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Sex and Politics

“Do We Need a More Nuanced View of Sexuality?” – comments

Do We Need a More Nuanced View of Sexuality? – a response from  Joan Garrity

I’ve always been firmly in the “orientation is hardwired” camp, but this article* made me think…If we put any stock in the Kinsey Scale, then for the majority of us, orientation is not fixed at one or the other end of the spectrum. So for the majority of us, particularly those hovering around the Kinsey 3, seems to me there can certainly be an element of choice. And when you consider that people can easily/often be at different points on the scale when evaluating the varieties of orientation — affectional, erotic and romantic — this “choosing” becomes even more complex. My sense is that, as the article describes, many at the 6 end of the scale find this notion of choice being involved as anathema, and understandably so. The concept gives fuel to the homophobe, far-right, conservative, Santorum (excuse me while I gag) types, and that is definitely threatening. And those of us, regardless of scale location, who are true LGBTQ allies, often defend that same position and for the same reasons.

It reminds me of the on-going conflict in the pro-choice movement about the willingness, or lack thereof, to acknowledge a fetus as living, or even as an entity worthy of someone’s emotional response, even grief. My opinion is that of course a fetus is alive — if it weren’t, there would be no need for an abortion! The question, to me, has never been about it’s “aliveness” but about personhood — an entirely different thing. (I consider personhood as a quality bestowed by the pregnant woman on that critter within. A woman can abort a 14 week old fetus during one pregnancy at one point in her life, and, in a wanted pregnancy, that same woman can call a 6-week-old fetus a baby with no need to defend the apparent contradiction. It is a subjective quality. We are forever trying to turning prevailing, popular or even individual moral perspectives into law.)

It is always scary to allow one’s self to step away from the politically-necessary position and express the messy grayness. So can’t we say that orientation is hardwired, and that wiring includes being hardwired at one fixed point of orientation, or at a point where fixedness is not absolute, allowing for choice to also be in the mix?

  • David Shannon, LICSW

    In “Loving Someone Gay” by Don Clark, an important and innovative book from the years shortly after Stonewall, he gives his own definition of *gay* as (approximately) both the capacity to have sex with persons of the same sex, and the willingness to do so. I always liked this because it incorporated both the elements of one’s innate nature (ability) and preference / choice (willingness to act). Existentially, we have to choose to live, as the people we most authentically are. Because the “anti-glbt zealots” use the idea of choice against us, both morally and politically, we’ve tended to focus on being born that way, to the neglect of that existential choice, at least in our political strategy and rhetoric. When we are able to expand our view of sexuality beyond the polarity, we make possible not only a broader and more accurate academic, ideological perspective. We are also then able to respect, affirm, celebrate, and help liberate each other, in all our various and wonderful complexity.