Sunday, October 18, 2009


It is often asserted that we have no control over those whom we are attracted to and this may well be true. Right now, the kind of women who win contests like Miss America are a very different sort than those who won, even just 50 years ago. And this is quite different from the sort of women the ancient Greeks idolized or sculpted. In different times and different places, people have had different tastes as to whether to prefer fat or skinny, or well-toned, or any other number of adjectives. The question is, can these tastes be changed? If forums of single people are any indication, then the answer is no. People would rather be frustrated and lonely, than change their taste in the opposite sex. This is just as true of women as it is of men.

But it is equally true, that historically, sexual taste has shifted wildly.

What is unalterable for us, is easily shifting ground given time and the most meager of incentives. We do not appreciate the role of the foundation in keeping the structure secure.

Case in point, divorce used to be prohibitively hard to get. It took years and and extreme circumstances, and even then, it left a stigma. It was argued that there were a lot of people in bad marriages who had ought to be released from it. When there was suggestion that this would weaken the institution of marriage, it was laughed down. At most, this would be a few percent of people. This would not change how most people acted, it was thought.

The problem with this line of reasoning, is that it makes a classic blunder on a level with involvement in land wars in Asia. It fails to account for the marginal case. In most cases, the marginal case is not you at all. But every times a person on the marginal edge makes a decision, it progressively destigmatizes it for everyone else.

As I said concerning divorce laws, it was done with the best of intent. It was done, with fantastic and unassailable logic. Marriage was too steady a public institution to see change, it was thought. And yet, here we are with divorce at rates at ~50%, with increasingly large segments of the population not planning on marriage at all. What we can imagine happening is a very poor guide to what is possible.

Economists have found that when changing things, it is the marginal case the you must take into consideration. In so many ways, most of us reading this blog are the last ones to be affected, but by the time it gets to us, its momentum will be unfathomable.

Likewise, public welfare used to be solely for the use of families temporarily down on their luck, not unmarried mothers. It was argued, quite logically, that unmarried mothers should not be discriminated against. When it was suggested that this would lead to an increase in unwed mothers, that was seen as ludicrous – who would choose such a difficult thing for such a paltry sum? And yet, what do we have now? The most meager of incentives, has destigmatized this to the degree that some high schools have 1 in 7 female students pregnant.

My point here is not to discuss divorce law, nor welfare policy, but to point out the effect of changing incentives and stigmas.

If you care to read more, I strongly recommend an essay by Jane Galt, who made these points better than I could have.

But what is codified into law, has the stigma progressively removed from it – it comes to be seen as morally acceptable. What is accepted progressively becomes public taste.

In other words, unless we want to see a lot of heterosexual marriage replaced by homosexual marriage.

Marriage does matter and not just to the few percentage points that gay marriage would immediately affect. It is not the effect today that is worrisome. It is the effect 20, 30, 50 years from now. It will affect the institution of marriage, and even the meaning of what marriage itself is for.

Anything else, is kindly meant, but shortsighted.


  1. Your post, and Galt's, expresses a conservatism based on fear, as is much of the rhetoric opposing same-sex unions. Perhaps another way to approach the matter would be to ask, "What should the appropriate response by society be to the growing number of gay and lesbian partnerships, now that such people are no longer willing to be closeted?" In other words, do we stigmatize and encourage them to live in the shadows and on the fringes of society? Or do we encourage them to matriculate into society? I think this question is at the root of the entire SSM debate.

  2. Steven B,

    Homosexuals have my deepest sympathy, they truly do - but why is it I should have more sympathy for them than for all the singles who will never marry? What about all those old maids?

    We all know the answer, even if we don't enjoy it. They have to live the law of chastity as do the rest of us. I say this a 8 year divorced single father, who would love to know of any kind of alternative to doing the hard way.

    This is not a question of what is nice - it is a question of what is moral, and what will make for the greatest morality years from now. Social engineering of this level is not undertaken lightly, or with disregard to the prophets.

    We should not lightly pass over the morality of it, before opening the way for more of this.

  3. @Zen:

    I don't want your sympathy. I don't need it and it's not justified. Though I'm sure you don't intend it, such statements are belittling and patronizing. Please stop. It's offensive.

    What I do want is your honest acknowledgement that you have no comprehension of my situation or my heart or what inspiration I and countless others have received for our own lives as regards this issue about which the Church is so manifestly confused. I doubt you've read much of the history of the Church's treatment of homosexuality and its gay members, but I assure you that treatment has been wildly inconsistent, as have the teachings of Church leaders about it. The only explanation that makes sense is that they are speaking from received cultural bias and background and not from revelation.

    You don't seem to comprehend that there is a world of difference between gay Mormon boys and "all those old maids." The "old maids" always have the Church's support, encouragement, and above all, the hope that maybe tomorrow their prince will show up. And if he doesn't in this life, they are promised he'll be waiting for them in the next. That is powerful fuel for enduring to the end.

    Gay Mormons, on the other hand are specifically told to squelch all hope of any love or companionship in this life. We are told that we must condemn ourselves to loneliness and heartache as the price of some future compensation which the Church itself can't even define with confidence. The Scriptures certainly don't speak to this. Everything we hear from the leadership is sheer speculation. We're told that if we make ourselves miserable and hopeless in this life, our reward will be to be transformed into something we never wanted to be in the first place.

    Believe it or not, it is possible for a gay couple to live a moral life according to the law of chastity (no sex outside marriage). There are countless such couples. All they want is the same blessings of marriage that you do. For the life of me I can't understand why persons like yourself think this is a threat to marriage.

    I've been married in the temple. The marriage fell apart for reasons unrelated to this issue. But having been there, and tried for a long time to do everything you advocate, the result for me is was misery and an absolute conviction that I could never do that again. I continue to live Church standards. But I could not endure an eternity of marriage to a woman and I know many others who say the same. As long as the Church insists that such hopeless angst is our only option both in this life and the next, many like me will continue to leave it. How can anyone blame them?