December 10, 2002

Max Leibman's comment and my reply

My fellow blogger Max Leibman wrote an interesting comment to my post on sexuality, and I'd like to respond below to some of his points. What Max wrote is in blue, what I wrote is in black.

I see points to agree on -- included that love is rare and deserving of nurturing, and I will go as far as to agree that a great deal of undeserved discrimination has been perpetrated against practitioners of non-traditional sexuality.

Understanding and insight IS needed; I believe that no resolution is possible until a better dialogue is achieved (and that's not a one-sided street; plenty of closed-minded and shrill-toned belligerents can be found on either side of this debate).

The one thing I find here that I would question strongly is the notion that bisexuality is the natural condition. The animal kingdom often illustrates bisexual tendencies exist and are even common, but the overwhelming majority of copulations in many populations (I believe most populations of mammals, but I'm no biologist) is Male-Female.

I want to emphasize your use of "common", "majority", "many", "most". Sexuality is not to be decided democratically, with everyone following the will of the majority. And even if the ways of the majority were considered "the norm", the rights of minorities to engage in different forms of behavior that harm no one need to be protected.

In our own human sphere, our anatomies and personalities (the latter taken in aggregate -- a given woman can have any masculine personality trait and vice-versa) are complementary to a degree which, whether designed by higher consciousness or shaped by natural selection, compels a natural state of heterosexuality. Hormonal drives and pleasure centers appear to exist as a way of encouraging fornication, ergo procreation;

Not in homosexual people: their "hormonal drives and pleasure centers" incline them to prefer sex with people of their same sex. As to personalities, there are wide variations: whatever definitions of what is "feminine" and what is "masculine" are adopted there will be people who don't fit them. They may be dissenters, but they are not sick or abnormal or unnatural. I know you did not use those words, but many do.

the fact that we have moved beyond that, and now use sexuality as an act of pleasure or love with no desire to procreate is not an indication of the fundamental nature of the sexual human does not involve procreativity, but rather an indication that we have taken what nature gave us and applied it to a higher type of emotional cognizance. Yes, we may have moved beyond sexuality as procreation long ago, but that does not mean that procreative drives are not a fundamental part of the majority of sexual urges.

Not so, in my opinion: throughout my life I have felt a strong urge NOT to procreate: too many human beings on the planet, lack of paternal inclination and other reasons which might be the subject of another post. Some people feel the inclination to have children, some don't. Homosexual people too are split into those two categories; and those who desire children can have them through various technological means like artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, etc. without having to engage in heterosexual activity they may find distasteful.

In fact it might be argued - and I do - that one of the social benefits of homosexuality is that it is less likely than heterosexuality to result in procreation, thereby helping to preserve the environment and heal Mother Earth.

Further, separating cultural influence and socialization from actual natural tendencies and characters is challenging, to be sure; however, we should not take that as license to write off anything that is taught as part of a culture as "indoctrination" and assume its basis is only as old, or valid, as its cultural history. It is entirely possible and reasonable that the cultural norms arose from or exist to reinforce a natural tendency that, for most people, produced happier and/or healthier results.

Homosexual people are happier and/or healthier being who they are and having the rest of their fellow human beings acknowledge and accept who they are as part of the spectrum of diversity that exists in nature.

Some "cultural norms" arose because they benefit some particular interest with the political power to impose them: throughout history patriarchies have encouraged and promoted procreation: it supplies more followers, soldiers, contributors, taxpayers, helps enhance political power, keeps females powerless and subjugated. Even now there is strong social pressure to breed, to the point that support groups - the child-free movement - are formed to provide emotional and intellectual sustenance to people determined to resist that pressure.

Your mention of "license to write off anything that is taught as part of a culture as 'indoctrination'" suggested to me the reflection that perhaps a good definition of "civilization" would be the degree to which an individual, as long as s/he harms no one, may safely deviate from prevailing, accepted "norms". Giordano Bruno was murdered and Galileo barely escaped by recanting for daring to contradict prevailing nonsensical accepted ideas about the universe. Have we made any progress? Matthew Shepard was murdered for similar "reasons".

Note that I say "most people" -- I still allow for the idea of healthy and natural homosexuality or bisexuality, even if I reject the idea that it is, could be or would be desirable as a statistical equivalent to heterosexuality.

In any event, a fascinating and thoughtful piece of "written daydreaming." It forced me to put into words why I, personally, believe that heterosexuality is a norm. I believe it has also pointed me towards places where my own thinking may need re-evaluation (or, at least, some factual-backing), so now "sexuality" is back in my research queue...

Thank you, Max. It is an interesting subject, and civilized discussion like you and I have just engaged in needs to be encouraged as a road to progress. I invite all readers to participate in this conversation.

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