Title: A Load of Pibble Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 5th July 2005 - 12:00pm1120521600 Article: 807 Rights
According to the US Christian Right and their local satellites, civil unions will lead to the imminent decriminalisation of polygamy, interspecies sex and child sexual abuse. Oh, really? In one recent edition of Ethics, a US philosophical journal, John Corvino tackles this question. Firstly, Corvino attributes this outlandish claim about unintended consequences of civil unions, parenting rights and other LGBT issues to conservative Catholic natural law theory and its contemporary proponents. As a concept, 'sodomy' originated from this prescientific and premodern morass of stitched up disparate theological elements. Broadly, it mashes together non-procreative heterosexuality, gay sex, interspecies sex, child sexual abuse and who knows what else. It's comparatively easy to dispose of the polygamy component of PIB claims. All one needs to do is to locate legal notes about the current status of polygamous heterosexual relationships in New Zealand and the British Commonwealth, which I did in a previous column. What about the prospect that civil unions will lead to interspecies sex and child sexual abuse, the other two legs of this stool? It's difficult to see how interspecies sex or child sexual abuse could ever be consensual, given questions about developmental psychology and animal behaviour. This distinguishes both from human adult and late adolescent homosexuality, which can be differentiated on the basis of same-species membership, developmental maturity and comprehension of concepts like consent and refusal of sexual contact. Possibly, then, there could be a PIB 2 or an IB 2 argument. An antigay objector could restrict their argument to the more specific claim that civil unions or same-sex parenting will lead to adult 'consensual' incest or sex with whales, dolphins or higher primates. Again, though, let's see where this claim might lead. Firstly, of course, there are no organised efforts to abolish laws against adult incest and interspecies sex that manifest higher cognitive development. Secondly, in the case of interspecies sex, humans lack the behavioural stimuli and anatomy that might lead to reciprocal interest from most whales, dolphins or higher primates. Therefore, the prospective nonhuman sexual partners might not even be interested, unless they were cetacean or simian zoophiles themselves! And even then, how could they communicate their desire for interspecies sex? Furthermore, forensic studies show that most human zoophiles are either intellectually or developmentally challenged themselves. As we've already noted, consent is an important element of this debate. Left to themselves, whales, dolphins and higher primates are usually turned on by their own species, or adjacent species of cetacean or higher primate, and not humans. Therefore, how can civil unions or same-sex parenting lead to acceptance of interspecies sex, given that lesbian/gay civil unions and same-sex parenting are related to consensual adult human homosexuality, and in most instances, interspecies sex can't be described as consensual. What about adult 'consensual' incest? Firstly, most incest is heterosexual in the case of the perpetrator and victim, so homo/hetero boundary maintenance is not relevant. Furthermore, we must rule out the question of prior child or adolescent incest as a contributing factor to adult incest, because the former would have led to developmental difficulties that damage the ability to consent. Let's assume the following scenario. A gay man has a kid in a prior heterosexual relationship who then loses contact with him. Eighteen years later, the gay man meets his now adult and gay son in a pub and the two of them have sex, oblivious of their actual identities. That is, presupposing that neither of them spot telltale photographs of their previous female spouse and birthmother that would give the game away, or compare notes beforehand that might also lead to recognition of each others identities. Therefore, it is difficult to foresee how such a relationship might proceed, given such plausible discouragements. We're left with situations where interested dolphins or simians try to have sex with startled humans, which may be hard to police on the open sea or in Africa, in any case. Therefore, it is probable that anyone who wants deliberate interspecies sex would have to go to elaborate lengths to secure it, without the existence of establishing documentation about how to do so. Is it possible to construct an argument that would close down the loopholes in question, though? Yes. Would gay male adults actually be able to meet their gay adult sons oblivious to the actual identities of the latter, given current encouraging developments in terms of same-sex parental adoptive law reform. Therefore, ending discrimination against same-sex adoptive couples might actually remove possibilities for future accidental 'consensual' gay incest due to the increased likelihood that gay male parents could retain and bring up their own kids, and assuming prior recognition of civil unions or other forms of relationship equality. Oops. I think the three-legged PIB stool just fell over. Recommended Reading: John Corvino: "Homosexuality and the PIB Argument" Ethics 115 (April 2005): 501-534. Michael Jordan: The Invention of Sodomy in Medieval Christian Theology: Chicago: Crossroads: 1997. Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz: "How Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" American Sociological Review: 53: 2 (April 2001): 159-183. Craig Young - 5th July 2005    
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