Tagged: loving your kind
December 20, 2008 at 14:21 #2058
In a changing world, one thing remains constant. The sexes continue to find each other troublesome and irresistible. Most men live with women, and most women live with men, most of the time, in nearly all known societies.
The sex drive is a predisposition – apparently biological – to seek sexual and sex-related response from one or more others, usually of the opposite sex. It awakens in early teens and remains powerful throughout life.
Some scholars have questioned whether there is an in born sex drive, and have claimed that an impulse to seek sex partners and use our sex organs is a product of social learning. However, because the sex drive is universal, arising in most members of all human societies, it has been assumed that the human sex drive is biological inheritance.
While no inborn drive compels humans to act in any particular way, each drive consists of a set of recurrent tension states which impels people to some kind of activity, to relieve the tension. A drive cannot be ignored and will not “go away.” Some way of relieving tension will be found, will be repeated by some people, and will become part of the culture.
The term “homosexual” is applied both to persons who have a strong preference for sex partners of the same sex and to those who, regardless of sex partners, engage in sex relations with persons of the same sex. A capacity to respond sexually to both sexes is present among humans and among many other species (Ford, 1980; Mitchell, 1981). Nonhuman primates often engage in heterosexual behaviour. Animals of many species will occasionally mount another member of the same sex. Such mating rarely includes penetration or orgasm, although some sexual arousal of the partner is not uncommon. Such animal homosexuality is often – but not always – associated with immaturity, absence of heterosexual partners, overcrowding, or some other unusual circumstance. Animal homosexuality is clearly “natural” in that it appears with some frequency among a number of species. Yet there is no animal species in which homosexuality is the predominant or customary form of adult sex behaviour, and we have no reports of individual animals that are exclusively homosexual.
Homosexuality as a social phenomenon
Homosexuality appears, at least occasionally, in all or nearly all human societies. Yet the idea of the “homosexual person” – someone clearly marked off in terms of his or her sexual tastes from the majority of the population – is only a relatively recent one. Before the eighteenth century, the notion seems barely to have existed. The act of sodomy was denounced by church authorities and by the law; in England and several other countries it was punishable by death. However, sodomy was not defined specifically as a homosexual offence. It applied to relations between men and women, men and animals, as well as men among themselves. The term “homosexuality” was coined in the 1860s, and from then onwards, homosexual persons were increasingly regarded as being a separate type of people having a specifiable sexual aberration (Weeks, 1986) The use of the term “Lesbian” dates from a slightly later time.
There are many non-Western cultures in which homosexual relations are tolerated or even encouraged, although normally only among certain groups within the population. Among the Batak of northern Sumatra for example, male homosexual relationships are allowed before marriage. At puberty, a boy left his parents’ house and slept in a dwelling with a dozen to fifteen males of his age or older. Sexual partnerships are formed between couples in the group and the younger boys were initiated into homosexual practices. This situation continued until the young men got married. Once they got married, most men, but not all, abandoned homosexual activities (Money and Erhart, 1972). Among the people of the East Bay, a village in Melanesia in the Pacific, homosexuality is similarly tolerated although again only in males. Prior to marriage, while living in the men’s house, young men engaged in mutual masturbation and anal intercourse. Homosexual relationships also exist, however, between older men and younger boys, often involving boys who were too young to be living in the men’s house. Each type of homosexual relationship was acceptable and was discussed openly. Married men were bisexual, having relations with a younger boy while maintaining an active sexual life with their spouses. Homosexuality without an interest in heterosexual relationships seems to be unknown in this culture.
Variety in homosexuality
Kenneth Plummer has distinguished four types of homosexual persons within modern Western society. Casual homosexuality is a passing homosexual encounter which does not substantially structure the overall sexual life of the individual. Schoolboy crushes and mutual masturbation are examples. As a situated activity, homosexuality refers to circumstances in which homosexual activities are regularly carried on, but where these do not become an individuals overriding preference. In many carceral settings, such as prisons or military camps, homosexual behaviour of this kind is common. It is regarded as a substitute for heterosexual behaviour rather than as preferable to it. Personalized homosexuality refers to cases of individuals who have “come out” and have created associations with others of similar sexual tastes which are a key part of the lives. Such people usually belong to “gay” subcultures, in which homosexual activities are integrated into a district life style.
Homosexuality is either absent rare, or secret in about one-third of societies studied by Ford and Beach. In about two-thirds, some form of homosexual behaviour is considered acceptable and normal for at least some categories of people or some stage of life. With homosexual as with heterosexual behaviour, it is approximately correct to say that “everything is right somewhere and nothing is right everywhere.”
Unlike animals, there are some humans who are exclusively or predominantly homosexual. Some persons have sexual relations, at least occasionally, with partners of the same sex because of availability and convenience rather than preference. Such relations are more or less common in prisons [carceral institutions], isolated military posts, remote construction camps, and other places where heterosexual partners are not easily available. Some men who really prefer female sex partners may drop into “tea rooms” [certain public men’s rooms known for homosexual encounters] where a quick orgasm is available without the cost, time, or obligations involved in finding a female partner. Whether such persons should be labeled “Homosexual” is debatable, and we would here restrict the use of term to those who are homosexual in preference.
Homosexual activity varies among individuals. Let us say, homosexuality-heterosexuality is not a pair of district categories. In other words, while some individuals are exclusively heterosexual feelings and behaviour.
Just as the degree of homosexual activity varies among individuals, so do degrees of involvement in the homosexual subculture. Some share openly and deeply in the subculture, having most of their social relationships with other homosexuals. Some are “closet homosexuals,” concealing their homosexual activity and often sharing a household with a spouse and offspring. Others show intermediate levels of involvement in the “gay community.”
Homosexual individuals are very much like heterosexual individuals in everything except sexual preference. A number of studies have found no other personality traits that distinguish homosexual persons from heterosexual persons.
The probable cause
The mental illness theory sees homosexual persons as victims of sex-role confusion. According to much psychiatric opinion, the male homosexual person is mostly a product of a dominating but seductive mother and a cold, remote father. But the most comprehensive research study of homosexual persons found no significant differences in family backgrounds, parental types or relationship with parents (Bell et al., 1981). The research team, failing to find any explanations in the social experience of homosexual persons concluded with a strong suspicion that homosexuality may be biological or organic in origin. This suspicioun is re-enforced in many homosexual autobiographies in which people tell how they discovered a sex preference during childhood or adolescence which they resisted but were unable to change and eventually come to accept. Several studies have found significant differences between the hormone levels of homosexual and heterosexual persons. But if homosexuality were simply biological, we would expect it to be equally common at all times and places, and this is untrue.
The social-learning theory holds that one learns homosexual behaviour through the same reward-punishment system that shapes most social learning. According to this theory, if most childhood and adolescent interaction with the opposite sex is pleasant and rewarding, one becomes a heterosexual, if these experiences are uncomfortable and anxiety-laden and if attempts at heterosexual intercourse are unsatisfying, one may become a homosexual. But the punishments for homosexuality [unacceptable by law among certain societies] have become so severe that one wonder how, if the social learning theory were correct, there could be any homosexual persons at all. We also note that the increased social acceptance of homosexual persons in recent years has apparently not increased the number of homosexual persons, as might be expected if homosexuality were a learned sexual role. Most homosexual persons had heterosexual parents, and most children of homosexual parents are themselves heterosexual persons. There is no convincing evidence that having a homosexual parent, uncle, teacher, or neighbour increased the likelihood of a child’s becoming a homosexual person.Punishment and discrimination against homosexual persons if often defended as necessary to prevent homosexuals from seducing young people into homosexuality. If homosexuality were a biological predisposition which homosexual persons do not choose and are powerless to change, then seduction into homosexuality is unlikely, making punishment of homosexual persons needless, useless, and perhaps cruel. If homosexuality is a personality defect arising from unsatisfactory parent role models in childhood, seduction by homosexual persons is again unlikely and punishment is again useless. If homosexuality is a product of reward-punishment social learning, then seduction is possible and punishment might discourage homosexuality, and a rational argument can be made for excluding homosexual persons from jobs where one is a role model, such as teaching or in the ministry. And there is also the question of values: Is homosexuality an abomination which should be repressed or is it an alternative life-style which people should be free to choose and follow without penalty?
Until these questions of theory and values are settled, a rational set of social policies concerning homosexuality is difficult to agree upon.
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