May 1, 2007

we are the only people who have ever lived

"I was going to write about [whatever]" is probably the most over-used intro ever, at least out here on the internet. However. I've been meaning to write about a Times article from April 10 since April 10. Unlike many such inclinations, this one's stuck with me, like a burr that you can't get out of your bootlaces. Thus, today's expression of irritation.

The article in question is about sexual desire, and, specifically, about what determines the gender of the people you're attracted to. Ok. Let me just state, for the record, that gender doesn't affect attraction for me. At least not mostly. Gender presentation does, a little bit, but that's a story for a different time. So when the article suggests that desire may be pretty fluid for women, at least in terms of what our brains do, that rings kind of true. Anyway, I know a lot of women who are kind of flexible, and very few men (though I do know some). Not that that's worth mentioning in the newspaper.

But people! Come on! To argue that men have a fixed sexual orientation that cannot be changed, and that whatever the level of same-sex male desire is, it's fixed? That's just irresponsible ahistoricity. There are a lot of societies other than the modern-day US where men had sex with men at certain times, and with women at other times. See ancient Greece. Also Elizabethan England. Also present-day Sri Lanka, where my housemate says it's pretty accepted that young men will have all sorts of same-sex encounters, because female virginity at marriage is highly valued. Also the down-low cultures in the US. These guys are getting it up for men and for women, and actively choosing to have both kinds of relationships. I'm sure some of it is about limited options (e.g. jail and the British Navy, which was once said to run on rum, sodomy, and the lash), but it happens all over the place. Claiming that "Sexual orientation, at least for men, seems to be settled before birth" ignores the fact that 'sexual orientation' is a concept of the last 200 years at the absolute most. Before that, you did this, and you did that, but it wasn't about identity, and it might change. Unless the professors quoted in the article seriously believe that men in western/European/US culture have actually evolved genetic differences from their ancestors within the last 200 years (and while the Y chromosome evolves faster than the X, 200 years?!), they're looking directly in front of their noses and nowhere else.

Not that I was expecting that they would. Just, you know. That paragraph above? That's introductory stuff. Seems like you might could think of considering it if you're a professor and all.

No comments: