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Ys
ysabel
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May 2011
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Ys [userpic]

A person with whom I am discussing gay marriage keeps using this example:

NAMBLA wishes for men and boys to be able to engage freely in sexual relationships. There is no obvious harm to the state. They are a minority, yet most would agree that we should not condone this behavior. And so we "oppress" them.

Oppression is not simply preventing someone from doing what they want. Let's see what Webster has to say:

Main Entry: op·pres·sion
Function: noun
1 a : unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power b : something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power
2 : a sense of being weighed down in body or mind : DEPRESSION

In order to be oppressive, the use of power (the law) has to be unjust or cruel. Let's see what Webster says about unjust:

Main Entry: un·just
Function: adjective
1 : characterized by injustice : UNFAIR
2 archaic : DISHONEST, FAITHLESS
- un·just·ly adverb
- un·just·ness /-'j&s(t)-n&s/ noun

Hrm. So that leads us to unfair:

Main Entry: un·fair
Function: adjective
1 : marked by injustice, partiality, or deception : UNJUST
2 : not equitable in business dealings
- un·fair·ness noun

Not all that helpful yet, but there's "marked by partiality" in there. So, let's try this: oppression is the use of power to inappropriately benefit one group at the expense of another.

That "inappropriately" in there is, of course, the crux. Is the use of power to prevent one group of people from materially harming another group inappropriate? How about the use of power to prevent one group from having the same benefits as another group?

My guiding principles (which I will expand and defend in another post, I think) are based around risk of harm, moderated by personal consent. If there is a high risk that someone's actions will harm someone else, then it may be appropriate to try to prevent those actions. If there is a low risk that someone's actions will harm someone else, they should be allowed to do as they please. If there is a high risk of harm, but the person at risk of being harmed chooses to consent to the risk, they should be allowed to do as they please. (Note that these principles are far from universal. I'm fairly sure that they are far more permissive than my conversation partner's, for example.)

Given that principle, however, it is fairly easy to demonstrate the risk of harm to the child in a significantly unequal power situation, whether that's a parent hitting a child or a grown man attempting to have a sexual relationship with a boy. It's also very easy to demonstrate that the unequal power situation makes personal consent almost impossible. Thus, it is not oppressive to attempt to prevent these situations, because it's not an unfair limitation; the risk of harm is high and the ability for the person most likely to be harmed to consent is almost nonexistent.

One bit of that quote again: There is no obvious harm to the state.

High risk of nonconsensual harm to its citizens is, in my opinion, obvious harm to the state.

Of course, I will now shoot myself in the foot by making the point that I don't have a problem with NAMBLA in principle, merely in practice. It's not that I find the idea of men and boys having a sexual relationship objectionable; I don't. It's that I find the likelyhood that the boy will be nonconsensually harmed in such a relationship far too high.

I have a similar reaction to most drivers, to use a less emotionally charged example. I don't have a problem with the idea of people driving, but I believe we as a country are far too permissive with driver's licensing. The risk of nonconsensual harm from automobiles is incredibly high, and yet we as a country do so little to try to prevent accidents; we don't require significant driver training and we are incredibly slow to take away driving priviledges from someone who has demonstrated themselves to be a significant risk.

More to come, I think.

Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Comments

Your problem is that you're being reasonable and giving this matter some thought. Don't you know that analysis and reason are passe these days? It's all about demonization and inflated rhetoric now. Discourse is dead.

Exactly. This is where I tend to go with the NAMBLA issue as well. In an ideal world where there weren't all these sexual hang ups and power tripping going on and where it would be reasonably assured by societal pressure that the boys were well cared for and not pressed into doing anything they didn't want to do - would I have an issue with adolescent and adult sexual encounters? No, in principle, I wouldn't. The historical record states pretty clearly that once upon a time part of bringing a youth into full adulthood was predicated by an older adult initiating them to the mysteries of sexuality - teaching them how their equipment works etc.
In practice, in this society? None of these things are in place and the incidence of harm and pressure on the youth to be damaged by this is too high. And NAMBLA is also prone to endorsing sex with people who are, in the most simple terms, Underripe. A six year old having sex with a grown adult is quite a different thing than a sixteen year old doing so. This is why I have big issues with NAMBLA and why I find their whine about being "oppressed" disingenuous at best.

The risk of harm to innocent citizens in allowing NAMBLA to do what they want to do is too great. But that's got nothing to do with two consenting adults who choose to live their lives together.

If heterosexuals can be free to marry absolutely the wrong person and live their lives in mutually destructive relationships in which they are tied to this epic mistake in a legally binding way I find it hard to tolerate the argument that somehow the essential nature of gay marriage is -more- damaging to society. More damaging than say, nasty divorces in which kids are involved? I don't -think- so.

Exactly.

The risk of harm to innocent citizens in allowing NAMBLA to do what they want to do is too great. But that's got nothing to do with two consenting adults who choose to live their lives together.

They are related in this vital way - both are challenging societal mores that we hold dear, though peoples' opinions as to the severity and actual form the harm will take vary. Your latter statement can be accommodated by civil unions, with which I have no problem.


And so you make the case that NAMBLA is ultimately harmful. Good, I agree with you (and let's not quote dictionaries at each other - it's rather pedantic). In my mind, the case is equally clear that polygamy, bigamy, and homosexuality all pose immediate harm - not to those involved, but to others' children through exposure during their development.

You don't agree with the latter, but with the former, yet we both wish to curtail certain behaviors. And so neither of us is an ogre - we just disagree on the definition of "harm".

we just disagree on the definition of "harm".

Oh, that's exactly where I was getting to. This is establishing foundational stuff. My issue is going to come down to asking the question, "And when you can't agree on the definition of harm, who decides?"

One extreme is to allow everything and just take the risks of harm. The other is to attempt to elimate all risk of any harm whatsoever. Neither would be a society I want to live in.

Note that there are people who would consider your practice of religion harmful, so this should be a concern of yours, too. I don't think you want to be stuck in a situation where things you consider to be necessary to your spirituality have been made illegal because they might harm someone.

And so we get back to "Okay, we think we need to draw a line. How do we decide where draw it, and how do we be fair about that?"

I'll get to that in a bit here. Work is being insane.


This isn't something new - it's something we've been working out for over 200 years. You just happen to fall on a highly marginalized minority on the subject.

The ultimate minority is a minority of one - and our society doesn't accommodate individuals, nor value them above the combined wishes of others, either.

"And when you can't agree on the definition of harm, who decides?"

We do. Not you, and not me. We. If you are on the "losing" side of "we", then it sucks. But, not to put too fine a point on it, that's life.

I'm sure the Mormons weren't terribly happy about being denied polygamy in the latter part of the 19th century either, but life went on.

This misses my point.

"We" can decide competatively or cooperatively. We can compromise, or we can try to force everyone else to be in our camp.

Tolerance will always lose against determined intolerance, because tolerant folks are trying to compromise, and intolerant folks are using force. Human nature seems to be fairly xenophobic, though; being tolerant is not a winning strategy, even if one feels it to be the only right answer.

All I can say is that I will be sad for you when the coming theocracy bans your particular sect of Christianity...but I won't be at all surprised.


I can agree with some of what you say, I just don't believe tolerance is always the right answer. There are some things that are truly toxic to societies and, as was once said, "The compromise between food and poison is death."

I find it interesting that you think I'm Christian - actually, I don't fit into any modern interpretation of Christianity. But I greatly respect and value the degree of civilization and tolerance that, on balance, Christian perspective has brought to the world, and recently, with attacks on any public recognition of Christian expression, such as Christmas, displaying the Ten Commandments, the desire to obliterate "In God We Trust" from our currency, the powerful effort to remove "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, I now realize that Christianity (and even the very notion of deism) is already under serious attack, and has been for quite some time; I've only woken up to it recently.

If I were to describe my religion I'd say it's a cross between Gnostic Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism (really a philosophy, but oh well).

So I really wouldn't worry about a theocracy - we are going far afield of that direction in this country, which is why you're seeing powerful efforts by the faithful to push back in the other direction to regain balance in society. "Freedom of Religion" was never intended to be "Freedom FROM Religion".

Thoughts

Huh.

I don't really know what to say. I dunno. But . . . I was molested as a kid, and the parallel you're trying to draw here makes me kind of nauseated and my vision swim.

I've tried to put the reason in a kind of intellectual form, although it doesn't look much like the emotion by the time I'm done.

If this comparison becomes part of the national debate now, then it will be used by organizations like NAMBLA later. They will say: "Look, the country has already allowed this behavior that can confuse and discomfit children through exposure to ideas outside the norm. You must in turn allow us to engage in behavior that shatters the boundaries of children's souls and strips them of their humanity. You've already said it's basically the same."

Despite the horror of the words, rapists and pedophiles have a pretty good rep in America. Just look at the short prison sentences, the attitudes, and the pervasiveness of their influence. Please don't give them the extra boost of associating them with homosexuals and polygamists, the vast majority of which are just weird but good folks.

Rebecca

Re: Thoughts


First, I'd just like to say I am deeply saddened by your experience as a child, and it was certainly not my intention to bring up bad memories in anyone. I have some bad experiences of my own in that regard (though probably not as bad as yours) and I understand; my comparison was for legal purposes and how we handle behaviors that a minority wishes only. It's a useful comparison for me in this regard as it's straightforward; not many people seriously believe NAMBLA should have their way, and so it helps virtually everyone empathize with a moral position of "entitlement" or "rights" they will not give quarter. I most certainly am not equating supporters of gay marriage with NAMBLA supporters from any moral perspective.

I completely agree with what you say, and indeed find it chilling.

Re: Thoughts

It's not so much that it brings up bad memories. I'm just . . .

I'm really . . .

. . . wow. I'm a lot more rational when I'm discussing more generic points.

It's . . .

It's really dangerous.

It's . . .

You *have* to keep clear distinctions. You *can't* start muddying the waters between rape and . . . anything else.

It's not an advocacy. The reason NAMBLA works so well for your argument is that it is *not what it claims to be*. It paints itself as an organization about social justice. It's not. It's about rape. Your argument works by blurring the boundaries between the two, and that's *wrong*. :(

Rebecca

Re: Thoughts

(Double post in two seconds, one deleted, because I caught and corrected a bad misstatement. Sorry I didn't catch it before the 'post'.)

Rebecca

(and let's not quote dictionaries at each other - it's rather pedantic)

You'll note I didn't do it in your thread. It wasn't intended to be quoting the dictionary at you, it was intended to be an organizational tool for my thoughts.

I apologize if it seemed condescending or something. Not my intention at all.