For popular culture at least.
Hollywood has pretty much been in the business of redefining marriage for over a century. I doubt it is an exaggeration that the film industry popularized divorce and remarriage way back when - be it through films such as The Women, or through the bad example of movie stars marrying and divorcing repeatedly, as well celebrating the concept of open marriage. Today, stars treat marriage like birthday parties, while more than a few just refuse to be wed all together.
But how have gay people redefined marriage? There hasn't been that many who have married nation-wide, and many more just haven't had the opportunity to marry - yet. If they do marry - civilly - it is the same - legally - as heterosexual couples marrying, right?
Ah yes. But the simmilarities stops there. As the character Matthew in Downton Abbey told his fiancee, "We can never be properly married' - referring to his paralysis and inability to even engage in the 'marital embrace'. Same sex couples can't do that either. Yes, they can simmulate something, and they can have children through surrogates or artificial insemination, just as childless opposite sex couples do, but the intercourse remains - cover your ears - unnatural.
We may argue that point endlessly of course, but there remains another redefinition that few are willing to talk about. The concept of same sex marriage - though intended to appear very Father Knows Best, in the long term may not turn out to be what was advertised. Gay males have a reputation of being promiscuous - not monogamous. Traditional marriage as we know it, is ordered and expected to be monogamous. That is a game changer in the redefinition of marriage. Something same sex culture, specifically same sex marriage, would likely reinforce in a culture where traditional marriage is already weakened.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating? Protesting a bit too much? Maybe. Although, Dan Savage, America’s leading sex-advice columnist, just might agree with me. Read his thoughts from a NYTimes article:
Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.
Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.To be continued.
“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”
The view that we need a little less fidelity in marriages is dangerous for a gay-marriage advocate to hold. It feeds into the stereotype of gay men as compulsively promiscuous, and it gives ammunition to all the forces, religious and otherwise, who say that gay families will never be real families and that we had better stop them before they ruin what is left of marriage. But Savage says a more flexible attitude within marriage may be just what the straight community needs. Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners. - NYT
Art: Chris and Don - David Hockney