Friday, January 28, 2011


I mean, if you or I were briefed to take her side in a debate, any one of us  could construct a better argument than Mel

"This house disapproves of homosexuality"

"If you've got a choice, it would be better to to be heterosexual than homosexual, because heterosexuals get to have kids, and have a wider choice of potential partners, and because the boffins are better at curing the sexually transmitted diseases of straight people than of gay people. So don't saddle children with those sort of problems by encouraging them to be gay. You might just as well encourage them to choose to be women. No-one would want to be woman if they could help it. Er...."      
Sexuality isn't a choice, any more than gender is. Any more than race. I can learn to dance and wear one of those hats that the cool kids in St Pauls wear, but I won't suddenly become black. We can fill the school libraries with children's books full of black faces, and we won't suddenly find an epidemic of negro  among the Caucasian population.

Surely this doesn't still need to be spelled out?  Surely Daily Mail readers don't really think that gay is a club that is always looking for new recruits. Mel seems to live in that bizarre 1980s version of reality in which people catch gay off text books, in which "teaching about" is equivalent to "promoting".

I work in a library. We have sex-ed books for very young children. Unlike proper sex-ed books (the ones we had in our library when I was a very young children) they are not just about mummy cats and daddy cats and where kittens come from, but about feelings. They acknowledge that even quite small boys have embarrassing swellings in the trouser area. And they say things like "Sometimes, boys have boyfriends and girls have girlfriends: those people are called 'gay' or 'homosexual'."  

This is the kind of brainwashing material with which children are being bombarded and will eventually destroy all sense of a normal etc etc etc. 

(The same books also cover "OK touching" and "Not OK touching". In tabloid speak, this equates to "masturbation lessons.")

OK: lets assume that Mel has something stronger in mind. The picture book about the two male penguins which hatched and reared a chick. The picture book about a child who happens to have two mummies instead of a mummy and a daddy. Or for slightly older children, a book which acknowledges the possibility that a famous male playwright who wrote love poetry to pretty boys was not exclusively straight. One which mentions that Jews like Anne Frank weren't the only people who went into the concentration camps. The Importance of Being Earnest.

Suppose that sort of seditious literature actually did become compulsory -- mandatory, as Mel puts it. What bad thing would follow? Would children become more accepting of classmates who did have "two mummies"? If so, why would that be a bad thing? Would they stop using homophobic words to bully their classmates? If so, why would that be a bad thing? Would there be a sudden outbreak of gay in classrooms? Even if there were, why would that be a bad thing, necessarily?

How would things work in Mel-world? Would "The Importance of Being Earnest" be taken down from the shelf and burned, along with all other books by boys who had boyfriends, or by boys who sometimes had boyfriends or might have had boyfriends, or boys who sometimes glanced at other boys cocks in the showers after gym, but only in a very manly, heterosexual kind of way? Or will children be allowed to read the play, but not to know about the life of  the author? Or will the teacher be obliged to say "Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for sondomy. And a very good thing to. We should bring it back. Along with the birch." Or what? 

Neil Gaiman recalls that when he was a child, no-one would tell him what Wilde went to gaol for. He formed the impression that he must have been some kind of dandy pirate or highwayman. He was very disappointed when he found out.

I can't parse it any other way. When you talk about homosexuals brainwashing children, you either mean that gay is catching, that gay books make you gay; or you are saying too many books about gays will make straight people less prejudiced, and this would be a bad thing because....because... Because prejudice is a good thing and we want more of it.

Is there another, more benign reading that I've missed?



SK said...

Are you looking for any argument that is valid (saying nothing about its soundness) or are you asking us to attempt to read the commentator's mind and work out what her argument is?

guy.jackson said...

"Is there another, more benign reading that I've missed?"

I'm not sure about "more benign", but one could probably construct a more sensible argument along the lines that children who are raised in an environment where homosexuality is seen as OK (or "encouraged", to use tabloid-language) are more likely to put into practice any gay feelings they might happen to feel; and this will in turn encourage them to feel more gay feelings, which they will then put into practice, and so on; and, if you think that homosexuality is wrong, this will be a fairly bad thing.

Andrew Rilstone said...


Reading Melanie Phillips mind would be an interesting exercise. But I was more interested in trying to work out if anyone thought that, you know, the article she actually wrote might possibly mean something less hateful than what it appear to mean. I.E When she says that homosexuals are "brainwashing" children by "bombarding them" with "propaganda" that the gay now control absolutely everything in England and that homosexuality will soon be compulsory, might she possibly mean something less mad than what it would appear, at first glance, that she is saying.


Yeah: this seems to be "Spanker" Dobson's theory -- adolescent sexuality is all over the place, and if you aren't careful, you might take fairly normal adolescent feelings (e.g hero worshipping an older man, being curious about other teenagers bodies, being shy around girls) as meaning that you are "really" gay. That's more likely to happen if there's lots of "propoganda" that tells you that gay is "OK". This leads to all sorts of charming conclusions -- e.g that it's practically to the duty of a Christian Father to provide his son with pornography and see that he knows what to do with it; that Christian Father's ought to find pretexts to show their genitals to their sons, etc.

SK said...

Ah, I see. Well, I have not read the Philips article & don't propose to do so.

Guy has mentioned one such line of argument (and 'some of the people who think that also think these unsavoury kinds of things' is not really a rebuttal, as I'm sure you know: Hitler wasn't a vegetarian, so clearly all meat-eaters are Nazis); another would not need to posit the 'more gay feelings' step and could be along the lines of 'gay feelings' (ie, a temptation some people are inherently predisposed to and other aren't) not being a problem (and more than any other kind of temptation), but giving in to temptation being bad for you; and being in an environment where the thing you are tempted to do is seen as not anything bad, but in fact normal, makes it harder to resist temptation; and so 'normalising' homosexuality makes it harder for those who are tempted to it to resist it and remain celibate. And it it thus bad, just like normalising piracy is bad because people who are naturally disposed to want to get music, films and books for free are less likely to resist the temptation to do so if everybody thinks it's fine, than if they had to hide their downloading activities or face social opprobrium.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Ah, I see. Well, I have not read the Philips article & don't propose to do so.

Since the case I set out to make is that Melanie Phillips is uniquely hateful, that rather limits the relevance of anything you set out to say. Sorry. Don't really propose to to have a general discussion about religious atttitudes to homosexuality, although I disussed it at some lenth in the Dawkins book.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Since the case I set out to make is that Melanie Phillips is uniquely hateful, that rather limits the relevance of anything you set out to say

That came out a little more snarky than I intended it too...

But still: my question is not "Can SOMEONE have a self-consistent and non-hateful reason for disproving of of gay books". (I've already said they can, e.g "This is taboo"). My question is "Does Melanie Phillips"?

"Spanker" Dobson's theories about Christian father's needing to engage in rough and tumble play with their sons and shower with them afterwards seems to follow quite logically and consistently from the theory that sexuality is more or less "chosen" or "learned" in the years after puberty; they aren't just a pair of unrelated beliefs which happen to exist in one individual, like Hitler being a vegetarian, which he in any case wasn't.

SK said...

Well, that's why I asked if you wanted us to read the correspondent's mind. Apparently you do, so I've nothing more to say, as I can't.

(I said Hitler wasn't a vegetarian; did you read what I wrote? And the fact that belief B might in some people follow from belief A doesn't mean that B is a necessary consequence of belief A, nor that the silliness of B is an argument against A unless it can be shown that A necessarily entails B; in this case B is only implied by A plus a whole other raft of questionable beliefs of sexuality, so the silliness of B is not in itself an argument against A, as I'm sure you must realise.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

No, I don't want you to read her mind.

I want you to read her BLOODY ARTICLE.



If you had to "read someone's mind" to interpret WHAT THEY BLOODY WELL WROTE then literary critcism would be DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE.

"When Shakespeare wrote 'who would fardels bare when he could his quietus make with a bare bodkin' what do you think he meant?"

"I don't know. Do you want me to read his mind?"

"No. I want you to provide a convincing explanation of what the words he wrote might mean."

"Well, I haven't read Hamlet, and don't intend to do so, but I can tell you what other people think about revenge."

"We aren't talking about that today. We are talking about what Shakespeare wrote."