Our Opponents’ Confessions

Rob Tisinai

May 7th, 2013

Sometimes I hear a line of reasoning so bizarre that all I can do is look for the psychological issues behind it. I find this happening quite a lot with opponents of same-sex marriage, and the irony is that often their stated goal is to offer an objective justification for their beliefs, but what they deliver is so idiosyncratic, so utterly dependent on a strange and subjective inner life, that all they end up doing is proving their own irrelevance.

Look at three cases: Doug Mainwaring, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, and Robert George. Each of them says something that actually turns out to be true — true for them, true of them — but in a sad and sometimes baffling way.

Doug Mainwaring

Doug Mainwaring is one of NOM’s favorite homosexuals; he gives testimony against same-sex marriage. Apparently he married, had a child, left the family to be one of those hedonistic gays, and then reunited everyone under the same roof in a sexless relationship with his wife so that his offspring could be raised by Mom and Dad. And you know what? Fine. But then he writes this:

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found our decision to rebuild our family ratified time after time. One day as I turned to climb the stairs I saw my sixteen-year-old son walk past his mom as she sat reading in the living room. As he did, he paused and stooped down to kiss her and give her a hug, and then continued on. With two dads in the house, this little moment of warmth and tenderness would never have occurred. My varsity-track-and-football-playing son and I can give each other a bear hug or a pat on the back, but the kiss thing is never going to happen. To be fully formed, children need to be free to generously receive from and express affection to parents of both genders. Genderless marriages deny this fullness.

Well, one thing’s for sure. With Doug Mainwaring for his dad, that kid definitely needs a second parent in the house. Doug ought to be saying this in shame as a confession of his inadequate parenting. But it never occurs to him that many fathers — conservative, heterosexual fathers included — are quite comfortable giving their sons a kiss and a hug.

This, by the way, is another example of why we’ll win: another statement by another opponent guaranteed not to persuade, but to garner a reaction of what-planet-are-you-from?

The takeaway: When Doug Mainwaring talks about the limitations of having two fathers, he’s just telling us something about himself.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien

Former Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland made the news into two completely different, shocking but not entirely surprising ways. First, he opposed same-sex marriage in the UK, calling it grotesque, analogizing it to slavery, and declaring same-sex civil unions to be:

…harmful to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of those involved.

And less than a year later, O’Brien was forced to resign due to a long history of making unwanted sexual advances to priests, and for having been physically involved with one of his accusers for years.

Now that O’Brien has been humbled I can look at him with pity. He was so twisted by his beliefs that any half-relationship he could could dare to attempt would inevitably be “harmful to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of those involved.”

The takeway: When Cardinal Keith O’Brien talks about the harm done by gay relationships, he’s just telling us something about himself.

Robert George

Robert George is a distinguished Princeton professor who writes terrible, almost incoherent Natural Law arguments against homosexuality, birth control, and masturbation. His goal is to show that Catholic teaching can be derived rationally.

His work is a lot like what would happen if I heard about a Ryan Gosling kissing booth: my goal would be just to get there, no matter how labored, tortuous, or ridiculous the route. It’s the same way with Robert George and the view that masturbation is wrong:  The Church says it is, so that’s his destination, and it doesn’t matter labored, tortuous, or ridiculous his reasoning, as long as he gets there.

Here are some key quotes:

The body is not rightly treated as a machine for having experiences…

[I]t is contrary to reason—bad and immoral—to sacrifice one’s psychosomatic integrity, or to instrumentalize a part of oneself, for the sake of some desired experience, whether it is getting drunk, enjoying a psychedelic drug trip or having an orgasm…

In masturbation and other non-marital sex acts, by contrast, ‘one does not choose to act for a goal which fulfills oneself as a unified, bodily person. The only immediate goal is satisfaction for the conscious self; and so the body, not being part of the whole for whose sake the act is done, serves only as an extrinsic instrument.’…

[Acts like masturbation] damage personal integrity insofar as those acts effect an existential alienation of the body from the conscious self by simply using the body as an experience-inducing machine. Thus, such behavior should, for moral reasons, be avoided.

In case that’s opaque, here’s my brief (and surely inadequate) summary:

  • Having an integrated mind and body is self-evidently good. Thus anything which breaks that integration is bad.
  • This is also true of gay sex or any other sex act that doesn’t culminate with a married penis in its married vagina.

Robert George’s logic on sex is unfathomable to me. I read his words but doubt my understanding because they so completely contradict the experience of my own life. It’s like reading an intricately-reasoned argument that you shouldn’t keep elephants in your house because they’re too small to keep track of; there’s no need to dismantle the argument line by line — it’s enough to answer, “Have you seen an elephant?” Or, in George’s case, “Have you had sex?”

Sex, with someone you love, purely for emotional closeness, does not split the mind and body. It unites them. It dissolves the barriers between body, spirit, and mind.

And masturbation? Masturbation is one way the mind discovers the body. It can be something you do to clean the pipes and stop your body from yelling at you, but it can also be — for adolescents, especially — a fundamental way of exploring your entire self. Not just mind, not just body, not just emotion, but all three at once.

So all I can do is wonder at the inner life of a man who not only came up with this reasoning, but who thought it would convince others. This speculation is worth what you paid for it, but here’s my best attempt: I can imagine a man who has been taught that masturbation is wrong, sinful, wicked. It exposes weakness of mind and character. He tries to abstain, but every time he gives in he’s hit with guilt, and his conscious mind feels betrayed by his body. And that, folks, is mind-body alienation.

The takeway: When Robert George talks about the morality of sex, he’s just telling us something about himself.

Of course, when all of us talk about sex or love or family, we’re really just telling people something about ourselves. We know this. The last few generations who’ve grown to adulthood know this (most of them, anyway). The only people who don’t know this, it seems, are our opponents.



May 7th, 2013

Spot on!

Timothy Kincaid

May 7th, 2013

My varsity-track-and-football-playing son and I can give each other a bear hug or a pat on the back, but the kiss thing is never going to happen.

Funny thing about the Bible. It notes kissing from cover to cover but nearly all of them are a man kissing another man.

I guess it’s because they just didn’t have enough football in the Ancient Middle East.

Paul Mc

May 7th, 2013

It’s like Robert George (and Ryan Anderson) is Gollum, holding onto a precious gold ring that will allow the wearer great powers over politicians and Scotus judges and church goers and everyone really. But the recourse to natural law is back firing badly. His pitch is incomprehensible. I really can’t understand his faith in a derivation from principles, as if that is how humans approach subjective experience or decide laws as close to the heart as marriage.

That’s not a gold ring in his clutches, it’s a Cheerio.


May 7th, 2013

As for Robert George, he’s probably the type specimen of the kind of reasoning that forms the basis for what I called “faith based science,” of which Paul Cameron is the most noted practitioner: you start with your conclusion; you fish around until you find some evidence, or an argument, that supports it (if you can’t find anything, you make something up); then, voila, you arrive at your conclusion.

It’s also called circular reasoning.

Ben in Oakland

May 7th, 2013

“The body is not rightly treated as a machine for having experiences.”

The body, which includes even the fevered Brain of ol’ bobby, is the only way we have experiences. So I guess he’s never been on a roller coaster, made love to his wife for no other reason than he loves her, or taken a hot bath– though it does sound like maybe he’s taken quite a few cold showers.

The whole of that screed sounds like a man forcibly divorced from the reality of the human condition.

Good catch, Rob.


May 7th, 2013

Ugh, I would never kiss my mom on the head. That just seems weird to me.

Richard Rush

May 7th, 2013

In the past I’ve noted that pathologically conservative folks seem woefully underrepresented in the arts, including comedy. I’ve thought that they not only lacked the prerequisite creativity, but feared it, because it represents change, new ways of thinking, insights, etc.

I was wrong.

I now realize that the pathologically conservative can be, and often are, as creative as anyone else. But the defining difference between them and other creative people is that they single-mindedly channel their creativity into transforming new and existing preposterous beliefs and ideas into “truth” via bizarrely twisted rhetoric that has no basis in reason, empirical evidence, or rational observation. They create Magic Truth.

David Malcolm

May 7th, 2013

I used to always give my parents kisses as a kid. I don’t as much as an adult, but I don’t really kiss my mom either. But I hug them both. I think that guy’s nuts.


May 7th, 2013

Well, every family is dysfunctional in its own special way.

BTB fan

May 7th, 2013

I have heard Maggie Gallagher refer affectionately to Robert George as “Robby George.” I had no idea, until now, that Robby was a masturbation-opposing mega-weirdo. I expected religious nonsense, but his writing in opposition to masturbation I didn’t expect. So he’s NOM’s big intellectual, huh? After Dr. Rekers elected to retire, right?

I wonder, would George like to see masturbation be outlawed? Perhaps so — he seems to want laws to reflect his personal views of sexual morality.

Does the mainstream media know about NOM’s Princeton-professor thought-leader’s positions on masturbation? I think that’s a story worth covering.

I’m seeing a trend: It’s like Gallagher and George hate seeing other people have pleasure in their lives.


May 7th, 2013

I was about 6 when my Dad informed me that I couldn’t kiss him anymore because “men didn’t do that.” I was devastated, but also know now that my parents already suspected I was gay and were trying to “fix” me. It took until my 20s for Dad to even hug me. My brother-in-law, who is no less butch than my father kisses his now teenage sons all the time – and they’re both interested in girls. I wonder what Mainwaring is doing wrong?

Ben in Oakland

May 8th, 2013

” I wonder what Mainwaring is doing wrong?”

Mainwaring isnt heterosexual. He’s already stated that. He isn’t homosexual, because according to the mindset of his employers, homosexuality is something you do, not something you are. My guess is, he’s deathly afraid, primarily of himself. He’s afraid of expressing the “wrong kind” of affection to his son, becuase he’s got very screwed up ideas of what love is, what sex is, what affection is, what a man is, what a boy is. Look at what your own father did to you, and probably for the very same kinds of reasons, and you’ll probably have a good idea of what he’s going through.

I kissed my dad until my senior year in high school, but I remember gettingthe distinct impression that he wasn’t very comfortable with it.


May 8th, 2013

Well done Mr. Tisinai, well done.


May 8th, 2013

I’ll go out on a limb and ask if Mainwaring’s story has ever really been verified. Has any former BF stepped forward?

I really don’t want to suggest anything, but his background is alittle unusual.


May 8th, 2013

It saddens me to know that so much of the strife we as a community experience comes from individuals of our own sexual orientation. My internal struggle between feelings of disgust, anger, compassion, and pity for these individuals is a big challenge.

Ben In Oakland

May 8th, 2013

Preston, i am ever more convinced that our greatest opposition is not from the religious reich and social conservatives, but a very large subset of them known as homo-hating homos.

Priya Lynn

May 8th, 2013

“The body is not rightly treated as a machine for having experiences.”

Says who?!

Ben In Oakland

May 8th, 2013

Why, Priya! Says the God who gave them to us, of course. Unfortunately, he was called away on business at the last minute, and left it pu to his profit, Li’l Bobby, to get the message across.

Priya Lynn

May 8th, 2013

Bobby rules god, not vice versa.

Regan DuCasse

May 8th, 2013

I remember what I thought about Mainwaring’s rationale for op sex parent households, and thought to myself: what a sad, twisted and weird idea about what being a father is.
And as Ben in Oakland is stating, what being a man, sex or anything uniquely human or personal is.
Mainwaring is all straight jacketed by something as simple as that, he’s truly messed up.
I have noticed things about demonstrably affectionate men, comfortable with it regardless of the gender or age of who they show it to: there is something much more stable and healthy about them.
And much more manly somehow.
Sometimes what makes a man strong and stronger, is how gentle he can be.

Ben In Oakland

May 8th, 2013

Regan, I have straight male friends who kiss me hello. It was at first very disconcerting.


May 8th, 2013

I’m so glad I was raised in a family that didn’t put limits on manly affection. My brothers, sister, mom and I still hug and kiss each other. My father always said hello and goodbye with a kiss on the cheek or forehead. The last time I saw my father before he died he kissed me goodbye and told me he loved me. I’ll treasure that memory forever.


May 8th, 2013

Regan said:

“I have noticed things about demonstrably affectionate men, comfortable with it regardless of the gender or age of who they show it to: there is something much more stable and healthy about them.
And much more manly somehow.”

This very much reminds me of how I feel about my brother-in-law; or more accurately, my husband’s younger sister’s boyfriend.

Like myself, my spouse comes from a conservative family. And though they are all 100% supportive of the two of us, on family gatherings the men of the family always greet with a handshake. This of course doesn’t bother me, as I fully respect peoples comfort level, and I don’t think the handshakes are restricted to me.

But in contrast, his sister’s boyfriend, in saying goodbye from one of these gatherings, laid a kiss full on my cheek. To say that, in that moment, I was caught off guard would be an understatement. In immediate retrospect, I figured he was being a bit ‘snarky’ in a friendly straight guy sort of way.

He and my husband’s sister got an apartment awhile back. We had finally gotten around to seeing the place. Upon greeting us, her BF come out from the bedroom area (having just gotten home from work) he was decent but not completely dressed. I approached him with the full intention of respecting his comfort level and offer a hearty handshake; he proceeded to give me, along with my spouse a full hearted hug. This, along with his authentic desire to build a relationship with us is a blessing and I am fully appreciative of it.

Make no mistake; I hold no doubts of his complete heterosexuality. But his genuineness and unabashed affection (even to us ‘gay boys’) is a testament to his confidence in his own sexuality. And this accentuates, rather then denigrates his masculinity. Such actions on his part speaks to the fact that gay men can have healthy affectionate relationships with their straight friends, without it being ‘weird’.

Even I need to be reminded of that sometimes.


July 4th, 2013

So you don’t like Mr. George’s arguments? Let me clarify things for you – homosexuality is SIN. Yes, there is a Holy God in heaven that calls homosexuality sin even if you don’t happen to agree with it. Did that help? Ofcourse it didn’t. Why? You don’t care what God thinks.

Richard Rush

July 5th, 2013

rmm, your comment illustrates nicely how religious certainty certainly could be entertaining if it hadn’t caused so much human suffering and retardation of human progress for thousands of years.


July 5th, 2013

The only that you write in this wonderful post that I disagree with is the description of Robert George as “distinguished.” There is nothing distinguished about him. He is an embarrassment to his profession and to Princeton University.

Timothy Kincaid

July 5th, 2013

Oh goodie, an evangelical Christian out to save the world from itself. Always such a joy.

(richard, you nailed it)

Ben In Oakland

July 5th, 2013

rmm, honey, I don’t care what YOU think.

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