Darleen Click left a very thoughtful comment to a previous post which I didn’t want to forget, because it reminded me once again of the absurdity inherent in classifying human beings according to their sexual tastes.

let me through another variable in here – what is considered “acceptable” behavior in society will have a great deal of influence on an individuals behavior (and possibly how they classify themselves).

Now male and female sexuality are different so when we are discussing “gay” here, I assume we are dealing with male sexuality. Romans and Greeks, as you state Eric, would have no clue what we are talking about. Their sexuality as defined by their society’s mores dealt with channeling sexual desire into class expression. Thus, a [male] citizen demonstrated his status by being the penetrator of women, slaves and boys. This was bifurcated from “love” and emotion. Indeed, Romans even had laws against same-sex relations between freeborn males. While not considered in a “sacred” status, marriage was a very important societal institution in Roman society (though men were allowed to seek sexual satisfaction outside of marriage, for women adultery was a criminal act)

Outside of instances of complete physical coercion (a penis can be made erect by manual stimulation even if the attached male is unwilling), sexual arousal is an indication of sexual desire. Teasing out what is exactly that desire is where we tend wander politically astray. Male sexual desire can be easily fetishized – everything from shoes to power. So “rape” can resolve to a power fetish; most power fetishes confined to BDSM role playing.

But all this historic male “everything goes” approach to sexuality – also was complicit in the low status of women. Women cannot be anything other than the “bottom”, thus equivalent to slaves and other “non” humans. Any respect for the status of a married woman wasn’t resolved to the woman but resolved to man in the marriage.

IMHO, bisexuality demonstrates a male who is sexually aroused by either sex. In a society that promotes heterosexuality, a bi will feel more acceptable by channeling his desires toward his straight side but as society champions homosexuality, he may suddenly “discover” and indulge his gay side. That doesn’t make him “gay” any more than when he was a fully functional straight made him “straight”.

Sexual orientation (sexual desire plus emotional desire) isn’t either/or. The majority of people are hetero, a very small percentage are homo (2-3%) and the balance somewhere on the continuim between those two points.

The “have gay sex means you’re gay” meme is political – a version of the racist “one drop” rule.

So precisely why would homosexuality have been singled out as this great division of all divisions in human sexuality? The idea seems to be that people can be manipulated by identity politics into supporting those believed to be the best champions of their rights. As to what these rights are, they seem to be constantly redefined. I once thought that it boiled down to the right to be left alone — the “privacy in the bedroom” argument. As Darleen says, gays are not the only sexual minority, as there are a number of people who are so into sado-masochism, articles of clothing, etc., that they cannot get off without such stimulation.

What fascinated me the most about the news of that Columbia professor’s incestuous relationship with his daughter is the way so many people tried to tie it reflexively to homosexuality — as if a man screwing his daughter has anything to do with homosexuality. But the argument is that it’s a slippery slope — that by accepting or tolerating homosexuality, we have created a trap in which society now has no choice but to tolerate incest. The implication is that tolerating homosexuality opened the gates of hell, and released all sorts of perversions.

Well, what about sadomasochism? A lot of people would say that tieing up and whipping someone who wants to be whipped — by someone who gets off on doing that — is extremely depraved and immoral. They would also say that about erotic asphyxiation — an extremely dangerous practice which cost David Carradine his life. As to walking on someone while wearing high-heels or forcing a man to wear a French maid’s outfit or something, I guess things like that are just “dirty” or “depraved” without being especially dangerous. But did tolerating homosexuality open the door to sadomasochism? Or erotic asphyxiation? How? Why wouldn’t it be the other way around? There are no laws I can find prohibiting S&M or the wearing of erotic attire of any sort in private — whether gay, bi, or straight. You want to get whipped, you have always been able to go right ahead and do that. Even in the pre-Lawrence sodomy days, had two gay men into the leather scene picked each other up and then gone home and handcuffed and whipped each other, they would have been committing no crime. As to tying a rope around your neck for gratification like David Carradine, I don’t think there’s a law against that either unless there’s an express intent to commit suicide.

So which slippery slope led where?  

I think much of the fuss over homosexuality involves the fact that it was illegal, and stigmatized in ways that other sexual variants were not. This led to a counter-reaction by gays who organized and demanded that they be left alone. Police have pretty much stopped sweeping gay bars the way they once did, and not too many employers are going to be in a hurry to fire an employee who is discovered to be gay. A large majority of the public now think gays should be allowed to serve in the military. Gay marriage is probably on the near horizon, although I continue to worry that the “right” the activists demand is not a right, but an encumbrance on something once amazingly free and unregulated (largely because it was off society’s radar). Marriage does not merely consist of freedom between two people, but is a way for the government to get its foot in the door of their lives via family law, family courts, and the sort of endless litigation which has turned people off to marriage and driven many a heterosexual man to drunkenness, despair, and even suicide. (And the “right” to marry carries with it the legal ability to impose duties on a purported or alleged partner even in the absence of an actual marriage.)  

People overlook the fact that if you need the government to assert and protect your rights on your behalf, you are less than a free citizen. Yet identity politics is at its very core driven by demands by self appointed activists that government protect group rights of people belonging to the groups they claim to represent. That way (it is hoped), the group members will be conditioned to look to the government for help, and the activists to be the ones who bring home the bacon. Gays who want to emulate the racial identity politics model might want to think again. What started as a push for simple human dignity (judging a man not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character) degenerated into affirmative action, inquisitions directed at “white privilege” and the crassest sort of racial politics, in which angry and abusive scoldings are called “conversations,” and the slightest disagreement is called “racism.” Disagreement of any sort soon becomes “hate speech.” Laugh if you will, but even my co-blogger M. Simon has been accused of promoting hate simply for disagreeing with commenters here. Geez, I hope that’s not another slippery slope.

(Or can I even say slippery “slope“? I would hate to think that I might give offense to some self-appointed “rice queen” activist?)

I better stop it with this slippery slope, because this is getting offensive.

Eventually everything will be offensive. That is the nature of identity politics. Because everyone has the right not to be offended, no one has the right to offend.

In this and in many other ways, identity politics becomes destructive of the very human dignity which it was originally intended to redress. In the guise of helping enable full citizenship, identity politics becomes a crutch which makes all who depend on it less than full citizens. 

The painful irony is lost somewhere along the trajectory of the slope.

Eventually, totally non-political (even non-sexual!) things become politically offensive. Things have apparently reached the point where saying “Merry Christmas” can be considered so offensive that Santa Claus is not allowed to say it. No, seriously, that’s what happened recently here in Ann Arbor (I missed out because I haven’t been to see Santa in some time). And of course, because the corporate fat cats want to keep identity politics dollars flowing, they make even Santa say “Happy Holiday” instead. But beware! Saying “Happy Holidays” has also become offensive for various reasons. We have identity politics to thank.  

So at the risk of continuing my offensive sleigh ride down the slippery slope, let me conclude by saying this:

Merry Christmas everyone!