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APOLOGIA PRO OPERE SUI part VI (conclusion)



You may be wondering, dear reader, at this point what this argument given above has to do with Science Fiction, or the Sci-Fi Channel?

The short answer is nothing. My objection to the Sci-Fi Channel is that by caving to political pressure, they made my life harder as a science fiction writer, since this would embolden the partisans.

Do I object to gay, lesbian, etc. characters in science fiction? My answer is a qualified no: not if the character is integral to the story. You can have deviant as well as wholesome characters in stories, because you have to tell the story as honestly as you may.

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Now we come to a crucial point. What is the magistrate to do in all this? Keep in mind that no magistrate, howsoever wise, can learn and know the private dealings of everyone who comes before the court. The laws must be simple and clear enough for all rational men to be able to conform to them.

Fornication (including adultery) either is or is not against the law, and either it is punished or not. If it is either not against the law, or not punished, no deterrent exists, and the law is a dead letter.

Likewise, if fornication (including adultery) either is or is not rigorously and vigorously penalized by social opprobrium. In this, there is not much latitude for diversity of opinions: the society as a whole is either committed to the proposition, or is not committed. The minority has a veto over the majority. If the majority condemns adultery, but a sizeable minority does not join in that condemnation, the condemnation has no real force or effect. Anyone suffering ostracism or mockery for his adultery can move to the neighborhood where it is not condemned. The society merely polarizes in this case, it does not form an enforceable consensus.

That decision to condemn fornication at law rests with the magistrate, and to condemn with social opprobrium with the common opinion of the consensus of the people.

Such is the human condition.

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The Libertine position utterly ignores third parties to the mating. According to the libertine position, if Arthur, with her consent, copulates with Morgan le Fay, it is no one’s business but their own. However since Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur, has a claim on the throne, the fact that he was born has an influence or an effect on Guinevere, and any children she might produce. To minimize the competition between rival sons of different mothers, the Common Law solution, for better or worse, was to disinherit any bastards. The children of one mother, the lawful wife, received the plume of legitimacy, and all others were held to be strangers to the patrimony. In order to further discourage the practice of fathering bastard children, the act was surrounded by social opprobrium.

(I must say, in one of those acts which condemn mankind, the opprobrium was more often attached to the innocent children rather than to the philandering father. The word ‘bastard’ came to be a swear word, a synonym for a ruthless and heartless grasper, whereas the real swear word should have been attached to the father of the bastard.)

The Libertine position simply ignores the fact that Guinevere’s  interests are being imposed upon by the act of fathering a child on Morgan le Fay. At best, the Libertine position allows that if and only if Arthur and Guinevere so mutually agree, he will keep his royal hotdog in his trousers for such times and places as they mutually see fit. If she does not read the fine print, or overlooks to get him to make such a vow, he is not bound.

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So much for preliminaries. We have not yet reached the meat of the issue. So far, we have only seen a serious of doubts and questions. Is marriage a contract? Is human nature pliant? Is sex entertainment? Are men jerks?

The axioms of the argument I gave above: the necessity of self-command, the objectivity of morality, the nature of virtue, the role of law and custom. We are now discussing where the boundaries fall.

To answer that, we must ask why have boundaries at all? The Libertine answer that the bounds exist to prevent harm can be accepted by both the Libertine and the Matrimonial position, even if the Matrimonial will also ascribe additional reasons for the bounds.

Does the Libertine position concerning the sex act, either in fact, or when contemplated as a thought-experiment, prevent harm?

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The Libertine position posits that marriage is a contract only, revocable at the will of either party, even if the other party is not at fault. The reason for this is that the licit nature of the sex act rests on the consent of the parties: when the consent is withdrawn, the sex is no longer licit.

As a contract, the terms exist only as what the parties signatory so agree. So, for example, if Ayn Rand wishes to have sexual liaison with Nathaniel Branden, the affair is licit (according to the Libertine position) provided only that her husband and his wife provide an informed consent. If marriage is a contract only, the provision that one’s spouse “forsake all others” is open to renegotiation. For a foursome in an open marriage, the adultery is licit.

As a contract, the terms bind only the signatories. So, to use a completely hypothetical example, if a hypothetical and imaginary character named Mark Sanford is married and his paramour Maria from Argentina is not, and she further has never signed a legally binding document promising otherwise, she is free to form a sexual liaison with him. He is in violation of his contract, but his guilt is not shared with her. For her, adultery is licit. If licit, then no one, not even Mrs. Sanford, has the right to criticize or condemn her acts, and for Mrs. Sanford to display offense at Maria from Argentina would be unjust, even petulant.

The first doubt concerning the Libertine position surfaced when these conclusions intruded itself onto my reluctant awareness.  In theory, the adultery of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden should have worked out to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Instead the opposite happened: Rand and Branden became bitter enemies to the end of her life.

It did not work out in that particular case, nor in any similar case that can be brought to mind. Why not?  

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As frequenters of my humble weblog may know, in recent days a certain article appeared in this space, where I complained, not without abundant sarcasm and scorn, that the Sci-Fi Channel (or Syfy Channel, if you insist) had yielded to the forces of political correctness, and were persuaded (or cowed) into publicly apologizing for their relative lack of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered characters on their programs (only two in the year in question), and promised to have writers include more. The express purpose of that inclusion was to influence the public mind into abandoning traditional norms of public decency and decorum to adopt the norms of toleration of the political-cultural Left.

It was, in other words, an expression of loyalty to the idea that art and entertainment exist subordinate to the crusades of politics. If you doubt this, imagine what the reaction would be if the Sci-Fi channel had publicly apologized to a television evangelist and promised to have more programs promoting family values or displaying Christians in a more favorable light.

As I science fiction writer, I have more than a passing interesting in maintaining, not just for myself, but for the whole field, a certain level of artistic integrity and freedom: I voice no objection to putting characters of any description, gay or straight (or practitioners of sexual habits as yet undreamed by modern men) into a story when the story calls for it. My objection was to putting GLBT characters into stories as part of a political agenda, when the story does not call for it, in an attempt to change the moral convictions of the audience under the cover of entertainment.

Such attempts are not the province of artists and entertainers, but of the Thought Police. Artists serve the muses; Thought Police serve the Party.

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