Sunday, November 28, 2010

Personal Sex is Healthy Sex

This article is a heartening attempt to put sex in its place. By that I mean to put sex into focus as an expression of the rational person, rather than letting one's identity be defined by instinctual drives or passions. Only thus is sexuality made moral. The author, Melinda Selmys, argues that sexual orientation is not immutable at all and can be changed. She writes in "Reorienting Sexuality"
If you have undergone modern sexual education, followed the gay-marriage debates on television, or simply unconsciously imbibed the sexual ethos of this culture, you are probably familiar with the idea of sexual orientation. This is the theory that every human being has an innate, fixed set of sexual attractions either for the opposite sex, for their own sex, or for both.

This is the Western understanding of homosexuality that has developed over the course of the past couple of hundred years. It was first formulated around the time of the French Revolution, and gained currency with the rise of the psychological sciences during the twentieth century. For about a hundred years now the fundamental point of disagreement has centered around the question of whether same-sex attraction is a biological trait, or a psychological disorder. At the moment, most gay-rights rhetoric assumes the former (though this is by no means universally believed within the gay community) while most conservative organizations assume the latter.

What remains unexamined is the assumption that this is an accurate way of envisioning human sexuality in the first place. There has been some work by feminist and lesbian scholars suggesting that female sexuality, at least, is more fluid than “biology” suggests. The terms “LUG” (Lesbian Until Graduation) and “hasbian” both bear tribute to the fact that some women experience same-sex attractions at a particular point in their lives, and then transition into a heterosexual identity without suffering any psychological upheaval. Other women may comfortably embrace a heterosexual identity and lifestyle for years, only to have same-sex attractions arise late in life.

"I was certain that I was a lesbian"

I fell into the former category: earlier in my life, I was certain that I was a lesbian. I was secretly involved in a lesbian relationship for years, and my attempts to date boys on the side ranged from dismal to disastrous. I found physical intimacy with men uncomfortable at best. When I became a Catholic, I still believed that homosexuality was immutable, and I did not believe in “praying away the gay”. It came as something of a surprise, therefore, when I found myself falling in love, and being physically attracted towards a man.

All this is pretty common knowledge, though pro-sexual revolution activists endeavor mightily to conceal it from the gullible. But it is near the end of the article that Selmys gets really interesting as she proposes an explanation for what happened to her:

For me, as for others, it was a matter of other things being more important than sexuality. My ideological and philosophical identity was always the most fundamental aspect of my self; when my ideology shifted, my sexuality followed it quite naturally, without any need for bizarre or damaging outside interventions.

Obviously this is not the case for everyone, but it is common enough to seriously undermine the idea of a fixed sexual orientation. . .

Sexual orientation cannot be reduced either to biology or to psychology, because sexual attraction cannot be so reduced. Attraction is a complicated matter. People are attracted to others who share a similar sense of aesthetics, to people with similar ideological convictions, to those who resemble characters from movies or books that are personally appealing, to those with whom they have close emotional relationships, and so forth. We are not like animals whose attractions are based solely on the length of the dominant male’s eye-stalks, or the color of his plumage.
"We are not like animals" - surely this is the beginning of wisdom in all matters sexual. And the idea that "other things are more important than sexuality" is surely blindingly obvious to all except those for whom the sexual aspect of life has become inflated grotesquely.

The real and most fundamental psychological disorder is not homosexuality but rather one in which the impersonal aspects of sexuality (instincts, drives) take over and submerge the personal aspects such as morality, respect and friendship. This can afflict both heterosexual and homosexual persons and, unfortunately does afflict millions of people today. For such people, sex does not rise to the level of a personal relationship; it never rises higher than animalistic urges.

In a fallen world the basic human task is to humanize and personalize our sexuality rather than letting sub-personal drives impose themselves on us and prevent our relationships from rising to the level of the personal.

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