Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Bizarro sex talk

Say no to all coveting, stealing, and lusting,
And do not eat lobsters, for they are disgusting.

-- Yes and No

Let's -- to adapt a well-worn Intro-to-Linguistics example of syntactic ambiguity -- talk about sex with Bizarro cartoonist Dan Piraro. I've been a Bizarro reader since time immemorial -- a particular fan of that one where the guy's like "If a croissant is in your portable phone holster, what did you have for breakfast?" -- and I follow Mr. Piraro's blog, on which he occasionally holds forth on non-cartoon subjects. For a creative guy whose brand is Bizarro, he has a strong tendency towards blandly mainstream opinions smack-dab in the middle of the Overton window -- a fact that ought in theory to be surprising but of course isn't. This post of his can therefore be taken as more or less presenting Joe Sixpack's view on the subject of Teh Gay.

So, let's dissect it.

Forget about furniture for a minute, let’s talk about sexual orientation. This is a topic near to my heart because I have one. A sexual orientation. And if there’s one thing I’m completely sure of about, it’s that I have had no control over which way it pointed. [. . .] And I can only assume that if I did not choose what kind of humans would attract my sexual interest, neither do most others. As I said, it’s an assumption so maybe I’m wrong about that.

This is already a question-begging way of framing things. It's the same as the pronoun nonsense. Pronouns are a part of speech close to my heart because I myself expect people to use the correct pronouns when referring to me. My pronouns are he/him, but yours might be he/schmim, they/them, xoo/xiff, or whatever. As for me, being referred to as he and him has just always felt natural for as long as I can remember, and being called anything else would just be weird -- so I can only assume that everyone else's pronominal orientation arose in the same way.

The unspoken assumption is that since the normal comes naturally, therefore the abnormal also comes naturally -- and that assumption is arrived at by framing things in such a way as to exclude the very concept of normality or abnormality. The idea of "sexual orientation" was created to normalize various disorders of sexual attraction; the pronouns-in-your-bio thing was created to normalize the use of ungrammatical or made-up pronouns. If we wanted to normalize pica -- the psychiatric term for the desire to eat things that are not food -- we could start calling normal people cibivores or something ("food-eaters") and cast cibivory as just another "dietary orientation." Why do some people want to eat chalk and gravel? Well, why do you want to eat food? Same thing!

Note that I'm not trying to argue directly against the point that Mr. Piraro is making in this paragraph. Like him, I assume that no one directly chooses to experience this or that sort of sexual attraction (although of course one can choose by one's actions, and by such thoughts as are under conscious control, to entertain an urge or to dismiss it, to fan the flames or to smother them). My point is that the approach he takes -- What could be more natural than a sexual orientation? Everyone's got one! -- biases the whole train of thought that follows.

This approach also has the effect of conflating abnormality with immorality. "Being gay" (the "orientation," not the lifestyle) can't be a sin unless it's a choice -- and it's not a choice, so it's not a sin. Therefore, there's nothing wrong with it, and we should destigmatize it and embrace it. Hell, why not celebrate it? Why not take pride in it? Haven't we conclusively proven that there's absolutely nothing wrong with it?

But try applying that logic to any other abnormal desire, such as pica. Supposing you regularly feel the urge to chow down on feldspar -- and remember we're just talking about experiencing the urge, not about acting on it -- well you obviously didn't choose to feel that particular urge, so the urge itself cannot be considered morally wrong. Therefore, pica should be destigmatized and embraced and celebrated, and we should hold Pica Pride events and fulminate against the evils of picaphobia.

What leads us to this insane conclusion is a failure to distinguish among the various ways in which something can be "bad," and the assumption that if something ought not to be punished as morally wrong (because it is not a choice), it is therefore "not bad" and ought not even to be discouraged as abnormal, unhealthy, or harmful.

At my current age, I understand that sexual orientation is a very slippery, sliding scale. Specific preferences fly all over the place, but in general, the question of whether you’re attracted to your own sex, the opposite sex, or both, presents a kind of scale with single preferences on either end and a 50/50 position in the middle. (If you’re not attracted to either sex, you’re not represented on this scale. Sorry, maybe next time.)

Maybe. That seems to be much more true for women than for men. Anyway, supposing it is true, it suggests that "sexual orientation" is labile and responds to incentives, and that efforts to encourage or discourage particular orientations are not insane attempts to deny and suppress people's fundamental and unalterable natures but are likely to bear fruit, whether for good or for ill.

Anyway, this line of thinking leads me to wonder who are these religious people who condemn as sinners anyone who is not cis-gender? They must think that homosexuality is a choice, right? A sin has to be a choice—you can’t sin accidentally, can you? You can’t unknowingly drop your business card in a lobby and then an old lady with a walker comes by two hours later, slips on it, and dies—you aren’t guilty of the sin of murder, are you? Of course not. So for any sexual orientation to be a sin, first and foremost, it has to be a choice.

First, that's not actually what cis-gender is supposed to mean. It refers not to non-homosexuals but to people who are not in denial about their own biological sex. It's another "cibivore" word, intended to normalize those who are in denial. Basic biological literacy is just another "gender identity" -- everyone has one, you know! What Mr. Piraro means is straight -- another loaded term, originally synonymous with square, as in un-hip. Just like those stodgy L-seven killjoys to begrudge the rest of us a harmless bit of gaiety!

I'd like to emphasize again that there is an element of choice in "sexual orientation." Desires arise unbidden, but it's our choice if we dwell on them or dismiss them, and it's certainly our choice if we embrace a given desire as a central an ineradicable part of our deepest identity, which it would be "hateful" for anyone to criticize or oppose. All normal men have felt sexual attraction for many different women, for other men's wives, and for young women who are biologically mature but legally underage. Most men have probably felt the urge to commit sexual assault. You're not to blame for your hormones, but you certainly are to blame if you deliberately feed and inflame those desires, to say nothing of proudly "identifying as" a philanderer, adulterer, ephebophile, or rapist.

Now, the religious type will say that it isn’t the desire, it’s the act of going through with it that is the sin. Yeah, I get why you make that distinction, but let’s go back a step and ask why you think it’s bad in the first place. It’s because The Old Testament says something about it. You probably wouldn’t have come upon this on your own if it didn’t, unless you’re the type of person who just condemns anyone who is into something you aren’t.

After going on and on about how desire isn't a choice and therefore can't be condemned, Mr. Piraro briefly concedes that "the religious type" actually condemns actions, not desires -- a concession which renders his whole opening argument irrelevant -- but it's already done its work of casting opponents of Teh Gay as bigots who irrationally condemn people for something beyond their control. Mr. Piraro himself seems to have a short memory; a few paragraphs down, as we shall see below, he's back to wondering at those "who think that sexual proclivities are an evil choice."

"Why not the Time Cube?" the late Gene Ray used to ask. "The ONLY REASON is educated stupidity." For Mr. Piraro, the only reason people condemn homosexuality is that the Old Testament says something about it. But that's obviously not true. As Mr. Piraro himself details below, the Old Testament condemns lots of things, from cotton-poly T-shirts to gathering firewood on Saturday, and nobody latches onto it. If people do latch onto the OT's prohibition of sodomy, it's not because they indiscriminately embrace whatever the Old Testament says but because they agree with it -- because they spontaneously feel that sodomy is wrong and that the prohibition makes sense. This spontaneous feeling is probably what accounts for the condemnation of sodomy among the ancient Hebrews and many other ancient cultures. Mr. Piraro is confusing cause with effect. If it's not, as he says, the sort of thing you'd come up with on your own, why did the ancient Hebrews come up with it?

The only other possibility Mr. Piraro has to offer is that people condemn sodomy because they're "the type of person who just condemns anyone who is into something you aren’t." Like, I don't know, badminton or something. Obviously that's not what's going on.

I mean, it’s not like LBTGQ+ are victimizing you in some way, letting air out of your tires, toilet papering your lawn, grabbing your ass at the grocery store. Whatever they’re up to, they’re doing it in the privacy of their personal lives, not yours, so this is a victimless activity. Can there be a crime without a victim?

LBTGQ+! The poor gays, who started this whole thing, have been demoted to fourth billing.

As for this "doing it in the privacy of their personal lives" thing, it sounded good when the movement was first getting started, but it's obviously gone way beyond that. "Pride" takes over all public spaces for one month out of the year, and everyone is under increasing pressure not just to live and let live despite disagreements but to actively endorse and "celebrate" LPGABBQ lifestyles.

If (a) such lifestyles are harmful to the people who practice them, and if (b) destigmatizing and normalizing and celebrating those lifestyles will result in more people choosing so to live, then it seems obvious that "Pride" and all that would be a bad thing. Even if we set spiritual considerations to one side, being a practicing homosexual shortens your lifespan more than being a smoker does. (See "Thank you for smoking" for details.) And while people used to laugh at the idea of "recruitment," the fact is that the relentless pro-Alphabet propaganda campaign has led to a sharp increase in the number of self-identified Alphabet People.

What harm are they doing? Well, at minimum, they're normalizing a harmful lifestyle and pushing it on impressionable children. And you can see that without so much as cracking open your copy of the Old Testament.

But back to the Old Testament, if you’re really going to make the whole world toe the line with every little thing that one book says, good luck. You’ll also have to stop people from wearing mixed fabrics, eating pork, shellfish, or rabbit, and selling their daughters into slavery for the wrong reasons. All that’s in there, too. 

Right. As I said before, this is strong evidence that "it's in the Old Testament" is not the primary reason people oppose Teh Gay.

So who are these people who think that sexual proclivities are an evil choice?

Acting on sexual proclivities can be an evil choice. So much for "Yeah, I get why you make that distinction"! And is anyone going to make a serious argument that acting on one's sexual proclivities is never an evil choice? Everyone, including normal "quadratosexuals," experiences sexual urges which it would be wrong to act on, and everyone recognizes the need to resist those urges. This is like Civilization 101. "But muh sexual proclivities!" just isn't a valid defense of anything.

I suspect most are people who have chosen to live in opposition to their true nature. Surely, these are non-heteros living as heteros.

This is ridiculous. If I'm naturally lazy but nevertheless work hard, am I lazy person living as a non-lazy person? If I am afraid but overcome my fear and do what needs to be done, am I a coward living in opposition to my true nature?

Actually, these are pretty deep questions, questions inherent in the paradoxical concept of "self-control." If one aspect of my nature subjects and controls another aspect -- which is all that "self-control" can mean -- is that good or bad? Which part is really me -- the part that takes control, or the part that shouts "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" What is the True Self? What is your True Self, Dan Piraro? The part that wants to have sex with a particular sort of person? Is that the master principle of your life, to which all else must be subjected?

It not only explains how they think others have chosen to be gay -- because in their mind they chose not to be -- it also explains why they’re so unreasonably angry about people who are living their truth openly; If I have to live a miserable lie, you should have to, too, mofo!

"Mofo" is an ironically appropriate choice of words, since it refers to a sexual proclivity that most everyone agrees definitely should be repressed.

"Living their truth openly" -- is that what they're doing? Well, that is for them to decide. Making that kind of choice is what humans do; it is what makes us human and potentially divine. In the immortal words of the Moody Blues, "We decide which is right -- and which is an illusion." But that doesn't mean every choice we make is Good. Since the Old Testament has been invoked, let's give the last word to Isaiah the Prophet, the son of Amoz.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!


Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - That's a good dissection.

Yet the problem is that oh-so-common inability/ refusal to reason. There is a sequential change of subject (not sticking to the point) and conflation; the failure to acknowledge obvious contradiction etc.

It's like a kind of inattention whereby people say one thing, then they say another and their memory is wiped of what they previously said. The discourse jumps about between reports of subjective feelings, confident assertions of subjective feelings of others, bits of 'facts', fragments of logic, assumptions presented as conclusions...

A total mess.

We see it all the times and everywhere - in private conversation, in academic discussions, in official pronouncements, in the mass and social media.

It is a truly incredible idiocy of discourse - which in fact makes real discourse absolutely impossible; as it is, everywhere. Up against it, one does not know where to start - and it doesn't make any difference.

I can only conceptualize it as a very deep decision not to be responsible; passively to accept external, mainstream concepts as little sound-bites, as a collage of micro-concepts - which are stuck-together but never integrated.

It happens everywhere - including 'science' (i.e. officially-validated professional research); which is just a collection of hundreds of thousands of discrete statements derived from from thousands of micro-specializations; which are never cross-checked - no attempt is made to combine them into a rationally/ scientifically-coherent whole theories.

And within The System; nobody complains about this, nobody even notices it.

A neat little instance is your Taiwan birdemic-peck data: Statement: The birdemic kills hardly anybody. Statement: The birdemic is a deadly pandemic. Statement: The peck kills more people than the birdemic. Statement: Everybody needs the peck. And so on, apparently without end...

William Wildblood said...

So much of the advance of this agenda is due to specious casuistry and the reframing of language so that one thing becomes another, a disorder being an orientation for instance. And as regards something that you didn’t choose not being a sin, what about this? “ You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “ This is a hard saying for it’s something we’ve all done but then we are all sinners. What it does make clear though is that from a Christian perspective, which I will say is the perspective of truth, you cannot hide behind the ‘I didn’t choose to feel like this’ excuse. I didn’t chose to feel angry this morning but the anger was still wrong.

Never mind, Lord . . .

Please, God, save us from this terrible storm -- oh, never mind, it's just stopped! -- traditional prayer Good night, Westley. Good work...