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Unmushing Marital Infidelity Numbers
Okay, class. Today, we're going to interpret and compare statistics. Does anybody have any thoughts about the best way to handle social science statistics? No, Ms. Dowd, we don't take the ones we like at face value and ignore the rest. Anyone else?
No? First of all, it's important that we collect all of the information about a statistic that we can glean from our sources. When we're comparing statistics from different sources, it is crucial that we try to match up as many factors as we can. For practice, consider this passage from a Froma Harrop column in the Providence Journal about gay marriage:
As evidence, Kurtz points to a study showing that 20 percent of gay males who had participated in a "commitment ceremony" did not practice monogamy. It took a certain amount of guts to use that number to support his argument. A University of San Francisco study found that 24 percent of married heterosexual men have had sex with partners other than their wives.
Well, considering the haughtiness that Harrop derives from her statistical conclusion, perhaps we might do well to analyze whether it is really true that gay men are more likely to be faithful than straight men are. So, let's line up the facts as if we were doing a mathematical equation:
"did not practice monogamy"
"had sex with partners other than their wives"
Let's address the homosexual men equation first, beginning by trying to define the words in quotations a bit more concisely and noting any qualifications that might bear on the results. Turning to Stanley Kurtz's piece, we find that this study was performed in 1998 by an advocate for gay marriage who had to "go out of her research protocol just to find enough male couples to balance the committed lesbian couples." The findings presented are that 20% of this group of men who have gone out of their way to declare a commitment do not "practice monogamy," which suggests that it isn't even attempted, and only 10% "mentioned monogamy as an important aspect of commitment." So, 70% of the sample lie somewhere between explicitly open relationships and explicitly closed relationships; this could include couples that haven't discussed it or that haven't felt the need to "cheat," but won't rule it out. At any rate, I think we can clarify our equation a little, gleaning another bit of information from broad knowledge of social trends and the date of the study:
relatively recent "commitment ceremony"
openly engage in extra-commitment sex
This data is scarce, so let's turn to the heterosexual equation. Ms. Harrop was kind enough to point me in the direction of her source for that information, and I believe it was this USA Today article. At that time, the study hadn't actually been released, so it's helpful to look to other sources within the article and outside of it for context. Heading to Google, I wasn't able to find the data from which the statement draws, but I did find a list of AIDS-related sexual behavior research on the University of San Francisco Web site. This synopsis was particularly interesting:
Choi, K. H., Catania, J. A. and Dolcini, M. M. (1994). Extramarital Sex and HIV Risk Behavior among Us Adults: Results from the National AIDS Behavioral Survey. American Journal of Public Health 84(12): 2003-7.
Data from the National AIDS Behavioral Survey were used to examine the social distribution of extramarital sex and risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among married individuals in the United States. Of 1686 married respondents living across the United States, 2.2% reported extramarital sex; of 3827 married respondents living in 23 urban areas with large Hispanic or African-American populations, 2.5% reported having sexual partners outside marriage. The data indicate that the correlates of extramarital sex varied by race/ethnicity. Low levels of condom use were found among people reporting extramarital sex (8% to 19% consistent users).
That puts the percentage for extramarital sex closer to 2.4% than 24%. That's a huge difference, and sure enough, sources can be found, with various differences, between both of these numbers. A chart of 1992 data suggests that for all men, the percentage that has had extramarital sex is in the mid-teens. It also shows that the percentage increases dramatically for older people who have probably, in a higher percentage of cases, been married for longer (for men between 18 and 29, the number is 10%). Another analysis of the same data shows that this magic number of unfaithful spouses (both sexes, all ages) drops to 5% when both the relationship and the infidelity had occurred within the year prior to the survey. Incidentally, this further analysis also gives us a number to compare (loosely, because it includes both genders) with the 10% of committed gay men who "mentioned monogamy": 9899% of married respondents "expected their partners to be sexually exclusive and believed that their partners expected the same of them."
At this point, I'd say we can better determine some of the factors in that 24% number. Before we do so, however, note this from the same USA Today article (though a different study) that Harrop didn't mention: "Only about 0.5% overall have had multiple affairs. And only about 3.3% have had extramarital sex in the past year."
married ever and for any duration
ever had any extramarital sex with any number of people
That doesn't look comparable to the gay equation, now does it? The latter two lines are terribly broad and include many crucial variables. Some of the data that we've already seen might suggest directions in which to tweak the numbers. The "past 12 months" infidelity figures (for both sexes) are 3.3% and 5% in different studies. Looking at the younger end of the spectrum, we see that 13% of men under 40 have had affiars. We also have seen the percentage of "cheaters" drop to 0.5% when those who've only ever had one affair are left out. Furthermore, only 12% of married heterosexuals do not "practice monogamy" in that they don't expect it from themselves or their partners.
Taking all of this into account, we can be reasonably confident in suggesting that Harrop's 24% is heavily skewed toward older men with longer marriages who "slipped up" once and have no intentions of ever doing so again. This is what Harrop considers a fair comparison to gay men who openly declare that they don't even intend to attempt monogamy? Talk about an unforgiving standard for heterosexual fidelity! One might think that Harrop was attempting to make her numbers fit a conclusion that she held for other reasons. It doesn't help that Harrop could have gotten close to her 24% simply by reading the following paragraph in Kurtz's essay:
A recent survey of gay couples in civil unions by University of Vermont psychologists Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solomon confirms what Stiers's study suggests--that married gay male couples will be far less likely than married heterosexual couples to identify marriage with monogamy. Rothblum and Solomon contacted all 2,300 couples who entered civil unions in Vermont between June 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001. More than 300 civil union couples residing in and out of the state responded. Rothblum and Solomon then compared the gay couples in civil unions with heterosexual couples and gay couples outside of civil unions. Among married heterosexual men, 79 percent felt that marriage demanded monogamy, 50 percent of men in gay civil unions insisted on monogamy, while only 34 percent of gay men outside of civil unions affirmed monogamy.
That's a shockingly high number of married heterosexuals to take the necessity of monogamy out of marriage. So high, when compared with the upper-90s percentages in other studies, that one can't help but think that the fact that each of the men in this study was asked the question within the context of their being related to homosexuals in "civil unions" severely skewed the results. Of course, this question also differs in that it seems to remove the "monogamy in your marriage" angle, so some of the responses might have been made with the PC idea of not judging others in mind. But I suspect that, if there was a conscious decision, on Harrop's part, to avoid this statistic, it had more to do with the even-more-shockingly-high 50% among civil-unioned gay men than with a careful analysis of the hetero skew.
Well, class, we're out of time. For homework, analyze the ways in which Harrop misrepresents her statistics in the following paragraph:
Conservatives who argue that marriage is all about children should get a lot pickier about which heterosexual pairings qualify. More than half of all married couples, about 54 percent, do not have children under the age of 18. Yet no social conservative I know of suggests that these couples be denied the tax breaks and legal protections available to married people. What's so special about being in a childless third marriage?
Extra credit for anybody who incorporates Harrop's insistence, throughout her piece, that social conservatives have no right to make judgment calls and compromises while working toward a better society. (Circle that section of your report and label it "Purity or Nothing.")
Posted by Justin Katz @ 02:41
Thank you for your analysis, Justin. By every account I've seen that deals with the issue of monogamy among homosexual men, sexual infidelity seems to be the glue [unglue] that permits the relationship to continue.
That is the reverse of heterosexual relations in which infidelity--even when it is honored in the breach--is considered a sin against the partner and against marriage itself. Or, as a gay friend said to me, "Fidelity means something different to me than it does to you." In short, gay marriage signals an end to the equation of monogamy and sexual fidelity.
I'll get back to you on your homework assignment.
Maureen Mullarkey @ 08/12/2003
09:46 AM EST
P.S. Harrop's disdain for committed family life is evident in her comment about 54% of marriages not having children under 18. In that percentage are couples who have not YET started their family; couples who, to their regret, find themselves infertile; older couples who are parents of adults and serve in myriad ways as grandparents. Even that small percentage of older persons--widowers or people who meet in late middle age--who marry enter into each other's family unit. And serve that unit in whatever ways are possible, given age and ability.
In all, parenting is part of the air breathed by heterosexual couples. It is absent from homosexual male relationships and the majority of lesbian ones as well. The institution was designed for stable parenthood, not to gratify adults' needs for recognition. Do we want to add to those conditions that erode its purpose?
Maureen Mullarkey @ 08/12/2003
12:08 PM EST
I wonder, could it be that most of those 54% of couples all have children over the age of 18? If the population of married couples is anywhere near gaussian I would think so.
Sparkey @ 08/12/2003
02:02 PM EST
The previous comments haven't put your argument to much scrutiny - perhaps we should keep the class late:
Social Expectation Effect: This effect, class, can be described as the trend for people to give answers they feel present themselves in the best light whether their words are truthful or not. For instance, married people might avoid or minimize their admissions of extramarital activity since our society - and in particular most married people - look down on infidelity. Much like most people would claim to be strongly concerned for the environment or a fetus's right to life without actually living a life that reflects those values. Likewise, a gay couple may wish to have their relationship seen as more sophisticated than those "silly straights" who pursue monogamy even if they actually want and expect fidelity from their mates. Gays could also wish to distinguish the nature and basis of their relationship from straights (whose relationships are assumed to be tied to reproduction & sexual fidelity) and hence choose other options when describing their commitments - even if they like lots of other people - have found that monogamy is the best way to pursue stable ongoing relationships. The Social Expectation effect can be quite strong – many have argued it is a significant part of the forces keeping marriages together. But be warned, any considerations of how this effect might obtain in socially sanctioned gay marriages can result in you being asked to leave the class.
Begging the Question: This is not a statistical problem at all, class - it's actually a tactic used when someone doesn't want to deal with the issues the stats might raise. One might, for instance, quibble with the magnitude of a statistic instead of actually responding to the problem created by the statistic *no matter what it's value*. If marriages are to be encouraged because of their ties to child-rearing, then couples who for a number of reasons cannot have children should face the same roadblocks to marriage as gay couples who, all of them, cannot have children. This is not a question of “purity or nothing” - it is a question of whether people in similar circumstances should be treated similarly. Modern medicine makes it quite easy to determine the viability of child-rearing in all but a minority of cases. A simple test of child-rearing capacity could be administered to all couples. This would, unfortunately, prevent senior citizens from marriage or re-marriage - but compromises have to be made in the real world, right?
Now, the simplest way to deal with these problems is to ignore them. When it becomes glaringly apparent to you and your peers that fair application of your standard may actually endanger the rights and status of some of the people on your side of the debate (for instance: married-but-childless, conservative commentators championing the child-rearing significance of marriage), you can shift the focus of the debate or simply begin to argue with trivialities related to questionable statistics.
Either way, it is important to remember that one need only be consistent in applying principles of reason and deduction and committed to bravely allowing oneself to move to sometimes uncomfortable conclusions when this helps you win a debate. Also remember you need not conisistently stick to even those principles you claim are paramount or under-appreciated. And always remember that a little hypocrisy is the best way to protect dishonestly self-serving arguments – otherwise it may be you, rather than an easily dismissed minority, who has to swallow the bitter pill of your own conclusions…
Kipp @ 08/12/2003
06:30 PM EST
There's one in every bunch, they say. I welcome scrutiny of my arguments, even after regular hours, but I'd ask that the effort involve some actual substance.
Social expectation effect is not merely a license to put your own argument in the best light, whether truthful or not. You have to suggest a reason for applying it in one direction or the other and then take some sort of a stab at the extent of the skew. So 10% of homosexuals in one of the studies stated monogamy as important. Who's to say whether 5% of those didn't do so because they know that their partners would want them to say so? But even pushing the percentage in the direction that you suggest that gays understated their desire for fidelity you're not suggesting that this effect will even come close to making up the 6988% difference between gay men and straights on this count.
There's no question mark at the end of that sentence because it's a statement; you aren't suggesting that. I know because you go on to extrapolate the "effect" beyond the bounds of the survey. Indeed, you cite "many" who present it as "a significant part of the forces keeping marriages together." Well, if this is the case, one would expect gays' desire to "distinguish the nature and basis of their relationship from straights" to contribute to the forces pulling marriages (and marriage) apart. Surely it would be foolhardy to change social policy in such a way as to allow gay marriage to be defined thus from the outset.
You are welcome to argue that the "socially sanctioned gay marriages" will be pulled toward the social expectations of heterosexuals. I'd suggest that you begin by picking up one of the many strong arguments that are already on the table suggesting that this is not the case and, in fact, social expectations will shift in the other direction. A good place to start would be the above statistics, which you never get around to addressing for all your attacks on the motives and character of the person who put them forward. (Interesting question: does the fact that heterosexuals who are related to homosexuals in "civil unions" are significantly less likely to cite monogamy as an important part of marriage apply here?)
Much of your next paragraph needs to be addressed sentence by sentence:
One might, for instance, quibble with the magnitude of a statistic instead of actually responding to the problem created by the statistic *no matter what it's value*.
I presume that, before writing this about an individual blog post that very specifically addresses a specific column's use of statistics, you read the thousands upon thousands of words that I've written on this topic. I'll ignore the fact that what you characterize as "quibbling" was, in fact, an argument that Harrop's 20:24 comparison is more realistically seen as something on the order of 95:3.
Now, this absolutely does not follow from the sentence just quoted:
If marriages are to be encouraged because of their ties to child-rearing, then couples who for a number of reasons cannot have children should face the same roadblocks to marriage as gay couples who, all of them, cannot have children.
The main part of this particular post made no mention of "child-rearing." It had to do with fidelity. Indeed, the statistic that I'm "quibbling" itself has no direct bearing on children. But this, to me, truly brings out the ludicrous nature of what you're advocating:
A simple test of child-rearing capacity could be administered to all couples. This would, unfortunately, prevent senior citizens from marriage or re-marriage - but compromises have to be made in the real world, right?
Allowing, for the sake of your education, the stipulation that no factors enter into judgment of marriage other than "child-rearing," your complaint is that a minority (let's say 3%) deserves the right to significantly different "circumstances" that approximate heterosexual marriage in that they consist of two people. To deny this right, you suggest (although it's difficult to tell what your suggestion actually is, for all your sarcasm), implies that it is applied to a much larger portion (between about 15% and 37%, depending whether you cut at 65 or 45 years) hypocritically. Since we all must age, you thereby render marriage an inherently temporary institution. Well, there's more to it than this, but for the sake of brevity, think of social encouragement of marriage sort of like the economic encouragement for businesses to invest; if the measure is temporary, it is less effective. Bringing it back to the point that the bulk of the above addresses, I'm not sure how institutionalizing an end to marriage once all children have reached 18 would encourage fidelity.
The rest of your argument is not rooted in the least to actual points. You insist that I/we would "shift focus," when it is you who applies the parenthood portion of the discussion to the question of fidelity. And I'll need you to explain what, specifically, you take my "paramount principles" and "dishonestly self-serving arguments" to be. I advocate no changes to the definition of marriage, as every person alive in this country knows it to be, so it is not hypocritical or inconsistent not to suggest that a sunset clause be written into marriage. Those who cannot have children, for one reason or another, ought still be encouraged to approximate the traditional family. And when homosexuals show more than fractional interest in approximating that kind of relationship, then perhaps your points will merit consideration.
Justin Katz @ 08/12/2003
08:32 PM EST
Luckily, I find myself with little to do tonight "after hours" so lets get to crackin. I’ll try as hard as I can to give you some actual substance this time – though isn’t it funny that my supposedly insubstantial post required some 600+ words for your response:
Indeed, you cite "many" who present it as "a significant part of the forces keeping marriages together. Well, if this is the case, one would expect gays' desire to "distinguish the nature and basis of their relationship from straights" to contribute to the forces pulling marriages (and marriage) apart.
Attempting to distinguish – or perhaps a better word might have been “highlight” – the differences between a gay relationship and a marriage need not automatically be construed as a championing of behaviors that will pull marriages apart. Since gay relationships are not placed on a cultural pedestal like marriages, gays may be more willing to be honest about their relationships – to acknowledge that monogamy is important but that emotional support, compatibility, and a commitment to staying together are the real clinchers. The fact that heterosexual marriages can and do survive after infidelity shows that marriages are more than monogamy agreements. The additional fact that infidelity does occur in a significant, though of course not majority, part of marriages may just indicate that gays are more willing to be honest about what really makes a marriage work. That’s where the social expectation theory comes into play: It is a major admission for a married couple to admit infidelity because of marriage’s social status – it is a much less shameful admission when it comes from a relationship that, not being marriage, does not have that status.
I presume that, before writing this about an individual blog post that very specifically addresses a specific column's use of statistics, you read the thousands upon thousands of words that I've written on this topic.
And have you read everything I have written on this topic? Does that matter? Your attempt to bar the door of respectable debate to those who haven’t absorbed the Katz Compendium is a nonstarter.
I'll ignore the fact that what you characterize as "quibbling" was, in fact, an argument that Harrop's 20:24 comparison is more realistically seen as something on the order of 95:3.
This part of my response was unclear – I was actually referring to 54% statistic concerning child-having marriages that several replies had cited. Thus, the next sentence you dutifully analyze does follow from the previous:
The main part of this particular post made no mention of "child-rearing." It had to do with fidelity. Indeed, the statistic that I'm "quibbling" itself has no direct bearing on children.
Again, with the right quote now in mind, you can see that my argument did legitimately move to the notion of child-rearing. Your claims of non sequiter seem a little dishonest: Are you really claiming this concern for fidelity in marriage is not ultimately grounded in the need for marriage to be a stable environment for child-rearing? Your post may have only explicitly mentioned fidelity – but isn’t the elephant in the room of this discussion really fidelity as it relates to child-rearing?
Allowing, for the sake of your education, the stipulation that no factors enter into judgment of marriage other than "child-rearing," your complaint is that a minority (let's say 3%) deserves the right to significantly different "circumstances" that approximate heterosexual marriage in that they consist of two people.
Certainly in the thousands of words on this topic written by yourself and others you’ve come across the notion that gay people can participate in child-rearing? Are these committed couples raising children also simply “approximating” marriage?
To deny this right, you suggest (although it's difficult to tell what your suggestion actually is, for all your sarcasm), implies that it is applied to a much larger portion (between about 15% and 37%, depending whether you cut at 65 or 45 years) hypocritically. Since we all must age, you thereby render marriage an inherently temporary institution…Bringing it back to the point that the bulk of the above addresses, I'm not sure how institutionalizing an end to marriage once all children have reached 18 would encourage fidelity.
Needless to say, I made no suggestion about breaking up marriages after children have grown older (all the words you are putting into my mouth are getting a little crowded). My suggestion was that as long as marriage is considered important because it is the best environment for child-rearing, then we should be consistent about applying the standard. Of course it is ludicrous to suggest that grandma can’t marry again because she can’t have children anymore since marriage is about more than children. It’s that “more” that gay people should have access to – whether they are able to have children or not. Fidelity, in the conservative case against gay marriage, is just a stepping stone to that greater good.
I advocate no changes to the definition of marriage, as every person alive in this country knows it to be
Indeed you do not – you simply advocate the barring of one group of people from marriage because they won’t live up to an important part of that definition: monogamy. I am simply asking that you to make good on that ideal: Make it just as difficult for unfaithful heterosexuals to get married. How about this: Anyone proven to have been unfaithful in a past marriage cannot remarry? Just to be fair to lesson learners, let’s make it anyone proven to have been unfaithful in two marriages. In a similar vein to the earlier article: What is so special about a third marriage between serial adulterers? Why should they be allowed to marry and gay couples not?
Kipp @ 08/12/2003
11:57 PM EST
Since gay relationships are not placed on a cultural pedestal like marriages, gays may be more willing to be honest about their relationships – to acknowledge that monogamy is important but that emotional support, compatibility, and a commitment to staying together are the real clinchers.
And what would you cite as proof of this "honesty"? The 10% of commitment-ceremonied gay men who "mentioned monogamy as an important aspect of commitment"? Or the 20% who explicitly mentioned not practicing monogamy? And what culture are you living in in which gay relationships are not put on a pedestal? Have you read the media biographies of Bishop Robinson? Have you paid any attention to elite fascination with gays? It may be relatively new, historically, but it's real.
Your whitewashing fits neither the data at hand nor the real behavior of homosexuals in the society. The larger point is that, even among heterosexuals who have cheated and admit to having done so, the vast majority still consider monogamy important and never cheated again. Of course, you can continue to declare that you just don't believe what people are saying, but that doesn't forward the discussion much. (Particularly discussion of one columnist's misuse of statistics.)
If cultural attitudes toward heterosexual marriage are what foster the relationships that society finds desirable, then it is reasonable to hold off until homosexual attitudes toward their own relationships more closely approximate that norm before calling them by the same name. That you suggest "that gays are more willing to be honest about what really makes a marriage work" i.e., something other than fidelity is evidence of the attitude that many wish to keep out of the definition of marriage.
Your attempt to bar the door of respectable debate to those who haven’t absorbed the Katz Compendium is a nonstarter.
My statement was made with direct reference to a quotation from you in which you accused me of "quibbling" over statistics rather than addressing the problem that the statistics present. In that context, it seemed appropriate to question whether you've any basis to declare that this constitutes my entire strategy for addressing this issue.
But the fact of the matter is that there is no statistic that requires addressing "no matter what its value." If, as I said, the difference is between near parity and almost-total versus almost-not-at-all, very different issues are raised. So you weren't clear that you had switched from the main argument of my post to a parting quip on which I didn't offer any analysis. Even turning to that 54%, if you consider, as Maureen suggested above, the percentage who have not yet had children or whose children have grown past the age of 18, then Froma Harrop's implication is dishonest which, again, was the point of this post.
Are you really claiming this concern for fidelity in marriage is not ultimately grounded in the need for marriage to be a stable environment for child-rearing? Your post may have only explicitly mentioned fidelity – but isn’t the elephant in the room of this discussion really fidelity as it relates to child-rearing?
Child-rearing is a central component of marriage, true, but it is not the equivalent of marriage. For one thing, marriage channels sexual drive toward a productive end: a stable union, with or without children. Monogamy is crucial in this. But it won't do to slip to the question of child-rearing as an escape from the question of monogamy. If monogamy is crucial toward a stable relationship, then non-monogamous parents will not create as beneficial an environment for child-rearing. Although we can discuss one, the other, or both as they interrelate, it's dishonest of you to disregard discussion of one by equating it with the other. For shorthand, the question of fidelity is important as it relates to marriage. The question of marriage is important as it relates to social structure, which includes the raising and acculturation of children.
Certainly in the thousands of words on this topic written by yourself and others you’ve come across the notion that gay people can participate in child-rearing?
And certainly, in your experience, you've come across the notion that men are not women? Broadening marriage to include homosexuals does just that: it broadens the definition from what it has always been known to be. Hence "approximating." (And this doesn't touch on the further expansion of marriage beyond homosexual couples.)
You lose me in your next paragraph. You suggested that the only way to avoid being hypocritical in denying marriage rights to gays would be to deny them to "senior citizens." This statement you made in the context of a statistic that lumped older still-married couples into a 54% with infertile and younger couples. If you want to discard 50 (or so) of that 54 percent and suggest stronger prohibitions against divorce and remarriage, well, I'm not inclined to object. In fact, I've already covered some of that ground, including this statement:
But who, exactly, would be doing the trading? I could see, perhaps, if the Andrew Sullivans of the country came forward and declared that they would throw their support behind a new marriage regime that granted gays marriage rights while making divorce a more difficult and painful procedure. Hey, throw in an adultery clause, and the equation becomes such that social conservatives (even Catholics, such as myself) might find the scales of evils tipping toward a different "lesser" (away from the current "lesser" of expanding the federal government to cover marriage).
That heterosexual marriage has degraded is certainly not a reason for supporters of marriage to open the door to another seismic cultural change that would, by all indications, further tear apart what "social expectations" remain. But from a cultural point of view, if it is your contention that society must either choose between gay marriage or new rules for serial adulterers, you're not only bringing whoever it is that would enforce the adultery rules farther into the bedroom than any sodomy law ever did (including in order to police "marriages of convenience"), but you're suggesting doing so to trade off the 0.5% of heterosexuals who have multiple affairs for the 0.3% of the population who are gay and indicate that they wish not to be serial adulterers. Why is that worth social upheaval? It's simpler as in my response to this from you:
you simply advocate the barring of one group of people from marriage because they won’t live up to an important part of that definition: monogamy.
No, I advocate not allowing the erasure of a clear border for the sake of people who inherently do not fit the definition of marriage: man plus woman. There are too many variables and too many doubts; at every turn there is a new objection that must be excused away with any one of myriad species of rationalizations. This is as far as I, for one, will go (and it is much farther than many others on "my" side would): if homosexuals came to the general population asking merely for recognition of relationships that they already pursued of their own accord and that followed healthy cultural norms for marriage, then it might be a change worth considering. But you won't find a single statistic that suggests that this is anywhere near reality, and it doesn't help that Froma Harrop will distort statistics on your behalf and that you will defend that distortion.
Justin Katz @ 08/13/2003
01:23 AM EST
And what culture are you living in in which gay relationships are not put on a pedestal? Have you read the media biographies of Bishop Robinson? Have you paid any attention to elite fascination with gays? It may be relatively new, historically, but it's real.
What culture are you living in in which gay relationships are assumed to be long-term, spiritual pairings ordained by a creator and fulfilling the Grand Scheme of Life – like heterosexual pairings are? The pedestal onto which marriage is put is the exact pedestal defenders of marriage are trying to protect. And popular “fascination” with gay relationships no more indicates an elevated esteem of these things than popular fascination with circus freaks. Car wrecks attract attention, too, but most people don't want to be too intimately involved with one. If a majority of Americans still oppose gay marriage, and a significant portion still morally oppose homosexual behavior, then apparently fascination and disdain can coexist.
The larger point is that, even among heterosexuals who have cheated and admit to having done so, the vast majority still consider monogamy important and never cheated again.
I appreciate your italics because they underscore the massive hole in these kinds of statistics: Those who have cheated are only known as such because they have admitted to having done so - that is, we have a potentially major self-selection problem. A reformed thief has little to lose from admitting past thefts while a continued thief – or one who simply couldn't trust himself to stay that way – is wise to simply keep quiet about it. Even in an anonymous setting of social psych data collection, people who have cheated would certainly feel the need express their regret and claim certainty that it would never happen again – even if they actually succumb to the temptation again. I'm not a fan of any of these statistics because they are suspect from all kinds of angles – I'm just not letting you spin their questionability into more proof that gay marriages portend the doom of world.
...then Froma Harrop's implication is dishonest — which, again, was the point of this post.
And I agree that her statistic was inaccurate – but I chose to then focus on the significance of her final point: What is special about a childless third marriage? Or a childless marriage between serial adulterers? If you aren't comfortable with continuing a line of argument about a given text - if you don't want to entertain those points I raise which you consider extraneous to proper discussion in your comment log, just ignore them. But spare me (and the perhaps 3 other people who will ever read this) the repeated admonishments that I am off topic – after you devote multiple paragraphs to discusssing these supposed outliers, it's gets a little tedious.
If monogamy is crucial toward a stable relationship, then non-monogamous parents will not create as beneficial an environment for child-rearing.
And if monogamy is crucial to long term stable relationships, what would keep homosexuals from learning this lesson? Marriages have not existed for eternity – presumably there was a time when humans began to form cultural institutions like marriage because of the values they found in them. Homosexuals are also on this journey – why do assume they are incapable of getting that point? They don't get it now, obviously – but then again, they can't get married.
And certainly, in your experience, you've come across the notion that men are not women? Broadening marriage to include homosexuals does just that: it broadens the definition from what it has always been known to be. Hence "approximating."
How close does this approximation have to get before you're okay with allowing it to be called a marriage? A long term committed relationship with as good a monogamy profile as a comparable straight marriage that raises children in a stable home: gay relationships like this already exist. They only difference between these relationships and many acceptible straight marriages is the gender of the pair. It is a difference – but you need to explain why that difference – and not the differences of serial adulterers or remarrying abandoners from normal marriages – is the one that the veil of marriage cannot cover.
No, I advocate not allowing the erasure of a clear border for the sake of people who inherently do not fit the definition of marriage: man plus woman.
It's always good to finally get back to first principles. When homosexuals ask to be married you rattle off an supposedly prohibitory list of necessary considerations in lofty terms of ideals, concepts and sentiments. When some homosexuals meet these criteria you fall back the final fact that is in dispute in the first place: That marriages are possible between same-sex couples.
The “traditional definition” of marriage is not in danger per se – it's the contemporary definition you're worried about. Homosexuals are coming to the general population asking for recognition of relationships that equate marriage in all the ways spiritually and physically available to them. There are gay marriages that do work – and that do everything for their members and families that straight unions do. When these people asked to be married the final obstacle you erect is almost confusing in it's regression: Of course gay marriages won't be between a man and a woman – the whole point is that pairings other than man and woman can fulfill all the behaviors and functions that seem to be the significant part of marriage by all the necessary characteristics except for something is trivial as the shape of one partner's genitalia.Gays wishing to be married are asking you to justify why that distinction still wins out when they have achieved all the stuff that you claim is the true source of the significance of marriage. Your response is that there aren't enough of them yet for you to even consider – but the number doesn't really matter to you because no type of doctrinaire marriage-like relationship between homosexuals will ever turn one of them into the opposite gender.
Kipp @ 08/13/2003
04:46 AM EST
Pardon me, but what the hell do you know about "what matters to me"? You can go on and on about "some gay commitments," but any laws applying to marriage cannot possibly be addressed to just "those homosexuals whom Kipp knows." Now, as I suggested and you've ignored, if there were a rider, along with gay marriage, that barred serial adulterers, then the dynamic of the question would change. However, it would introduce new problems.
It comes down to this:
When some homosexuals meet these criteria you fall back the final fact that is in dispute in the first place: That marriages are possible between same-sex couples.
And what gays have done this over the course of our conversation? Arguing that the number of homosexuals who claim to seek monogamy might be artificially low and that the number of straights who have cheated might be distorted does not constitute an argument that homosexuals are actually as interested in monogamy as straights.
There are myriad arguments why gay marriage would effectively end the institution of marriage, including (but not limited to) the argument from monogamy, the slippery slope argument, the argument from essential emphasis (sexual versus familial), and the argument from tradition. As I've already said, when homosexuals prove that they are interested in the relationships described by the term "marriage" in all their particulars except the "trivial" matter of their genitalia, then the discussion would be quite different.
Homosexuals are coming to the general population asking for recognition of relationships that equate marriage in all the ways spiritually and physically available to them.
But they are not. I don't know how else to put it, Kipp. I haven't assumed that homosexuals are "incapable" of fulfilling the journey toward marriage-like relationships; I've merely stated that they are not there. The cultural appreciation, within and outside of gay culture, for homosexuality is for its daring in the face of tradition; homosexuals themselves state in only minimal numbers that they are interested in changing this touted lifestyle.
You can declare injustice all you want. You can push forward that minority of the minority who "equate marriage in all the ways spiritually and physically available to them." But you know, I know, and society knows that those couples are not representative, and that multiple and various forces will tear down the institution of marriage if it is expanded for their sake.
Justin Katz @ 08/13/2003
09:29 AM EST