Conservatives and some religious leaders have identified homosexuality as a great threat to Western morality. In some respects they are correct. If the state has no right to legislate a narrow definition of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman, what's to stop fundamentalist Mormons, whose polygamous culture is exposed in Jon Krakauer's current bestseller "Under the Banner of Heaven," from demanding that marriage make room for a man and three women?
Notwithstanding my own conservative credentials, I have long championed the fair and equal treatment of homosexuals, believing we should show them all the love and dignity that is their birthright. I have debated religious figures throughout the world on the need to put the sin of homosexuality in proper Biblical context. There can be no question that gay sex is prohibited by the Bible, but that need not lead to the demonization of homosexuals. It is a sin not unlike desecrating the Sabbath, and it shouldn't be singled it out for particular opprobrium.
Still, I'm not indifferent to the emergence of homosexuality as a political and religious issue, nor to the notable increase in gay men and women coming out. I believe this phenomenon reflects a crisis of a different kind--namely, our culture's disillusionment with heterosexuality as we know it.
In my lectures around the world on relationships, I often ask the participants, "What's more important: attraction or compatibility?" Nearly every hand shoots up to vote for compatibility. Attraction is disparaged as shallow. The most important thing, in the minds of most men and women I encounter, is having lots in common--becoming best friends.
Now this is curious. If compatibility is the mainstay of a relationship, then homosexuality makes much more sense. After all, two men have a lot more in common than a man and a woman. How many women enjoy watching hours of football, or seeing Mike Tyson tear out an opponent's spinal cord? And is there a husband who really enjoys spending the day at the mall trying on outfits with his wife?
Let's get real. Men and women have precious little in common. Expert marketers even sell differently to each group. Heterosexual men don't read Vogue or Cosmo (although some look at the pictures), and straight women don't read Flyfishing Today or Soldier of Fortune.
With so little in common, why do men and women want to drop their same-sex friends, with whom they have so much in common to spend the rest of their lives with the opposite sex? Why does a man give up his male drinking buddies, hide his inner Neanderthal to go home to his wife? Why would a woman leave the chatty, sympathetic company of her female friends and share her life with a monosyllabic brute?
The answer is that all-powerful thing called attraction. No matter how much football two men watch together, they rarely feel romantic toward one another. For all the trumpeting of compatibility, common interests lack the power to create romantic interest. Chemistry is not decided by commonalities. In my view, compatibility has little to do with romance. It can, at best, enhance an existing attraction rather than create it. Rather, it is that belittled little thing called attraction that creates that crazy little thing called love.
And therein lies the reason for society's incredible interest in homosexuality. Attraction, once so strong between men and women, has greatly waned. In a world where natural attraction between men and women is weak, compatibility has risen to fill the vacuum. Attraction has been diluted to such a point that a much weaker force has arisen to take its place.
Why has attraction between men and women dropped so drastically? For one thing, men and women are simply overexposed to one another. Women have lost all mystery for men. That's why we use expressions like "casual" sex. How could something so intense suddenly become casual? Because it lacks emotional commitment and it is practiced with strangers to such an extent that it becomes detached, predictable, and routine.
Whereas men used to be attracted to womankind, today they are only attracted to a kind of woman. Fat women are out. Short women ditto. Flat-chested women can forget it.