Some people find it easier to let hostility carry their writing rather than honest criticism, as Silpa Kovvali did in her Crimson editorial against True Love Revolution last Wednesday, October 21st. If I had to distill her piece, it would run: “I interviewed the co-president of a group I disagree with, I misconstrued her statements, and thereby showed the whole group is irrational.” Kovvali makes no real attempt to understand and counter our claims and substitutes caricaturing our views for argument.
I can only presume that Kovvali thought her audience shared her distaste for TLR and so wouldn’t question her tactics. She levels the charge of “ignorant intolerance” at TLR, which is strong indeed. Since the only cardinal sin on a college campus is being intolerant, if you can make that label stick to a group it becomes shunned. Kovvali is not the only one to make this accusation, so it’s worth responding to. TLR makes a stand for objective truth in sexual ethics and marriage and isn’t shy about claiming to be right, but is it fair to call it intolerant?
First of all, moral claims are difficult to defend when directly attacked; even a shoplifter could spin out a dozen rationalizations for why they “really don’t hurt anyone” if they wanted. And when you do defend moral claims, you run the risk of being criticized for imposing your views on others. Since many people view sexuality as a purely private choice, they don’t see the point of taking moral positions on it. An analagous private choice fraught with moral issues is recreational drug use. As a side note, the moral arguments are different from pragmatic arguments about effects on society and individuals, although these can certainly illustrate negative consequences. But just because no immediate damage is evident does not mean a choice is morally justified.
So, imagine that you had a strong moral stance against recreational drug use. If you really felt that it was a serious enough problem, you might write an article in a campus journal. If your friends complained to you about the intolerance of your views and said you were arrogant for thinking you knew what was best for others, how would you respond? Would you back down and say: “Well, it really is just a personal decision and my moral philosophy doesn’t apply to others,” or would you stand by your beliefs out of personal integrity and concern for them? However the conversation went, it’s clear there’s a huge difference between arguing against drug use and condemning individuals. If you couldn’t convince your friends, you would just have to acknowledge your differences and live with the tension. This is TLR’s position on campus.
Secondly, the reality is that everyone has views about objective truth, and no one is “tolerant” of conflicting views. So when two people of good-will disagree sharply about a moral point, it’s all the more important to argue honestly. For instance, Kovvali unfavorably compares TLR with the Queer Students and Allies (QSA) and says that queers don’t demand that everyone else be like them. However, their philosophy has real implications, to which a fair comparison would point. The QSA shares the supposedly “neutral” liberal position on sexuality that sex is morally value-free and can be engaged in as one wants. This gives a strong bias toward sexual experimentation and relations because it uncritically gives free rein to desire. An extreme example is the recent article on gay Craigslist hookups in the Yale Daily News. This moral position, which is prescribed for the whole campus, is a direct threat to students who are committed to abstinence because it undermines the reasons for waiting until marriage to have sex.
On another philosophical issue, the QSA clearly advocates gay marriage, as evidenced by their recent phone bank effort to change the vote in Maine. Their position says that the definition of marriage should be between two unisex partners, and they’re quite willing to “impose” that definition on everyone else. So please, let’s not pretend that TLR is the only group on campus with strong views. Our philosophical and moral positions provide the framework for our lifestyle, and we’re not afraid to make the case for views that have universal import. We invite the campus to think about these issues, see why we hold them, and argue in kind. The last thing we’re interested in is compelling anyone to agree with us or change their sex life. What could be more counter-productive?