birds and the bees16 Sep 2005
Gore Vidal, a writer whom I generally admire, has a real knack for rapidly moving from something I really agree with to the polar opposite in one paragraph. Here’s a great example, from a 1991 article in the Nation (that regrettably you have to pay to read in full) about (what else) sex and marriage:
If one starts with the anatomical difference, which even a patriarchal Viennese novelist was able to see was destiny, then one begins to understand why men and women don’t get on very well within marriage, or indeed in any exclusive sort of long-range sexual relationship. He is designed to make as many babies as possible with as many different women as he can get his hands on, while she is designed to take time off from her busy schedule as astronaut and role model to lay an egg and bring up the result.
Certainly, women today are more candid about their preference for other women. Although this “preference” has been noted for milleniums, it was thought by shootists to be simply a coming together of two unhappy wives for mutual solace. Instead, there seems to have been a strong sexual element all along. But then, a pair of egg-layers will have more in common (including a common genetic programming for nurturing) than they will ever have with a shootist, who wants to move on the second he’s done his planting – no nurturing for him, no warm, mature, caring relationship. He isn’t built for it. His teats may have a perky charm but they are not connected to a dairy. He can fake a caring relationship, of course, but at great cost to his own nature, not to mention battered wife and abused little ones. The fact that couples may live together harmoniously for decades is indeed a fact, but such relationships are demonstrations not of sexuality but of human comity.
This essay demonstrates aptly that Gore Vidal, while a clever and sometimes scathing social critic, is no sociologist. He seems to hold my ideal of the perfectly logical opinions of homosexuality, marriage, and sex in general, but for some very wrong reasons. He proposes that the formula of the nuclear family (man + woman = baby) is an unnatural one. He uses a word that is anathema to a sociological analysis of sex and marriage: nature. It’s men’s nature to shoot semen. It’s women’s nature to nurse and nurture. No, no, no! This has nothing to do with nature. The nuclear family is not unnatural, it’s just unnecessary, and perhaps sometimes harmful.
It’s disappointing in a way because I have a glowing admiration for his position and writing on these matters: marriage as an institution to subjugate the American laborer; homosexual as a word that describes acts and not people, etc etc. Unfortunately it seems his logic in getting there is seriously flawed.
On an unrelated note, I find his little codewords for groups of people amusing. “Christers”, “shooters”, “breeders” (was he the first to use this particular bit of derogatory slang?). It’s puerile, I know, but it’s funny.