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The mystery of gay animals Biologists are deterred by politically inconvenient results

Many zoos can boast a penguin couple. Credit: Fairfax Media/Getty

Many zoos can boast a penguin couple. Credit: Fairfax Media/Getty


May 4, 2023   6 mins

The most famous penguin of modern times must be a chick named Tango, who hatched in Central Park Zoo in 1999. The unusual thing about her was that her parents, Roy and Silo, were both males; the pair had reportedly tried to hatch a rock as if it were an egg, and even attempted to kidnap eggs from other couples, before zookeepers decided to let them incubate a surplus one. Tango was the happy result. The family became the subject of a children’s book, And Tango Makes Three. Slightly awkwardly for champions of same-sex adoption in the animal world, however, the heart-warming tale was later marred by Silo abandoning Roy for a female penguin.

This particular romance may have ended in heartbreak, but Silo and Roy aren’t unique: over half a dozen zoos around the world are home to pairs of “gay penguins”, many of which have successfully reared chicks. Wild seabirds may also be that way inclined: a study of Laysan albatrosses in Hawaii reports that 31% of pairs were female-female, raising chicks that had been fathered elsewhere. A few years ago, Labour MP Dawn Butler stated that “90% of giraffes are gay”; though this claim was roundly trashed, it seems to contain a kernel of truth, in that male giraffes have indeed been seen engaging in behaviour that looks a lot like gay sex — at least as often as they have been observed mating with females.

Same-sex couplings are everywhere in the animal kingdom, as I learned this month at a Royal Society conference dedicated to discussing possible explanations for the seeming biological paradox of same-sex sex. On the face of it, it’s a behaviour that doesn’t make sense in evolutionary terms: an exclusive preference for the same sex is a trait that’s not likely to be passed on to offspring. Even opting for same-sex partners just some of the time requires an explanation: there would seem to be a huge evolutionary advantage in focusing one’s attentions towards the opposite sex, since it would make you more efficient than a competitor who mates indiscriminately.

Theories vary hugely depending on the species and context. Insects, for instance, just may not have particularly sophisticated methods of detecting partners of the opposite sex. If your entire brain is little more than a cluster of nerves, then some cases of mistaken identity are perhaps inevitable. At the other end of the spectrum, sex has a complex social function in species like primates. Our close relatives the bonobos frequently have group sex sessions that make human attempts at polyamory and pansexuality pale in comparison. In this species, what was once an adaptation purely for reproduction has taken on an additional role in maintaining both opposite-sex and same-sex social bonds, a bit like how our tongues initially evolved for tasting and swallowing food, but are now also indispensable in allowing us to speak. It’s different again in seabirds, where the care of chicks is a co-operative enterprise requiring hard work and trust between two pair-bonded adults. If “lesbian” albatross couples are effective at raising their chicks together when there aren’t enough males to go round, then why shouldn’t they?

This abundance of teachable examples has been valuable to those wishing to refute claims that same-sex attraction is “unnatural”: clearly, it’s anything but. But there’s only so much we can learn from animals about why humans are sometimes gay. Although lots of animals mate or form partnerships with members of the same sex, this generally seems to be a flexible behaviour — as demonstrated by the fickle Silo. Our species is almost unique in that, across cultures, a small but consistent proportion of people seem biologically hardwired from a young age to desire only same-sex partners.

We know this is partially genetic: if your identical twin is gay, there’s roughly a 30-40% chance that you will be gay as well, compared with 1-2% in the general population. But how this gene manages to be passed on is a mystery, given that historically same-sex attracted people are significantly less likely to reproduce. For a while, a popular idea was that perhaps genes which predispose men to be attracted to other men or women to women persist because their relatives, who also carry the gene, somehow have more offspring as a result; either because the gene itself helps them somehow, or if childless gay uncles and aunts help to look after children. This idea was always quite far-fetched though, and unsurprisingly it has very little empirical support.

Another explanation could have something to do with reducing competition between siblings: if your brother is gay, you can be sure he’s not going to steal your girlfriend. It’s thought that this could be mediated in utero through the maternal immune system, since men who have older brothers are significantly more likely to be gay. There isn’t really any direct evidence supporting the hypothesis, either.

To me, this is one of the most fascinating unsolved mysteries of evolutionary biology. But not all biologists think so. The paradox of same-sex orientation receives disproportionately little attention from academic biology. Not only that, but some seem to be actively averse to researching why some animals are same-sex attracted. (This summary of research at Yale notes that “scientists rarely if ever actively study how often [same-sex behaviours] occur compared with different-sex sexual behaviours”.) So I was intrigued when I saw the Royal Society conference advertised. So much so that I shared it in a WhatsApp group of researchers from my department, in case it was of interest to others.

If I had given it a moment’s thought, I could have predicted the response. The event did not go down well. It “raised alarm bells”. Some discussed writing a letter to complain to the Royal Society. Other biologists wrote on Twitter that the event “could very easily go into YIKES territory” and “sent some red flags up” due to the Royal Society’s track record of giving an award to “a TERF” — referring, I assume, to neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott, who won the prestigious Michael Faraday prize in 2021. (The conference was tiny, with only about 30 people in attendance, including the speakers and organisers.)

One reason many biologists think the discipline should steer well clear of this area is to avoid any politically inconvenient results. The finding that sexual orientation seems to be innate — in other words, not a choice — has been a core part of the gay rights movement. It turned a debate about whether certain behaviours were moral into a debate about civil rights for a marginalised group. Our support for gay marriage shouldn’t depend on how sexual orientation is determined, of course; but pragmatically speaking, the message that people are “born this way” has been enormously effective at changing hearts and minds. The wide range of “gay animals” in nature has been key in shoring up this argument: the internet is full of listicles like this one by PETA entitled, “Gay Animals Who Prove Same-Sex Love Is Natural”.

In my experience, academic biologists with adjacent specialties tend to see it as not their place to comment on this area, and view it as potentially suspect to show too much interest in it. To some, asking why some people — or even animals — are attracted to the same sex is the same as asking them to justify themselves, which gay people shouldn’t have to do of course. (One comment I saw in response to the Royal Society conference made exactly this claim.) On top of this, there is a perception that the relevant groups must be deferred to as the ultimate authority on any social issue. Taken to the extreme, this can mean that anyone else who presumes to scientifically study their characteristics is seen as politically incorrect. See, for instance, controversies in archaeology where genetic research becomes problematic if it threatens to contradict the origin myths of indigenous groups. Research into sexual orientation is similar, in that it challenges the moral right for LGBT people to have the final word on LGBT issues.

Of course, it’s much easier to let others who care more decide what the facts are than to weigh in yourself. Many biologists, I think, would rather their work were relevant only in the academic niche in which they find themselves; few are comfortable commenting on politically sensitive subjects. But biology — the science of who we are and what our place is in the world — has much to say about the most pressing political and moral debates of our age. It is a shame if some of the people most qualified to contribute — often qualified at great public expense — are opting out of the conversation because they see it as too political.

Science is meant to be about striving to better understand our world, just because it’s interesting, “because it’s there”, because we can. For politicised areas, a dose of plain, unmotivated interest is especially needed. If we stigmatise whole realms of research, well-meaning scientists will avoid showing an interest in sensitive topics, and only those with an axe to grind remain. Scientists must actively commit to protecting curiosity for curiosity’s sake. Asking why the sky is blue need not carry the subtext that it ought to be some other colour instead.


Ellen Pasternack is a PhD student in evolutionary biology at Oxford University.

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Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago

What a lot of work is being done by the word ‘natural’ in this essay (and many comments). The general idea appears to be that something we observe widely in the natural world is “natural,” and things that are “natural” are things we’re supposed to accept and not work against. And so… killing the weak is natural? Do we really want to let ‘natural’ determine what we think is right?
Maybe, just maybe, there are unnatural things in nature, too, and not every random genetic mutation is something to be exalted.
The idea that because two male penguins once hatched an egg that was given to them by zookeepers there’s nothing wrong with gay marriage, is beyond ludicrous, and fails at the first bit of questioning. Yes, it is persuasive in memes on Facebook. But the day we start modeling our societies on penguin societies is the day we overfish the waters of Antarctica.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kirk Susong
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Excellent comment, Kirk. Your example of “killing the weak” is very useful. This is a moral argument, of course, which might or might not coincide with some evolutionary argument (such as the Social Darwinist and Nazi arguments for culling the population to prevent the unfit from becoming burdens). But, as I keep asking devotees of evolutionary psychology, so what? Why should we rule out moral arguments in discussing human nature? To be human beings is by definition to be, apart from anything else, cultural beings and therefore moral beings. To be more precise, we’ve evolved that way and are thus “hard-wired,” as it were, with the ability and the need to make specifically moral choices. In this very important way, we’re not penguins or even chimps–and never can be.
I’d make only one change to one sentence. You say that “Maybe, just maybe, there are unnatural things in nature [my emphasis], too, and not every random genetic mutation is something to be exalted.” That wording doesn’t actually make sense. But your idea does. You could rewrite that line as follows. “Maybe there are undesirable things in nature” from the perspective of human flourishing; therefore not everything natural is good, advantageous, or useful to society.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Quite right. I would not look favorably upon someone’s “natural” inclinations towards having relations with children. Or someone’s “natural” overly aggressive or psychotic behavior. Isn’t this knowledge and ability to restrain ourselves from certain behaviors what separates us from animals?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

What’s most interesting to me is that many religious sexually orthodox types argue against homosexual unions on the basis that they are unnatural and violate natural law. And many secular sexually liberated types argue for homosexual unions on the basis that they are seen in nature and hence natural. So it seems across the ideological spectrum, the concept of what is ‘natural’ holds an enormous, powerful sway over us. But have you ever used a natural toilet? They’re horrible.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Ultimately, religion is about channeling natural impulses into functional behaviors e.g. lust into committed relationships so that offspring are well looked after. Homosexuality is not unnatural per se in individuals but leads to societal dysfunction when it becomes a prevalent feature. A society that gives in to every sexual inclination becomes fetid.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Ultimately, religion is about channeling natural impulses into functional behaviors e.g. lust into committed relationships so that offspring are well looked after. Homosexuality is not unnatural per se in individuals but leads to societal dysfunction when it becomes a prevalent feature. A society that gives in to every sexual inclination becomes fetid.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

What’s most interesting to me is that many religious sexually orthodox types argue against homosexual unions on the basis that they are unnatural and violate natural law. And many secular sexually liberated types argue for homosexual unions on the basis that they are seen in nature and hence natural. So it seems across the ideological spectrum, the concept of what is ‘natural’ holds an enormous, powerful sway over us. But have you ever used a natural toilet? They’re horrible.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Excellent comment, Kirk. Your example of “killing the weak” is very useful. This is a moral argument, of course, which might or might not coincide with some evolutionary argument (such as the Social Darwinist and Nazi arguments for culling the population to prevent the unfit from becoming burdens). But, as I keep asking devotees of evolutionary psychology, so what? Why should we rule out moral arguments in discussing human nature? To be human beings is by definition to be, apart from anything else, cultural beings and therefore moral beings. To be more precise, we’ve evolved that way and are thus “hard-wired,” as it were, with the ability and the need to make specifically moral choices. In this very important way, we’re not penguins or even chimps–and never can be.
I’d make only one change to one sentence. You say that “Maybe, just maybe, there are unnatural things in nature [my emphasis], too, and not every random genetic mutation is something to be exalted.” That wording doesn’t actually make sense. But your idea does. You could rewrite that line as follows. “Maybe there are undesirable things in nature” from the perspective of human flourishing; therefore not everything natural is good, advantageous, or useful to society.

tim richardson
tim richardson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Read Gorgias by Plato

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  tim richardson

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  tim richardson

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Excellent comment, Kirk. Your example of “killing the weak” is very useful. This is a moral argument, of course, which might or might not coincide with some evolutionary argument (such as the Social Darwinist and Nazi arguments for culling the population to prevent the unfit from becoming burdens). But, as I keep asking devotees of evolutionary psychology, so what? Why should we rule out moral arguments in discussing human nature? To be human beings is by definition to be, apart from anything else, cultural beings and therefore moral beings. To be more precise, we’ve evolved that way and are thus “hard-wired,” as it were, with the ability and the need to make specifically moral choices. In this very important way, we’re not penguins or even chimps–and never can be.
I’d make only one change to one sentence. You say that “Maybe, just maybe, there are unnatural things in nature [my emphasis], too, and not every random genetic mutation is something to be exalted.” That wording doesn’t actually make sense. But your idea does. You could rewrite that line as follows. “Maybe there are undesirable things in nature” from the perspective of human flourishing; therefore not everything natural is good, advantageous, or useful to society.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Quite right. I would not look favorably upon someone’s “natural” inclinations towards having relations with children. Or someone’s “natural” overly aggressive or psychotic behavior. Isn’t this knowledge and ability to restrain ourselves from certain behaviors what separates us from animals?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Excellent comment, Kirk. Your example of “killing the weak” is very useful. This is a moral argument, of course, which might or might not coincide with some evolutionary argument (such as the Social Darwinist and Nazi arguments for culling the population to prevent the unfit from becoming burdens). But, as I keep asking devotees of evolutionary psychology, so what? Why should we rule out moral arguments in discussing human nature? To be human beings is by definition to be, apart from anything else, cultural beings and therefore moral beings. To be more precise, we’ve evolved that way and are thus “hard-wired,” as it were, with the ability and the need to make specifically moral choices. In this very important way, we’re not penguins or even chimps–and never can be.
I’d make only one change to one sentence. You say that “Maybe, just maybe, there are unnatural things in nature [my emphasis], too, and not every random genetic mutation is something to be exalted.” That wording doesn’t actually make sense. But your idea does. You could rewrite that line as follows. “Maybe there are undesirable things in nature” from the perspective of human flourishing; therefore not everything natural is good, advantageous, or useful to society.

tim richardson
tim richardson
1 year ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Read Gorgias by Plato

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago

What a lot of work is being done by the word ‘natural’ in this essay (and many comments). The general idea appears to be that something we observe widely in the natural world is “natural,” and things that are “natural” are things we’re supposed to accept and not work against. And so… killing the weak is natural? Do we really want to let ‘natural’ determine what we think is right?
Maybe, just maybe, there are unnatural things in nature, too, and not every random genetic mutation is something to be exalted.
The idea that because two male penguins once hatched an egg that was given to them by zookeepers there’s nothing wrong with gay marriage, is beyond ludicrous, and fails at the first bit of questioning. Yes, it is persuasive in memes on Facebook. But the day we start modeling our societies on penguin societies is the day we overfish the waters of Antarctica.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kirk Susong
Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago

Animals don’t have ‘homosexual relationships’. They exhibit sexual behaviour with who or whatever is available.Heifers mount each other when they are in heat. Farmers call it ‘coming a bullin’. Dogs hump human legs. We had a cat at home who regularly made an exhibition of himself with a crocheted blanket. Humans in single sex institutions such as prisons and boarding schools do the same.
It is anthropomorphic to assume human motivations for animal behaviour.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago

Animals don’t have ‘homosexual relationships’. They exhibit sexual behaviour with who or whatever is available.Heifers mount each other when they are in heat. Farmers call it ‘coming a bullin’. Dogs hump human legs. We had a cat at home who regularly made an exhibition of himself with a crocheted blanket. Humans in single sex institutions such as prisons and boarding schools do the same.
It is anthropomorphic to assume human motivations for animal behaviour.

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago

Homophilia is clearly a natural occurrence in human societies. It hasn’t been manufactured. But similarly, homophobia also occurs naturally in human societies. If the tension between homo and hetero is natural, then science must help us all understand it rather than retreat into denial and repression which eventually results in a backlash.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Mayes
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

“Homophobia” – the made up nonsense word that combines Latin and Ancient Greek – probably is something mostly ‘wired’ into most people. Just like the cross-cultural ‘incest taboo’ – it has an evolutionary purpose to make sure the species stays ‘on target’ and is reproductively successful. I’ve always thought a more accurate term, however, would be “homonausia” – because its more of a revulsion than a fear. I also can’t help but wonder whether homosexuality isn’t also nature’s braking system in a species who has been a bit too successful reproductively for our own (or anyone else’s) good.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

..nausea, surely?

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

I suppose, but spelling norms are so oppressive

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

I suppose, but spelling norms are so oppressive

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

The Ancient Latins and Greeks you mention didn’t seem to have much of a hard-wired revulsion against it, did they?
To me it seems more like a learned cultural taboo originating from the Old Testament.
Just like the different responses we have to our cousins across the channel to eating gastropods.
This millennia-old taboo seems to have disappeared remarkably quickly in the last couple of generations.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I suspect the average Ancient Athenian probably did. History mainly records the views and activities of the elites. As for your theory that the taboo is only “millennia-old” – the Assyrians, nearly a thousand years before the Ancient Greeks, had the following law: “If a man has lain with his male friend and a charge is brought and proved against him, the same thing shall be done to him and he shall be made a eunuch.” Written history doesn’t go back much farther than that – but don’t let that get in the way of your story.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Early Assyria 1450-1250 BC, a Semitic people renowned for their ferocity in war.
The much later Bible , another Semitic work, takes a similar line, and hence to Christianity and Islam and so the controversy we have today.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Early Assyria 1450-1250 BC, a Semitic people renowned for their ferocity in war.
The much later Bible , another Semitic work, takes a similar line, and hence to Christianity and Islam and so the controversy we have today.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Scholarly opinion varies.

In Rome, men who enjoyed being penetrated were permanently stigmatised. Amy Richlin maintains that they confronted what amounts to extreme modern “homophobia”, including civil and social opprobrium. Numerous Roman writings speak of such people as diseased–and attempts to treat the ‘disease’ were sought. Fathers would in some cases punish their sons to the point of death.

Hubbard observes: ‘literature of the first century C.E. bears witness to an increasing polarization of attitudes toward homosexual activity, ranging from frank acknowledgment and public display of sexual indulgence on the part of leading Roman citizens to severe moral condemnation of all homosexual acts.’

Brooten, the leading classics scholar on lesbianism, says that extant sources nearly all express strong disapproval of female homoeroticism and, in Roman writings, it was regarded as criminal.

From Treggiari on homosexuality in Rome:‘Though homosexual acts with slave boys or male prostitutes were (up to a point) allowable to men who took the active part, the same act (whether rape or seduction) with a freeborn Roman boy was punished by fathers, by the aediles and other officials, by army officers and under the ill-documented Scantinian Law of 149 B.C. The Augustan Adultery law also penalized stuprum between males. The reputation of the boy would suffer.’ â€˜â€Štheir attitudes toward sexual acts between adult males and adolescent boys were far less [173] tolerant than those current in certain circles in Greek cities. If a Roman boy lost “the flower of his youth” (the equivalent of virginity) or his sexual integrity (pudicitia), his reputation was gravely compromised. A virtuous young soldier would, it was thought, kill his would-be lover sooner than submit.’ 

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Even “The Queen of Bithynia” wasn’t above ridicule.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago

True, and it makes the point quite well. But I take that sort of gossip as standard invective.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago

True, and it makes the point quite well. But I take that sort of gossip as standard invective.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

I doubt that Catullus would have agreed.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Even “The Queen of Bithynia” wasn’t above ridicule.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

I doubt that Catullus would have agreed.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I suspect the average Ancient Athenian probably did. History mainly records the views and activities of the elites. As for your theory that the taboo is only “millennia-old” – the Assyrians, nearly a thousand years before the Ancient Greeks, had the following law: “If a man has lain with his male friend and a charge is brought and proved against him, the same thing shall be done to him and he shall be made a eunuch.” Written history doesn’t go back much farther than that – but don’t let that get in the way of your story.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

Scholarly opinion varies.

In Rome, men who enjoyed being penetrated were permanently stigmatised. Amy Richlin maintains that they confronted what amounts to extreme modern “homophobia”, including civil and social opprobrium. Numerous Roman writings speak of such people as diseased–and attempts to treat the ‘disease’ were sought. Fathers would in some cases punish their sons to the point of death.

Hubbard observes: ‘literature of the first century C.E. bears witness to an increasing polarization of attitudes toward homosexual activity, ranging from frank acknowledgment and public display of sexual indulgence on the part of leading Roman citizens to severe moral condemnation of all homosexual acts.’

Brooten, the leading classics scholar on lesbianism, says that extant sources nearly all express strong disapproval of female homoeroticism and, in Roman writings, it was regarded as criminal.

From Treggiari on homosexuality in Rome:‘Though homosexual acts with slave boys or male prostitutes were (up to a point) allowable to men who took the active part, the same act (whether rape or seduction) with a freeborn Roman boy was punished by fathers, by the aediles and other officials, by army officers and under the ill-documented Scantinian Law of 149 B.C. The Augustan Adultery law also penalized stuprum between males. The reputation of the boy would suffer.’ â€˜â€Štheir attitudes toward sexual acts between adult males and adolescent boys were far less [173] tolerant than those current in certain circles in Greek cities. If a Roman boy lost “the flower of his youth” (the equivalent of virginity) or his sexual integrity (pudicitia), his reputation was gravely compromised. A virtuous young soldier would, it was thought, kill his would-be lover sooner than submit.’ 

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

“Homophobia” – the made up nonsense word that combines Latin and Ancient Greek –
That’s ‘homosexual’, surely? Both elements of “Homophobia” are ancient Greek: homos = same, phobia = fear.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Russell Sharpe

Not quite. “Homos” is Ancient Greek – so it should be Homosphobia. “Homo” is Latin. And it doesn’t mean “same” – it means “man” or “human”. So they’ve used the Latin word “Homo” and combined it with the Ancient Greek “phobia”. And literally translated, it means “Fear of Man”. So, as I said: its nonsense.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Sorry, but I have to disagree. Homosexual does not mean humansexual. The homo means ‘same’ from the Greek, because the person involved is attracted to the same sex, not to human sex. Homophobia is a portmanteau of homosexual and phobia.

The homoousian v homoiousian debate was in Greek and didn’t feel the need to include the sigma. And we don’t say ‘homosgenise’, etc.

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

The Greek word is “homos” not “homo”. In the word “homosexual” there is an “s” at the end, but in many languages (e.g. Portuguese) it is spelled “homossexual”. The extra “s” was simply dropped in English. I sat through a lecture from a philosophy professor back in the 80s who translated several books from Ancient Greek, and he said they used the Latin form. Seemed like a good authority at the time. Yes, we all understand its a portmanteau because they were trying to come up with a slur that was easy to scream at people but still sounded sophisticated. But its still nonsense – even your interpretation which ignores the missing “s” still translates as “fear of the same”. Which is 
 nonsense.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

The sigma dropped out of homosexual exactly as it did in heterosexual. Nobody would argue that hetero is anything other than a Greek word, derived from heteros. The same applies to homos words such as homogeneous, homolog, homoousia, and many others. In fact, I cannot find one Greek-derived ancient word that doesn’t drop the sigma from homos when compounded. None of this is unusual: ancient Greeks themselves dropped the sigma from words like homologeo (‘I confess’) from which we get homologation; áœÎŒÎżÎžÏ…ÎŒÎ±ÎŽÏŒÎœ (of one accord), homoousia (of one substance); áœÎŒÏŒÏ„Î”Ï‡ÎœÎżÏ‚ (having the same trade); ÎżÌ”ÎŒÎżÌÏ†ÏÏ‰Îœ (of one mind).

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

The sigma dropped out of homosexual exactly as it did in heterosexual. Nobody would argue that hetero is anything other than a Greek word, derived from heteros. The same applies to homos words such as homogeneous, homolog, homoousia, and many others. In fact, I cannot find one Greek-derived ancient word that doesn’t drop the sigma from homos when compounded. None of this is unusual: ancient Greeks themselves dropped the sigma from words like homologeo (‘I confess’) from which we get homologation; áœÎŒÎżÎžÏ…ÎŒÎ±ÎŽÏŒÎœ (of one accord), homoousia (of one substance); áœÎŒÏŒÏ„Î”Ï‡ÎœÎżÏ‚ (having the same trade); ÎżÌ”ÎŒÎżÌÏ†ÏÏ‰Îœ (of one mind).

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Has Kenneth Dover’s seminal work on this interesting subject been superseded yet do you know?

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago

IMO not superseded but supplemented. Davidson’s Courtesans and Fishcakes respectfully questions the psychological and social categories Dover uses. That is, he thinks notions of sexual aggression and domination were overdeveloped. Hubbard in a single volume provides a massive amount of material (in English) from Greek and Roman sources. Craig Williams produced what I think of as a companion volume, Roman Homosexuality. Both Dover and Williams have fairly recent editions with valuable forewords.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago

IMO not superseded but supplemented. Davidson’s Courtesans and Fishcakes respectfully questions the psychological and social categories Dover uses. That is, he thinks notions of sexual aggression and domination were overdeveloped. Hubbard in a single volume provides a massive amount of material (in English) from Greek and Roman sources. Craig Williams produced what I think of as a companion volume, Roman Homosexuality. Both Dover and Williams have fairly recent editions with valuable forewords.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

The Greek word is “homos” not “homo”. In the word “homosexual” there is an “s” at the end, but in many languages (e.g. Portuguese) it is spelled “homossexual”. The extra “s” was simply dropped in English. I sat through a lecture from a philosophy professor back in the 80s who translated several books from Ancient Greek, and he said they used the Latin form. Seemed like a good authority at the time. Yes, we all understand its a portmanteau because they were trying to come up with a slur that was easy to scream at people but still sounded sophisticated. But its still nonsense – even your interpretation which ignores the missing “s” still translates as “fear of the same”. Which is 
 nonsense.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Has Kenneth Dover’s seminal work on this interesting subject been superseded yet do you know?

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Sorry, but I have to disagree. Homosexual does not mean humansexual. The homo means ‘same’ from the Greek, because the person involved is attracted to the same sex, not to human sex. Homophobia is a portmanteau of homosexual and phobia.

The homoousian v homoiousian debate was in Greek and didn’t feel the need to include the sigma. And we don’t say ‘homosgenise’, etc.

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Russell Sharpe

Not quite. “Homos” is Ancient Greek – so it should be Homosphobia. “Homo” is Latin. And it doesn’t mean “same” – it means “man” or “human”. So they’ve used the Latin word “Homo” and combined it with the Ancient Greek “phobia”. And literally translated, it means “Fear of Man”. So, as I said: its nonsense.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Nature can’t have a braking system for a species that has been too successful reproductively.
If some members of an over-abundant species cut down on breeding they leave the field clear for the ‘cheat’ who does not.
‘Cheat’ genes would always out-compete ‘brake’ genes.
The future belongs to those who show up for it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Correct.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

pedant alert: áœÎŒÎżÏ‚ and Ï†ÎżÎČÎżÏ‚ are both Greek. No Latin required.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

I appreciate you alerting us to your pedantics – but see my post above. “Homos” is Ancient Greek (not Greek). The “s” was dropped – which is the Latin word.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Is your point that it is a Latinising of an ancient Greek word? Is the same true of that other Greek word, ‘heteros’?

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Is your point that it is a Latinising of an ancient Greek word? Is the same true of that other Greek word, ‘heteros’?

Last edited 1 year ago by philip kern
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

I appreciate you alerting us to your pedantics – but see my post above. “Homos” is Ancient Greek (not Greek). The “s” was dropped – which is the Latin word.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

..nausea, surely?

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

The Ancient Latins and Greeks you mention didn’t seem to have much of a hard-wired revulsion against it, did they?
To me it seems more like a learned cultural taboo originating from the Old Testament.
Just like the different responses we have to our cousins across the channel to eating gastropods.
This millennia-old taboo seems to have disappeared remarkably quickly in the last couple of generations.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

“Homophobia” – the made up nonsense word that combines Latin and Ancient Greek –
That’s ‘homosexual’, surely? Both elements of “Homophobia” are ancient Greek: homos = same, phobia = fear.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Nature can’t have a braking system for a species that has been too successful reproductively.
If some members of an over-abundant species cut down on breeding they leave the field clear for the ‘cheat’ who does not.
‘Cheat’ genes would always out-compete ‘brake’ genes.
The future belongs to those who show up for it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Correct.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

pedant alert: áœÎŒÎżÏ‚ and Ï†ÎżÎČÎżÏ‚ are both Greek. No Latin required.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

Surely the reason that a gay gene succeeds is that it supresses other genes from a same-sex partner by making them have futile sex. It is a ‘blocking’ mechanism.
Silo was causing Roy to waste his sperm. Meanwhile his sister or straight brother who share the same genes as Silo will propagate.
Even better. Silo later mates with a female.
The most effective orientation is to be bi-sexual. So you both block competitors’ genes and propagate your own.
It also means that the gay gene would be very promiscuous and fickle. Blocking as many people as possible. There is no need for nurture while in gay mode because there should be no offspring.
The most successful bisexual men would therefore be very promiscuous in gay mode but nurturing in straight mode.
You would also expect gay mode to be switched on in high population density where blocking will not risk extinction.
The younger the partner being blocked and ‘turned’ the more of his genes are wasted. Therefore natural selection encourages gay paedophilia or a preference for younger partners with higher potential fertility to be wasted.

Last edited 1 year ago by UnHerd Reader
2A Solution
2A Solution
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

Drop dead. Please… I’ve had it with educated idiots making up bullshit terms like homophobia. You are suggesting people who object to something are unnaturally deranged. This is just a way for you to avoid dealing with the downsides of this aberrant behavior.

Homosexuality is real? Sure. It’s a birth defect. You might as well celebrate hemophilia. It is at best sub-optimal if not outright destructive. The queer tendency toward rampant polyamory – something generally celebrated by these perverts and their supporters – is terribly destructive, and it is damaging to society. It cost us billions and billions of dollars “fixing” AIDS – it’s up to 28 billion a year now – and it was entirely unnecessary. It doesn’t matter where you jam your pecker. If you only jam it in one place or other person, you won’t get a STD, including HIV. The queer lack of control has cost all of us dearly.

Personally I wouldn’t have spent a nickel on it. If you can’t be chaste or monogamous f**k you. DIE!

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

“Homophobia” – the made up nonsense word that combines Latin and Ancient Greek – probably is something mostly ‘wired’ into most people. Just like the cross-cultural ‘incest taboo’ – it has an evolutionary purpose to make sure the species stays ‘on target’ and is reproductively successful. I’ve always thought a more accurate term, however, would be “homonausia” – because its more of a revulsion than a fear. I also can’t help but wonder whether homosexuality isn’t also nature’s braking system in a species who has been a bit too successful reproductively for our own (or anyone else’s) good.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

Surely the reason that a gay gene succeeds is that it supresses other genes from a same-sex partner by making them have futile sex. It is a ‘blocking’ mechanism.
Silo was causing Roy to waste his sperm. Meanwhile his sister or straight brother who share the same genes as Silo will propagate.
Even better. Silo later mates with a female.
The most effective orientation is to be bi-sexual. So you both block competitors’ genes and propagate your own.
It also means that the gay gene would be very promiscuous and fickle. Blocking as many people as possible. There is no need for nurture while in gay mode because there should be no offspring.
The most successful bisexual men would therefore be very promiscuous in gay mode but nurturing in straight mode.
You would also expect gay mode to be switched on in high population density where blocking will not risk extinction.
The younger the partner being blocked and ‘turned’ the more of his genes are wasted. Therefore natural selection encourages gay paedophilia or a preference for younger partners with higher potential fertility to be wasted.

Last edited 1 year ago by UnHerd Reader
2A Solution
2A Solution
1 year ago
Reply to  David Mayes

Drop dead. Please… I’ve had it with educated idiots making up bullshit terms like homophobia. You are suggesting people who object to something are unnaturally deranged. This is just a way for you to avoid dealing with the downsides of this aberrant behavior.

Homosexuality is real? Sure. It’s a birth defect. You might as well celebrate hemophilia. It is at best sub-optimal if not outright destructive. The queer tendency toward rampant polyamory – something generally celebrated by these perverts and their supporters – is terribly destructive, and it is damaging to society. It cost us billions and billions of dollars “fixing” AIDS – it’s up to 28 billion a year now – and it was entirely unnecessary. It doesn’t matter where you jam your pecker. If you only jam it in one place or other person, you won’t get a STD, including HIV. The queer lack of control has cost all of us dearly.

Personally I wouldn’t have spent a nickel on it. If you can’t be chaste or monogamous f**k you. DIE!

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago

Homophilia is clearly a natural occurrence in human societies. It hasn’t been manufactured. But similarly, homophobia also occurs naturally in human societies. If the tension between homo and hetero is natural, then science must help us all understand it rather than retreat into denial and repression which eventually results in a backlash.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Mayes
Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
1 year ago

Excellent piece – it should be up to scientists to decide what to research not those adhering to various censorious post-modern ideologies. I am gay and it was not a choice nor was it an identity. It is just the way I am. In the noise of the ridiculous alphabet soup of queer studies the proven fact that only about 5% of us are same sex attracted appears to have been jettisoned on the altar of gender fluidity and other absurd made up nonsense. The various online porn sites have the data that about about 5% of males accessing their sites access the gay content, riding a horse and cart through the nonsense of gender ideology.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anthony Lewis
David B
David B
1 year ago
Reply to  Anthony Lewis

Amongst your otherwise sensible post, the idea that scientists should decide what to research felt anachronistic. They are the last people who should decide. I’m not gay myself, but I am a scientist!

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  David B

It’s interesting that some scientists will say “let’s not ask why some animals behave in ways that can be considered gay but let’s look into if we can make this strain of bat flu pass easily to humans and beyond”. I see your point about scientists not being trusted with these decisions.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

How do you know that it was a scientist who chose to do gain-of-function research on the bat virus? Might it not have been a commissar who ordered him to do so?

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

How do you know that it was a scientist who chose to do gain-of-function research on the bat virus? Might it not have been a commissar who ordered him to do so?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  David B

It’s interesting that some scientists will say “let’s not ask why some animals behave in ways that can be considered gay but let’s look into if we can make this strain of bat flu pass easily to humans and beyond”. I see your point about scientists not being trusted with these decisions.

David B
David B
1 year ago
Reply to  Anthony Lewis

Amongst your otherwise sensible post, the idea that scientists should decide what to research felt anachronistic. They are the last people who should decide. I’m not gay myself, but I am a scientist!

Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis
1 year ago

Excellent piece – it should be up to scientists to decide what to research not those adhering to various censorious post-modern ideologies. I am gay and it was not a choice nor was it an identity. It is just the way I am. In the noise of the ridiculous alphabet soup of queer studies the proven fact that only about 5% of us are same sex attracted appears to have been jettisoned on the altar of gender fluidity and other absurd made up nonsense. The various online porn sites have the data that about about 5% of males accessing their sites access the gay content, riding a horse and cart through the nonsense of gender ideology.

Last edited 1 year ago by Anthony Lewis
ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Sex is a dominance behaviour, as anyone who has kept rodents as pets will have observed. Most species also have a permanent surplus of males seeking mates, with varying degrees of success ranging from promiscuity to celibacy.

Any successful species will have an established pattern whereby a majority of mating attempts produce enough offspring to populate succeeding generations, without males becoming involved in harmful levels of mutually destructive competitive behaviour. Beyond that, nature doesn’t really care.

Anyone who has been to a single-sex educational establishment, been in the Navy or other hierarchical establishment where natural reproductive behaviour is excluded will have observed homosexual behaviour as a sublimation of heterosexual pressures. Hence the “gay penguins” which revert to normal heterosexual behaviour when the opportunity presents itself.

Homosexuality is just a relief mechanism by which the principal function of any species – sexual reproduction – is regulated. I don’t doubt that this will raise howls of fury from those determined to view all things through the same self-defined prism, forcing their obsessions on impressionable adolescents but…. nature doesn’t care.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

The domestic ducks at our place would do a pile-on, perhaps two females and a male. I agree, ben arnulfssen, perhaps it was a power trip.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

The domestic ducks at our place would do a pile-on, perhaps two females and a male. I agree, ben arnulfssen, perhaps it was a power trip.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Sex is a dominance behaviour, as anyone who has kept rodents as pets will have observed. Most species also have a permanent surplus of males seeking mates, with varying degrees of success ranging from promiscuity to celibacy.

Any successful species will have an established pattern whereby a majority of mating attempts produce enough offspring to populate succeeding generations, without males becoming involved in harmful levels of mutually destructive competitive behaviour. Beyond that, nature doesn’t really care.

Anyone who has been to a single-sex educational establishment, been in the Navy or other hierarchical establishment where natural reproductive behaviour is excluded will have observed homosexual behaviour as a sublimation of heterosexual pressures. Hence the “gay penguins” which revert to normal heterosexual behaviour when the opportunity presents itself.

Homosexuality is just a relief mechanism by which the principal function of any species – sexual reproduction – is regulated. I don’t doubt that this will raise howls of fury from those determined to view all things through the same self-defined prism, forcing their obsessions on impressionable adolescents but…. nature doesn’t care.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago

There were a few points at which I had to stop and go, “huh?”, and this is one of them: “… biology — the science of who we are and what our place is in the world”. Since when is biology the science of who we are and what our place is in the world? I believe that is more properly the place of philosophy, not biology, which as I understand it, is the study of living organisms and their processes, and has naught to do with existential questions.
I’m amazed I actually got through the whole piece.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Another way of looking at it is that biology sits a level above chemistry, itself underpinned by physics and with all science eventually resolving itself through mathematics. Evolutionary biology is the study of how living organisms came about in the form in which we know them and philosophy is merely a consequence of our own evolution.

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
1 year ago

Evolutionary biology is the study of how living organisms *might have* come about. Since no one has ever actually witnessed the origin of species (only micro-evolution), evolutionary biology is necessarily a branch of philosophy. It can be stated in this syllogism: 1) Assume we really exist; 2) Assume there is no God; therefore conclude (3) we must have evolved from non-living matter. How that might have happened is the study of evolutionary biology.

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
1 year ago

Evolutionary biology is the study of how living organisms *might have* come about. Since no one has ever actually witnessed the origin of species (only micro-evolution), evolutionary biology is necessarily a branch of philosophy. It can be stated in this syllogism: 1) Assume we really exist; 2) Assume there is no God; therefore conclude (3) we must have evolved from non-living matter. How that might have happened is the study of evolutionary biology.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Another way of looking at it is that biology sits a level above chemistry, itself underpinned by physics and with all science eventually resolving itself through mathematics. Evolutionary biology is the study of how living organisms came about in the form in which we know them and philosophy is merely a consequence of our own evolution.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago

There were a few points at which I had to stop and go, “huh?”, and this is one of them: “… biology — the science of who we are and what our place is in the world”. Since when is biology the science of who we are and what our place is in the world? I believe that is more properly the place of philosophy, not biology, which as I understand it, is the study of living organisms and their processes, and has naught to do with existential questions.
I’m amazed I actually got through the whole piece.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
1 year ago

For at least a decade the progressive left has successfully stifled debate by insisting that any disagreement with them amounts to bigotry. They feign trauma which allows them to demonize and dismiss dissenters, sometimes causing the dissenter to lose their jobs. They have to do this because their post-modern ideology is indefensible and is always exposed as nonsense in a rigorous debate. A very small cadre of activists has been allowed to hijack the most essential requirement for a democracy, free and open debate.
They may have done this with the best of intentions but as they are always telling us intentions don’t matter and the lack of debate has now led to bad policies like defunding the police, youth gender medicine and children being taught gender ideology and race essentialism. Aside from high crime rates and medicalizing adolescence, this has led to the passage of unconstitutional laws in many US states controlled by conservatives. These laws would be unnecessary if we could have an open debate on many of the things the left is shoving down our throats.
No one knows what the cost is for research that isn’t being done because scholars are too afraid to broach sensitive subjects.
An incurious society where free speech “has consequences” is ripe for authoritarianism.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
1 year ago

For at least a decade the progressive left has successfully stifled debate by insisting that any disagreement with them amounts to bigotry. They feign trauma which allows them to demonize and dismiss dissenters, sometimes causing the dissenter to lose their jobs. They have to do this because their post-modern ideology is indefensible and is always exposed as nonsense in a rigorous debate. A very small cadre of activists has been allowed to hijack the most essential requirement for a democracy, free and open debate.
They may have done this with the best of intentions but as they are always telling us intentions don’t matter and the lack of debate has now led to bad policies like defunding the police, youth gender medicine and children being taught gender ideology and race essentialism. Aside from high crime rates and medicalizing adolescence, this has led to the passage of unconstitutional laws in many US states controlled by conservatives. These laws would be unnecessary if we could have an open debate on many of the things the left is shoving down our throats.
No one knows what the cost is for research that isn’t being done because scholars are too afraid to broach sensitive subjects.
An incurious society where free speech “has consequences” is ripe for authoritarianism.

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
1 year ago

There is no such thing as a ‘gay’ animal, same sex attracted, perhaps, but not ‘gay’, which is a human social phenomenon. As regards the ‘gay’ penguins, did they have sexual relations together, or just raise a chick, before they split up? The fact that animals may be perceived as ‘gay’, is not proof that homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality. Nature has anomalies, to be sure, but that does not mean that all ‘gay’ people are ‘born that way.’ Similarly, it is wrong to ignore psycho-social influences. This is not to say they can change it, or that they should be condemned for not doing so. Understanding of homosexuality, however, ought to be an open field for enquiry. Making this pursuit taboo through fear of reproach makes no real sense. Proper understanding of anything does not constitute a threat.

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago

I had a similar question: the article did not clarify whether the animal same-sex attractions/relationships were expressed through sexual congress or were more simply animals of the same sex enjoying each other’s company (i.e. companionship). That seems to me to be an important consideration if the animal world evidence is employed to explain or rationalise human homosexuality

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
1 year ago

I had a similar question: the article did not clarify whether the animal same-sex attractions/relationships were expressed through sexual congress or were more simply animals of the same sex enjoying each other’s company (i.e. companionship). That seems to me to be an important consideration if the animal world evidence is employed to explain or rationalise human homosexuality

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
1 year ago

There is no such thing as a ‘gay’ animal, same sex attracted, perhaps, but not ‘gay’, which is a human social phenomenon. As regards the ‘gay’ penguins, did they have sexual relations together, or just raise a chick, before they split up? The fact that animals may be perceived as ‘gay’, is not proof that homosexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality. Nature has anomalies, to be sure, but that does not mean that all ‘gay’ people are ‘born that way.’ Similarly, it is wrong to ignore psycho-social influences. This is not to say they can change it, or that they should be condemned for not doing so. Understanding of homosexuality, however, ought to be an open field for enquiry. Making this pursuit taboo through fear of reproach makes no real sense. Proper understanding of anything does not constitute a threat.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

Same sex pairs teaming up to rear young is not the same as same sex mating. There are some over-eager people about who want a pro-gay headline from the animal kingdom.
Post modern thinking does not believe in objective truth, so is in opposition to science, which both believes in the possibility of objective evidence and gives it the final word. Hence the current disregard for biology in so many quarters.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

Same sex pairs teaming up to rear young is not the same as same sex mating. There are some over-eager people about who want a pro-gay headline from the animal kingdom.
Post modern thinking does not believe in objective truth, so is in opposition to science, which both believes in the possibility of objective evidence and gives it the final word. Hence the current disregard for biology in so many quarters.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

The theory I favour about why there are gay members of species suggests that animals (including people) have a range of genetic factors affecting how sexually attractive and how fecund they are. Clearly those who don’t care about sex or having offspring are likely to produce fewer offspring. Those who are attracted to same sex partners are also likely to have fewer offspring. But the remainder will have offspring, some more than others.
The theory suggests that (depending upon species etc) running along the edge of the most genetically attractive/fecund individuals runs the risk of those genetic traits tipping over into expression of gay behaviour. Since evolution is about population ‘fitness’ the number of non-reproducing individuals (asexual and gay) is overwhelmed by those who produce more offspring than the population average. This explains why gay and asexual animals are seen on an ongoing basis, even though their individual genes do not contribute to the population gene pool.
The theory does not justify behaviour, it explains variations.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Ok but that doesn’t explain why there is same sex attraction in the first place. Just why species still survive.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

There is no ‘why’ in a direct sense; evolutionary processes are blind. Science has not yet discovered a ‘gay gene’ nor do I expect it to. Just as science has not discovered a ‘tall’ gene or a ‘short’ gene. Just many genes interacting with each other and the environment.
So the indirect answer to why there is same sex attraction is ‘genetics’ – but I suspect that is not very helpful.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

There is much scientific information online that suggests a genetic predisposition to height, although it cannot be 100% certain. But 60-80% is a fairly robust number.
There is also physical evidence in families in virtually every culture throughout history. It is probably why there are no Pygmy or indigenous Mexican basketball stars. And why do some countries have significant differences in average height vs. others?
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-height-by-country
There is no such evidence in homosexuality. In fact, some cultures still punish the act by death. I’m not aware of any culture that criminally punishes its tall or short people.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I don’t think you responded to Miss Ward’s point. The evidence is quite poor that homosexuality is predetermined genetically, but even if we assume it has a genetic basis of some kind (on the general assumption that all human characteristics do), then we are left trying to explain why a trait which reduces the likelihood of reproduction would persist in any population. Either evolutionary theory is wrong (and in fact fitness does not explain all species’ traits), or homosexuality is a recent genetic variation that is destined, on a sufficiently long evolutionary timescale, to die out. I think that is the ‘why’ that she is asking.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

There is much scientific information online that suggests a genetic predisposition to height, although it cannot be 100% certain. But 60-80% is a fairly robust number.
There is also physical evidence in families in virtually every culture throughout history. It is probably why there are no Pygmy or indigenous Mexican basketball stars. And why do some countries have significant differences in average height vs. others?
https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-height-by-country
There is no such evidence in homosexuality. In fact, some cultures still punish the act by death. I’m not aware of any culture that criminally punishes its tall or short people.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I don’t think you responded to Miss Ward’s point. The evidence is quite poor that homosexuality is predetermined genetically, but even if we assume it has a genetic basis of some kind (on the general assumption that all human characteristics do), then we are left trying to explain why a trait which reduces the likelihood of reproduction would persist in any population. Either evolutionary theory is wrong (and in fact fitness does not explain all species’ traits), or homosexuality is a recent genetic variation that is destined, on a sufficiently long evolutionary timescale, to die out. I think that is the ‘why’ that she is asking.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Yes it does explain it, potentially.
There is no single gene for it, because obviously that would be selected out, but a combination of genes which individually improve selective fitness, but when you have all of them together then you are an FOD.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I think you’re right, there.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I think you’re right, there.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

There is no ‘why’ in a direct sense; evolutionary processes are blind. Science has not yet discovered a ‘gay gene’ nor do I expect it to. Just as science has not discovered a ‘tall’ gene or a ‘short’ gene. Just many genes interacting with each other and the environment.
So the indirect answer to why there is same sex attraction is ‘genetics’ – but I suspect that is not very helpful.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
1 year ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Yes it does explain it, potentially.
There is no single gene for it, because obviously that would be selected out, but a combination of genes which individually improve selective fitness, but when you have all of them together then you are an FOD.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Justify behaviour? Are you claiming that homosexuality is immoral?

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You misinterpret my statement. The blind processes of evolution neither provide a justification nor a condemnation for any particular behaviour.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Apologies, I misread it completely

Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I had the same initial reaction.

Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I had the same initial reaction.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Apologies, I misread it completely

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s not immoral per se, but like smoking or drinking, it shouldn’t be encouraged. Governments and corporations are engaging in the same tactics they used when they told us smoking was good for you.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You misinterpret my statement. The blind processes of evolution neither provide a justification nor a condemnation for any particular behaviour.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s not immoral per se, but like smoking or drinking, it shouldn’t be encouraged. Governments and corporations are engaging in the same tactics they used when they told us smoking was good for you.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

A bit like that gene in humans where if you get one copy you’re more resistant to malaria, but if you get two you develop sickle-cell anaemia. The resistance to malaria is useful enough that the gene sticks around, even though getting too much of it is disadvantageous.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Since evolution is about population ‘fitness’

I don’t think so. Evolution is about the differential survival of genes.
Genes that make an organism that can breed get into the next generation. Those that don’t, don’t. A population doesn’t really have a fitness, it’s just the present generation of the genes and their products. The ones who’ve survived.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Ok but that doesn’t explain why there is same sex attraction in the first place. Just why species still survive.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Justify behaviour? Are you claiming that homosexuality is immoral?

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

A bit like that gene in humans where if you get one copy you’re more resistant to malaria, but if you get two you develop sickle-cell anaemia. The resistance to malaria is useful enough that the gene sticks around, even though getting too much of it is disadvantageous.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Since evolution is about population ‘fitness’

I don’t think so. Evolution is about the differential survival of genes.
Genes that make an organism that can breed get into the next generation. Those that don’t, don’t. A population doesn’t really have a fitness, it’s just the present generation of the genes and their products. The ones who’ve survived.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

The theory I favour about why there are gay members of species suggests that animals (including people) have a range of genetic factors affecting how sexually attractive and how fecund they are. Clearly those who don’t care about sex or having offspring are likely to produce fewer offspring. Those who are attracted to same sex partners are also likely to have fewer offspring. But the remainder will have offspring, some more than others.
The theory suggests that (depending upon species etc) running along the edge of the most genetically attractive/fecund individuals runs the risk of those genetic traits tipping over into expression of gay behaviour. Since evolution is about population ‘fitness’ the number of non-reproducing individuals (asexual and gay) is overwhelmed by those who produce more offspring than the population average. This explains why gay and asexual animals are seen on an ongoing basis, even though their individual genes do not contribute to the population gene pool.
The theory does not justify behaviour, it explains variations.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Do “marginalized” people usually get parades and a whole month dedicated to their pride?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

I wonder what month padeophiles will eventually get?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

I wonder what month padeophiles will eventually get?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Do “marginalized” people usually get parades and a whole month dedicated to their pride?

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

Interesting parallel – we know in medicine certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to certain diseases – the study of these phenomenon and the optimum medical treatment for different ethnic groups is surely beneficial.
However it is clearly racist – because it identifies one race as ‘better’ at something than another (better, different, unusual, some how carved out into a group for special treatment)
It would be nice to study such things in a politically neutral vacuum – be it sexual orientation or susceptibility to a heart attack – but I fear its not possible in todays highly charged atmosphere.

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

I’m not sure it’s because it identifies one race as better. The real problem is that it would be an admission of a biological difference between different races, in the modern western World, that’s just not allowed. For the majority of the redt of the World, most people don’t care

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Wise

I’m not sure it’s because it identifies one race as better. The real problem is that it would be an admission of a biological difference between different races, in the modern western World, that’s just not allowed. For the majority of the redt of the World, most people don’t care

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

Interesting parallel – we know in medicine certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to certain diseases – the study of these phenomenon and the optimum medical treatment for different ethnic groups is surely beneficial.
However it is clearly racist – because it identifies one race as ‘better’ at something than another (better, different, unusual, some how carved out into a group for special treatment)
It would be nice to study such things in a politically neutral vacuum – be it sexual orientation or susceptibility to a heart attack – but I fear its not possible in todays highly charged atmosphere.

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
1 year ago

That 40% of identical twins if gay are both gay – probably a male only statistic – surely could be either a genetic or environmental phenomenon and not just genetic?

Cat L
Cat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Dudgeon

This is borne out over twin studies comparing identical and fraternal twins, and also where twins were separated at birth. In theory this method of comparison should negate environmental influence, leaving only genetic and epigenetic influence.

Cat L
Cat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Dudgeon

This is borne out over twin studies comparing identical and fraternal twins, and also where twins were separated at birth. In theory this method of comparison should negate environmental influence, leaving only genetic and epigenetic influence.

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
1 year ago

That 40% of identical twins if gay are both gay – probably a male only statistic – surely could be either a genetic or environmental phenomenon and not just genetic?

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
1 year ago

‘The finding that sexual orientation seems to be innate — in other words, not a choice’
This also means we are born with an innate ability to determine the gender of other human beings.

‘If your entire brain is little more than a cluster of nerves, then some cases of mistaken identity are perhaps inevitable.’
Our brains are rather more than a cluster of nerves and we are very accurate at determining the gender of other people by looking at them.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

I think she was referring to the insects
.

Nick Wade
Nick Wade
1 year ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

I think she was referring to the insects
.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
1 year ago

‘The finding that sexual orientation seems to be innate — in other words, not a choice’
This also means we are born with an innate ability to determine the gender of other human beings.

‘If your entire brain is little more than a cluster of nerves, then some cases of mistaken identity are perhaps inevitable.’
Our brains are rather more than a cluster of nerves and we are very accurate at determining the gender of other people by looking at them.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

I seem to remember that ages ago there was research on rats indicating that if populations grew too dense, then homosexuality increased. In other words, one of nature’s ways to manage overcrowding.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

I seem to remember that ages ago there was research on rats indicating that if populations grew too dense, then homosexuality increased. In other words, one of nature’s ways to manage overcrowding.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

Whiff of cowardice in some quarters. Let’s not talk about this for fear that we might be (Heaven forbid!) criticised.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

Whiff of cowardice in some quarters. Let’s not talk about this for fear that we might be (Heaven forbid!) criticised.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
1 year ago

What would any of us do if we were locked in a zoo with somebody of the same sex?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Watch the people watching us.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Watch the people watching us.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
1 year ago

What would any of us do if we were locked in a zoo with somebody of the same sex?

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
1 year ago

On the genetic comment that”historically same-sex attracted people are significantly less likely to reproduce.” Historically same-sex attracted people have been forced to be closeted, maybe even persuing opposite- sex relationships and having children. It’s not unusual for people to have biological children and come out at a much later age. Until the generation affected by the ramifications of Section 28 we will continue to see people who would otherwise be in a same-sex relationship on opposite-sex ones well into adulthood.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
1 year ago

On the genetic comment that”historically same-sex attracted people are significantly less likely to reproduce.” Historically same-sex attracted people have been forced to be closeted, maybe even persuing opposite- sex relationships and having children. It’s not unusual for people to have biological children and come out at a much later age. Until the generation affected by the ramifications of Section 28 we will continue to see people who would otherwise be in a same-sex relationship on opposite-sex ones well into adulthood.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago

“But how this gene manages to be passed on is a mystery”
I don’t understand the problem. Consider the way a goose will ‘retrieve’ a golf ball placed beside her nest. Clearly she ‘thinks’ it’s an egg and this is clearly a mistake. How does the gene ‘for’ that behavior get passed on? Silly question.
Her brain need not evolve to the point where such mistakes don’t happen — it is sufficient that she retrieve her eggs and if she also retrieves the odd rock or golf ball, that’s a problem who’s solution (a much bigger brain) would cost more than it would benefit.
In the same way, male horniness is ‘tuned’ to maximize transfer of genes to the next generation and — like the goose retrieving golf balls — that means that ‘too much is better than not enough’ so males, to put it bluntly are likely to f**k anything. In the good old days of sail, this meant whores when they were available, cabin-boys when they were not. And yes, since humans, for a host of reasons, will often stray from the strict ‘plan’ that their genetics intends for them, sometimes male horniness gets diverted into ‘cabin-boys preferred’.
There is no mystery.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago

“But how this gene manages to be passed on is a mystery”
I don’t understand the problem. Consider the way a goose will ‘retrieve’ a golf ball placed beside her nest. Clearly she ‘thinks’ it’s an egg and this is clearly a mistake. How does the gene ‘for’ that behavior get passed on? Silly question.
Her brain need not evolve to the point where such mistakes don’t happen — it is sufficient that she retrieve her eggs and if she also retrieves the odd rock or golf ball, that’s a problem who’s solution (a much bigger brain) would cost more than it would benefit.
In the same way, male horniness is ‘tuned’ to maximize transfer of genes to the next generation and — like the goose retrieving golf balls — that means that ‘too much is better than not enough’ so males, to put it bluntly are likely to f**k anything. In the good old days of sail, this meant whores when they were available, cabin-boys when they were not. And yes, since humans, for a host of reasons, will often stray from the strict ‘plan’ that their genetics intends for them, sometimes male horniness gets diverted into ‘cabin-boys preferred’.
There is no mystery.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
1 year ago

It is my understanding that apparent “same sex” sex amongst animals, such as dogs humping other same -sex dogs, was about dominance, not sex. Would this not likely apply the girraffes mentioned in the article?

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
1 year ago

It is my understanding that apparent “same sex” sex amongst animals, such as dogs humping other same -sex dogs, was about dominance, not sex. Would this not likely apply the girraffes mentioned in the article?

andy young
andy young
1 year ago

Really interesting article. What occurs to me is that anything can happen during the evolutionary process – genetic mutations are basically random – but of course the vast majority produce something with qualities that adversely affect its survival prospects. However this doesn’t mean the mutant variation has to have any benefit, just no reduction in the individual’s life prospects. Since homosexuality cannot be inheritable by definition, this rather makes me think it’s a purely random event which pops up on a regular basis.
The above is just off the top of my head, not something I’d really considered before; I agree with the author that it’s a curious phenomenon & merits proper research.

andy young
andy young
1 year ago

Really interesting article. What occurs to me is that anything can happen during the evolutionary process – genetic mutations are basically random – but of course the vast majority produce something with qualities that adversely affect its survival prospects. However this doesn’t mean the mutant variation has to have any benefit, just no reduction in the individual’s life prospects. Since homosexuality cannot be inheritable by definition, this rather makes me think it’s a purely random event which pops up on a regular basis.
The above is just off the top of my head, not something I’d really considered before; I agree with the author that it’s a curious phenomenon & merits proper research.

S R
S R
1 year ago

Good piece, the final paragraph is excellent

Last edited 1 year ago by S R
S R
S R
1 year ago

Good piece, the final paragraph is excellent

Last edited 1 year ago by S R
Peter Hall
Peter Hall
1 year ago

In the same way, research into the phenomenon of transexuality are not vigorously pursued. Is the incidence increasing or decreasing? Do increasing levels of chemicals (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, fertilisers, micro plastics oestrogen) and pollution have any relationship? The decline in our freedom to debate, discuss and research is frightening. And what are scientists so frightened of? Isn’t it their duty to find answers to questions?

Peter Hall
Peter Hall
1 year ago

In the same way, research into the phenomenon of transexuality are not vigorously pursued. Is the incidence increasing or decreasing? Do increasing levels of chemicals (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, fertilisers, micro plastics oestrogen) and pollution have any relationship? The decline in our freedom to debate, discuss and research is frightening. And what are scientists so frightened of? Isn’t it their duty to find answers to questions?

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
1 year ago

“In this species, what was once an adaptation purely for reproduction has taken on an additional role in maintaining both opposite-sex and same-sex social bonds …”
What a soothing way of saying “establishing and enforcing social heirarchy, often through rape.”

Cat L
Cat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

Here the author is talking about bonabos which do not use rape in their social hierarchy. The most frequent sexual contact is between females as part of their social bonding and genital rubbing appears to be the bonobo’s solution to reducing conflict and tension within a group. Here is an article describing this: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bonobo-sex-and-society-2006-06/

Assumptions about same sex behaviours amounting to dominance behaviours is entirely counter to the article’s emphasis on curiosity and actually looking for the real truth rather than extrapolation and guess work.

Cat L
Cat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Cynthia W.

Here the author is talking about bonabos which do not use rape in their social hierarchy. The most frequent sexual contact is between females as part of their social bonding and genital rubbing appears to be the bonobo’s solution to reducing conflict and tension within a group. Here is an article describing this: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bonobo-sex-and-society-2006-06/

Assumptions about same sex behaviours amounting to dominance behaviours is entirely counter to the article’s emphasis on curiosity and actually looking for the real truth rather than extrapolation and guess work.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
1 year ago

“In this species, what was once an adaptation purely for reproduction has taken on an additional role in maintaining both opposite-sex and same-sex social bonds …”
What a soothing way of saying “establishing and enforcing social heirarchy, often through rape.”

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

We used to have a pair of female rabbits who would frequently hump each other, usually at the wrong end. I’m not sure what to read into that. Perhaps they felt obliged to compensate for the absence of a male on their group.

Josh Allan
Josh Allan
1 year ago

There have been studies showing that couples in post-war nations produce more girls than boys, leading to theories that nature is correcting the deficiency in males. I don’t know how this happens, but if it’s true, it may well be the case that rising homosexuality rates (if indeed they are rising) is commensurate with an increasing world population, and is nature’s way of constraining it.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Allan

Can you provide one of these studies? My understanding is that there are always more male than female conceptions. The males are less robust, and when healthcare is poor they die at a higher rate.
After WW2 the healthcare got better, certainly in the UK, and this benefited the sickly more than the robust.
Why would nature have a way of constraining population growth? A gene to breed always out-competes a gene to not breed, so a ‘don’t breed’ gene could never spread through a population.
Nature is not a conscious planner.

Last edited 1 year ago by D Glover
D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Allan

Can you provide one of these studies? My understanding is that there are always more male than female conceptions. The males are less robust, and when healthcare is poor they die at a higher rate.
After WW2 the healthcare got better, certainly in the UK, and this benefited the sickly more than the robust.
Why would nature have a way of constraining population growth? A gene to breed always out-competes a gene to not breed, so a ‘don’t breed’ gene could never spread through a population.
Nature is not a conscious planner.

Last edited 1 year ago by D Glover
Josh Allan
Josh Allan
1 year ago

There have been studies showing that couples in post-war nations produce more girls than boys, leading to theories that nature is correcting the deficiency in males. I don’t know how this happens, but if it’s true, it may well be the case that rising homosexuality rates (if indeed they are rising) is commensurate with an increasing world population, and is nature’s way of constraining it.

Patti Dunne
Patti Dunne
1 year ago

There is also the question of environment. Early sexual abuse by same sex person/people may be a factor in a person practicing homosexuality exclusively. There seems to be a history of this in many.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Patti Dunne

Care to provide any evidence that gays were more likely to have been sexually abused as children?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Patti Dunne

Care to provide any evidence that gays were more likely to have been sexually abused as children?

Patti Dunne
Patti Dunne
1 year ago

There is also the question of environment. Early sexual abuse by same sex person/people may be a factor in a person practicing homosexuality exclusively. There seems to be a history of this in many.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

Some female people prefer to associate with other female people because they don’t like the alternative.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

Some female people prefer to associate with other female people because they don’t like the alternative.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago

There is a psychodynamic theory that everyone is actually bisexual, but that exclusively heterosexual people are repressing their homosexual tendencies and homosexual people are repressing their heterosexual tendencies. To me that seems quite credible, and to fit with the idea that, like other animals, we would naturally engage in sexual behaviours with both sexes, albeit probably with a preference for the opposite sex due to the evolutionary advantage offered by mating for reproductive purposes. Our society however has historically mandated that one classifies as one or the other – either hetero or gay – and our social upbringing, good or bad experiences lived or watched with one sex or the other, probably influence which side of the fence each person lands on.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paolo Canonica
Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

That seems like a convoluted and ideologically motivated theory to me. Essentially everyone’s a homosexual but society forces us to repress it. It allows homosexuals to think of themselves as less repressed (and therefore healthier!) than everyone else. I think Occam’s razor applies.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

No, according to the theory everyone is repressed. People who define themselves as exclusively homosexual too, as they are repressing their heterosexual instincts.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

The point is that it inverts logic. Why stop at the opposite sex? Maybe everyone’s also repressing their incestuous desires too? Freud thought so. And how about bestiality? And why stop at the animal kingdom – my dog has a particular fetish for sofa cushions. He’s so unrepressed! There’s a nutty theory for everything out there and this is one of them.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Well – yes? Incest and bestiality are usually found in societies that don’t create and enforce taboos against them. Maybe people are repressing those desires?

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Lots of people buy into the idea these days that we are blank slates and society forms us completely, but most serious study finds we do indeed have natural tendencies. Incest taboos and sexual preferences are found across cultures – and even across species. The reasonable conclusion is that there is at least some nature at work, even if shaped somewhat by nurture. A few rare exceptions don’t disprove the general rule. In fact the exceptions prove that nature constantly experiments – otherwise natural selection would be impossible. But if you feel repressed, who am I to judge? Just stay away from my sofa cushions! 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim R
Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Indeed, and natural tendencies are not at odds with psychodynamic theory. Freud says that we are born with an innate desire to seek pleasure – which indeed makes perfect evolutionary sense (those ancestors who didn’t would have had a much greater chance of dying out). Animals all seem to have the same innate tendency to seek pleasure, and like the bisexual animals in this article, it doesn’t much matter whether that pleasure derives from an encounter with a male or a female.
In reference to your first comment – that if people are less repressed they are healthier – that is not what psychodynamic theory postulates. We repress a lot of really undesirable stuff, as you say, like incest, so being less repressed does not a better or healthier person make!

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Indeed, and natural tendencies are not at odds with psychodynamic theory. Freud says that we are born with an innate desire to seek pleasure – which indeed makes perfect evolutionary sense (those ancestors who didn’t would have had a much greater chance of dying out). Animals all seem to have the same innate tendency to seek pleasure, and like the bisexual animals in this article, it doesn’t much matter whether that pleasure derives from an encounter with a male or a female.
In reference to your first comment – that if people are less repressed they are healthier – that is not what psychodynamic theory postulates. We repress a lot of really undesirable stuff, as you say, like incest, so being less repressed does not a better or healthier person make!

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Lots of people buy into the idea these days that we are blank slates and society forms us completely, but most serious study finds we do indeed have natural tendencies. Incest taboos and sexual preferences are found across cultures – and even across species. The reasonable conclusion is that there is at least some nature at work, even if shaped somewhat by nurture. A few rare exceptions don’t disprove the general rule. In fact the exceptions prove that nature constantly experiments – otherwise natural selection would be impossible. But if you feel repressed, who am I to judge? Just stay away from my sofa cushions! 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim R
Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Well – yes? Incest and bestiality are usually found in societies that don’t create and enforce taboos against them. Maybe people are repressing those desires?

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

The point is that it inverts logic. Why stop at the opposite sex? Maybe everyone’s also repressing their incestuous desires too? Freud thought so. And how about bestiality? And why stop at the animal kingdom – my dog has a particular fetish for sofa cushions. He’s so unrepressed! There’s a nutty theory for everything out there and this is one of them.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

No, according to the theory everyone is repressed. People who define themselves as exclusively homosexual too, as they are repressing their heterosexual instincts.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

“…albeit probably with a preference for the opposite sex due to the evolutionary advantage offered by mating for reproductive purposes.”
Probably a preference? Hmmm.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

That seems like a convoluted and ideologically motivated theory to me. Essentially everyone’s a homosexual but society forces us to repress it. It allows homosexuals to think of themselves as less repressed (and therefore healthier!) than everyone else. I think Occam’s razor applies.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

“…albeit probably with a preference for the opposite sex due to the evolutionary advantage offered by mating for reproductive purposes.”
Probably a preference? Hmmm.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago

There is a psychodynamic theory that everyone is actually bisexual, but that exclusively heterosexual people are repressing their homosexual tendencies and homosexual people are repressing their heterosexual tendencies. To me that seems quite credible, and to fit with the idea that, like other animals, we would naturally engage in sexual behaviours with both sexes, albeit probably with a preference for the opposite sex due to the evolutionary advantage offered by mating for reproductive purposes. Our society however has historically mandated that one classifies as one or the other – either hetero or gay – and our social upbringing, good or bad experiences lived or watched with one sex or the other, probably influence which side of the fence each person lands on.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paolo Canonica