You Should Absolutely Not Have John Ragan over to Dinner

I read this post today and by the end of it, my all-consuming thought was that no, Johnson should NOT be inviting Representative Ragan over to dinner because, clearly, there is not much keeping Ragan from being a danger to himself or others. Holy shit. Look at this part of the letter he wrote her:

Given that you identified yourself as a college student in political science preparing for law school, I am sure your instructors have emphasized that logic, as a decision methodology, is a far superior all others. Therefore, let’s examine some issues you raised with logic. Additionally, please attempt not to “read anything into my remarks or questions” as being my positions or thoughts beyond that which I explicitly identify as such.

Logically, homosexuality is defined by behavior, i.e., unless one engages in sexual activity with a member of the same sex, he, or she, is not a homosexual. (The term sexual orientation is a description of feelings.) Feelings do not control the behavior of a mentally healthy adult human being.

By way of emphasis, let’s examine a few questions: If a person “feels” so angry with another that he or she “feels” like killing the object of their anger, is that person “controlled” by that “feeling?” Alternatively, can the possessor of that “feeling” choose not to act on it? If that person fails to act on that “feeling,” is he or she still referred to as a “murder?”

Can a person feel so much lust toward another that he “feels” like committing rape? If such is a possibility, is that person “controlled” by that “feeling” or can he choose not to engage in that action? If that person fails to act on that “feeling,” is he still referred to as a “rapist?”

Can a slender person “feel” like overeating, but choose not to do so? Is that person still called “fatty?” Can someone “feel” like not going to work, but get up and go anyway? Is that person still called “lazy?” Can a nun “feel” like engaging in sexual relations, but choose to remain celibate? Is she called a “whore?” Can someone “feel” like committing adultery, but choose not to do so? Is that person still called an “adulterer?”

Can a parent feel so upset with the misbehavior of a child, that he or she “feels” like “beating” that child? Alternately, can a distraught parent choose to merely “discipline” a child with a lecture, a “time-out” or a “grounding” (dependent upon age) to reinforce a prohibition against poor, or dangerous, behavior.

The list of questions about “feelings” that do not control people could go on and on. However, the point is sufficiently made. Mentally healthy adult human beings are not “controlled” by their “feelings.”

Let me just say that I can see why he’d add the “Additionally, please attempt not to ‘read anything into my remarks or questions’ as being my positions or thoughts beyond that which I explicitly identify as such,” because dude has issues.

And let me also just say that this is one way in which I feel really bad for men. Most men don’t rape women or children. They don’t beat their loved ones or seriously entertain the idea of killing people. But the men who do seriously entertain these ideas–who sit around asking things like “but what if she was really drunk, then would it be okay?” or “but what if he said something that made me really mad, then could I hit him?”–as if identifying some circumstances in which any man might be backed into doing what the serious entertainers want too do all the time reaffirms for the serious entertainer of these vile ideas that they have wide-reaching community support, even when they don’t.

You see what I’m saying? With rape, this is really obvious how this dynamic works. A guy whose m.o. is to get women too drunk to fight him off and isolated so that he can do what he wants to those women without being stopped hears discussions about guys who are concerned about times when both people are really drunk and maybe the guy didn’t get an explicit yes, but she seemed into it, as being not about miscommunications between sex partners and a true hope that one’s partner is having a good time, but about reaffirming that all men will have sex with women without caring if the women want to have sex.

But you also see it in discussions about spanking (though theses become fraught enough quickly enough that you see it less than you used to), where people who are having a discussion about a swift swat to a kid’s backside made from a place of fear and panic are joined by someone who believes in blanket-training small infants or hitting children with plumbing equipment. To the people who physically punish their kids every day, talk of the time you just lost control and spanked your kid who tried to, say, kick you in the head in Kroger, it just sounds like they are doing what’s normal because you’re doing it sort of, too.

But I read Ragan’s letter and I think, you know, even if a nun were having sex with sixty guys, I wouldn’t call her a whore. I wouldn’t think to call her a whore. For me, there’s no hypothetical situation I’d recount where I’d call a nun a whore, even in the furtherance of “logic!”

It would also never occur to me that any man might look at a woman with lust and decide to rape her, because most men I know, even if they felt lust toward someone, would not enjoy having sex with someone who didn’t want to have sex with them. The fear and hatred, possibly sobbing, would be a turn-off.

Likewise with murder. Yes, I have, as everyone has, joked about wanting to kill so-and-so. But even feeling enraged at someone would never make me seriously consider killing someone. And, if it ever happened that I had to kill someone, I know I would find that momentously traumatic. I knew a woman once who was in a car accident, which was not her fault, and the other driver died. Not her fault. Couldn’t have done anything to prevent his death. And she still struggled tremendously from the guilt.

So, I have my sincere doubts about the kind of person who could even hypothetically envision that all that’s holding most people back from doing these things is that they don’t act on their feelings.

No, dude, honestly. Most people don’t have the urge to hurt other people.

It’s not to say that people don’t hurt other people. People are jackasses. But if you’re operating from a paradigm in which everyone is vile and depraved and it’s only “logic” or “reason” that prevents us from acting on it, I think you have both those things wrong. And I am a little afraid of you.

I’m also struck by again the lesbian loophole. Everything that he says is wrong with being gay is wrong with being a gay man. It’s as if lesbians don’t exist. But honestly, in all his descriptions, there are some really problematic things about female desire. I’m not sure he even realizes that it’s a thing.

Plus, since he doesn’t believe in homosexuality as a state of being, but only of acting–“Logically, homosexuality is defined by behavior, i.e., unless one engages in sexual activity with a member of the same sex, he, or she, is not a homosexual. “–it can’t be just gay men who have such high rates of AIDS and suicide and such. Following his own statement, there is no such thing as sexual orientation, just sexual action. So, Ragan’s defining certain behaviors and traits as more prevalent among “gay” men fails under his own logical framework, in which there are no such thing as inherently gay men. So, those behaviors and traits can’t be limited to the “imaginary” group of “gay” men, but must be assumed to be traits all men have.  But I notice Ragan isn’t volunteering to quit life and go down and sit at the police station where he can be constantly monitored just in case he ever loses control.

So, while he argues for a world view in which we are all just monsters tightly-reigned in, he seems pretty confident in his reigning-in abilities. I find that perplexing.

Honestly, this is one reason I wish my dad weren’t so homophobic. Because I’d like to have a better idea of how Middle America white guys born in the 40s were socialized. Was the pressure to get married so enormous for so much of your life that you literally never had to confront or consider whether you were sexually attracted to women, because, even if you weren’t, it didn’t change the trajectory of your life (unless it just completely obliterated your whole life)? So, if you couldn’t imagine moving away and losing all contact with and support from your family, you couldn’t imagine a deliberately non-married life?

I mean, I’m trying to understand what it means when someone argues that just feeling like you’re gay doesn’t mean anything unless you act on it.

Does it mean that, within their own understanding of their sexuality, they do what they were told to do, whether it’s what they want or not? I mean, I don’t think that everyone who has these ideas is secretly gay.

But I do wonder if they’re all married to the people they want to be married to, frankly.

I’m going on way too long–I’m drinking a lot of Diet Dr Pepper because it makes my throat feel better and it’s got me a little wired–but, when I look at Ragan’s letter, I do see a guy for whom gay marriage is a threat.

Because getting gay married means, at core, choosing to marry the person who you want to marry, even if the state refuses to recognize it, even if it breaks your families’ hearts.

It means putting your feelings ahead of logic and reason.

And I imagine, for a lot of people who set aside their feelings to do the “right” thing, the discomfort and jealousy from seeing people who took another way can feel like a threat.

It’s one thing to do the “right” thing, even at great sacrifice, if it’s recognized by society as being good. But when you are in the middle of your difficult, “right” thing that has caused you to make great sacrifices and society turns away from your performance and goes to celebrate with the folks who are throwing their lot in with foolish feelings like “love,” that’s got to burn.

What I’m saying is that I respect that it feels like a loss to you.

But it is not even in the same ballpark of loss as what Phillip Parker’s family, for instance, is going through this week.

You should have been able to marry who you wanted, or not marry at all. You deserved real, open love with a person who saw you as a partner, not a bully or a burden. You deserved to not have to contort yourself into someone who thinks his own gender makes him vile in order to fit your community.

And I am genuinely sorry that your own writing seems to show that you did not get that.

But not sorry enough to let you carry on without noting how fucked up it is.

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8 thoughts on “You Should Absolutely Not Have John Ragan over to Dinner

  1. Thank you. I didn’t even know where to start, and you said it all. And nailed it. Thank you.

  2. I stopped reading after “Logically, homosexuality is defined by behavior…”

    That’s just not true. Even one of the leaders of Exodus International admits that 99.9% of the people who go through conversion therapy come out the other end as celibate gays. In other words, they still feel attracted to members of the same sex, they just choose not to act on it.

    In other words, they’re still gay. Because being gay isn’t just about what sex acts people perform, it’s who you’re attracted to.

    I swear the fundies need to get their heads out of the gutter and stop thinking about SEX-SEX-SEX all the damn time. Or at least admit that’s all they think about. It’s not about sex. They want it to be about sex because geez, I dunno, that’s all they ever want ANYTHING to be about is sex. I’ve never met a group of people more governed by sexual urges than the religious folks who are always trying to deny them.

    SEXITY-SEX-SEX-SEX.

  3. Indeed, all these avowed Christians are obsessed BOUT other men’s penises and what they do with them, with whom they do it with their penises and where they put their penises.

    Plus the whole, straight men love to watch/fantasize about two women doing it.

  4. An argument can be logically valid but lead to a false conclusion. One of the cases in which this occurs is when the premise is false. And I’m afraid that there’s no reason to accept John Ragan’s premise as true. I’m sure he did well in his symbolic logic class, but he seems to have failed in psych.

  5. His premise is false AND his logic is circular (sexuality is a behavior because we don’t use a description of the behavior as a description of the “feelings” that inspire it, which presupposes that sexuality is a description of behavior in the first place, which is what he’s trying to prove in the second place).

    But more importantly, the whole thing is practically irrelevant to the letter he’s supposed to be responding to which is criticizing a bill that is explicitly permitting the bullying of children over their perceived sexual orientation, not their actual sexual behavior.

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