Thursday, August 12, 2010

Desmond Morris' Thoughts on Homosexuality

So, I’ve been reading a couple of books by Desmond Morris recently. The first book I read was entitled The Naked Ape and the second was The Human Zoo. Morris is a provocative and relatively easy read. I didn't find myself in an often befuddled state as I do while reading Stephen Hawking, for example. I was particularly interested in finding out what his thoughts were about how homosexuality manifests itself. Morris, being a zoologist, focuses on areas like the behavior of a given species and often draws comparisons in behaviors between two often closely related species.

According to Morris, homosexuality generally occurs in one of four ways. It can occur when a person, being male or female, lives a fairly isolated and sheltered life. They also lack any significant sexual experiences before engaging in their first encounter. When the first encounter involves a member of the same sex, a mal-imprinting can occur where the person forever finds themselves attracted to a member of the same sex. A fixation on that particular sex, in the case of two boys, becomes powerfully imprinted in the young man’s mind. The case works in much the same way when the conditions are altered and two females are involved in a sexual encounter. This is a process referred to as exposure learning and it is very influential and generally irreversible. One Christian philosopher I talked to recently would like us to assume that, with a heavy dosage of counseling, homosexuals can lose their desire for the same sex. This is important to some Christians because Yahweh thought homosexuals deserved death and Jesus thinks they deserve ever-lasting torment. The Christian philosopher assured me that purgatory was available for the person incapable of resisting his urges and hell is not really so bad after all. But I digress.

Other instances of homosexuality may emerge when the child has an overbearing, domineering mother and a passive, weak father according to Morris. The child may get the roles of his parents confused and reversed thus seeking out the wrong sex as a pair-bond partner later in life. Furthermore, homosexuality may occur when one gender sees the opposite sex as less than appealing because of some form of abuse perpetrated by the opposite sex. They may begin to resent the opposite sex and seek intimate relationships with their own. Lastly and most simply, it may occur as a result of not having convenient access to the opposite sex like in the case of being confined in a prison.

Morris describes mal-imprinting as something which “occurs widely in the world of man/animal relationships”. During the initial sensitive period of life, humans and other animals are particularly impressionable to exposures regarding such things as who their mother is and what sort of pair-bonds they may acquire later in life. For example, animals which are reared by another species from birth may not find their own species attractive and thus make advances toward their caregiver—whoever that may be. Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of being dry humped on the leg by a dog. Morris tells the story of a giant panda he once encountered in Moscow. She wanted nothing to do with the male giant panda or his eager sexual advances, but she was very responsive to Morris when he merely patted her on the back. She responded by “raising her tail and directing a full sexual invitation posture”. The difference between the two pandas is that the female was isolated much earlier on in life than the male panda.

Fetishes are often born out of experiencing a first time orgasm while playing with an inanimate object such as a velvet piece of cloth. This mal-imprinting may be so powerful that the person has a hard time achieving orgasm for the rest of his or her life without the accompanying object being present. Morris tells the story of a male who had his first orgasm while an older female was wearing high-heels. She put her foot over his crouch, he ejaculated and the powerful experience has forever left a mal-imprint. He has since convinced more than one hundred females to repeat the experience. The reason fetishes are important to mention here is because they can act in much the same way as homosexual tendencies do.

Morris recognizes that many heterosexual men and women have homosexual experiences early on in their life, but the majority of them don’t end up as homosexuals. The difference comes down to how properly socialized the person may have been previously to the encounter and how blank their “sexual canvas” is at the time of the encounter. Morris says “Most boys have, as it were, a sexual blackboard on which things are lightly sketched, rubbed out and re-drawn. But the inward-living boy keeps his sexual canvas virginally white. When finally something does get drawn on it, it will have a much more dramatic impact and he will probably keep the picture for life”.

Since the publishing of The Human Zoo, science has found some genetic relationships to homosexuality. A host of studies throughout the 1990s observed that, in the case of identical twins, there is over a 50% chance that the second twin is homosexual if the first one reports in the affirmative. Researchers have found a gene related to homosexuality to be passed down from the mother. There is a higher likelihood among homosexual brothers of inheriting the same genetic sequence on the region of the X chromosome called Xq28. Clearly, there are some genetic factors that must be further explored but this isn’t the main point of my posting. As of yet, there is no such thing as a “gay gene”.

All in all, I am satisfied with the theory that various genetic and environmental factors converge and contribute to a person having homosexual leanings. I am also satisfied with the idea of allowing them to live happily and unhampered lives without any infringement on their rights whatsoever. They are doing no harm to anyone else and if they are fine living without the prospect of birthing children than so am I. They can always adopt at some point if the laws will give them credence. It’s very sad that so many homosexuals feel strongly pressured to change for the petty sake of religious intolerance. They are often ostracized, demoralized and ridiculed in one form or another just for their sexual preferences. Bigotry such as this should 'go with the wind' like so many other forms of hatred ranging from racism, sexism, social status intolerance or physical attractiveness.

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