Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Attraction and Gay Marriage

As a California resident, these topics are a little more pressing on my mind. In November Californians will have the opportunity to vote for Proposition 8, a proposed constitutional amendment (also known as the Limit on Marriage Amendment or California Marriage Protection Act) that would override the Court's decision to permit gay marriage in California.

California like most states has a very divided population: a very liberal urban population and a very conservative rural population. It will be very interesting to see what the turnout for this vote will be. My question is, as a Latter-day Saint, what can I do to better interface with Christians and non-Christians on this topic? I believe there are many sitting on the fence on this issue. It is hard to fight against a wave that claims freedom is its banner, and discrimination and intolerance and bigot are the labels attached to those that oppose it. There is an immense amount of social pressure to live sexually as you wish, regardless if through pornography, homosexuality, fornication, and adultery. Furthermore, I know I have had a tendency to let people live the way they want to, as long as it doesn't interfere with my life. I imagine many other people feel this way.

However, as I have grown older, I realize (imagine that!) that I do not live in a vacuum. The popular opinion has a huger sway than we recognize, and even moreso what our educational systems and authority figures teach. This beckons to Michel Foucault, who sought to understand how power relationships create conditions for the production of knowledge. The knowledge that is either opened or closed as a result of these relationships greatly influences our freedom. Indeed, it seems hard to choose to do that which we do not know of. While we may stumble upon experiences by mistake (perhaps I could whistle by blowing air through my mouth without intending to, and then study the experience enough to replicate the action for instance), overall what we can do we have experienced. Faith cometh by hearing. An adjustment in what we hear then changes what we will believe and do.

So what does that have to do with gay marriage? Simply, I wish to show how accepting gay marriage as an outlet for those who wish to become part of it will greatly change the educational structure of this nation. In essence, do I want my children to be taught there is a good chance they are homosexual and that they should participate in it? That gay marriage is a normal and acceptable institution to engage in? This occurred on some level while I was in High School. They took all the Junior High School students on a weekend getaway, and one evening they held a "fireside" on how it was alright to be gay and that many of us probably were. Students were taught that it can be hard, but we should have the strength to act on what we "know." Parents and students were not informed that this was going to occur. Hence, I don't believe it is far-fetched to think that if gay marriage is adopted, state-by-state and perhaps on a national level, that our educational systems will be greatly altered in how they approach the issues in the class rooms, the second generation of text books will promote gay marriage, and even children's books will be altered. You can look at Massachusetts as an example. I've seen recent copies of Goldilocks and the Three Bears get rid of Mama and Papa bear for non-gender terms like Big Bear and Bear.

I don't believe I want my children to be exposed to such cognitive dissonance as they are taught strongly by their educational and social figures that such a lifestyle is good, and their parental and religious figures teaching strongly it is bad. The popularity of opinion is bound to encourage more children to embrace that lifestyle. The teenage years are troubling and filled with emotional angst and existential crises; no reason to take advantage of it. This issue may go beyond the dissonance as well. Reverse discrimination may come in spades. In the recent interview with Elder Oaks, he mentioned "a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful." Now I'm not expecting that to occur in America, but it's a frightening possibility. Will we be able to preach against homosexuality as others preach for it? The most scary possibility (though highly unlikely) is that the marriage rights of the church could be revoked. Adoption agencies have been forced to shut down for not permitting gay couples adoptions. The question then becomes: Can the government refuse a religous organization the right to legally marry people if they refuse to perform marriages for gay couples? While of course the church would continue to perform marriage in the eyes of the Lord, could their right to perform marriage via the laws of the land be revoked? I am not mentioning this to promote some fanatical notion, but to consider the possibilities.

I think these ideas and thoughts need to be considered by those who are Christian, religious, and those not religious but champion or are considerate of heterosexual marriage. We need to encourage others to think, and recognize their vote on this matter counts. Yes, their choice will involve discrimination. But it always does; we form our world. To be a person is to have a stance on an issue, to be faced one way or the other: to have opinions, and to reject other views. A freedom in one area can limit freedoms in another.

We tend to argue against same-gender marriage on historical-traditional grounds (it's always been heterosexual marriage), religious grounds (God has revealed it this way), and definitional grounds (marriage means a lawfully sanctioned relationship between a man and woman). I've heard Kantian ethics also applied: that which is not got for all of us to adopt, none of us should adopt. As homosexuality would lead to the extinction of the race, it is not good. It would provide an evolutionary dead-end. Of course, not only would this logic be faulty in many occasions, but what of bisexuality then? While these arguments may be convincing to conservatives, they seem unconvincing to liberals. Perhaps we need to be greater versed in discourse with those promoting homosexual marriage, even on basic issues. A lot of these will probe questions of philosophy of sex. For instance,

1. What do we mean by saying attraction or gender orientation is genetic? As I would imagine attraction comes via the senses, how can genes determine what I enjoy visually? How can the senses judge between men and women? Obviously, the sexual organs can be, but not any place I live around has them publicly displayed. I know attraction can come via cultural norms, but cultural norms don't seem to be inherited in genes. There are so many differences between cultures and in time on what is attractive: how is that genetic?

I've been to the beach and been attracted to who I thought were women in the water in wetsuits, only to find out they were men. How can gay men (the same applies to lesbians) not say they were attracted to women they thought or look like men? From what I've read, this is more myth with homosexuals. The "ghost stat" that I've heard is that 80% of homosexuals are actually bisexual.

It seems we culturally create archetypal molds or ideas of what is attractive: by why are those gender specific? My questions here need to come to blind people too. Take out the visual element: how do they note gender differences and what is attractive to them? I imagine the sound of the voice, but I could be wrong. There is a large array of pitches of voices that spread across gender lines: how would such attraction be genetic?

Sexual attraction also goes beyond simply gender: it goes into age. Some people enjoy sexual encounters with little children, babies, grandma at the old folk’s home, their own brothers and sisters, dead people. It even moves beyond the human species: with dogs, horses, and so forth. Some are not attracted to anyone, but enjoy masturbation. Gender is not the only sexual orientation. Are such attractions also genetic? How can that possibly be?

2. Is attraction conditioned? And if so, to what extent? Since Locke and particularly Hume, and probably earlier than this, we have recognized the mental experience of association. This means when someone brings up basketball, and I think about the topic, other ideas brought up with it come to my mind: perhaps Michael Jordan or in Jason's case, how the Suns need to win the NBA championship. Pavlov noticed this with his dogs on a behavioral level, and developed the notion of classical conditioning. The bells rang when the food was brought out, and soon enough when the bells rang without the food being brough out, the dogs salivated anyway. Could it be that human attraction is conditioned: ie when we aroused and we see certain behaviors, images, and so forth, and then they become what we aroused by? Could human romantic encounters that we see on television or our society’s pornography largely define what we find to be attractive or that arouses us? Pornography could play an interesting part in sexual orientation: many homosexuals and those engaging in bestiality have been involved in that first. I am sure there are some who have not. Or could it be a mental fascination or curiosity? People tell us so and so is attractive, so and so is interested in us: do we form attraction around opportunities and indoctrination?

3. Is attraction divine? And if so, what does that mean? Are our consciousnesses directed by or connected to some wider field of consciousness that influences our sexual behavior? Or is attraction bestowed from the divine via a naturalistic-genetic path or via conditioning through scripture and revelation? Why does the divine care about sexuality?

4. What is sexuality? By this question I mean, what does it contain? Does sexuality mean expression with one’s sexual organs? Or does it involve procreation and reproduction as well? Can they be separated? Does sexuality necessarily involve a partner? For instance, am I sexual if all I involve myself in is masturbation? Or what if I enjoy a form of pornography, but do not physically engage in it (i.e. am I homosexual/bisexual if I enjoy homosexual pornography but do not and would not engage in it physically)?

5. How can I honor and tolerate all forms of sexual attraction and yet honor fidelity? How can I be “bisexual” and loyal to my partner?

6. Should sexual attractions be curbed or sponsored by society? If so, why?

I have many other questions and topics I would like to talk about on this issue, but feel I should stop as this post is already so long. I would like to hear from other thinking LDS students what they believe/have heard/have thought about on such issues. For me and my state, this topic is pressing, and I would appreciate discussion.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What is this world coming to?

Tonight we (Mike, Kayla and Myself) dine:

French Dinner Crepes with Steamed Broccoli and Swiss Cheese
Moroccan Chickpeas and Roasted Vegetables over Cracked Barley
Couscous Tfaya with Chicken and Majhoul Dates
Moroccan Almond Baklava

The kicker? We can't get anyone to dine with us. Noone will eat our fare.