A Prudential Argument Against Homosexual Behavior

Statistically speaking, practicing homosexuals are much more promiscuous than their heterosexual counterparts.* 74% of homosexual men report having more than 100 partners during their lifetime (more than half of whom were strangers), 41% more than five hundred, and 28% more than a thousand. Only 8% of homosexual men and 7% of women maintain relationships for more than 3 years. Practicing homosexual men average over 20 partners a year. Numerous studies show that same-sex relationships tend to be sexually open and non-monogamous.**

Such promiscuity has predictable physical repercussions. 75% of practicing homosexual males carry one or more STDs (i.e., non-viral bacterial and parasitic infections like gonorrhea and syphilis). 65% have hepatitis B. 40% have anal warts, among other viral infections like herpes and hepatitis A. Sodomy often leads to severe prostate damage, ulcers and ruptures, chronic incontinence, diarrhea, etc.

But the mental heath risks associated with homosexual behavior shouldn’t be overlooked, either. 40% of practicing homosexual men have a history of major depression (as opposed to 3% for men in general). Both male and female homosexuals are three times as likely to contemplate suicide, and the attempted suicide rate for homosexual men is six times higher than heterosexual men and twice as high for women. Studies also indicate that practicing homosexuals are much more likely to be sexual deviants in other respects, such as pedophiles.

According to one study, the hospitalization rate for homosexuals is approximately 450% higher than average. Not considering those who die of AIDS, the life expectancy of a practicing homosexual male is about 45 years (as opposed to 70 for men in general). AIDS considered, expectancy drops to 39.

Now, you may have encountered statistics like these before in support of premise (2) of an argument like this***:

(1) It is morally wrong to engage in self-destructive behavior.
(2) Homosexual behavior is self-destructive.
(3) Therefore, it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual behavior.

This is a bad argument. As is, premise (1) is seems obviously false; it would entail that chemotherapy is wrong, for example. Perhaps a simple fix might do:

(1*) It is morally wrong to engage in self-destructive behavior for its own sake.
(2*) Homosexual behavior is self-destructive behavior for its own sake.
(3) Therefore, it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual behavior.

But this, too, is a bad argument. Premise (1*) would entail that playing high-impact sports like football just for their own sake is wrong. Premise (2*) also seems dubious—it’s unlikely that all homosexual behavior is engaged in for its own sake. The statistics alone give no insight into why homosexuals engage in homosexual behavior, and furthermore they don’t tell us whether homosexuality activity is the cause, a cause, a byproduct of something else, or even why it would be a causal factor at all in at least some of the infirmities mentioned above.

The argument might be modified in other ways. For example, we might instead focus on the harm homosexual activity causes others, not just oneself. But let’s just say no iteration of the argument can be salvaged. It seems to me that the statistics can be used to support a different argument—not for the conclusion that homosexual activity is morally wrong, but for the conclusion that it is massively imprudent. Consider the following analogy:

Suppose the average life-span of an average car is 70 years. The makers of a new car, the Model Q—modeled essentially after other average cars—market it as just as good and reliable as your other trusty cars, and 9 million of them sold. It turns out, however, that the average life expectancy of the Model Q wound up being only 40 years. Moreover, more than 75% of all model Qs were lemons. Model Q’s were checked into repair shops at a rate approximately 450% higher than average cars. Problems associated with the Model Q, some of them unfixable, far exceeded the number of problems associated with other average cars in type, severity, and number. Only 8% of Model Q owners reported keeping the Model Q for more than 3 years.

But the Model Q has this much going for it: a tremendously successful marketing campaign, especially among young people. It is featured in most forums of entertainment as just as good as other cars. It looks fashionable to boot. The car’s critics are mocked and silenced as vehicularphobic, and Model Q drivers are glamorized as courageous victims. “Who are you to judge what car someone drives?” the Model Q apologists say. “A car is a car.” Model Q pride rides are organized in cities across the world.

Now, let’s set aside the question of whether driving the Model Q is morally wrong. Being aware of all this, would you drive a Model Q? Would you want your children driving a Model Q? Would you encourage others to drive a Model Q? Or would you conclude that the various risks associated with the Model Q make driving one massively imprudent? If there is a moral conclusion to be drawn, it would be this: it is morally wrong to market the Model Q to young and uninformed customers as if it is, in fact, just like an average car. The appropriate thing to do would be to discourage production of the Model Q, pull the plug on the marketing campaign (or require scary disclaimers), recall existing models, and generally warn people against driving a Model Q.

Mutatis mutandis.

* Statistics are primarily from Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? (InterVarsity Press, 1995), ch. 6. Where the same issue is discussed, the statistics are corroborated in Jones and Yarhouse, Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church’s Moral Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2000), chs. 2, 4; Simon LeVay, Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality (MIT Press, 1996), chs. 2 & 7; Peter Sprigg and Timothy Dailey, Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows About Homosexuality (Family Research Council, 2004), chs. 4 & 6. Also see Michael Brown, A Queer Thing Happened to America (EqualTime, 2011), ch 13, for more recent statistics. What is controversial is not the reliability of the statistics, but their best interpretation. For example, LeVay (who is gay) speculates that the statistics on homosexual promiscuity are so high is because homosexual sex is more satisfying (Idem., p. 159)! Another common explanation has to do with social stigma towards homosexuals. However, “specific attempts to confirm this societal discrimination hypothesis have been unsuccessful, and the alternative possibility — that these conditions may somehow be related to the psychological structure of a homosexual orientation or consequences of a homosexual lifestyle — has not been disconfirmed.” See James E. Phelan, Neil Whitehead, and Philip M. Sutton, “What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to the APA Claims on Homosexuality,” Journal of Human Sexuality 1 (2009), 93.
** Several studies can be found in Maggie Gallagher, “The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage” in Corvino and Gallagher, Debating Same-Sex Marriage (Oxford, 2012), pgs. 132-136.
*** William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers (Crossway, 2003), pp. 139-142.

Federal Philosopher

Federal Philosopher is a philosophy graduate student in New Jersey. She was awakened from her political slumbers after reading biographies of Margaret Thatcher. She loves philosophy, but thinks the profession has been hijacked by a bunch of leftist bullies who are little more than partisan journalists that happen to know philosophical jargon. She carries a recurve bow and quiver full of arrows at all times, so as not to trigger leftists by saying she packs a .380 in her purse.

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25 Comments

  1. But it’s *even worse* than you’ve portrayed in your analogy. The “Model Q” doesn’t just break down and leave drivers stranded more often or spend too much time in the repair shop – it randomly accelerates off overpasses, uncontrollably veers into bridge abutments at high speed, or in some cases simply explodes, incinerating everything within a fifty foot radius.

    Would people demand action? Would the government step in? Would its use be banned?

  2. (1) Men have (probably an earned) reputation for being more willing to be promiscuous than women. If they’re straight, their sexual encounters/partners are usually going to be rather limited in number. If they’re gay, they’re going to find a lot more willing and easy partners. Is this due to their gayness, or their male-ness?

    (2) Lots of stats there on male homos, and a few on the female homos, but definitely a lot more emphasis on the males, which raises the question whether the anti-homosexual-behavior mindset tends to have in mind males, therefore skewing the perception of the phenomenon.

    (3) You’ve prevented evidence and an argument against promiscuous homosexual behavior, but not against (rare, in male cases?) monogamous homosexual behavior.

    (4) (Assuming the numbers you cite are scientifically well-established, don’t get causal orders backward, and are not significantly offset by whatever other data about gay people (mainly men) that might be cited….) If the Politically Correct (sic) crowd doesn’t responsibly cite these numbers at least in a cautionary way, in the course of their “tremendously successful marketing campaigns,” then they are (of course) being outrageously vicious and idiotic. (That would be in keeping with a recognizable pattern of intellectual conduct among the PC (sic) crowd, so the reasonable overridable presumption here is that their marketing campaigns are just that – outrageously irresponsible.)

    • (1) … Is this due to their gayness, or their male-ness?

      Who cares? The fact is that gay men are promiscuous. The argument of the post is deliberately set up in a way that doesn’t depend on which interpretation of the statistics is correct.

      (2) Lots of stats there on male homos, and a few on the female homos, but definitely a lot more emphasis on the males, which raises the question whether the anti-homosexual-behavior mindset tends to have in mind males, therefore skewing the perception of the phenomenon.

      These are a small fraction of the stats on practicing homosexuals (male and female) that could be cited, but are a sufficient sample to make the point of the post. But it does seem obvious that male homosexual behavior has more severe physical repercussions. Data is easily collected on that. So I don’t know what “perception” of what “phenomenon” you’re referring to. If it’s the perception of sodomy as a physically destructive phenomenon, then the perception is not “skewed,” but accurate.

      (3) You’ve prevented evidence and an argument against promiscuous homosexual behavior, but not against (rare, in male cases?) monogamous homosexual behavior.

      Surely there would be a lot of sodomy even in a monogamous homosexual relationship between two males (let’s also dubiously assume that they were “virgins” before entering the relationship). So the destructive nature of sodomy would still be a problem for them. Also, this doesn’t speak to the mental health risks noted. Why think that, e.g., depression and substance abuse rates among “monogamous” homosexuals would be any better? This is an empirical question, I realize.

      Re: (4) Good. So you agree with at least one of the main claims of the article (that it is, as you say, “vicious and idiotic” to promote a homosexual lifestyle as normal and safe), if not both claims (the other being that engaging in homosexual behavior is imprudent).

  3. Some brief points:

    (1) Male and female homosexual and bisexual orientations (or propensities, or however you prefer to call them) are 4 different psychological phenomena, which should be treated separately.
    (2) In order to assess whether, say, statistically female homosexual behavior is a psychological health risk for homosexual females, or whether female heterosexual behavior is (statistically) a risk, or whether lack of activity is a risk, etc., then one should need studies comparing homosexual females who are sexually inactive, homosexual females who are only homosexually active, homosexual females who are only heterosexually active, and homosexual females who are bisexually active.
    (3) Similarly, in order to assess whether, say, statistically male homosexual behavior is a psychological health risk for homosexual males, or whether male heterosexual behavior is (statistically) a risk, or whether lack of activity is a risk, etc., then one should need studies comparing homosexual males who are sexually inactive, homosexual males who are only homosexually active, homosexual males who are only heterosexually active, and homosexual males who are bisexually active.
    (4) Similar points apply to bisexual males and females.

    Comparing homosexually active males (regardless of whether they are homosexual, bisexual, etc.), with heterosexually active males, or with the general population, etc., is not a proper way of assessing risks of engaging in homosexual behavior for each person or each person in each group, especially given that there is ample evidence of different sexual orientations. Also, as I pointed out, conflating males, females, etc., is not a proper way of making a case. For example, a claim “Suggesting “Studies also indicate that practicing homosexuals are much more likely to be sexual deviants in other respects, such as pedophiles.” without giving any specifics is not proper. Is there any evidence that homosexual females are more attracted to prepubescent individuals than heterosexual females? Is there any reason to suspect that homosexual males who are only homosexually active are any more likely to become attracted to prepubescent individuals than homosexual males who are only heterosexually active, or who are sexually inactive, etc.?

  4. Great article!

    I won’t address the argument, because I’m sure there will be plenty of readers who will be more than happy to do that from a secular perspective.

    Instead, I’d simply draw everyone’s attention to Proverbs 8:36.

    Interestingly, the proverb coincides exactly with the statistical information you’ve provide regarding the destructive consequences of homosexuality.

    Just additional food for thought, I hope, for anyone who is willing to consider the health facts and ponder why the facts are what they are.

  5. Granting all these statistics, I’m not sure the prudential argument works. How much should a rational person care about being prudent? Suppose you have a very high chance of STDs and other health problems, suicide, etc. But suppose you just _really_ like having sex with other men and you just don’t like any other kind of sexual activity. It’s not clear to me that the only or most rational thing is to prefer a life that’s more longer and healthier (or more likely to be) but really bad sexually over a life that’s shorter and unhealthier (or more likely to be) but really great sexually. Or maybe the question is: if you’re rational, what kinds of things should you be prudent about? (Maybe it’s imprudent not to place a very high value on sexual fulfillment or sexual experience or sexual novelty?) I’m not sure about any of this. I think rationality might fail to determine how people should weight these kinds of considerations against others. Definitely it’s bad that homosexual behavior is promoted and celebrated, and the serious risks and costs are denied or ignored; people should know better what they’re getting into. But once we have all those facts it might still be an open question whether that kind of life is rationally justifiable in comparison with the alternatives.

    • Interesting, Jacques. My initial reaction was to think you were right, but then I thought of this case that seems analogous to me.

      We could run a similar prudential argument against using meth. But suppose a guy named Jesse just really likes using meth, and no softer drug gives him anywhere the level of satisfaction of meth. In this case, I think Jesse would be acting irrationally if he went ahead and kept using meth. I don’t yet see how the homosexual case is different in any relevant way.

  6. You cite the prudential health risks of homosexual behavior, including depression, but I often wonder if you (as well as others) see Christian-conservativism as a source of oppression for these groups. Some destructiveness against homosexuals is because of the intolerance on the Right. I’ve known two incidents from different families where the inability to be open to others caused parents to shun and alienate their children (as good practicing Christians too), which led to suicide in one case and drug addiction in the other. For you not to see that is a huge mistake philosophically. One can only wonder. Why not think we have a duty to be kind, open, and tolerant? A duty of respect and kindness are not that far off the map from prudence or Christianity (or I still hope conservatism).

    Ad populum as always.

    • Ah, the ol’ leftist strategy of conflating disagreement with (unjustified) intolerance, or, alternatively, tolerance with approval. You know, Angra and Jacques have brought forth good criticisms of the argument in this post. Your comment, on the other hand, is just moral preening. Ask yourself this: Is there anything critical of homosexuality that a Christian could say in response to which you couldn’t have written the same thing? It’s the kind of ad homenim comment the not-so-subtle subtext of which says “I’m not going to consider your argument because, well, I disagree with the conclusion, and you must be a prick for disagreeing with me morally.” You must have a Facebook account, Jim. Go fish for likes there.

    • Why do you think Jim is conflating disagreement with unjustified intolerance? He cited two cases which seem to go way beyond mere disagreement. Perhaps you think that these cases are not representative, and that, instead, your average Christian conservative is voicing opposition to homosexuality in the manner that would be appropriate in a philosophy seminar room. Fine. I think that’s pretty clearly false. But fine. Make the argument. But drop the uncharitable assumptions and especially the rancor.

      Ditto for the “ask yourself this” bit and the “not so subtle subtext” bit. I would have thought that in ethical debates among philosophers, we’d mostly put suspicions about motives and unstated beliefs aside, and simply deal with the arguments on the table.

    • Be careful, Fed…it’s one thing to be mistaken. But you, apparently, are mistaken _philosophically_. Egads! I personally would hate to be mistaken _philosophically_. And so, before your next post, you should contact Jim in order to gain access to all Jim-inspired anecdotes in order not to be mistaken _philosophically_. Then you too can be in the position of righteous self-congratulation, the sine qua non by which one can avoid being mistaken _philosophically_.

    • Jim, I don’t know where you see ad populum going on here. There was no appeal to what most people think.

      Contrary to your perspective, I see Christian conservatism as a source of hope and freedom for homosexuals. You apparently are not familiar with the many stories of former practicing homosexuals who turned to a chaste life. If you have an open mind, you might check out this documentary https://everlastinghills.org/.

      Of course there are extreme cases in which intolerance of the Right causes homosexuals harm. Liberals exaggerate how frequent this happens. They also fail to see the destructiveness of the extreme openness with respect to sexual practice of the Left.

  7. I believe many of you are engaging in Red Herring. The major unstated premise about homosexual depression rates above is that depression is caused from a lack of social approval and deep alienation–oftentimes intellectual represented by the some groups this blog champions. Moreover, the above argument just assumes that people should stop being gay and avoid these dangers out of prudence without seeking the deeper cause of why depression occurs.

    Why not just be accepting of others? It’s a very simple question.

    As with the separate question, should Christians be allowed to say and critique anything against homosexuality? Philosophically, no. It’s the same with the fact that alchemists shouldn’t sit on the board of the APSA, or teach Chemistry and why someone who believes in blood letting and medieval humors should not be allowed to pass medical boards to practice medicine.

    • “The major unstated premise about homosexual depression rates above is that depression is caused from a lack of social approval and deep alienation–oftentimes intellectual represented by the some groups this blog champions.”

      Usually unstated premises are ones which seem obvious and are necessary in order to make an argument valid or sound. Your unstated premises does not do that so it’s odd to think that it’s an unstated premise.

      “Why not just be accepting of others?”

      What does this have to do with the post? Why think either NL or FP are not accepting in some sense? Accepting in what sense? While we’re at it, are you accepting of sex with animals, sex with fetuses, sex with dead fetuses, sex with the hand of a dead fetus, sex with your own hand, sex with your brother or sister, sex with 5 people at once, etc. if not why not? Are you accepting in some sense but not others?

    • “Should Christians be allowed…to say anything against homosexuality? Philosophically, no.”

      Once again with the adverbs. Dude, do you know what “philosophically” means? And, if you do, do you have any idea how utterly confused your use of it is?

      So, Christians should not be “allowed” to criticize homosexual conduct? Quite the coercive power you’re stipulating here, Jimbo. Is the Jim-Gestapo gonna’ enforce this edict? You know, in quite the same way that the coercive force of the state passes severe judgment and penalty upon one who practices medicine without said expertise? Will you be policing websites? Sermons? Christian pamphlets? How about censure of the Vatican? By all means, Jim, please explain this to we the ignorant.

      I can’t believe I’m wasting my time with this nonsense…Angra & Jacques, please accept my apologies for ignoring your reasonable commentary and focusing instead on this bit of monumental stupidity.

    • Why is it wrong to suggest to Christians they have no epistemic authority to speak on homosexuality like alchemists speaking on Chemistry? One should not base one’s belief on mythology. Your reaction is rather hyperbolic.

    • And all of the historical arguments for Jesus’s existence and resurrection refuted in one sentence. Quite impressive.

    • “Moreover, the above argument just assumes that people should stop being gay and avoid these dangers out of prudence without seeking the deeper cause of why depression occurs.”

      I doubt it makes such an assumption, Jim. What do you mean by “stop being gay”? My guess is that the authors would just say that homosexuals should simply stop engaging in homosexual sex.

    • Walter,

      You seem blind to the fact that “stop being gay” and “stop engaging in homosexual sex” are equivalent in everyone’s usage here. Why should people stop being themselves? Everyone here treats the intrinsic desire of one’s own sexuality as if it were a mere preference like one might have a preference to witness Magritte paintings over Italian opera when it’s not an extrinsic desire that can be stopped. Some desires seem more intrinsic to one’s identity than others.

      Given that sexual activity is conducive to living a happy life, why should people stop choosing what makes them happy–even if the shitty biases of AR-15’s want to believe that heterosexal men are not as promiscuous as gay men.

    • Jim, please pull out some quotes from the article that show that the authors think “stop being attracted to homosexuals” and “stop engaging in homosexual sex” are equivalent. I think you are being very uncharitable, and I don’t see where anyone here has run those two together.

      “Everyone here treats the intrinsic desire of one’s own sexuality as if it were a mere preference like one might have a preference to witness Magritte paintings over Italian opera when it’s not an extrinsic desire that can be stopped. Some desires seem more intrinsic to one’s identity than others.”
      I don’t get the extrinsic/intrinsic usage in this. If I pull those words out, the sentences make more sense to me. How do you mean this?

      “Given that sexual activity is conducive to living a happy life, why should people stop choosing what makes them happy–even if the shitty biases of AR-15’s want to believe that heterosexal men are not as promiscuous as gay men.”

      Jim, would you go for the following principle: “If doing x is conducive to living a happy life for a person, then that person should be free to do x.” I wouldn’t agree with that at all. There are lots of things that make certain people happy that are terrible. So, then we have to get to the nitty gritty of which things those are. Traditional marriage proponents would say to you that it isn’t merely a matter of whether an action is conducive to living happy; there is also the rightness or wrongness of an action, and they have arguments that homosexual sex is wrong.

      Your comment about AR-15 has nothing to do with your claim about what is conducive to living a happy life, so I don’t know why you made it, other than to be uncharitable. It has nothing to do with the discussion you and I are having.

    • “You seem blind to the fact that ‘stop being gay’ and ‘stop engaging in homosexual sex’ are equivalent in everyone’s usage here. Why should people stop being themselves? Everyone here treats the intrinsic desire of one’s own sexuality as if it were a mere preference like one might have a preference to witness Magritte paintings over Italian opera when it’s not an extrinsic desire that can be stopped. Some desires seem more intrinsic to one’s identity than others.”

      But Jim, isn’t this equivocation of “being themselves”? There is a distinction between having a deeply ingrained predisposition toward some act and then actually exercising that predisposition and doing that act. Christian doctrinal censure against homosexuality explicitly deals with the latter. The former is also easily accommodated under doctrine, as everyone has a sinful nature.

      There are hosts of moral cases that take into account this sort of distinction, e.g., alcoholics and drinking, gamblers and gambling addiction, kleptomaniacs and theft. Less specifically, humans are selfish by nature; but most people agree, we should not act selfishly even though it’s intrinsic to us. The contrary to this implies that, in principle, a lot of the ethical life can be gutted and moral responsibility absolved.

      The only reason why so many people elide this critical distinction when it comes to homosexuality is that alcoholics, gamblers and thieves haven’t been the ones who have organized, agitated and asserted repeatedly and loudly for decades that they’re “born that way.” Of course, such a defense, in principle, is irrelevant, but the analogy to race and civil rights is rhetorically potent, even if false — sorry, Jim. The melanin levels in a person’s skin is not a moral predisposition; it has no connection to moral behavior. “Born that way” homosexuality is a moral predisposition that, for a connection, is defined by the moral behavior its directed toward. You can be opposed to the homosexual moral behavior while being “accepting of” the homosexual predisposition toward it. On the contrary, race, as a skin color, has no concomitant moral behavior to oppose, so you only can be bigoted toward race if you adopt a negative attitude to a particular one. Big moral difference that the ideologically motivated LGBT lobby ignores because it is politically expedient to do so.

    • “should Christians be allowed to say and critique anything against homosexuality? Philosophically, no. It’s the same with the fact that alchemists shouldn’t sit on the board of the APSA, or teach Chemistry and why someone who believes in blood letting and medieval humors should not be allowed to pass medical boards to practice medicine.”

      So you are advocating putting in restrictions of free speech based on religion? Even homosexual Christians can’t critique homosexuality? Can an atheist critique religion philosophically then?

  8. “74% of homosexual men report having more than 100 partners during their lifetime (more than half of whom were strangers).”

    Is it really that high? I don’t have the relevant material to source this. If it is, then that’s ridiculous.

    Is there anyone who can point to any study showing that these types of hyper-promiscuous lifestyles (which many heterosexuals have as well) do not cause greater negative psychological and relational problems than far more sexually restrictive lifestyles? I’m genuinely interested, because as far as I can tell, they do.

    • Those numbers aren’t surprising at all. Men are generally restricted from having that many partners because most females want more than sex, otherwise, heterosexual males will brag about such numbers as well. This is so obvious to anyone observant (i.e. not a typical philosopher nerd or nerdette) that even if NASA conducted a study showing otherwise, one should instead balk at the moon landing.

  9. AR-15,

    I understand and understood the relevant priors.

    I’m saying it’s ridiculous because I’m having a negative reaction to it. Like, it’s ridiculously, terribly bad. That’s why I’m asking for studies showing that a tangential common sense conclusion (hyper-promosicuity has really terrible consequences for people and society) is in fact wrong. I don’t want to believe a terrible reality that would seem to be staring me in the face.

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