Friday, July 30, 2004

Marriage is changing itself - let's help it along

Oh dear, here we go again, everyone yelling the world will end if gays marry and bring up children. The fundamental error common to so-called “protectors” of traditional marriage lies in assuming that marriage has a fixed form and any tinkering will cause it to implode.

Look at the statement released a couple of months ago by the American Anthropological Association, which said, in part, “The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriages as an exclusively heterosexual institution.” In other words, relax: the sky isn’t about to fall.

The AAA went on to say “Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.”

Detractors somehow reach the conclusion that because the rate of decline of so-called “traditional marriages” appears to have increased in Sweden since the introduction of same-sex marriage, that the two pehonomena are causally linked. There's no evidence to show that there is, in fact, any connection; the decline was already taking place and the rate has remained unchanged.

This so-called “traditional” marriage is in fact a relatively recent invention: according to anthropologist Roger Lancaster (The Trouble With Nature: Sex & Science in Popular Culture) it didn’t exist in Old Testament pre-Christian times, and took hundreds of years to become the norm as Christianity spread. Until then most marriages were polygamous, and everyone seems to have managed quite nicely.

Marriage for love, or for the care of children – rather than marriage as a property transaction and children as cheap agricultural labour – has only been the accepted definition for around 200 years. The heterosexual nuclear family, rather than the multi-generation model, only came into being during the Industrial revolution, as families became more mobile in the search for work and extended families ceased to remain on one patch of ground for life.

What the Swedish figures, and similar statistics from around the Western world show, is not that this “traditional” marriage needs shoring up, but it has outlived it’s usefulness and relevance in it's present form, and is evolving into something else. Instead of trying to patch it up, it’s time to let evolution take it’s course as marriage morphs into something more suitable for today’s world – and that includes same-sex marriage and parenting.

The Sporting Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

The culture of pack rapes in sport needs to be addressed, but I fear the wellspring of this activity is not even being noticed, much less addressed. The debate so far has been conducted on terms that make it clear many of the participants are either ignorant of the true drivers of this behaviour, or unwilling to face the facts.

Men have sex with men when they get the chance

If you sequester a group of fit young men in close intimacy – as, for example, in prison, in army camp, in seminaries – then a strongly homoerotic situation results, with many men who would not otherwise express the normally supressed but wholly natural homosexual component of their nature enjoying same sex activities. This is so well known as to be a cliche.

Trainers exploit the vulnerability of men in groups

Team training is designed to deliberately exploit this fact. Here we have extremely fit young men, with high sex drives, in a closely interdependent team, facing an external threat – the opposing army or team. These young men sleep, eat, shower and train together, frequently naked or near-naked, and in close physical contact.

Their physical and emotional dependence on each other is promoted and encouraged: you “do it for your mates.” By an act of misdirection, the reason for which we’ll get to later, it is called “male bonding”, but it’s real name is love.

Don't mention the homoeroticism

Small wonder, then, that a powerfully homoerotic atmosphere– though God forbid we should call it by it’s true name - results. But the trainers also simultaneously maintain a strenuously anti-gay culture. The desired result is thus achieved: a high level of confusion, frustration and consequent aggression, which is then available to be channeled against opponents on the field of play.

This is why sports teams so often taunt their opponents with homophobic epithets, calling them pouftas, girls etc. They are saying that their opponents are weak because they succumbed to and acted upon the homoerotic milieu in which we all live – we, however, being stronger, did not.

This is why team members used to be encouraged to refrain from sex with their female partners before a match, lest the aggression be dissipated and the team bond weakened.

This is why the sports hierarchies fought so long to keep gays out: if you admit and allow homosexuality in the training rooms, this strategy is weakened. An outlet for the sexual tension that has been deliberately created will then be available within the team.

The same logic was behind the ban of women being allowed in training rooms. These trainers know they are playing with fire – they feared the presence of a match would set off an explosion and “reduce operational effectiveness.”

Clearly, this is a dangerous pressure-cooker strategy – it might lead to footballers forcing sex on each other, in accordance with the pecking order, as happens in prison. This is turn might lead to factions and jealousies within the team.

Men can have sex with men and still think it's striaght - just stick a woman in the middle

This is where group sex comes in, and why it is an integral part of sports culture. It’s a safety valve, where the men can have sex with each other, without appearing to, by forcing it on someone else.

The interpellation of a female body between the genitals of two rutting footballers allows them to believe they are having sex with her, whilst they are actually having sex with each other. When two men simultaneously enter a woman, her presence is not as a person herself, or even a sexual object. She is a human distraction, superficially heterosexualising the situation. Other members of the team, aroused by the sight of their desired mates engaged in sex, join the action, or masturbate while awaiting their turn to engage the only permitted orifices present.

It is only by exposing this abusive mechanism that we can begin to change it. The homoeroticism of sport must be encouraged and celebrated rather than being repressed. Less destructive and dangerous mechanisms must be employed in the training process. Only then will the culture of pack rape begin to disappear - and both gays and women will be the beneficiaries.

Straights Get Marriage on the Cheap

Instead of getting all upset because John HowHard won’t let us same-sex couples get married, let’s turn down the emotion and get practical.

What threat?

What is all the fuss about, people? How exactly would me and my husband getting wed impact your relationship? I simply cannot see that gay marriage as a ‘threat’ to anything or any one. If there is a ‘threat’ to marriage – and no-one can deny it’s in decline –it’s because heterosexual couples get it on the cheap, and value it accordingly.

In the past, when people lived mostly in small communities, getting married wasn’t easy. The local vicar would quiz the couple to make sure their religion and morals were up to scratch. Parents and relatives would check family backgrounds for a genetic disposition to physical or metal illness, and financially stability. The local biddies would know of previous liaisons and proclivities. The work habits, skills and abilities would be known and evaluated. There might even be a trial marriage to make sure the couple were fertile, followed by a quick dash to the altar as soon as the bride ‘showed’.

Make marriage licences hard to get

In other words, a marriage licence had to be earned by passing a series of tests, like a driving licence: it was a certificate proving you were fit to marry, as a driving licence says you are fit to drive.

Then along came the romanticism, and the personal ‘feelings’ of the couple now became the sole unsteady foundation on which marriage has since tried to stand ever since. As long as the couple loved each other, that was enough. Add to that the end of the close-knit local community and the rise of the nuclear family and big-city living, and getting married became ridiculously cheap and easy.

Too casual – too easy. We get what we pay for, and because (heterosexual) people can get married (and un-married) relatively easily, they don’t value it. Marriage licences are now meaningless, certifying nothing except the ability to pay the fee.

To revitalise marriage, we must re-institute the old system of thoroughly testing and scrutinizing couples – any couples, gay or straight - before giving them a licence to couple up and breed. Time to make it really difficult to get married. Make it part of the education system in schools, colleges and TAFEs: you don’t have the points, you don’t get the licence. Rack up too many demerit points for beating your wife or neglecting your children, and your licence is suspended or withdrawn.

Why have marriage at all?

It can’t be denied that coupling up, in whatever combination, is a benefit to society. It’s good for the physical and mental health of the parties involved, reduces stress, provides economic support, etc. etc. – in short, saves everyone a lot of time, effort and money. Shares the work around.

Among other things, it’s a business arrangement between the couple and society. Society spends less on physical and mental health, orphanages, daycare, old folks homes, utilities, infrastructure, income support, welfare, and a hundred and one other things. . . . and in return couples get a kick-back. Couples pay less tax than singles, even less if they’re raising kids or looking after seniors, because they do more ‘free’ work.

It’s the equality, stupid

It’s got nothing (much) to do with sex. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, the payoff for society’s the same. So the payoff for the people involved should be the same.

Personal feelings shouldn’t really come into it. Feelings do not really count in this debate. What counts is fairness, justice and equality. God doesn’t come into this either. Citizens have all kinds of Gods, or no Gods at all. Gods don’t vote and have no place in the political system. His / her / their / it’s views are in fact specifically excluded from the system. Even if we had any way to ascertain them. Which we don’t.

So leave your feelings out of it. Leave your religion out of it. It’s political. It’s economic. It’s practical. If one selfish little bunch want that word marriage for themselves, then fine. Keep it. I don’t much care. It’s only a word. But if I take on the job of partnering with another human being, I want the same deal as any other partnered human being.

Gay people have been agitating for marriage because it gives us equality. It’s the equality that counts, not the marriage. Perhaps now the time has come for a wholesale rethink of relationship patterns, structures and laws, and their social and economic underpinnings. After all, marriage as it stands doesn’t actually seem to be work very well for traditional couples: perhaps it’s time to devise new forms that allow us to take care of each other and our children. Or else to restore the institution of marriage to it’s original strength and rigour.

Senators Come Out!

June 2nd, in an interview on Joy Melbourne 94.9FM's Breakfast Bar with Brendan & Kaye, openly gay Democrat Senator Brian Grieg welcomed Senator Penny Wong to the ranks of out gay senators, joining himself and Green Senator Bob Brown - and pointed out that "if the other two gay
senators would come out" and vote en bloc with them, the gay community would hold the balance of power in the Senate.

Please, whoever you are, consider where your best interests and those of the community really lie - with a Prime Minister who has proved he is happy to put anyone else in harms way - refugees, children, soldiers, civil servants, defence staff, Peter Costello and now gays and lesbians and their children, only to keep himself in power - or with your fellow gays and lesbians, who only ask to be treated exactly the same as everyone else.

How to Reform The Banks

Mark Latham says if he's elected he'll do something about the banks Good - it's long overdue.

Before moving to Australia almost ten years ago, I lived and worked in several European countries and the USA, and have held bank accounts in most of them, but until I came to Australia I was not charged fees for running a cheque account for many years.

In fact, in the UK, far from charging me to have a bank accounts, all the major banks pay me interest. Neither has any US or European bank ever charged me to run a cheque account.

In the rest of the civilized world, banks are content with the profit they make by the sophisticated management of the money they hold – and there is nothing to prevent Australian banks doing the same except greed.

It’s about time Australian banks dropped their 19th century business model and came into the 20th century: I do appreciate that for the time being the 21st might be a bit of a stretch. And if they whine that can’t manage it, perhaps opening the Australian banking market to some genuine free competition would do the trick.

Gay Marriage

The Australian Senate deadline for submissions to the enquiry into the governments attempt to ban Australian recognition of overseas gay marraiges closed today.

I made the following submission to the enquiry:-

So we are to have a Senate enquiry into the issue of same-sex marriage, and already we can see the danger of ill-informed prejudice swamping any rational discussion, especially if an election is called in the meantime. I hope the enquiry will pay no heed to this sort of nonsense and instead take a cool calm look at the facts. Here's a short checklist of some of them.

Government claim: Amending the Marriage Act isn't taking away anything as gay marriage isn't currently recognised.

WRONG: It is highly possible that the courts could, under current law, recognise overseas gay marriages. To amend the Marriage Act is taking away that possibility. If this were not so, why bother? All other overseas marriages are automatically recognised at least in part, even when not aligned with Australian culture and law - e.g., polygamous marriages: why not ours? This is disrespectful to other countries and cultures.

Claim: Marriage has an exclusively heterosexual history

WRONG: Marriage has a very diverse history, including same sex marriages in many countries and cultures, including the early Christian church, stretching back 2000 years. For most of that time it was a sexually diverse and polygamous institution. The modern monogamous heterosexual nuclear family is a modern invention less than 200 years old.

Claim: Children need a mother and a father

WRONG: All studies show that children do at least as well with gay couples: in fact, according to a Canadian government study recently published and introduced in evidence at the UN, because gay relationships tend to be more egalitarian and consultative (both good Australian values!), they are BETTER role models than traditional marriages

The same study found gay fathers often have superior fathering skills than heterosexual fathers, because they provide clear boundaries and discipline, but are not afraid to express warmth and love - the ideal mix for child development.

Besides, this contention is an insult to all hardworking and successful single parents, grandparents, aunties, fosterers and other carers who successfully raise children.

Claim: The government has already made a major concession on gay Superannuation.

WRONG: it has made the absolute minimum concession it thinks it can get away with. What about survivor pensions? What about contributing to your partner's super? What about veterans pensions? Etc. etc.

Claim: Equality for same-sex couples and singles can easily be provided by other means

WRONG: The simplest way to equalize rights, benefits and treatment of gay couples in law, work, society, the armed forces and everywhere else is with one simple Act - legalise gay marriage.

Anything else involves an endless series of little changes to a myriad of bills and systems, with each one providing a fresh battleground. Some we'll win, some we'll lose, some we'll compromise, and the end result will not be equality, simply a different kind of inequality. While at the same time opponents will claim that alternative couple formats, such as civil unions,
are only marriage by another name, and will oppose them anyway. Look at what's happening in New Zealand and the UK now..

Take a look at the statue of justice at every law court: she wears a blindfold. Justice demands that the law must be as blind to sexuality, gender, gender identity or gender expression as it is supposed to be to colour, race, belief and wealth. There must be no law applied to gays & lesbians which does not apply equally to anyone else, and vice versa.

Claim: We must proceed by small steps so as not to antagonize the rest of the community, which is not yet ready to accept the idea of same-sex marriage

WRONG: Most successful changes of this nature come about in one bold step. The community then discovers that the sky isn't falling, gets used to the change, and wonders what all the fuss was about. Take a look at Holland, Belgium . . . . .

Claim: We mustn't offend the churches

WRONG: Excuse me, but this is a secular country in which church and state are separated and the public has a wide range of religious beliefs, or none at all. The government's job is to govern for all sections of the population and all beliefs, and must never privilege one above another. Once again, remember that blindfold that justice wears: and remember to check your blinkers at the committee room door.