Why are so many straight people pro gay? Because the normalization of homosexuality is the premier achievement of heterosexual ideology. “Gay” and “straight” are not taxonomies but ideologies. They are not orientations but disorientations: whether bi-, homo-, or hetero-, hyphenated sexuality makes us lose our sense of direction toward the truly sexual, and the victims of such ideology are children.
[Note: This essay was first published by Crisis Magazine and is reprinted with permission.]
The words “homosexual” and “heterosexual” are nineteenth-century neologisms made to sever romance from responsibility and sex from fecundity. “Heterosexuality was made to serve as this fanciful framework’s regulating ideal,” writes Michael Hannon, summarizing Foucault, “preserving the social prohibitions against sodomy and other sexual debaucheries without requiring recourse to the procreative nature of human sexuality.” The myth has become fact, and that is why so many straight people are pro gay. Homosexuality ratifies heterosexuality.
The very principles and practices that aid and abet homosexual ideology only validate heterosexual ideology: cohabitation, no-fault divorce, sterile sex, the exultation of romantic love, the trite story of the couple who rebels against the world so they can ride off into the sunset together, the assumption that children are a lifestyle option, even a purchasable commodity through adoption and in vitro fertilization. Heterosexuality, I would argue, is in fact protohomosexuality.
Who is the protohomosexual? He is the troubadour poet in twelfth-century France idealizing romance and sexual passion, the knight of Arthurian legend pledging to serve his lady in trouthe and curtesie as if she were a goddess worthy of adoration. He believes erotic love is a high spiritual experience, the highest experience. Andreas Capellanus’ handbook advises that secrecy and suspense will fan the flame of passion; family obligations and children will stifle it. Lancelot and Guinevere betray King Arthur, Tristan and Iseult break the law, Romeo and Juliet go insane, and in the name of “love” every new fling causes undeserved pain for others. All of this is, of course, the raw material for blockbuster videos and bestselling novels in America today.
The serious flaw with the whole system of Courtly Love is its inherent tendency toward anarchy and narcissism. Meeting alone in the dark, far removed from everyday responsibilities and social constraints, lovers do not really get to know one another. Their supposed love for one another is grossly self-absorbed, their lovemaking little more than mutual masturbation. With the flattering image reflected in the other’s eyes, they imagine themselves identical. The heterosexual, who is the protohomosexual, gazes dizzily at his beloved as if at his own reflection in the water.
The protohomosexual’s narcissism, his inflated sense of self, leads him to believe that the irresistible force he calls “love” is inherently ennobling and that his liaisons need no other sanctioning than mutual consent. But his passion only propels him to deceit and unintended cruelty—to his beloved, to his family and hers, to any children they might conceive, even to himself.
Star-crossed lovers standing up against the world in order to get married is a tired cliché. Yet marriage-as-rebellion and sex-as-self-actualization remain the unquestioned stage upon which we woo, marry, and divorce one another. This is the house we have erected for conceiving and rearing children.
It is a house of cards. Having already overturned the social and moral pressures of the community and erected a dating system not unlike civil war, having already privatized marriage and turned it into a statement about his freedom and erotic preference—“This is my choice, my love!”—the protohomosexual closes the curtains of his bedchamber to find only another obstacle to his happiness: fertility.
Long before anyone dreamed of normalizing sodomy, heterosexual ideology contended that sex should be first and foremost recreation. The only problem with this contention is that sex is naturally creative. But as heterosexual ideology evolved, so did technology: with latex, the right surgical procedures and chemicals, it became possible to believe that sex is firstly recreation—a belief greatly accelerated by pornography. A simulacrum of the real thing, like sodomy, pornography shrewdly crops fertility from the scene. Sex is not about future flourishing but about immediate fun.
(It cannot go without mentioning that artificial contraception was considered to be immoral by all Christians, Protestant and Catholics alike, in all places and at all times, until the Lambeth Conference of 1930. Within a single generation a universal and unbroken Christian ethic was blanketed, smothered, and left for dead. The condemnation of what Martin Luther considered an act “far more atrocious than incest or adultery” is now considered to be a Catholic quirk.)
Pornography is the diversion, birth control is the smokescreen, and abortion is the last resort. But there is another problem. Having made his statements and had his fun, the protohomosexual wakes up to find that he has entered into an indissoluble bond.
Heterosexual ideology raises a question: if marriage is not primarily a comprehensive conjugal union, if it’s an emotional bond with your Number One Person, why should it be permanent? And so we come face-to-face with the brainchild of the 1970s, no-fault divorce. If your spouse has gained weight, if his sneeze is embarrassing, if the sex is tepid, if your self-actualization or your happiness is on the line, you can drop him faster than you can say girls just wanna have fun. No-fault divorce gives full ventilation to heterosexual values.
The slow evolution of the heterosexual is in fact the emergence of the homosexual. With the flattering image reflected in the beloved’s eyes, homosexuality is just another version of Courtly Love. The cultural acceptance of sodomy, so obviously sterile and unfruitful, only legitimizes the belief that sex is recreation. Same-sex “marriage” reinforces the value system of no-fault divorce by affirming the belief that marriage is not primarily about commitment and children but about happiness; it simply joins the long heterosexual tradition of seeing marriage as a vehicle for rebellion.
To claim that homosexual behavior is wrong would be to hold others to a moral standard to which one’s own heterosexual behavior does not conform. Whether bi-, homo-, hetero-, all forms of hyphenated sexuality want the same thing: sex without moral or generative limits, relationships without cultural or familial constraints. We are in flight from sexuality and we are using sex as the vehicle for that flight.
Who is the protohomosexual? He is you and me.
The Real Victim
The protohomosexual pits the couple against society, even against the family. He manufactures contraceptives and pornography, he legalizes abortion and legislates no-fault divorce and gay “marriage,” and as he backs out of the driveway of his third marriage he feels like he’s been, of all things, the victim of religious prejudice! But who is the real victim of hyphenated sexuality?
The real victim of hyphenated sexuality is not the lesbian lobbyist or the gay picketer. The real victim is the youngest and most innocent among us. Free love costs, and children pay.
The gay marriage debate is not about homosexuality, but about marriage. It’s not about who gets to marry, but about what marriage is. What marriage is depends on what a human person is, and the fact remains that every single one of us was born of a woman, begotten of a man. Marriage and children are indelibly linked.
If humans did not reproduce sexually, and if children could simply swim away from their mothers after birth like baby sharks, then the institution of marriage would never have been established. Historically, marriage laws served to reinforce the bond between children and their parents, especially to link children to their fathers. The real matter at hand is children’s rights.
In an effort to divert attention away from children’s rights, it will be argued that marriage has been redefined before. How many wives did Jacob have? Didn’t marriage once constitute one adult man and one adolescent girl? Anti-miscegenation laws were still on the books less than 60 years ago. As our society redefines who counts and who matters, it will be argued, marriage changes. Besides, if straight couples can adopt children, why can’t gay couples?
But polygamy is not an argument for gay marriage. That there are examples of polygamy in history is not even an argument for polygamy. The exception does not prove the rule: the exception breaks the rule. Anti-miscegenation laws were not a redefinition of conjugal marriage but rather the imposition of racial prejudices upon the institution of marriage. That at one time men over 18 could marry women under 18 does not at all challenge the traditional definition of marriage; rather, it challenges the contemporary definition of adulthood.
The question is not whether a woman who experiences same-sex attraction can be a mother, but whether two moms make a marriage, and if the coupling of two women is a healthy norm for rearing children. Adoption exists because of tragedy, either abandonment or death. Still, every child has a right to a father and a mother. Just because tragedies happen, this does not give us license to preemptively deprive children of the right to both a mother and a father.
The question is not if people who identify as gay count and matter. Of course they count and matter. The question is if a homosexual relationship constitutes a marriage. The question is, given the fact that humans reproduce sexually and that our offspring are not born into this world self-sufficient, if marriage remains the natural means of human flourishing. Sex has become artificially severed from procreation, the family, our body’s natural (biological) purposes, and children have paid the price.
In the end, everyone pays the price. We are not peacocks. We do not merely mate. We marry. We long for relationships that are trustworthy and lasting, for wholeness, and for a life that is serious and deep—and for a future. Generativity and childbirth, homemaking and childrearing, concern for the future, for lineage, all of it is at stake in the long revolt against human sexuality. The utopian spasm of hyphenated sexuality is harmful to men, to women, and especially to children. The traditional norms of marriage were established to protect innocent people, especially children. They are evidence of advanced civilization.
Children have a right to life. Children have the right to a father and a mother. Children have the right to be raised in faithful, committed marriages. Who are we to deprive them of this right?
We Are Oriented
In speaking of sexual orientation, I feel almost revolutionary (in the sense of a circle coming back to its beginning, its right place). I am trying to expose the sexual orientation in each one of us—the orientation that’s so sweet it hurts. We take our revenge on it by calling it names like Attraction or Libido or Sex Drive. It is the sexual orientation we cannot ignore and cannot admit, though we want to do both. We cannot admit it because it threatens the whole big fake program we’ve been living. Yet we cannot ignore it because it is written in our very bodies and upon our deepest heart. I would like to set free the idea that we are neither homosexual nor heterosexual but simply (now perhaps unbelievably) sexual. As male and female, we are, all of us, oriented. We are oriented toward sexual reproduction.
And it haunts us. We pretend the link between sex and fruitfulness is a barbarism from a darker age. We sterilize ourselves, we take drugs to suppress our fertility, as a last resort we get an abortion, and we behave as if we have settled the matter. But all this is a ruse. Beneath the fabricated sexual taxonomies and technological subterfuge there remains the undeniable human orientation toward sexual reproduction. The menstrual cycle, the erection, the womb and breasts all remind us of this orientation. Even a condom cannot conceal the fact that what you are spilling is nothing less than seed. Biology and human nature remind us that human sexuality is oriented toward children and the future.
This orientation has been deformed and dehumanized by all our theorizing and manipulation. But whatever else we may be, as men and women we are sexually complementary and mutually involved in generation. This is no social construct. This is the permanent and irreducible truth of biology and human nature. This is our heritage and our future. This is our doom. We depend on this orientation for our own future flourishing.
We are, every one of us, oriented toward the sexual. Sexuality without the artifice of an ideological prefix is the deep reserve of life, of generation, of offspring. And because human offspring require an unquantifiable amount of physical and moral care, sex and marriage are, as they have always been, linked.
Ovid’s tale serves as a warning: Narcissus falls in love with his own image in the water, declines the affection of Echo, and finally dies because love without an-other is sterile and hopeless. Because sexual love is naturally creative, it would be a mistake to expect, like Narcissus, that a lover should reflect oneself. Lovers are bound not by feelings (as the troubadour poets thought) but by the marital bond, to be open to life and to be responsible for one another. Marriage is the social correlate to the biological fact of human fecundity.
The traditional definition of marriage is not rooted in religion and homophobia, but in biology and human nature. Gay “marriage” might work for private ideology, but it does not work for society. Marriage was not established because humans are romantic and enjoy intimacy but because humans reproduce sexually and children need both a father and a mother—to be conceived and reared. Everyone has the right to marry, but that does not make any sexual or romantic relationship a marriage—although heterosexual ideology clouds that fact.
Heterosexuality is in fact protohomosexuality: the difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a matter of preference, but the values and goals are the same. Yet marriage reminds us that we are oriented toward the sexual, and that’s why marriage has become a battleground. That’s why so many straight people are pro gay.
Read it in Crisis Magazine