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Shorter Mona Charen

December 26th, 2008 · 27 Comments

I have no idea what “bisexual” means.

Tags: Sexual Politics · Stupid Shit



27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Wateright Compartment // Dec 26, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Shorter Julian Sanchez: I am glib tit.

    “I assume that if you are bisexual, you believe that you need to have sexual relationships with both men and women.”

    What, in this definition, bespeaks “no idea”?

  • 2 Julian Sanchez // Dec 26, 2008 at 11:53 am

    The fact that it’s wrong. But thank you for establishing your own ignorance as well.

  • 3 imag // Dec 26, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Are you suggesting that Mr. Compartment’s porn has been lying to him all along? Unthinkable!

  • 4 Watertight Compartment // Dec 26, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Let’s see… Webster’s defines “bisexual” as “having sexual desire directed toward both sexes.” So, for this sexuality to be expressed – and God knows these days, the Sexual Revolution is all about the expression of sexuality – a bisexual “needs” to pursue relations with both sexes.

    Once again, the obvious error eludes me, but I never took any Queer Studies courses. I think Mrs. Charen’s argument boils down to the familiar point that if the identity of the people able to marry is malleable, why is the number of people sacrosanct?

    Did you ever cover “special pleading” in any of your logic courses?


    Do go pursue a deeply-fulfilling and (one day, hopefully) socially-sanctioned sexual relationship with yourself.

  • 5 Julian Sanchez // Dec 26, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Assuming your professed confusion is genuine, I’m not sure whether it’s hilarious or depressing. The obvious error is that a bisexual is attracted to both sexes in the same sense that I’m attracted to both blondes and brunettes. Neither of us “need” to be in simultaneous romantic relationships with every type of person we’re capable of being attracted to. This is not advanced topics in Queer Studies, this is the sexual-orientation equivalent of “no, Jews do not in fact have horns.”

  • 6 Otter the Other // Dec 26, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    You mean being a married heterosexual does not mean you get to bang all the members of the opposite sex? You have to choose just one? Julian, I am shocked.

    Also, Mona needs to pick better anonymous troll names. How about “Uptight Comportment”?

  • 7 imag // Dec 27, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Well, Iman must be relieved. I’d hate to have to break the bad news about her not being married, or her husband cheating, or whatever the heck it was that Ms. Charen was trying to say.

    And I’m still not sure what it means to “express” one’s sexual orientation – it sounds like a bad poetry class exercise – or why one’s sexuality apparently dissipates into nothingness if one does not do so regularly. Or is that how it allegedly works? Maybe Charen and Compartment are thinking that there’s some sort of official bisexuality license that gets revoked if someone associates with one gender for too long. I dunno.

  • 8 Watertight Compartment // Dec 27, 2008 at 9:18 am


    Ah, I see where you’ve come a cropper: inapt analogising. I think the differences between man and woman are rather more fundamental and physiological than the differences between blonde and brunette.

    If you must analogise (always a dangerous activity), a better example would be an omnivore who is told he must either choose meat or veg to remain within the societal pale.

    Anyway, this is all a silly diversion from the writer’s main point, which is the absence of a principled objection to some species of polygamy.

  • 9 Julian Elson // Dec 27, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Watertight Compartment, if your analogy holds, being an omnivore would be the equivalent of bisexuality, and being a vegetarian/carnivore would be the equivalent of being straight/gay, but marriage would be the equivalent of choosing a single type of food to live on — i.e., only living on boiled yukon gold potatoes, only living on grilled pork chops, or only living on scrambled eggs. By the analogy, a vegetarian who eats potatoes *and* carrots, onions, garlic, pasta, etc, is equivalent to a straight woman who frequently cheats on her husband, but only with other men, and not with women.

  • 10 Julian Sanchez // Dec 28, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Yes, fair enough: Behind the hilariously ignorant, wildly inaccurate specific example was a banal, cliched argument that would have been beneath notice had it been offered unadorned. Go ahead and own that one.

  • 11 hermetically sealed receptacle // Dec 29, 2008 at 7:59 am

    A bisexual who is “in love” with both a man and a woman and would otherwise be bisexually unfulfilled must by definition engage in polygamous behavior. A ban on polygamous marriage would therefore discriminate against bisexuals — which would be impermissible, at least under the theory of equal protection advanced by gay marriage proponents. If gay marriage is permissible, then polygamous bisexual marriage ought to be permissible too, otherwise one would be guilty of discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

    This is the thrust of Charen’s argument: if gay marriage, then why not bisexual polygamous marriage? There is no logical reason not to extend the equal protection analysis to the latter, and any line drawn to exclude the latter would only be arbitrary. Which means, in practice, that legalizing gay marriage under the rubric of equal protection would entail legalizing polygamous marriage as well, and overruling Reynolds v. United States.

    I agree with my impermeable friend that Sanchez is being far too glib here.

  • 12 Baltimoron // Dec 29, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Again, there’s that suspicion, that non-heteros lack discipline. Bisexuals are worse than gays because they just cannot avoid f*#cking anyone. Marriage never stopped a hetero from cheating, or just attraction, but for the most devout that’s just a matter of sin and how much you want to donate to your psychiatrist or pastor. For gays and bi’s, that’s grounds for exile to some ring of hell. Humans can be both in love and in lust, and lawyers and gay priests appreciate the fact.

    Speaking of which, when did a cabal of raping priests ever deserve a monopoly on moral issues?

    This debate is not about love, but rather about property. it’s about a man or woman being able to dispose of their property as they see fit, without government or church interference. If I want to divide my estate among all the GFs and BFs with whom I’ve had at least a nice fling, I should have the right to be a fool. And, if I do commit myself, I shouldn’t have to pay more for the battery of legal benefits any man and woman gets with a marriage certificate.

    Also, if the “devout” want a special deal, then they can pay extra for the religious ceremony of their choice. But, for everyone, an application should be enough.

  • 13 A Socrates hater // Dec 29, 2008 at 11:10 am

    “A bisexual who is “in love” with both a man and a woman and would otherwise be bisexually unfulfilled must by definition engage in polygamous behavior. A ban on polygamous marriage would therefore discriminate against bisexuals — which would be impermissible, at least under the theory of equal protection advanced by gay marriage proponents. If gay marriage is permissible, then polygamous bisexual marriage ought to be permissible too, otherwise one would be guilty of discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.”

    That’s the most stunning sophistry I’ve read in a long time. And, given the amout of Plato books I’ve reading the last months, that’s saying something.

  • 14 Matthew Tievsky // Dec 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    A straight man in love with two women and would otherwise be sexually unfulfilled must by definition engage in polygamous behavior, according to the logic of Charen’s defenders. A ban on polygamous marriage no more discriminates against bisexuals than it does straights.

    Bisexuality is not a greater “need” than hetero- or homosexuality. It’s simply a less discriminating taste.

  • 15 Julian Elson // Dec 29, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Look, it’s just silly to say that legal institutions are unjustly discriminatory unless they do not distinguish between numbers of people. Really, is the position of congressional representative discriminatory because Bob can run for representative, but John, Sarah, Mike, and Jen can’t all run for representative as part of a single ticket for a single seat, promising to occupy the position jointly as co-representatives? Saying that the representative must be a man would be discriminatory. Saying that the representative must be a single individual is not. Or, at least, if it is discrimination, it’s completely bona fide form of discrimination which is necessary and good, although I would say that it’s an entirely different matter, completely unrelated to discrimination. Saying that I can marry a woman but not a man is much more closely analogous to the unjust discrimination cases I wrote of before (e.g., limiting congressional representatives to men), but saying that I can marry one person but not three really isn’t analogous to any form of unjust discrimination that comes to my mind.

  • 16 hermetically sealed receptacle // Dec 29, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    “A straight man in love with two women and would otherwise be sexually unfulfilled must by definition engage in polygamous behavior”

    Not so, since a man would only be having ‘more of the same’ rather than fulfilling the sexual possibilities his orientation demands. By contrast, a bisexual who is “in love” with both a man and a woman would be forced to choose between sexes — but not both — if she is to remain monogamous. One aspect of her sexuality, whether it is her attraction males or females, is necessarily denied as a result.

    Ergo, discrimination based on orientation.

    You can draw all the arbitrary lines you want, but you’d simply be discriminating against bisexuals and the polygamous in the same way you claim those against gay marriage are discriminating against homosexuals. Saying “a ban on polygamous marriage no more discriminates against bisexuals than it does straights” is like saying “a ban on gay marriage no more discriminates against homosexuals than it does straights.” Because hey, everyone gets to marry someone of the opposite sex — homosexuals do too — so there’s really no discrimination. You do not accept this argument in the gay marriage context, so why would you accept this argument in the polygamous bisexual marriage context? You’re being arbitrary, and dare I say it, hypocritical.

    More thoughtful commenters than you have conceded that the distinction drawn is unconvincing and possibly arbitrary. (See, e.g. Dale Carpenter at Volokh.)

  • 17 Julian Sanchez // Dec 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Some “aspect” of your sexuality is denied any time you commit to a single person — at least for those of us capable of distinguishing between romantic partners on grounds more subtle than genital shape. Though I’m sure “hey, you’re more of the same!” makes a delightful pickup line.

  • 18 hermetically sealed receptacle // Dec 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Except that the aspect of sexuality denied to bisexuals — namely, one side of the bisexuality coin — is inherent to one’s bisexuality. Being monogamous would mean being forced to choose one facet of my bisexuality, making me effectively mono-, rather than bisexual. The artificial distinction you seem so keen to draw is without merit.

  • 19 Julian Elson // Dec 29, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    If you think that there should be some institutional accomodation for polygamous relationships, then fine, but it could not use the same legal framework as marriage as it currently exists.

    Let’s say Adam marries Elizabeth and Kristen. Adam writes a book, then kicks the bucket. A filmmaker wants to adapt the book to the screen. Elizabeth thinks it’s a nifty idea. Kristen thinks it wouldn’t be. Legally, who is in the right? The law says that the spouse gets control over copyrights. It doesn’t specify [i]which[/i] spouse, because under marriage, any person can only have one spouse. Marriage law is based on the assumption that anyone has one spouse (or zero).

    Why do I bother, though? You’ll just say I’m making an arbitrary distinction and discriminating against bisexuals who believe that their sexuality means that marriage is discriminatory unless it allows bisexuals a husband and a wife each (a group of bisexuals of whose existence I’ve seen no evidence — at least, no more evidence than that of straights and gays who think they should be able marry polygamously, but regardless…).

  • 20 Julian Sanchez // Dec 30, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Yes, well, I’ll leave it to you to explain to all the monogamous bisexuals that they’re doing it wrong. You’d better get started; there are rather a lot of them.

  • 21 Psyche // Dec 30, 2008 at 1:53 am

    For the enlightenment and edification of the closed container crowd, here’s what an actual, factual bisexual thinks about your line of reasoning: you’re blithering idiots.

    Just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean I don’t understand, and potentially want to enjoy, the benefits of a committed, monogamous relationship. And if I were to settle down with a nice girl (or boy) and stop sleeping around, I wouldn’t stop being bisexual. I’d still be attracted to members of both sexes, I’d just only be acting on that attraction with one particular individual.

    My situation as regards marriage would be quite different from that of a gay man or woman who could only marry a member of the opposite sex. Sure, I would have chosen not to act on one facet of my sexual identity, but I would as a result be able to be in an exclusive, loving, sexual, and legally-recognized relationship (assuming I settle down with a man and/or move to Massachusetts), whereas a gay person would have to choose between the sexual and the legally recognized bits in most states.

    Look, sleeping with men and sleeping with women are different experiences, but for me ultimately they’re really more similar than not. Men and women aren’t interchangeable, but then people generally aren’t really interchangeable, and certainly aren’t in the sort of relationships that lead to marriage. Sleeping with any one person – at least if you’re doing it right – is a unique experience you couldn’t recreate with any other partner because they’re a unique individual. Monogamy is about valuing one unique person above all others, to the point that you’re willing to forego all other types of sexual experience that you might have with other partners, and that’s true whether you’re straight, gay or bisexual.

  • 22 A Socrates hater // Dec 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    “hermetically sealed receptacle” -> All that babbling doesn’t blur the fact that people don’t marry to fulfill sexual needs, and that marriage, even a legally monogamical one, doesn’t necessarily constrain a party’s sexual options to her spouse. If the fulfillment and expression of sexual desires is the only argument for same-sex marriage — I myself wouldn’t even say it is one of them — what feeble grounds would its advocates be on…. If this is correct, then there’s no case for an analogy between same-sex marriages and polygamical bisexual marriages.

  • 23 Glen // Dec 30, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Okay, Charen’s article has a lot of dumb-assed-ness in it. But there is at least the kernel of a valid argument.

    There are at least some people — including some but not all bisexuals — who don’t feel sexually fulfilled when involved with just one person. We call these people polyamorous, and most of us liberal-minded folks recognize their existence when we’re not having a political conversation. (Listen to a few episodes of Dan Savage’s podcast, for instance.) Moreover, many of our arguments in favor of gay marriage have implications far beyond the specific issue. When we talk about freedom of association, for instance, that implies the right of people to form polyamorous relationships.

    I think the appropriate response to the slippery slope argument here is to concede the point. Yes, this is a slippery slope — a slope toward freedom, which we should jump on with a toboggan.

  • 24 Julian Sanchez // Dec 31, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Well, you know I don’t have any problem with allowing polyamorous marriages, but there are also valid reasons why the particular set of legal rules constituting marriage are not easily extended to an indefinite number of parties. So I don’t think it’s a case of naked, indefensible discrimination in anything like the same way. The “if we permit A, we’re logically required to permit B” argument is just wrong on its face.

    That said, I wasn’t really taking issue with that whole thing — that’s an old argument. I was making fun of Charen’s apparent belief that bisexuals are, per se, incapable of monogamy. Which isn’t just wrong on its face, it’s so preposterously, obviously wrong that it just drives home that queer folks are like some sort of exotic species to Charen, about whom she has to spout inane theories in lieu of having observed any in the wild.

  • 25 Watertight Compartment // Dec 31, 2008 at 2:35 am

    To go waaaay back , Sanchez labels Charen’s underlying argument (the absence of a principled argument to permit gay marriage but continue proscribing polygamy) as “cliche” and “banal”.

    No argument against its veracity, then. I guess as a non-hipster, I don’t find aesthetic conisderations as compelling as you do, Sanchez.

    Of course, as a libertarian, Sanchez’s argument should be that the gov’t has no place in the marriage game to begin with. But that argument wouldn’t get him many DC cocktail party invites.

  • 26 Julian Sanchez // Jan 1, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Speaking of cliched and banal…

  • 27 Glen // Jan 1, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    WC, I think Julian would happily advocate getting gov’t out of the marriage business. Indeed, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him do so. But that’s probably off the table politically, so Julian is sensibly engaging in the second-best debate.

    (When libertarians won’t engage in second-best debates, they are called dogmatic. When they do engage in second-best debates, they are accused of selling out their principles. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.)