Friday, April 08, 2005

Relationships in a Perfect World

In general, I think that my political and economic framework are most supple and rich, with my racial framework coming in behind. Unfortunately, I'm not so good with gender issues.

I approach the issue from a prima facia rationality viewpoint. People get into relationships to satisfy desires, urges, and to enrich themselves, so why do they so frequently come away with pain? It seems to me that one problem is the search for "true love" as an entity. The entire endeavour is founded on contradictory logic: We're searching for something we don't have and is supposed to be obvious when it strikes, yet we place numerous conditions upon it. What is "true love"? Who cares? Can't we freely find ways to relate to others as we damn well please, having fun (sexual or otherwise) as the time feels right?

Suppose one woman loves two men who are best friends. The staunch rule of monogamy forces conflict, pain, suffering as a prima facia condition. Why not simply "share"? If every person involved is fine with it, why not go running?

To me, long-term relationships should be viewed as something of a contract. Certain ground rules need to be established: certain things are not to be violated, a certain space is left, etc. As long as that contract is formed with the full interest and uncoerced desire of all parties involved, I don't especially care about the nature of the contract, nor do I think society has any pressing interest in creating impositions, cultural or legal.

Why, then, is infidelity unacceptable? If both parties establish that a monogamous relationship is appropriate, then for one to step outside of the bounds is a violation of that contract. Either the situation must be resolved or the contract must be made null.

Why would homosexuality, bisexuality or polygamy be unacceptable? No reason whatsoever. As long as every person involved has a say equivalent to how they are impacted and is being fully satisfied, why not? This applies as well to any number of sexual fantasies or "fetishes": bondage, rape fantasy, uniforms, whatever the hell is in your kinky mind. As long as one partner is not imperially demanding something that the other partner feels uncomfortable giving but does not feel ready to say "No", run with it.

How about pedophilia? Here, we take a reasonable exception when someone is declared incompetent to make decisions for themselves. This does mean, however, that we have to be serious about it. A thirty year old preying upon the insecurities of a twenty year old (or vice versa) is not illegal, yet a nineteen year old preying upon the insecurities of a seventeen year old (or vice versa) is. Of course, legally, one has to be concrete, but it strikes me that setting some arbitrary age is not going to account for the complex gradation. Perhaps we should simply make it possible for anybody to take up a case on behalf of someone who is deemed incompetent to make sexual decisions on their own, with stringent guidelines as to what that would imply. Obviously, a father preying upon his prepubescent daughter would clearly fall within these guidelines, and such a reprobate would be removed from his daughter and likely from the community.

How does rape fall under this concept? Having read the rape law debates on both sides, I feel that the issue is a lot more complex than people think. To me, there is no doubt that, while some rape cases are falsely reported, the pressures that would lead to underreporting are almost infinitely more present. After all, going to court with a rape claim means, almost by necessity, having one's credibility torn to shreds. That having been said, the solution is clearly not to define rape to meaninglessness. If I have sex with someone and regret it in a week, is that rape? No, because at the time I made the decision to go ahead and jump her bones, I was fully consenting. But it seems that some radical feminists, as Wendy McElroy has documented, have taken a reasonable desire to make rape actually stick to the point of theoretically allowing a rape conviction on any pretext if either partner ever decides they were raped (though in actual fact rape cases will tend to be underreported). On the other hand, by the same logic, rape can still be prosecuted even if the victim liked it or experienced arousal - it's not relevant for determing the voluntary nature of the act.

It should be noted that I don't think that any polity, especially the nation-state, has the right to prevent any action that it considers immoral. I think someone has the right to insult someone else even when I consider it to be cruel and vile. This means that we must distinguish between something that a community would have legal sanctions against versus something that a community may allow but nonetheless despise.

Another comment: I generally feel that no person in a relationship should dominate or submit all the time, but slipping in and out of such roles can be appropriate if the net result is general equality.


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