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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Not "Off the Top of My Head"

Rather, a post brought to my attention by someone on BiUnity's discussion list gave me the chance to point out something I've known about for a long time but don't get enough opportunity to mention. The occasion was a blog posting by satirist Jon Swift, commenting on a posting by conservative blogger Rod Dreher:

Rod Dreher was shocked by the story of a Texas man whose wife and children were slaughtered by his daughter and her friends. But he wasn't shocked by the brutal murder itself. Murders happen all the time. Big deal. What shocked him was a passing remark by the father who survived the attack by Erin, his little murderess. After he moved his family from the small Texas town of Celeste (pop. 800) to the liberal Emory (pop. 1200) his daughter was subject to the horrors of big city debauchery. "Emory has a lot of bisexual kids; it's like it was almost cool to be bisexual. One of the first things that happened was some girl wanted to be Erin's little girlfriend. And I was like, 'That ain't happenin'.' "

Dreher was understandably shocked by this revelation. "This is a tiny East Texas town -- and there's a bisexual culture in one of them, among the teenagers?" he wrote. "WTF? What do I not get about teenage life these days? What do I not get about the cultural air kids breathe? I am so not going to give my children over to this culture, if I can help it." If for some reason Dreher's children decide to murder him, though I can't think of any reason why they would off the top of my head, at least he'll go to his grave comforted by the thought that he saved them from the evils of bisexuality.

I read Dreher's post and added the following comment:

Rod, your surprise appears to stem from the erroneous belief -- which, interestingly, is pretty common on both the Right and the Left -- that human beings are not really animals but instead are shaped entirely by our culture. (This is sometimes called "cultural determinism," though I prefer to say cultural reductionism to distinguish it from philosophical determinism, which does not imply reductionism.) If you understood that human behavior is largely shaped by our biology, then you wouldn't be surprised by thriving bisexuality in a small town, since it's well established that bisexuality exists in countless species throughout nature (for instance see the book Biological Exuberance), where culture in the human sense, and certainly media culture, is presumably not a factor. The main difference between small towns and big cities, I think, is that behaviors regarded as "deviant" are more likely to be swept under a rug there.

And this may be germane to why the brutal mass murder occurred. The father makes clear that he and his wife would go to considerable lengths to "protect" their daughter from any message telling her that it's okay to do anything they consider "deviant." And there's considerable clinical evidence to suggest that children raised in such a repressive family atmosphere are more likely to develop violent fixations to which their sexuality becomes tied ("vandalized lovemaps" as pediatric psychiatrist John Money puts it). So the violent outcome in this case may actually be an indirect consequence of the same attitudes and parenting style that made them so alarmed about "bisexual chic."

Eric Hamell

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