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The “Order” Of Things: Let Them Kill…Yes - Let Them Marry…No

July 20th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

I’m always amazed at public opinion…especially when it provides some insights into human nature in 21st century America. Over the years, I’ve always marveled at the prudish obsession with all things prurient.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a majority of Americans would rather allow their children to watch depictions of violence on television and at the movies than anything remotely sexual. In some ways, I understand how this happens, but in my moments of lucidity, I wonder why we never take the time to understand or alter this seemingly incoherent ideation.

To find evidence of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the polling relevant to same-sex marriage and the military’s policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Despite the occasional outlier, it’s fairly safe to state that more Americans oppose same-sex marriage than favor it. At the same time, numerous polls in recent years suggests that a significant majority of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military. I find those two incongruent positions fascinating.

First, a look at the latest polling on both issues.

From The Washington Post On DADT:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

From CBS News On Same-Sex Marriage:

(CBS) Most Americans continue to think there should be some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples, and 30 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry - the highest number since CBS News began asking this question in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent think same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions, but more than a third - 36 percent - say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.

Americans’ views on this issue have changed since 2004, although opinion has not changed substantially in the last two years. In November of 2004 (soon after the presidential election) just 21 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Majorities of both men and women support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but more women (36 percent) than men (24 percent) back the idea of same-sex marriage.

With regard to DADT, it seems fairly clear that the country is ready to embrace gays serving in the military. Virtually every constituent group agrees. As such, it would be difficult to contend that the favorable response is due to the vague or uncertain nature of the survey question.

With regard to gay marriage, the results are more nebulous. Don’t get me wrong, there’s little doubt that the trends are encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that a narrow majority of Americans actually favor some recognition of same-sex relationships. Defining the specifics of that recognition would likely provide less encouraging results.

I’m intrigued by the disparity. On the one hand, it seems that patriotism and a desire to defend one’s nation elicits thoughts of equality on the part of the electorate. In other words, if gays are willing to kill and die for their country, by God, we shouldn’t deny them that opportunity. [Wave flags now] On the other hand, who a gay person chooses to love and how that love is recorded by society apparently elicits thoughts of moral rectitude on the part of the electorate. [Cover eyes now]

In other words, views about homosexuality seem to mirror the general pattern of allowing our children to be exposed to violence (masculinity…or behavior associated with men?) while shying away from exposure to, or discussion about, sexuality (intimacy…or behavior associated with women?). Is that an anecdotal observation and a broad brush approach to the subject? Perhaps. Does it offer a plausible explanation for the divergent data? In part, I think so.

Let’s take it a step further. When one thinks about the treatment of those in the LGBT community, three things emerge. One, lesbianism (often associated with being a tomboy), while still objectionable to many, is also a source of male fascination, and as such, serves to insulate lesbians from intense societal derision. Secondly, gay men (often associated with being effeminate) draw the intense ire of a number of heterosexual men which is much more likely to lead to acts of derision and/or violence being perpetrated on homosexual men. Lastly, transgender males, seeking to identify as women (adopting virtually all aspects of feminine behavior), are potentially at the greatest risk for vitriol and violence.

I contend that if one were to ask all voters to quantify each groups social acceptability, each groups acceptability to serve in the military, and the acceptance of the love relationships each group forms, the discomfort would mirror the rankings I’ve noted above.

Let’s return to the apparent discomfort with all things sexual and the seeming tolerance for depictions of violence. If one looks at the dance of sexuality, generally speaking, the male is in pursuit which can easily be construed as an aggressive act. Since men generally accept this role…and they also have daughters…a disconnect emerges which may well lead to the seeming silence with regards to all things sexual.

In simple terms, men, aware of each other’s inclinations, are uncomfortable admitting and acknowledging that their daughters will be pursued sexually and anything that reminds them of this creates dissonance that is rarely resolved. The carnal nature of sex as conquest (masculine) can prevent them from viewing sexuality favorably as intimacy (feminine).

This may also explain the difference in men’s and women’s reported acceptance of gays in the military. Men, by virtue of their own views of sex, are apt to view the homosexual male similar to themselves…meaning they assume a gay man is in pursuit of a sexual encounter. At the same time, women are apt to be more comfortable with gay men as a result of their inclination to share expressions of intimacy.

I’ll offer one additional observation. Sex, by its nature, involves unspoken understandings about penetration and being penetrated…tops and bottoms if you will. That again brings us back to the above ordering. Lesbianism, from a conventional view of gender roles, is often thought to be about penetration…meaning there is a perception that someone adopts the position as the top (the masculine aggressor). With gay men, the perception is that someone adopts the position as the bottom (the feminine placater). Lastly, with regard to the transgender male, the assumption is that the individual seeks to adopt the feminine role…although in this instance, with a heterosexual male.

Simply stated, the subconscious predisposition to favor masculinity over femininity (imposed over centuries by the prevalence of misogyny as opposed to any innately ordered hierarchy) therefore leads to ranking the three accordingly.

All of the above, in my opinion, helps explain why voters are more inclined to support gays in the military than to endorse same-sex marriage. The former is consistent with established societal norms that favor masculinity which makes it more palatable. Conversely, the latter serves to threaten the established order and unseat the stereotypical male identity from its lofty perch.

When it’s all said and done, I contend humanity hasn’t navigated that far from its awareness that the king of the jungle’s demands are usually met (he writes the rules) and he is therefore afforded a wide berth…simply based upon an unspoken understanding that he has the ability to impose his will (penetrate) upon those who can’t do the same.

Whether all of this suggests that love does or doesn’t exist as we define it is open to debate. In the meantime, the message to the LGBT community is rather convoluted…and fully impeachable. In a world too easily inclined to violence, it’s a shame to be rewarding gays for propagating aggression as the acceptable status quo while stifling their potential to act as loving agents for constructive change. It’s time for the sleeping giant to assemble its parts and uproot the tree to which it has too long been tethered. It’s time for a new order.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 4 Responses to “The “Order” Of Things: Let Them Kill…Yes - Let Them Marry…No”

  2. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 20, 2008 | Reply

    I don’t claim to have any answers here other than observations from my own life, of which I have three.

    One: I was sexualized early in life, far earlier than most in society, outside of NAMBLA, by a male babysitter who made a ‘game’ out of gay sex between us.

    Two: violence I and most other Americans have always had with us, from before we can remember: cartoons on Saturday mornings; Gunsmoke; Have Gun, Will Travel; I Spy; etc., etc., etc.

    Three: trust me, it was the sex shit that messed up my childhood and has done a pretty decent job of fucking up my adulthood.

    Conclusion: I would much rather children be exposed to violence and protected from sex for as long as they can be protected from it.

    Disclaimer: As I said, I’ve been fucked up by the sex shit most of my life so these observations are to be understood to come from someone who doesn’t claim to have a perfectly objective view of reality. Merely my own view of things.

  3. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 20, 2008 | Reply

    My first observation,

    “I was sexualized early in life, far earlier than most in society, outside of NAMBLA, by a male babysitter who made a ‘game’ out of gay sex between us[]“

    was incomplete. I had intended to type something to the effect of:

    I was sexualized early in life, far earlier than most in society, outside of NAMBLA, think appropriate (or, for that matter, most think it a crime) by a male babysitter who made a ‘game’ out of gay sex between us.

    Somehow, I never got the rest of that in.

  4. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 20, 2008 | Reply

    NAMBLA is, by the way, the North American Man/Boy Love Association, ‘a New York City and San Francisco-based unincorporated organization that advocates the legalization of sexual relations between adult males and under-aged boys. NAMBLA defends what it claims to be the right of minors to explore their sexuality more freely with older men. It has resolved to “end the oppression of men and boys who have freely chosen mutually consenting relationships,” in spite of opposition claims that such relationships are child sexual abuse where the minor is unable to give consent. It also calls for “the adoption of laws that both protect children from unwanted sexual experiences and at the same time leave them free to determine the content of their own sexual experiences.” NAMBLA’s webpage claims that: “NAMBLA does not provide encouragement, referrals or assistance for people seeking sexual contacts” and that it does not “engage in any activities that violate the law [or] advocate that anyone else should [violate the law].”‘

    From my point of view, of course, this is crap and if I ever caught one of their members with a child in sexual activities, I would either kick the crap out of the adult or call the cops and make sure they try and convict him and he spends the rest of whatever miserable life he might have left being gang raped in prison. I might do both.

    As I said, I don’t claim to have a perfectly objective view of reality in regard to children and sex.

  5. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 20, 2008 | Reply

    The above description is from Wikipedia’s article on NAMBLA.

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