It’s common in medicine to track men who have (or who simulate) sex with men, instead of asking patients whether they are “gay” or “homosexual”. This is abbreviated “MSM.” The letters for women aren’t as common, but let’s write WSW. In fact, let’s write PSP for people who simulate sex with those of the same sex.
Men can only have sexual intercourse with women, so that when two men or two women engage in certain acts, these can only be simulations and not the “real thing.” Also, the words “gay” and “homosexual” are variable, troublesome, and not universally accepted (are men in prison who engage in certain acts with other men “gay”?); thus, PSP is as neutral a word or term as we’re likely to get.
About these simulations: in particular, sodomy (this applies to both man-on-man and the much rarer man-on-woman). Is it moral or immoral? Normal or abnormal? Natural or unnatural? Disgusting or relative? Sinful or virtuous? Praiseworthy or disdainful? Nobody’s business or everybody’s business? If unhealthy, should it be banned? If immoral, should it be unlawful? Given the heated debate of all things PSP, it’s strange that these questions are scarcely ever asked. Reilly asks, and answers.
But first a distinction. Let us take an act, say, helping an old lady across the street. The act is praiseworthy per se, irrespective of the person carrying out the act, a person who may or may not have had good motives for committing the act and who may be at heart an evil or holy person (a person carrying out a per se praiseworthy act for an immoral reason is still acting immorally, just as a person who carries out an immoral act for the good reason is still acting immorally1). That is, we can and must discuss the merits and demerits of this or any act without bringing individuals into the question. It is the act we want to know about, and not the person.
The word natural is ambiguous. In one sense it means whatever is, but in another it means that which acts in accord with its purpose. The yearly murder rate in the USA is about 5 in 100,000, and, though variable, it is somewhat constant in that it was never 0, and nobody expects it ever will be. This rate is natural in the first sense. But we do not say therefore that because murder is natural in the first sense, it is therefore allowable or praiseworthy or moral. Murder is per se wrong because it is an act which is not in accord with the purpose of human beings. It is unknown at what rate old ladies are helped crossing streets, but whatever this “natural” rate is also does not determine the rightness of the act. The act is natural in the second sense, and obviously so.
Pointing to the number of people who engage in an act thus does not give us proof of its rightness or wrongness. We have to look at how the act relates to our purposes or ends. Reilly: “Deeds are considered good or bad, natural or unnatural, in relation to the effect they have on man’s progress toward his end in achieving the good.” The Good, according to Aristotle and many other profound thinkers, is the fulfillment of a thing or being’s essence or nature (a third meaning). Thus was born the Natural Law, which we will discuss later. For now, accept only that one of the ends of which the human body is directed is health, the idea that, in general, it is better to be healthy than ill (there are exceptions, like a man jumping on a grenade to save his comrades, etc.).
Sodomy is not healthy; it is not an act which is directed toward the health of either participant. Reilly reminds us of this quote from Aristotle, from his Ethics: “‘Those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other person is loved’ (emphasis in original).” Reilly uses this example, which ties health to the natural end of an thing:
A person stuffing objects into his ears is endangering his hearing, because he could puncture his eardrums or precipitate an infection. Ears are made for hearing, not for the storage of objects. Using them for the latter endangers the former. Any responsible person would advise someone stuffing objects into his ears not to do this because of the harm it could bring.
The “made for” is derived from Natural Law, which again we do not discuss today, though in the case of ears being “made for” hearing, few would object. In the same sense, we say the southernmost end of the human alimentary tract is made for the evacuation of waste material. This appears indisputable; nevertheless, it is disputed. But, like sticking sharp pencils into ear canals, objects inserted into the human anus tend to (it is in their nature) to cause damage and bring disease.
Reilly lists many of these damages and diseases, removing most to an appendix because they are not pleasant to contemplate. He also includes damages and diseases occurring to WSW, as many acts in which these people participate differ from regular procreative practices and are thus also dangerous.
This material can be found in the medical literature, where it is a specialty, though it’s unlikely to be familiar to many (e.g. type “MSM” into PubMed). A good survey is provided by Dr John Diggs: “The list of diseases found with extraordinary frequency among male homosexual practitioners as a result of anal intercourse is alarming: Anal Cancer, Chlamydia trachomatis, Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Herpes simplex virus, Human immunodeficiency virus, Human papilloma virus, Isospora belli, Microsporidia, Gonorrhea, Viral hepatitis types B & C, Syphilis” to name a few, including mechanical damages (tears, etc.), much lower life expectancy; there is also that which follows after the act due to uncleanliness and incaution (certain oral-alimentary-tract practices); the frequent appearance of certain drugs. Diggs also relates the departures from health due to other non-procreative activities. All of these maladies and misfortunes occur at rates far, far exceeding man-woman (true) sexual practices. Reilly shows, for example, that there is a 4,000 percent increase in anal cancer rates for those who practice sodomy.
HIV/AIDS is of course its own category, and though it is more known, it is curiouser than you might have imagined.
All rationalizations for sexual misbehavior, no matter of what sort, are allied to and reinforce one another. The rationalization being complete, anything goes, including “bug chasing”—the new craze in which homosexuals actively seek HIV infection because of the added sexual thrill. They call the men who infect them “gift givers”. One bug chaser said, “It’s all about freedom.”
This passage included a footnote to a 2003 Rolling Stone article “Bug Chasers: The Men Who Long to Be HIV+”. I have only been able to discover snippets of that article2. One source has the article beginning by discussing a man named Carlos, who is brought to consider HIV: “His eyes light up as he says that the actual moment of transmission, the instant he gets HIV, will be ‘the most erotic thing I can imagine.’ He seems like a typical thirty-two-year-old man, but, in fact, he has a secret life. Carlos is chasing the bug.”
There is a Wikipedia entry on Bug Chasing, and searching in the usual way brings up a wealth of literature. There is even a new book advocating the chase by W. C. Harris who (says Taki magazine’s Christopher Hart) is “a radical gay activist and Professor of Queer Studies and Early American Literature”. The book is Slouching Towards Gaytheism: Christianity and Queer Survival in America. There are many intriguing passages in Hart’s review, but this one stands out:
“Breeding the virus in another man’s body develops new kinships,” explains Harris (rather than, say, new burdens on health services), and they become one more couple in the “bug brotherhood.” The one who does the infecting is called the daddy, the recipient the son, and such incestuous overtones are also very exciting, argues Professor Harris, for they too are transgressive, subversive, and liberating.
What is indisputable is that sodomy in general, and “bug chasing” in particular, are damaging to one’s health, and are even life-threatening. It is also true that these are all avoidable risks, that the risks are based on willful acts. It is also true that people who were always celibate or always monogamous (in the literal interpretation of these words) face disease risks at or near zero (exposure to some diseases through, say, blood transfusions or through “dirty needles” are always possible).
Should physicians be barred from communicating these risks? Should ordinary individuals? Would it be right to call any who communicated these facts a “bigot”? (Facts themselves cannot be bigoted, but their presentation could be.) Is stating, “Sodomy is an enormous health risk” “homophobic”? How about stating, “Sodomy is disgusting”? Should prepubescent children be taught that sodomy is “natural” and “normal”? In the first sense of these words—that it exists—it surely is, but in the second—that it is good or oriented toward health–it surely is not. Or should we let kids come to adulthood before exposing them to their “choices”? Should sodomy be encouraged as an “alternate lifestyle”, even though we know of its harms?
Lastly, dear reader: bug hunting. Good or bad? (It will be interesting to see who avoids this question.)
The reader is cautioned to keep the discussion at a high level. Comments not in accord with gentlemanly or lady-like behavior will be edited or deleted. Let’s also stick to the topic at hand, the act. The history and other cultural consequences we will come to another day. For those tending to apoplexy or who are feeling undue stress over this topic, I recommend this.
Update Somewhat curiously, we seem not to be answering the series of question put to us at the end of this post.
1“It is never acceptable to confuse a ‘subjective’ error about moral good with the ‘objective’ truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.” From Veritatis Splendour.
2Reilly listed in a footnote this URL for a PDF copy of the Rolling Stone article, but I was unable to locate it there.