He opens the chapter on this subject under the title ‘Health Warning’ with the claim that ‘buggery and smoking can both kill you, by exposing you to diseases you would not otherwise get’, each of which are actions of choice. He drew attention to the manner in which the dangers were treated in a contrasting manner. Whilst smokers are always blamed for their illnesses, homosexuals are never chastised for becoming HIV positive or contracting other sexual transmitted diseases. He ridiculed the Government’s warnings of the time aimed at combating the increase in Aids, which spread disinformation that the whole population was equally at risk, when in reality it was specific groups, most notably homosexuals, who faced the greatest danger.
He noted the differing approach between Aids victims, whose cause is promoted by the wearing of red ribbons, whilst smokers who contracted lung cancer and other diseases receive scant public sympathy. Smokers are never advised to practice ‘safer smoking’ but are warned instead to give up the habit completely. In contrast, any doctor suggesting that homosexuals should abstain from their sexual practices would be condemned for being judgemental against a minority group and could face disciplinary action. As Hitchens states ‘there is not even a hint of disapproval of anal sex in official propaganda about Aids’, which instead urges the practice of ‘safer sex’, involving the use of condoms. According to Hitchens the reason why this inconsistency goes unchallenged is due to it being ‘a key part of the cultural revolution, the propagation of a new morality’. He believed ‘this deliberate avoidance of truth was meant to avoid offending or scapegoating homosexuals’.
The logic behind this according to Hitchens is that ‘homosexuality, as an activity, could not be attacked in a society which had accepted heterosexual liberation’. In support of this belief he claimed that ‘the pill had turned heterosexual intercourse into recreation rather than procreation’ as it removed the fear of pregnancy, thus making women more willing to agree to sexual activity. Thus there was now no difference between ‘sterile heterosexual sex and sterile homosexual sex’ and so nobody could logically continue to object to homosexuality, without serious hypocrisy. In reaching this conclusion Hitchens overlooks the fact that heterosexual sex is biologically normal even when contraception is used, unlike homosexual sex which must always remain unnatural. So his accusations of hypocrisy are wide of the mark, since it is more likely that the distaste felt by many towards homosexual activity is what determines the double standard, since recreational heterosexual activity does not arouse the same repulsion.
Hitchens believed that the decriminalisation of homosexual acts was motivated by a ‘wave of tolerance and compassion, intended to lift an awful burden from individuals who were seen as sad victims of a needlessly harsh morality’. MPs could no longer see the justification for a law which frequently led to blackmail, and which could ruin the careers and lives of men amid shame and embarrassment. However Hitchens is sympathetic to the opponents of change who ‘saw quite clearly what was really at issue – legalization would lead to social acceptance’, which in time is what ultimately happened. He reminds us that the general view among educated people then ‘was similar to the hostility people now feel towards child molesters, It was an embarrassing, even disgusting, perversion not spoken of if possible’.
After the passage of more than thirty years he lamented that ‘many of the arguments against legalization have become quite simply unspeakable, because legal acceptance has led first to tolerance and then to respectability’. In fact it has now become worse than Hitchens then feared as we are now urged by liberal ‘progressives’ to celebrate homosexuality as an activity that is somehow intrinsically virtuous.
He outlined how the effect of this change in attitude became cumulative as the significant increase in the number of openly homosexual people made it ‘seem bad manners to criticize the homosexual lifestyle’. As a consequence social disapproval shifted from homosexuals themselves to those who openly disapprove of their actions. Hitchens drew attention to the then relatively recent invented word ‘homophobia’, intended to stigmatise ‘the feeling of those who do not accept homosexuality as the equal of heterosexuality’. He accurately identified its purpose as being ‘to produce guilt, impute personal failings, even some sort of mental disorder’ against those who might challenge this agenda, describing it as ‘one of the most unpleasant techniques of the new conformism’.
Hitchens ended this chapter by attacking moves to remove the prohibition preventing schools from teaching that ‘homosexuality is a lifestyle choice equal to and comparable with heterosexual marriage’, and also condemned proposals for the introduction of ‘some sort’ of homosexual marriage, which he described as a contradiction in terms. He concluded by noting that equality between homosexuality and heterosexuality, which had been denied as an objective by 1960s reformers, had now become a matter which we are all expected to unquestionably accept.
Peter Hitchens analysis is broadly correct. He is right to stress the dangers of the homosexual lifestyle, although he focuses on the impact of anal sex rather than the bigger problem of rampant promiscuity. This contrasts with the mainstream sanitised version of homosexuality promoted by LGBT History Month, Pride marches etc. The absurdity of so called homosexual marriage, and the malign indoctrination in schools of the supposed normality of homosexuality, are both treated with the contempt they deserve. He sits on the fence on the issue of decriminalisation of homosexual activities, recognising the blackmail threat and personal ruin caused by this private activity. But he also identifies the normalisation and acceptance which lifting the legal prohibition has introduced, and the authoritarian measures that have been adopted to silence opposition to the homosexual normalisation agenda. Unfortunately, although opposed to authoritarianism when practiced by liberals, his apparent willingness to condone authoritarian interference by the state in a private sexual activity of which he disapproves leaves him open to charges of hypocrisy and double standards.