‘PIB’ — the flailing desperation of the but-what-about polygamy, incest & bestiality slippery-slope claim

So the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments about same-sex marriage. Andrew Sullivan has a good summary of the key points from the first day of the discussion (Dylan Matthews has another good look).

Unsurprisingly, the specter of polygamy made an appearance, something that may be familiar if you’ve ever discussed marriage equality with relatives, co-workers or fellow parishioners who oppose it, but can’t quite explain why. It’s not so much an argument as a defense of not having one: “Oh yeah? Well just because I can’t give a good reason why something should be prohibited doesn’t mean it should be allowed! After all, I can’t explain why polygamy, incest and bestiality should be prohibited either — so does that mean those should all be made legal too?”

It’s always those three things, all lumped together. That trinity of slippery slopes is so common that John Corvino has given it a name: “PIB.”

I’ve referred to this slippery-slope argument as the “PIB” argument, short for “polygamy, incest and bestiality,” although other items sometimes make the list as well. What got me interested in PIB, aside from my wanting to defend gay people against nasty smears, is that it isn’t entirely clear what the argument is saying. Is it predicting that once homosexuality becomes more accepted (some of) these other things will become more accepted as well? Is it making a logical point, suggesting that, even if these things won’t ensue, in fact, they’re somehow related in principle? Or is it primarily a rhetorical move, simply trying to scare people away from homosexuality by invoking a parade of horribles? In many ways, the PIB argument seems more like a question or a challenge than an argument proper: “OK, Mr. or Ms. Sexual Liberal, explain to me why all these other things are wrong.”

Corvino’s Salon essay, excerpted from his book What’s Wrong With Homosexuality, is worth reading in full, then bookmarking for future use, the same way one bookmarks the Snopes pages for the urban legends your crazy uncle is always pasting on your Facebook wall. Corvino deals with each of the three matters in turn, but also steps back to consider what these weird-but-popular objections may mean to those raising them. Their popularity clearly doesn’t arise from their logical potency, so what’s the attraction?

The PIB argument, he says, can be approached in two ways: “a logical version and a causal version.” In the “logical” form, Corvino says, the argument claims that the argument for marriage equality “proves too much” — making a case not just for same-sex marriage, but for all the PIB elements too. In this form, he says, PIB is basically a reductio ad absurdum argument that dodges the need to respond to arguments for marriage equality by claiming, instead, that such arguments also somehow support P, I and B. Here’s Corvino:

The point is not to make a prediction: It’s to indicate the alleged logical inconsistency of supporting homosexuality while opposing PIB.

But why would anyone think that supporting same-sex relationships logically entails supporting PIB? The answer, I think, is that some people misread the pro-gay position as resting on some version of the following premise: People have a right to whatever kind of sexual activity they find fulfilling. If that were true, then it would indeed follow that people have a right to polygamy, incest, “man on child, man on dog or whatever the case may be.” But no serious person actually believes this premise, at least not in unqualified form. That is, no serious person thinks that the right to sexual expression is absolute. The premise, thus construed, is a straw man.

He does a nice job in explaining, in each case, why one can consistently support same-sex marriage while opposing PIB, with a particularly helpful discussion of distinctions between same-sex marriage and polygamy.

Corvino doesn’t give a great deal of time or attention to the B part of PIB, briefly noting that, “Of course there’s the issue of consent,” and quickly moving on. But let’s linger there for a moment longer, because I’m not sure that “of course” is appropriate. The reason that so many people continue to raise endless “man on dog” and “box turtle” variations of this weird bestiality argument is that they don’t have the slightest regard for consent as a necessary component of marriage or sex or love. Some of us may nod along, saying “of course, of course” to Corvino’s “of course,” but a great many of the PIBsters don’t see anything “of course” about it. Consent isn’t part of their framework. They’re defending traditional marriage, after all, and traditionally marriage was about property, not about mutual consent.

And “tradition” here doesn’t mean something from biblical times in the ancient world, or even something centuries distant like the world of Jane Austen’s novels. Here in the United States, wives have been regarded as the property of their husbands to the extent that spousal rape was not recognized as a crime until the late 1970s.

The defenders of “traditional marriage” cannot understand the significance of consent because the traditional marriage they are defending does not understand it either.

The other form of the PIB argument, Corvino says, is the “causal version,” in which the connection between same-sex marriage and PIB:

… is not logical but empirical. That is, perhaps the endorsement of one item will lead to the endorsement of others, whether or not it logically should. For instance, maybe the wider acceptance of homosexuality will embolden polygamists and make it harder for others to resist their advocacy.

This is followed by 10 paragraphs in which Corvino settles on Stanley Kurtz as the strongest proponent of this argument. He reviews Kurtz’s argument, fortifies it a bit so that he has something worth considering, and then thoroughly dismantles it. He concludes that, “the causal version of the PIB arguments fails, both as a prediction and as a moral objection,” and anyone reading along will share that conclusion.

Anyway, do go read the whole thing. And then bookmark that link for the next time your Facebook friends or religiously indignant relatives start crying PIB.

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  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I hit this argument on FB just yesterday. Here was the gist of my answer:

    One of these three doesn’t belong. Animals cannot give meaningful consent, and if you spend much time in liberal circles, you’ll discover what a hugely important thing we regard consent to be.

    The root of the taboo against incest is largely on two fronts, to my understanding: squick and genetics. Squick we can disregard; genetics is somewhat trickier for heterosexual pairing. My official position is that anyone willing to take the care and effort to reduce or negate this issue (and, of course, meets the litmus for a healthy relationship in general) has my blessing. I may consider certain pairings weird, but I’m just not bothered enough by brothers and sisters, cousins or generally anyone else of similar age to raise a fuss.

    Polygamy, on the other hand, almost makes a kind of sense. The resources of several working people being pooled together to raise quality of life for the entire family? That’s a good deal. The nasty parts seem to be more from human nature — and the messy issue of divorce. My official position is that, again, anyone willing to take the time to make this work as smoothly as humanly possible has my blessing. As long as everyone knows what they’re getting into (meaningful consent!), go for it. Sometimes it works out just fine.

    PIB is a drink, but sounds more like a sandwich.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericka.d.erickson Ericka Dawn Erickson

    The “litmus-for-a-healthy relationship-in-general” test is very tricky to pass with incest, because incest has a much higher likelihood of being all muddled up in familial power dynamics. That puts cross-generational relationships as vanishingly-unlikely-to-be-healthy, and even older sibling-younger sibling relationships at high risk. (Supernatural fandom, looking at you.) Cousins, though, and also siblings who didn’t meet until later in life, with care taken to avoid genetic stuff… much more possible. (And more legal, and more common.)

    Polyamory, the modern version at least with two or more consenting partners engaged in a carefully-negotiated relationship, has zero ethical barriers. The legislative/societal trick is to approve of the stable, consenting relationships while discouraging the abusive and coercive ones — patriarch gets younger and younger brides, etc. Of course, we make that distinction all the time with the relationship models we’re more familiar with — an abusive spouse hitting their partner doesn’t cast aspersions on the whole institution of two-partner marriage, just the character of the abuser. So as society becomes more familiar with a healthy polyamorous relationship model, we’ll be more able, not less, to point out how wrong the patriarchal model is.

    As a side note, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the PIB argument in real life, just online. I’m sure it is common, I’ve just never heard it.

  • Eternal September

    All sexual relationships can be muddled up in power dynamics.

    If it would be the law’s role to make dominant-submissive roles illegal, they should do that directly. Make BDSM illegal. Have obligatory mental health checks before marriages. But it is worse than useless to ban relationship types that are stereotypcally believed to commonly involve power play.

    Besides, the same thing could be said about homosexuality, a while ago. Greeks and romans glorified the manliness of the penetrator, while humiliating the penetrated for being like a woman. This is literally the reason why the Bible banned the whole thing altogether, because it was inherently associated with dominant men raping submissive ones. Note the wording of Lev. 20:13 – even though it demands the execution of both participants, it’s wording is the same as the following chapter about bestiality (where the animal is also to be put to death). It’s about one man “lying with” another, not about two guys in love with each other).

  • Loquat

    Cross-generational relationships, though, specifically ones where the elder was involved in raising the younger, aren’t just “dominant-submissive”. Society has an interest in preventing sickos from deliberately grooming their kid to become their lover once the kid is of age, and given the vanishingly small number of people who actually want to sleep with their parents/kids, the existence of such a relationship is almost always prima facie evidence that such grooming was going on.

  • Eternal September

    Then again, a century ago homosexuality would have been so rarely discussed or admitted, that the overwhelming majority of cases that you heard about would have involved someone getting caught with their pants down raping someone else.

    You rarely see large numbers of well-adjusted people openly defying strong social taboos. That alone doesn’t mean that the social taboos make internally consistent sense.

  • Loquat

    a) Actually no, from what I’ve read about homosexuality in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the US and England, active homosexuals largely snuck around having secret consensual sex and/or relationships. Perhaps the most famous case of the time was Oscar Wilde, who was sent to jail for sodomy – as far as I know, he was never accused of rape, only of consensual sex.

    b) Are you seriously suggesting that, if we didn’t have strong social taboos against parent/adult-child incest, there would be appreciable numbers of well-adjusted people wanting to do it? And that this would substantially outweigh the number of sickos who would deliberately teach their kids that parent/child incest is awesome and should be engaged in as soon as the kid reaches the age of consent? Because, again, the latter case is something society should really try to prevent.

  • Makabit

    Given the number of sickos who engage in incest with their children long before the children reach the age of consent, I’d say that addressing that should be society’s first priority.

    It’s not as though either the incest taboo, or laws stemming from it have done a real great job protecting kids.

  • Isabel C.

    Sure, but in all fairness, many-to-most heterosexual monogamous non-related relationships are unhealthy too, as most people who’ve ever spent time in a college dorm will tell you. And we do have age-of-consent laws already.
    I mean, incest grosses me out, but so do many relationships that I still think should be legal. (People who talk baby talk to their partners, for instance: if you put Snookie Wookums and Her Pookie Pie up against Siblings Who Make Out, I’d probably be friendlier toward the latter.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “Snookie Wookums and Her Pookie Pie”

    For some reason I ended up giggling uncontrollably for a minute at this. :P

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    … incest has a much higher likelihood of being all muddled up in familial power dynamics.

    This is kind of my logic for being against incest: both familial relationships and sexual relationships tend to provoke intense and potentially volatile emotions; combine the two and you’re unlikely to meet the “sane” part of “safe, sane, and consensual”.

    Yeah, yeah — we can’t outlaw every kind of toxic and/or exploitative relationship. But we can recognize that some relationships are much more likely to be that way than not.

  • Ronixis

    The use of “sane” there actually has other problems as well. Should people with mental illnesses be prohibited from having sexual relationships? I think that would be very unreasonable and quite discriminatory.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Prost/100002434484052 Tony Prost

    “Animals cannot give meaningful consent, and if you spend much time in
    liberal circles, you’ll discover what a hugely important thing we regard
    consent to be.”
    Why do animals have to consent to have sex? Do they consent to get eaten?

  • JustoneK

    Are you into vore or something?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Albright/100001047690991 Michael Albright

    They have to consent to get married.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    That is the other question the argument is making: why would you even do that? I mean, I’ll accept someone loves their dog very much. What particular advantages do either the dog or human gain from this hypothetical zoophilic marriage?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Albright/100001047690991 Michael Albright

    Dunno. That would be up to the dog and person in question. Not for nothing, but do we assume that all married humans have the same reasons for marrying one another?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Yes, because sexual activity and killing are interchangeable in arguments, just as the relationship between sexual participants is completely analogous to the predator-prey relationship.

    If you believe these things, find a qualified mental health professional and discuss them to try and understand how horribly, horribly wrong you are about a great many things.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m sorry, do you think that sex has a higher standard of consent than killing? If so, please explain. If not, stfu.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I’m sorry, do you think that sex has a higher standard of consent than killing? If so, please explain.

    I think sexual ethics include consent.

    I think the ethics of killing preclude consent.

    I don’t hold apples to a higher standard than oranges, I hold them to a different standard. If you can’t distinguish between hierarchical and categorical standards, then “stfu”.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Not to bring PETA into this, but there absolutely are animal rights hard-liners who believe that killing animals for food or even keeping animals as pets are the same kind of wrong that rape is.

  • Mary

    So having a cat as a pet is equivilent to raping her huh? Glad my kitty doesn’t know that! ;-)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’ve told the story about the homophobe I used to argue with who insisted that pet cats enthusiastically consented to sex with their owners ALL THE TIME, right?

    (Because he didn’t want consent or the lack thereof to be the thing that made homosexuality right or wrong. So “Cats consent to sex with humans, but it’s still wrong to fuck them” was part of his teleological argument against gay sex)

  • Mary

    Good God. That sort of “logic” makes my brain bleed… You should have told him to try having sex with a cat and see how far he got with it. I am sure he would have had all the scratches and bites to prove your point!

  • Makabit

    I’m going to regret asking this, but how the hell had he established in his mind that cats consent to sex with people? How could you possibly…Jesus H. Christ on a crouton…what?

    I am at least relieved that he was apparently aware that it was wrong to have sex with these consenting felines.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    He claimed that female cats request sex of males by showing them their anuses, so when a cat does that you, she’s asking you for a good solid rogering.

    (He had just done the whole “If gay sex is okay why isn’t bestiality?” and was told “Consent!”, so his comeback was “Cats do consent to sex with humans. THe reason it’s wrong to fuck them is that putting a human penis into anything other than a human vagina violates the telos of the penis”)

  • P J Evans

    His knowledge of cat anatomy is lacking. (As is his knowledge of cat psychology.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Well, he was an Aristotelian, so he didn’t believe in using actual observations of the physical world before pontificating on how it logically had to work.

  • Makabit

    I guess all of us, cats especially, should be grateful for the telos of this guy’s penis,

    I still have questions. First, I’m a dog person myself, but I seem to recall that male cats will also stick their asses in your face. Is this also a signal of sexual consent? Is it just that since this guy was straight, if he were to fuck cats, he would only fuck girl cats?

    Also, did this guy own any cats? Because I would be kind of creeped out if I believed that my house pets were making sexual advances to me.

  • Mary

    Any cat will stick his ass up if you pet him at the base of the tail. It is a reflex, not a sexual invitation..Of course when a female is in heat, she will be lovey-dovy with everything, including a piece of furniture. She may want lovin’ but not the human kind.

  • Mary

    I find it creepy that he has given so much thought to this…

  • christopher_y

    OK, that is now top of my list of things that make no f****ing sense whatsoever for 2013.

  • The_L1985

    Holy shit, someone make sure that that man never owns any animals, EVER.

    My dog doesn’t want or care about sex with me (thank all the gods). One could try to argue that things would be different if he weren’t neutered, but he’s demonstrated time and time again that he’s pretty much unaware of human genitals, as if they weren’t even worthy of his notice. Just ask my boyfriend–every time Angel jumps off of his lap, boyfriend gets a dick in the jewels.

    And even my neutered dog will mount other dogs in an attempt to mate with them. So it’s not that he doesn’t know or care about sex–he just doesn’t want to try it with anything that isn’t another dog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    every time Angel jumps off of his lap, boyfriend gets a dick in the jewels

    *cough*

  • The_L1985

    GAH! Fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    Given the context, the original seemed somehow appropriate, but did rather suggest the opposite of your point. ;-)

  • Randall

    Yes, because sexual activity and killing are interchangeable in
    arguments, just as the relationship between sexual participants is
    completely analogous to the predator-prey relationship.

    They are in some parts of the internet. And that’s all I am going to say about that.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Sex with people is a far more complex subject than sex induced by estrous. If you want to make an argument about how we should all be vegetarians, then that’s a perfectly valid topic for another thread.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Additionally, we do have laws on the books about cruelty to animals. Despite being allowed to kill them for food, we still manage to have laws prohibiting certain awful ways of treating them. I think that leaves a lot of room to 1) disqualify the “we don’t require their consent to kill them! Gotcha!” line of discussion in the bestiality argument, and 2) define non-consensual sexual acts performed on an animal as an unlawful way to treat them.

  • Pat Griffin

    Tony, who said anything about sex? We’re talking about marriage here.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Here’s why I think the “but we kill/eat/leash/impregnate animals against their will all the time!” argument is problematic:

    An argument can be made for vegetarianism being the more moral course of action, sure, and a lot of the most questionably moral activities regarding animals have to do with maintaining an ample supply of meats for the purposes of keeping the population supplied with large amounts of animal protein.

    I do not consider an already absurdly uneven power dynamic to be an excuse to abuse it, though. See again: healthy relationship. Just as people are rightly wary of “father and sixteen year old daughter” incest, what we’re talking about is a relationship in which one entity is utterly dependent another in almost every possible way. Just because we’re already exploiting that relationship in some ways doesn’t mean that should be considered either consent or excuse to further do so. The idea is to minimize the harm done.

  • Nick Gotts

    I wonder if anyone else has read Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius. The eponymous central character is a dog, developmentally modified to have human intelligence and lifespan alongside canine motivations. His relationship with his creator’s daughter – in effect his foster-sister – is such that it’s surprising it was allowed to be published in the UK in 1944.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The root of the taboo against incest is largely on two fronts, to my understanding: squick and genetics. Squick we can disregard; genetics is somewhat trickier for heterosexual pairing. My official position is that anyone willing to take the care and effort to reduce or negate this issue (and, of course, meets the litmus for a healthy relationship in general) has my blessing. I may consider certain pairings weird, but I’m just not bothered enough by brothers and sisters, cousins or generally anyone else of similar age to raise a fuss.

    I recall Heinlein wrote a bit on the subject, arguing that the incest taboo would become irrelevant as genetic sampling and comparison become more commonplace. His rationalization was that since the taboo exists to prevent gene degradation due to lack of genetic diversity, and since it existed prior to a comprehensive understanding of genetics, a better genetic understanding would allow more precise understanding of which pairings would be genetically damaging and which would not. However, he wrote that prior to the understanding of the Westermarck effect becoming more widespread.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    *Nods* Heinlein explored a lot of such taboos in his writing, incest in particular in the form of a pair of physically identical, genetically individual twins. I believe that was Time Enough for Love.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    It recurs in several novels.

  • Mary

    If you believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and if you want to get technical, Adam and Eve were twins. Plus they would have had to commit incest with their children to start populating the earth!
    Personally I do not take that story as being literal but it is interesting to think of the implications…

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Let’s ask a fundamentalist for his take on the question! I volunteer… alanlionheart of the Ark thread. Alan, what did you say on the subject?

    The practice of what you call incest only became wrong a few generations after Adam & Eve because of the effects of the “fall” and the possibility of the detrimental effects of it being worked through to future generations

    His argument is that the concept of evolution is just bad science and his way makes much more sense.

    Then again, he also thinks that the Big Bang is nonsense because “something can’t come from nothing,” therefore it makes much more sense to say that Young Earth Creationism is real because God was always there and fingersnapped the universe into existence.

  • Mary

    Yes I love it when people like him make fools out of themselves because the don’t know anything about science. The Big Bang theory never says that something came out of nothing. The Big Bang came from a singularity which IS SOMETHING.

    What is funny (and sad too) is that there shouldn’t be any controversy about the Big Bang because NASA has proof that it happened through the WMAP photos. Also many Christians see the big bang as proof that God created the universe. So why should there be any huge problem theologically? It is only those who insist on a strict timetable like the YEC’S who think it is a problem.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Anything outside of his specific Bible, he considers nonsense. Anything within it is literally, historically true. Half the argument we’ve been having in that thread is due to the mental gymnastics he’s done in order to conclude that the Flood was the act of a benevolent deity, whereas a sizable chunk of fiction teaches witchcraft and Satanism.

  • Mary

    I may have to head on over to check him out later, but a good response would be to ask him if he believes that a building could be built high enough to reach heaven, as in the story of the Tower of Babel. Unless he doesn’t believe in telescopes I think he would have a hard time answering that.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I don’t think it’d be that hard — I can easily answer it: It wasn’t the height of the tower that God took offense to, it was the arrogance of its builders. They never would have built it tall enough to reach Heaven (insert obligatory “faith, not works” undertone), but in daring to try, they offended God and so he struck them down with confusion. </fundamentalism>

  • Mary

    Yes I can see how they can argue that, but if they do then they are breaking their own code: That everything in the bible is to be taken literally. There are other references in the bible that portray heaven as a literal physical place (not in another dimension) that can be reached by humans. I see no choice in this. If they want to insist that everything in the bible is literally true (which is what they have to do in order to justify pushing their religion on the rest of us) then they can’t make exceptions to the rule.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If they want to insist that everything in the bible is literally true (which is what they have to do in order to justify pushing their religion on the rest of us)

    False. Evidence: Catholic hierarchy.

  • Mary

    Ellie I am not sure what your point is, maybe I was unclear in what i was saying. I am talking mainly about the Protestant fundamentalist political movement where they are justifying diiscrimnation of gays, women, etc based on the idea of an inerrant bible. They also want to take over our schools under the deceptive guise of “creation science.”

    As far as Catholicism, I am not as familiar with their theology, but I understood that they cling to the idea of an inerrant bible also. If I am wrong please enlighten me.

  • EllieMurasaki

    As far as Catholicism, I am not as familiar with their theology, but I understood that they cling to the idea of an inerrant bible also. If I am wrong please enlighten me.

    You’re wrong.

  • Mary

    What parts do they not take literally?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Uh, for starters, Catholics are theistic evolutionists.

  • The_L1985

    Catholics don’t practice literalism, at all. Instead of worshiping the Bible-as-science-and-history-textbook, they treat the Vatican as having a direct line to Jesus.

    Literalism only dates back to the 19th century, and originated in response to Darwin’s writings.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think literalism was already a thing by the time Darwin published, being something that came out of the Second Great Awakening. I suspect Darwin was more of the reason it became The Thing instead of being more of a blip.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Hmm. Reviewing Genesis 11, I actually remember the story incorrectly, mixing in some of the similar mythology. Still got a potential fundamentalist interpretation though.

    Genesis 11 never actually says that humans would be capable of reaching Heaven — it says “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Questionable whether this amounts to the same thing.

  • Mary

    After checking on my own, I stand corrected.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’d be more interested in how the tech level of Genesis era could accomplish a tower higher than–what’s the current world’s tallest building? Because nothing’s struck us down for daring to build the current world’s tallest building, so clearly it isn’t as tall as the Tower of Babel. Even though exceedingly (comparatively) modern tech was necessary to build the current world’s tallest building.

    Or, hell, Voyager II.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Probably something having to do with Jesus having fixed it so God doesn’t have that dangerous streak of sky-envy anymore.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh! Speaking of the Rapture in the thing I am apparently now writing (fuck it all), its timing is reasonably coincident with–it is a response to–the first human-made object passing the heliopause.

    Same reasoning as the punishment for the Tower of Babel.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    So God in said writing takes offense to humans straying too far outside their space boundaries? I believe I’d heard a few takes on this before, but all it’s bringing to mind is Star Trek: TNG, Q Who. XD

  • EllieMurasaki

    Something like that, yes. :-D

    Which episode is that? I don’t know if I’ve seen it.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Episode sixteen, Q transports the Enterprise to their first encounter with the Borg in order to demonstrate that there are things the Federation is totally incapable of dealing with.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Ah. I might have seen it. Thanks.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah, I saw that one too. Not a bad ep for a Season 2 TNG ep.

  • Ronixis

    Episode 16 of season 2, to be precise.

  • The_L1985

    Not only that–the tallest stone structures in the world, ever, have never been higher than 200 ft. Mud-brick structures can’t even be built with a second story.

    So the Babel story is trying to get across that somehow, people who’d only ever built with stone and mud bricks were able to build something that reached to the heavens. At least, if you insist that it’s literal history.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericrboersma Eric Boersma

    I’ve seen decent arguments against polygamy based off of purely legal reasons; that is, there’s a strong legal framework in place surrounding the idea that one man is married to one woman, and that maps pretty neatly onto the idea of SSM. That’s not true when we get into polygamist and bigamist relationships, where rights might transfer in incredibly complicated ways. Can two wives of the same man share health insurance? Do they get visitation rights? Are two women who are both mothers of the same man’s child and both married to that man considered guardians of each others’ children? etc.

    I have no opposition to polygamy from a religious or social perspective, but it is a much more complicated issue (and raises issues with consent — do all spouses have to consent to the inclusion of a new spouse into the arrangement? Just a majority? Just one?) than SSM.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Yes, providing N-adult families with the same legal and social recognition and support that we provide 2-adult and 1-adult families with is complicated. Agreed.

    The question remains, is it the right thing to do?

    If it is complicated and not right, we ought not do it.
    If it is complicated and right, we ought to do it.

    For my part, I think it’s the right thing to do, because N-adult families are no less deserving of legal and social recognition and support than other families.So I conclude that we ought to do it.

    Yes, it will take work and careful thought.

    Agreed.

    Let’s get started on that, shall we?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Yes, providing N-adult families with the same legal and social recognition and support that we provide 2-adult and 1-adult families with is complicated. Agreed.

    The question remains, is it the right thing to do?

    If it is complicated and not right, we ought not do it.
    If it is complicated and right, we ought to do it.

    For my part, I think it’s the right thing to do, because N-adult families are no less deserving of legal and social recognition and support than other families.So I conclude that we ought to do it.

    Yes, it will take work and careful thought.

    Agreed.

    Let’s get started on that, shall we?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericrboersma Eric Boersma

    Sure, let’s get started on that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Nevertheless, it does explain why gay marriage will not inevitably lead to polygamous marriage, regardless of whether you consider poly marriage a good or a bad thing.

    Marriage as a legal contract (which IMO is the only way of looking at marriage that the government should be concerned with) doesn’t depend on the gender of the two parties, but it does in many cases only apply to a relationship between two people. Letting gay couples get married doesn’t require changing the legal nature of the marriage contract, it just means letting two people of the same gender participate. Letting groups of people marry would require totally re-working the marriage contract.

    I’m not saying I think we shouldn’t do that, just I see it as being nothing like gay marriage in terms of the changes to the marriage contract (none really for gay marriage, sweeping for poly marriage) and thus I don’t see the one following from the other.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Sure, I agree that gay marriage will not inevitably lead to polygamous marriage. And I agree that the two are not alike in practice, any more than treating cancer and treating heart attacks are alike in practice.

    That said, much as my desire to see cancer and heart attack patients cared for and healed insofar as possible comes from a very similar set of beliefs about the world, my desire to see same-sex and multi-adult families cared for and recognized insofar as possible comes from a very similar set of beliefs about the world.

    Other thoughts about the subject here: http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/507369.html.

  • frazer

    I think marriage should be a relationship between equals, and I think polyamorous relationships are inherently unequal and therefore a bad idea. One person owes exclusive fidelity to her spouse, while he is free to take multiple spouses. (I’m using the genders of the most frequent type of polyamorous relationship.) They do not stand on the same footing with each other and they do not have the same rights vis-a-vis each other. I think it’s ultimately a form of exploitation, and, of course, it’s almost always women who get exploited. (Not to mention all the legal problems–family law is complicated enough when you’re only dealing with traditional families.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re arguing against all polyamorous relationships by saying that all polyamorous relationships are abusive polygyny. Don’t do that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    A few things.

    1) There’s something intrinsically funny about defending “traditional families” on egalitarian grounds. You are aware that traditional family roles have not historically embodied this sort of egalitarianism, right? It feels sometimes as though “traditional” simply means “not the thing we’re currently talking about.”

    2) I share your preference for this sort of symmetry in relationships.

    Nevertheless, I acknowledge that many of the monogamous marriages around me fail to demonstrate it. I may not approve of that, personally, but I’d be reluctant to remove legal protection and social recognition from those families. I am similarly reluctant to withhold legal protection and social recognition from similarly unequal polyamorous families.

    Sometimes treating people equally means treating people I don’t approve of the same way as people I do approve of. I accept this.

    3) Most of the polyamorous families I know personally are symmetrical in this way you describe: all partners involved have the same rights.

    4) With respect to the legal complexities: I’m not claiming that treating all families the same is simple, I’m claiming that it is just. I prefer seeking justice to seeking simplicity.

  • cyllan

    Wait, what? How do you get that in a polyamorous relationship, one person owes exclusive fidelity to anyone?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    What if the wives were bisexual and felt mutual attraction toward each other as well as their husband? (Assuming a polygyny model.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    You appear to have confused the words ‘inherently’ and ‘historically’.

    This is basically the same as arguing against miscegenation on the assumption that historically, most of the sexual relationships between people of different races were slaveowners raping their slaves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

    When I was young, there was this dreadful thing called “the unnatural sin of miscegenation Acts 17:26 Genesis 11.” Miscegenation was often compared with incest. http://books.google.com/books?id=tggfcZQyofAC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=miscegenation+incest&source=bl&ots=_00qigDvc2&sig=bRboPAtk8gu3mKJwJ_2uhM9hego&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xpJSUcLCIeiiyAHTvIDwAg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=miscegenation%20incest&f=false

  • Eternal September

    The PIB argument would be more interesting if they would just drop the B, as it is the most obviously different from the other two. Although I don’t find the consent argument convincing, if animals can’t give consent, they wouldn’t give it to each other either, and therefore bestiality wouldn’t increase the amount of harm that animals are recieving.

    Anyways, the other two on the other hand are really using similar rhetoric to anti-gay critics, even in Corvino’s article.

    With incest, in particular, “sex has a powerful effect on the dynamics of family life.” and “I cannot fathom all of the effects… but I can’t imagine the effects would be good” are using the exact same tactic as talking about gays raising children with hushed voices, and implying that there must be something disturbing or perverted going on.

    It PRESUPPOSES that I am already squicked by incest, therefore I must be horrified by the prospect of incest being allowed.

    “The incest ban means that every person is forbidden to have sex with some people — a relatively small group — whom he might find romantically appealing: his close relatives. By contrast, the homosexuality ban means that gay people are forbidden to have sex with anyone whom they might find romantically appealing.”

    If that’s a significant distinction, should that mean that it’s OK to ban same-sex marriage for bisexuals?

    “there are good moral reasons for prohibiting some sexual relationships, either individually (say, because Jack’s relationship with Jane breaks his vow to Jill) or as a class (say, because the relationship is unfaithful or emotionally unhealthy or physically harmful or morally defective in some other way).

    I don’t doubt that some PIB relationships can realize genuine human goods.”

    Then ban the classes that are actually harmful, rather than the stereotypical problems that they might have. If all texans are statistically more likely to be rapists than new yorkers, that’s a perfectly good reason to ban rape, but not so much to ban sex between texans and new yorkers.

    If you think that polygamy or incest are stereotypically related to pedophilia/spousal abuse/transmission of genetic diseases, that’s a good reason to criminalize pedophilia and spousal abuse, or to ban procreation for relatives, ( and for all the genetically ill!), but not so much for marriage.

  • http://twitter.com/DataSnake DataSnake

    The issue with incest is, again, consent. The authority parents have over their children is significant enough to make meaningful consent hard to demonstrate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    As an avid Dr Pepper drinker, let me just say, Mr. Pibb is clearly the drink of the Antichrist.

  • http://blog.carlsensei.com/ Carl

    I’m against B (of course), but I don’t see how it’s connected to consent. Horses and cows don’t consent to artificial insemination, but people do that to them all the time. We kill animals for food without consent. We keep them lactating for weirdly long periods of time. We sheer their fur. There are reasons not to have sex with animals, but surely the reason cannot be that it would violate the consent of the animal in a way that artificial insemination does not.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I’m against B (of course), but I don’t see how it’s connected to consent.

    Because of Discus’ terrible threading system, I’ll wind up repeating this comment elsewhere I suspect, but here’s where you’re going astray:
    The discussion isn’t about “the role of consent in the ethics of animal treatment”
    The discussion is about “the role of consent in the ethics of sex“.

    Fred has had quite a few posts on what a responsible sexual ethic looks like. That is, what are the criteria a person should have for enjoying themselves sexually without violating ethics.

  • Hexep

    Personally, I’m not opposed to any of these things, though I don’t care to indulge in them. With regards to the B, I can get up right now, go to an open-air market, and get a wizened expert behind a counter to chop a chicken’s head off for me. It’s actually quite gruesome; the first time I saw it, I almost retched. Even if you don’t have open-air markets with wizened experts behind them, if you choose to eat meat then you must understand that these sorts of doings are going on behind the scenes, on your behalf.

    Or, in retrospect, I could just say that Carl is correct.

  • arcseconds

    I think you should just turn the tables back on them. Why does the slope start with homosexuality?

    (and why homosexual marriage for goodness sakes? the gay horse bolted 30 years ago or more)

    If you think it’s OK to have sex with anyone, as far as I can see, it’s a slippery to gay incestuous sex with your dad’s cybernetic toaster-poodle.

    So… to the cloning vats!

  • arcseconds

    (same argument applies, mutatis mutandis, to marriage)

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I think if you scratched down far enough you’d find that they in fact would be perfectly happy making being gay illegal.

  • SisterCoyote

    You don’t have to scratch down tha far. Santorum, at least, has already said that he believes what goes on between two consenting adults in their own homes is the business of the government.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    That guy is the pits.

  • The_L1985

    He is full of his namesake indeed.

  • arcseconds

    I’m sure there are some that would, yes.

    I think though there are many who have cognitively accepted that there are gay people around, and they’re going to have sex and be in partnerships, and that it’d be wrong as well as futile to try to stop that…

    … but are still squicked out by homosexuality, and don’t want to see it or know about it, so they’ve got an emotional investment in keeping it not an accepted part of society. I think they’ve latched on to the PIB argument and mistake it for a reasonable one for that reason.

    If it’s presented as a choice between going back on their acceptance of gay relationships or reluctantly accepting gay marriage, some may chose the former, but I imagine it’d be difficult for them. They’ve already gotten over their emotional reaction in favour of some rights for gay people, probably largely as a result of two factors: realising that denying people these rights hurts them, and realising that the arguments are at the end of the day pretty flimsy. Gay marriage is the same deal.

  • AnonaMiss

    Yeah, bestiality brings up larger questions relating to non-humans and consent. As previously noted, we regularly override animals’ consent, even for our companion animals – my housemates have a foxhound who would love to be able to revoke his consent to a leash.

    This is an especially gnarly subject because traditional animal breeding would be, from a consent-based sexual ethic, pretty much humans setting up rape dates for their animals; IVF would be humans raping their livestock with syringes. And unless you abstain from mammalian meat and dairy and have never owned a mammalian pet, you participate in the forced birth of livestock. (Leaving aside egg-layers here because that’s a whole nother kettle of fish).

    My moral intuition doesn’t have a problem with most of this, though I might just be calloused by a family background in dairy farming. And given that I’m OK with all of this, most notably livestock IVF, I have a hard time seeing why I should have a problem with bestiality on principle.

  • Hexep

    In Buddhist practice, there is a principle called White-Bone Meditation, whereby the practitioner stares at dead bodies or pictures of dead bodies until they are desensitized against death and lose their attachment to life. I imagine the principle is the same; if you know that you are repulsed by something but know rationally that you shouldn’t be, I guess the best thing is to just acclimatize yourself to it.

  • AnonaMiss

    Sounds like my visits to Encyclopedia Dramatica.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I know I’ve said this upthread, but again, the issue of bestiality in this context isn’t about the ethics of animal treatment, but the ethics of sexual conduct.

    Bestiality isn’t wrong because animals need to consent for actions to be ethical, bestiality is wrong because consent is necessary for sexual acts to be ethical, regardless of who is involved.

    I have a hard time seeing why I should have a problem with bestiality on principle.

    Because the principle here is “any sexual act without consent is immoral”.
    The principle is notall non-consensual acts are immoral”.

  • AnonaMiss

    As I noted in my original post, we perform sexual acts on animals without their consent (IVF) all the time.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    For my own part, I prefer a model of sexual ethics that isn’t definitionally unrelated to my model of ethics more generally. But even leaving that aside, it’s not clear that the sort of analysis you champion here makes sense.

    Suppose Sam argues that using a vibrator to stimulate myself to orgasm is immoral, since that’s a sexual act and vibrators can’t consent, and “any sexual act without consent is immoral”.

    Of course, I could reply “Sam, you’re just being ridiculous, it’s obvious that there simply is no ethical question to be asked about sex with inanimate objects.”

    But then Sam says “Well, it’s equally obvious that there is no ethical question to be asked about sex with animals.”

    It seems to me that in order to meaningfully respond to that claim, I need to talk about the ethical status of animals more generally, not simply assert a rule about what sorts of sexual acts are and aren’t immoral.

  • Nick Gotts

    The assumption that non-human animals never could and would consent to sex with people is questionable, unless you deny them the capacity to consent by fiat: there is evidence to the contrary – reports that non-human animals have initiated sexual contact with humans.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which doesn’t mean they have the faintest idea what they’re consenting to.

  • Nick Gotts

    What level of understanding are you going to insist on? Should we deny people with severe learning disabilities the right to a sex life?

  • EllieMurasaki

    We are obligated not to have sex with anyone who does not clearly communicate their informed, ideally enthusiastic, consent to have sex with us. So the question is, if you were propositioned by someone with such a disability, how would you go about making sure their consent is informed?

  • Nick Gotts

    No, it really isn’t. If a person without learning disabilities cannot tell whether a person with earning disabilities is giving informed consent, then no-one could do so, sex with their informed consent would be impossible, so we would be obliged to deny them a sex-life. See my response below for what I think is a more sustainable approach: if the power differential between parties is too great, consent does not legitimate any sexual behaviour on the part of the more powerful.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If one person cannot, then no person can?

    I can’t run a marathon. Marathon running must therefore be impossible.

  • Nick Gotts

    Perhaps I misinterpreted you. I understood your implication to be that for me to accept the sexual advances of a person with severe learning disabilities would be wrong because I would be unable to make sure their consent was informed; but since you don’t know me, that at least suggests that you think no-one without learning disabilities could do so. But are you now implying that if I or another person without learning disabilities could in fact do so, it would be ethical to accept those advances? Because if so, I disagree with you. If you’re not saying that, could you please try to restate your point?

  • EllieMurasaki

    If you are certain that someone is expressing informed consent to having sex with you, and you consent to have sex with them, then you may have sex with them. Not otherwise. What about this is difficult?

  • Nick Gotts

    I’m just making sure I understand you correctly: you think clear consent is sufficient. I don’t agree, in the specific case I have already specified, where there is a gross disparity in power between the potential participants – because this makes it too likely that the relationship will be, or become, grossly exploitative. I think it is fine for two people with severe learning difficulties to have sex with each other – and for others to allow this to happen – provided there is indeed clear consent from both – because the disparity in power is absent. I think it would be wrong for a person without learning difficulties to have sex with a person with severe learning difficulties, even if the latter clearly consented – because the disparity in power is present. I think making this difference in power the explicit ground for banning adult-child sex, bestiality, sex between cognitively normal and severely learning disabled, sex between guard and prisoner, etc., is better than a legal fiction that the weaker party “cannot consent” or “lacks the capacity to consent” or “cannot show whether they consent” – because in many cases, we can indeed tell whether they are consenting or not, and in some cases, do not want to stop them having sex with an appropriate partner.

  • EllieMurasaki

    On most of your ‘ban this due to power disparity’, I agree wholeheartedly. I am not convinced that ‘one person has a disability, the other does not’ automatically equals ‘one has power over the other.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    What this suggests to me is that “consent” and “the ability to communicate consent” aren’t the same thing, and that we might be able to formulate simple, straightforward and universal rules about the former, but the latter is a lot more difficult.

    I think most of the times people suggest that under a particular set of circumstances, a person “can’t meaningfully consent”, what we are actually getting at is that they can’t communicate positive consent, because the circumstances are such that consent either can’t be communicated at all, or can’t be distinguished from a coerced claim of consent.

  • Nick Gotts

    Further thoughts: ethologists can certainly distinguish between sex between pairs of non-human animals where all parties are participating willingly, from those (occurring notably among ducks and among those cuddly, smiley dolphins IIRC) where at least one is not. So in some sense, non-human animals can consent to sex. If we want to say they lack the capacity to consent to sex with humans, we need an underlying reason for that. The most obvious is the extreme power differential between people and non-human animals in most circumstances, a principle that can also justify denying children the capacity to consent to sex with adults, or prison inmates with their guards.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It isn’t necessarily the case that animals can’t desire or initiate activity with a human that one the other or both would consider sexual. What is less likely is that their desire is the same thing or even a generally similar thing to what “consent to sexual activity” means for humans.

  • Nick

    Advocates of traditional marriage don’t care about consent? That’s quite an ad hom.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Or it would be if he didn’t continue to articulate that “traditional” marriage is about women as property & that spousal rape wasn’t even recognized as a thing until the 70s.

  • markedward

    It still is, because this isn’t the 70s. I don’t know a single person who views their wife as mere property. I don’t know a single person who thinks consent isn’t important to ‘traditional marriage’. He’s pointing out the fallacies of the PIB argument, but makes his own fallacies to do so.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Not really. He’s pointing out the implications of people calling for “traditional marriage.” The people making those arguments are calling for a return to a time when women were property. It’s the same as if someone were calling for a simpler time before we had all that Civil Rights stuff we had to worry about. Yeah, it’s great as long as you don’t think about the entire group of human beings relegated to a lesser status.

    Humans have a remarkable ability to think that the way things used to be for them is the way things used to be for everyone. Humans also have the tendency to think that the way things are now is the way things always were and should be, with “now” being “within the last few years.” Calling for “traditional marriage” to them is to call for “marriage to remain exactly like it is now forever because that’s the way it’s always been and the way its supposed to be.” This isn’t even remotely the case, so one avenue to deal with the “traditional marriage” argument is to point out that their version of “traditional marriage” is an artifact of society within the last couple decades.

    The “traditional marriage” advocates don’t necessarily think that we need to return to a time when women were property. What they need to realize, though, is that their “traditional marriage” doesn’t exist. Since it doesn’t exist and marriage as a concept has changed over time we can continue to change marriage. There are some bright lines, such as the PIB lines (although I’m not actually against the P part. My main issue is that it invites a whole shitload of complications in terms of division of property, child custody, and medical decision making and if you think divorces are complicated now just wait until there are five people trying to get divorced. That’s the difficulty of the fact that I consider marriage a contractual construct recognized by the state as opposed to an unchanging thing handed down by god hisownself in the Garden of Eden) and child marriage. However, polygamy, incest, and child marriage used to be a thing. We’ve done away with those as time has gone on because we’ve made other, separate decisions about how to deal with people and their interrelationships.

    Either way, as we like to say ’round these here parts: actually, it’s more complicated than that.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Fred has had multiple posts on how fundamentalist Christians have no sexual ethics, because it is all defined about what is proper biblical sex and what is not. Others who do not buy into that paradigm instead establish sexual ethics based around consent, which is why support for gay marriage does NOT translate into support for incest and bestiality and most forms of polygamy, because the ability of individuals to consent isn’t possible.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/02/10/the-problem-with-evangelical-sexual-ethics-is-there-arent-any/

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Someone hasn’t been paying attention to Republican lawmakers, then.

  • markedward

    Can you please point to specific examples of Republican lawmakers who are trying to legally define marriage as the husband owning his wife, and that he doesn’t need consent from her?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Todd Akins trying to define rape in such a way that it’s impossible for it to happen in the home. Mark Warden and three others trying to redefine domestic assault to be a violation offense, lower than a misdemeanor. HB 1581 of the same, intended to make it illegal for a police officer to arrest the husband of a woman suspected to be abused unless he physically witnesses abuse taking place (no such thing as probable cause; if she comes to the door with a black eye, the officer’s duty would be to tell them to keep the noise down). HB 1608 of the same, intended to eliminate a wife’s ability to get a restraining order against her husband. Judge of the same coming to the conclusion that a man stabbing his wife with a knife isn’t attempted homicide, just domestic violence, and chastising him, “you should have merely slapped her instead.”

  • markedward

    Thanks.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Oh your burn is WAY better!

    (Well, “better” in that now I want to have a nice hard cry about the shambles of American politics.)

  • Lori

    That is truly appalling and indefensible.

    At this point I’d almost be willing to believe that the goal of the NYPD is to make every decent person in the city hate them. From their treatment of Occupy protesters, to stop & frisk to this ish they’re really on a roll with the authoritarian abuse of power.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    It does seem like at least once a decade, around 30 people in the NYPD get rounded up for criminal conspiracy. Drugs, illegal firearm sales, corruption…

    My bid: This decade’s will be sexual assault, after the reported systematic sexual assault of several Occupy protestor women.

  • Lori

    Sadly I don’t think enough people with power care enough about sexual assault in general, let alone sexual assault victimizing DFH’s, for that to be this decade’s scandal of choice. The only way I see sex crimes being the next big scandal is if they catch a bunch of (low-status) cops running a sex-trafficking ring or something.

    If I had to bet I’d go with another round of prosecutions for illegal firearms sales. It’s an actual problem, but it’s basically a trivial sideshow in the gun debate, which makes it perfect. Going after it allows people to pretend to be doing something about gun safety without incurring the wrath of the NRA by actually doing anything about gun safety.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Dunno, if someone can find internal communications making the assault an organized and deliberate act sanctioned by the higher ups (or even higher — hell, this is right up Rudy Giuliani’s alley), it might make the news.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    They’re trying to take the ‘Worst major metropolitan police department’ title back from the LAPD, obviously.

  • Lori

    If that’s the plan then I’m pretty sure they’re succeeding. LAPD Is certainly never a paragon of virtue, but I don’t think they’re currently pulling anything that beats background checks on abuse victims.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Also, in New York if you report that you are being domestically abused, they run a background check on you.

  • Lori

    What is the stated justification for running these background checks?

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai
  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Judge of the same coming to the conclusion that a man stabbing his wife
    with a knife isn’t attempted homicide, just domestic violence, and
    chastising him, “you should have merely slapped her instead.”

    Much like that recent xkcd, technically the judge is right insofar as slapping her would have been a better thing to do than stabbing her, but the judge still fails at everything forever

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    If a commenter on the internet makes a reductio ad absurdum, the body has a way to shut the whole thing down.

  • smrnda

    Fred is pointing out that ‘traditionally’ women were property. Contemporary proponents of traditional marriage who don’t think that are backing a ‘tradition’ which has never really existed.

  • markedward

    Thanks, the way you succinctly explain this makes far more sense. The difference I see, though, is that while your explanation has people defending a more recent thing (fully consensual and mutual marriage) and mistakenly calling it ‘traditional’… Fred has them actually defending the ‘traditional’ thing (non-consensual, non-mutual). Undeniably this is true in certain circles, but it is certainly not true of all people who argue for marriage as one man-one woman. He knows this, but still uses the smaller group of chauvinists to argue against anyone who defines marriage as ‘between one man and one woman’.

    My point is not to argue for one side or the other of the debate itself, but to point out that his inflammatory rhetoric is just as unhelpful as the bigots he argues against.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    My point is not to argue for one side or the other of the debate itself, but to point out that his inflammatory rhetoric is just as unhelpful as the bigots he argues against.

    And you appear to have misread something Fred stated as inflammatory rhetoric and then wandered off to derail the entire conversation. So good show, old chap.

    I assume you’re referring to this snip in the OP:

    Consent isn’t part of their framework. They’re defending traditional marriage, after all, and traditionally marriage was about property, not about mutual consent.

    And “tradition” here doesn’t mean something from biblical times in the ancient world, or even something centuries distant like the world of Jane Austen’s novels. Here in the United States, wives have been regarded as the property of their husbands to the extent that spousal rape was not recognized as a crime until the late 1970s.

    The defenders of “traditional marriage” cannot understand the significance of consent because the traditional marriage they are defending does not understand it either.

    That’s not “inflammatory rhetoric.” That’s Fred explaining the reality of what “traditional marriage” was. If you accept what smrnda said, which you say you do and if you accept what I said upthread, which is a longer way around both what Fred said and what smrnda said, then you’re just disagreeing with Fred’s wording for the sake of disagreeing.

  • Lori

    It’s not so much disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing as it is a tone argument in slightly different clothing.

  • markedward

    I’m not disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. You each explained that people are defending something (consensual, mutual) that is mistakenly identified as ‘traditional’ (which is actually non-consensual and mutual). And I agree with that.

    But that’s not what Fred said. He has them actually defending so-called traditional marriage. If he didn’t intend to say they defend non-consensual and non-mutual marriage, he worded it so poorly it leaves that impression.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Just going to repeat myself here so that you get this in notification, in case Disqus’s new format makes it hard to follow the conversation:

    Is the name Doug Wilson familiar to you? He argues that there’s no such thing, that, in fact, it’s abominable to even try — to have such a thing as an egalitarian sexual relationship.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/07/18/the-men-of-the-gospel-coalition-really-really-hate-women/

  • markedward

    I haven’t heard of Doug Wilson, though I am familiar with Piper and Driscoll. But despite the many people I know who respect and listen to these guys, I don’t know any of them that agree with their ideas of men-own-women. Fred’s post portrays this idea as the norm for Christians who want marriage to be defined as ‘one man and one woman’, but as far as I have seen, it’s simply not the popular opinion.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    While agreeing with one thing a person says doesn’t automatically lead into agreeing with everything they say, it sets a bad precedent when that’s one of the big things they harp on about. I think more people than either of us would care to imagine assume it’s true in a de facto regard, if not a de juro regard.

  • Lori

    How exactly does one respect and listen to Driscoll without agreeing with his ideas about women? That’s like saying that the except for that little iceberg problem the
    Titanic was terrific ship. Possibly true, but rather missing the point. His entire ministry is built on macho BS and gender essentialism. If you take out the offensive stuff there’s not much left, certainly not enough to distinguish him from dozens of other preachers.

  • The_L1985

    It’s not. But people like Driscoll, Piper, and Wilson are heads of churches, the members of which most emphatically do agree with such patriarchal ideas. The Patheos blog No Longer Quivering is for and about women who grew up in such churches and later left.

    IMO, even one congregation that encourages a patriarchal system like that is one too many.

  • markedward

    Thanks, I’ll add that one to my RSS.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Visit New Hampshire sometime. The Republican-controlled senate has made a habit in recent years of drafting laws which seem to have no purpose whatsoever except to increase the likelihood of a woman being murdered by her husband, because, I quote, “Many people actually like being in abusive relationships.”

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I actually ran into this argument just yesterday. It’s not necessarily that they “don’t care” about consent. It’s more that they don’t really fully grasp the concept or its centrality or they pretend not to until they can use it themselves.

    I broke my “no arguments on Facebook” rule and got into one. The whole, “What’s next, marrying children?” thing came up. Several people then said, “Consent, duh” (paraphrasing considerably). The person on the anti-gay side then went down the road to, “Well what if we start pushing the age of consent down, then what are you going to do?”

    I quickly realized that all the person was trying to do was derail and make an argument that we can’t change the laws about gay marriage because we might then change laws about other, seemingly related things. It was a derail, similar to the way Fred articulates Corvino’s argument about PIB. It’s also not something easy to deal with, since the person is probably either genuinely or willfully misunderstanding consent and, in general, how the law works in America.

    I pointed out that the logical conclusion of her underlying argument (we can’t change Law A because that might lead to someone deciding to change Law B somewhere down the line, so we must draw the line somewhere) can be worked backwards. Since it was a woman I then took women’s suffrage and asked if she would prefer to return to the time before that particular law was changed. Then the whole thing ended because I had better things to do than argue on Facebook.

  • P J Evans

    There are a lot of people who don’t understand it. And most of them seem to post their (lack of) argument online.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Is the name Doug Wilson familiar to you? He argues that there’s no such thing, that, in fact, it’s abominable to even try — to have such a thing as an egalitarian sexual relationship.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/07/18/the-men-of-the-gospel-coalition-really-really-hate-women/

  • banancat

    So when Phyllis Shlafly says that there’s no such thing as marital rape, how is that an ad hom? She believes that women do not have the right to consent or refuse consent within a very broad range of experiences.

  • RJ (TO)

    I’ve found the best way to deal with PIBers is to just turn their argument back around on them. “If we allow christians to worship openly and freely in public then sooner or later satanists are going to demand the same thing. It’s a slippery slope!”

    They’ll immediately say they’re not the same thing. Ask them to explain how they’re different. Both are religions (so they’re constitutionally protected), involve the worship and exultation of an invisible, ancient, supernatural being, require total submission and the performance of certain rites. More importantly, ask them why they find the comparison offensive.

    Same with the “Homosexuality is a choice and therefore completely changeable, so it should not be a protected right” argument. Point out to them that the same can be said for religion. It’s a choice they made and, as evidenced by the growing number of ex-christians out there, completely changeable. So, according to their own theory, religion shouldn’t be protected by law either.

  • HBD

    Well, technically satanists already DO have the right to worship openly.

    Probably a better response would be “Well, when that topic comes up for consideration, let’s debate it at that time. For now, let’s focus on the topic of same sex marriage between human beings.”

  • RJ (TO)

    Absolutely agree! But my point was more to make them get how offensive it is being compared to something completely unrelated by making them explain why it’s offensive as a christian being compared to satanists.

  • Jessica Boone

    I enjoying pointing out two things to traditional marriage advocates. When they make the gay marriage will destroy/undermine marriage. First, straight people choose who they marry.Second, they sometimes make a terrible decision. It seems everyone knows a married couple, who shouldn’t have married due to differences in personality and/or what they want out of life. Seeing unhappily dysfunctional married couples of ten plus years loathe each other probably undermines marriage much more then loving functional gay couples every could. Traditional marriage advocates don’t try to pass laws regulating hetero marriage to ensure only compatible people with healthy relationships can marry. If we don’t pass those laws, why in the hell should regulate marriage based on gender?

  • banancat

    Those people give zero fucks about ensuring healthy relationships. What they care about is maintaining gender roles within marriage, generally to the detriment of the woman. They accomplish this to some extent by insisting that it must be that way so their wives need to just shut up and tolerate it. But as same-sex marriage is becoming legal and more widespread, there are many examples of someone not following their proscribed gender role, and yet the world doesn’t collapse. Conservatives lose their justification for insisting on complementarian marriages, and some women will stop believing that their oppression is necessary and will stop tolerating it. So in that way, it absolutely does ruin tradition marriage, the kind where a woman is forced into a gender role.

  • Mary

    I think that it is ironic that the same people are arguing for their version of sexual morality based on the Bible, have probably missed the fact that the bible does not condemn child rape and that the rape of a woman was not a crime against her, but against whoever “owned” her. Thus all the rapist had to do was to pay a small amount of money to her father if she had been a virgin and marry her. If she was married, then both her and her rapist could be put to death.

    Yes let’s stand up for traditional values! Not!!!

  • http://twitter.com/WayofCats WayofCats

    They betray their mindset with the PIB argument; consent is pivotal, yes, but it shows they think “morals are rules.”

    Unlike reasoning behavior, which says, “Someone is being hurt by this, it shouldn’t be allowed,” I see their arguments based on simple rules. Why if we violate one rule, it throws all of them out the window!

    Because they don’t arrive at their “rules” by a process of reasoning. They get there by being told what to do.

  • Fusina

    “They get there by being told what to do.”

    And this is my biggest problem with Christianity. It started as a thing that looked at the rules and tossed out the silly ones, and became one that wrote even sillier rules than the ones tossed. I am no longer sure I am a Christian–I still believe that God exists, and I believe that Jesus was/is his son… but I don’t like all the rules and traditions that have been added on since the beginning. Also, I am having problems with the church I go to–not the congregation, just the priest, mostly because she thought I was a bad person because I wouldn’t say I forgave someone who hurt me and was totally unrepentant, denied that she hurt me and seemed confused that I could possibly have been hurt by her words. No, I won’t leave, mostly because the people at the church are my family, but I don’t tend to go to service when this priest is presiding anymore. I just hang out with the kids in the nursery during them. But I miss the pageantry and music.

  • ASeriesOfWords

    Trust me, none of that stuff invalidates you as a Christian.

  • http://stanmanx.com Matt Smyczynski

    You’re not alone in that. The silliness of some of the rules we have (and the things our self-appointed spokespeople say and advocate for) sometimes makes me stop what I’m doing and shake my head. But, like you, I still have those core beliefs that make it impossible to just walk away from the whole thing. However, I at least have a church that seems to be pretty great… that helps a lot. I’m sorry that yours has the problems that it does*.

    *This awkward sentence brought to you by my desire to avoid sounding like I think problem-free churches (or anything else) actually exist, while still affirming that some problems are worse than others.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    One of the interesting things about the Saint Paul stuff in the Bible is that it is a record of Paul’s thoughts on various issues brought up in the early church. Jesus had said that the old laws did not matter if they did not serve God’s love, and so without those rules to refer to they had to figure out other ways of determining how to interact with the world. The things Paul wrote were addressing specific issues in specific contexts, done on a case-by-case basis.

    However, since then a lot of people have elevated the stuff in their to the status of “rules” while missing Paul’s actual method of determination and consideration about how Jesus’ teaching apply.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re Christian. We’ve had this discussion before, about forgiveness not being with no conditions whatsoever. Not all of us can be Jesus, begging God to forgive the men torturing him to death, and no reasonable person expects you to even come close.

  • markedward

    One of the reasons I hope for a collapse and reformation of the church ‘system’ in America. The One Pastor To Rule Them All style of governing a church is fraught with problems, the most widespread being temptation towards abuse of authority. The churches I’ve seen sincerely thrive the most in terms of people actually growing spiritually and socially (as opposed to becoming parrots) are the ones that made a point to decentralize their leadership practices (i.e. so it’s no longer a pyramid hierarchy).

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    A lot of such conservatives also make the argument that if you don’t take one part of the Bible as literally true, why, then, the whole thing might as well go out the window! Therefore every word of the Bible is literally, historically true, and we know this because shut up.

    It’s a house of cards. It’s all a house of cards.

  • Lori

    Colbert has some things to say on the subject of opposition to same sex marriage:

    http://www.alternet.org/media/watch-colbert-shreds-georgia-senator-same-sex-marriage

    Narcicitizenship is my new favorite word.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    and it would have to be that draft-dodging asshole Saxby Chambliss.

  • Lori

    When it comes to Republican lawmakers “draft-dodging asshole” doesn’t exactly narrow it down all that much, so in that sense it could have been someone other than Chambliss.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I just think it’s particularly irksome because Chambliss won against Max Cleland and did so in part by accusing a real honest to god war veteran of being unpatriotic.

  • arresi

    Regarding the issue of bestiality and consent: I don’t think that animal’s general lack of ability to consent means that consent-based sexual ethics can’t block bestiality. That seems to imply that sexual ethics are the same thing as the ethics of eating or pet ownership. Or maybe just limited by. Why should we assume that because something is permissible in an entirely different context that it should be permissible sexually or vice versa?

  • AnonaMiss

    In vitro fertilization of an animal requires sexual penetration, and is a common way of breeding certain animals (especially e.g. racehorses). Would you consider this unethical based on the requirement for consent in sexual acts?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    In vitro fertilization is not a sexual act; it is a reproductive one.

    Not all reproductive acts are sexual acts. (in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, abortion, sterlization, etc.)

    Some sexual acts are reproductive acts, but not all. (do I really need to list examples?)

    All sexual acts require consent of all parties in order to be ethical.

    Not all reproductive acts require consent of all parties in order to be ethical.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not all reproductive acts require consent of all parties in order to be ethical.

    You want to unpack that? Because all four of the examples you listed absolutely do require all parties’ consent. (Note that the only party to an abortion is the pregnant person, unless one wants to count the abortion provider.) I’ll grant that conception through penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t necessarily require all parties’ consent, since it so often happens without anyone’s awareness till weeks after the sex act in question, but sex often happens without all parties’ consent too. That does not mean that either conception or sex should happen without all parties’ consent.
    The ethics of doing things to animals without their consent, regardless of the nature of the thing in question, is a dicey subject on which I do not feel qualified to speak.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    If a surrogate mother decides to abort, is it your view that the donors of egg and sperm are not parties to be considered? Or is it that their consent is not, in fact, required?

    Do the sperm and egg donors to in vitro fertilization waive all considerations of what happens to fertilized, unused, frozen tissue? Do sperm donors waive all rights to the use of their genetic material once it leaves their bodies?

    Is Bob Barker really being unethical when he urges us all to “spay and neuter your pets” in light of large feral animal populations? Are ranchers and farmers that geld non-breeding animals being unethical?

    It seems like you’re really trying hard to conflate dissimilar things.
    “doing things to animals” has a very narrow overlap with “reproductive acts” which in turn has a limited overlap with “sexual acts”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If a surrogate mother decides to abort, is it your view that the donors of egg and sperm are not parties to be considered? Or is it that their consent is not, in fact, required?

    She’s the pregnant person. She’s the only one with any say over what happens with her uterus. I would argue that the donors of egg and sperm are interested parties, but not involved parties; she is the only involved party once the pregnancy has begun.

    Do the sperm and egg donors to *in vitro* fertilization waive all considerations of what happens to fertilized, unused, frozen tissue? Do sperm donors waive all rights to the use of their genetic material once it leaves their bodies?

    Yes and yes. I wouldn’t class in-vitro embryos as ‘unused’ until the egg and sperm donors say they’re not going to be used, mind.

    I told you, I’m not debating the ethics of doing things to animals.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If a surrogate mother decides to abort, is it your view that the donors
    of egg and sperm are not parties to be considered? Or is it that their
    consent is not, in fact, required?

    They are absolutely parties to be considered. In fact, “consideration” is the legal term for what is due them, and the details of that would presumably be spelled out in the surrogacy agreement, what she had to repay them and which medical expenses weren’t covered.

    Their consent would obviously not be required. If their consent was required, the surrogacy agreement would be in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.

  • aunursa

    I’ll grant that conception through penis-in-vagina sex doesn’t necessarily require all parties’ consent, since it so often happens without anyone’s awareness till weeks after the sex act in question

    I would argue that M-F vaginal intercourse (with or without birth control) requires all parties’ consent to the possibility of conception. As we all should know, vaginal intercourse can and does produce fertilized eggs, and birth control is < 100% effective.

    Samuel: Thought it was supposed to be foolproof.
    Rebecca: Nothing is foolproof. It’s only 97% effective. It says so on the box.
    Samuel: Yeah. Right. 97% effective. So 3% completely bloody ineffective. They should put that on the box.

    Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore in Nine Months,

  • EllieMurasaki

    I would argue that vaginal intercourse (with or without birth control) requires all parties’ consent to the possibility of conception.

    Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy.

  • aunursa

    Consent to vaginal intercourse is consent to the possibility of pregnancy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That sounds disturbingly like the basis of an argument that abortion should not be permitted to people with vaginas who consented to sex with people with penises. No. We are not playing that game. Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy.

  • aunursa

    It’s not an argument with respect to abortion. It’s facing the reality that vaginal intercourse can lead to (cause) a pregnancy. Termination of the pregnancy is a separate issue. Nowhere did I say that consent to the possibility of pregnancy ==> consent to nine months of pregnancy (or even six or seven months.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    No. Pregnancy is a possibility with certain sex acts, yes. That does not make it automatically a desirable possibility or a consented-to possibility. Performing the sex act does not constitute consent to beginning the pregnancy. Consent to performing the sex act does not constitute consent to beginning the pregnancy.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    You seem to be arguing that if X entails the possibility of Y, then consent to X entails consent to the possibility of Y. By this reasoning, since being alive necessarily entails the possibility of painful death, and I consent to being alive, it follows that I consent to the possibility of painful death.

    Well, OK. I certainly don’t consent to a painful death, but so far nobody has claimed I did… merely that I consent to the possibility of painful death.

    I don’t know whether I agree or disagree with that.

    Thinking about it, I’m not sure I understand what “consent to a possibility” even means.

  • aunursa

    You seem to be arguing that if X entails the possibility of Y, then consent to X entails consent to the possibility of Y.

    Not exactly. Vaginal intercourse is a positive action.

    There are certain actions that you can take to increase dramatically the possibility that you will suffer a certain type of death. There is an infintesimal chance that you will be mauled to death by a tiger. But if you become a tiger trainer, train the tiger to allow you to insert your head between her open jaws, and/or take similar steps, you dramatically increase the odds. You thus consent to the possibility (should I say “increased possibility”?) that you will be mauled to death by a tiger.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I see. So you wouldn’t say that I consent to the possibility of a painful death by consenting to sit in my living room, even though sitting in my living room necessarily entails the possibility of a painful death. But you would say that I consent to the possibility of a painful death by consenting to drive to work, because driving increases my odds of a painful death.

    Have I understood you?

    That doesn’t really help alleviate my confusion about what “consent to a possibility” means.

    That is, OK, let’s say for the sake of argument that I consented to the possibility of a painful death by driving to work this morning rather than sitting in my living room. So what? What follows from that?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    That is, OK, let’s say for the sake of argument that I consented to the possibility of a painful death by driving to work this morning rather than sitting in my living room. So what? What follows from that?

    Presumably, that if you do die, then it is an accident, not an act of malice (as it would be if you had not consented to drive to work, ad therefore implicitly consented to the remote possibility of violent death – or to put it another way, consensually accepted that risk. Just as getting pregnant when one didn’t intend to is an accident – it doesn’t imply responsibility or desire, but it also means that it is not an act of malfeasance – you can’t prosecute someone for a broken condom. (Unless you were deceived as to the circumstances…)

  • Dave

    Well, I certainly agree that {dying, getting pregnant, etc.} when nobody intended me to is an accident and not an act of malice.

    But
    I would say that’s a consequence of the lack of intent, rather than a
    consequence of the presence of “consent to a possibility”.

    Further, combining your account with aunursa’s, I get the following reasoning:
    1. I don’t consent to the possibility of death while sitting in my living room. (my understanding of aunursa above)
    2.
    Consenting to the possibility of death is important, because it means
    that if I die, it’s an accident, and not malice as it would be had I not
    consented. (you, above)
    3. Therefore, if I die while sitting in my living room, it’s malice and not an accident.

    Which seems absurd. Which leads me to believe that your account here is incompatible with aunursa’s.

    [Also, apparently disqus no longer accepts openID)

  • BaseDeltaZero

    I suppose it is a bit incompatible… but I think, if we’re going to stay with this model, every activity has some degree of risk, even doing nothing at all. Buuuut that does not mean that risk cannot be reduced, or that others are allowed to increase your degree of risk (‘risk’ thus far has been physical, but mental/psychic risk also works…)
    You aren’t really ‘consenting to the possiblity of death/pregnancy/harm’, so much as accepting that risk. The consent portion is more important than the intent, because it’s possible for someone to not intend the consequence, and still cause harm. To use an example less repulsive than the obvious, if you’re standing around on the street, and someone walks up and punches you, and you suffer, say, a concussion (the specifics of the injury are not important, just that it’s a bit more severe than the inevitable pain/bruising), then it’s aggravated battery. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in an MMA match, and you take a bad hit and suffer a concussion, then it’s just an accident. In both cases (let us suppose), the person who hit you did not intend to cause a concussion, but in the second, you consensually accepted the risk of injury, while in the first, you did not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    I basically agree with all of this.

    More specifically, I understand what it means to accept a risk, and I agree that I accept the risk of various bad things when I perform various acts, and that certain acts (like MMA matches) entail greater risks than others and that willingly/knowingly performing those acts entails accepting those greater risks, and consequently being willing to treat the actualization of those risks as an accident.

    And if what aunursa meant by “consenting to a possibility” then my original question has been answered, though I’m not certain it is.

    (Oh, and this is Dave, now logging in via Facebook.)

  • AnonaMiss

    In addition to Ellie’s excellent point, you are claiming that sticking an object into an animal’s vagina is not a sexual act. Is bestiality then acceptable if the sex is undertaking using a toy, instead of organic parts?

    Or are you claiming that consent is unnecessary if you’re raping the subject for the purpose of reproduction?

    And for clarity’s sake, my position is that if bestiality is wrong, that implies that breeding animals is wrong, and that killing animals is wrong (because I think killing something without consent is at least as bad as raping it. I’d rather be raped than murdered, but I consider assisted suicide morally OK).

    However – and this is where I’m a little shaky on the foundation of my ethics because of the aforementioned dairy family upbringing – I consider breeding animals OK, so by the law of the contrapositive, I must therefore consider bestiality OK. I am also open to the position that neither bestiality nor the killing of animals is OK, and could be persuaded around to it.

    But I can’t wrap my head around a position that says it’s OK to kill an animal, and it’s OK to rape an animal as long as it’s for the purpose of forcibly impregnating it, but if you rape an animal without intending to impregnate it, well, that’s just wrong!

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    There’s a word that everyone has been avoiding up to this point, and I understand why, but we really need to bring it into the discussion.

    The word is “intent”.

    When we’re talking about “sexual ethics”, we’re talking about the ethics of sexuality: attraction, desire, eros. We’re not talking about “anything that has to do with sexual organs”. Gynecological exams aren’t sexual to most people, but an ankle bracelet is highly sexual to foot fetishists.

    Inserting an object into a vagina (animal or otherwise) is not an inherently sexual act. (again, I refer you to gynecologists, as well as tampons and menstruation)

    Intent matters.

    Breeding a racehorse for offspring is different than sexual contact for personal gratification.

    But I can’t wrap my head around a position that says …it’s OK to rape an animal as long as it’s for the purpose of forcibly impregnating it…

    Rape is about inflicting violence and exerting power and dominance through sexual contact.

    Artificial insemination could, theoretically, be a way to exert power and dominance over someone, but it generally isn’t. It’s usually done to produce a pregnancy for an aim related to the offspring.

    Killing an animal for food is different than killing an animal to exert power and dominance. The methods of a slaughterhouse are intended to be quick and painless, because inflicting pain is not the intent.

    So, wrap your head around this:

    It’s OK to kill an animal, if your intent is for food. (intent being demonstrated by the means and manner which you use to kill the animal)

    It’s OK to impregnate an animal if your intent is to produce offspring for use. (intent again being demonstrated by using means of impregnation that are both efficient and cause the least discomfort or suffering for the animal.)

    It’s OK to inflict pain on an animal to train it for a useful task, especially if the only reason that animal was acquired (or even bred) was for that task.

    It’s not OK to use an animal for your sexual gratification. It’s not OK to kill an animal for your emotional gratification. It’s not OK to inflict pain on an animal for your pleasure.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    (nods) So, I absolutely agree that this is coherent and internally consistent and easy to get my head around. Thank you for being clear.

    Do your various assertions about what is and isn’t OK derive from anything, like a more general model of what is and isn’t OK? Or are they ex nihilo? That is, if I were to ask “Why is it OK to inflict pain on an animal to train it but not for my entertainment; why is it OK to kill an animal for food but not for emotional gratification?” do these questions have answers?

    Relatedly, if I wanted to extend the model you describe above to answer novel questions like “Is it OK to kill an animal because it got stuck in my attic, as long as doing so doesn’t emotionally gratify me, if I don’t intend to eat it?” how would you recommend I go about doing so? (I assume “Ask Chris” is sufficient but not necessary.)

  • AnonaMiss

    Belated trigger warning rape (sorry about that)

    When we’re talking about “sexual ethics”, we’re talking about the ethics of sexuality: attraction, desire, eros. We’re not talking about “anything that has to do with sexual organs”. Gynecological exams aren’t sexual to most people, but an ankle bracelet is highly sexual to foot fetishists.

    no we most certainly are not.

    If a gay man, with no sexual attraction to a woman, rapes her or forcibly IVFs her because he wants a child – it is still rape, because it violates the ethics of consent.

    Inserting an object into a vagina (animal or otherwise) is not an inherently sexual act. (again, I refer you to gynecologists, as well as tampons and menstruation)

    Your examples of non-sexual insertion are all things done with the consent of, and often by, the subject of the insertion. But inserting an object into a vagina without consent is rape, even when done for completely non-sexual reasons. See also forced transvaginal ultrasound laws.

    Whether or not the act is sexual is only remotely related to whether or not it is ethically OK.

    Rape is about inflicting violence and exerting power and dominance through sexual contact.

    This is a bad framing for reasons which Ana Mardoll explained much better than I will ever be able to: http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/08/deconstruction-legitimate-rapes.html . tl;dr: This framing implies-to-outright-states that if there is sexual contact, or penetration of the sex organs, and the penetrator/controllor/rapist is doing it for not-power-or-dominance reasons, then it isn’t rape, regardless of whether the victim consented or not.

    Rape can be about inflicting violence and exerting power and dominance through sexual contact. But that isn’t a diagnostic criterion, as you use it here. The diagnostic criteria for rape are, 1) was a genital area of one or more participants involved? 2) was there penetration? [without penetration it is molestation or sexual assault, but not technically rape] 3) did the recipient not-consent?

    I really hope you’re constructing a completely different ethical framework for human-animal interactions from the one you’d use for human-human interactions.

  • The_L1985

    By “bestiality using a toy,” do you mean people using sex toys on animals, or people using animal-like sex toys on themselves (yes, they exist*)? Because one of those things is not like the other.

    * Link is very, very NSFW and will probably offend most people. Click with extreme caution.

  • AnonaMiss

    Using sex toys on animals, of course. Sorry if that wasn’t clear – when one is using a sex toy on oneself, unless there is something reeeally messed up in your brain, consent is present!

  • BaseDeltaZero

    But I can’t wrap my head around a position that says it’s OK to kill an animal, and it’s OK to rape an animal as long as it’s for the purpose of forcibly impregnating it, but if you rape an animal without intending to impregnate it, well, that’s just wrong!

    Presumably the same logic by which it is okay to kill and eat an animal, but not to torture it for no good reason. Animals (with a few possible exceptions) aren’t sapient, but they do feel pain, and pointless cruelty is repugnant – you’re deliberately acting only to cause harm. If nothing else, that should be cause for concern on a psychological level.

  • AnonaMiss

    The ethicality or not of doing something to an animal is indeed inversely proportional to the amount of pain it feels.

    But if you spend enough time on the more lawless parts of the internet, you will eventually come across incidents of bestiality in which the animal doesn’t appear to be in pain – appears enthusiastic, even. There is one infamous case in which a man died from internal bleeding after committing bestiality with an overenthusiastic stallion (infamous mostly because video of the incident was distributed over the internet and propagated into painful-looking gifs); the horse in question was as far as I know unharmed.

    If the problem with bestiality is sexual activity without consent, then IVF and the horse incident are equally wrong; if the problem with bestiality is harm caused to the animal, then IVF is significantly more ethically problematic than the horse incident, because IVF can lead to pregnancy, and pregnancy is potentially extremely painful + fatal.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    This is true, but not necessarily universal. I think the best counterargument I can come up with is A: It’s potentially dangerous for a variety of reasons, and B: It reveals deeper dysfunctions that are likely highly problematic. Both are more a practical than a moral argument, but… there you go.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    For what it’s worth, I consider force-breeding animals for any recreational purpose to be deeply immoral.

  • arresi

    I think Chris makes some good points. Or course, given that my cats are all neutered or spayed and my dog’s litter was aborted (she was a stray), I may be trying to shield myself.

    Personally, in my not especially considered opinion, I’d say the situation you describe likely falls under the ethics of pet or animal ownership. or possibly reproductive or medical ethics, rather than sexual ethics. Admittedly, I only know what I’ve read on Wikipedia and am most definitely not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure if a human did that to a human, it’d be reproductive coercion (usually a subset of domestic violence), not sexual assault. (Which is to say, still horrible, but a different variety of horrible.)

  • Mary

    I’m pretty sure if a human did that to a human, it’d be reproductive coercion (usually a subset of domestic violence), not sexual assault. (Which is to say, still horrible, but a different variety of horrible.)

    I saw an episode of Law and Order SVU where they dealt with that issue. I young girl was forced to carry her father’s baby, through the “turkey-baster” method. So technically he didn’t rape her. I can’t for the life of me remember what they charged him with. Of course this was fictional but I wouldn’t be surprised (unfortunately) if this has happened in real life

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Yeah, it has. I’m not finding any mention of the man being charged with a crime, either. Ross LeBaron Jr.

  • arresi

    Oh, ugh. I am sorry to hear that.

  • smrnda

    For people who base sexual ethics on consent, we see that same-sex marriage is unlike the others. For people who follow rules mindlessly, once you start thinking about changing rules they can’t figure out how you can throw out any without throwing out them all. They’re just incapable of reasoning out why one thing should be permitted or allowed based on the likelihood that it causes harm.

    On animals and consent and eating, a good discussion there. Perhaps it could be seen as a matter of animal cruelty. Some people maintain that raising animals for food is okay provided that they are allowed to live comfortably and killed in the least painful matter possible. So it’s better in that view to shoot an animal that has lived a natural and free life than to eat an animal which spent its short life being force-fed and confined to a cage, and that having sex with animals would be unnecessary cruelty.

    I’m assuming animals can consent to sex with each other because they have some sort of mutually intelligible mating behavior. Even if they don’t, I can’t imagine that we could enforce consent among animals, but the fact that animals engage in cannibalism sometimes doesn’t force us to view it as okay.

  • Makabit

    Apparently rape is a real problem among ducks. Not kidding, it’s a whole thing. And apparently female ducks have quite a bit of control over when they allow themselves to be knocked up, or whatever you call it with egg-layers.Very few ducklings come from rape, despite the high rate of it in the, er, duck community.

    So yes, if ducks have a concept of consent…

    I keep wondering if that idiot with the ‘the female body has ways to shut that down’ line was thinking about ducks.

    I once saw a nature show where a male wolf was attempting to mount a female who was not yet entirely in heat. She bit the crap out of his nose, and he went away.

  • AnonaMiss

    I can confirm the duck thing. I once stopped a mallard gang rape in progress. It was really disturbing.

  • Makabit

    It’s creepy. Apparently females are sometimes drowned in these attacks.

    People suck. Even when people are ducks, apparently.

    There’s a pair of mallards that land in our nearby creek every spring to lay eggs. After reading about duck rape, I got worried about the female duck, but a friend who knows a bit about birds told me that if they’re travelling together and breeding, it should be a consensual pairing.

    Which is just as well. Because starting a shelter for duck survivors of sexual violence in my bathtub would be sort of problematic for my family.

  • AnonaMiss

    There was a male who wasn’t participating in the attack, which I assume was her mate, and the attackers kept chasing him away. After the gang was gone and she was recovering, he hung out at a slight distance from her, in what I imagined was an attitude of “giving her space but being there for moral support.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    There is, in fact, a kind of genital arms race in the duck kingdom, with the females developing labyrinthine vaginas to make it more difficult to enter without cooperation. The drakes, for their part, evolved corkscrew-shaped members to accomodate, and grow themselves so long that it became more convenient to shed them after mating season and grow a new one next year than to haul that thing around in the lean months.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    *Snirk* I’ll remember this, the next time someone says evolution is a concept brought on by the devil. “So it is, just look at these ducks! I guess that proves evolution is real after all. Unfortunately, this also proves Satan is real, but not necessarily that God has anything to do with Earth, since it also just disproved Creationism. This could be problematic.”

  • Slash

    When people make this stupid argument I just assume that they themselves are contemplating incest and/or bestiality, kinda like a “methinks he doth protest too much” thing.

    RE polygamy, I assume it appeals mostly to insecure men who want only several holes in which to put their penises, not equal partners who might have sexual experience to judge their performance against, as these arrangements seem to prize sexual inexperience (ie, a complete lack of experience) in women as desirable.

  • Robyrt

    Legalized incest definitely follows from the arguments used to justify same-sex marriage. You are prohibiting two consenting adults from marrying the person of their choice, and marriage is a fundamental civil right. Marriage law has never protected people from unhealthy relationships, nor should it.

    Corvino has two arguments against incest. His own boils down to “It’s only a subset of your rights that are being infringed, deal with it” which is just as invalid as “Gay people already have the right to marry women”. He also cites Rauch’s argument which is basically “It creeps me out and it would harm traditional families”, both of which are classic arguments against same-sex marriage on the exact same basis. Squick is not a good reason to deny rights, and there is no evidence that incestuous relationships are harmful, probably because they are incredibly rare. Corvino doesn’t bring up the procreation argument – “Your hypothetical kids will be deformed!” – because it has been thoroughly debunked by same-sex marriage supporters already.

    So yes, I think the slippery slope argument for this one particularly is quite valid. I can’t think of an argument for forbidding incestuous marriages that wouldn’t also let you forbid same-sex marriage. Polygamy and bestiality are much more tenuous.

  • P J Evans

    I don’t think anyone is arguing for incest.

  • Lori

    The relevant argument against incest isn’t “it creeps me out”, it’s “functional consent isn’t possible between close family members”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericrboersma Eric Boersma

    I think you could make an argument that functional consent is possible between siblings who are both adults, thought it would be difficult.

    I agree that there’s no way to argue that consent is possible in a child/parent relationship.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    *points* What Eric said. Cross-generational is a minefield of consent issues, while same generation far less so, IMV.

  • Lori

    Same generation incest is obviously less problematic than cross-generational, but I don’t think that’s saying all that much.

    In any case, my point wasn’t really about whether or not incest is ever OK in a consent-based framework. My point was that there is a consent-based objection to incest that does not apply to SSM.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m not comfortable with the framing of “consent isn’t possible” because it assumes that should you meet anyone who claims to have consented, you have to call them deluded or a liar.

    Maybe something like “consent is inherently fraught”?

  • Lori

    The only person who I have ever personally known who claimed to have a consensual incestuous relationship was seriously deluded. I mean that in a clinical sense.

    The particular wording is not something I’m going to fight to defend though. If fraught makes people more comfortable and still manages to get across why incest and same-sex relationships are not equivalent within a consent-based framework then I don’t care.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Was the delusion linked to that consent, or did it just cast doubt on her capacity to give meaningful consent?

    I don’t really have a stake in this debate, but I don’t think the possibilities are completely remote. I knew a woman (30+ at the time) who discovered she had a half-brother she had never met, looked him up, and he was apparently charming and different enough that the possibility of them trying a romantic relationship did come up. While their relationship did quickly fall apart, the fact that they were related didn’t have anything to do with it.

    (Not getting into detail, but it had more to do with the fact that he was a convicted sex offender who was looking to add another notch to his belt.)

  • Lori

    Both. She had problems that meant that at that point in her life meaningful consent was just generally a tricky thing and she had notions related to the specific relationship that were part of a broader delusion.

  • The_L1985

    What about siblings who were adopted by different parents, met as adults, and fell in love without knowing they were biologically related? That sort of situation is surprisingly common.

  • Lori

    I wouldn’t make a broad statement about that one way or the other because I think it varies according to the specific case.

  • The_L1985

    Perhaps. But remember, the Westermarck effect is based on near-relatives being around each other during the early childhoods of one or both of them. If you’re adopted very early in life, that form of “imprinting” that says “these people are my family” doesn’t happen with your biological relatives, but with your adoptive family.

    This is also why many people don’t even find out that they were adopted until they’re adults themselves–if you look like the people who raised you, have lived with them since infancy, and have never been told that you were adopted, you have no reason to suspect it.

  • Lori

    Note that I did not mention the Westermark effect. I really have no interest in getting into a detailed discussion about when incest might possibly be A-OK and am now thoroughly regretting not staying out of the discussion, the same way I’ve stayed out of this round of the bestiality-vegan-pets go round.

    I’ll just reiterate again that my point was that I believe Robyrt was incorrect in saying that there’s no consent-based argument for allowing SSM and while not also allowing marriage between close relatives.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    In fact, my understanding is that, in the absence of the Westermarck effect, people very often are strongly attracted to close biological relatives, due to the broad physical similarities (Some leftover “Keep it in the tribe” impulse)

  • Rowen

    I’ve seen that pop up in Dear Prudence” or other such letters. Usually “the letter writer is kinda squicked out. Now, I’m not saying that that’s a good sampling but I think that’s going to be an extremely small portion of the population.

    I’m not saying this as a “this is why it should be outlawed” though.

  • Carstonio

    Yes. The PIB folks seem to assume that without taboos, human sexuality would have no restraints at all. Like everyone fantasizes about their siblings or pets or appliances. At least one former evangelical I’ve encountered describes the real fear among such believers this way – they’re afraid that without a social shame or taboo against homosexuality, their sons will turn gay. Similarly, they oppose contraception because they don’t want their daughters to be sexually active.

  • P J Evans

    It seems like another form of magical thinking, the kind that’s ‘if you don’t talk about it, it won’t happen’.

  • The_L1985

    Because that works so well with premarital sex!

  • The_L1985

    Even people with incest fetishes tend to fetishize fictional incest, and don’t generally want to have real, live sex with their real, live relatives.

    At least, that’s been my experience in talking to really kinky people. I’m aware that the plural of anecdote is not data.

  • Jenny Islander

    Coming in late, but this story is important. It’s a true story, told to me by a friend of my niece.

    Once upon a time, there were two innocent children. They had been best friends for as long as they could remember. They had been raised in a sheltered, loving environment into which not a single mention of S-E-X had been permitted to intrude. There had been vague but dire warnings about the things a boy could do to ruin a girl’s future, or the things a girl could do to ruin her own future. The two friends thought that it had something to do with kissing.

    One afternoon, as their mothers were having tea in the front of the house, the two friends lay on the sweet green grass in the back yard, under the shady tree behind the high fence. And as little children will do, they began to play doctor.

    Except that they weren’t little children anymore. They were just infantilized.

    It turns out that if you have never been allowed to know what sex is, or warned about why your body is changing shape, or cautioned about why it may not be a good idea to play doctor anymore, then instinct will take over.

    After it was done and the good feelings had ebbed away, the two children rearranged their clothes and one of them went home. There he began to think. Snickering stories told out of earshot of the teachers and snatches of songs overheard on other people’s radios swirled in his mind. And the awful realization burst upon him: He had ruined his best friend forever. She would never be happy. She would never be respected. She would never be loved. And he had done it.

    The next day was a school day. The two children went to some of the same classes in junior high. The girl greeted her friend cheerfully. He stared at her silently and tears began to fill his eyes. She was bewildered. At the first opportunity, he found a corner where nobody could overhear them, and he enlightened her.

    About a week later, she overheard her mother and his mother talking about why she was “so moody.” “Could it be a boy?” asked his mother. “Oh, that’s silly,” laughed her mother. “She’s too young to even think about that kind of thing!”

    She told me the story when she was in high school. She had never spoken to her former friend again, and while he hadn’t told anyone about what they had done, the shame was still wrapped around her heart. And her mother was convinced that she was still “innocent.”

    At least she didn’t get pregnant. But keeping people ignorant just puts them in danger!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericrboersma Eric Boersma

    You’re forgetting the crux of the SSM argument: innateness. One is not (so far as we can tell) born with an innate desire to marry one’s child or sister. People (lots of them) are born with an innate attraction to people of the same sex.

    You’re right that there isn’t much of a stronger argument against consenting brother-sister incestuous relationships than “it’s yucky”. The place where society has a vested interest in protecting the well being of their members is in parent-child incestuous relationships, due to the fact that there is a significant power dynamic at play. In those situations, it would be nearly impossible to prove that the child in question, no matter their age, was even capable of providing consent due to the deep questions about parenting that would need to be raised.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    You’re forgetting the crux of the SSM argument: innateness.

    Can you summarize what makes this “the crux” on your account? It seems rather peripheral to me.

    I support marriage rights for same-sex couples for the same reason I
    support marriage rights for opposite-sex couples: they want to get
    married and I know of no compelling reason to prevent it.

    If it turns out that being heterosexual is the result of an environmental influence rather than an innate property, for example, I still support marriage rights for opposite-sex couples.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I personally could give less of a damn about what two consenting adults, related or non-, are doing in their bedroom as long as what they do satisfies the bare legal minimum requirement of consent to sex, and more ideally, the broader ethical basis of informed and enthusiastic consent.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    You are prohibiting two consenting adults from marrying the person of their choice, and marriage is a fundamental civil right.

    This isn’t quite the argument. The argument is that if SSM is banned, gays and lesbians (with a marriage pool of 0%) are functionally barred from the institution of marriage, access to which the court has ruled to be a fundamental right. If incest is banned, no one is denied access to the institution; their options are limited by .00000000001% or whatever the number is, but no one is definitionally excluded. (This doesn’t answer the question of whether incestuous couples should be barred from marriage, just highlights how the legal question/argument is not the same as for SSM and therefore one doesn’t automatically follow the other.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think it might be hypothetically possible to argue that there is no inherent right to marry any particular person, so while it is an infringement of one’s rights to prohibit same-sex marriage (as it forbids a person from marrying any potential spouse), barring incestuous marriages only prohibits a person from marrying certain specific people while leaving them free to marry “anyone else”. Unless Joe’s Sister wants to argue that her sexual orientation is Joe-sexual.

  • Lori

    For those looking for good information about the cases being heard by SCOTUS (Prop 8 case yesterday, DOMA today) I recommend SCOTUS Blog. The folks there provide good analysis that’s understandable for non-lawyers.

    Their take seems to be that SCOUTS is going to punt on Prop 8 and strike down DOMA. Unfortunately it appears that DOMA will go on states’ rights grounds rather than because it violates the 5th Amendment right to equal protection. That makes my head hurt, but it doesn’t surprise me.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Yeah, I expected something like that when they started stressing how little they wanted to rock the boat with their decision. They effectively made it a non-decision. “Yes, this is unconstitutional, but hey, knock yourselves out, as long as we don’t have to deal with it.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericka.d.erickson Ericka Dawn Erickson

    Thanks, I was looking for a good resource.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    *sigh* I dislike the kinds of legal hornswoggling that go into making perfectly sensible decisions that ought to be written on one page:

    “DOMA violates the right of consenting adults to enter into marriage. Period. Stop wasting our time, Republicans!”

  • Lori

    Given the make up of the court there was never the slightest possibility that the decision would imply, let alone say, “Stop wasting our time, Republicans!”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Is it too late to wish Scalia would develop a sudden earnest desire to retire and go fishing?

  • Lori

    It’s never too late for that, and wishing that he’s develop a sudden interest in fishing is far nicer than the things I general wish he’d develop. Debilitating hemorrhoids for example.

  • P J Evans

    Yeah, those would certainly make it hard for him to decide cases, seeing as that’s where he’s pulling them from.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Aw come on, somebody has to defend DOMA and Prop 8 — that’s how the legal system works. And the actual lawyers arguing the case don’t seem particularly interested in doing that. It’s nice of Scalia to step up and do the NOM lawyer’s job for him.

  • P J Evans

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Scalia is a member of NOM.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’d prefer it if he got a change of heart and laughed all the pro-DOMA/Prop8 folks out of court. Didn’t the original circuit court hearing Prop 8 basically do the Tommy Lee Jones implied facepalm in their verdict smacking down the pro-Prop8 arguments?

  • P J Evans

    Yes, Judge Walker did a wonderful job of shredding all of their arguments.

  • Darkrose

    Truthfully, I’m more concerned that DOMA go away than anything else. I’d love for them to rule the right way, but even the “liberals” on the court seem terrified of setting any kind of precedent.

    It’s sad that corporations have more protection under the 14th amendment, according to the Roberts Court, than people do.

  • Lori

    I want DOMA gone. I do worry about the implications of striking it down on states’ rights grounds though, since that way almost always lies badness. Hopefully the justices’ craven unwillingness to set precedent will lead them to craft a ruling too narrow to be used to bolster other states’ rights claims.

  • Darkrose

    We can hope. I’m actually kind of disappointed in the women; yesterday it seemed like even they were concerned about “moving too fast”.

  • Lori

    The whole “moving too fast” line of reasoning is just infuriating to me. The tide has so thoroughly turned on SSM that multiple Republican lawmakers have come out in support of it in the last couple of weeks, in spite of the fact that the GOP’s official position on the issue remains unchanged (a fact reiterated by Reince Priebus just the other day). They haven’t done that out of the goodness of their hearts, they’re trying to hang onto their jobs. The law is lagging well behind public opinion, which now favors SSM in all but the reddest places. Being on the wrong side of the issue isn’t going to help anyone facing a tough reelection challenge.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the justices are concerned about moving too fast though. Conservative whining aside, with fairly rare exceptions SCOTUS doesn’t lead on social issues, it follows. That was certainly true of miscegenation. By the time of the Loving v Virgina case there were only 16 states that still had miscegenation laws on the books. Things are changing quickly for SSM, but we still have (IIRC) 19 states that are so benighted they wear both a belt and suspenders on the issue—-they have anti-marriage equality laws and an anti-marriage equality provision in the state constitution. I never thought there was any real chance that SCOUTS would do the right thing and overturn all that. They’ll what until all the hard work has been done at the state level and then they’ll suddenly rediscover the magic of the 5th Amendment and act like they knew it all along. And Conservatives will scream bloody murder about activist judges.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Heck, enough of the GOP is starting to throw in their hats that Mike Huckabee felt the need to threaten them on behalf of the entire evangelical movement. http://www.newsmax.com/newswidget/huckabee-evangelicals-gay-marriage/2013/03/20/id/495593?promo_code=125BD-1&utm_source=125BDTelegraph_Media_Group&utm_medium=nmwidget&utm_campaign=widgetphase1

    This combined with Obama signing the Monsanto Protection Act (short version: Monsanto is allowed to plant and sell GM crops regardless of whether the FDA thinks they’re actively harmful to human health or not) keeps giving me weird feelings of political vertigo.

  • Lori

    We are indeed living in strange times. Obviously I’m hoping Huckabee is right and SSM is the issue that finally splits the GOP’s unholy alliance of Christianists and oligarchs.

    I’m pissed at Obama about the Monsanto thing. (Imagine that. A life-long Dem who doesn’t worship every single thing Obama does. Why it’s almost like the GOP is totally delusional or lying about how Liberals view the president.)

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Yeah, usually I’m right there in the “lesser of two evils, not happy with but would be unhappier without” camp, but it feels weird to be hearing members of the same party putting forward intentionally harmful ideas suddenly say they’re all for a social issue I consider very important — and, at the same time, the party I usually support suddenly starts juggling the Idiot Ball.

    Is this Bizarro World? Should I be checking toasters for malevolent sentience?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    What is this ‘Monsanto Thing’?

  • Lori

    What Sam was talking about.

    Obama signed a law that includes language that was basically a big old gift to Monsanto.

    http://www.salon.com/2013/03/27/how_the_monsanto_protection_act_snuck_into_law/

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Ooh. Wow. That’s pretty nasty. At base, I don’t have a problem with genetically modified crops, but the idea of banning lawsuits for harm caused by them, unlike just about any other product, is just ridiculous…

    The only ‘solace’ here is that apparently no one actually noticed it was there. Though that’s not exactly encouraging in and of itself.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    The Monsanto Protection Act (short
    version: Monsanto is allowed to plant and sell GM crops regardless of
    whether the FDA thinks they’re actively harmful to human health or not).

  • The_L1985

    What? That the Act exists, much less made it through both houses of Congress, much less got signed by “Yes we can!” Obama, is quite possibly the weirdest news I’ve heard in a while.

  • http://twitter.com/DataSnake DataSnake

    There are two things I don’t get about including polygamy in the PIB trifecta:
    1. It’s allowed in the bible (just look how many wives Solomon had!), so I’m surprised fundamentalists would oppose it
    2. It’s all between consenting adults, so I’m surprised non-fundies would see anything wrong with it.

  • Lori

    Point 1 depends on the idea that the Bible is the reason and not the justification for the fundies positions. Available evidence indicants that this is generally not the case.

    Point 2 is not true, at least for the Biblical example. The consent of the women was a total non-issue in Biblical polygamy and that remains generally true of Old Testament-style polygamy today, the FLDS for example. Consent is critical for many polygamist relationships, but not those based on the idea that God blesses his super special penis-having followers by allowing them to have multiple wives.

  • lawrence090469

    Consent is the primary objection to the B and I points. I
    will stipulate that IF it someday is demonstrated that dolphins are sentient
    and IF humans develop a way of communicating with them and IF some human on
    flipper pairing and IF said zoophila will not unleash penguin AIDS on man and
    beast, I’m inclined to look the other way. Not my problem, not likely to be
    anyone’s problem. I, in addition to the consent problem, has obvious public
    health issues. Which brings us to P, and here we need to make distinctions. The
    FLDS version of this is, in my mind, about child rape and involuntary servitude
    and not about marriage. Our existing laws are not very good at combating it,
    mostly because it occurs in isolated communities where local law enforcement is
    compromised by the FLDS cult. In Big Love P, a man wants multiple adult,
    consenting, wives who voluntarily enter the arraignment. This is a man who can afford to keep multiple
    wives. Or perhaps they all have jobs, which sounds pretty egalitarian. Contrast
    this with the FLDS P who are white trash welfare cheats. Who, outside of
    Mormons who are frustrated with social restraints on their culture, wants this?
    If Hugh Heffner were permitted to marry all of his girlfriends, what does he
    get that he doesn’t already get, besides having his property entailed by each
    and every marriage contract he makes? Rich men care about their money more than
    anything else. Rich men can create legal arrangements establishing LLCs or
    Partnerships for property transfer, ownership, or medical power of attorney, all
    on terms more favorable than a marriage contract. I think these ‘family’
    groupings, the Hugh Heffner type, are already as common as they would be under
    legal polygamy. And I’m not threatened by it.

    There is the additional “What if someone wanted to be
    married to their car, or the Eiffel Tower? Huh?” This, on its own, seems like
    the definition of a harmless lunatic.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    My answer to that last was “If your car can provide meaningful consent, I’ll conduct the ceremony myself — for the opportunity to car-nap it and administer the turing test.”

  • banancat

    I certainly agree that the FLDS polygyny is harmful, but that’s also why I think it should be legal. We’re talking about harmful, one-sided polygamy in the present tense because it exists right now. It’s harmful and exploitative to the women/girls, but the government not recognizing it as a real marriage just makes it more harmful since they have fewer legal resources when/if they try to get out of it.

    We really should do a better job of enforcing laws against coercive marriage. But since they exist, that 19 year-old who was pressured into marrying a rich old man should at least have the recourse to get alimony when she finally leaves him. Keeping it illegal only makes it harder for victims to get out of the trap.

    As for polyamory, I’m totally for it. I could potentially see myself having two husbands, and I would be fine with them having other wives. That’s a far cry from what Heff and FLDS do though.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It seems like it should be the fact that the marriage is coercive, abusive and harmful that leads to it being illegal, not the fact that it’s plural.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    Precisely this.

  • The_L1985

    Can I just say that “penguin AIDS” just made that argument?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    If we’re talking specifically about gay marriage as opposed to gay sex, then I think knocking down the popular arguments becomes much easier.

    If a man can marry a man, why can’t he marry a 5-year-old, a dog, or a toaster? Because marriage is a legally binding contract, and 5-year-old, dogs, and toasters can’t enter into legally binding contract.

    If a man can marry a man, why can’t he marry 5 women? Because as it’s currently defined, marriage is an exclusive contract. You can’t be married to more than one person at a time because many aspects of the marriage contract concerning inheritance, power of attorney, etc. assume there are only two people in the contract and can’t be applied if there are more. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t change the legal rights, etc. attached to marriage, or that we shouldn’t, but from the marriage-as-a-contract standpoint, the gender of the participants is an arbitrary feature but limiting it to two participants is not.

    As far as laws against adult relatives marrying? Dunno, maybe from a strictly secular standpoint we should get rid of those (although there are genetic issues with parent-child or brother-sister marriages that result in offspring that don’t exist for gay marriage, so there are still reasons you might prohibit incestual marriages but not gay ones.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV.

  • banancat

    I don’t think the potential for genetic diseases is a convincing one against incest. Plenty of people have known or unknown genetic conditions that can potentially be passed to their kids, and they are still allowed to get married and have kids. In some cases the disease is guaranteed to get passed along, and in most that are a simple Mendelian dominant trait, the chance is 50%. The odds of serious birth defects from sibling pairs are less than that, and even less so for first cousins or half-siblings.

    There are issues of consent and how likely it is to be meaningful, especially among adult-child pairs or siblings that were raised together. But for first cousins and siblings who weren’t very close during childhood, I actually don’t think incest is that bad.

  • Makabit

    My great-grandparents, one set of them, were first cousins, and I’m sure you find lots more cousin marriages as you go back…they’ve long been common on Jewish communities. None of us have extra heads, although the Ashkenazi community has a lot of genetic problems related to what a small genetic bottleneck we are. The Bedouin also do cousin marriages, and they have some problems with health issues due to doing that for centuries. It takes more than a few generations for close-relative marriage to start taking a toll, normally.

    That said, if two carriers for Tay-Sachs or cystic fibrosis can get married–and they can, with no proviso that they may not have biological children–I can’t really see a genetic argument for not allowing siblings to marry. “Oh, gross” is not a genetic argument, although the strength of the incest taboo makes me believe that very very few sibling pairs raised in the same home would actually be availing themselves of legality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    Sure, completely agreed.

    Though to the sorts of people who find these slippery slope claims compelling, this counterargument will simply reinforce their fears: you’re suggesting that we could just change our laws (!) to allow N-adult marriages (gasp!) and that’s just the sort of somehow-bad thing they fear will take over if they don’t hold the line against the use of mere logic in legal decision-making here and now.

    Which is fine. My own response to that sort of pearl-clutching is that, yes, I support embracing all families that are constructed in mutual love, respect, and support with social support and recognition. I don’t care how many children that family has, or what the children’s genders are. I don’t care how many adults that family has, or what the adults’ genders are. Families are defined by mutual love, respect, and support, not by ages and genders.

    I just don’t expect those who disagree to be convinced.

  • Carstonio

    This sounds like an articulate version of gender essentialism male privilege to me. What do the rest of you think?

    http://reason.com/archives/2006/04/03/one-man-many-wives-big-problem

    The real-world practice of polygamy seems to flow
    from men’s desire to marry all the women they can have children
    with…

    Every unbalanced polygynous
    marriage, other things being equal, leaves some man bereft of the
    opportunity to marry, which is no small cost to that man.

    The social dynamics of zero-sum marriage are ugly. In a
    polygamous world, boys could no longer grow up taking marriage for
    granted. Many would instead see marriage as a trophy in a sometimes
    brutal competition for wives. Losers would understandably burn with
    resentment, and most young men, even those who eventually won,
    would fear losing. Although much has been said about
    polygamy’s inegalitarian implications for women who share a
    husband, the greater victims of inequality would be men who never
    become husbands.

    While the author might be right that polyandry been vanishingly rare, he doesn’t consider a possible cause – legal and social empowerment for women are relatively recent developments, so women wouldn’t have had the power or freedom in most societies to have more than one husband.

    Besides, in discussions like the one we’re having here, no one is proposing that we replace the monogamous norm with a polygamous one. There’s no reason to assume that polygyny is like an infection that monogamy cannot fight back against. Unless I’m reading the discussion wrong, monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, and group marriage would all be options for individual marriages. If group marriage contracts became available, I suspect most communities would have only a few non-monogamous marriages.

  • Isabel C.

    It also assumes that monogamy is beneficial to That Guy because, well, every woman has to marry someone!
    Which, as a woman: no. Even back when being part of a couple had any appeal, in a choice between That Guy and an evening alone with a DVD, the DVD was winning by a mile.
    Also? “We must support systems that allow us to take advantage of presumed desperation!” is not a good argument, For anything.

  • The_L1985

    There’s so much wrong with That Guy’s argument, I don’t know where to begin.

  • Guest

    I don’t have a problem with polygamy as long as everyone in the marriage consents to be married to everyone else, or consents to their spouse being married to the other person, or versions of the above. The problem with traditional models of multiple marriage is that the women involved were often forced into marriage by their parents and by their community. There’s a world of difference between a polyamorous triad all consenting to marry under conditions they’ve negotiated together as equal partners and a barely-legal young woman being betrothed to a much older man who has a first wife under pressure from her parents and her culture to obey and be submissive because it’s ‘God’s will’.

    As for bestiality, the point about consent is not really about sex, it’s about whether an animal can be said to be married to a human in any meaningful way. The fact is, it can’t. Animals don’t have any understanding of the concept of marriage and what it entails. They’re not considered persons under the law and that’s unlikely to change, mainly because animals AREN’T persons; they have no self-concept, no self-awareness. Most species can’t recognise themselves in a mirror and even the ones that can don’t have a concept of the future like we do and wouldn’t be able to understand the concept of marriage. Also they can’t own property so there’s no assests to pool. Besides, most of them can’t talk or use language at all. You can’t get a dolphin to say ‘I do’ and even animals that can be taught that, like parrots, most likely have no idea what they are saying.

    Besides which, animals are dependant on their owners for food and shelter so even if they could consent, it’s hard to see how that consent could meanifully be said to be free.

    The arguement about meaningful consent applies to children too, in that they don’t really have the capacity yet to enter into a legal contract.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    So supposedly gay marriage will lead to PIB, and yet when you make comparisons between banning gay marriage and banning interracial marriage, they say it’s Not The Same Thing. Right. Sure. The slippery slope has to go both ways.

  • Makarii

    Bestiality obviously arouses the “squick” impulse among outsiders, but let’s consider the matter rationally. How can it be legal to kill animals and eat their meat, but not to have sex with them? Some will bring up the matter of consent, but what about when a dog humps your leg? Is that consent? If not, then dog breeders are complicit in serial rape! Anyway, we don’t expect animals to consent to being killed for food.
    On the other side of the equation, I often wish some Christian group would succeed in banning fornication, adultery, and/or divorce in some backwoods state or region. Maybe go whole hog and impose the death penalty for it.


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