"Smash Monogamy" And Other Dumb Political Ideas

LeoCasey at aol.com LeoCasey at aol.com
Tue Jun 12 09:35:46 PDT 2001

It has always been impossible for me to read the manifestoes of the Sex Panic group, some of which have been posted here in the last few days, without being reminded of that eminently dumb political slogan of the 1960s, 'smash monogamy.' It invokes, for me, the seemingly unlimited capacity of segments of the American left to position itself in the most self-destructive, most marginal posture possible. In the name of "liberation" and "emancipation," an agenda is put forward that tells people -- straight, gay, lesbian and bisexual -- that the left will invade their most intimate relationships, with an agenda of breaking them up and destroying them. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Leaving aside the incredible capacity for deliberate self-marginalization here, the old 'we are revolutionary, because nobody can stomach our revolutionary ideas' pose, the political issue at stake is how one changes for the better societies under the sway of homogenizing sexual disciplines, in which a singular norm of heterosexual marriage is established and conformity to it is rigorously policed. One can seek to de-homogenize, to pluralize the norm, to make the norm more and more heterogeneous as its reach is expanded to cover more and more diverse types of human relationships and human beings, thus according a greater and greater number of people the rights and privileges which are currently reserved for those within the homogeneous norm; this is the path that the African-American freedom struggle and the feminist struggle has historically pursued, with some successes. Or one can disown the very idea of any norms, however heterogeneous, and insist upon the targeting of relations and individuals within the norm as the 'enemy'. This is the Sex Panic approach, for which the expansion and pluralizing of the norm is simply the reconstitution of 'queer' as 'normal.' For them, it is more important that the 'queer' remain the unassimilated 'queer' than that queers have the full rights and privileges of other citizens.

I submit that the first approach is the only politically and ethically sound approach. It is the only approach which has any hope of political and social advancement for the excluded. Unless one wants to await in anticipation the New Jerusalem, in which all social conflict and contradiction is washed away, in which everyone becomes 'queer' by choice, there is no other political strategy. Indeed, the Sex Panic approach is a way of ensuring the purity of the 'elect,' of avoiding contamination by the normalizing pollution of the existing society, until the day of the New Jerusalem.

It is also the only approach which I find ethically defensible. I do not accept that we should live in a norm-less world of sexuality. There should be egalitarian and pluralist norms, enforced by law. Sexual relations must not be coercive. Sexual relations should be private, free from intrusion and extrusion; people should be able to use a public restroom without being an unwilling witness to other's sexual acts. Young children should be protected from sexual exploitation. [You will not find me, in the pose of libertarianism gone wild, being espousing tolerance for pedophilia]. And so on.

Further, I think that society has an interest in the healthy rearing of children, and to that end, it has a responsibility and a right to encourage and promote stable couple relationships. As someone who is raising children, I think that there is little question but that two adults will find child rearing a whole lot easier, and manage it a whole lot better, than a single parent. [I am not saying that a couple should stay together simply for child rearing, but that all other things being equal and then some, a couple is going to be able to do the job better, with a lot less stress on themselves.]

What needs to be challenged here is not the interest of society in promoting stable, long-term couples [marriage, if you will], but the idea that only heterosexual couples should be parents. Parenthood should be a choice available to all. Even a responsible individual should be able to adopt. What needs to be addressed is the responsibility of society to make the duties of parenthood a lesser burden on parents [ie, low cost, quality child care; quality schooling and after-school activities, etc.].

There is no need to demonize, to attack, to pathologize those who want no part of child rearing, or those who do not want to be part of long-term, stable relationships. But the notion that one should not extend legal institutions, rights and privileges, such as marriage, to gay men and lesbians because this would somehow undermine those who do not want to be married simply fails all reasonable political and ethical tests. There are millions of straight people who chose to live outside of marriage, and it has been decades since any of them suffered in the slightest for it.

Leo Casey United Federation of Teachers 260 Park Avenue South New York, New York 10010-7272 212-98-6869

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. -- Frederick Douglass --


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