A few random thoughts on nature vs. nurture, sexual orientation, kink, politics and society.

This was sparked by the whole „BDSM does/does not come from abuse” „It’s nature not nurture so it is okay!” topic on Clarisse Thorn blog, and in the end i produced rather lenghty comment that i think touches important things. So i’ll put it there in a vain effort to divert attention from me taking way too much time with the next project (which is finally updating that outdated, chaotic and too small links section)

So, without further ado:

Yes, that was something i hoped to say, but sadly no one said it out loud here (BDSM from abuse, therefore BDSM is wrong and should not be practiced). Now, if it is said explicitly most people are able to see how dishonest and silencing is this message, and perhaps its purpose would become clear – because without being explicit, it tries to use wrongness of the abuse itself (which pretty much everyone agrees on) to make impression that BDSM is wrong by association, and the speaker actually cares about the abused, to add insult to injury.
But when it’s said explicitly, the absurdity becomes clear, since even if it would be some sort of coping mechanism, or behavioral consequence of abuse, or something like that, it would still have it’s place, it still wouldn’t be wrong because of that – on the contrary, it would be something positive, or needed even. So in fact they would be trying to silence the abused, stigmatize and re-victimize them.
I am not sure what is the real purpose of it. It reminds me of something else, the “homosexuality, nature vs. nurture”, the statement that society can’t allow gay adoption, teachers, lest they turn kids into gays, or in its most extreme form that gays should be “cured”. It also has implicit assumption, which flies under the radar (and triggered some LGBT organisations to take ‘nature’ position in defence, since if it’s nature it can’t be cured, and kids are safe, right?). Well, the similar problem is that there is underlying assumption that homosexuality is wrong, which is unspoken and thus sometimes taken as true, even by LGBT activists (speaking from Polish perspective here, mostly). Whereas the answer should be – “we do not think that homosexuality is wrong, so there is nothing wrong with kids being gay and there is no reason to “cure” anyone”.
I suppose that something else is going on here, and it is opinion that non-heteronormative sex life, and sex positivity in general is something wrong. And it is that what should be brought to light, and refuted on the basis of idea of liberty.

Clarisse,

Yes, after i wrote that commentary, i browsed your blog and found something that made me think that you already thought so. Can’t remember where it was or how i got there, but it included a remark about the concept of „should or should not” (it wasn’t the post you linked above, i wasn’t aware of that one!)

(And you also seem to be very open-minded „societally”, and rather keen on questioning not assuming, so it wasn’t surprising)

But, reading this, and the links there (damn, i didn’t think so many people are aware of that. There goes my pretty little original idea i was proud of, sniff), i have some thoughts. I guess i’ll put it there, not under that linked post?

Well, to start, i do not think sexual orientation or BDSM is determined by genetics, hormonal disposition, some sort of brain structure (apart from the obvious fact that our personality is physically reflected in the brain), or any other thing people mean when they speak of „nature”. Now, i should admit that i am deeply in love with ambiguity, so i’d prefer it to be that way, and be glad if it turns out to be true. Perhaps because it would mean that there is no insurmountable barrier to fully relating to someone interesting to me just because zie has different orientation, kink, or whatever? Anyway, whatever the reason, i’m not going to be shattered if it’s indeed totally immutable, so i guess i’m not totally reject that possibility.
(and for the record, i know it sounds like i am making it binary. I know, it most likely isn’t. Actually, i even think it’s a false dichotomy)

Well, in a vain effort to make my comment shorter, to the point: I think, by nature, humans are extremely fluid beings, with really wide potential. Then, we get – and keep beign- changed and shaped by environmental influences. And with in time our fluidity crystallizes into something solid, be it homo/heterosexuality, kinky/vanilla sex. It does not mean that we lose our potential to enjoy different things. That’s why i think you see people developing interest in kink, people that were quite unaware of that possibility. On the other thing you have people that had this interest, possibility since early age*, and in a way it is like something innate for them – because changing that would be repression, and it’s basically impossible.

What i think is that we develop interests based on what we experience*, we develop repulsion (like, homophobia) based on the same thing, and that’s what shaped – and continues to shape – our mature forms. Yes, this means we are all bisexual (pansexual, really), kinky**, or anything. Potentially***, if not actually. We can get interested in new things, we can even sometimes get over our prejudices (both thing happened to me so i am firmly in the „not from the birth” camp, so to speak), even if it’s not that straightforward (or gayforward, tee-hee :o).

It also explains why „curing” orientation is not possible. You can unveil something, but veiling it back is much harder, if even possible. Once you discover something that makes you happy you can’t make decision to forget it. You might ask why there are strictly homosexual people at all, but that’s not hard to answer. The answer would be long, though, so i’ll skip. But (:D), it’s influenced by the fact that forcing yourself to become hetero (and quite heteronormative, not some sort of genderbender, no!) is as far removed from freely developing interest as you can go. It’s influenced by the fact repressing a desire makes you obsessed about it. Or from the old, common misogyny. Or the simple fact that it takes influence to develop heterosexual attraction, too, it’s just that it’s quite common conception (and then it’s the thing that some people do it for really weird reasons, like obligation or conformism or fear of aloneness)

I am polyamorous (well, i could even say i am polyactivist). I was strictly monogamous 15 years ago, buying all the myths about One True Love, Till Death Do Us Part, That Conquers All, At First Sight (four, yes? I believe there are four of them…). In the long, 10-year long-process, i was lucky to have the opportunity to deconstruct a lot of my internalized concepts about relationships in general and love in particular. Concepts that flow really deep in our culture, concepts that are so complicated that usually we don’t even see what they stand for (like, the „orientation as nature” that stands for „they are morally wrong but let them live since they can’t help it”). I did not thought i was monogamous before – i really was. Same goes for my sexual orientation that pretty much switched from hetero to bi. Or for the kink. The point is, nurture is there both to limit and realize the potential. You were probably lucky to experience things**** that sparked your kink imagination, i wasn’t.*****

Hm, now when i’m reading my notes i wrote when i first read your reply (and the links) i see sentence that reads „your comments are right when it comes to LGBT community”, and have no idea what does that mean, but apparently, i was impressed by your comments somewhere :D
Anyway, i suppose that stressing the nature thing in LGBT is often caused by subconscious homophobia, and not deconstructed, internalized mainstream narration (that sex positivity is basically morally wrong), and it serves not only as political******, but also personal self-defense. Come to think of it, have you heard of IAT tests? Quite good tests for subconscious prejudices, available online, too (google IAT Harvard, first link)

I also read the thread on Trinity, and one comment of yours catched my eye. You said, in response what to use as argument if not nature when it comes to acceptance of kink/orientation/whatever:
(http://sm-feminist.blogspot.com/2009/06/more-on-feministing.html?showComment=1244162377006#c7995344547495303839)

„@Trinity — Right, exactly! But if that’s not what we say to our detractors, then what is?

Usually we fall back on the consent argument, and understandably so, because it’s the best argument.

But that, too, isn’t quite working. I’ve been trying to refine my understanding of their argument. I think it has something to do with the fact that these themes, these tropes, are not okay no matter what — consensual or not, orientation or not. And once we get to that place, I don’t know how to argue with them. Because I’m not sure how to argue about whether a theme or a trope is okay … except maybe to invoke free speech.”

I think i know. But, let’s start from the beginning. I recently stumbled on some interesting table. It’s on some weird evangelical site, part of an misguided attack on atheists lack of morals (or rather, lack of obsession when it comes to controlling what other people do with their genitals), but one thing is particularly interesting, and telling (and i assume it’s true, because it’s what i remember from other sources).

See, all, even the most conservative people, when deciding what’s wrong and what’s right put more importance on harm and fairness than on things like purity or authority. And others, when it comes to that, basically believe in the idea of liberty as put by classical liberals, that you are all right when you do no harm to others, and the idea of equality, too. So, what’s the answer? Attack. Stress our values, you know people share them. Most of the time discussions are about spectators, not participants. Lurkers form the majority, and it’s they that matter. You don’t have to convince the other debater*******, you want to sway the folks that read in silence and didn’t invest emotionally in supporting either opinion. Use the values they find important, like right for self-determination, freedom, and basically ignore arguments of your opponents, instead attack them on the ground of their authoritarianism. Not many people like authoritarianism ;). You can use „land of the free” quote :D

Oh well. Sorry for the length…

*Really early age. The one that we don’t remember consciously, too. Also, i mean influence the way kinkresearch mentioned foodstuff influence: „”This would be comparable to how food preferences and dislikes are probably learned. Such haphazard events would be much harder to predict, prevent, or promote than a specific causal factor. And since they would not be easily susceptible to any attempt at management, kink would be likely to re-occur under a range of political and cultural contexts.”, meaning something often really unobvious, and not silly like „my parents bought me a doll with a leash so now i am dominatrix”. Not that there is something wrong with dominatrix dolls, obviously, now that i think of it :D

** Actually Kinky. I mean, all this inspires me to reply when i am asked about sexual preferences, next time „Oh, i’m incredibly kinky. I have this weird fetish, you know, missionary position PIV sex! Go figure!” (well, i don’t but for the sake of hilarity… i mean, isn’t it, objectively, as weird as any other form? Obviously it’s just another fetish, even though it’s common to the extreme, and we’re pretty much all exposed to it)

*** Funny, thing, that second, kinkreasearch, link mentioned Freud and his views on sexuality being determined by genetics. What makes Freud so interesting (apart from his great intuition), is that he didn’t become too attached to his ideas and progressed. So, when someone says „Freud thought”, the right response is to ask „when”, and if it’s before 1920, you can safely assume he changed his minds/refined the concept (funny thing, he was basically a feminist in his late years). As it was with sexual orientation, to get back on topic.

**** Could abuse be one of them? No idea, i don’t really care much either, and for my gut feeling, see my (*) addendum above. Although on a somewhat related note, i think specific fantasies about „sex”, do have roots in individual emotionality, for example, i have this particular fantasy about semi-public sex while staring into each other eyes crying (boring i know), and it’s not really hard (knowing myself) that it’s there because of what i lived through. Same thing could go for fascination of needless, with neck, or something, i guess :D

***** On a side note, that probably means that the conservative fear (that stood and still stands behind marginalization of homosexuals) of open and accepted presence and contact with gays will seduce the kids is actually true. Not that i mind it. And most likely not only kids :D

******Pretty crappy one, too. It (and the assimilationism in general) reminds me of what i recently read on rape. Basically, if the narration is that some men can’t help themselves, and rape women that do something acceptable (like, go out without male escort :p), because they feel „provoked”, shouldn’t we just eradicate those men, like we kill off/isolate dangerous predators that can’t change? (well, in reality we blame the victims, we don’t like the thought that bad things we can’t control happen to good people, so let’s deride the victim!). But, back to the kink, it’s irrelevant, right? I mean, no one would advocate eradicating kinksters, gays, right? *whispers*Kenya, Iran, monotheist religious fundamentalists in general* whispers*

*******And it’s not really possible when you have audience, since most people are rather attached to their ‚face’ and don’t like admitting they are wrong, or shown to be wrong. So when someone opposes your beliefs with his firm beliefs, you don’t reveal yours, but ask innocent and honestly curious questions that allow them (god forbid you sound like you are trying to find holes in their argument, act meek!) to see contradictions in their beliefs for themselves. Or so called Socratic method ;)

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