Sunday, November 09, 2008

You just know

If it were not for the social pressure that comes from marriage--affecting both married couples and those with an expectation, however vague, that they'll one day wed--how much monogamy would we see from heterosexuals?

I ask this because my (hardly original, fundamentally conservative) argument that gay marriage is 'good for the children' focuses not on the children of gay couples, who get oh-so-much attention, but on gay children themselves. The latter group, I'm guessing, is much larger, and is likely to remain so (barring some major developments in eugenics).

What do I mean by 'gay children'? As young as age 10, I had crushes on guys. On boys my own age, on older camp-counselors, on teachers, on actors, on lame singer-songwriters, etc, etc. The objects of these crushes were often on embarrassing, often too much so to reveal, so it would be a stretch to say that social pressure to be heterosexual pointed me in that direction. Before I was old enough to have physical relationships, before being old enough to even understand why anyone would want a physical relationship, I knew what I liked.

For gays, I'd imagine things work in much the same way. My reference to "[c]hildren who, upon adolescence, notice they like members of the same sex" was misleading. You can know what you like independent of any particular activity or individual. You can be seven or 12 or 20 and just know.

It's a mix of love and a sense of marriage as an implied end-point of relationships that pushes straight people towards monogamy. The implied end-point exists independent of any particular relationship, and in fact pre-exists one's first serious one. It just hovers in the background. When the time comes to channel romantic interest into actual interaction, there's a script to follow and, eventually, a legally-binding choice to be made.

If you turn out to be gay, and turn out not to live in one of the pockets of the world where same-sex-led families are commonplace and openly accepted, then you're likely grow up without the 'person you'll end up with' notion in the back of your mind. What happens, happens. Maybe you'll be monogamous, but maybe you won't; either way, you're equally 'wrong' according to most Californians, so the incentive to pair off must come from love alone. Which is a bit much to ask.


Anonymous said...

It is extremely likely that we would see much less heterosexual monogamy than we do know if there were no social pressure supporting it. So think for a moment about why heterosexual monogamy is important to a society. This is not a question of what feels good to individuals. Civilization is not one enormous encounter session. Society has a very large vested interest in the production of a next generation which is law-abiding and productive and has absorbed its values. Monogamy promotes this, which is why society cares.

Children are naturally produced by a relationship in which a woman is regularly intimate with a man whom she can count on to provide for her and any children she may bear, and help to rear them. No other form of human relationship comes close to accomplishing this societal need. That is why societies subsidize such relationships and give them preferential treatment.

Anonymous said...

What about "unnaturally" produced children--through adoption, IVF, surrogates--raised by heterosexuals? Are those more OK that the same raised by gays? That argument doesn't hold water.

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with the specifics of children - it is simply the observation that children produced other than via natural means are a tiny percentage of the whole, and a society interested in ensuring a steady supply doesn't get all that much return if they invest in these alternatives.

PG said...

I think we have enough child-production now. Society's vested interest these days is much less in the conception of more children, and much more in structures of mutual support, not only from adult to child but also between adults. Marriage between two people of the same sex, when those people otherwise would not marry or would contract unstable and unhappy marriages, therefore is in societal interest because it adds to those structures. This is one reason to discourage incestuous marriage even when it will not produce genetic offspring of the pre-related spouses; people who are already related have a preexisting support relationship, so it is in societal interest for them instead to create a new relationship outside the existing ones.

To give an example, I'm doubtful as to whether I'll have biological children. However, my marriage is of social utility because a) I intend to adopt, which means a child who otherwise would be parentless will have two parents; and b) I now provide support to my in-laws, they to me, my spouse to my family and they to him. I think we feel this particularly because I had only sisters, he only a brother, so now we've each gained a kind of family member we've never had before.