Thursday, February 09, 2012

What Can He Be Thinking?

Rick Santorum, that is. There is a video of Santorum talking about contraception in which he says clearly some think it is okay, but it’s not okay, as it leads to…Well, it’s not clear what it leads to as he doesn’t finish his statement, or if he does I can’t find it anywhere. But it is clearly not okay as far as Santorum is concerned because, I assume, it leads to promiscuity or perhaps worse. I am forced to merely speculate on what it is he has in mind, or even if he has anything much in mind. Given that 98%, perhaps even 99% of American women have used contraception at some time in their life and Santorum and other Republicans want to make it illegal, it might be wise to just leave the issue there, concluding it is just too ridiculous to pursue. But I can’t.

Pardon my blunt language here but I find his position on this matter somewhat confusing, to say the least. He seems to be inordinately concerned about homosexuality, Gay marriage and DADT, believing that Gay marriages already consummated should be overturned and DADT should be returned to what it was. The issue of contraception obviously does not apply here. Homosexual sex obviously is not in need of contraception. But what of other forms of sexual behavior, sometimes practiced not only by homnosexuals? Oral sex, for example, or Anal sex? Or the rather remarkable perversions that apparently exist in the real world of sex, none of which have anything to do with contraception? Then there is also his concern with “man on dog” possibilities or other forms of bestiality. These would seem to have little or nothing to do with the presence or absence of contraception. Thus his concern with doing away with it must not have anything to do with sex in general, but, rather, certain forms of sex in particular. I conclude from this (1) he has little knowledge of the range of human sexuality, and (2) he must have in mind something in the order of more or less common heterosexual behavior between consenting partners. He must have in mind something on the order of promiscuity, sexual orgies, adolescent sex, sex between unmarried people, adultery, and so on. In other words, the kind of sex normal people engage in without necessarily the intention of having a child and, in fact, free from the possibility of accidentally having one. I guess Santorum must believe that without contraception people would refrain from sex unless they wanted to produce another member for the Catholic Church, and/or engage in sex as a form of Russian roulette. I think Santorum has no idea what he is talking about and is taking a position so far from the mainstream of ordinary human behavior as to be laughable. Ignorance is bliss.

Contraception is not the only subject about which Santorum and other Republicans remain blissfully ignorant. They commonly insist that Gay marriages are wrong because traditionally marriage has always been between a man and a woman. While it is true that monogamy is the most common form of marriage (out of practical necessity I think), polygamy is actually the preferred form of marriage around the world and is fairly widespread. Even marriage between homosexuals occurred in some cases. Some American Indians, for example, had an institution called the “berdache” that involved a man taking on the female role and becoming a wife, or a woman taking on a male role and marrying another woman. Although relatively rare there were also polyandrous marriages where two or three men (usually brothers) would share a single wife. The children of these marriages were allocated to the fathers, not on the basic of actual biological parenthood, but more or less equally. That is, after the first one or two children were legally recognized as those of the eldest brother, the next children would be considered legally those of the next brother. In at least one African society a woman could marry a ghost, bring in a man to cohabit with her, and the children were legally recognized as those of the ghost. Similarly, if a name was about to disappear from a lineage a woman could marry another woman and the child would be considered a descendant of the man who had died childless. Similarly, in matrilineal societies the child belonged to the mother as the actual father was irrelevant and the significant father figure was the mother’s brother. I confess my ethnographic knowledge has dimmed a bit and there are no doubt even other variations in family configurations. It is clear, however, that those who speak with authority about marriage always having been between one man and one woman simply have no knowledge of marriage customs around the world, the typical ethnocentrism to be expected of people who know only their own customs. Actually, I’m pretty certain that even historically in America marriages were not always what they seemed, some were common law, some temporary, some polygamous, and so on. Anyway, what does it matter, those who don’t do what we do can just be dismissed as “savages,” “barbarians,” “towel heads,” “gooks,” or whatever. In America you don’t have to know anything to speak with authority on most everything. George W. Bush, for example, took us to “war” in Iraq unaware there were both Sunnis and Shiities and that that might be important. Hey, it’s the American way.

Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.

Thomas Gray

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