The Bill Comes Due
Topic: Decline of the West
There are several ways of looking at last week’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. One is that it’s a great moment for civil rights. Another is that it signifies the continuing decline of the West. Personally, though, I prefer to dwell on its comicality.
Of course the automatic reaction to the same-sex marriage decision by almost all straight people is (in the immortal formulation of Seinfeld) “Not that there’s anything wrong with it!” Who wants to be thought insensitive or be branded as a homophobe? So folks will nod along with the claim that same-sex marriage is really no different from traditional marriage. But the fact remains that same-sex marriage will never be anything but a smudgy copy of traditional marriage, and everybody knows it.
Gay Americans are so busy emoting, waving rainbow flags, etc. that they haven’t stopped to ask themselves just what it is that the high court has proclaimed. Has it indeed conceded to them the same access to the institution of marriage that straight people enjoy? The justices may say yes but nature’s laws dictate otherwise. Marriage as traditionally defined—the union of one man and one woman—relies first and foremost on the biological support of the organism. Here I must sin against postmodern orthodoxy by pointing out that men and women are biologically and psychologically different. But perhaps I can redeem myself in the eyes of the postmodern Left by borrowing from Kant, Hegel and Marx: The interplay of those differences—the male thesis and the female antithesis—yields the synthesis that we call marriage. Everything that is characteristic of marriage qua marriage derives from this.
Now obviously two men and two women can’t replicate this dialectical process. True, the partners may have different personalities. But biology is destiny. Though a gay man is sexually attracted to men, not women, his sex drive remains masculine, i.e. promiscuous. What, therefore, is a gay man’s rationale for marriage, particularly in his younger years? Love? Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to think so but I wonder. It seems to me more probable that the majority of male/male same-sex marriages will take place in late middle age, after the parties have sown their wild oats. For gay men same-sex marriage will turn out to be a form of sexual retirement.
Then there’s the question of children. Heather will have two mommies, Johnny will have two dads and what’s wrong with that? Nothing except that it can’t happen in the normal course of biological events. The old crack that a human being can be produced cheaply by unskilled labor doesn’t apply to same-sex marriage. If a gay married couple wants children, some third party will have to be present at the creation: a sperm donor, a surrogate mother, a fertility clinic, an adoption agency. Parenthood by committee—doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? But the main point is that same-sex parenting is expensive, as women past their peak childbearing years who want children and need similar support can attest. So don’t look for too many happy young same-sex parents in their twenties and thirties. The kids will come later in life—much later—and there won’t be many of them. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?
These being weighty considerations, what’s so funny? Where’s the element of comedy? Well, the morrow of victory is often good for a laugh. Already, as gay Americans savor their great victory—for such it was, there’s no denying it—the worm of discontent has performed a prefatory slither. Andrew Sullivan, an early and passionate supporter of “marriage equality,” laments that society’s embrace of gays is likely to be fatal to gay culture. He has a point. In times past when gays were marginalized and discriminated against, a space existed for a distinctive gay culture and lifestyle. Being gay meant something; it gave one a certain take on things, One of the most memorable conversations I’ve ever had with a chance-met stranger was in Provincetown, Massachusetts, many years ago, in a bookstore. I was perusing a copy of John Fowles’ The Magus. Noticing this, the store clerk, a young man who was obviously if not flamboyantly gay, asked me if I’d read it. (I had.) For the next fifteen minutes we chatted amiably about Fowles and John Le Carré and Brave New World. He had some interesting things to say about the latter, e.g. how Huxley’s hedonistic dystopia was so boringly heterosexual. But it would be, wouldn’t it? I replied, and saw that he took my point.
So maybe that’s the trade-off—because there’s never any free lunch, to get you have to give. Gays are about to be reminded of the truth of this truism. They constitute a mere two or three percent of the US population and their visibility has always depended to some extent on the existence of a concept of gayness—not biological but cultural and even ideological. Probably that culture and ideology will enjoy a continued if zombie-like existence in university departments of queer studies and the like. Out here in the real world, though, it seems likely to wither away.
Gay Americans have access to the institution of marriage now, with all the uncertainties and complications thereunto appertaining. Human nature being what it is, a barrage of grumbling and bitching is certain to follow. And that makes me smile.
Posted by tmg110
at 12:00 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 July 2015 4:17 PM EDT