(excerpt from Why are People Gay?)
Invention of the Opposite Sex & The Era of Oppression
During the 1800s social attitudes to same-sex love changed radically – and for the worst. In earlier times same-sex love had been lumped in with adultery, sex before marriage, sex with contraception and oral sex as being a sinful indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh. By the late 1800s it had been singled out for much more severe treatment. To understand why, we have to know about the invention of the opposite-sex.
Industrialization & Invention of Opposite-Sex
In the medieval times of cottage industries, men andwomen worked side by side in the extended familyhome. The creation of the first factories and the start of wage labour created a new division of labour. Men began to leave the home and work for wages,while women remained at home and did the unpaid work. A new cultural story developed that supported the new roles. The old story had been that women were a similar (but lesser) version of men. Adam’s rib had been used to make Eve. The new story was that men and women were opposites. Men were said to have the earthy traits that made them suited to going out into the world to earn wages and participate in public life. Women were said to have the sensory traits that made them suited to domestic life. Romantic love began to be seen as the bringing together of opposites.
Creation of the ‘Unscripted Ones’
This radical change in western culture created new social behaviours. Most people interpreted their experience through the new beliefs. They focused on the parts of themselves that fitted the new story, and they played out the new script. For some people, the new story did not fit any of their experience of themselves. It could not explain being an earthy traited woman or a sensory traited man. Romantic love based on identifying bonding became incomprehensible. People with these traits found their culture did not provide any way of making sense of their experience – they became the queers – or what this project calls ‘the unscripted ones’.
A New Theory of Sexuality
People’s experience of their sexuality is a mix of two powerful factors. First, people have an innate nature. Second, people interpret their natures through a cultural lens. The relationship between the innate nature and culture is like the relationship between computer hardware and software. Both are very important in creating the total experience.
The following pages will start by looking the ‘Three Layers of Sex’ and then explain:
1) Innate Nature – There are two parts to our theory about people’s natures. The first is about how we fall in love, or our bonding orientation. The other is about our earthyand sensory traits, sometimes called masculine and feminine traits.
2) Cultural Lens – Cultural beliefs are awesomely powerful.
This section explains how they work. It is the starting point for the future install-ments which introduce how different cultural ideas have affected love and sex at different times.
Three Layers of Sex
Sex is hugely complicated. People use it in so many ways. It is the flush of first love, a hedonistic indulgence, and a weapon of war. To understand its complexity it is useful to think of it as having three layers.
Reproduction is clearly an important part of sex. It is part of the biological drive to perpetuate the species. When we are fertile,hormones pump through our systems that turn our attention to sexual desires.
The promise of sexual pleasure can be seen as luring people into reproduction. But that is not the whole story. Like many other species, human beings desire and have a lot of sex which has nothing to do with making babies. Sex has several roles in human society.
2. Intimacy & Emotional Needs
A key role of sex is revealed by looking at when people crave it. Small children touch themselves when they’re upset. Elderly widows report being swamped by desire when their partner dies.
“Desire is often experienced as a
lust after bodies. But the timing suggests it has an emotional
Small children touch themselves when they’re upset. Elderly widowsreport being swamped by desire when their partner dies. People also report similar experiences at all the ages in between. People report an increase in libido when they lose jobs, when relationships break up, when they move cities, or their best friend re-evaluates their role in their lives. The
craving for love & affirmation often translates into a craving for sex.
Some people also report that other feelings come through their sexual systems. Being angry, tense and stressed can also come through in a sexual energy.People’s emotional needs play out through their sexual systems.
3. Sex as a Symbolic Ritual
Sex is also a social ritual. It has a learnt cultural meaning.
“In ancient Greece it was accepted that men would sleep with other men, with their wives and with slaves. However men had to use different sexual positions with each different class of person. There were sexual positions that were acceptable between men. But if two men used the positions that were reserved for a man and his wife it became deeply stigmatized. The man who had taken on the wifely role was considered to have been humiliated and belittled.”
Western culture has competing scripts about heterosexual sex. Many fetishes are about playing with the symbolic meanings of sex. The old script is that sex is about dominance and submission. Penetration as an act of dominance. Being penetrated as an act of submission. In heterosexual relationships it was a symbolic ritual that played out a man’s dominance over his wife.
In the 1970s feminists encouraged women to ‘get on top’ to change the meaning of sex. They aimed to change the symbolism from something men did to women, to something that a couple did together.
Both scripts exist today. On the one hand ‘get fucked’ is still the most aggressive insult in our language. Invading armies use mass rape as a weapon of war. Some football teams boost themselves as men by sexually demeaning women. At a lower level, some of these ideas filter into everyday people’s sex lives.
On the other hand, a lot of people see sex as a mutual activity between equals. It is a fun and pleasurable activity that people of the same status do together. Heterosexual scripts about sex shape understandings of gay and lesbians sex. They affect the practice of it too.