Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

24 May 2005

The Individuality of Sexuality

The sexuality of a thinking person is as complexly individual as any aspect of our character. Its basis in our individual biochemistry, nervous system, knowledge, emotional experience, imagination, courage of expression, and history of choices allows the development of a bewildering complexity. The resulting richness of our sexuality contributes greatly to highly differentiating us as individuals, which means it is a key component of our individuality. As such, the individual nature of our sexuality frequently is subject to attack by those who despise expressions of individuality. That which is individual is likely to be unique and valued by its living, individual possessor. This is a barrier to those who want to submerge our individuality in equality or to those who wish to diminish the value of life in favor of a vague afterlife. Our individual sexuality is assaulted by both the liberals and the conservatives in America today.

If one really wants to come to grips with the individuality of people, one must understand our sexuality. Unfortunately, it is widely thought to be impolite and unsafe to honestly discuss our sexuality. In so far as it is discussed, few people will venture to explain to others what they best know about sexuality: what they know about themselves by virtue of introspection. It is not helpful that we cannot quote the introspective evaluations of others either, since these are rarely shared with us and are probably often untruthful given the pressure to conform sexually. Consequently, discussions are generally carried out only in terms of what is known from scientific studies. Usually, such studies are likely only to reveal the more common traits in people's sexuality. The more subtle variations are hard or impossible to detect as statistically significant. The result is that much of the individuality of those studied is unobserved.

Thus, a comparison of heterosexual males and homosexual males may reveal biochemical differences evidenced by genetic trends, actual chemical differences in hormones, different reactions to chemicals such as pheromones, and differences in the structure and functionality of neural systems and brains. In general, there may be correlations of such property differences when comparing heterosexuals to homosexuals. Indeed, there seems to be substantial recent progress in medical studies examining the biochemical differences which correlate well with sexual expressions as heterosexual or homosexual. However, these correlations may neither be necessary nor sufficient. This is harder to demonstrate. In addition, any choices made by the exercise of free will will be harder to detect scientifically than will be chemical differences. Any role that choice and imagination may play will tend to be overlooked. This does not mean that such factors are not significant. Indeed, they are probably responsible for much of the individuality of our sexuality.

An interesting suggestion that knowledge, experience, and imagination can play an important role in human sexuality may lie in the apparent fact that some people are bisexual. Of course, there are many heterosexuals and homosexuals who maintain that there is no such thing as a bisexual. I suspect that they can at best say that they themselves are not bisexual and it is not clear that many would do that honestly. I do not think it is wise to call everyone who claims to be bisexual a liar. If heterosexuals and homosexuals tend to respond as they do to others on the basis of different levels of various hormones and different responses to pheromones, for instance, then how can it be assumed that people do not differ in these chemical levels and responses to such a degree that there is a wide continuum of chemically-directed responses to others with respect to sexual interest and attraction? On the face of it, it would seem more probable than not that there are people who are chemically influenced to be strongly heterosexual, slightly heterosexual, thoroughly bisexual, slightly homosexual, and completely homosexual. This is what we should be prepared to expect unless we see strong evidence develop to the contrary. It is not as though people are always under 5 feet tall or over 6 feet tall! Our heights are distributed over a range and it is likely that our sexual response mechanisms are also.

Why is it that homosexuality truly frightens many people? If one were a member of a small tribe surrounded by powerful, war-like enemies, as the Israelites were 3,000 years ago, suppressing homosexuality may have seemed to make sense. Afterall, every new birth in the tribe meant the possibility of having another warrior to stand up against the tribe's fearsome foes. Hence a taboo against spilling seed upon the ground may have appeared useful to everyone's survival. This may be the reason for the Bible and those who are still unable to understand the world in terms of science having a bias against homosexuals and bisexuals. But in the face of what is known scientifically today and the weakening of belief in and the applicability of the Bible, how is the continuing strong bias to be understood? Why the fear? I suspect it rises from the introspective knowledge that many people have that they themselves are not 100% solid heterosexuals and they are afraid that they cannot hide that fact unless they very strongly maintain the taboo against homosexuality. In fact, the feelings against homosexuality have long been clearly those associated with unreasoning taboos.

Now, interestingly, homosexuality is not as fearsome as bisexuality. First, homosexuality is such a strong attraction to one's own sex that it is probably mostly determined by the biochemistry of the individual. Since only a small fraction of the population is homosexual, most individuals easily know that they are not homosexual and hence they have little to fear from it. What many more people are afraid of is an attraction to someone of their own sex even though they are attracted to members of the opposite sex. This will only apply to that part of the population with a biochemistry which is not very strongly oriented toward the opposite sex. One of the most interesting aspects of the lives of such people would be the fact that they are much more in control of their choices sexually. They can conform to a sexual mode which is wholly heterosexual, without giving up sex in its entirety. They may not be as happy as they might be due to abstaining from sex with a desired member of their own sex, but they may be happier than someone abstaining from all sex. This makes it reasonably practical to conform to society's accepted mores.

However, it also leaves them in a state of anywhere from frequent to rare temptation. They know that they have to maintain a tight mental control over their desires. They fear that intimacy with someone of their own sex might become too great for them to control their urges. They establish friendships with those of their own sex in which these friends are incapable of talking about sex, except as a joke. Indeed, one of the better ways to see how widespread bisexual feelings are, is to understand the frustration that drives much of sexual banter. It is also revealing that even good friends can rarely speak frankly to one another about their sexual identity. Of course, this greatly limits the depth of friendship. Another consequence is that people design games with quite rigid rules that they all agree to play in the workplace, at a neighborhood party, in their churches, or at a bar. Each place has its own rigid set of rules for behavior and if one lives within those rules, one's dangerous individuality, especially one's terrifying sexuality, cannot express itself as an indiscretion. These games can have very complex rules and the more complex they are, the more they distract individuals from fully realizing how they constrain their individuality. They keep people so occupied that they are less aware of the frustrations of not identifying themselves as individuals and of not exploring and developing their individuality, including, of course, their sexuality.

Even while science is more and more revealing the biochemistry behind homosexuality and heterosexuality, many people cling adamantly to the notion that people choose to be either homosexual or heterosexual. While those who are homosexual may make no such choice, those who are bisexual may often choose to be heterosexual or occasionally homosexual in practice. This pervading sense of choice would then be understandable. This sense that they have a choice then makes people fear those who have sex with other members of their own sex because it seems to be an exercise of the choice the bisexual has. It seems clear to them that some people are choosing not to conform. This also makes the possibility that they may fall prey to temptation all the greater, especially since they can clearly identify someone of their own sex among homosexuals who might not be repulsed by the idea of having sex with them.

This is a lot of discourse on bisexuality and homosexuality. The issue of homosexuality and its morality has been under much discussion among Objectivists lately. Many of them seem to have handled the issue of homosexuality rationally upon identifying the fact that homosexuals generally have an attraction to members of their own sex which science has revealed to be at least largely biochemical in nature. If it is their nature to be homosexual and given that sex is clearly essential to the happiness of man, then it is clear that there is no immorality in a homosexual person having sex with a member of their own sex. This is great as far as it goes, but it fails to deal with a larger ground on which biochemistry may play a role of varying degree. As that role varies from individual to individual, is it not likely that some individuals are in a position to exercise choices to a much greater degree than others? What then is the morality of their choice to identify, develop, and express their sexuality as a unique individual who may choose to have sex with the opposite sex only, their own sex only, or with both sexes?

If a philosophy based on the value of each individual and with the aim that each individual is right to seek their own happiness cannot discuss this important issue of individuality, then it is not being true to itself. Our philosophy also holds free will to be important as a manifestation of our choice to focus our rational faculty or not. I will state unequivocally that the rational life should be such that bisexuals can express themselves as bisexuals. Nothing else would be rational, since those who are bisexual by nature should seek their happiness and those who are not bisexual are not threatened by force in any way so long as bisexuals seek only consenting adults as sexual partners. While bisexuals may choose to behave as though they are heterosexuals in order to conform to old prejudices, this choice will leave them feeling unfulfilled and cowardly. On the other hand, a bisexual individual may choose to exercise his or her greater freedom of choice in developing their sexuality by applying their rational faculties and their imaginations to the development of a rich and varied sexual life. They might learn much from their enlarged range for experiment with sex. They might enjoy a greater likelihood of finding a rational and good sexual partner, at least in a more rational society than ours, given a reduction in the need to find a rational and good partner only of the opposite sex.

Objectivists, champions of the freedom of choice and the exercise of free will, should rejoice in the choice of bisexuals to assert their nature and seek their complete happiness. Objectivists should be happy to see that some people have the greater freedom to seek out partners based on their moral and intellectual character, without the limitation that they must only be of the opposite sex. Nothing else would be worthy of the life-affirming individualistic philosophy of Objectivism. Bisexuals have the right to happiness, even if it might seem politically inconvenient to both conservatives and socialist egalitarians.

Another reason I have spent so much effort in discussing this issue is because I supported President George Bush in the last election. I think he was a much better choice than his chief opponent, John Kerry. However, President Bush is and was seriously wrong about banning the marriage of homosexuals. While I would argue that governments should be only empowered to issue civil union contracts to any combination of people desiring to live together and share their assets and that government-issued legal contracts should not be called marriage contracts, at least governments should not discriminate against homosexuals. It is wrong. They deserve the same contract as two people of opposite sexes. Marriage is a state of shared values which goes way beyond the realm of government contracts. This essay is a fulfillment of my pledge to stand against President Bush on those issues on which he was wrong, especially those on which he is morally wrong.

Of course, whether one is heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual, there are many more ways in which each person has distinct sexual characteristics and expressions. Some few people make a strong effort to identify their sexuality through a significant process of exploration and development. Some are inclined to greatly enjoy sex, some are greatly repressed, and some are largely asexual. Some have nervous systems that are very responsive to stimulation either here or there or almost everywhere. Some respond particularly strongly to breasts, some to asses, some to faces, some to legs, some to big hands, some to big penises, some to many combinations of the above. Some fall in love with another's mind as much or more than their body. Some like an evening of preparation such as a nice dinner out with wine, some like spontaneity, some like a mixture of each. Some like kissing lips, breasts, nipples, eye lids, necks, ears, hands, belly buttons, thighs, pussies, penises, asses, and behind the knees. Some like to nibble. Some to scratch lightly, some to caress with the touch of a feather. Some like to spank or to pinch. Some like a blindfold, some to be tied down. Some like costumes. Some like rituals. Some love to share imagined scenes or make up stories. Some feel like worshippers. Some like vaginal sex, some anal, some cunnilingus, some like to be watched, some like to watch, some like threesomes, and some foursomes. Some can love only one person in any given period of their life, while some can love two or more. What could possibly be more an expression of our own individual soul and body than our sexuality?

If we are individualists, then we must stand up for the value of living our lives in a rational manner consistent with our own individual sexuality. We must be free to identify it, develop and refine it, and be able at least to talk about it with our friends. We should also value the great wealth of complexity of sexuality in other individuals and allow them the same sexual freedoms we ourselves require in the quest for our happiness.