "the various actions available" might be, so emotion doesn't cloud your judgement in discovering those facts on your way to coming "to some conclusion"?

I do put my feelings aside to do my best to determine what actions are (practically) available and what consequences would ensue from those actions—these considerations are matters of objective truth. I then consider how I actually feel about both the actions per se and their likely consequences.

You say you've "done some work in making my feelings consistent."

It's hard to give a good example, because I was raised uber-liberal, and I've been pretty much tolerant about everything consensual my whole life. But I will actually feel differently about something once I'm convinced that I was mistaken about whether it does or does not cause actual harm.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I'm also glad you're liking The Authoritarians. I think it's the most groundbreaking research since Milgram.

Lizzie said...

Wonderful! You talked about some of this stuff at the Holt school (all girl's comprehensive)today! Yay!

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Lizzie. It was fun. Convince them to ask me back!

Geoff Coupe's link is hilarious by the way. Or google "mr deity". Thanks Geoff.

anticant said...

On the 'disgust' argument, you may like to look at my post "The Yuk Factor" [21 January] on Anticant's Arena. I'd welcome any comments.

Anonymous said...

So would you still go to hell even if you don't practice gay sex but you are still gay?

Jeff said...

Most people, when approaching that "fine line" that hems in a controversy tend to step carefully and gingerly as they walk that fine line.

You dance on it. And that's a truly astounding feat.

I do have an ever so slight problem with allowing the notion that homosexuals do not form "lasting and meaningful" as well as heterosexuals do, for all the data I've seen on the matter puts "success" of coupling as statistically equal, homo- versus hetero-.

Apologies for picking nits; even in writing this, it feels like I'm condemning a hero because he didn't look perfect on camera in his television interviews.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks very much Jeff. I don't suppose you have any links for that data?

Of course, the proportion of homosexuals in lasting stable relationships may be the same as for heteros, yet homosexuals go in for v much more sex with different partners prior to settling down.

Obviously I'm not expert on any of this, and i'd been interested in any useful links if you've got them..

goodshithappens said...

this is very true.... homosexuality, like greed, lust, and all are all sins. Everyone sins... the key is to repent and not flaunt it. Some people are born as homosexuals... or the environment they are put in makes them so..and this is "natural" because they cannot stop the way they feel for people of the same gender. Like how some people are mean and they cannot help it. But those who believe in God should repent and God will not condemn them. Only God can judge them; not humans.

KellyR said...

Excellent work, Stephen. I hope to The Flying Spaghetti Monster In The Sky, that more people read your work.

amy said...

Regarding the idea that homosexuality is "unnatural" because it does not result in procreation:

What then of heterosexuals that are proven infertile, by no fault of their own? Are they to remain celibate because intercourse will knowingly never result in procreation?
What about post-menopausal women? When procreation is no longer possible are they morally required to cease sexual activity?
Is it "unnatural" for these groups to connect with their partners sexually?

In addition, where does the issue of orphaned children fit in? Inarguably, there are more orphaned children in the world than childless couples adopt and care for them. Considering the unequal ratio, it is not a far stretch to imagine that evolution would include a portion of the population that predictably will not produce children of their own. I mean, if you're looking for a "purpose" for homosexuality that satisfies some kind of societal need. With a little bit of social evolution, it could help to ameliorate that problem.

MC said...

Fantastic post, very well done. I will certainly buy the rest of the book.

Interesting question [in the Mill section]...'Indeed, much that comes naturally to man is immoral. But he also seems naturally inclined towards greed, avarice, selfishness, infidelity and aggression. Humans have to struggle to control these natural inclinations. In fact it’s only those who succeed in thwarting these repugnant natural tendencies that are considered virtuous.'

I just wanted to clarify a point here which I'm unsure about; I assume that you believe that moral things can come naturally to man, just as much as immoral things (so why use 'But' above?). I don't want to question why we might ascribe something as moral/immoral (consequence vs. intention vs. ...) but I'm interested in whether you believe the virtuous individual is the one who succeeds in thwarting [repugnant natural tendencies], or rather whether you meant 'repugnant' [natural tendencies].

That was rather confusing. I meant to query whether all natural tendencies are repugnant, or whether your target was certain ones.

I've often found it rather strange that 'we' (judaeo-christian heritage) praise the individual who overcomes great obstacles to do good, when really we should be praising the one who moves with no internal friction. I guess that's just the Aristotelian in me.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks MC - to clarify, I didn't mean all natural tendencies are repugnant.

Christina Neofotistou said...

I'm sorry for posting so late. It was very enjoyable and sums up most of the anti-gay rhetoric and arguments against it that I've discussed, and then some.

I was wondering, on a more feminist note, how are lesbians justifiable? Or is it that only men are told off in the bible, and therefore female homosexuals are condemned only by proxy? Also, what about transgendered people? Also what about transgendered people who are gay as well (e.g a male to female person -or else a transwoman- who is attracted to females). How does one deal with the essentialism inherrent in claims of immoral 'sex changes'?

Finally, is there really scientific proof that women are biologically averse to 'just sex' as opposed to 'meaningful relationships"? Isn't that the traditional position that patriarchy assigns them, and in any case, isn't it learned behaviour. Evolution suggests that in primates with close to human testes-to-body weight ratio, males have to be less promiscuous than females because they produce less sperm and need to compete against other males, in effect having sex with one or very few females. In contrast, females of such species mate with more than one mates in order to ensure fertilisation.

Perhaps you were only using arguments that a christian theist would understand and hold to be true, in which case my comments are reduntant of course.

thank you for an entertaining read!

Anonymous said...

I feel that a few points ought to be made to append this otherwise excellent dialogue.

'Homosexuality' is a word applying equally to males and females. There was a definite bias towards talk of male homosexuals in the article.

The view that males are naturally promiscuous and that females are naturally monogamous is, at least, contentious. It may be better to stop at condemning the promiscuous, if promiscuity is bad, rather than conceeding arguable and superfluous facts. Otherwise, if we follow up with reasons that promiscuity is bad (harmful to oneself because it harms one's faculty for deep, longlasting love, etc.) we would have an argument against promoting homosexuality.

Jeffrey said...

STEPHEN LAW!!!
I LOVE YOUR BOOKS!

Anonymous said...

That was so good! I'm getting the book...

rabin said...

i dont think gay sex is a huge problem. it is a problem of human thinking and nature.

Igor said...

Wonderful! You talked about some of this stuff at the Holt school (all girl's comprehensive) today! Yay!

peanut said...

I'm working on a German translation of the text, just for me as an argumentational aid. But I also would publish it in the net if I'm allowed to (with proper attribution to you, for sure). AFAIK there is no German redaction of the book.

While working on the translation. I think, I found a mistake in the Part Homosequality is unatural:

"God. Indeed, much that comes naturally to man is immoral. But he also seems naturally inclined towards greed, avarice, selfishness, infidelity and aggression."

I dont understand the "But". Either it should be an "And" or the "immoral" should be changed to "moral". As it is, there is no contrast that justifies the "but"

Thank you

Stephen Law said...

hi peanut there is transl in the book "Warum die Kreter..." by myself (Eichborn press).

Your correction is good.

Michelle said...

Thank you for engaging work that makes philosophy accessible to all ages. I enjoyed this piece, particularly the irony you use that prevents any one camp from dismissing your tale as biased.

I hit a few snags: you use the terms ''homosexual" and "male homosexual" interchangeably and focus almost exclusively on males, including the all-male group awaiting judgement. You unpack much of the issue so well for the average person; I would love to see you counter common dismissal of females as homosexuals, and dismissal of female sexuality in general, by addressing them, too.

I disagree with your assertions about male and female relational tendencies, but if they're true it would make female homosexuals less promiscuous. Your argument makes female homosexuals more likely than even heterosexual couples to engage in long-lasting, monogamous relationships.

Finally, I'm not sure how male homosexual acts are slightly more risky to health than heterosexual acts. That seems an unnecessary and unfounded assertion to insert into an otherwise instructive argument.

I hope you'll consider these thoughts when subsequent editions allow for revision. Thanks again for your fine work.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks very much for comments Michele....

London undergraduate said...

Since this seems to be an attempt to show the inconsistency of the Christian teaching on the immorality of homosexuality I wish to outline the places in which you appear to have misunderstood the rationale behind certain arguments.

As you don't identify which understanding of God you are basing your portrayal on I may be misguided in this criticism. However, since you have God quoting passages from the New and Old Testaments I am going to assume that this is a 'Christian' God. You have God quote the law outlined in Leviticus which prohibits seafood and pork. God seeks to highlight Jarvis' hypocrisy in using a biblical verse to denounce homosexuality whilst he ignores the law on certain foods. Jarvis, and indeed God, haven't been reading their Bibles very carefully because this debate on whether Jewish Christians should follow all of the laws of the Torah was resolved in Acts. In Acts 10 St Peter has a vision which commands him to eat the foods that are pronounced unclean under the Leviticus law. Later Peter goes to a Gentile house to eat (again prohibited as Gentiles are 'unclean) Due to his vision Peter's views have changed. He says, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:27-28) The significance of this is that there is no longer a division between those who are racially Jewish or Gentile. In Galatians 5 Paul makes a distinction between the moral law and the law of the Torah. The law of the Torah's function was to keep Gentiles and Jews separate and this has to be abandoned in the pursuit of unity in Christ. It is true that for Jews then and now the Law is a witness to being moral, i.e. living an authentic life in service of a held 'Good', however Christianity teaches that there is a new way to witness to morality. Paul says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." (Gal 5: 14) This is the hinge of the Christian moral teaching. Christ, believed to have been God incarnate, is said to have fulfilled the law. Matthew 15:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Jesus says that all the Law is fulfilled in two basic commandments outlined in Mattew 22:36-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The point is to open up the law of love (i.e. love as self-gift which seeks the good of the other above all else) to all people, even those who cannot accept and follow external laws that do not correspond to them in truth since they have not grown up in this tradition. This “law of love” was more explicitly witnessed to by the person Jesus in his death. Christians believe this death was freely accepted to show people how to serve each other so they could more perfectly order their lives towards the attainment of the ultimate Good: love.

You have God using the argument that, “Rules are rules” when he contradicts his own reasoning, however when we consider these facts about the Christian faith this does not hold. I think you are assuming that Christianity is a faith of the book. This is a misinformed understanding. The Bible (something you call one book when it is actually a collection of many books of poetry, law, history and theology) is not the source of Christianity. Christians are not 'people of the book'. They are followers of the person Jesus Christ. Jesus did not write the New Testament, his followers did. The Church does not teach that the Bible was dictated by God but was inspired by Holy Spirit. The apostles used their reason and literary talent to convey what they thought was true, perhaps you can identify with them here.

London undergraduate said...

To continue...

I think one of the major flaws in your argument is to confuse 'moral' questions with things that have no bearing on moral choice. For example it is unrealistic to compare being homosexual with having red hair. These two are not comparable because having red hair has no consequences concerning choices about how to one lives one's life. The colour of one's hair has no bearing on personal life questions such as “whom should I love?”or “what should I dedicate my life to?” . Therefore it is philosophical nonsense to use the same reasoning in both cases. Again you equate swapping sexual partners to changing tennis partners. Although the importance of sex used to be brushed under the rug by philosophers, modern psychology has rescued us from this state of affairs and has affirmed the fundamental importance of the sexual act in people's lives. Again you equate wearing earrings to a sexual act. This kind of reasoning is not only flawed but it actually degrades sex altogether, and by this I mean homosexual and heterosexual sex. The very fact that you felt moved to write this discourse and that I feel compelled to reply to it shows that this is a matter that deeply involves the human person in a moral way. The kind of reasoning that you are using is completely divorced from human bodily experience. You say that trivialising is not a moral offence. However, I wonder how many people would be willing to say that their sexuality is something unimportant in their lives. This is certainly not how I feel. Sexuality is intrinsic to human identity. You give the example of a celibate priest as being a moral equivalent to being actively homosexual. Being a celibate priest does not harm the family so neither does being homosexual. This is false reasoning. The celibate life upholds the family life because it sacrifices its goods in order to promote them to others. The celibate gives up a married life and sexual activity not because it is dirty but because he/she believes in it so deeply. The celibate wishes to witness to the life of self-gift that should be intrinsic to the married life in sexual intercourse and in everyday life.

Stephen Law said...

Er right. Thanks for clearing that up for me. So is it wrong or isn't it?

London undergraduate said...

I believe that people, as rational agents, are free to make their own choices and there should be an open and informed debate about such important questions. I believe it is the duty of philosophers to present people with coherent arguments which can be used in dialogue. My argument was that your presentation of Christian morality was misinformed and that there are flaws in your reasoning. Surely my criticisms add to the debate? Please do not simply brush my comments aside and at least attempt to defend your arguments.

Stephen Law said...

The dialogue is fictional, between fictional characters, who may or may not have god grasp of what "real" christianity is (according to you,say). But the args coming out of Jarvis's mouth are commonplace, even if, by your lights, wrong, and it's those arguments I am dealing with. Obviously, lots of Christians would think Jarvis a twit. Maybe they'd be right. You are making the mistake of thinking that my understanding of Christianity must be Jarvis's.

London undergraduate said...

Oh, a straw man, can't argue with that then.

Stephen Law said...

Right, so I should not bother refuting anti-homosexual arguments that are commonplace, then? Because they happen not to be your preferred arguments?

Anonymous said...

London undergraduate seems to have the correct idea here, they've probably got some A levels. You attack premises which, although some people hold, are not in any way part of Christian morality. The views that Jarvis presents are indeed held by a fringe minority of uneducated people but are not the rational arguments of Christian teaching. Firstly, I feel it’s unfair to attack such people and secondly, unhelpful to add to this misunderstanding by claiming this view is representative of Christian teaching. If you want to condemn the Christian view of homosexuality, I advise actually presenting the arguments correctly, instead of creating numerous straw men and attempting to find fault with these. People can only make a free choice about their moral lives when they are informed properly about the issues, not misinformed about issues that were solved nearly two thousand years ago.
From having read some of your books, including the Philosophy Gymn, you clearly know nothing about Christianity but neither have you even attempted to refute London undergrad’s comments about the false reasoning of the argument. You are merely skirting around the issues here, directly imitating the Young Earth Creationists method and realising your view as unfalsifiable.

Stephen Law said...

I am refuting arguments that I have heard many times from people claiming to be Christians, whose arguments they consider Christian. I am attacking those arguments. Obviously I am not attacking Christianity per se. Many Christians condemn such arguments.

Such people are not stupid or unintelligent, by the way. Some are professional philosophers.

Stephen Law said...

PS My view on homosexuality has not been attacked, so far as I can see. What am I skirting around/avoiding?

Stephen Law said...

So, to the last two posters: let's hear your view on homosexuality and your justification for it. You know, the "real" Christian ones.

1. Is active homosexuality morally wrong?

2. If so, why?

Do please avoid waffle.

dunstan said...

I write in response to your challenge to London Undergraduate to say why gay sex is wrong. I think the heart of the matter is the theme of LU's argument, viz, that the sexual act is not trivial. LU is right to pick you up on this point because the analogies you propose (wearing earrings etc)do trivialise sex. Nowhere do you consider the nature of sex (surely the philosophical question). LU is on the right lines here when s/he defines the sexual act as self-gift. We can easily see how this definition applies in the sexual act between a man and a woman: the man gives his semen(his life and so self-gift)to the woman who gives him the gift of her vagina (giving access to her life - her ova and womb). In homosexual sex other parts of the body (hands, legs, anus) stand in for the vagina/ ova/ womb complex. But are they truly equivalent? Obviously not when the heterosexual act is procreative, but I don't believe they are even if not since none of these parts of the body carry the same life-giving meaning as the sexual organs of the woman. I conclude that homosexual acts trivialise the sexual act in utilitarian fashion as just another possible source of pleasure. They obscure the true dignity of the sexual act and for that reason constitute a threat to human dignity. If, Stephen, you want to argue in utilitarian terms I suggest you follow J.S. Mill in the distinction he makes between higher and lower pleasures. That is a utilitarian form of an argument from human dignity which seems to me opposed to the licentiousness of gay culture.

Stephen Law said...

First, I make the point that sex is very important, not trivial, IN THE ARTICLE.

Second, a clarification: so blow jobs and masturbation are also sinful then are they?

Stephen Law said...

PS and don't assume I am a utilitarian.

London undergraduate said...

You’re right, I am not attacking your view of homosexuality, I am attacking the reasoning you use in this article and your attitude. Your views are typical of the soft-relativism that pervades establishment thinkers in Britain today. You trivialise the question and misrepresent your opponents opinions.

This is a question that cannot simply be answered quickly and, after all, I don‘t want to waste your time with “waffle.” I don’t have any black and white answers for you. What I was trying to show you is that your thinking is lazy and uninformed. You’ve based an idea of God on the bible without actually bothering to read it. You use examples that have no moral content ( e.g. wearing earrings, tennis etc) to reason moral questions. (by the way you have made no response what so ever to these comments.)

If you want to look into this question further here’s some recommended reading that has helped me:

The Bible

“The theology of the Body explained” by Christopher West

“Human sexuality; an all-embracing gift” by Gerald D Coleman, SS

Generally anything that affirms lived human experience. You seem to be stuck in a Vienna circle! Perhaps some Sartre or Heidegger?

Stephen Law said...

Hi London undergrad. This essay is an example of "the method of counter-examples" in philosophy, which maybe you haven't come across much before. Here's the thing. If someone says, necessarily: something is X if and only if it is Y, then it is enough to show they are wrong to point out a merely possible X that isn't Y, or vice versa.

So if someone says homosexuality is wrong becuase unnatural, then enough to show that other unnatural activities are not wrong, sych as walking on your hands. Aquinas actually discusses that exact case. It is a perfectly good counter example despite the fact that walking on your hands is in various ways not like homosexual activity (e.g. sex is more important, doesn't involve being upside down [normally]). However, we might then come up with a NEW revised theory that says e.g. homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatrual AND IMPORTANT. However, that possibility does not show there was anything wrong with the original counter-example, as a counter-example.

You are doing the same thing here. You are not showing there's anything wrong with my counter-examples, but you are, it seems, offering a revised account (whatever it is, exactly - it's not been spelt out)

Stephen Law said...

Hi Dunstan

Thanks for your answer. I have questions tough.

Why should I accept your definition of sex as self-gift? it's obviously wrong as an all encompassing definition. Masturbation isn't, but is a sexual act. This just looks like convenient redefinition. After all, I could just define religion as, say, a form of insanity, and then go on to "prove" all sorts of things negative claims about it.

Second, why suppose that, even if it is necessarily a "gift" (which perhaps it is in the thinnest sense that it ought to be engaged in voluntarily), it must be a gift of a reproductive, or potentially reproductive, sort, if it is to be of any worth, or not to be trivialized? Why couldn't it be a "gift" of e.g. intimate and loving physical union?

In fact, I would have thought that the idea that semen - with it's "life-giving meaning" is the "gift" given by the male is actually a trivialization of the sexual act. It's just a squirt of reproductive fluid. What's really significant about sex, very often, is an intimate and loving physical union, not bodily fluids and where there happen to end up.

In short, you have artificially restricted sex and it's significance and value to "life-giving", and that is not it's only significance or value. It has significance and value whether the a act it has the potential to give life or not. You haven't shown otherwise. You've just assumed otherwise.

Stephen Law said...

That should have started 'I have questions though" - not "...tough", which sounds rude!

dunstan said...

THanks for your reply, Stephen. THe typo was right - the questions you pose are tough, but here goes.

You say the definition of sex as self-gift is restrictive. I agree. But I don't think you have given your own definition. Is it 'a squirt of reproductive fluid'? That would enable masturbation to be included. But in referring to semen as 'reproductive', I submit you have implicitly accepted that masturbation contradicts the physical (I don't says natural because there is more to the nature of sex between humans than animals) definition of sex. This is relevant to the question of homosexuality because of what you say about your sexual ideal: sex as 'loving physical union'. I don't doubt that homosexuals are capable of loving one another (I have witnessed that myself) but, it has to be admitted, not in a physical union. Such is a physiological impossibility though I accept that sodomy is a simulacrum of the sexual union between man and woman.
And this brings me to the question you raise with London Undergraduate. Granted that a man may walk on his hands, but is sensible to do so? Is it, indeed, natural for him so to do? You mention Aquinas, Stephen. Well, what about teleological causality? The purpose to which the hands are ordered is not walking. I don't think I need to spell out its application to what I believe is known as 'barebacking'.
Finally, Stephen, I don't suppose you to be a utilitarian, but I do think your arguments ultimately derive from a utilitarian understanding of sex as pleasure or happiness (there - I've given you your definition of sex - I hope you like it!). This I take it is why you attach 'value' to masturbation and blow-jobs (you are right to mention this since I left out the mouth from my original list of parts of the body that may be used for gay sex). But that is why I recommended to your attention Mill's distinction between the higher and lower pleasures. He famously says (I quote from memory) 'Better Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied'. There is an ascetic concept of value here which I find missing in gay culture. I congratulate you (hope that doesn't sound patronising) on your use of the Socratic method of dialogue in the way you do philosophy and I hope you'll want to continue this dialogue.

dunstan said...

Thanks, Stephen. Yes, your typo was right, tough questions. Here are my answers.
1. My definition need not be unduly limiting. Masturbation might be included within it as 'gift to self'. But I wonder. Does this not ignore the other-directedness of sex. Is not this the language of the 'sqirt of reproductive fluid' as you amusingly define semen? It is ordered towards a second (woman) and third party (child).
2. I absolutely agree that the 'squirt' is the means of 'intimate and loving physical union'. I've no doubt that gays can experience intimacy and love but 'physical union' is, sadly, impossible, unless of course we're to reduce all gay sex to sodomy which you, rightly, refuse to do.
3. If my definition of sex is too narrow I think yours is too wide. It seems to me something like 'whatever gives pleasure/ happiness'. THat's why I suppose you to be a utilitarian or hedonist if you prefer. And that's why I raised the question of Mill's distinction between higher and lower pleasures. It would suggest that abstinence (Socrates unsatisfied) is better than indulgence (the pig satisfied). And the former does not figure on the moral gaydar which I think shows why there might be a problem with gay sex.
Best wishes

Tim said...

Great stuff, Stephen! After reading this, I found out my library had a copy of the whole book. Just started it.

Schwule Fussballer said...

we love gaysex .. thats normal for us.

Anonymous said...

I liked everything, except that last part when God sends the homosexuals to burn in Hell. I personally think that it's contradictory to the first part of the story. If you finish the story that way, you might as well send people with tattoos and earrings to Hell as well. Don't forget that when Jesus came to the earth, hefreed us of the old laws, the ones established in Leviticus, and preached to us our new laws, none of which condemned homosexuals.

Anonymous said...

I came to this party late, but after reading the post and the comments about it I think Professor Law should write a follow up chapter entitled: "What's right with gay sex?"

Since the point of this essay is to suggest that gay sex is NOT immoral, I think it would be interesting to hear reasons why gay sex IS moral.

It seems to me that it would be equally difficult to philosophically defend homosexuality because many of the relevant moral and philosophical objections God makes towards Jarvis's anti-homosex position can be made against a pro-homosex position as well. And I think it would be difficult to find other arguments supporting homosexuality that could not likewise be refuted.

Indeed one might argue that the burden of argument should be on the shoulders of pro-homosex advocates, since they are attempting to change society's negative attitudes towards homosexual behavior. If society is to be changed so radically, I think we all should be sure that there is sufficient reason to assume that such behavior is healthy for participants and healthy for society.

In other words, there should be strong and cogent arguments to affirm "what's right with gay sex." I’m not sure there are.

Anonymous said...

U need to know history!
If you read this without bias you will find a lot of truth!
If you want to go directly to the info its Prophet Lut(pbuh)
Try this link
http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/books/ProphetsIbnKathir.pdf
or
http://www.islamawareness.net/Prophets/

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FormFactor said...

Jarvis: I can't help but notice that if you are correct then all forms of sexuality are permissible. It appears that all you've said in defense of gay sex applies equally to beastiality, incest and pedophilia.

God: ?

Stephen Law said...

Not even Jarvis would be silly enough to argue that. To point out that justifications offered for discriminating against x fails is not to show that there are no grounds for discriminating against y or z. Obviously. But I realize this sort of fallacious thinking plays well in certain religious circles.

Stephen Law said...

What I suspect Formfactor is demonstrating is the mindset that says "But if religious reasons for discriminating against x fail, then there can be no reason for discriminating against y or z either". As if religious reasons are the only reasons that there could possibly be for discriminating against anything. In fact there are all sorts of obvious differences between gay sex and incest, bestiality, etc. that might form a basis for discriminating against the latter, if not the former.

Stephen Law said...

Anonymous March 21st offers a shoddy switcheroo, insisting that the defenders of gay sex must show that gay sex *is* morally acceptable, and then maintaining (without anything by way of support) that such a defence will fail.

This is about as convincing as (i) saying that those who think blacks/women/Jews should get the vote must justify their getting it (it's not good enough just to show that the arguments for blacks/women/Jews not getting the vote are no good). And then adding that (ii) while religious/Biblically/naturalistically based justifications for witholding the vote from blacks/women/Jews may fail, so too will similar justifications for giving them the vote.

In fact, the justification for giving blacks/women/Jews the vote is, precisely, that unless there is good reason to morally/politically discriminate against those with attribute x, you shouldn't discriminate against those with attribute x.

That's why the onus clearly is on those who wish to morally/politically discriminate against blacks/Jews/women to justify their doing so.

Ditto gays.

FormFactor said...

Dr. Law,
I'm merely pointing out that the reasons given here in support of gay sex apply to the others as well. There may be other reasons for discriminating against incest, beastiality and pedophilia; maybe even good ones though I'm unfamiliar with them.
In any case, replace "Gay" in "What's Wrong With Gay Sex" with "incest" or any of the others and I'm not sure Jarvis doesn't remain just as stumped.

Finally, I don't mean to offend. If I do I sincerely apologize. I'm not nearly as polished as I'd like to be.

Anonymous said...

The most glaring flaw is that the Law of Moses (not eating pigs, etc.) was fulfilled, replaced, superseded by the Law of Christ (e.g. an eye for an eye was replaced by turn the other cheek - Matt. 5:38-39; eating restrictions were abolished in Peter's vision as described in Acts 10:9-16).

What it did do a great job at was showing the fallacy of religion without current, continuing revelation. Men interpreting the Bible into a multitude of doctrinally differing religions proves to be fallible and inaccurate. Modern revelation (communication from God to a spokesman [i.e. a prophet, Amos 3:7, among many other scriptures]). Truth is only fully understood when God is in open communication with His people the same way He has always done it, through a prophet. When left without Higher guidance one must engage in the imperfect task of interpreting the words of deceased men. The end result of that is one book (the Bible) resulting in hundreds of differing religions. The resulting opinions & doctrines of those religions come about the same way as Stephen Law's opinion does: trying his best to understand complicated issues, but ultimately missing the mark. God is not "dead", but living.

John Richards said...

I've spotted a tiny typo
God: But he does has* something interesting to say about what is natural. Don’t you Mill?

Great piece which I'm circulating and recommending widely.

Any chance of a review of Godbuster?

Any chance of coming to speak to Worthing Skeptics?

Best

John Richards

Stephen Law said...

Thanks John - not in near future: I am just too busy... apologies.

Franklin said...

Saddened by the ending...

Philip Rand said...

Dr Law

A very interesting scientific paper concerning this topic was written by:

R Stoller: Perversion the erotic form of hatred, Hassocks, Sussex, 1976.

Quite a difficult and controversial topic.