Sometime about a year ago, the long-held position of Barack Obama and the Clintons on gay marriage — No! — became, in Emmanuel Goldstein fashion, abhorrent. Indeed, they’ve become harsh critics of those who still believe as they recently did.
Most Americans are fine with civil unions and, in live-and-let-live fashion, don’t worry all that much about gay marriage. Nonetheless, why the sudden dramatic change, if not for brilliant messaging and well-funded liberal gay donors whose pledges were made contingent on fluidity on the issue?
Key to the transformation in popular culture was the radical change in the perception of male homosexuality. In the 1980s and 1990s — read the work of the late gay investigative journalist Randy Shilts, or the old videos of San Francisco parades or arguments over bath houses — there was the general impression that male homosexuality was both more promiscuous than either heterosexual or lesbian practice, and that passive sexual intercourse was a catalyst for the spread of the AIDS virus and hepatitis (suddenly a venereal disease in a way it had not been in the past) in a manner that “normative” heterosexual intercourse was not.
Mention of male homosexuality in the news was usually linked with sexual practice, and the result was not favorable to the majority of the public. The age-old word “sodomy” was not then the taboo term that it is now. That perception — reality, whatever one calls it — has now vanished. “Gay” is a non-sexual sobriquet that involves vaguely defined expressions of affection. To suggest that anal intercourse is statistically more likely to be unhygienic or, if practiced with frequency, to run the risk of either hepatitis or AIDS is now proof of homophobia. Indeed, so is the use of “homosexual” for “gay.”
Most of us do not think too much about it, other than to ensure that we treat people — in my case whether in evaluating students, grant applicants, or scholars — equally, with no interest at all in their sexual lives.
That said, the transformation in gay-advocacy strategy has been nothing short of remarkable, its signature achievement being that there is absolutely nothing much different between gay male and straight male sexual congress — and that those who believe there is are themselves bigots.
If so, we should soon expect the liberal popular culture — from the movies of Quentin Tarantino to the recent Spartacus series — to stop presenting anal penetration as an especially unwelcome sort of act, or a particular nasty sort of sexual coercion.
In the logic of gay marriage, liberal culture — art, cinema, movies, journalism, politics — will soon represent gay male sexual practice as an act as natural as any other, without value judgments of any sort attached to it. Also, I would expect in the years ahead that the law, as it does now, will not add enhanced charges like “anal penetration” or “sodomy” to sexual criminal complaints. I am confused in this progressive era why I still read that a particular sex offender suspect is to be considered especially odious, by adding details to his charges like “sodomy” or “anal penetration.” Why qualify, much less legally enhance, the particular details of rape?
Incidentally, in matters of sexual consistency, there should be no longer suspicions of adult males being Brownie or Girl Scout Masters, given that the gay rights movement has made the Boy Scouts themselves suspect for unfairly discouraging gay Scout Masters. Is a forty-year old heterosexual male any more likely to look upon young girls in untoward fashion than a forty-year old gay male would young boys? Gay marriage is not the end of a long struggle, but the very beginning of a brave new world whose contours we can only imagine.
In good 1984-style, the Associated Press just outlawed “illegal immigrant.” Apparently “illegal alien” was so odious that its banishment was automatic and not worthy of citation. Yet what does “undocumented” mean, given one usually never applied for documents to be un-anything?
As Orwell saw, imprecision, or rather deliberate distortion, in language is always the first characteristic of the totalitarian.
Here are the public’s problems with illegal immigration, from 1-5:
1. The law: Once one group feels that it is exempt from federal law, others might as well, too. If I choose to break a federal statute of my own choosing with impunity, why would I fear doing the same with others? Who needs to file a 1040 or worry about car registration, a building permit, a fishing license, or rabies pet vaccination?
We forget that the illegal immigrant serially violates the law in obtaining all sorts of fraudulent documents (how can one with a false Social Security number be “undocumented”?), any one violation of which would harm the job or education prospects of a U.S. citizen.