|Jeremy, you're right: If we confine our discussion to gay men (not to lesbian couples, mind you, whose relationships seem to be more stable and longer-lasting than even heterosexual couples), there are powerful forces that seem to militate toward promiscuity. Some of these are biological, some of these are cultural, but it is by no means monolithic as a gay male behavioral trait. And I can tell you anecdotally: Most of the gay men I know are in stable, long-term relationships. |
Are there gay men who are engaged in having anal sex without a condom? Is there a drug subculture among gay men? Are gay men still susceptible to HIV? Yes. But as Cameron has pointed out in another thread, the fact of homosexuality does not make one susceptible to HIV. This is not a disease that has been around for eons, wiping out the gay male population. It is a relatively recent phenomenon. And it is simply a fact that HIV entered the gay male sub-culture first in this country, which is why it is still circulating among gay males (even though the highest rates of new infection are among black women, apparently). That's because gay men are still having sex predominantly with other gay men. And some of these men are having unsafe sex. In Africa, the situation is very different---because the disease did not manifest itself first in a relatively closed gay subculture. It has been carried throughout Africa by heterosexual prostitution and other means.
Now onto the broader questions you raise. Anticipating a qualification-laden "context-keeping" response from me, you state:
From the "internalize the teachings of a culture" and "welfare-state economy which promotes victimization" portions, do you believe the responsibility for change or improvement lies with the "culture that sees them as sinful, sick, or otherwise dysfunctional", or with the "victims" of that culture? Of course it would be nice to have a culture that simply ignored whatever it is people do in their bedrooms, but is it the culture's responsibility to promote healthy views and opinions of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, etc? If this happened, do you believe the immoral behavior of some homosexuals would be curtailed, or for that matter, the immoral behavior of any "segment[s]" of society? I'm of the view that it's more of a "bottom-up" thing, meaning it should begin with responsible people living lives in accordance with "the teachings of an individualist philosophy that celebrates the authentic self" that will eventually affect change on the culture itself. Is this a "product of their environment" issue, in your view?
The short answer is: Yes, it's more of a "bottom-up" thing.
The longer, more qualified, answer raises more interesting questions, however.
In looking at any social problem, I have learned much from Ayn Rand. It is from Rand's framework that I developed a "tri-level model" of social relations. That model appears here:
The tri-level model suggests that social change can and must take place on three levels in order to generate a revolution of sorts: Level 1 (The Personal, which includes psychological, psycho-epistemological, and ethical practices and institutions); Level 2 (The Cultural, which includes ideological, pedagogical, linguistic, and aesthetic practices and institutions); and Level 3 (The Structural, which includes economic and political practices & institutions). All three levels constitute relations between individuals, as individuals, or as constituted in groups and organizations.
So, you're right, Jeremy, to suggest that most fundamental change occurs from the "bottom-up." It has to take place on Level 1, in terms of personal psychology, psycho-epistemology, and ethics, and also on Level 2, in terms of cultural ideas, before it can affect Level 3. (That's why, btw, I am so critical of "democratic nation-building" in Iraq and the Middle East: because it attempts to create change to the whole, while focusing on Level 3, with little understanding of the personal and cultural forces necessary to sustain and nourish that kind of institutional change.)
This does not mean that a change on Level 3 can't have effects on the other levels; in fact, there is such a thing as a "political culture" and a "civic culture"---and sometimes, if you create changes to those cultures, you can affect the other levels. For example, in NYC, the Giuliani administration warred on crime in the early 90s by demanding that police pinpoint so-called "quality of life" offenses: public urination, subway fare-beating, graffiti, etc. They found that people committing low-level offenses, invariably, were also committing high-level offenses. By enforcing against low-level offenses in targeted communities with high crime rates, they were able to drive the crime rate down. This city---excepting September 11th---is now the safest large city in America. Its crime rate continues to fall, while other cities experience spikes. The Giuliani administration, for all its other faults, also targeted the welfare bureaucracy, insisting that able-bodied welfare recipients work for their welfare checks. The impulse was to create a political culture of responsibility.
I think that these policies and a change in public rhetoric had the effect of "drawing a line in the sand." It was a way of saying: "We will no longer tolerate a lack of civility or respect for people or property. And we will encourage behaviors that promote individual responsibility." And I think this has had a trickle-down effect on civic culture; New Yorkers have always had spirit and strength. But I do think that after a nearly decade-long drop in crime, and an increase in the quality of life, New Yorkers were even better suited to dealing with the effects of September 11th. If that horrific event had taken place in 1991, when crime was rampant, there is a good possibility that we would have had mass looting in other parts of this city. I can't prove it---it's just a hunch. But I do think civic culture has changed immeasurably in the past decade and that it has had a good effect on the habits of New Yorkers, who once thought that crime and welfare dependency were intractable, unresolvable problems.
Why this long tangential point? Because I do believe that one can and should act on other levels---politically and culturally---to nourish such ideals as personal responsibility and independence, individual authenticity and mutual respect. Changes on each level of this tri-level model will then reciprocally reinforce each other.
Rand was not oblivious to how cultural (Level 2) and political change (Level 1) could nourish personal changes. Note, for example, how she targeted educational institutions and pedagogical practices for their deleterious effects on human psychology, even on the human capacity to integrate and systematize knowledge. Her essay, "The Comprachicos," is a full-scale attack on how education and pedagogy destroy human cognitive functioning. Note too her arguments in essays such as "Global Balkanization" that the political triumph of the mixed economy gave the impetus to the growth of ethnic tribalism and collectivism in the modern world. In both "The Comprachicos" and "Global Balkanization," we see Rand's attention on the need to change Levels 2 and 3 in order to affect a change on Level 1.
So, yes: A bottom-up revolution in thinking must take place in the gay community. I suspect that this change is already underway. As the first part of my monograph suggests, many gay and lesbian readers have been turned onto Rand and her individualist message; it inspires them against the forces of social conformity, Other-defined happiness, institutional religious oppression, and outright bias, which, like all forms of prejudice, is collectivistic in its origins. And these lessons can be spread to our cultural and political institutions, just as these institutions can be used to reinforce the personal changes.