I had another one of those long, fun conversations at What's Wrong With the World, once again over the topic of gays, gay marriage, and the general failure of social conservatives on that front. Not exactly productive on the surface - this time around I reacted to the catty and, frankly, fruity insults by the 'You've upset Lydia!' brigade responding with pretty direct mockery of my own - but as usual, there were some interesting anecdotes and lessons learned as a result of the entire exchange.
The real surprise - more anecdotes to add to the pile - was the tacit admission on the part of two regulars that, really, they actually have no idea how to present their case in a persuasive manner. Sure, intellectually they're in a superior position (and I personally agree with that broadly), but when it comes to actually communicating that to an on the fence or mostly neutral third party? One (Tony) pretty well said 'Yeah, I can't do that' and alluded to the issue being far too complicated and requiring years of understanding and nuance to get much progress on. Another, William Luse, stopped powdering his wig at the foot of his harpsichord long enough to lecture me on his experiences dealing with students on this subject. The fast summary was: 'I pretty much can't persuade any of them and have had practically zero success.'
More surprising was that neither of them really seemed to recognize that they just illustrated a major problem with not just their approaches to these subjects, but a problem for social conservatives generally. The very idea of persuading people who don't already agree with you comes across as some crazy, maybe even dangerous task - after all, don't you know those people out there are *impure* and *immoral*? They're corrupted, beyond educating! The best thing we can apparently do is... really, that's not explained. 'Bitch a lot' I suppose. 'Retreat into a compound' maybe for another alternative. The idea that maybe they individually, or social conservatives more generally, may have made some major mistakes in the past seems utterly alien to them.
That's not really specific to WWWtW, I've found. You tell conservatives that they've screwed up on issues in the past by doing anything but *not being conservative enough* and they freak out. I'm not around the more hardcore liberals long enough to know if this shows up on that end of the spectrum - generally they seem to have that attitude with policies rather than rhetoric - but it's discouraging. Of course, you have the added problem on a small forum like WWWtW where everyone knows each other and are friends who prioritize defending each other - so you end up with Lydia talking about how it should be acceptable for someone to be fired from their job (not just delicate roles like 'gym teacher in a locker room' but, apparently, even mundane white collar jobs) on account of being gay. And she's their friend, so the odds of someone saying 'Holy shit, that's crazy harpy talk. Be quiet!' are low.
A lot of the conversation on my end was stunted since, really, the last time I was there I was getting censored for using words like 'anal sex', and since a good part of my view is that speaking frankly is important - you know, actually pointing out that we're talking about ass-fucking and not hand-holding - that tied my hands. I'd say this is just church lady reluctance to speak frankly and graphically about sex, but oddly enough, I see exactly this sort of thing with liberals and gay marriage supporters. You start talking about anal sex or various other things instead of 'same-sex sexual behavior' or 'making love' and people freeze up and would rather talk about anything BUT that. On the liberal side, I think that's partially because it starts to get very difficult and certainly more awkward to justify such and such an act as 'an act of romantic union and love between two people who..' etc. Not to mention, once you start bringing in the hypothetical cases and talking about harm, proper function, etc - cue the Doug Thomas video - things get messy, fast. On the conservative side, it really does seem to be more of a Church Lady thing and the perpetual war against vulgarity, unto the point of self-destruction. I'm convinced that part of the reason porn is so prevalent is because of the taboo against discussing it, except for the most comedic of circumstances.
Either way, the conversation went out as expected - Lydia just dropped the 'comments closed' hammer and pouted immensely, but unlike last time, this time around I wasn't really concerned with civility. The hope is that some of what I said will sink in and maybe get them to start re-evaluating their stances and attitudes and those of the organizations they support, in order to gain actual traction on these issues. When the replies to 'How do you attempt to persuade people on this topic?' is either 'I don't' or 'I fail miserably', it's hard to keep going on thinking that everything is okay and no changes are in order.