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Determinates of Sexuality

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by BvBPL, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. BvBPL

    BvBPL Pour Decision Maker

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    There’s a notion that one’s sexuality is an inherent element of one’s biology. Among certain segments of the population, this biological conception of sexuality is quite popular; Oprah, for example, has espoused this notion. To an extent, the Catholic Church also accepts this idea. It is particularly popular among many people pushing for gay rights at this time.

    From this idea, one can draw the conclusion that a person’s sexuality is set in stone by the accident of one’s genes, with the corollary that environment does little to affect one’s sexuality.

    I am skeptical of this idea. I don’t think that sexuality is one hundred percent dictated by biology. I can point to instances of situational homosexual behavior that seem to override the default heterosexuality of the participants. Single sex relations in prison and “experimentation” among young adults come readily to mind. Furthermore, I’ve seen psychological research, although I can’t immediately cite it, that suggests that female homosexual behavior occurs, in some instances, due to social pressure. Furthermore there plenty of women who have entered homosexual relationships after many years of dating, or being married to, men. This is not to say that I do not think that biology plays a role in determining sexuality, merely that I don’t necessarily think it hold sovereignty over the subject all of the time.

    My difficulty comes in that I am a liberal / progressive supporter of gay rights and other supporters of gay rights generally reject the notion that sexuality is anything but a biological mandate. To complicate matters, many people who oppose equality for homosexuals seem to subscribe to the notion that sexuality is determined, at least in part, by one’s environment and choices.

    Biases in the front: My academic training was in sociology, a discipline which assumes that most human behavior is affected by social circumstances. This has almost certainly colored my perception of the topic.

    What do you think of the subject? Here’s some discussion points to get this started.

    What if sexuality was not all biologically influenced? How would that change the perception of homo- and heterosexuals, debates regarding homosexual rights, gay culture, and sexuality in general?

    Is there a place in liberal / progressive discussions of homosexual issues for the idea that sexuality is not 100% determined by biology?

    Is the formation of sexuality even important when discussing homosexuals in society?

    Is it easier to push for and advance gay rights if sexuality is viewed as a biological attribute? Previous civil rights movements for racial and gender equality had as their subjects people who were clearly physiological different from white men, ie people who couldn’t choose not to be black or female. Does promulgating the idea that sexuality is an innate biological trait help to garner sympathy for homosexuals because it means people can’t choose to be gay?
     
  2. galdre

    galdre Chieftain

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    Having sexual relations with a member of the same sex doesn't necessarily mean the person is homosexual, so sex (the act) isn't necessarily related to sexuality. After all plenty of homosexual men got married and had kids...

    I haven't looked into the topic that much, but it seems there's some good evidence for sexuality being biologically determined.
     
  3. Hehehe

    Hehehe Chieftain

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    I can't say if gay genes have been identified yet but there is a gene that makes women more interested in men. In men this same gene will also make them more interested in men. Furthermore, there is homosexuality among animals too, which suggests that homosexuality is dictated by genes rather than culture. The environment can, of course, influence sexuality too (AFAIK not as much as to make someone homosexual) but I believe fetishes are acquired rather than inherited.
     
  4. MobBoss

    MobBoss Off-Topic Overlord

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    Wouldnt that make them defacto bi-sexual?

    I'm more of a believer that the actual choices a person makes determines who (or what) they are.
     
  5. galdre

    galdre Chieftain

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    IMO it's a matter of sexual attraction. We can have sex with people we're not attracted to, but that doesn't change who we are attracted to, which is not a choice, and which determines our sexuality.
     
  6. Cheetah

    Cheetah Chieftain

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    My understanding is that sexuality is not a binary, but more a (possibly vague) point in a line. Or more precisely a point in an n-dimensional space.

    One of the dimensions is a line between homosexuality and heterosexuality (or possibly attraction to feminine or masculine traits).

    People who identify as heterosexuals are at one extreme of this line, and people who identify as homosexual are at the other extreme of this line. People who are actually bisexual would then tend to be somewhere in the middle of the line, and people somewhat willing to experiment would be found on different points on this line.

    As such, I think it is more correct to consider sexuality as degrees of such, instead of binary yes/no, homo/hetero, etc.

    And finally, from my understanding of current biology, there are strong reasons to suspect that the hormone levels in the womb are what mostly affects people sexuality vis-a-vis being attracted to men/women or same/opposite sex.

    As for the argument that it is a choice: I never chose to be interested in girls, and I was interested in girls much earlier than I ever had a concept of sex.
     
  7. galdre

    galdre Chieftain

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    Definitely agree that is a matter of degree, not a simple either/or (for most at least), but still while many may have bisexual tendencies they still greatly favor one or the other so it's safe for convenience sake to label them either homo- or heterosexual.

    The best way to say it is that a heterosexual is attracted more to members of the opposite sex (and homosexuals to the same sex), as opposed to only being attracted to them.
     
  8. LucyDuke

    LucyDuke staring at the clock

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    You can call them bisexual, but that one experimental bedromp in college doesn't make the average bear bisexual.

    Yeah, this seems likely. I haven't seen evidence that it constitutes "mostly", though.



    Back later with more substance.
     
  9. Artifis

    Artifis El Gato is not happy

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    I lean more towards this viewpoint.

    However, the opinion currently in my head is that sexuality is, just like mostly everything else about us, a mixture of genes and the environment.

    The only problem comes when you start placing a moral value upon it.
     
  10. MobBoss

    MobBoss Off-Topic Overlord

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    Couple of thoughts. Isnt it possible that you may have made such a choice but simply have forgotten you did so or maybe just took it for granted? Or maybe it was a choice you made, but you didnt really give it much thought in doing it....i.e. for example, you have two ways to drive home, equally distant, you have to choose one, and with no other factors pertaining do you really think about going either way? No. So why do you choose one over the other?

    Or perhaps that your interest in girls much earlier than sex didnt have anything to do with biology at all, but with some other factor?

    Just saying simply because one doesnt remember making such a choice, doesnt mean that one wasnt actually made, conciously or unconciously.

    But isnt that also an argument for choice in this issue?
     
  11. aronnax

    aronnax Let your spirit be free

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    Human sexuality is a graph that stretches from only same-sex attraction, to a varied mixture of same-sex and different sex attraction and only different sex attraction. I believe that the entire human race is spread along this line, though concentrate at the different sex attraction and our levels of attraction are chosen by biology.

    It is human society that attaches the modern labels of sexuality, homo, hetero and bisexuality into 3 catergories and sorts people into them. It is society that makes people only gay, only straight and whatever is left is the in-between Bisexuality.

    I think this is obviously wrong. Because it is an artificial way of recognising sexuality and it forces it into three arbitary points on a wide scale.

    Take Ancient Greek society as an example where the concepts of our modern sexuality did not exist. In replacement, human sexuality was replaced with "Teacher-student pederast sexuality" and "Male-Female marriage sexuality". All free boys were sorted into the first category and than later, sorted into the second one. That was Ancient Greek society's artificial sexual boundaries. And just like today with our modern terms, the ancient Greeks adhere to their terms.

    What society needs to do is stop applying gay, straight, bi or any other labels to human sexuality and recognise that attraction is a scale, not a list of requirements.
     
  12. Senethro

    Senethro Overlord

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    I'm just going to try and slip in here at the top of the thread and introduce an important idea. People think that the only inputs possible on sexuality are genes or environment. Some more flexible thinkers are willing to say both. Something worth taking on board though is that the two interact. Genes, as well as being dominant and recessive, will sometimes not be expressed until some environmental factor causes them to be activated.

    There are also genes that affect other genes, activating them and deactivating them, sometimes in very complex chains and networks. Given that we haven't found a simple "gay gene" and that sexuality is a complicated behaviour, it is likely that there is a complex or even multiple groups of genes associated with homosexuality.

    Basically, its not simple, and just as environment always influences behaviour genes will also always influence behaviour. Its determining the portion of influence in a particular behaviour thats tricky. Hiccupping is clearly mostly a gene influenced behaviour as many mammals do it. Trying to hide it is a social thing as people try to avoid looking silly in front of others.

    For what its worth I'd put my money on homosexuality being mostly gene influenced. Separated twins aren't always both homosexual, but are much more likely to be than two unrelated men.
     
  13. Cheetah

    Cheetah Chieftain

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    Nah. This was back in the good old days and I actually had strong reasons to stay the hell away from girls! They had girl cooties!!!

    Yet despite this very rational and intellectually sound reasoning, I was still attracted towards girls somehow.

    As for choosing the way home: I always back up any choice I make with logical reason. There are always secondary factors to consider: Special things to see, haven't taken the other way in a while, which is more uphill, do I feel like I've turned mostly left or mostly right today, etc. I don't make unconscious choices.

    And logically, if I could have chosen my sexuality, it would have been much better to choose to be bisexual: Increasing the pool of potential partners is never a bad idea. ;)

    But enough about me, cause now I'm kinda curious: When did you choose to be interested in girls, and only girls?
     
  14. Cheetah

    Cheetah Chieftain

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    Ever considered that hormones in the womb have an effect? Possibly turning on certain genes (though I don't really buy the gene theory much)?
     
  15. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    Well, 'genetic' and 'wombnal epigenetic' are so similar that they might as well be acknowledged as being nearly the same thing. It's pre-conscious-choice, clearly

    I think it would be a great mistake to assume that sexuality is near one hundred percent biology. A great deal IS, though.

    Exhibit A, the y-chromosome. The y-chromosome causes great changes in the future brain of the person, and is a strong determinant of their eventual sexual attraction. Can this be offset by environment? Of course! But genetic biology also has a great input.


    Yeah, I wouldn't count those. I mean, we're genetically programmed to like sweet, salty, and fatty foods. But people can certainly experiment! You can even experiment and find things that you're not 'genetically determined' to enjoy. But our taste in food has a heavy genetic component. Capsaicin is painful for us, but not for certain birds. Not because of toughness, but because of genetics.
    Some do, but not all! It's a balance.
    Well, people who think it's a 'choice' are people who've had to make that choice themselves (or know people who did). The people for whom it's perceived as a choice is clear minority. And yeah, the environment will help determine a person's sexuality. But that's part of the progressive argument. If people're forced to become a certain way because of their environment, then there's no reason to heap difficulties onto them.
    Yes! :)
    Er, yes. This is why it's one of the battlegrounds in the intellectual debate. People have the mindset that homosexuality is NOT biological, and thus not worthy of consideration when it comes to rights and policies. Any evidence for biologicalness chips away at that bigotry.
     
  16. LucyDuke

    LucyDuke staring at the clock

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    Choice of actions. Nobody has claimed that you don't choose who you actually have sex with.
     
  17. Senethro

    Senethro Overlord

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    I'd be sure that there are a whole variety of effects that are the result of pre-natal environment, but they'll be largely influenced by the mother's genes and given that the baby has 50% of them and will pass them on, it comes to largely the same thing.
     
  18. Mathilda

    Mathilda Queen

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    I basically agree with Cheetah and Senethro but would like to add one thing.
    If you define bisexuality to mean a potential for attraction for either gender, I believe bisexuality to be more common than strict 100% hetero- or homosexuality.
    You don't hear about it as much though, because the way western society has worked for the last forty ears has pushed people towards the ends of the scale in how they identify themselves at least publicly but I suspect also privately.

    Hiding at the hetero end is easy, doesn't take any effort especially if you happen to be in a straight relationship. How would it crop up in a conversation any way?

    If you happen to be in a same sex relationship you don't want to be advertising the fact that you might technically have the option (if you weren't in love with this person) of being "straight".

    This tendency to not advertise bisexuality is what adds to the façade of duality.



    I really don't see why it still would be.
    Luckily we don't any more live in an era where homosexuality is both an illness (biological) and a crime (choice).
     
  19. MobBoss

    MobBoss Off-Topic Overlord

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    Come on Cheetah, everyone makes some unconscious choices either by rote, or by simple habit. Its just simply human nature that frees up brain power for the things that actually matter.
     
  20. IglooDude

    IglooDude Enforcing Rule 34 Retired Moderator

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    Agreed.

    "Hetero but getting in the grey area named bi-curious", if I was forced to apply a label.
     

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