The Slippery Slope

Have you heard of the "Slippery Slope" argument before? It goes something like this.
Say it's your birthday, and to celebrate you want to go to a really fancy restaurant. Somewhere you've never been before, with quality that you've never before experienced. The restaurant is amazing, you have a great time, everything is wonderful. Except eventually the next year rolls around. Keeping with the pattern, you want to have a novel culinary experience surpassing any of your previous experiences. This is suddenly more complicated than it was the year before because the floor for the "best experience you've ever had" is now higher than it used to be. This problem gets worse each and every year. And, assuming you keep with your birthday tradition, this is a problem that scales. Each year needs to be more excessive and more extreme until either you're having million dollar birthday bashes or you run out of money and can no longer continue. By allowing one thing that only seemed a little bit outside of the norm, you've made it so that the most disastrous and extreme version of that thing is now only a matter of time. 
Put into a bit more basic terms, the slippery slope is this. If you choose to do X, it then makes Y more acceptable. As you continue to push the limits on what's acceptable, it therefore also normalizes things that would have been considered extreme. You probably wouldn't have had a million dollar birthday dinner right out the gate, but each year you're on the path to getting there. 
We're talking about the slippery slope in this article because it's something you hear a lot about when it comes to minority rights. It's been a common argument for as long as people have wanted to have equality. "You're giving X group rights? What's next? Y?" is the general template it follows. This has been applied over and over throughout modern history, with various groups filling both variables in our formula. 
There's a reason that the argument has been so generally prevalent. It's simple, easy to understand, and juxtaposes a group asking for change against a group that people don't like, in a way that makes it hard to really talk about. It's designed to shut down conversation by bringing up the most awkward possible outcome.
One example you probably heard a lot if you're old enough is: 
"Oh, you want to let gay people marry each other? What's next? Letting people marry dogs?" 
Putting aside the point that yes, that's absolutely based, I want to look at this argument a little bit more critically. I've heard it enough that there has to be some merit to it, right? 
First of all, there's something important to realize when it comes to the slippery slope. It's an argument you can only make if you're someone who's currently in a socially acceptable position in society. It doesn't really make sense to say that normalizing your own cause is going to lead to normalizing causes you don't like. If you were advocating for Black rights, it flat-out wouldn't make any sense at all for you to make an argument like "Protecting Black people's right to vote is a slippery slope into letting animals vote," and you definitely wouldn't say "Protecting animal rights is a slippery slope into protecting Black people's right to vote." You'd obviously only be hurting your own position at that point. Because the argument "You're giving X group rights? What's next? Y?" literally only makes sense if the person speaking isn't X or Y, but a person who is already more privileged than either of them. In this way, the slippery slope is a tool of the status quo. It's essentially saying
"We've changed enough, we don't need any more change. Things are at their best the way that they are." 
And while I'm sure there are some people in society who would say things are great as is, I think most people in truly marginalized groups would disagree. When it was women seeking rights, it was men who typically cried out warnings that giving women rights was going to "set a dangerous precedent." But once women had attained their rights, when gays were up on the slide, there were plenty of women who were suddenly "concerned" about "normalizing homosexuality," even though their own rights had only just been normalized in pretty recent memory.
And now that (in general) being gay is all good, those same people are decrying that zoosexuals being visible are the point where we've slid far enough. Some especially ignorant gay people are even trying to kick out the bottom half of the LGBTQ, eager to abuse their position as "acceptable" in society now that the focus is on people below them.
The reason I bring this up is to point out that every single strive we've made towards social progress has been directly against the idea of a slippery slope. If you like that racial minorities are equal citizens, that disabled people have social support, that women can vote, that gays can marry. Literally anything. That means that you stand at least partially against this concept. If you think any kind of change for society is good, then that means you have a belief that directly goes against the status quo, and you therefor hold some belief that is a potential slope for someone to lament about.
Not to mention the fact that the whole metaphor isn't even particularly good. Part of the reason this concept is so powerful is because the imagery is so easy. It's not hard to picture society trending in a direction. But, a slope implies way more directionality than society tends to have. Social change isn't a two dimensional thing. If gay men gain the right to marry while women lose the right to abortions, what slope are we riding? That's clearly not social progress, regardless of what direction you want to move. You could say that the LGBTQ slope is different than the women's rights slope, but if a trans gay man gets pregnant with his partner and can't get an abortion are we celebrating the LGBTQ or hating women? If every single cause has a slope of its own, then how can we claim that slopes affect each other in such a definitive inevitable way? Are gay rights and zoo rights the same slope, or different? There isn't an answer to that, because the question is based completely on a faulty premise. The metaphor stretches to its breaking point and snaps when we apply any kind of reality to it. In the business, we call that "a really shitty metaphor that you should stop using."
This whole thing falls into something that I like to call social reductionism. When a political figurehead is deciding how they want to present their message, they like to try and make complicated things as simple as possible, to make it easy for all the dummies out there. This is why stereotypes exist. Every minority has tropes. In the same way, the slippery slope relies on the idea that all minorities have a collective goal that they want. The slide down the slope happens because there's a communal force continuing to push things in the right direction. But society is rarely as simple as that. Trying to describe political drift like a slope is such an incorrect way to view it. What if some completely hypothetical unnamed trans politician took a stance against providing for the homeless? Does that put us into some kind of impossible situation where someone has one foot really far down the slope and the other foot a hundred miles up? No, it just means that different issues have their own histories and circumstances and forces acting on them, and it's really goofy to decide that the way you want to try to graph all of that is by using a singular diagonal line. What some people would view as devastating loss of basic human rights, I'm sure certain people probably view it as a heroic climb back up the now much harder direction. But that's all foolish. In reality, there is no slope. There may be social currents, but by no means do those currents create situations where it's suddenly impossible to go back, or where one thing becomes inevitable because some other thing was allowed
Which brings us to the slippery slope argument most relevant to this particular magazine. Does normalizing gay people lead to people wanting to fuck dogs?
Let's look at the facts. We know for a fact that zoos have been around for just as long as gay people. We have ancient art technically going back farther to confirm the existence of zoos, but for the sake of being realistic it's fair to assume that art of both topics goes back so far because we didn't "invent" being gay or being zoo: non-reproductive sexual behaviors is kind of just a thing that existed in the animal kingdom before we were even around. So the existence of homosexuality didn't create zoosexuality. Throughout history we can find plenty of examples of people writing stories, creating art, or physically performing the act of loving animals.
So the argument then becomes, does legalizing homosexuality create some sort of foundational support towards aiding legalization for zoo relationships? I would say no.
While there's certainly a framework that we can follow that may help us understand better how to try and push our cause, it's not like the legalization of homosexual relationships made our lives any easier. Even if you're a gay zoo in a gay relationship, I would wager that legalization of gay marriage hasn't made you feel you can be any more open about your penchant for getting knotted to your aunts and coworkers than you could before gay marriage. This whole slippery slope argument makes no sense on an absolutely fundamental level. For this to be a real point, somehow zoo persecution would have had to have gotten better since LGBTQ acceptance, but it is just as hard to be a zoo now as it was then. Even as someone who thinks that by definition zoosexuality fits as queer under the LGBTQ spectrum, it's clear that trying to assign ourselves that label isn't going to cause anyone to automatically just support us. As clearly evidenced by the fact that most LGBTQ don't support us either (if anything there is less zoo support to be found in queer spaces than there is in the general population). It kind of feels much more like society has just found its newest punching bag, and we're just doing our best to show that we aren't anything to be upset about. We're just people that love our partners. 
So now it's my turn to create a slippery slope argument. Say you're someone at the top of the ladder. You want society to stay exactly the same, because you've never had to deal with discrimination. You're perfectly advantaged, and live a good life. But, much like life always does, it changes. Little by little, other people start wanting rights too. You get bitter when they want the right to vote. You get annoyed when they want to own property. You get angry when they want to be able to love people like you. You get scared when they want to have the same opportunities as you. Little by little, with every percieved injustice you slide farther and farther down the slope. Down into hatred and paranoia. It becomes easier and easier for you to just dismiss everyone who wants to create social change as a monster, or as evil. You've put up with so many changes by now that anyone even just asking to not be hated is immediately seen as vile to you.
This is what I call the slippery slope of bigotry. If you hate one minority, it's easier to hate the next, and then the next. If you're the kind of person who relies on dumb arguments like the slippery slope to try and claim people shouldn't have rights, you're already far down the slope yourself. Blinded by your desire to stop others from being given the privilege that you now possess.
Thankfully for you, the slippery slope is dumb and doesn't exist. And you can open your eyes and realize that trying to stereotype groups together just based on the fact that they want to be able to live their lives is hilariously pointeless. 
Either way, the only slippery slope I need is the Frosty Slide in Super Mario 64. 
Thanks for reading.
Article written by Tarro (September 2023)
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