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Several disconnected conversations of late that all ultimately hinge on semantics but each brought to my mind a core question. Are double standards immoral?

I was discussing naked pictures with a friend, and when I expressed the opinion that putting explicit* pictures of yourself up on the internet was an indicator of poor judgment he asked if I would feel the same way if it were a picture of a guy. I admitted that I would still think it was poor judgment but didn't think it would likely have as much potential deliterious effect on his life. He said this was a double standard and was therefore immoral. My contention in the discussion was morality is contextually irrelevant in that the cultural view exists and must be dealt with regardless of if it's unfair. Barring high profile careers I think it's reasonable to say that a man posting a nude picture online is going to suffer far fewer negative consequences than a woman posting a comparable picture. I think that aside from employment issues a woman is also more likely to suffer criticism from family and friends than a man in those same circumstances and more importantly a woman is risking attention from sexual predators as well whereas that's far less likely to happen to a man. This is of course unfair. Is it a double standard? Yes. Is it wrong? Of course. Is it immoral? I'm not sure**. I don't intend to imply that you shouldn't work to change the cultural view, only to observe that while doing so you also have to deal with the current view as it is.

The other two conversations occurred on episodes of the Atheist Experience podcast.

A proponent of 'traditional marriage' definitions declared that gay marriage supporters were hypocrites and were guilty of a double standard because they weren't advocating for plural marriage or for gay incest to be legal. I didn't understand the logic there either. Had they let him go on long enough I'm sure he would have brought up interspecies marriage, something the hardcore religious conservatives seem to be obsessed with. Draw your own conclusions. Ignoring the several battleship sized logical fallacies in his proposal: would it be a double standard to support gay marriage but opposed plural marriage? I can't conceive of a logical argument against plural marriage any more than I can think of one against gay marriage. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but it would have to be a fairly subtle argument if no one has managed to present one yet. Would such a double standard be immoral? That would I suppose depend on the arguments against plural marriage. It's certainly hypocritical and wrong, but is it immoral?

Finally an atheist virulently opposed to gay marriage repeatedly claimed that the primary reason most atheist were active atheists was to promote gay marriage. I know a lot of activist atheists and I can't think of a single one for whom this is the primary reason they are active in promoting atheism. It may be why they are active in promoting equality. He was interestingly enough in favor of civil union, or shmarriage as one of the hosts snarkily put it, just opposed to using the term marriage to apply to what is in all other ways exactly identical to marriage. While this is seemingly progressive I think it's actually the most insidious of double standards, in that it's granting all the same rights and privileges but still making sure to emphasize "You are not equal, you are lesser". It's the core argument against civil unions as a palliative in the debate of gay marriage. Separate but equal is inherently unequal. This is a double standard which is clearly immoral in my view.

Opinions can be wrong.

*There is a difference between artistic nudity and hardcore porn, and I have no problem with either of them. The issue at hand is the risks you take when you make such images of yourself public.

**There is an extended argument to made about how the subjects would be in part seen by those judging them as more or less moral on account of having such pictures of themselves online, and that moral judgment would likely land more harshly on women than on men, and in that context certainly that double standard is dishonest and immoral.
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A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.\r\n\r\n
- Albert Einstein


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