Tag Archives: Dan Savage

Asking, Telling, Continuing

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic with the round-up

Greg Sargent:

Earlier this afternoon, just before Harry Reid went onto the Senate floor and gave a speech calling for a vote on repeal of don’t ask don’t tell — which has now failed — he turned to a Senate aide and shrugged his shoulders.

“I have to go to the floor, but I’m not going to like giving this speech,” he said, according to the aide.

Reid then went to the floor and called for an immediate vote on the defense authorization bill containing repeal, in the full knowledge that it was likely to go down. As Reid knew, he had not agreed to Susan Collins’s demand for four days of debate time, giving several Republicans who support repeal an excuse to vote No, dooming the bill to fall short of 60 votes needed for passage, 57-40.

I have now spoken to a senior Senate aide and put together what happened and why Reid did this.

Reid concluded that even if Collins was sincere in her promise to vote for repeal if given the four days of debate, there was no way to prevent the proceedings from taking longer, the aide says. Reid decided that the cloture vote, the 30 hours of required post-cloture debate, and procedural tricks mounted by conservative Senators who adamantly oppose repeal would have dragged the process on far longer.

“It would have been much more than four days,” the aide says. “Her suggestions were flat out unworkable given how the Senate really operates. You can talk about four days until the cows come home. That has very little meaning for Coburn and DeMint and others who have become very skilled at grinding this place to a halt.”

After spending several hours thinking it over today and consulting with other members of the Dem caucus, Reid decided to push forward with the vote today, the aide says.

The aide rejected the claim that Reid should have extended the session another week in order to accomodate GOP procedural demands, as Joe Lieberman and others had asked, arguing that extended debate would actually have dragged the session into January, what with other things on the Senate to-do list.

“Why do we need to extend the session?” the aide asked. “Republicans have blocked this bill since February. We’ve made offer after offer to try to reach agreement on this. Going through those procedural motions along with the START treaty and tax cuts would have taken us until January 5th.”

Andrew Sullivan’s round-up

Jonathan Bernstein:

Yes, Republicans could have dragged things out until January…but so what, if ultimately it gets done before the clock runs out?  And what exactly is the downside if they try and just can’t quite finish?

Meanwhile, Mark Udall just went to the Senate floor and said he’d like to see either another bite at this, or an attempt to bring back DADT as a standalone bill.  Reid’s office apparently believes that, too, could be blocked, but I’m not really sure why they believe that, if there are really 60 votes for it and, say, ten calendar days remain after the rest of their business gets done.

More Bernstein

Bradford Palmer at TNR:

Two Republicans in particular, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had earlier said they were committed to DADT repeal. But both ended up voting against it, claiming they wanted to see the tax-cut bill resolved first and more time to debate. Principled! Meanwhile, West Virginia’s newest Democrat, Joe Manchin, also voted no, but here’s what one Democratic aide toldHuffington Post‘s Sam Stein: “I would say that if he was somehow the 60th vote, I do not think he would have voted the way he did.” In other words, there actually were 60 senators who wanted to end discrimination against gays in the military, it just didn’t work out that way because…

So is that it for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? It looks that way. Collins, Reid, and Joe Lieberman are planning to sponsor stand-alone repeal legislation that’s separate the defense spending bill, but as one Senate aide told the Post, the odds of success are slim because, once again, “such a move would be ripe for all sorts of procedural shenanigans.” What’s that? But repealing DADT would be the right thing to do, morally speaking? As if that had anything to do with anything.

Ezra Klein:

The bill repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t fail: The Senate did. The bill got 57 votes, not 49. As Dylan Matthews pointed out, a procedural failsafe that’s theoretically meant to protect the rights of minorities was just used to restrict the rights of minorities — which is how it’s always been, of course.

The various players are excitedly blaming one another. Anonymous aides to Harry Reid are arguing that Susan Collins’s demands would’ve meant so much conservative obstruction that there wouldn’t have been time for a vote. Collins was just on the television saying that if Reid had only given her more time, the bill would’ve passed.

I don’t care who’s right. And nor should anyone else. The diffusion of responsibility that comes from deciding law through complex parliamentary gamesmanship rather than simple majority-rules votes is the problem. What happened today is that a majority of the Senate voted for a bill that the majority of Americans support. The bill did not pass. Neither Harry Reid nor Susan Collins are ultimately responsible for that. The rules of the Senate are.

Dan Savage:

Well, gee. There’s still time—in theory—for the Senate to act. But fuck ’em: here’s hoping we get a ruling from a judge that stops all expulsions under DADT. That’s what Defense Secretary Gates warned the Senate about during his testimony; if they didn’t pass the DADT repeal, a judge was likely to step in and order an immediate end to DADT. (Hey, did you know that the bill being debated didn’t actually end DADT?)

And that will, of course, be good for the Republicans. They’ll get to scream and yell about judicial tyranny, liberal judges, and legislating from the bench—all because they successfully blocked all efforts to, you know, legislate from the legislature.

Allah Pundit:

Even more hope for Lieberman’s bill:

On Manchin, aide says: “I would say that if he was somehow the 60th vote, I do not think he would have voted the way he did”

If that’s true, then Reid doesn’t need Brown and Murky. He needs only one, and then the pressure of being the deciding vote will flip Manchin to yes too.

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Filed under LGBT, Military Issues

Lift My Luggage, Baby

John Byrne at Raw Story:

A Christian leader and prominent neuro-psychiatrist who co-founded the Family Research Council with evangelist James Dobson took a ten-day European vacation with a callboy he met through RentBoy.com and was caught in an airport with the escort by a Miami newspaper.

The escort said he had met George Rekers, professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina, on RentBoy.com. Rekers, when confronted, didn’t deny that he’d met the callboy online, but said he had hired him to help him carry his baggage and didn’t learn he was generally hired for “private company” until mid-way through his European vacation.

“I had surgery,” Rekers told Miami’s New Times, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” (The paper noted that it didn’t stop him from pushing a “tottering” pile of luggage through Miami International Airport.)

The callboy, identified by a pseudonym, told the New Times‘ Penn Bullock and Brandon Thorp that Rekers claim that he didn’t know his “line of work” seemed spurious.

“He should’ve been able to tell you that,” he said. “But that’s up to him.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

George A. Rekers cofounded the Family Research Council with religious right icon James Dobson. And he’s been a key leader of the “ex-gay” movement for years, even testifying on behalf of the states of Arkansas and Florida in defense of their laws banning adoptions by gays and lesbians. Alas he was caught a few days ago coming home from a ten day European vacation with a male prostitute he’d found on Rentboy.com.

Rekers first claimed he didn’t know the man was a prostitute, then said he’d hired him to carry his luggage and finally went with he was trying to bring him the message of Jesus.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs

Andrew Sullivan

Joe My God:

Rekers is part of the fake pediatricians group created by NARTH.

Rekers is a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization that systematically attempts to turn gay people straight. And the Huffington Post recently singled out Rekers as a member of the American College of Pediatricians — an official-sounding outfit in Gainesville that purveys lurid, youth-directed literature accusing gays of en masse coprophilia. (In an email, the college’s Lisa Hawkins wrote, “ACPeds feels privileged to have a scholar of Dr. Rekers‘ stature affiliated with our organization. I am sure you will find Prof. Rekers to be an immaculate clinician/scholar, and a warm human being.”)

Congratulations to the Miami New Times! Here’s Rekers’ Facebook page, should you care to write him a note congratulating him on his excellent taste in boy hookers.

UPDATE: I’ve just put a call in to the Family Research Council to see if Tony Perkins has anything to say about their co-founder. I’m not holding my breath, but it was a fun call to make.\

UPDATE II: I have revealed the identity of the male hooker.

UPDATE IV: My click-out thingy tells me that thousands of you have hit Reker’s Facebook page. Gee, could that be why it’s now GONE. Snork!

Dan Savage at The Stranger:

Rekers is also the author of Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Identity. I haven’t read the book but I’m guessing it encourages parents to believe that they can shape their children’s sexual identities. Which, of course, they can’t. (Lord knows my partner and I tried.) Rekers is also a member of the American College of Pediatrics, a fake pediatricians organization formed by religious conservatives to counter the reality-based American Academy of Pediatrics (which opposes “curing” gay people, argues for more support for gay youth, and backs gay marriage and adoptions by gay couples). Let’s pause to savor this moment… and then let’s get to work. We have to do all we can to make sure “lift my luggage” enters the lexicon alongside “hike the Appalachian trail.

Richard Lawson at Gawker:

Rekers has been speaking out against all things gay for many years now, so vehemently that one is led to assume that he’s overcompensating for something. And indeed that looks to be the case. Rekers traveled to Europe on a vacation recently and hired an escort through Rentboy.com to “carry his luggage.” He claims he recently had surgery and thus couldn’t do the lifting himself. Why he found a porter through a gay prostitution website — the only place where Lucien, as the rentboy is called by the Miami New Times (who broke the story), offers his services — remains unexplained.

Not that we can blame Rekers, really. Listen to the a description of the lad, from the New Times:

The pictures on the Rentboy.com profile show a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile touts his “smooth, sweet, tight ass” and “perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut)” and explains he is “sensual,” “wild,” and “up for anything” – as long you ask first.

Gurgle. Rekers claims that he only found out the fellow was a hooker halfway through the trip. That must have been a fun discovery, Georgie! Though how he couldn’t have known, given how explicit Rentboy.com is, is a little confusing.


Rekers was a driving force behind the whole gay-to-straight conversion rehab idea. And you’d think that since he basically founded this thing, he could’ve landed a stint in one of them himself.

UPDATE #2: Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp at Riptide 2.0

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Filed under Families, LGBT, Religion

Bloggers Both Ask And Tell

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff, testify before Congress today, they are expected to announce a series of first steps in the direction of preparing the military for the integration of gays and lesbians. According to an administration official, the most visible of those steps will be to revise the rule that allows third parties — other soldiers or outside accusers — to “out” soldiers and precipitate investigations that lead to their dismissal. Basically: if someone else outs you, you won’t be dismissed. It’s not clear what percentage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell dismissals would be effected by this revision.

Sources said that Gates will tell Congress that he plans to appoint a commission, including civilians, to plan for an array of changes to military procedures and codes. Will sexual harassment laws have to be revised? How will sexual tolerance be taught in military academies? What will disciplinary procedures entail for soldiers who harass gay soldiers? What does it mean to declare oneself “gay?” What about partnership benefits for spouses?

The commission will report back within a year. Why so long? For one thing, Gates and Mullen will argue that full integration of gays and lesbians must be pursued carefully, in order to protect the rights of gay soldiers and to make sure that the policy, when finally implemented, is well accepted and seen as legitimate. Civil rights groups are likely to protest the delay, but the White House is on board with the timetable, and it’s not clear whether Congress can pass a full repeal.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell at The Nation:

Military service is at the heart of citizenship.

The implied social contract that binds a nation to her people is most fully realized in two primary acts: tax paying and military service. Those who labor and pay a portion of their income to the government have a particularly strong claim on government services and recognition. Those who willingly risk their lives to protect the borders and the ideals of their country also have a thick claim on citizenship.

This is why the armed forces have historically been the terrain on which marginal groups have sought full inclusion into the American project.

Enslaved men who escaped to freedom behind Union lines demanded the right to fight as soldiers against the Confederacy. President Lincoln’s reluctance to arm these black men was rooted not only in his deep racial prejudices, but also in his concern that their service would give legitimate claims on equality. After the Civil War, Lincoln himself came to support the franchise for freedmen who had served in his army. In fact, his public declaration that black soldiers should have the vote precipitated his assassination.

During WWI, W.E.B. Du Bois urged African Americans to rally behind the flag and volunteer for military duty. He believed the services of black men could not go unnoticed by a grateful nation and felt that black soldiers would give the race stronger claims on the vote, equal education, and full citizenship. But in the years following WWI African American servicemen were regularly harassed, beaten, and lynched for wearing their uniforms on America’s streets. A black body in an American uniform was a statement against Jim Crow; it was a claim to full citizenship and it was viciously punished in a country still unwilling to fulfill its promise of equality.

American historians have argued that we must locate the initial impulse of the mid-century Civil Rights Movement in the radicalizing effect that WWII battles against Nazi Germany had on black soldiers. Unwilling to accept segregated service in a war against genocide and imperialism, these soldiers were unwilling to accept Jim Crow and racial violence at home.

Similar stories can be told about European immigrants who became fully American through their initial inclusion in the armed services. It can be told about young people who used their service in Vietnam to win an extension on the right to vote to 18-21 year olds. It can be told about women who moved from support roles to combat duty even as they shattered glass ceilings back home in the states.

Gay soldiers are part of this long history. Their open and unfettered participation in America’s armed services is a necessary part of the struggle for full inclusion in America. When gay men and lesbians can openly and proudly point to their sacrifices for our country then they can call upon our country for full first-class citizenship.

Let’s end DADT during Black History Month. President Obama’s presence in the White House was made possible by the broken bodies of black soldiers who believed and sacrificed for a country that shackled and segregated them. They willingly bled for this country and with that blood they bought for all of us a country where a black man could be president.

William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”

John McCain’s response to Obama’s statement was that of a grown-up: “This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.” Whatever its muddled origins and theoretical deficiencies, the fact is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” works pretty well at accommodating the complex demands of a war-ready military nestled in a liberal society.

The advocates of repeal say, it’s a matter of basic rights. No, it’s not. Leave aside the fact that there are difficult and unresolved questions of how our society should deal in various areas of public policy with questions of sexual orientation. There is no basic right to serve in the military. That’s why forms of discrimination we would ban in civilian life are permitted: Women have less opportunity to fight than men. The disabled are discriminated against, as are the short, the near-sighted, and the old.

Advocates of repeal will say sexual orientation is irrelevant to military performance in a way these attributes are not. But this is not clearly true given the peculiar characteristics of military service.

We’ll hear a lot, as the debate moves forward, about gay Arabic translators being discharged from military service. A decision to separate from the military someone who is sitting in an office in Northern Virginia may look silly. But the Obama Defense Department is entirely free to ensure that those men and women continue to use their skills to serve their country in those same offices as civilians. And translators who are uniformed members of the military are subject to the usual demands of training and deployment, so the questions about the effect of open homosexuals on unit morale and cohesion in training and combat situations remain relevant.

Andrew Sullivan responds to Kristol:

I presume he means that he thinks that straight servicemembers would be traumatized by having to serve alongside gay servicemembers because they harbor absurd fears that they will be sexually harassed or even “assaulted”, as his ally Tony Perkins recently asserted. So soldiers who can take on al Qaeda are too weak-kneed to deal with a gay buddy in the next bunk? Most Americans in 2010 have a higher opinion of the maturity and professionalism of today’s volunteer military than Kristol does. The younger generation, for the most part, finds such bigotry ridiculous. Of course, any sexual misconduct by gay servicemembers should be dealt with as severely as with straight servicemembers. But the bigotry of others is not a reason to prevent the honest service of so many Americans. It wasn’t right in 1948 when Truman ended racial segregation. It isn’t right now.

And then, the final canard – the idea that now is not the time to do anything because we are at war. But remember that Kristol believes our current war is permanent; and if one war ended, he would be doing all he could to advance the next one. And so this is mere rhetoric – rhetoric to disguise Kristol’s core belief that gay citizens should be permanently ghettoized outside civil society and public institutions, prevented from forming families, stigmatized for forming stable relationships, encouraged to be cured or stay closeted, rendered as invisible in society as they were decades ago.

Max Boot at Commentary:

The vast majority of service personnel are stationed at giant bases, whether in Iraq and Afghanistan or in Texas and North Carolina, where it is not hard to get privacy and where their jobs resemble those of civilian workers in many ways. Going to the bathroom involves, literally, a visit to the bathroom — not to a slit trench. Sexual issues are already raised on those bases by the presence of women. In fact the problem is more serious because women in heterosexual relationships have the potential to get pregnant — as some servicewomen do, thereby having to go home and creating a vacancy that has to be filled by someone else. There are also issues of sexual harassment and discrimination that need to be tightly policed — whether involving homosexuals or heterosexuals.

One of the adaptations the military has made is to allow women into most billets but not into tight-knit combat formations — nuclear submarine crews or infantry squads. They live in close quarters and often-unpleasant conditions where privacy is nonexistent and trust and esprit de corps are all-important. I remember discussing the issue last year with a Special Forces team deployed in the field and was struck by the unanimity of opinion against lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The special operators were horrified at the thought of gays in their ranks. This may be rank prejudice, and perhaps the result of ignorance, since there are already probably some gays in their midst. But the attitude still exists and higher authority can tamper with the policy only at the risk of causing a drop in morale.

Special Forces is one of the areas in which women are still not allowed to serve even though most jobs in the military have been opened to them. Why not simply extend to gays the same policy applied to women? That is, let gays serve openly in most billets but not in a few combat designations. It seems like a reasonable compromise.

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

I’m sorry. I recently wrote that Barack Obama was not our president, but in fact Secretary Gates was president. In fact, I was wrong. It now appears that Phyllis Schafly is in charge of the Pentagon, and our entire government. Otherwise, why is the Pentagon putting out talking points about whether lifting the ban will force them to recognize gay marriages? Can they make this issue more incendiary? First segregated showers, now gay marriage.

Gotta hand it to them, when DOD decides to screw over their commander in chief and a key constituency of the Democratic party, they do it with gusto.

A series of telling stories out tonight, all of them bad. It appears that Secretary Gates is going to announce a special team of advisers at tomorrow’s DADT hearings in the Senate, and that team will take a good year or so to think over all the really hard issues confronting us with the potential repeal of DADT, such as gay marriage.

Their review is expected to look at several sensitive issues, including whether the military should extend marriage and bereavement benefits to the partners of gay soldiers, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There is no gay marriage at the federal level, and DOMA forbids the federal government from providing marriage benefits. So why is DOD even bringing up gay marriage – and they do in this second story too, so this is clearly part of their prepared talking points – unless they’re simply trying to be sensationalistic.

Oh, and in the meantime, they’re going to implement the discriminatory policy in a more humane manner.

Funny, but I don’t recall that being Barack Obama’s promise to my community. To more humanely discriminate us against us. He promised to lift the ban. He promised to get ENDA passed. He promised to repeal DOMA. And none of those are currently being discussed. What is being discussed is another study to add to the pile of studies we already have. What is being discussed is a proposal to “change” DADT, rather than repeal it – just as Joe and I have been predicting.

Dan Savage:

Great, good, feeling hopey again about the repeal of DADT. But, again, Obama could suspend the enforcement of DADT today while Congress works on a solution, just as his head of Homeland Security suspended enforcement of the widow’s penalty while Congress works on a solution. And Obama described the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as abhorrent and promised to repeal it but his administration nevertheless defended the law in court. But I’m prepared to take yes for an answer, of course, on DADT. As depressing as the lack of movement on the big promises—end DADT, repeal DOMA—there has been action on ending the HIV Travel Ban (set in motion by the Bush administration), and hate crimes legislation.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald

DiA at The Economist on Kristol

UPDATE #2: Tom Diemer at Politics Daily on Petraeus

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The Daily Dish Goes Rogue In Search Of Going Rogue

Andrew Sullivan:

This is only the second time in its nearly ten-year history that the Dish has gone silent. The reason now is the same as the reason then. When dealing with a delusional fantasist like Sarah Palin, it takes time to absorb and make sense of the various competing narratives that she tells about her life. There are so many fabrications and delusions in the book, mixed in with facts, that just making sense of it – and comparing it with objective reality as we know it, and the subjective reality she has previously provided – is a bewildering task. She is a deeply disturbed person which makes this work of fiction and fact all the more challenging to read. And the fact that she is now the leader of the Republican party and a potential presidential candidate, makes this process of deconstruction an important civil responsibility. We take this seriously as we always have. We want to be fair to her, and to her family, and to the innocent people she has brought into the spotlight. And we are not reporters. We are merely analysts trying to make sense of evidence already in the public domain, evidence that points in all sorts of directions, only one of which can be true.

Since the Dish has tried to be rigorous and careful in analyzing Palin’s unhinged grip on reality from the very beginning – specifically her fantastic story of her fifth pregnancy –  we feel it’s vital that we grapple with this new data as fairly and as rigorously as possible. That takes time to get right. And it is so complicated we simply cannot focus on anything else.

There are only three of us.

And we have had the book for less than a day. We feel we owe it to you to get it right – or as right as we can – until we post or publish anything. As readers know, we also differ on some key issues and intend to air them and thrash this out until we are confident that whatever we publish is as fair as possible.

At some point, we will also go back and make sure we have not missed all the evidence of the other lies that Palin is now peddling. We won’t miss anything. But we ask for your patience.

There is a possibility here of such a huge scandal that we would be crazy not to take our time either to debunk it or move it forward for further examination.

We have only one commitment: to get this right. Please bear with us as we do the best we can.

Dan Savage:

There’s been nothing new posted to Andrew Sullivan’s blog this morning. Usually there’s a dozen or more posts up by 10 AM. But this just went up

David Harsanyi in Reson:

There’s nothing wrong, for instance, with The Associated Press’ assigning a crack team of investigative journalists to sift through every word of Palin’s book, Going Rogue, for inaccuracies. You only wish similarly methodical muckraking were applied to President Barack Obama’s two self-aggrandizing tomes—or even the health care or cap-and-trade bills, for that matter.

The widely read blogger and purveyor of all truth, Andrew Sullivan, was impelled to blog 17 times on the subject of Palin on the same day Americans learned that the Obama administration had awarded $6.7 billion in stimulus money to nonexistent congressional districts—which did not merit a single mention. To see what is in front of one’s nose demands a constant struggle, I guess.


ATTN: Andrew Sullivan has postponed the Internet today.

It is absolutely crucial that Sullivan and Patrick and Other Patrick read Going Rogue carefully today. It is their actual civil duty to America, to prove that thing they are always trying to prove about Trig, which we forget the hypothesis of. It was something like “Sarah Palin was never pregnant because Trig’s from Kenya.” Point is: TIME OUT.

“Since the Dish has tried to be rigorous and careful in analyzing Palin’s unhinged grip on reality from the very beginning – specifically her fantastic story of her fifth pregnancy –  we feel it’s vital that we grapple with this new data as fairly and as rigorously as possible. That takes time to get right. And it is so complicated we simply cannot focus on anything else.

There are only three of us.”

Four. Do not forget God, who will shepherding the Dishmen on their journey. Today will be a dark RSS feed of the soul.


And of course, The Daily Dish is back

UPDATE #2: Damon Linker at TNR

Conor Friedersdorf responds to Linker

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Filed under Books, New Media, Political Figures

Monogamy, You And Me Is Quits


Dan Savage answers a readers question:

At the bottom of all these sex scandals—Sanford, Ensign, Spitzer, et al.—is our unnatural fixation on monogamy. Human beings, male or female, aren’t wired to be sexually monogamous, and the feigned shock with which we’re required to greet each new revelation of infidelity on the part of an elected official, a reality-show star, or a sports figure would be comical if the costs weren’t so great. Elevating monogamy over all else—insisting that it, and it alone, is the sole measure of love and devotion—destroys countless marriages, families, and careers.

Which is not to say that people shouldn’t honor their commitments or that there aren’t folks out there capable of remaining monogamous over the five-decade course of a marriage or that the hypocrisy of assholes like Sanford—who called on President Clinton to resign during Monicagate—isn’t worthy of censure. But think of all the people who’ve cheated and gotten caught. Now think about all the people who’ve cheated and gotten away with it. Our idealized notions about sex—within marriage and without—are at war with who and what we are. Sex is powerful; relationships are fragile. Why on earth do we insist on pitting them against each other?

Micha Ghertner at The Distributed Republic:

The only part I’d push back against is his claim that humans aren’t wired to be sexually monogamous. I have no idea how we are wired, if we are all wired the same, or if there are a significant number of outliers (and if these outliers are the consistently monogamous ones or the polyamorous ones), but there is clearly something wrong with the social expectation of life-long monogamy. It is totally unrealistic to the point of being laughable, and seems to lead to more frustration and family disintegration than if the expectation didn’t exist at all. I understand some people have trouble dealing with their petty jealousies, but maybe they should try a little Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell instead of the nuclear option?

Bryan Caplan:

I’m not a principled advocate of monogamy; it’s not for everyone, and I am after all a fan of Big Love.  I am however a principled advocate of honoring your contracts and promises.  If you don’t want to practice monogamy, here’s an idea: Don’t agree to it.  If you want a non-traditional marriage, write a contract for it.  Don’t accept the standard-issue version, then pretend that you didn’t have a choice.

But aren’t monogamous contracts “unrealistic”?  This claim makes no sense.  If 50% of people who vow life-long monogamy keep their promise, what’s “unrealistic” about it?  Monogamy is no more unrealistic than hundreds of promises that we expect people to keep – to show up for work on time, buy lunch next time, pay their workers, or give dissatisfied customers their money back.  In each instance, if you think the terms are onerous, refuse them.  Don’t say yes, then blame the fates.

But what about human weakness?  Here I take a hard line: Human weakness is a choice, and it should be criticized, not excused.  I’m particularly baffled when economists say otherwise.  In what economic model is “lots of people feel tempted to do it” a reason to turn a blind eye?  I embrace a simple alternative: Do the right thing all day, every day.

Micha Ghertner responds:

I agree with Bryan: Once you make a promise, you should keep it. Dan Savage also agrees with Bryan; I quoted Savage qualifying his argument against the norm of monogamy: “Which is not to say that people shouldn’t honor their commitments.”

So Dan, Bryan, and I are all in agreement: People should honor their commitments. But what Dan and I are questioning, and Bryan seems to miss, is whether the default rule of a life-long commitment to a single partner is a wise commitment to make, or a wise commitment to reinforce through social pressure.


Leaving the norm of monogamy unchallenged assumes that it is the most efficient one for resolving social conflict. But Bryan doesn’t make this assumption and neither do I. As Dan Savage pointed out, “Elevating monogamy over all else—insisting that it, and it alone, is the sole measure of love and devotion—destroys countless marriages, families, and careers.” Were it not for the expectation of monogamy, seeking other sexual or emotional partners would not be considered an act of cheating, infidelity, unfaithfulness, or disloyalty. Were it not for the expectation of monogamy, there would be no conflict, and thus no reason to feel lied to, get a divorce, and disintegrate the family structure.

There might still be conflict involving issues of jealousy, and as I said in my post, it is an open question whether jealousy can be overcome, or if jealousy is so deeply ingrained (biologically and/or culturally) that it would be a futile task to try. But surely the social norm in favor of monogamy reinforces this feeling of jealousy; if people didn’t expect their partners to be monogamous, partly because society expects partners to expect this of each other, people wouldn’t feel as jealous when their partners failed to conform to a non-existent social expectation.

By analogy, our society does not have a social norm against having more than one child (fortuitously, given Bryan’s pro-natalist position). Yet even without this social norm, children are often jealous of the attention their parents give to their siblings (attention being a scarce resource). Imagine how much more jealous these same children would be of their siblings (and how much angrier these children would be at their parents) if their parents violated the social norm in a society with a norm against having more than one child.

More Caplan:

Brute Fact #1: Attitudes toward monogamy vary widely.  Some people spend their own lives in love with a person they met in high school.  Others feel like spending a weekend with “just one person” is a virtual prison.

Brute Fact #2: Many people can’t wrap their minds around Brute Fact #1, especially if they’re at either extreme of the sociosexuality distribution.  The highly monogamous imagine that thirty-something singles are desperate and/or unbearably lonely.  The highly polygamous imagine that people who have been married for a few years are tortured and/or hypocrites.


My objection: Monogamy is extremely wise for some people, and extremely unwise for others.  People low in sociosexuality experience little or no conflict or regret from monogamy; for them, it’s great.  People high in sociosexuality experience all the problems that Micha lists.  The judicious reaction to complaints about monogamy remains: If you don’t like it, don’t consent to it.

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The First Hook-Up Was Adam And Eve. The First Hook-Up Story Hyped By The MSM Was 10 Minutes Later.

NPR, this morning, did the hook-up story for 2009.

Andrew Sullivan links to Dan Savage:

It’s a classic sex panic piece—young people having casual secks!—and the culture of hooking up is described as a dire emotional and social crisis. But based on the results of the poll at the bottom of Brenda Wilson’s piece, it doesn’t look like NPR’s listeners are quite buying it.

Mari McGrath:

NPR is weighing in on dating this week. Studies show that we as twenty-somethings are not dating, but rather are hooking up. The availability of casual encounters are much higher for our generation with co-ed dorm rooms, the pervasiveness of Craigslist, and a focus on career and socialization rather than settling down.

My response was…”And?”

Actually, NPR tried to withhold judgment….kind of. They tried to take the high road of “sociological observer” rather than critic. The piece still comes across as “sex bad, marriage good” in the end and that the casual sexual encounter is devoid of emotion, feeling, or care for your partner.

Conor Friedersdorf asks us to lengthen the time frame. And since it’s Friedersdorf Movie Day at ATS:

UPDATE: Jessica Valenti at Feministing


Filed under Culture War, Families, Media

Now It’s The “Struggle Against Global Cheech and Chong Jokes”


The “War On Drugs” is over? Oh, the name “War on Drugs” is over.

Jacob Sullum in Reason:

So far the Obama administration is notably better than either of the two preceding administrations on sentencing, and it has sent encouraging signals regarding medical marijuana (although the reality still does not match the rhetoric). But as the Journal notes, “prior administrations talked about pushing treatment and reducing demand while continuing to focus primarily on a tough criminal-justice approach.” We should not be fooled by medicalized language into believing that drug prohibition is less brutal or less of an assault on our rights. Pace Kerlikowske, the government will beat war with people in this country” as along as it tries to forcibly prevent them from altering their consciousness with taboo substances.

Radley Balko in Reason, disputing Sullum:

The change in rhetoric obviously isn’t an end to the federal prohibition on drugs. But it isn’t mere symbolism, either. Rhetoric matters.

The drug war imagery started by Nixon, subdued by Carter, then ratcheted up again in the Reagan administration (and remaining basically level since) has had significant repercussions on the way drug policy is enforced, from policymakers on down to street-level cops. It’s war rhetoric that gave us the Pentagon giveaway program, where millions of pieces of surplus military equipment (such as tanks) have been transferred to local police departments. War imagery set the stage for the approximately 1,200 percent rise in the use of SWAT teams since the early 1980s, and has fostered the militaristic, “us vs. them” mentality too prevalent in too many police departments today.

War implies a threat so existential, so dire to our way of life, that we citizens should be ready to sign over some of our basic rights, be expected to make significant sacrifices, and endure collateral damage in order to defeat it. Preventing people from getting high has never represented that sort of threat.

Matt Y.:

I would actually be interested in a different switch. At the end of the day, outside the case of methadone replacement therapy for heroin addicts (an admittedly important exception), there’s not a ton of evidence for the efficacy of drug treatment. What we need is less emphasis on drugs and more emphasis on actual problems associated with drugs. For example, consider a town with two crack dealers. Dealer One sells twice as much crack as Dealer Two, but Dealer Two is operating an open-air market that’s a nuisance to the local community whereas Dealer One operates discretely out of his basement and people who aren’t crack addicts don’t even notice him. I think common sense indicates that you go after the guy who’s a nuisance rather than the guy who sells more drugs. But the logic of the “war on drugs” says you follow the drugs.

Mark Kleiman has another view:

In particular, while coerced treatment within the criminal-justice system has its place, there’s not a treatment program anywhere that can match the success in reducing drug use of a consistent program of drug testing and modest but immediate sanctions.

More when I find it.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson

UPDATE #2: Real Time with Bill Maher last night with David Simon, Dan Savage, Amy Holmes and Rick Brookhiser.

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