I must confess from the off, that I was supporting David Norris for the Presidency for all the wrong reasons. It is supposed to be an office shorn of petty politics and ideology, the President is expected to be the symbol of Ireland, our representative to the world, the embodiment of us. To be honest I couldn’t care less about the Presidency though of course I will vote, it is the least duty of democracy.
I supported David Norris because the symbolism of his possible candidacy and possible victory are so incredibly political and divisive that I was moved to see the Office of President as having meaning at last. A gay man, a man enjoying but second class citizenship, to become the first citizen of a still overwhelmingly Catholic country, is a wonderful irony to contemplate and anticipate. Not that him winning would indicate final defeat for the godly conservatives. I fear his victory, while indicative of a liberal advance, would symbolise more our growing disillusionment with main stream politics and its apologists.
What shocked me about Senator Norris’ campaign was that he looked like he might actually win. All my prejudices about Irish conservatism were looking as if they might be challenged and ultimately overturned. Then reality kicked in. Apparently Senator Norris is not only gay, but something of a moral relativist and worse, he is not a house trained homosexual, he views sexuality as an immense spectrum, without fast and simple rules, without predetermined rights and wrongs, without comfortable facts and mores.
Instead of being a man and just thinking about sex, he thinks about sexuality. The conservatives may have lost the power to destroy him for his homosexuality, Ireland appears to have progressed to the point where this difference can be accepted, incorporated and co-opted into our faux cultural identity, but don’t, just don’t ask questions like why is incest wrong and why is there an Age of Consent and why is it 17?
I fear that Senator Norris will not now, nor ever be, the President of Ireland and for the first time that actually matters to me. Rubbing the conservatives’ noses in the dirt would have amused me, but President Norris, our first citizen would still have been a second class citizen. That nonsense and that war should have ended in the last century. And in this century we could have begun to ask the difficult questions.
Questions, questions and even more questions, these are why I now support Senator Norris whole heartedly. I am a moral relativist, or at least I try to be, though it does not come naturally to me. I try to hold to Socrates’ dictum of an examined life. Again this does not come naturally to me, I instinctively prefer answers to and than questions. I instinctively prefer the argument, not its purpose. I instinctively prefer certainty, as most people do. Senator Norris is a man who asks not dictates.
Thus I do not think that Senator Norris has anything to answer for. I would instead suggest that he is merely asking a better quality of question than we are accustomed to. This is especially true when it comes to sexuality. Questions we must confront if our laws and customs are to have any meaning and strength.
To that end I will offer 20 questions on this subject, which I do not think can be appropriately answered with a simple yes or no. If we don’t at least examine them in the cold light of unfettered reason, we will continue to believe in things that were decided for us and was it not for that reason, our country ended up in the mess it is in today?
If you do think you can offer simple yes and no answers, please add them to the comments section.
- Why do we need an age of consent?
- How do we decide what this age should be?
- Who decides what this age should be?
- How do we define the ability to consent, if there is no recourse to chronological age?
- How does one explain the immense disparity in ages of consent over time and in different cultures?
- If we are all individuals why are we insisting on the blunt instrument of a ‘number’ which all must adhere to, regardless of intellect, maturity or desire?
- As we are sexual beings from birth how do we respect and affirm this aspect of our identity at all ages?
- Do Age of Consent laws serve more to make things easier on parents and society than to protect children?
- How do legal interventions serve to facilitate young people exploring their sexuality?
- Why do we have laws against incest?
- Like consent, why does our definition of and attitudes to incest vary over time and culture?
- Why is it still permitted to prohibit what consenting adults do in private?
- Are the strictures against incest motivated by a desire to see less genetic mutation?
- If we fear genetic damage because of consanguinity and legislate to that end, should all prospective parents be subject to ‘genetic counselling?”
- If ability to consent is an issue, do we prevent people with learning disabilities to fully explore their sexuality?
- If genetics are an issue do we also prohibit people with learning disabilities from having babies?
- Why in the twenty-first century do so many of us react with horror to important questions around the sexuality of children?
- Why in the twenty-first century do we allow the attitudes that have not served us well in the past to continue to inform our attitudes today?
- Why do we allow the authorities of old, that served us so poorly, to still have a say in this debate?
- Why do we equate permission with permissive, questioning to abandoning and sexuality to loss of innocence?