A friend mentioned to me recently that he is no longer cruising since he can admit to himself that he is gay. I am sharing that because my friend’s case illustrates the benefits of a rational and open approach to sexuality.
His experience reflects a larger trend in western societies. Since Frank Wedekind, Sigmund Freud, and Bertrand Russell have shifted attitudes towards sex from denial and hypocrisy to open and rational engagement, sexual exploitation such as prostitution, which used to be central in every town of the western world, has been marginalized.
When young men and young women begun to interact openly and on an increasingly equal footing, venereal disease rates plummeted even before the invention of penicillin. The reason was the demise of the red light districts that used to dominate the hearts of every town in the western world.
Arguably, even aids would be less of a problem had we treated our gay brothers and sisters with respect instead of hounding them out of our families and communities.
Likewise, illegitimacy statistics are only a fraction of what they used to be during the Victorian age. If we had reliable numbers about sex crimes, I suspect that they would also show a decline by an order of magnitude.
To be sure, we do have problems with media images that trivialize sex with an anything goes attitude. Instead of pushing gays into the margins of society, we need to blame lazy and unimaginative marketers for that. The solution is to stop buying so much garbage and demand quality programing.
(In my opinion, the best way to empower our children to deal with the mass media manipulation is to properly educate them about sexuality. The earlier sex education begins, I suspect, the better the results. Answering a child’s question immediately and forthrightly is a good start.)
Family traditionalists are especially concerned about supposedly high divorce rates. It is true that divorce rates increased when gender relations were renegotiated, but that trend has since been reversed and divorce statistics are falling again.
Nationwide, divorce rates dropped from 4.7 divorces per thousand residents in 1990 to 3.7 in 2004. With 2.2 divorces per thousand residents in 2004, Massachusetts, the only state in the nation that allows for gay marriage, has a lower divorce rate than any state in the bible belt. With 3.9 divorces per thousand residents, Utah is not even close.
The bottom line is that domination and denial are imposing a steep price on individuals and society in terms of intra-family violence, prostitution, venereal disease, and sexual violence. Openness, on the other hand, has substantially reduced the self-destructive behavioral patterns.
Although I can empathize with the emotional challenges that gay marriage presents to family traditionalists, the argument that gay marriage would institutionally undermine the family does not hold up to the facts. For all our problems, our families are a lot healthier than their Victorian predecessors. On average, contemporary families are also performing better than the fifties model. At least that is what family violence, prostitution, and venereal disease data show.
When we project our concerns about ourselves by scapegoating a small minority, we might temporarily feel better but ultimately, the damage will catch up with us and our children. Reason and liberty, which means to respect the rights of others, create the strongest foundation for healthy families.
If we do not allow for gay marriage then our freedom is much more limited than it needs to be. Gay marriage is an indicator of the limits and influence of reason and liberty in a society.
I am glad that my friend does not need to be cruising any longer. I am sorry that I didn’t sustain his liberty earlier.