WHY DOES MICHAEL LEVIN THINK THAT HOMOSEXUALITY
AND WHAT DOES HE BELIEVE ARE THE IMPLICATIONS
IS HIS POSITION DEFENSIBLE?
Echoing Auschwitz Doctor Mengele's allegation
that Jews are abnormal and reflecting the multiplicity of similar
claims to be found on the internet contending
that blacks, gays and Jews are 'unnatural' or 'abnormal,' philosopher Michael Levin in his article;
'Why Homosexuality is Abnormal.' makes a chillingly similar claim. There
is no doubt that the opinions and unsympathetic
attitudes of Michael Levin regarding homosexuality
are shared by some people. This paper seeks
to evaluate these views and their entailments
and consider whether they are defensibly
viable by contrasting them with more rational
oppositional beliefs regarding the gay condition
and lifestyle. My approach will be to deal
with each of his beliefs in
turn by way of examination, extrapolation
and comparison with the opinions of others,
together with my own views on the matter.
I will insert my own evaluative interpellations
as the process unfolds. The conclusion will
consist of a summing up and include an overall
statement of my personal position.
| LEVIN'S MAIN CLAIM.
HOMOSEXUALITY IS ABNORMAL AND HENCE UNDESIREABLE.
I wonder does Levin's choice of the word
'abnormal,' which simply means 'not typical
or usual or regular or conforming to a norm'
in fact really means for him 'unnatural,'
or 'not in accordance with or determined
by nature?' Hitler saw Jews as unnatural
and the words seem to have been interchangable
with the Nazis. My reading of Levin leads
me to believe that this may also be the case
for him that homosexuality is 'contrary to
Well nature or God Himself seems to be unaware of either the
opinions of the internet's hate-speechifiers,
Hitler's, Mengele's or for that matter Levin's
agonistic opinions upon this matter, as any
modern geneticist or population statistician
will now confirm.
Mother nature or God continues to provide a constant replenishment
of both female and male human beings of fine
homosexual, black, gypsy and Jewish stock,
and minorities of humankind with same-sex
preferences continue to increase in number
exponentially as our world population grows.
On the basis of Levin's argument that homosexuality
is abnormal, God or mother nature continues
make a tremendous amount of mistakes. Out
of a world population of 6.5 billion, 975
million are homosexual - and 975 million
mount up to a hell of a lot of creative mistakes
in anybody's book - holy or secular.
Is it just possible that it isn't Nature or God who is mistaken after all - but Levin himself?
Dr. Kirk Cameron, a statistical scientist
at The American Family Research Institute
 provides the generally accepted rule
of thumb homosexual make-up as a percentage
of the US population as being 10% male and
5% female. There is no reason to question
this percentage which is probably true of
most countries in the world, though it is
no doubt far higher if we take into consideration
those gays who as a result of the sort of
lack of sympathy demonstrated by hostile
commentators like Levin, still remain in
Is Levin's position based upon abnormality
defensible? I think not for reasons that
I will develop in the next section. John
Corvino points out in his 'Homosexuality
and the Moral Relevance of Experience,'
that Levin's main argument is the fact that
homosexuals use their sexual organ for purposes
for which it was not intended. Whilst Corvino
is much more in touch with the modern world
than Levin, I do not agree with his characterisation
of 'organ misuse' as Levin's main discriminatory
For me the misuse of the bodily parts argument
is facile and easily demolished, as I seek
to do later. For me Levin's main engine of
attack which acts as the main underpinning
of his discrimination is his reliance upon
a far more serious paradigm, his hypocritical
explanation of an individual homosexual's
unhappiness as being caused by the fact that
they are homosexuals, and not as the result
of some sections of society's contempt and
abuse for them, a contempt which he himself
intensifies with his vulgar arguments and
anecdotal unreferenced rubrics.
Can we blame the angst and unhappiness of
the Jews under Hitler's Third Reich as stemming
from the fact that they were Jews, or was
the cause of their unhappiness due to the
dreadful manner in which Jews were treated
by a large section of the German people?
I deal with both of these putative arguments
later in what follows, but first I will address
the claim that homosexual anal and oral sex
is a misuse of bodily parts.
SAME SEX INTIMACY IS A MISUSE
OF BODILY PARTS.
Levin's moral remonstrances show clearly
that he is obviously riled by nature's or
God's obstinate or ingenuous production of
viable human individuals who seem not to
conform to his passé notions of penile purpose
in relation to the reproductive role of the
male member. For Levin a bodily organ is
FOR some antecedently developed function,
which he says explains its emergence through
evolution. As an example of misuse he itemises
other misapplied bodily parts, such as the
teeth which he fantasizes a man might have
extracted and to hang around his neck as
a necklace to illustrate his point.
Levin states on page 238 of 'Ethics in Practice'
 that his argument permits 'gradations
of abnormality.' In view of this, it would
be interesting therefore to hear from Levin
as to at what precise grade or percentage
figure on the deontic-dial does the 'misuse-
of-member' needle on his 'penile-misuse-meter'
move from Levin's default set-position pointing
at full-blown heterosexuality, before it
gradually swings through the bi-sexuality
zone and finally comes to a quivering rest
on the red danger segment of the dial which
finally indicates full-blown Levinesque 'abnormality?'
Statistically, that is if one goes by majorities,
it is those people who actually use their
sexual organ for Levin's ideal purpose that
are in the minority. If we add together the
estimated 15% of the world population who
are gay to the 40% of men between the ages
of 25 to 40 who admit to having anal intercourse
with women we arrive at a figure of 55%.
I would be interested to know why Levin considers
the penetration of the female back-passage
any different from a man's from the point
of view of his 'misuse' criterion? Does he,
we may wonder, consider 'non-use' a form
of 'misuse' too? Is masturbation equally
classed as 'misuse' in his view of sexuality?
 (National Centre for Health Statistics.
And what about that other anthropometical
agglomerator of well-rounded human well-being
- the felicitic or hedonic calculus? Does
the reportedly increasing amount of majority
heterosexual indulgence in what Levin terms
as 'the inappropriate use of the male member'
ellicit cat-calls of cheerlessness, or hand-claps
of happiness, from the straight participational
or non-participational audience?
So what, we are entitled to ask, is the difference
between the misuse of certain bodily parts
and the use of those parts purely for pleasure
rather than for procreation? It seems that
both homosexual, bi-sexual and heterosexual
participants derive pleasure from such pasttimes
- so why is one normal and the other abnormal,
and furthermore what on earth has it got
to do with us?
There is also the question of persons who
do not employ their sexual body parts at
all. Although Levin protests that his position
does not predict that celibate priests will
be unhappy and Judeo-Christianity has deemed
homosexuality a sin, arguably the most spectacular
misuse or non-use of body parts of all, concerns
the priests of various religions, who are
demonstrably not being 'spiritually compensated'
and though having sworn themselves to celibracy,
present a worrying problem for the society
and the church as the constantly reoccurring
headlines of any newspaper will confirm?
According to Vern Bullough  of the Free
Inquiry Magazine, Volume 22, Number 3. a
significant percentage of the Catholic clergy,
are homophile, perhaps as high as 40 per
cent. Does their higher calling, which Levin
claims provides 'compensating satisfactions,'
offset the unhappiness which Levin professes
to deplore as an inevitable concomittant
of the homosexual condition, and if so would
this not suggest that if Levin is really
concerned at their unhappiness he should
encourage a mass entry of homosexuals into
the clergy to take advantage of the immediate
increase of happiness for them, which the
spiritually engendered 'compensatory satisfactions'
For Levin the pleasure that such people derive
from such sexual activity is marred by his
belief that unhappiness inevitably follows,
because it leaves unfulfilled an innate and
innately rewarding desire. He entrusts it
to us to conjecture exactly what these 'unfullfilled
desires' actually are. We can guess that
he refers to the love and companionship of
a partner of the opposite sex, with whom
to build a home and have children and feel
comfortable as a 'normal' rather than 'abnormal'
member of their community?
He seems not to have grasped that this idylic
model of heterosexuality is not desired by
the average homosexual at all, any more than
it is desired by the increasing numbers of
heterosexuals who prefer to live alone and
presumably misuse their members sur leur
propre, or if they do live with a partner,
live with them under an agreement that children
will not be a part of their ongoing relationship.
Again, for me the putative 'implications'
of Levin's argument are indefensible, but
now I shall move from one rather unwholesome
aspect of Levin's criticism, which for me
is based on no more than hostile reaction,
to one of unconscionable hypocrisy - his
blaming of homosexuals for their own putative
For me the most curious and hypocritical
of Levin's arguments is his claim that rather
than homosexuals being unhappy as the result
of society's contempt and abuse for them,
a disdain which he himself intensifies with
his vulgar arguments and anectdotal references,
their unhappiness is caused by the fact that
they are homosexuals, and are thus abused
and held in contempt by society. We may liken
this extraordinary paradigm to African slaves,
who until the north took up arms against
the Southern Confederacy, was kidnapped and
forcibly shipped to America to labour in
the cotton fields.
Surely, for Levin and those like him the
unhappiness of the African slaves was caused
not by the fact that these captives were
legally recognised as such and beaten and
abused by their white slavemasters, but because
they were black African slaves who had made
the cardinal error of being born black, meaning
that they were congenitivally inferior, uneducated
brutes who were stupid enough to have been
caught and transported to a far land, which
meant that they could be paradigmatically
beaten and whipped in accordance with the
crazy logic which made it permissable and
led to their unhappiness.
The implication therefore is that if due
to genetical happenstance or God's will you
are born homosexual, or if you were a black
African and imprudent enough to be caught
by the slavetraders, or a German citizen
whose religion happened to be Jewish, it
is your fault if you are mistreated by society,
because of the determinate circumstances
of your birth, which cast you into the world
as a genetical fall-guy, pre- programmed
and ready-primed for abuse and hate-speech.
Michael Levin wrote 'Why Homosexuality is
Abnormal,' in 1984, which to a great extent
explains its curious datedness, but In a
postscript added in 1993 Levin is at great
pains to point out that in spite of the fact
that he now accepts the scientific explanation
of the genetical origin of homosexuality,
he continues to view homosexuality as something
that one does; a chosen lifestyle rather
than as something that one is; the outcome
of an unsolicited and unchosen orientation.
The thought that mature homosexuals of both
sexes are increasingly entering into long
term partnerships, which have in many cases
been recognised by law, seems to have passed
him by. He states in his postscript that
as up to now society has deemed homosexuality
so harmful that restricting it outweighs
putative homosexual rights, if society reverses
itself it will in effect be deciding that
homosexuality is not as bad as it once was
Thus it appears that Levin is less concerned
with the rights of homosexuals to associate
together, to co-habit in long term loving
relationships and even to adopt children,
and is more concerned with protecting the
embarrassment and rights of those desiring
not to associate with homosexuals.
It is quite obvious from the foregoing that
I find all of Levin's arguments unconvincing,
and the implications hypocritical and indefencible.
I consider his position not to be a cogent,
sensible or even commonsense approach, but
merely a thinly disguised ill-researched
emotional tirade written in pseudo-philosophical
Considered from a utilitarian point of view
it should never have been allowed to have
been published, for the amount of unhappiness
that his words must have wrought, the increase
to society's general unhappiness, not only
to homosexuals, but to the families and friends
of gay people, to the students subjected
to studying these sentiments, and to people
holding liberal, emphatic views on such themes
must be immense.
Levin rants against the call for civil rights
for homosexuals, based upon the idea that
it is wrong to discriminate on the basis
of immutable transmitted traits, and homosexuality
is involuntary and immutable if genetic.
Levin counters with a curious association
with sport, and notes that we discriminate
every day on the basis of immutable traits.
'Reflex speed is unchosen, but the quickest
shortstop makes the team.' says Levin.
He then appeals to the authority of Kant's
categorical imperative as the ultimate moderator
of reason, from which he infers it is our
duty and obligation to oppose civil rights
and freedom of association for homosexuals
thus making them even more unhappy.
What Kant actually said was:
"The entire business of reason consists
in taking all the purposes assigned to us
by our inclinations and uniting them in the
one purpose, happiness, and in harmonizing
the means for attaining this happiness"
Levin's follows his strictures against homonsexuals,
by pronouncing that civil rights for blacks
and women are also illicit as a violation
of freedom of association. By a 'violation
of freedom of association' he of course means
the freedom of those who discriminate against
gays not to associate with them. He deflects
his rejection of civil rights for blacks
and women by claiming that others [presumably
straight men and non-blacks] will find it
a reduction to the absurd, as there is nothing
abnormal about being a black or a woman,
and no one is made as profoundly uncomfortable
by members of the opposite sex or other races
as many people are made by homosexuals. I
think that for many people, Levin's company
would make them feel far more uncomfortable
I end by asking a pertinent question. Is
a paper such as Levin's the the sort of hate-speech
we want our young students to be exposed
to in our establishments of higher learning?
Were not the lessons of the treatment of
'abnormal' minorities in Hitler's Third Reich
(1) Lynott. Douglas 'Josef Mengele: The Angel of Death.' http://www.heart7.net/mengele.html
(2) Levin. Michael. 'Why Homosexuality is Abnormal.' 'The Monist. 67/2 pp251-283. 1984. (Reprinted
in 'Ethics in Practice')
(3) Estep. Myra. http://www.theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/nazis_in_america.htm
(4) Cameron. Kirk. The Numbers Game: What Percentage of the
Population is Gay? http://www.familyresearchinst.org/FRI_AIM_Talk.html
(5) Corvino. John. 'Homosexuality and the Moral relevance of
Experience.' Commentary. 1990.
(6) La Follette. Hugh [ed] 'Ethics in Practice.'
p. 238. Blackwell Publishing 2002. 108 Cowley
Road, Oxford. OX4 1JF.
(7) National Survey of Family Growth 2002. National Centre for Health Statistics. 2002.
Advance Data no. 362.http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad362.pdf
(8) Bullough. Vern. 'Homosexuality and Catholic Priests.' http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/bullough_22_3_1.htm
(9) Kant. Emmanuel, Critique of Pure Reason, A806/B834.