Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Bestiality and Sexual Biology:

Now let me tackle this issue of including “Bestiality” in the parade of horribles that gay marriage might lead to.

More from Justin Katz’s response:

As Jon had already relied upon in a response to Ben, we still consider the difference between humans and beasts "profound," so — without intermediary steps — the leap from interracial to interspecies is too long to be plausible. However, to include homosexuals in the same category as heterosexuals, one must argue that the totality of gay sex is no different from the totality of heterosexual sex. I find the necessary level of equivalence for this comparison to be laughable, but those who would make it must illustrate why one form of non-heterosexual-vaginal sex is significantly different from another — not only in theory, but in the terms in which homosexuality is actually being "normalized" (e.g., with reference to "choice," "consent," and "privacy").

At the outset, we should all be able to recognize that there is a natural distinction between Man & Beast (as well as between Man & God, if God exists).  And there is also a natural distinction between Male & Female.  But contrary to the claims of Harry Jaffa (in fact, it is the central flaw in his natural law argument against homosexuality), the distinction between Man & Beast is far more profound than the distinction between Male & Female (expect a much longer post on this on my blog in the future). 

We think nothing about slaughtering and enslaving animals, eating them, wearing them on our bodies—but never dare do this to humans.  That tells us something about the profundity about the distinction between Man & Beast.  Yet, when the law or even private action makes a distinctions between men and women, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment’s prohibition on gender discrimination automatically raises suspicion at such distinctions.

That’s not to say that gender distinctions are the same as racial distinctions.  Because there are real differences between men & women, the law allows for such distinctions.  For instance, we allow for segregated gender bathrooms, but not race.  Constitutional law holds that gender distinctions get “intermediate scrutiny” while race gets “strict.”  Gender can be a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (thus a permissible basis for job discrimination), while race is never a legal BFOQ.  But these are considered “exceptions to the rule.” 

Regarding, man v. beast, there is no rule that we are dealing with equivalents in any.   There is no way from a legal perspective we could “slip” from same-sex marriages to human-animal ones.  Marriage is a contract and animals never have had the ability to contract in this nation.  Neither do they file tax returns.  As John Corvino says in this article (quoting a friend) “Marry your toaster if you like, but please don't try to file a joint tax return with it.”  Ditto for animals. 

I understand Justin’s objections that there is a distinction between hetero and homo sex—clearly that heteros can procreate and homos can’t means something.  But what it does not mean is that we should “group” homo and bestial sex together.  In other words, even though there is some logical distance between hetero procreative sex and homo sex, there is far more distance between homo sex and bestial sex, and profoundly so.  I think in an earlier post I used a fruit analogy.  There is logical distance between an orange and a lemon—but a far greater distance between the both of them on the one hand and “crabgrass” on the other.  In other words if we have three relationships:  a normal hetero, homo, and bestial, and we needed to ask which should be grouped together, the obvious choice in my eyes would be to group the hetero & homo together, just as I would group the orange & lemon together.   

Finally I find Justin’s Catholic/Thomistic view of sex to be highly problematic.  I don’t like the way it reduces human beings to biology, procreative biology at that.  What makes us human is our minds (our souls if you will), not our biology.  Even though there are biological differences between homo and hetero sex, in the non-biological way that relationships occur, there is so much of an equivalence between the two (and even regarding the physical ways in which we have sex, there is far more common ground between homos and heteros than what sets us apart).  I only think of Plato’s metaphor of human beings having complementary set of genitals and being split in half, longing for our other half.  But in some cases, both genitals were male. 

But let’s stick with the biological for now.  Justin writes: “but those who would [argue for the legitimacy of homosexual relations] must illustrate why one form of non-heterosexual-vaginal sex is significantly different from another.” 

Okay let’s make a list of them:  we would have not only homosexual and bestial sex, but also heterosexual oral and anal sex, mutual masturbation, solo masturbation, and arguably any other *things* that heteros do with one another that doesn’t involve, “penis-vagina” sex.  And what is so special about this form of sex anyway?  Only one thing I can think of—that it’s “procreative.”  Turn off the procreative button and penis/vagina just become erroneous zones—just like breast, buttocks, anus, mouths, lips, tongues—practically the whole rest of the human body.  So I’d argue that we’d have to throw in heterosexual contraceptive sex on my side as well.  And as Andrew Sullivan (after Mark Jordan) has noted in his article “We are all Sodomites Now” all of these things have been termed “sodomy” by the Catholic Church.  Do you really want to make the case that activities so normalized as heterosexual oral sex and contraceptive sex are equivalent to bestiality because all separate sex from its procreative teleology?

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