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Robert Gagnon tries to make me look bad—by again equating my 'practice' with incest

by Jeremy Hooper

You might remember my post from last week, where I shared an email that Rob Gagnon, theologian and annual speaker at the National Organization For Marriage's "It Takes a Family" conference, sent to a list of social conservatives. In that email, Mr. Gagnon smeared me and did his usual schtick of making gay people seem perverted. And at at one point in his message, he definitely (by all accounts) stated that "homosexual practice" is worse than incest and seemingly (by my read) threw bestiality into the mix as well. Here is that email once again:

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Well, Mr. Gagnon took great exception with my read. According to him, he was not equating homosexuality (or "homosexual practice," as he says) with bestiality, and was instead limiting his equation to only incest. So over the weekend, this NOM star speaker went after me yet again, firing off a series of emails that attempted to paint me, my reading comprehension, and motivations in an unfavorable light. But then, for some reasons that seem to me to be completely devoid of pragmatism, he closed out with repeated beliefs that "practices" like mine are on par with inter-familial sexual relations. That exchange, in full:


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Jeremy,  I just now noticed that you claim that I said that homosexuality practice is worse than bestiality. Are you that incompetent a reader of texts in context or are you being deliberately duplicitous? I can't figure out which is the kinder interpretation of your actions.  What I wrote about Jim Burroway applies equal to you. I expect you to make a retraction.  Prof. Robert Gagnon, Ph.D.   Jim Burroway of the duplicitous 'Box Turtle' site accuses me of saying that homosexual practice is worse than bestiality even though I specifically state (and he even twice quotes me as saying) that bestiality is worse (homosexual practice …is regarded by Scripture as worse than incest, comparing adult-consensual for both; I do stand by that; it is a point easy to demonstrate from Scripture). His inability to read for context is hardly surprising. Misinterpretation is a staple of the 'Box Turtle' site.  Note the first quote of me that he makes:  “Bestiality is an even more unnatural form of sexual practice since it is cross-species. Adult-consensual incest is also a particularly perverse form of sexual practice since it involves sex with someone who is too much of a familial same. But Scripture treats homosexual practice as even more severely unnatural because the male-female requirement for sexual relations is foundational for all that follows (so Genesis and Jesus) and because sex or gender is a more constituent feature of sexual behavior than kinship.”  Somehow he gets out of this that I found homosexual practice to be worse than bestiality. It says the exact opposite. Note:  (1) “Bestiality is an even more unnatural form of sexual practice [i.e. than homosexual practice] since it is cross-species.” (2) “Adult-consensual incest is also a particularly perverse form of sexual practice since it involves sex with someone who is too much of a familial same.” Clearly now I have moved on from the comparison to bestiality to a comparison to incest. (3) “But Scripture treats homosexual practice as even more severely unnatural [than incest, not bestiality!] because the male-female requirement for sexual relations is foundational for all that follows (so Genesis and Jesus) and because sex or gender is a more constituent feature of sexual behavior than kinship.” Clearly I intend in context to say that homosexual practice is worse than incest, not bestiality. The very next sentence makes a point about “kinship” not cross-species. And I have already stated that “bestiality is an even more unnatural form of sexual practice” so I can hardly be saying that “Scripture treats homosexual practice as even more severely unnatural” than bestiality. I’m not differentiating my view from Scripture (duh) as if to say that Scripture thinks that homosexual practice is more unnatural than bestiality but I don’t believe it.  Burroway is clueless as an interpreter of texts. But then his ideological biases are so great as to prevent him from reading obvious clues in context. Or perhaps he is not as textually clueless as he makes himself out to be but simply distorts the record deliberately.  He even quotes from an article that I wrote where I make clear that bestiality is a worse, more unnatural sexual offense and yet he still entitles his article “Robert Gagnon Explains Why Consensual Gay Relationships Are Worse Than Bestiality and Incest”: “It is my contention that homosexual practice is a more serious violation of Scripture’s sexual norms than even incest, adultery, plural marriage, and divorce. (The reader will note that I did not mention bestiality because the evidence from ancient Israel and early Judaism suggests that bestiality is a worse offense than same-sex intercourse.).” Note here that I say that clearly that “the evidence from ancient Israel and early Judaism suggests that bestiality is a worse offense than same-sex intercourse.” So there is no possibility of claiming, as Burroway does in a later comment, Yes, Gagnon may personally consider bestiality as “an even more unnatural form,” but since since [sic] he considers himself a theologian [sic], how Scripture treats homosexual practice is what ultimately matters to him.” Obviously to say “the evidence from ancient Israel” means Scripture (again, duh).


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Speaking of


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Jeremy,  Since what I wrote was obvious to anybody who wasn't blinded by the desire to smear, it is not a character attack to ask, 'Are you that incompetent a reader of texts in context or are you being deliberately duplicitous?' It is mere description in the form of a question. That you should accuse anyone else of a 'character attack' is ironic to the nth degree. So I'll ignore the self-righteous 'high road' comment. Your modus operandi is to take the low road, which is how this entire matter started with you.  (1) When I say, 'Bestiality is an even more unnatural form of sexual practice since it is cross-species,' it is clear from the preceding context (which you do not cite) that I mean “more unnatural form of sexual practice [than homosexual practice].” Note the opening line of that paragraph: “It should occasion no surprise that I regard homosexual practice as perverse behavior, quite simply because this is a basic scriptural view…. Applied to sexual practice, a perversion is ‘any of various means of obtaining sexual gratification that are generally regarded as being unnatural or abnormal.’ Paul in Scripture makes a point of singling out homosexual practice as sexual behavior that is manifestly contrary to nature….” And since the preceding context focused on the view of Scripture it is clear from context that I mean that Scripture so regards bestiality.   Do you understand what I said: “[Scripture indicates that] bestiality is an even more unnatural form of sexual practice [than homosexual practice] since it is cross-species.” Only an incompetent reader oblivious to context (or a deliberately duplicitous reader) could miss what I was saying in the first sentence that you cite (or pretend to have missed it).  This being so, it is impossible to read the third sentence that you cite, “Scripture treats homosexual practice as even more severely unnatural,” as referring to bestiality because I have already made clear 2 sentences prior that Scripture treats bestiality as more unnatural than homosexual practice. And yet you say that yours is the “more logical reading” when I have explicitly denied to the reader that conclusion just two sentences prior.   (2) That the sentence in question is comparing homosexual practice only with incest is also self-evident both from the immediately preceding sentence, which introduces the matter of incest as a perversion, and from the concluding clause of the sentence in question: “…because sex or gender is a more constituent feature of sexual behavior than kinship.” Do you see a comparison there with both cross-species sex and kinship sex? No, you see only a comparison with kinship sex. I said nothing about cross-species sex, which is not at all surprising because I had already established that bestiality was worse (more unnatural) than homosexual practice because it was cross-species. That too should have told you that the comparison of the sentence in question was only with incest.  These two contextual indicators make it obvious that for the sentence in question I was comparing homosexual practice only with incest and not with bestiality. You were misrepresented what I said due to one or more of the following reasons: (1) You are generally an incompetent reader of texts in context; (2) You are generally a competent reader of texts in context but were incompetent in this particular case because you were blinded by your zeal to slander me; (3) you deliberately distorted what you read. I suppose of these three options the most charitable interpretation is the second (and I am inclined toward it), though none of the available options are flattering.   You call my view that 'Scripture treats homosexual practice even more severely unnatural' than adult-consensual incest a “nasty claim.” (Make clear that I say “adult-consensual incest,” not incest involving the under-aged.) But in point of fact this claim is beyond refutation.   First, it is a claim about what Scripture says. There are multiple lines of evidence for establishing this point: the fact that Genesis starts with male-female differentiation, not kinship differentiation; the fact that allowances for some forms of incest in the patriarchal period have to be closed off at a later period by Levitical law, whereas there are no loopholes around the prohibition of homosexual practice that ever need to be closed off; the central place of homosexual practice as a particularly severe offense in a series of texts in both Testaments; and the general views that prevailed on the subject in early Judaism.   Second, it is also self-evident from any natural law argumentation. The embodied uber-sameness of sex or gender is greater than as regards the sameness of close kin since sex or gender is a more constituent element of sexual relations than kinship. At least (other-sex) incestuous bonds are capable of procreating (albeit with a greater rate of defects, though not intrinsic defects); persons of the same sex are structurally incapable of procreating at all, confirming the even greater incongruity of the bond on a physiological level.   I would be interested in hearing why you think adult-consensual incest is wrong. And don't use the argument about procreation defects because there are plenty of incestuous unions where procreation wouldn't arise: homosexual incest, incest where one or both partners are infertile, or instances where active birth-control precautions are taken. The procreation defects (which at any rate are hardly anything close to intrinsic, to judge from data from first-cousin marriages) are only the symptom of the root harm: too much embodied or structural identity on the level of kinship, not enough complementary otherness. This is the precise problem with homosexual practice, except that the uber-sameness is more severe in the case of same-sex sexual relationships since it is clear anatomically, physiologically, and even psychologically that the sexual complement to a man is a woman and vice versa.  Doubtless you will cite homosexual orientation as a key difference. But that would be an irrelevant point for assessing what is unnatural since everyone possesses lots of involuntary desires to do things that they shouldn’t be doing. To have an innate desire to do something discordant with one’s embodied structures doesn’t make the behavior any more natural in the deepest sense (if you can’t think of any examples that make this point I can help you out). The innateness of a desire doesn’t make it moral inasmuch as all behaviors are attributable at some level to differences in brain structure and process. If a person has an involuntary sexual desire for children, hopefully you wouldn’t call that natural. The choice of example here doesn’t mean that homosexual practice is as bad as pedophilia; but it does establish that the innateness of a given urge does not render the resultant behavior either “natural” or good. Indeed, some studies have suggested that there is an 'incest orientation' for some siblings that are very early raised in a different homes.  In the end you have nothing but your own “bigotry” and inconsistency toward close-kin unions to justify your absolute opposition to even adult-consensual forms of incest and absolute affirmation toward adult-consensual homosexual unions. You recognize something bizarre, even repulsive (one would hope), in having two consenting adults who are too much alike on the level of kinship engage in sexual intercourse. And yet you celebrate two persons too much structurally alike on the level of sex or gender having sex with each other as though the one were an appropriate sexual complement for the other. Bizarre indeed. Guess you are just an 'incest-phobe.'  Sincerely,  Prof. Robert Gagnon, Ph.D.


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Thanks for sharing your thought and beliefs!  Have a great Sunday.  Jeremy  Jeremy Hooper Good As You  Author,

And that's where we left it. It was pretty clear to me that Mr. Gagnon was trying to rile me up, and I'm happy to say I didn't take the bait. Even though he seems convinced that I am out to get him as a person and am some sort of mean guy who attacks people for sport, G-A-Y readers (from all political perspectives) know that this is simply untrue. I focus on the words and work, mostly staying away from the personal motivations that bring the individual to his or her rhetoric and advocacy. I displayed Gagnon's initial email (and these subsequent emails), in full, because I want readers to see the full context, regardless of what leads Mr. Gagnon to say such things. Notice I never once called him a name in either this exchange or my initial post. It's not my style.

But I'll have to say, I so stand by my read of Gagnon's bestiality/incest/homosexual practice thing. In my interpretation, it sounds like he is saying "X is really bad," "Y is also bad," but "G-A-Y is even more severely bad than either X or Y." That is simply how the sentence is structured! Perhaps the problem is one of syntax and Mr. Gagnon really did intend to limit his comparison to only incest (I'm 100% open to that possibility), but I still say that the sentence reads the way that I say it does. That is my personal interpretation. Surely a theologian knows a thing or two about personal interpretation.

But again, I printed the full emails, so people can have their own interpretations. It's actually a little weird that he talks about what I did and did not "cite," considering I put every last word of it out there for all to see. And I put it out there because I want people to see it! I want people to know that he compares "practices" like mine to brother-sister sex, if not man-horse coitus. This star NOM speaker might think I am the one painting a flattering portrait for myself, but, just as with his initial email, I have a different read on the whole thing.


*Oh, and Mr. Gagnon, if you see this and want to respond further, please do so in the comments on this post. Thanks!

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