Archive for 8/5/2003
(Note: I now disagree with the conclusions in this essay.)
My original goal in writing this essay was to answer a question on the morality of homosexuality. I believed that it was a deviant, potentially self-destructive behavior, (primarily because psychological and physiological problems stemming from the “gay lifestyle”) but it was probably outside the realm of choice, and thus one should maximize his happiness according to whatever identity maximizes their happiness.
After considering the issue, I realize that the crucial question to ask is whether one’s sexual orientation is a matter of choice or not. This question must be answered by examining both the empirical evidence coming from genetic, pre-natal, and environmental influences and by a psychological evaluation of where one’s sexual identity comes from. Key to the understanding of how deviant sexual orientations come out is an understanding of any gender identity develops in the first place. Thus, there are several preliminary questions about gender identity that must be answered before analyzing the nature of homosexuality.
The first question to ask is – what is the nature of gender roles? Let us consider some alternatives that are widely believed today:
a) Gender roles and sexual orientation are entirely genetic and outside of one’s volitional control.
b) Gender roles and sexual orientation are determined entirely by one’s society/environment/early childhood experiences. There is no basis for sexual orientation other than some social consensus about how men and women should act.
c) Gender roles and sexual orientation are a choice one must make, but there exists a “natural” orientation for each gender. This orientation is determined by one or both of two things:
1.) An intrinsic moral code (such as religious doctrine)
2.) Some fact of reality about the nature of each gender that gives rise to a correct and incorrect gender identity.
d) Some combination of the above.
In order to determine which of these views is correct, we first need to determine whether any aspects of human nature give rise to gender roles for men and women. To do so, we will first briefly review the fundamental nature of both men and women as human beings. (Unless explicitly specified, “man” and “he” will refer to instances of both genders.)
Like for all living being, continued survival for man requires a continuous effort to gain the values necessary for his life: food, water, shelter, and every other comfort that aids man in his life. Furthermore, man is born as a self-contained being, possessing the primary means necessary for his survival: his mind to choose the means by which to ensure his continued survival, and his body to act on those choices. Unlike animals, which are guided by instinct and have no such choice, man’s primary choice in life is to act towards his life, or if he does not, to act towards his death. The primary means of man’s survival is his mind, which he must use to choose the means and values that are necessary to sustain his life.
Since the nature of reality determines the material values man needs to sustain his life, the facts of reality also determine which actions man must take to gain those values. Man cannot achieve these material values by acting randomly: he can only ensure his continued survival by a consistent and continual effort to achieve the values needed for his life. In order for this effort to achieve the desired results, man must respect his nature are a physical, living, rational being as well as the nature of reality and the actions he must take to gain the values he desires from the rest of the universe. In short, to make living in accordance with his nature as a rational human being a constant part of his life, man must hold and live by certain values. (A value is something that you act to gain or keep. – Ayn Rand) Supreme among these values is reason, the means by which man determines all his other values. Secondary, are the values of purpose and self-esteem. Together, the values reason, purpose, and self-esteem allow man to realize his ultimate value: his life.
To act on his values, man must translate these values into virtues by which to guide his actions. (A virtue is “the action by which one gains and keeps a value.” – Ayn Rand)
The virtues on which the primary values depend are rationality, productivity, and independence. The man who is successful in living is able to derive the values necessary for his life and to translate them into the virtues necessary to gain and keep them. Some skeptics might say that this is a “cold, unemotional, and rationalistic” way to go about life, but nothing can be further from the truth. The man who confidently acts to achieve the values necessary for his life knows that it is his life he is acting to further, and that it is his values that he is achieving. The emotional state of knowing that one is an effectual, capable, productive individual who is master of his own destiny is self-esteem. Self-esteem is the confidence one has in his own worth as a human being and his ability to achieve his values. When a man makes the achievement of his values a way of life, happiness is that state of consciousness that results. Thus, the rational, productive, and self-confident man and woman know the value of their life and takes pride in their achievements.
These are the facts of human nature as they apply to all human beings. What facts give rise to the differences between the two genders? To begin, let us first consider the known physical facts that are self-evident by direct observation. These facts not in question: they just are.
- Human beings can be differentiated into two groups: men and women, distinguished by different physical characteristics.
- Men have a penis, women a vagina.
- The man’s penis becomes erect when he experiences a particular kind of emotion, in response to his mood, premises, values, and — the woman
- For sexual intercourse, the penis must be erect; there is no analogous requirement for the vagina.
- The man is much stronger than the woman.
- The woman bears the children; there is no analogous activity for the man
This is the evidence presented at the physical level. Further evidence can be gained from introspection, but since one is always limited to his own gender, so are the direct inductive conclusions one can make about gender roles. We can however observe some well-known differences between the behavior of men and women in society to gain objective evidence about gender roles as perceived today:
- Men tend to settle disagreements by argument and sometimes by physical force, while women are much more likely to discuss their disagreements and compromise on their differences.
- In case of disagreement between men and women, men more are likely to stubbornly insist on their side, while women are more likely to retreat and perhaps get around the disagreement in other ways. (Especially in a relationship.)
- The woman in a given relationship usually does most of the child-raising.
- Men are known for being too proud to ask for directions, women have no such inhibitions.
- Women usually seek a successful man for a mate, even if they are already financially independent. They are also more likely to willingly sacrifice their career for their husband than men are for their wife.
- Women often desire taller men, while man desire women who are shorter or equal to them in stature
- From an early age, girls are much more eager to please than boys.
- Young girls usually look up to their fathers much more so than young boys to their mothers.
- Women are much more careful about their appearance and more concerned with how others will judge their appearance then men.
- Women are usually viewed as more emotional than men.
- Despite claims that a “sense of humor” is the most important characteristic they seek in a partner, women generally seek out men who are successful, dependable, ambitious, faithful, and self-confident while men look for attractiveness, obedience, and affectionate tendencies in women.
The above observations come from many factors, but along with personal experience, we can sum them up into the following conclusions about the gender role differences that currently exist in society:
- Women are usually attracted to strong, successful, ambitious, and trustworthy men, while men are usually attracted to beautiful, obedient, and affectionate women.
- Men tend to be confident, arrogant, and independent while women are more compromising, self-conscious, and seeking of approval from their peers.
These differences in gender roles are not limited to any age, society, or other cultural differences, but tend to persist with few exceptions across time and geography. The important question we must now ask is – what is the basis of these gender roles? Are they, as some theists say, a commandment from God, or as some subjectivists claim, are they mere social consensus? Or, as I will now argue, do they come from facts of reality that give rise to particular gender roles?
Consider again the physical properties given above. When a man has sex with a woman, it is common usage to say that the man “takes” the woman, and this is for good reason. On a physical level, the roles a man and a woman play during sex are fundamentally different: the woman’s role is passive, while the man’s role is active. The primary action of the woman for sex is to be receptive or to “surrender” to the man, while the primary action of a men (stemming from the physical action of erection and penetration) is active. In short, the woman surrenders, and the man takes. This basic physical difference between the sexual action of men and women is the source of the concepts “masculinity” and “femininity.” Note that this is not an ethical, social, or legal distinction, nor is it a normative prescription. It is not a statement that a man should somehow be morally, socially, or legally superior to a woman. It is simply a description of the physical function of a man and a woman in relation to each other and the psychological differences that correspond to this distinction.
While masculinity is a concept that stems from a man’s role in relation to sex, it also colors the rest of his life. The essence of masculinity in man’s life is expressed in his confidence, the emotional state that proceeds from successful action in pursuit of values. Note the traditional stereotype of the “macho” man: an arrogant, insensitive, over-confident, and rash brute. Although misguided, this stereotype has a grain of truth: it reflects the masculine man’s fundamental attitude in relation to the rest of reality: as a master of his own fate, a self-made soul capable of shaping his own identity. In relation to a woman, man’s metaphysically active role in sex carries over and is intensifies these values. He is “master of his domain,” a supremely confident being for whom sex is an expression, the highest expression, of his approach to the rest of reality: it is essentially benevolent, and provides him with the values necessary for his life.
If the essence of masculinity is confidence, is the essence of femininity self-doubt and insecurity? Certainly not. A woman is equally in need of affirmation that her life is inherently valuable and the universe is essentially benevolent. The virtues she must posses in order to be successful in life are the same as those required for men: rationality, productivity, and confidence. However, in the realm of sex, the woman cannot be the “conqueror” because she is both weaker than the man, and plays a receptive or metaphysically passive role during sex. This, “confidence” is not the proper word to describe femininity. The best term to describe the female state of mind in regard to a man is “hero worship.” Note that the relationship is in regard to a man, not men — it expresses a woman’s relation to the particular man she chooses to hold as a value rather than the male sex in general. What are implications does this view for the kind of mate a woman seeks?
Recall that women are much more likely to be concerned about their appearance than men. This fact stems from the function a woman has in a relationship. Her primary role in a relationship consists of arousing and maintaining a man’s interest in her, while a man’s role is to be the one initiating the relationship and taking action. Notice how unfeminine and out of character it is for a woman to demand sex from a man and the kind of cultural stigma such women receive. Furthermore, one of the primary traits women seek in a man is trustworthiness. Why? Because surrendering to a man in bed leaves a woman very vulnerable — but not necessarily powerless or weak. In a relationship, she allows another to have control – that is why it’s important that the woman trust the man in a romantic relationship. Ethically, the choice is always the woman’s. It is the man however, who must decide whether to honor her choice.
None of this is to say that a woman should be a mindless, weak, or unconfident
In all other aspects of her life, a woman must be as independent, self-confident, and productive as a man. Furthermore, in relationships, a woman should be very selective that the man she chooses to value is a worthy recipient of her love. A valuable woman doesn’t need to play hard to get because is hard to get. She allows the right man to conquer her, but she does not make it easy, and she does not open her (metaphorical) gates to just any barbarian. The woman is confident of her worth as a human being and her feminine attractiveness, and she must choose a man worthy of her value. For a woman CEO to choose a janitor for a mate would be to abdicate her role of choosing a proper recipient of her valuing. Thus, femininity doesn’t put any “limitations” on a woman in a relationship. It simply describes what feels good and natural to her.
As I have shown, the roles attributed to men and women are derived from the physical differences between men and woman the metaphysical relationship between them. To deny that there is a difference between the proper romantic roles of men and women is to deny the physical differences differentiating the two sexes. While it may seem intimidating to some, the task of rewriting reality comes naturally to feminists. To get a feel for their views, it is sufficient to look at some notable quotes:
- “A woman who doesn’t care what men think of her – ah, this is dangerous. This is the worst conceivable insult to the male ego.”
Lesbianism and the Women’s Liberation Movement” 1970 – Martha Shelley
- As women we are living in a male power structure, and our roles become necessarily a function of men. The services we supply are services to the male ego. We are rewarded according to how well we perform these services. Our skill – our profession – is our ability to be feminine – that is dainty, sweet, passive, helpless, ever-giving and sexy. In other words, everything to help reassure man that he is primary.”
Politics of the Ego” 1970 -New York Radical Feminists
- A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual.
- Gloria Steinem
- Love is the victim’s response to the rapist.”
The Cynic’s Lexicon – Ti-Grace Atkinson
- “Love has to be destroyed. It’s an illusion that people care for each other. Friendship is reciprocal, love isn’t.”
The Retreat From Motherhood New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House. 1975, 222 pages,page 58. - Ti-Grace Atkinson
- I think that what women are conditioned socially to experience as love is a form of annihilation of self … Feminism stresses the indistinguishability of prostitution, marriage and sexual harassment. Compare victims reports of rape with women’s reports of sex. They look a lot alike … In this light the major distinction between intercourse (normal) and rape (abnormal) is that the normal happens so often that one cannot see anything wrong with it.”
“Hard-Line Feminists Guilty of Ms.-Representation.” Wall Street Journal, November 7, 1991, page A14 – Catharine MacKinnon
- “All men are rapists and that’s all they are” - Marilyn French, Author, “The Women’s Room”
- “Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.” – Andrea Dworkin
- “The institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist” – Ti-Grace Atkinson “Amazon Odyssey” (p. 86)
- “When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression…” - Sheila Jeffrys
- “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.” - feminist leader Sheila Cronan.
- “The simple fact is that every woman must be willing to be identified as a lesbian to be fully feminist.” -U.S. National organization for Women Times.
- “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” Catherine MacKinnon
And some colorful quotes from anti-feminists:
- [Feminism is] a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. –Pat Robertson
- No man is as anti-feminist as a really feminine woman. –Frank O’Connor
The original feminists did indeed have a noble goal: political equality for women. However, the feminist movement as we know it today has long forgotten its noble foundations. Feminism today is essentially a doctrine of vicious man-hatred –for man as a human, man as sexual being with certain objective properties distinguishing the sexes, and man a species that expresses its highest joy in the merging of the two. Furthermore, the so-called fight for “economic equality” to supplement “political equality” is simply another collectivist attempt to gain special privileges for yet another “disadvantaged” group. As Ayn Rand explains:
Just as the egalitarians ride on the historical prestige of those who fought for political equality, and struggle to achieve the opposite-so their special sorority, Women’s Lib, rides on the historical prestige of women who fought for individual rights against government power, and struggles to get special privileges by means of government power. (“The Age of Envy,” The New Left . New York: Signet, 1975. p. 173)
The feminists of course deny that the physical differences between the male and female sexes lead to any metaphysical and psychological differences. They label the universally held views of gender roles as “tools of oppression,” invent mythical Amazonian tribes that somehow defied reality, and suppress their own femininity by becoming lesbians. When other women tell them that they really do enjoy sex with men, and that hero-worship is not demeaning but natural to their status as a woman, they engage in gross evasion and excuse it as some sort of brainwashing the males have imposed on un-enlightened women.
Now that I’ve given N.O.W. sufficient reason to call me a chauvinistic, misogynous pig, it’s time to offend the next interest group and address the question of homosexuality. The issue of sexual orientation does not fall under philosophy, but psychology. Philosophy tells us that “sex is good” and that man should live according to his nature as a rational being. It is up to the psychology to determine what that nature is in relation to sex. Since ethics is limited to the realm of choice, the key question is – are you choosing to live in accordance with your nature or not? If one’s sexual orientation is a choice, then as I have shown, it is contrary to one’s nature as a human being and thus immoral. If it is not a choice and is in fact a part of one’s nature, then it would be immoral to go against it – thus it would be wrong for a gay man to choose to date women.
As I have explained, the sexual identity of men and women is derived from their metaphysical nature. If that is so, then what implications does this view have for homosexuals? There are three major views about homosexuality today. One side holds that homosexuality is caused by genes, brain structures, hormone abnormalities, early childhood experiences, and other genetic and environmental factors. Supporters of this view argue that whatever the cause of homosexuality, it is outside the volitional control of individuals. Another view holds that just like gender roles, ones sexual identity is a social creation that reflects a matter of personal choice. Both of these views generally accept a homosexual lifestyle as completely equivalent to a heterosexual lifestyle from an ethical standpoint. Yet another view, generally held by religious groups, holds that it is irrelevant whether the urge to be a homosexual is a matter of choice, because homosexual behavior is intrinsically immoral even if the urge to be gay is outside the realm of choice.
Since I do not believe that morality is intrinsic, I find that the question of whether ones sexual orientation is a matter of choice to be key for a moral evaluation of homosexual behavior. (The intrinsic theory holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors and subjects involved. — Ayn Rand, CUI) If the nature of human beings is such that are fixed in their attraction to one gender and unable to derive pleasure from being with the other, then it follows that they should maximize their happiness with whatever sex attracts them the most. However, if one has a choice about which sex he can enjoy being with, then one should strive to be with the one most in line with his essential identity in the realm of sex – that is with his opposite.
The predominant claims for various biological source of sexuality can be brushed aside quite easily. Not only are they highly politicized and non-scientific, but if taken at face value, they are contradictory. Some declare “proofs” that sexual orientation is genetic, others claim that hormonal imbalances and brain size abnormalities cause homosexuality, while others claim certain genes and chromosomal abnormalities, and still others claim that early developmental factors are key. Grouped together, these “proofs” amount to arbitrary claims motivated more by political consideration than any genuine search for the truth. The fact is that our understanding of human physiology and its relation to psychology must evolve a great deal before an objective evaluation of such claims can be made.
A much simpler statistic to verify is the pattern of strong demographic and historical trends in the incidence of deviant sexual orientation. If homosexual behavior was caused by some random genetic or other inherent trait, then it should be found across all races, societies, and time periods (since it is not limited to any particular group in the United States.) However, this is not the case. Even accounting for social stigma, there are extreme variations in how widespread homosexual behavior is amongst various cultures. Lesbianism for example, is virtually unknown in the Latin and Slavic world, while it is relatively widespread in America. Further evidence is found in the patterns found in our own society. Homosexuals in America tend to be middle class white or black men. Usually, they have strong ties with the left and grow up with friends (if not family) who tolerate their behavior. Especially today, it has become politically correct to express some feelings of bi-sexuality if not outright homosexuality and various liberal groups (the feminist quotes above are no exception) actively encourage homosexual tendencies. From personal experience in leftist groups, I am familiar with the process of indoctrinating acceptance in public school and then active promotion of homosexuality in college. Many college students today can associate with the confusion that follows when they are repeatedly told that feelings of repulsion at homosexual behavior amount to bigotry and racism (!) and are simply evidence of their own gay tendencies. Some see through this propaganda, but others feel guilty for not having gay tendencies of other own (after all, sexual orientation is a sliding scale, and not having gay tendencies of your own amounts to being an “extremist”) and pander to political correctness in thought or action. Of course no one will deny that at least some “repression” occurs on both sides, so we must look again to the basic source of sexual orientation to determine its origins.
Supporters of homosexuality often point to animals as an example of how “natural” homosexual behavior can be. After all, if it’s good enough for animals, why shouldn’t it be good enough for humans, who are, in their view, the lowest, most violent, and self-destructive species of animal. However animals don’t have any conception of gender or sex – they don’t have any concepts of anything at all. Animals survive by acting on instinct rather than reason, as humans must. Therefore, a gazelle cannot be born or possess the desire to mate with other male or female gazelles – it can only respond to its inborn commands to follow this smell and not another – to mate with a creature with horns and certain other physical traits and not others. It is only humans who can form the explicit concepts of male and female identity. Like animals, human beings are born with certain automatic urges – to eat when they are hungry, to sleep when they are tired, to copulate when they are horny. However, they are not given any automatic guidance for how to go about this – and certainly, no built-in concept of what a man or woman is. This information comes to them inductively, from direct personal experience at a very young age. They see certain physical difference between girls and boys, mommies and daddies, certain divisions of labor in the household, and certain expectations about their behavior. It is important to stress that this is not entirely a social phenomenon – girls and boys see real physical differences between the two genders, as well as the different roles formed by those differences. Throughout their early childhood they observe gender roles of their peers and parents and form the inductive basis for the conclusions they will make about sexual identity as they reach puberty.
Since the experience of puberty is essentially universal (for anyone old enough to be reading this essay) – I present the reader’s own introspective evidence of the subconscious choice they made to be attracted to a particular sex. The choice must exist regardless of any “instinctive” tendencies, real, or imagined because the concept of “man” and “woman” is never automatic for humans and entirely absent for animals. As humans, we rely on our reason to choose how to fulfill our sexual urges because we have no automatic guidance system that tells us how to fulfill our values. At this point, an evolutionary biologist might argue that humans are naturally attracted to particular traits –symmetry, skin tone, ample fat reserves, muscle tone, etc. This is certainly true, but these are only weak means of evaluating the health and reproductive capacities of individuals – they can be overridden by social mores, as skinny fashion models long ago proved, and they can be applied to members of both sex – otherwise what basis would gay individuals ever have to find their own sex attractive? In short, sexual orientation is a choice created by observing the inherent metaphysical differences between the sexes as well as the social context in which they operate, integrated into a into a coherent (although sometimes contradictory) view of what it means to be a man or a woman.
If gender roles and one’s sexual orientation are self-made, what do they imply for the morality of homosexuality? Recall that the fundamental nature of masculinity and femininity stems from physiological differences between the sexes. A choice to live a homosexual lifestyle is thus one that goes against one’s basic identity as a man or woman. It leads an individual to act in a way that is contrary to his metaphysical identity.
Recall that the essence of masculinity is confidence and the essence of femininity is hero-worship. In a male homosexual relationship, that difference is turned upside down as one of the man attempts to be the valuer rather than the value. His attempts to assume the role of the woman by being submissive rather than assertive. In a lesbian relationship, one of the females inevitable attempts to be the “man” or the value. Note that just as in heterosexual relationships, there is never, nor can there be a balance of the two. There is the inevitable (and cliché) submissive make and the “butch” female.
Advocates of gay marriage argue that the government has no right to regulate who gets married. They are right – consenting adults may do whatsoever they please, as long as the do not initiate force against anyone else. If they desire to live together and bind themselves under a contract that shares their wealth and imposes certain obligations on each other, there is no reason why the state should not honor that contract. Since it is a contract between two individuals, they can include any provisions they want – as long as they do not impose any obligations on any third parties. However, this is not what the “gay rights” movement demands. They explicit purpose of the “gay rights” movement is to fully equate homosexual marriage with heterosexual marriage – both legally and socially. By doing this, they intend to force everyone else not involved in the marriage contract to recognize it as such. Corporations that wish to provide benefits solely to straight couples would be force to ignore the distinction and provide both with equal benefits. They may wish to do this because it is a well-known fact that a male homosexual lifestyle is much more dangerous that a conventional one, or because gay relationships are statistically a lot less stable than straight ones, or perhaps simply because the company believes it to be immoral. Whatever the case, they will now be forced to ignore the distinction. It is almost certain that many companies will (and already do) extend the same benefits to gay couples – and it may well be a good idea for them to do so. However forcing a company — or any individual – to abide by the “gay rights” movement’s definition is a clear violation of their rights. From a personal standpoint, two (or more!) people can call their relationship whatever they want, but if they want the government to honor their contract, they cannot expect to force their definition on others for them.
It could be argued that the government could simply make the distinction between “conventional” and “unconventional” marriages. This is possible, but it is not what the “gay rights” movement demands. In any case, the definition of the term “marriage” is not an arbitrary social convention – it is based on the facts of human nature. Man is a being with a particular nature, one that finds its highest joy in sex, and does so according to the physiological facts of each gender. These facts are not arbitrary, but based on the facts of reality, and a mere change in legal statue does not change those facts. Man is a man, a woman is a woman, and wishing otherwise does not make it so.
A disclaimer: Although homosexuality is a choice that goes against the basic human nature, and marriage can only be regarded as a contract between a man and a woman, the moral evaluation of someone who engages in a homosexual lifestyle must be seen in context. The primary error of homosexuals – evading their nature qua man or woman is often (perhaps the great majority of the time) rooted in early childhood experiences, when one gains the inductive experience of what male and female gender roles are. For the great majority, this process is subconscious and rarely connected to the time one “realizes” their orientation. In short, it can be a psychological error with very deep roots that are very difficult to properly analyze and correct. It doesn’t help that (as far as I know) no one has ever written a correct analysis on the nature of sexual identity. So when judging the immorality of a homosexual lifestyle, one must maintain a proper context and be aware that homosexuality cannot be “cured” by simple moralizing. It is a choice that must be made only after a proper understanding of one’s identity as a man or woman, and it may take many years to reverse the years of psychological errors learned in an improper lifestyle. The switch may not even be worth the effort for some individuals with deeply ingrained childhood trauma. However, this uncertainty does not apply to the great majority of “casual” homosexuals, whose mistaken case of sexual identity comes more from perverted view of sexual mores than traumatic childhood experiences. The deviance of these individuals usually comes from a rebellion against a flawed conventional morality that tells them that it is wrong to enjoy sex. Faced with a false dichotomy between dutiful servitude and sinful pleasure, these individuals prefer to swing to the other extreme and completely detach sex from ethics.