Re: :: Celibacy: Everyday Presentations

Dorothy J. Cattle (cattledj@WFU.EDU)
Mon, 18 Dec 1995 15:00:50 -0500

On Mon, 18 Dec 1995, Lief M. Hendrickson wrote:
> Are same-sex partners really "spouses"? The traditional definition is
> a heterosexual monogamous partner who has been publicly and legally
> acknowledged by a prescribed ceremony (i.e. the wedding) and procedure
> (i.e. filing for a license). Can a same-sex partner cause society to
> afford them the same definition by emulating the formalities?

The "traditional" definition cited above is conventional, which does
not afford it any more "cultural truth" than if one changes a single
prefix from hetero- to homo-. Note that this cited "definition" is violated
all the time by those who are presumed to "rightfully" fulfill it. It
also isn't a matter of a same-sex partner *causing* society to label them
nor a same-sex partner merely "imitating" the so-called formalities. One
isn't imitating if the rituals, etc. have meaning, social recognition,
and form the basis for legal arguments and arrangements. There are
hundreds of people in same-sex relationships on the US west coast who have
all the social and legal rights of spouses, even as traditionally defined.

> They certainly can not come close to emulating the underlying structure of
> combining their DNA to produce another human being...

Not sure that imitating some underlying structure is what even that
traditional definition implies.

> This is not to say procreation is the only basis for having a
> "spouse", but it is certainly is a component and a very important
> possibility- whether symbolic or real- even if the option is not
> exercised- either by choice or by biological malfunctions. This is
> the basis of the true definition of the term.

Again, is there an absolute "true" definition of a term that comes out
of probably Greek and has more to do with promises and treaties than
with DNA and procreative values? Not sure why truth would be assumed to
be defined by the traditional definition given above. However, that
definition can serve for both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

> Appropriation of the term in some sectors does not automatically change
> the meaning for society at large. Rather then muddying the water by
> derivative usage of terminology, I suggest we use a more general term to
> say what is really meant. "Sex partner" won't do. "Significant other"
> has been used. I'm sure there are others.>

Language changes; definitions change, become obsolete, fall into
disuse, etc. "Some sector" hasn't misappropriated a very general term
and muddied the water of some pure English pond. Can't see it even as
derivative which seems to imply something derogative here. Spouse is
just about as general a term as one can find in common English and pretty
much conveys a widely-understood meaning. It is only the inclusion of the
prefix homo- in addition to hetero- in the traditional, conventional
definition of spouse that seems to be difficult for some. What *can*
be said? Spouse has gained additional meaning; if some individuals want to
ignore that addition that's their perogative, but the meaning has expanded
and in many places *is* legally recognized. One has to "keep up" in that
arena at least. Language usage often goes "beyond" one's personal

One can select and refine terms and insert nuances into the various
definitions suggested by the several typologies being discussed on the main
line of this thread; thought the above posting needed a separate answer
since it wasn't really discussing typology.