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Sex has always been both a battle ground and a melting pot of many competing ideas and reactions, both conscious and unconscious. These have usually been heralded as the only fixed and permanent ‘truth’ about sex by each expert.
It has always been at the (sometimes unspoken) centre of societal discourse. Sex, we have been told, is both disgusting between the wrong people and fantastic between the right people. Sex has been named a heinous crime between gay excluded people and also part of the sacrament of marriage for included wedded couples. Sex has always been used to include and exclude certain groups of people and to exert power. Various cults, religions and citizen states have delved into sexuality to determine their own laws and regulations around sex. By this, they determine their own identity and power.
From a biological point of view, Darwinian survival-of-the-strongest-species theory seems like a good reason for the evolution of desire and sex. The maths are simple: Unless a species has a next generation, there is no species, no life and therefore nothing to discuss here. Biology, hormones, desire, curiosity and societal ideas of normality create the context for young boys and girls who, at a younger age have no interest in sex, to move towards the various forms of intimacy that might create a new life. Even with these pressures, sometimes that bridge to intimacy with a stranger is so wide that alcohol, drugs, music and dance are needed to get the ball rolling.
Benjy, the gay bull that Irish people recently took to their hearts, has no biological reason to exist except that evolution has always had exceptions to every rule, in order to constantly try new ways of doing things. The new exception can sometimes become the survivor. It is too early to say whether different types of sexual desire that do not create new human beings may in fact be the ironic path to human survival. Over-population is one of the greatest threats to human survival as a species. We may need an increasing number of humans that produce no babies for the very survival of humanity.
Passion is the driver behind sex and how we make meaning of sex. If we look at another body through the lens of our own desire, we see it differently than through the lens of our lack of desire. Think of your parents making love. Do gay couples think heterosexual love is weird? Various forms of desire and strength of desire are mixed up with art. The artistic lines of the female breast and buttocks are drawn and painted alongside the male athletic physique. Art tends to avoid the penis, vagina and the anus. In many cultures, these are covered up. They are not shown or spoken about, except in the giggles of youth and the transgressions of comedians. We are either afraid of, or disgusted by, those realities that only doctors are allowed to be interested in.
Desire is not the same every day and changes with many and varied components. It can be altered by age, sexual orientation, stress and tiredness, medication and of course by imagination and fantasy. A heterosexual can become a homosexual, or both, and back again to heterosexual desire. All is possible and sometimes fluid. Some have the challenge of managing too much desire, while others have the experience of very little desire. Experimentation is not unusual in the human species. One partner or many are not rare.
So, when I was asked by my nephew about my fears concerning the recent referendum on same-sex marriage, I had to admit that a vague, unarticulated fear of change was at the root of it. The many strands of culture affecting me and the sense that ‘this is the way things have always been done around here’ argued against any changes in our ideas of marriage. My cultural and religious upbringing, the ideas about what was ‘dirty’ and what was ‘clean’, ideas about what was ‘right’ and what was ‘wrong’, ideas of social order and disorder. All mixed up together. Ideas of equality and democracy and an understanding that I did not need to feel attraction to the same sex in order to vote for marriage for gay people.
Did some people feel uncomfortable when democracy came in as a new idea, or contraception and divorce? It is sometimes okay to vote for change, even when we are uncomfortable about it.
Gay citizens have spoken about how this referendum means so much in terms of their identity and feelings of acceptance and normality. Sex is, and always has been, sold as a part of the construct of our identity. But the truth is that our value and identity should be dismembered from sexuality. If we don’t hurt others or ourselves, does it really matter if you like bananas and I like oranges? Does it matter if I like women and you don’t even like sex itself?
There will always be those who are different, because the fact is that none of us are the same. This is evolution working. Try and stop that.