Our understanding of sexuality is overly simplistic.
Heterosexual, homosexual. This is our understanding. Just two ideas, poorly rendered.
If you’ve studied undergraduate Arts, you might already be aware of the Kinsey ‘1-to-6’ sliding scale of sexuality, or of the concept ‘gender is constructed, sex is biology’, probably the most obfuscating piece of pseudo-academic nonsense ever taught. How idiotic to surmise that biology and social constructs are mutually exclusive. Biology is a construct as much as gender. Additionally, gender, as construct, stems from society – society is made up of individuals whose lives are defined by biology, ergo, gender comes from biology.
Our collective understanding of such issues is underpinned with the sociological equivalent of old wives’ tales. We’re obsessed with applying blanket terms for sexual phenomena in a way we don’t tolerate in other discourses.
Maybe we fear the marriage of clarity and sex.
Or being called homophobic or a fag.
Take the Kinsey scale, sometimes called the ‘Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale’. At one end of the spectrum you are classed ‘0’, exclusively heterosexual; at ‘1’, predominantly heterosexual but incidentally homosexual; at ‘2’, predominantly heterosexual but ‘more than incidentally’ homosexual; at ‘3’, equal parts of both, and so on until the other extreme end classification of ‘6’, or exclusively homosexual. Anything between ‘1’ and ‘5’ exists outside our current general social framework, but these comparative nuances are still totally simplistic. They don’t take into consideration culture. They don’t take into consideration, for instance, the developmental nature of age, or the relationship between child-rearing and sexuality, or of risk profiles and social security. They don’t take into consideration clothing choices or music taste or literacy levels or travel patterns or technology proficiency – all of which shape our lives and shape our sexuality.
In ignoring these kinds of phenomena and replacing them with a simple ‘1-6 rating’, or even worse, a binary understanding, we ignore the details of sexuality and of reality.
I asked my mother about gay people in China. She said there were less homosexuals because people were less aware of their freedoms collectively.
This struck me as significant.
Perhaps sexuality is more about a culture of freedom than simplifications of hetero or homo, or smaller simplification of ‘predominant’, ‘incidental’, or ‘exclusive’. Perhaps it is a matter of choice comparable to something like vocation – maybe in certain places no one ever becomes a violinist because they’ve never heard of violins, or because classical music is less prominent, or because the import of timber is expensive, or because the weather is cold and the strings are harder to tune.
Is it so impossible that for some people sexuality may be similar to violin playing? That it may be a matter of choice, taste, influence or even coincidence?
Perhaps sexuality ought to be considered more like an occupation where we refuse concrete origin stories. No one advocates, ‘He was born a doctor’ or ‘Because he did a drawing he must be an artist’, yet sexual phenomena becomes subject to this ridiculous rhetoric.
Maybe sexuality changes throughout a lifetime, just as many other aspects of being human do?
We should cast aside the notion of ‘orientation’ – it is a false framework. By definition, orientation is an excluding concept; if you are facing north, you cannot face south. Terms perceived as liberating, like ‘bisexuality’, just plot more points on the compass. We should be bashing this compass against a concrete wall and looking at experiences, motivation, simultaneously occurring complexity, and desire rather than flattened misunderstood labels. We should pinpoint the moment where sexuality is defined and look at why it is being defined in that manner by the individual, what the cues are, what the environment is, what the physicality means, what inclusions and exclusions are being carved, the benefits and losses.
We should analyse, rather than react.
Too much of our understanding comes from terminology and too much of our terminology responds to prejudice, either in criticism or support, rather than looking at psychology, both individual and group. The parade of ‘coming out’ distracts from understanding, even though it attempts to right a wrong. Too many people have forgotten that the intention was to live in a world where coming out was no longer necessary, rather than a celebration when it occurred.
The Kinsey scale is crude at best and yet it is considered progressive by most. Our framework is totally broken – our current ideas are prehistoric. The Kinsey scale is immature. We are obligated to know more about these issues, collectively and educationally.
Maybe sexuality differs in its essence from person to person – perhaps for some it is more genetic, for some environmentally influenced and for others a conscious design. If we truly believe in the diversity of humanity, we should not believe in different sexual orientations, but in different conceptions of sexuality. At the moment we are describing all fruit as apples.
What a contradictory society we live in.
Let us recognise the high amount of hate society has for its margins. With multiculturalism at least we pretend to want to understand. On sexuality we don’t even bother.
Maybe it’s because given there is such a dominant middle-band of behaviour, other possibilities, both of practice and thought, get totally suppressed.
Maybe most people’s sexuality does exist within a very simplistic framework.
Then again, maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where a framework with such little precision restricts our freedom, excluding possibilities yet unknown.