Today’s guest post is written by Dr. Jim Pfaus. In the past few weeks there have been several articles about a study published in The New Atlantis about whether sexual orientation is a choice. Dr. Pfaus responds to some of the issues raised in those articles.
Dr. Jim Pfaus is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Concordia University. He states on his faculty page, “My research is generally concerned with the neurochemical and molecular events that subserve sexual behavior and neuroendocrine functions. I am interested in the role of brain monoamine and neuropeptide systems in sexual arousal, desire, reward, and inhibition in laboratory animals. I am also interested in the inhibitory and disinhibitory effects of drugs of abuse on sexual behavior.”
In reality, there are PLENTY of data showing that in men sexual orientation is pretty well fixed by the time adolescence rolls around, and is likely so because of genetic factors that come into play in utero.
For some women, however, the concept of fluidity between orientations suggests that it might not be fixed — for THEM (or that they are bisexual but can ascribe an orientation to what they do and how they feel about doing it, which I am sure can and is used by those saying it is all a “choice” as evidence of such choice). But, as with everything, women are the last to be understood in terms of their gender, sexual orientation, and manifestations of sexual pleasure.
It is entirely possible that androgens “fix” everything into place in men in a way that seems immutable (along with our lost ability for female-like multiple orgasms).
One of the biggest flaws in all of this is that sex serves at least two masters, reward and reproduction. The reward part is ultimately what matters most, since there is absolutely no reason that gay men and lesbians cannot make babies, which they now DO in far greater numbers than in the past. Western religions do not regard male homosexuality well (thanks Leviticus!), but one wonders if the reproductive element in this played a role in that. A man lyething with another man shall be stoned… but why? Because they “cannot” or “will not” make a baby for their doting mother who needs to be a grandmother to reach her cultural pinnacle?
Maybe THAT is the choice that should be discussed, along with societal and cultural choices that might actually allow gay men to marry and create the kind of economic stability that a kid could be raised in. The one thing that a “choice” argument cannot get around is the FACT that gay men exist in EVERY culture, EVERY racial demographic, and EVERY epoch of recorded human history. Neither Communism or Capitalism can make that claim!
The only way that homosexuality becomes something “hard to understand” is from a reproductive standpoint, especially in light of so-called “Evolutionary Psychological” theories that claim almost everything as genetic and biased toward “ultimate causality” meaning the propagation of the strong in a species. Like, what IF that is not the ONLY evolutionary pressure? What IF predisposition involves an early interaction with the external world as well, along with epigentic changes? That is not “choice” either… it is crystallization of behavioral patterns and conscious awareness of one’s own predisposition and orientation. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with “reproduction” — again, since gay men and lesbians CAN and DO reproduce. “Choice” is a loaded term. And VERY easy to pervert for anti-gay propaganda purposes…
A version of this post originally appeared on Natasha Helfer Parker’s blog The Morman Therapist. Special thanks to her and Jim Pfaus.