We live in a world that has been tailored for Cis gendered heterosexual interactions. We see it in television shows, movies, literature, advertising, and just about everywhere else. We are told we have to adapt to fit into this world. If we ask for the same privileges that others have, we are told we are asking for special privileges. What if I told you that sexual orientation wasn’t always a focus for civilization?
Putting People Into Boxes
Let’s go back about 120 years. In 1901, Dorland’s Medical Dictionary actually defined heterosexuals as having “abnormal or perverted sexual appetites for the opposite sex.” Many argue that this was more of a puritanical approach to wanting to have sex for the sake of pleasure. Remember, this was still a time where sex was more about procreation and building a family. This was the case up to 1923 when Merriam Webster defined them as having a “morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.” It would take almost ten years for these definitions to be replaced by the ones that we know more of today.
Sex wasnt meant to be something that provided pleasure, in the basic of understandings. Because of this, there was no real focus on sexual orientation. It simply wasn’t something that people discussed openly. This does not take into account affections for people. There are even theories that in the Victorian era, there was more of a homosocial mindset that strictly binary thoughts on sexuality.
Often times, it was noted, that both men and women engaged in not completely platonic or romantic relations with members of the same sex. It is felt by some that we were of a more sexually fluid mindset.
It wasn’t unheard of for women who were married to men with multiple wives to become intimate with their co-wives. Also, men were believed to be able to have sex with anyone, as long as their sex was penetrative. So what does that say about men who were on the receiving end? Did a blow job count the same as anal sex?
It was between the 1900s and 1940 that science started to really differentiate people into either heterosexual or homosexual boxes. As this started happening it also started to remodel ideas about sexuality. As these boxes became more common thought, so was the belief that you were born either straight or gay. This mindset forced people to actually curb their romantic and sexual desires into a more rigid binary approach.
The Kinsey Scale
By 1940, Kinsey was set to publish his study about male sexuality, his results were a bit shocking and have caused some misinformation over the ages. Kinsey’s study found that:
- 37% of males and 13% of females had at least some overt homosexual experiences that led to orgasm.
- 10% of males identified as more or less exclusively homosexual
- 8% of males were exclusively homosexual for three years between the ages of 16 and 55
- 4% of males and 1-3% of females identified as exclusively homosexual after adolescence
This research led to the the invention of the Kinsey scale, used to identify were someone is on the range of fully heterosexual and homosexual.
Kinsey received help in his studies and one of the most helpful was a photographer Thomas Painter. Painter was a white, openly gay photographer who had a preference for masculine white men who identified as heterosexual. He would offer to take their pictures and used that as a lead in for sex. Painter conveyed to Kinsey that these men didn’t seem themselves as homosexual for the interactions they had with him. Painter even said to Kinsey, in a letter, that many of the straight men he slept with didn’t have problems with it because it died no harm to them and wasn’t unpleasant, so why not engage in your desires.
Painter and Kinsey, both, notated changes in men by the mid-1950s. Men, who had normally had a more fluid sexual desire, were forced to suppress their desires and become heterosexual. Even being considered bisexual was considered to be less than desirable. There has always been contention over the studies conducted by Kinsey, but the best take away that we have from it is that there is a fairly wide gap between sexual behavior and identity.
Conformity For The Masses
The 1950s was still considered a more Protestant mindset for America. During this time traditional faith became important, again. There was an increase in religious memberships and practice. This helped solidify the boxes that had already been made for people. Television help solidify that people needed to conform to what was considered ideal. This was the era of tv shows like I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver. These shows taught what “ideal” families should look and act like and further moved homosexuals as less than desirables.
Our own community is as much responsible for continuing the separation into these predefined labels. The gay activists of the 1970s pushed the idea of inherent sexuality because it made it appear that it was biological or natural. This was important to our fights for a protected class. In the past, the American legal system only garlanded that designation to those communities that could prove they are a part of a stable identity group.
Before you jump to any conclusions, remember that this was still a time when being LGBTQ was criminalized and engaging in same sex relations could land you in jail. In England, it could have lead to chemical castration. This has helped us immensely in moving forward but it also shows the failings in how we look at human sexuality. But it shows how the system is rigged against those that are bisexual or pan sexual, in their natures.
Bromance and Brojobs
Flashing forward to the last seven years, we have seen more studies and changes, when it comes to sexual identity and orientation. In 2013 and 2016, Jane Ward and Tony Silva, respectively, conducted studies about sexuality and heterosexual men. What they found is that heterosexual men still actively engage in sexual encounters with other, similar, men in what they, then, called “bud-sex.”
It has went on to be called bromances and brojobs,
The study went further to show that these men didnt view the interaction as erotic as much as they just considered it as helping out a bud or satisfying some urges. The more odd thing was these men often replied that this was something they did with some frequency and not just a one off kind of hookup. So there is a form of attachment to the guy they are satisfying urges with and many just see them as the friend with benefits.
What’s a little rub and tickle among friends, right?
It is our society that creates an environment where these is seen as abnormal or perverted. This is probably a factor in why many men choose to hide this away from others and only classify themselves as heterosexuals. It is this kind of mindset that has created a toxic environment for bisexuals and pan sexual. Where hatred can easily be painted against gay men, it becomes worse for those who sleep with both men and women. On a flip side, men often fantasize about the thought of a bisexual/pansexual/lesbian woman, so the stigma isn’t always as harsh, to some people.
Sliding Scales Are Not Just For Finding Your Weight
What we are starting to see now is that sexual identity and orientation can and, in some, often does change over time. With this, we are starting to see that those binary labels we have used for so long no longer support what is reality. The question is, did it ever really? It is apparent through the many sexual studies that have happened over the years, that we as humans are not so easily defined as one or the other. History shows that men have always had sex with other men, women have had sex with other women, and they have also had sex with each other.
Our mindset of sex is still based very firmly in the puritanical mindset that has pervaded the country for over a hundred years. It is time that we break free from those thought forms and find better ways of understanding a person.
The truth is there are people who have chosen to be LGBTQ, there are those who fully believe they were born that way, there are still others who believe that the environment they grew up in was a factor in who and what they are, and yes, there are even people who say they have chosen to be straight. Does any of this really matter in the grand scheme of our lives? Is the person we choose to sleep with or spend the rest of our lives with of any consequence to anyone other than those two people?
Our own reality and how we view ourselves is all that is important.
The Slippery Slope
Our current climate is volatile, we can see that almost daily. There is still a need to define sexual orientation as a born into it mindset. It has given us the ability to have the right to marry and not get fired. It has allowed, for some small part, to become a protected class. Until we can alter our mindset and not care about who marries or fucks who, it is necessary.
But that mindset is also a very slippery slope. This gives people the ability to look at being LGBTQ as something that can be cured or fixed. If a gene can be found that causes us to become queer, then there will be people who can present that to parents as a choice to be eliminated. Doctors sitting down with expecting parents and saying:
“We have found that your child has the gene that will indicate a strong chance of them being gay. We already know how kids are cruel to one another, do you want this to be something that they get targeted for? You have the chance to spare them having to endure this kind of hatred.”
Being queer is not a mistake and doesn’t need to be cured. Yes we go through a lot in our lives, for no other reason than who we are. There is truth that children have to endure all kinds of judgments from their peers. They are ridiculed, picked on, bullied, and made to feel less than others. What we should be changing is how we can help those that are being bullied, for whatever reason.
Make Your Own Kind of Music
Cass Elliot is one of my all time favorite singers and a song of hers has always spoken to me.
“Nobody can tell ya there’s only one song worth singing. They may try and sell ya cause it hangs them up to see someone like you. But you gotta make your own kind of music. Sing your own special song… Even if no one else sings along.”Make Your Own Kind of Music – Cass Elliot
Strong words of wisdom. You have to be you, you don’t need other’s labels to say who you are. You are not wrong for any desires or attractions you may have had or are having at this moment. Be honest and loving with yourself and those you share it with, that is all that matters. Don’t let others’ judgments affect how you choose to live your life.