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November 15th 2017 print

Frank Salter

The Gay Alphabet’s Missing Characters

If LGBTQI activists believe their 'love is love' rhetoric, consistency demands aficionados of bestiality and incest be granted equality with human-centric sex. Otherwise they are guilty of the prejudice they lay at the feet of 'No' voters accused of hailing heterosexuality as superior to all other varieties

gay stripe IIA remarkable feature of the same-sex marriage movement, that has helped make it a juggernaut, is the solidarity of its disparate parts. Lesbian activists don’t mock gays before the general public, gay activists don’t ridicule bisexuals, bisexuals don’t disrespect the transgendered, and so on, presumably down the growing list of non-traditional sexual and gender orientations.

That is odd because some categories, to be discussed, are noticeably absent from that list. Possible reasons for excluding them include the law, aesthetics, and morality. Legality can be immediately ruled out. Homosexuality’s illegality until recently has not prevented agitation for gay rights. Aesthetics can also be ruled out, because LGBTQI-rights activists have been pushing back against popular revulsion for decades. If they cited legality or aesthetics to justify excluding selected types of sexuality, consistency would demand immediate cessation of their own activities. No sexual or gender category can be credibly excluded from the LGBTQI fold for legal or aesthetic reasons.

Morality is different. Morality is the only conceivable principled reason that some sexualities are excluded from the fold. Whether or not one accepts the morality of the alternative sexuality and gender movement, there are nevertheless some ethical principles associated with it. These include the rights to free expression and association. It is asserted that gender and sexual expression should be unconstrained when harmless and when entered into by mutual consent.

These principles are sufficient to explain the exclusion of paedophilia from the LGBTQI platform. It seems the great majority of individuals of all orientations reject it. Mary De Young has documented attempts by paedophile activists to normalize sex between adults and children from at least the 1980s in “The indignant page: Techniques of neutralization in the publications of pedophile organizations” (Child Abuse & Neglect, 1988).[1] A more recent study by O’Halloran and Quayle in “A content analysis of a ‘boy love’ support forum: Revisiting Durkin and Bryant” found that the trend has remained uninterrupted (Journal of Sexual Aggression, 2010). These attempts have failed to convince many people that children are able to give informed, prudent consent to sexual contact. It is true that educational packages such as the Safe Schools program sexualise children but that is not the same thing as advocating the legalization of paedophilia.

LGBTQI morality is not a credible reason for excluding all of the sexualities missing from that acronym. Consider polygamy, often called plural marriage. This was opposed by the Medieval Church and before that the Romans and Ancient Greeks, making Europe the only monogamous stratified society until the modern era.[2] The law that enforces monogamy necessarily restricts the free choices of adults to participate in consensual polygamous relationship. If polygamy does not contravene LGBTQI moral principles, why is there not a ‘P’ in ‘LGBTQI’? As Brendon Wynter noted recently on our public broadcaster (ABC Religion & Ethics, 24 March 2017) attempts to find a moral distinction between plural and same-sex marriage can lead to illiberal claims, such as that polygamy but not homosexual marriage is “bad or at least, trivial”.[3]

Incest is also missing from the LGBTQI heading. From an LGBTQI moral perspective, why ban sex or marriage between any consenting adults? As the actor Jeremy Irons commented a few years ago, genetic disorders in the children of incestuous unions are only an issue with heterosexual pairs.[4] LGBTQI advocates are not in a position to complain about incest on the basis of its being gay or lesbian. From their perspective, love and lust between consenting adults should never be condemned.

On what grounds could LGBTQI advocates object to marriages between mother and daughter or father and son, or object to them adopting? One ground that has been raised is a supposed categorical difference between those sexually attracted to close kin and those sexually attracted to members of the same sex. The former, it is claimed, do not belong to a distinct class of individuals but the latter do.[5] In the case of same-sex attraction, it is proposed, accurately, that homosexual orientation is sometimes inborn, and that as a result these individuals cannot change their same-sex attraction. Preventing them from marrying the same sex is therefore discriminatory.

Incest is held to be different on the basis of the claim that it is a matter of free choice. For that reason, banning incestuous marriage does not constitute discrimination, and is therefore consistent with liberal ethics. This argument breaks down with the second premise, that incestuous desire is not inborn. The Finnish sociologist Edward Westermarck discovered that incest avoidance is a universal inborn trait that is triggered by close proximity during childhood. De Smet, van Speybroeck and Verplaetse investigated this theory in Evolution and Human Behavior (2014) and found that children raised together are usually averse to sexual contact during and after puberty.[6] It follows that sexual desire for a sibling or offspring is in part or whole due to genetically-programmed developmental processes. The fact that incestuous motivation is produced when these processes go awry does not make them any less inborn. Thus incestuous motivation is not always a matter of free choice and in such cases, according to LGBTQI ethics, it is a right when consensual and harmless.

An “I” should be added to “LGBTQI”.

Bestiality also presents difficulties for brevity of “LGBTQI”. On which grounds can advocates of  condemn sex with animals? As already noted, legal and aesthetic distinctions are unavailable. The rule against cruelty is also unavailable most of the time. Sex with animals can be cruel – but so can all sexual acts. The fact that animals cannot consent is not relevant because they do not, as a rule, possess human rights. In Australia and many other countries animals are protected against cruel treatment, but that does not include protection against being killed and eaten. Apart from militant vegetarians and vegans, most feel justified eating animals, so it is not obvious why, without invoking traditional moral or aesthetic standards, sexual contact that does not inflict suffering can be considered immoral.

The bestiality category is not an empty hypothetical. A recent academic study by Earls and Lalumière titled “A case study of preferential bestiality” and published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior (2009) indicates that it is not as rare as previously thought, and shares many of the characteristics of other atypical sexual interests.[7] Likewise, a recent report in the Australian online edition of The Guardian by Mona Chalabi, “Bestiality: which animals are most at risk” (22 June 2017), describes the online zoosexual movement that advocates the rights of the bestially inclined.[8] The most preferred species appear to be dogs and cows, but cases are reported involving horses and even snakes. Woody Allen might add sheep.[9]

There is a human dimension to the issue. Members of what we might reluctantly call the zoosexual community feel they are treated unfairly by the mainstream, which includes the LGBTQI movement. Some feel trapped in human relationships, such as the man who felt that sex with his (human) wife was “wrong” and during marital acts closed his eyes to better pretend she was a horse. Earlier this year an article in The Independent reported that animal sex tourism became such a problem in Denmark that in 2016 the country criminalized bestiality.[10] The journalist hinted that bestiality usually conforms to the harm principle: “[T]he studies published over the last 15 years using non-clinical samples report the vast majority of zoophiles do not appear to be suffering any significant clinical[ly] significant distress or impairment as a consequence of their behavior.”

Surely most LGBTQI people will share the generally-held opinion of bestiality. Many will be disgusted by the very thought and wish it never to be depicted or praised in public. They will wish that it never be part of their social environment and certainly not that of any child’s.

However, if LGBTQI activists believe the position they urge on the public, consistency demands they not only tolerate bestiality but treat it as possessing equal rights to human-centric sex. Otherwise they are guilty of the illiberal prejudice of claiming that their kind of love is superior to others they deem deviant. And if even the proponents of LGBTQI rights were to admit the legitimacy of privileging one sexual or gender orientation over another, then their main defence against hetero-normativity would collapse.

An extra “B” should also be added to the acronym.

Other initials could be added. Why not an “R” for love of robots and dolls? Blow up dolls and simple silicone mannequins with recorded voices are primitive compared to the pleasure model “replicants” depicted in the science fiction classic Blade Runner. Nevertheless, they are beginning to compete for men’s affections.[11] This is a rapidly growing industry feeding insatiable demand. The Third International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots is to be held in London in December 2017.[12] Professor Noel Sharkey, chairman of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, points to guilt-free threesomes as a potential use of sex robots.[13] He and colleagues predict that many humans will have sexual relationships with robots. Evidence is already emerging of men feeling embarrassed about seeking sex and companionship from artificial women.[14] From the perspective of LGBTQI morality it is wrong to shun people who are turned on by machines.

One suspects that pragmatism is a big reason why LGBTQI activists want to keep polygamy, incest and bestiality in the closet. Activists do not want to openly associate with these categories because that might increase opposition. The public might wonder about the implications. If exotic gender identities and same-sex marriage are to be taught in schools as equal to the heterosexual types, why not polygamy and bestiality? Citizens would be more likely to resist demands for full legal equality until the slippery slope were shown to have principled limits.

LGBTQI campaigns assert that love is equal, yet they help marginalize attachments and acts they find repugnant or inconvenient. The activist community should include all types of sexuality and marriage that meet their professed moral standard, the standards with which they fight. They should not deceive the public.

Alternatively, activists should abandon their artificial solidarity and the morality they deploy to justify it. They should admit that not all sexual desire and acts and types of marriage are equal. Many will join with the straight binary community in rejecting the appropriateness of polygamy, incest and bestiality. In so doing they might view their own orientation with humility.

Until LGBTQI activists admit the radical implications of their morality, the spelling of “LGBTQI” and its variations should be contested. Consistency demands an extra ‘I’ and ‘B’ (at least). The rainbow flag deserves an additional stripe, one that stands out, representing all those arbitrarily excluded by LGBTQI activists. At the same time, the stripe would indicate the moral blackness of those acts. Honest, inclusive symbols would also serve to inform the public of where the arguments of the radical sexuality and gender movement logically lead.

Let us add “BI” to “LGBTQI” until activists apply their arguments consistently. When they do, they also will adopt the extra letters and perhaps some other besides.


[1] De Young, Mary (1988). “The indignant page: Techniques of neutralization in the publications of pedophile organizations.” Child Abuse & Neglect 12(4): 583-591.

O’Halloran, E. and E. Quayle (2010). “A content analysis of a “boy love” support forum: Revisiting Durkin and Bryant.” Journal of Sexual Aggression 16(1): 71-85.

[2] MacDonald, K. B. (1995). The establishment and maintenance of socially imposed monogamy in Western Europe [with peer commentary]. Politics and the Life Sciences, 14(1), 3-46.

[3] Brendon Wynter (2017). Why supporters of same-sex marriage need better arguments. ABC Religion & Ethics, 24 March. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2017/03/24/4642184.htm, accessed 9 Oct. 2017.

[4] Brett Malec (2013). Jeremy Irons’ controversial gay marriage “incest” comments: “Could a father not marry his son?” Enews. 5 April. http://www.eonline.com/news/404747/jeremy-irons-controversial-gay-marriage-incest-comments-could-a-father-not-marry-his-son, accessed 26 Oct. 2017.

[5] Alexander S King, Comment, “Does gay marriage justify incest marriage because both are consensual activity? [closed]” Stack Exchange – Philosophy, 1 Jan. 2016 at 9:22 and edited 2 Jan. 2016 at 6:14 https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/31102/does-gay-marriage-justify-incest-marriage-because-both-are-consensual-activity, Accessed 26 Oct. 2017.

[6] De Smet, D., Van Speybroeck, L., & Verplaetse, J. (2014). The Westermarck effect revisited: A psychophysiological study of sibling incest aversion in young adults. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(1), 34-42.

[7] Earls, C. M. and M. L. Lalumière (2009). “A case study of preferential bestiality.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 38(4): 605-609.

[8] Mona Chalabi (2017). Bestiality: which animals are most at risk. The Guardian (Australian edition). 22 June 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/datablog/2017/jun/21/bestiality-animal-sex-laws-zoosexual-community

[9] Woody Allen (1972). sheep scene, Everything you always wanted to know about sex. https://vimeo.com/160162835, accessed 9 Oct. 2017.

[10] Griffiths, M. (2016). Why would anyone want to have sex with an animal? The psychology of bestiality. The Independent (London). 2 February, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/why-would-anyone-want-to-have-sex-with-an-animal-the-psychology-of-bestiality-10201158.html, accessed 18.10.2017.

[11] Amanda Devlin and Emma Lake (2017). Robot romps. What is a robot sex doll, why has a Barcelona brothel replaced women with blow-up dolls and how much do they cost? The Sun (London). https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/2084051/robot-sex-doll-barcelona-sex-brothel-cost/, accessed 31 Oct. 2017.

[12] http://loveandsexwithrobots.org/, accessed 29 Oct. 2017.

[13] FRR report: Our sexual future with robots. 31 October 2017. http://responsiblerobotics.org/2017/07/05/frr-report-our-sexual-future-with-robots/.

[14] Alistair Himmer (2017). Looking for love: Unhappy Japanese men turn to silicone sex dolls. 30 June. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/true-stories/looking-for-love-unhappy-japanese-men-turn-to-silicone-sex-dolls/news-story/009af6032b995a149ff0d3f5127058d1, accessed 31 October 2017.

Comments [9]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    This is a very astutely constructed article, systematically proving the utter fallacy of all attempts seeking to justify sexual orientations other than heterosexuality. The shorthand, condensed version of the message is to simply evoke the authority of nature.

  2. Warty says:

    In terms of logic and consistency, one cannot find fault with Frank Salter’s argument, but morally one can, and this is the whole point: there was a time homosexuality was regarded as morally reprehensible.
    Back in 2012 Cory Bernardi was relegated to the back bench for his ‘slippery slope’ argument (and under Tony Abbott’s leadership too). The confected outrage was ear-shattering. But we have legalised SSM, so the not unreasonable question might be how long before incest is no longer regarded as taboo, particularly as the prohibition seems to bear a degree of the Christian trope about it. ‘Love is love’, so why not that between a seedy fifty year old man and a post puberty fourteen year old boy? How long before this becomes respectable, particularly seeing Labor had been making moves to reduce the age of consensual anal sex to sixteen . . . how long before fourteen, twelve?
    It is not so much the question of legitimacy, but rather the rate of decline of a civilisation on its last legs. Moral relativity, ultimately has no limit, allowing each and every idea to be brought down to te level of the cess pool. As such the last statement has no moral standing either, as there can be no cess pool in the brave new world, where anarchy reigns supreme.
    Personally I don’t think any of that will ever happen, as I believe there is something in each of us that militates against moral degradation. It may indeed get a lot worse before it gets better, but there will come a turning point, when the forces of conservatism finally gets the head of steam Tony Abbott has been heralding: http://tonyabbott.com.au/2017/11/transcript-hon-tony-abbott-mp-address-alliance-defending-freedom-new-york/

  3. Turtle of WA says:

    A mule is not a horse.

  4. Salome says:

    I’d just like to say a general thank you to Quadrant for being on the side of reason and good sense in the recent debate. I’ve seen comments in other places to the effect of ‘I voted no, but now the vote’s been had, I’ll accept the verdict’. I don’t know what’s involved in acceptance. If it means knuckling down and believing in one’s heart that Adam + Steve are husband and husband, Hell will freeze over before I accept it. On reflection, a lot of what passes for marriage under Australian law already is a mere travesty of what a marriage should be, so why shouldn’t this be any better. Love was never love (that was the big lie), but marriage is marriage, even though some of what falls under the statutory definition isn’t. So there. Thank you, Quadrant, for being my refuge.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Here is the great truth. Marriage equality can never be achieved.
    One set of marriages will always have husbands and wives and mums and dads and the other set, a minisculevminority, will only have partners and parents.

    When the euphoria of the win among the alphabet acolytes wears off they will wake up to this truth, they’ll still be dissatisfied and still crave ‘equality’.

    That’s when the real hostilities will break out.

    No amount of redefining or legislating will assuage the dissatisfaction they will always feel.

    Nothing can change the fact of the truth of the inequality of marriage.

  6. Years ago while at Uni in the early 70′s I was loaned a book, whose title I am unsure of [but it was something on the lines of Ancient Perversities] which when supposedly ‘quoting’ ancient Greeks, Persians and Chinese had the following saying/adage -’Women for Children, Little Boys for Pleasure and Mountain Goats for ecstasy.’
    One wonders where it will stop, and when? When humans are out-evolved/replaced by self-reproducing robots?

  7. Keith Kennelly says:

    Mechanical sex?

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    A well-written piece by Frank Salter. Reminds me of this, from my undergraduate days:

    A Mexican gaucho named Bruno,
    Said “of shagging there’s one thing I do know:
    A woman is fine,
    Little boys are divine,
    But a llama is numero uno!”

    Please fasten your seatbelts and observe the NO SMOKING sign.
    Rough weather ahead.

  9. whitelaughter says:

    If it is a case of marrying who they truly love, most of our pollies should marry themselves.