Since publishing my blog yesterday about why the case of the PJS (currently under injunction) is in the public interest, a few commentators have suggested that the argument doesn’t necessarily wash, because it’s widely known and accepted by the general public, that gay male relationships don’t tend to be monogamous in nature.
Anecdotally, I would agree with that up to a point. Regular readers will know that I worked as cabin crew in the late 1990’s, a profession which seems to attract a disproportionately high number of gay men. My observation was indeed that there were very few stable monogamous relationships; they did exist but they were in the minority. Whether or not the gay scene that I socialised in is representative of the wider population is difficult to say, but it was characterised by promiscuity, multiple concurrent sexual partners and a entirely different set of sexual norms to those which the female crew were expected to adhere to.
But as I said, this was only my personal observation and for those who would believe that I looked upon my friends and colleagues with disdain, nothing could be further from the truth. It all seemed like jolly good fun to an untravelled twenty-something. I notched up my fair share of wild nights on the razz in gay joints in places as far afield as Bangkok – miles apart from a suburban upbringing on the outskirts of Essex, it felt at times as though I was living a surreal and glamourous dream!
And this is why I have always been reluctant to extrapolate or discuss my intimate experience of the gay male scene, because I don’t know whether or not what I experienced had as much to do with the fact that I was living an international jet-set existence with other people who were as young, free and single as myself. As long as everything was done by consenting adults where was the issue? I witnessed quite a few sordid and distressing incidents, but was happy to push them to the back of my mind. So what if someone wanted to spend take-off discussing the graphic details of their multi-way encounter with a bunch of strangers in a Cologne sauna, while in earshot of fare-paying passengers, it was all part of the craic! So what if I caught two strangers who’d only just met in the briefing room a few hours earlier, engaging in sex acts in the forward galley? Any objection, distaste or disgust would surely be homophobic?
But should I have dared to venture in any public forum, any suggestion that gay relationships (and I am talking about male ones here, the lesbians I know do tend to have life-long partnerships) do not, in my experience, lend themselves to monogamy, then one can only imagine the public shaming exercise to which I would have been subjected. All sorts of high-profile couples would have been trotted out to highlight and condemn my bigotry. Nonetheless the statistics, especially those surrounding male-to-male HIV transmission would also seem to support the contention.
As I said, I’m not sure that even is my opinion, because I’m not sure that one can generalise using the example of the social bubble of long-haul cabin crew and I do have friends who are in committed, faithful monogamous romantic relationships with people of the same sex. All I can say is that I still have gay male friends in the industry who support my stance on marriage, believing that their lifestyle doesn’t lend itself towards either fidelity or children. But then again I also have straight friends who are clinging on to their lucrative, long-since abolished BA contracts which earn them more than a GP, who do manage both a monogamous marriage and children – no mean juggling feat when you are spending a good proportion of the month in another country!
It’s astounding and infuriating therefore to hear other people glibly expounding the principle that gay relationships and marriages are an entirely different proposition to heterosexual ones. Yeah sure you are going to be into monogamy and all that Caroline, because you are innately socially conservative, but other more liberal types, aren’t quite so bothered.
It’s not only annoying because they articulated something which I dared not to mention (Catholic bigot says that gay people are incapable of keeping it in their pants or being faithful to each other) but also because this is absolutely not what was sold or argued to the general public when a new definition of marriage was undemocratically imposed upon us, in 2013 and couples such as PJS were waved about as examples.
Every time anyone tried to argue that the definition of marriage was changing, we were told time and time again it was not, and that this was simply just opening up a conservative institution, one which had many benefits to society, to a wider group of people. If you attempted to make the case, that the fundamental nature of the institution was being changed, you were told that it had changed throughout the ages (which is not strictly true, the conditions under which you could enter marriage were altered along with the way in which it was formalised) but the institution itself was not in any event being radically altered, rather being made ‘equal’.
As I argued yesterday, the new definition did not abolish differentation between the types of union because those in a gay marriage, are not implicitly taking vows of fidelity, because they are unable to use adultery for grounds of divorce.
Had you asked the general public about whether or not there should be two types of marriage and whether or not marriage should no longer mean monogamy for some couples, they would not have endorsed such a prospect. What was the slogan? ‘Different families, same love’! In every single country which has recently legalised gay marriage, from the UK, to Ireland to the US it has been on the grounds that it would be cruel to deny gay people the dignity and privileges of marriage.
Those who argued that marriage was being irrevocably redefined in a social experiment were told that we were reactionary doom-mongering, hate-spreading bigots.
The judges in the case of PJS certainly seem to be holding them to a different standard than everyone else – are they reflecting a new expectation that society doesn’t demand monogamy from same-sex couples? Or is it the principle that monogamy no longer matters in a marriage and that arguments surrounding it, don’t advance any sort of debate? But if monogamy is no longer a vital element of civil marriages, then it might be nice were there to have been some consultation about this.
It seems to be widely accepted that the celebrities who blazed a trail and became standard bearers for same-sex marriage and surrogacy are not living as one might expect and yet no-one should ask any questions in terms of whether or not they have the right to bring children into this situation and encourage others to do so. (And there’s no doubt that their example has given succour to the exploitative surrogacy industry. I can think of at least one couple who cites the example of PJS and who give the impression of living in a similarly open relationship). Instead of addressing the potential damage done to children in these sorts of situations, the judiciary seems to be a signalling a head in sand approach of stopping people from talking about it. How long before we are all subject to a re-education policy by a concerned lobby group, wanting to teach children that it’s okay for parents to have lots of simultaneous sexual partners? In reality, the children of PJS are going to be brought up in a protective and supportive celebrity bubble, rather than running the gaunlet of their local comp-turned-academy.
Many people were concerned that the attempt to redefine marriage by extending it to same-sex couples was in fact a subtle attempt to breakdown the family, by altering and remodelling the insitution and removing the requirement of monogamy. According to Marxist thought, the family needs to be obliterated in order to establish and justify state intervention into every element of people’s lives.
At the time, I was inclined towards a more charitable approach, believing that those in favour were acting out of a short-sighted compassion. It’s hard to take on board the concept that a lie may have been deliberately marketed and peddled to us, in order to breakdown the family allowing the state to step in. But when one sees how the couple involved in PJS deliberately manipulated public opinion in order not only to financially profit but also to affect public policy, then it does give cause to wonder. Not once was it ever mooted that due to the nature of gay relationships which are not naturally fruitful, that the element of monogamy may thought of as an unecessary element and dispensed with.
Was this really just all about removing the idea of a lifelong faithful, monogamous, one-man, one-woman relationship as the gold standard for society and the raising of children and just giving egual legitimacy to other forms of relationships in an attempt to undermine the family? It certainly feels like it from where I’m standing.