Tag Archives: homosexuality

Politics of Homosexuality: Can Men Stop Being Gay? What About Women?

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These days, nothing seems to polarize a crowd faster than the issue of sexual orientation (other than gun control). Religious fundamentalists believe homosexuality is a matter of choice made consciously by people. The opposite side argues that gays are “born this way,” and thus any effort to change their orientation is ineffective, not to mention cruel and demoralizing.

Gays Are Not Born this Way (Sort of)

From a strictly technical and somewhat pedantic standpoint, gay people aren’t really “born that way” in the sense of having same-sex attractions from the moment of birth. Sexual orientation cements around puberty, and according to Gerulf Rieger, a sexual orientation researcher at Cornell University, “it is quite possible that there are several influences on forming a homosexual orientation.” Genes do appear to contribute, but so do other factors, including a fetus’ level of exposure to certain sex hormones in the womb, and possibly early life experiences.

Some of the newest evidence that has come out of researching the human genome suggests that the gay gene simply does not exist. Scientists who worked on the Human Genome Project hypothesize that homosexuality is not written in our DNA sequence itself, which explains why they have failed so far to find any “gay genes,” despite intensive investigations. Instead, they believe it is written in how our genes are expressed: that is, in certain modifications to how and when DNA is activated. “It’s not genetics. It’s not DNA. It’s not pieces of DNA. It’s epigenetics,” says Sergey Gavrilets, a researcher at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Epi-marks regulate the expression of genes according to the strength of external cues, such as hormone levels. In other words, genes are basically the instruction book, while epi-marks direct how those instructions get carried out. They can determine, for example, when, where, and how much of a gene gets expressed.

If Sexual Re-Orientation Was Possible, How Would It Be Done? (Hint: you can’t pray it away, obviously)

To date, there have been no verified cases of formerly gay people completely ridding themselves of same-sex attraction. However, some new research suggests that it does appear possible for some people who are predisposed to same-sex attraction to expand their sexual repertoire – develop attractions for opposite-sex partners and even opt for the opposite sex exclusively.

Heather Hoffmann, a professor of psychology who chairs the neuroscience program at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, affirms that “highly motivated people can change their behavior, and they can clearly change their label.” Hoffmann’s research has demonstrated that sexual arousal is subject to Pavlovian conditioning, the method of repeatedly pairing one stimulus with another until, eventually, the first triggers an expectation of the second. Her work shows that both men and women can be conditioned to become sexually aroused by exposure to a cue, such as an odor or an object.

It Never Fails, Go Watch Fu*king Quails 

Sexual experiences affect our arousal patterns by altering what activities or features of sexual partners arouse us. But can we ever be conditioned to become aroused by members of our non-preferred sex? In one experiment, male quails were hormonally altered so as to allow other “sexually naive” (virgin) male quails to have sex with them. After this learning experience, the latter group of quails maintained a sexual preference for males, suggesting that they were being sexually oriented through learning. However, their natural predilection for females was not lost: Another experiment showed it was much easier to reorient those male quails toward females through “reverse learning” than it was to try and reorient males who had already had sex with females toward other males.

Another example that captures this phenomenon quite well is the Sambia tribe of Papa New Guinea. If you’ve ever taken a class on human sexuality or anything similar, you’ve probably learned or read about the interesting ritual that Sambian males participate in. The tribe engages in a unique ritual meant to transform boys who are considered feminine into fierce, strong, male warriors. They believe that in order for a boy to become a man, he must first be brought up on mother’s milk and nurtured by her until the age of 7 or 8. At this point, in order for the boy to reach puberty, he needs to continue drinking milk, but from this point forward, from a man. The boy is taken away from their mother and lives communally with other boys until the age of 17 or 18. In this exclusive community, pre-pubescent boys fellate post-pubescent boys until they climax and drink their ejaculate. Once they reach puberty several years later, they switch roles where they are fellated by younger boys. One would think that engaging in this type of homosexual behavior for so many years before and after puberty would make all Sambian men gay, but that obviously does not happen (otherwise the tribe would become extinct). Once the older boys leave the community, they find a girl, get married and live completely heterosexual lives thereafter! This demonstrates two important things. First, it shows that sexual orientations are indeed malleable and can be manipulated to a certain extent. But at the same time, when given the opportunity, both humans and quails revert back to their “default” orientation.

Women: Fluid Sexuality Or Merely Bisexual?

As in many areas of sexuality, research on women’s sexual arousal patterns has lagged far behind men’s, but the limited research on the subject does suggest that, compared with men, women’s sexual arousal patterns may be less tightly connected to their sexual orientation.

To examine sexual arousal differences in men and women, researchers at Northwestern University measured the psychological and physiological sexual arousal in homosexual and heterosexual men and women as they watched erotic films. They were shown three types of erotic films: gay porn (featuring only men), lesbian porn (featuring only women) and straight porn (featuring male and female couples). As with previous research, the researchers found that men responded consistent with their sexual orientations, i.e., gay men found gay porn to be the most sexually arousing. In contrast, both homosexual and heterosexual women showed a bisexual pattern of psychological as well as genital arousal. In other words, heterosexual women were just as sexually aroused by watching female erotica as by watching male erotica, even though they prefer having sex with men rather than women. This explains why most women with same-sex predispositions report better success adjusting to heterosexual lifestyles than gay men do, but switching to a “straight” identity doesn’t mean that their former attractions are wiped completely. Hoffmann reiterates, “sexual fluidity is more of a broadening of your attraction pattern rather than erasing your original pattern. I think men may have this capacity, too, but I think it may be more prominent in women.” 

Conclusion:

It is currently still unknown whether some combination of Pavlovian conditioning, learning processes and hormone therapies could enable truly motivated individuals with a same-sex predisposition to adapt to heterosexual lifestyles, whether for religious, cultural or personal reasons. Will there be a day in the near future where some clinical therapy will be developed for sexual re-orientation?

Perhaps.

Sure, we may one day be able to condition ourselves to become aroused to the opposite sex, but is this something we really want? Why is it so hard to accept peoples’ differences? Why should my moral character be immediately diminished based on who I love?  

If only more people would realize that our energy is better spent trying to reduce the misunderstanding, discrimination, and hostility that exists towards homosexuals instead of focusing on trying to change an aspect of our humanity that may very well be immutable, I think the world would be a slightly better place to live in. 

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Sources:

Hoffman, H. “The Role of Classical Conditioning in Sexual Arousal.” The Psychophysiology of Sex. (2007)

Schachtman , T.R., & Reilly, S. “Hot and bothered: Classical conditioning of sexual incentives in humans.” Associative Learning and Conditioning Theory: Human and Non-Human Applications. (2011)

http://www.canyons.edu/faculty/labriem/psych230/sexdifferencesinspecificitysexualarousal.pdf

Rice, W.R., et. al. “Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development” The Quarterly Review of Biology. (2012)

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Politics of Homosexuality: Sexual Prohibitionism

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What Does the Bible says about Homosexual Behavior?

The Bible is very clear when it comes to the issue of homosexuality: it explicitly condemns homosexual acts. This is the word of god. We must take the bible seriously and literally. Or should we?

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”  (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 KJV)

One man shall not lie with another man. It is also clear that the penalty for committing such an act is punishable by death. But lets put that into perspective. Another quote from Leviticus says,“the man that commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he that commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10 KJV) Anyone who commits adultery, according to the Bible, is also punishable by death.

The Absurdity of Taking the Bible Literally

If biblical literalism is the argument, then why are fundamentalist republicans not campaigning to execute all homosexuals? Why is there no campaign to execute all the adulterers? (A conservative estimate of those who engage in extramarital sex is 20 percent through nationally conducted surveys) God is clear that he wants all homosexuals and adulterers dead. If people argue that the Bible needs to be taken literally, then it is simply not enough for one to discriminate against them and deny them their civil rights; you must equally advocate for their execution. If not, the argument for biblical literalism is incoherent.

How Do Catholics Try To Justify Their Discrimination Against Homosexuals?

Now, Catholics are a little smarter. In justifying their bigotry towards gays and lesbians they also cite the scriptures to teach the unacceptability of homosexual behavior but they maintain that their rejection of homosexuals is not an arbitrary prohibition. It, like other moral imperatives, is rooted in natural law—the design that god has built into human nature.

To clarify, the Roman Catholic Church holds the view of natural law set forth by Thomas Aquinas, particularly in his Summa Theologica. Their take on natural law reasons that people have a basic, ethical intuition that certain behaviors are wrong because they are unnatural. Human beings were designed by god to procreate and therefore, be heterosexual. To some level, the church believes that homosexuals do not exist. They believe that we are all born heterosexual but some of us choose to engage in behavior that is unnatural; a revolt against nature. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law.” (CCC:2357) Thus, sex acts that prevent it from reaching its natural end, i.e., conception, is perverting this natural law.

Obviously, a man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot procreate. Therefore, the entire purpose of sex and sexuality is being perverted away from its natural end. Similarly, a heterosexual couple who engages in sex with contraception is equally perverting this natural law because they are deliberately trying to stop conception. This is also the reason why the church is equally adamant on their stance against condom use or birth control pills.  Their argument is not to single out homosexuality as evil per se, but that it merely falls under the larger prohibition against perverting their definition of natural law. You can now understand why they are also against masturbation and abortion as well. (sex with no chance of procreation is a no-no)

Makes perfect sense, right?

Exceptions, Exceptions And More Exceptions

But what about heterosexual infertile couples? Should people who cannot bear children, through no fault of their own, be equally prohibited from engaging in sex acts, knowing full well that their ability to conceive is zero? Going by their position on natural law, the church should prohibit marrying such people, and equally condemn any sex between these two couples. Do they receive the same condemnation as homosexuals or condoms? Nope.

During a woman’s period, it is equally impossible for the woman to conceive. Same when the woman is pregnant. Does the church prohibit sex during these times? No. How about women who are post-menopausal? They are biologically no longer able to bear children. Does the church condemn these woman for having sex after she is unable to conceive? Of course not.

Their argument concerning natural law is riddled with exceptions. To say that homosexual acts are unnatural because they have no chance at procreation, is violated in many other occasions with straight couples.

So then why are gay people not worthy of an exception? Simple. It is an act of stigmatization. It is an act of discrimination. It is an act of bigotry. And this bigotry comes from the church that has engaged in the most grotesque cover-up of sexual abuse than any other institution in the world.

But miracles can happen, right? Look at Virgin Mary. She never had sex but she still became pregnant. If miracles can happen, maybe a gay couple can become pregnant and have a baby as well! Who are you to put a limit on the power of GOD?

sources:
“Understanding infidelity: correlates in a national random sample” Journal of Family Psychology, 2001.
“Extramarital Sex: Prevalence and Correlates in a National Survey” Journal of Sex Research, 1997.
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