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Brandon Bartlett is a philosophy junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
As the title of this column implies, I am a fan of rationality. By my estimation, rationality is the best way to find answers to the world’s biggest problems. Today, I hope to bring some rationality to a subject that has been deeply submerged in emotion than most: the acceptance or rejection of homosexuality.
I will not attempt to settle the issue — in fact, I will not in this article even state my opinion on whether homosexuality is right or wrong, should be legal or should not. I will merely comment on the arguments usually used in favor of homosexuality. If I succeed in exposing a flaw in those arguments, I will merely be demonstrating that arguments in favor must be formulated differently and not that all arguments in favor are inherently flawed.
As I have seen, most of the common rhetorical points in favor of allowing homosexuality are variations of four core arguments that can be bumper-sticker-ized as “love is love,” “they enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt anyone,” “sexual taboos are just social constructions anyway” and “past societies allowed it.” Each of these arguments is strong in the sense that they are built on true premises, but they are weak as they do not prove their desired conclusion — that homosexuality should be permissible.
Let me first explain why this is in an abstract way and then clarify what I mean. Whenever we, as society, attempt to expand the social border between acceptable and unacceptable — such as in the case of homosexuality — we must use arguments that imply a new border, or else we open ourselves to great danger.
Allow me to demonstrate this principle through a trivial example. Currently, we have a border between those who can legally drink alcohol and those who cannot: the age of 21. I, currently 20 years old, would really prefer that line to be drawn a bit earlier (even just six months would be enough).
Now, imagine I tried to change this law and imagine I tried to do so through the use of rational arguments (something that often does not mix well with college students and alcohol). There are many arguments I could choose from. I could say that age is just a social construct. I could say that I am just as responsible, if not more responsible, than plenty of 21-year-olds that I know. I could say that people just under the drinking age have ways of getting alcohol anyway (though I, of course, would never use such methods and how dare you accuse me of doing so). I could even try to string together some far-fetched reason for why putting the restriction at 21 is part of the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
Even though all of these points (with the possible exception of the last one) are true, they would never work as arguments to lower the drinking age. And why is that? Because while I am attempting to merely lower the line, the above arguments dispute all possible drinking ages. I should not actually want to remove the border, but merely renegotiate where it is placed.
Any argument that could apply equally to myself and any five year old (who probably should not be drinking alcohol) does not constitute a good argument to lower the drinking age. Age as a social construct applies to all ages. No matter where the border is drawn, there are always those below the border just as responsible as those above. Hence, once we lower it to 20, then the same logic demands we lower it to 19, then 18 and so on. A select number of five year olds, with irresponsible parents, do have access to alcohol. And it is a truism that someone on Tumblr will eventually trace any restriction back to that imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
Instead, I would need to argue something like, “It is ridiculous that I am deemed responsible enough to determine the future of the country by voting, but not the future of my Friday night!” This argument, by linking itself to another equally arbitrary border, provides both the category expansion as well as the cut-off.
But how does this apply to homosexuality?
Well, in this case, we have the same basic situation. There was a border that divided sexually acceptable and sexually unacceptable behavior and while we do not want to remove the border altogether — most of us are still against things like incest — we would like to expand that border to include, at least, homosexuality.
The problem is that the main arguments for allowing homosexuality do not provide a new border whatsoever. Let us take incest as our counter-example: “Love is love” justifies incest. “They enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt anyone” justifies incest. “Sexual taboos are just social constructs anyways” justifies incest. “There have been plenty of societies that have allowed it” justifies incest as many cultures, to varying degrees, have allowed incest in certain circumstances.
And so, not only does the logic not work, but by never creating a new border, we open wide the doors for things that are, at best, unhealthy. This includes people identifying as mythical creatures (Otherkins), which is justified by at least one of the arguments in favor of homosexuality, e.g. “they enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Hopefully, this has added a modicum of clarity to the nationwide discussion we have been having for the past several decades. Debate on, my friends!
Correction: A previous version of this article included the reference, “laws, such as in Portland, allowing furries to mate and defecate in public dog parks,” from a satirical article without saying it was satirical. The reference has been removed due to its lack of credibility.