FRR Sep 2010 | Martha Nussbaum Attacks Cameron

On March 19th, the San Francisco Chronicle opined “Pity the enemies of gay equality who find themselves at intellectual odds with America’s most prominent, and most prolific, philosopher of public life, Martha C. Nussbaum.” Professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago, “Nussbaum has Paul Cameron’s arguments against gay rights in her sights, and she is considered nothing less than the second coming to America’s intellectuals. Even Richard Redding says she proves that there is no rational reason to oppose homosexuality — opposition to gay rights is merely ‘disgust.’”

Nussbaum’s From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law (2010) and Hiding from Humanity (2004) argue it is wrong permit disgust to influence public policy regarding homosexuals. Most, she argues, have “a deep aversion akin to that inspired by bodily wastes, slimy insects, and spoiled food — and then cite that very reaction to justify a range of legal restrictions, from sodomy laws to bans on same-sex marriage.” She believes the politics of disgust contradict equality of all under the law. “It says that the mere fact that you happen to make me want to vomit is reason enough for me to treat you as a social pariah, denying you some of your most basic entitlements as a citizen.”

Nussbaum complains “‘anti-gay activist… Paul Cameron, the founder and head of the Family Research Institute’ has ‘seized upon this response and employed it unethically to sway both legislative rulings and public opinion against gay rights.’” Unethically? Is it truly unethical to point out that certain behaviors are disgusting?

Even Leon Kass, head of former President Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics, feels repugnance has “wisdom,” steering us from destructive choices. But Nussbaum accepts John Stuart Mill’s dictum that ‘harm to others ought to be the requirement for legal intervention,’ so she argues that disgust at men kissing and copulating with men does not rise to the level of ‘real’ harm.

Although some disgust-reactions may have an evolutionary basis and thus may be broadly shared across societies, and although the more mediated types of disgust may be broadly shared within a society, that does not mean that disgust provides a disgusted person with a set of reasons that can be used for purposes of public persuasion… Disgust concerns thoughts of contamination as opposed to real harm; it is usually grounded on ‘magical thinking’ rather than on real danger; and its root cause is our ambivalence to our mortality and animalistic qualities, namely to what we are (mortal animals). (2004, 27-28)

[T]he central locus of disgust in today’s United States [is] male loathing of the male homosexual. Female homosexuals may be objects of fear, or moral indignation, or generalized anxiety, but they are less often objects of disgust. Similarly, heterosexual females may feel negative emotions toward the male homosexual — fear, moral indignation, anxiety — but again, they rarely feel emotions of disgust. What inspires disgust is typically the male thought of the male homosexual, imagined as anally penetrable. The idea of semen and feces mixing together inside the body of a male is one of the most disgusting ideas imaginable — to males, for whom the idea of non-penetrability is a sacred boundary against stickiness, ooze, and death. The presence of a homosexual male in the neighborhood inspires the thought that one might oneself lose one’s clean safeness, one might become the receptacle for those animal products. Thus disgust is ultimately disgust at one’s own imagined penetrability and ooziness, and this is why the male homosexual is both regarded with disgust and viewed with fear as a predator who might make everyone else disgusting. The very look of such a male is itself contaminating — as we see in the extraordinary debates about showers in the military. The gaze of a homosexual male is seen as contaminating because it says ‘You can be penetrated.’ And this means that you can be made of feces and semen and blood, not clean plastic flesh. (And this means you will soon be dead.) (2004, pp. 30-31)

If it were merely unreasonable disgust and the ‘ick’ factor driving opposition to gay rights, she might have a point. But far more than disgust empowers anti-gay sentiments.

More Than Just Disgust

What goes on apparently every day in San Francisco at Blow Buddies (and matched in every U.S. city in public parks and restrooms, as well as similar institutions) is certainly disgusting. No animal or group of animals would ‘think of this’ much less carry it off. This is a very human invention, and puts the ‘born that way’ claim to a severe test — born to do ‘what?’ But even setting aside the risks of disease transmission (for HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc. they are high, for HIV and hepatitis B, low), what possible ‘utility’ could this activity have for humanity? No children come of this worthless behavior, even if some find it pleasurable. As recounted by an eyewitness participant (with slight edits by FRI):1

My eyes took a moment to adjust. I was in a large space filled with small wooden cubicles, like cupboards, in which men were apparently expected to kneel and give head. Glory holes were drilled into these closets, and other men came by, hoisted out their d[…]cks, and inserted them into the holes in the cubicles. In another part of the room, men stepped up on a raised platform and other men stood below, eager to s[…]ck them off in a standing position.

How incredibly impersonal! You don’t know who, all you sense is a male genital — just like the ‘glory holes’ drilled into bathroom stalls. Imagine confronting ‘genitals through holes’ of the opposite sex — only a very unusual heterosexual would be interested, much less partake. Weird? Queer? You bet. You can see why homosexuals are so apt to molest boys; boys have ‘the right equipment,’ the same equipment that in and of itself arouses lust when seen sticking through a ‘glory hole.’

While there may have been thirty men in the room, none were talking. The only sounds were the throb of the music and the sounds of c[…]cks[…]cking — slurps, gagging, coughing, moans of relief… I moved toward the next room and discovered more cupboards, aligned along an elaborate maze filled with several dozen men moving, glancing, stopping, moving, kneeling, s[…]cking, moving, unzipping… As my eyes adjusted, I recognized more and more people — colleagues from political work, neighbors from my apartment building, friends from the gym. Everyone seemed plugged into the same intense energy and focused on the same thing — oral sex.

Fixated, compulsive, silent — yet all ‘normal’ according to the lights of American psychiatry. Over time, our eyewitness participant ‘recognizes’ some of his maybe ‘partners‘ — but he doesn’t know whose is whose. It is the bond between genitals that is being built here, not ‘love’ or ‘companionship’ or any other common human relationship. All these men — who might or might not know each other — are ‘married to each other’ via their genitals. A large, genitalia-obsessed group, determined to get our OK in their attempts to convert our children to this madness.

I remained at Blow Buddies until three in the morning. During that time, I gave head to three different men. Seven men s[…]cked my d[…]ck. I did not witness a single condom in use during oral sex. I did not encounter a single man who refused to participate in unprotected oral sex, and four of the men who s[…]cked me asked me to reach orgasm in their mouths. Of the men I s[…]cked, one came in my mouth.

We aren’t told why homosexual leader and author Gabriel Rotello had sex with some and not with others. At best, a monumental waste of time; at worst, a string of disease transmissions.

Martha Nussbaum’s liberalism blinds her. The harms gays do are substantial — to life and property. Over 3,000 heterosexuals have died of HIV-contaminated blood contributed by homosexuals. Disgusting practices, coupled with the self-centeredness and revenge that accompanies participation in ‘disgusting practices,’ caused these deaths. Over 300,000 U.S. male homosexuals have died of AIDS, and another 500,000 or so are on the HIV drug-cocktail which costs us as taxpayers between $12,000 and $45,000/year per homosexual. Homosexuals infect another 25,000 homosexuals each year. The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] estimated that male homosexuals accounted for 53% of new HIV infections in 2005, and 57% in 2008 out of a total pool of infections that had risen by 8%!

As social acceptance of homosexuality has grown (e.g., gay marriage, anti-discrimination laws, homosexual partner benefits) and the AIDS drug cocktail has become more widespread (which reduces the transmissibility of HIV), the rate at which homosexuals are infecting each other has increased. AIDS, which started out as a gay disease in the U.S., is returning to its roots.

The costs, both medical and to the public health, are disproportionate. In 2007, scientists2

calculated an HIV diagnosis rate of 692/100,000 and a syphilis rate of 121/100,000 for MSM [males who have sex with males]. For HIV and syphilis, respectively, the rate was 60 and 61 times the rate for other men.

We all pay the medical bills and run the risks associated with HIV and syphilis ‘running loose’ in society (e.g., people donating blood or engaging in bisexuality). Male homosexuals are also much more apt to have HPV and saliva- or secretion-linked viruses. Homosexuals cost society more than heterosexuals in innumerable ways.

When Nussbaum argues that “other notions of disgust are ‘projective,’ or conceptual in nature, such as the distaste at the thought of two men kissing…. a reaction to an offense of the mind or spirit, neither literal nor physical, but imaginary,” she ignores the linkage between men kissing men and the acquisition of HPV, HIV, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, syphilis etc. for which kissing is either an effective means of transmission or a precursor to a more effective mode.

  1. Rotello G (1998) Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the destiny of gay men. NY: Penguin
  2. Purcell DW, Johnson C, Lansky A, Prejean J, Stein R, Denning P, Gaul Z, Weinstock H, Su J, & Crepaz N (2010) Latebreaker #22896 Presented March 10 at 2010 National STD Prevention Conference; Atlanta, GA