A Gay Man on Intimacy -review of The Madness of Crowds

British intellectual commentary brings out the best the English language has to offer. Such depth and feel for the language we get to enjoy in Douglas Murray’s 2019 The Madness of Crowds: Gender Race and Identity, which should be required reading for anyone trying to understand what is going on in Western culture.

 

Photo: Mark Steyn Show

The book is funny. Murray treats us when, quoting Brandon Ellis, he characterizes the culture’s attitude toward gay-affirming people:

 

“We [have] come to live in The reign of The Gay Man as Magical Elf, who whenever he comes out appears before us as some kind of saintly E.T. whose sole purpose is to be put in the position of reminding us only about Tolerance and Our Own Prejudices and To Feel Good About Ourselves and to be a symbol.” (p46)

 

Or when he cinches the 2017 online shaming that destroyed the career of a government appointee:

“In the hours and days after his appointment was announced [Toby] Young’s Twitter account—and back articles—provided a treasure trove for offence archaeologists searching for errors. Indeed, for anyone unfamiliar with his work it must have been the online shaming equivalent of finding Tutankhamun’s tomb.” (p180)

Or how modern movements focus on only one type of power:

“There is a presumption that if the alpha and maleness could be squashed out of these people [old, mainly rich, always white men], in some great majestic social justice blending device, then the power squeezed out of them might be drunk up by women like those in [the Women in Business Conference] room today. That it will be used to nourish, and grow, those who deserve the power more.”

And along with his humor comes his honesty. Unapologetically devoted, both personally and politically, to gayness, he nonetheless holds himself to honesty about some key points in the cultural debate. For example, he is honest about how public opinion on homosexuality has changed, but not based on evidence:

 

“The law may have changed. But there is almost no more ([scientific] knowledge now than there was beforehand…Nevertheless, the contemporary world has begun to settle on a morality which roots itself in this dispute…[T]he zeitgeist appears to have settled on the ‘Born this way’ theory, while avoiding any glances at the destabilizing fact that the science is still not very much use in helping to back up Lady Gaga’s theory.” (p26, 29, 31).

 

So honest, in fact, that he ventures comparison between monogendered and intergendered intimacy. I have met very few people besides myself who are willing to broach that comparison in print, so my eyes widened to see this gay man go there. I have long argued that the chief advantages of intergendered relationships (meaning, man-woman) over monogendered ones (man-man, woman-woman), remain fruitfulness and intimacy. Intergendered relationships achieve those two things almost automatically where monogendered ones cannot. The former’s most obvious expression, producing children, is incontrovertible. I believe in the latter, the deep, soul-defining, spiritual intimacy from intergendered love, because of the testimony of the Scriptures (e.g., Ephesians 5:22-33) and the twenty years I have spent as a pastor.

 

Photo: AndyCNgo; May 2020 (UTC)

But Murray, coming of course from a very different place, also allows this possibility in laying the two side by side, so to speak (pp48-50). He does so by means of extended quotations of Daniel Mendelsohn’s 1999 memoir, The Elusive Embrace. Mendelsohn pictures covenant love-making as a falling into the other person. Murray allows this conception’s implications to unfold through Mendelsohn’s writing. He states how in intergendered connection the woman is the end point for the man. The other is the destination. Whereas:

 

“It is gay men who, during sex, fall through their partners back into themselves, over and over again….it is like falling through a reflection back into my desire, into the thing that defines me, my self.”

 

Think for a moment from the Christian perspective. A lot happens in God’s gift of the sexual encounter, the profound centerpiece of a marriage, the becoming of one flesh. It becomes the sign and seal of the movement out of ourselves into another, the naked confrontation with the other, that should change us and gentle our condition. Marriage creates the tension that covenant lovemaking resolves. But in the monogendered imitation, this does not happen.

 

Mendelsohn and Murray believe that “the emotional aim of intercourse is a total knowing of the other.” Good enough. But then they then make the mistake of thinking that having two men connect would be superior in that knowing. Because a man can tell what another man feels, Mendelsohn reasons, the similarity of two leads to a total knowledge of the other’s experience. That may be true, but it is a sub-par knowledge. The intimacy God desires for us is one that takes us out of our ourselves. It is my confrontation with woman that helps me understand that man is not the whole package. ‘One flesh’ is where I am no longer defined just by “me, myself,” as Mendelsohn says above. It creates in me the full identity of the image of God. And vice versa for Mary K.

Whereas:

 

Since that [knowledge of the other’s experience] is already wholly known to each of the parties [in monogendered union], the act is also, in a way, redundant. Perhaps it is for this reason that so many of us keep seeking repetition, as if depth were impossible.

 

Hear the honest despair in that last phrase. According to the Bible, depth is indeed impossible in such a union. Only Man with Woman can reach that depth. Man with Man does not foster the true intimacy for which we were made. It is redundant.

 

I am grateful for this man’s honest, insightful, and witty voice. But also sad for what he lacks.

 

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