Pop Theory: What’s (Legally) in a Choice?

Do you want some education with your entertainment? Our new column, Pop Theory, takes a more academic approach to the queer parts of pop culture.

Before Herman Cain’s “Pizza Express” to the presidency got derailed by (re-)emergent charges of sexual misconduct and infidelity, he was the frontrunner in the GOP Field of Crazy — one reason, I think, for his preliminary success was due to his unapologetic, unwavering opinions, including his opinion that homosexuality is a choice. In an interview with Piers Morgan, he plainly stated:

I respect their right to make that choice. You don’t see me bashing them. I respect them to have the right to make that choice. I don’t have to agree with it. That’s all I’m saying.

Implicit in this statement, although I’m sure he wouldn’t comprehend the logic (poor thing seems a bit slow), is the idea that all sexuality is a choice.

Of course, his opinion drew derision and critique, most notably from the LGBT political arm, the HRC. “It Gets Better” creator (and advocate of the poly-monogamous marriage) Dan Savage even proposed to Herman Cain that he “suck his d–k” to prove that sexuality is a choice.

Dear Herman,
If being gay is a choice, show us the proof. Choose it. Choose to be gay yourself. Show America how that’s done, Herman, show us how a man can choose to be gay. Suck my d–k, Herman. Name the time and the place and I’ll bring my d–k and a camera crew and you can suck me off and win the argument.
Very sincerely yours,
Dan Savage

What Savage does not acknowledge is that, by giving Cain the choice (to suck his d–k), the argument is moot: Cain has chosen “no.” And “no” is still a decision based on a choice. As I firmly believe, an individual’s actions — sexual or otherwise — is her prerogative, her power (unless she is being forced against her will in an assault/rape situation). Also implicit in Savage’s curt letter to Cain is the equation of act to identity, an equation that I agree with (we are how we act / we are what we do), as opposed to the counter-argument of an identity somehow being innate to an individual’s ontological being.

Shortly after Savage’s open letter appeared in the media, Darnell L. Moore wrote a compelling piece in the gay section of The Huffington Post that ponders the idea of selecting one’s sexuality. Moore’s piece is a step in the right direction — in a direction of (self-)affirmation, of ethics not based on prescribed morality, of equality based on the constitutional recognition of each and every human being regardless of their personal, non-violent decisions.

[I] want to push back against those who feel as if there is only one right (pun intended) way to think about our sexual selves. What if one’s affinity towards, attraction to, desire to be intimate with, and/or love for another person of the same sex is a choice after all? What if we, including those of us who are LGBTQ-identified, considered what it might mean if we only relied on the nature argument to somehow prove that we aren’t morally inept, sinful, hell-bound, deviant, lustful, and/or community-destroying bodies?

[W]hat is wrong with someone making a choice to love, have sex with, be attracted to, or befriend someone of the same sex? After thinking about this question, I considered what it might mean for us to move one’s “choice” to love and be loved to the center of our politics. The denying of another’s choice to love, kiss, hug, sleep with, hold hands with, or share a home with another person (of the same sex or not) is an aggressive move against another’s right to the pursuit of happiness, especially when that choice does not bring harm to the persons or the communities in which they are part.

Moore’s point is simultaneously ethical and legal: my choice to hold another woman’s hand or to get makey-outey with her or to decide, with her, the “status” of our relationship not only is a part of my right (“to the pursuit of happiness”… within the fraught, oftentimes headache-inducing domain of dyke relations) but it also brings no harm to any body or bodies existing outside that relationship.

A commenter of one of my earlier posts asserted that we had no grounds for legal equality if we contend that our sexuality is a choice — well, it’s actually the opposite, as Moore observes. I find that the claim to legal rights based on genetic “difference” or (gasp!) “abnormality” opens up a very slippery slope to something akin to eugenics. Considering The Crazy existing throughout the States today, I wouldn’t put it past someone to demand that a minority population be “fixed” before receiving full legal rights. (Didn’t the events of the last GOP debate hint at something like this regarding immigrants? When the field of candidates was on the verge of suggesting that only immigrants with “graduate educations” could be eligible for U.S. citizenship?)

Just think about this — think about responding to some bigoted comment with the line, “You’re right. I wasn’t born this way. I decide who I f–k, when I f–k, and where I f–k…. But, I can tell by your fugly fetus-face (thanks Santana!) that you don’t have that luxury. Sucka!”

OK, so, maybe you don’t have to respond that way specifically.

This post about the legal (and, more subtly ethical) implications of being “pro-choice” clearly resonates with my first column about the agency we have over our actions, in particular, how we stylize or “perform” our gender(s) based within our own material (including bodily) means. In my next column, I’ll think more about the philosophy behind this idea of choice when it comes to sexual actions (and thus sexuality).

Dr. Marcie Bianco is gloriously unemployed and homeless — as only one
with a handful of useless degrees could be. She currently serves at
the Editorial Director of VelvetPark.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *