by Mary Harrington
Monday, 5
July 2021
Spotted
10:45

The latest front in the identity wars: sexual orientation

Activists would have us believe that preferences are just 'genital fetishes'
by Mary Harrington
Credit: Getty

For those growing up in a world where much of social life happens via online avatars, freedom of self-preservation is increasingly viewed as a natural extension of civil rights. For this group, the self is an immaterial substance with an innate, self-defining essence, and everyone has the right to remodel their own body at will.

This manifests in some startling ways, such as individuals who undergo ‘nullification’ surgery to reduce or remove their sexed physical characteristics. Such bizarre practices are generally seen as a form of extreme body modification, akin to getting your tongue split or your eyeballs tattooed, and broadly (if sometimes grudgingly) sanctioned under liberal bodily autonomy.

But this gets political at the point where the claim to absolute self-definition comes with a demand that the self-defining person be recognised on their own terms. And this doesn’t get any more personal, or inflammatory, than when it collides with the equally politicised domain of sexual orientation.

It’s long been a core contention of the gay liberation movement that sexual attraction is involuntary, unconscious and innate. But this meshes uncomfortably with the idea that inner essence takes precedence over physiology.

The result has been a discourse that aims to reframe sexual orientation as a matter of ‘social construction’ and as such subject to problematisation, deconstruction and ideologically-inflected remodelling. In this rubric, sexual orientation becomes ‘genital preference’, a problematic bias that must be critically interrogated.

Here, a young woman, who self-describes as a lesbian, recounts how she changed her youthful view that “genitals and gender were very linked”. Instead, she now believes “genitals do not equal gender and any gender can have any genitals and they are valid”. As a result of ‘working through’ her ‘genital preference’, she found, “I was able to think about dick in isolation, not related to men”.

It’s common among ‘anti-woke’ commentators to point at inconsistencies in the ideology they oppose as though these represent flaws. It’s often more edifying to treat such glitches not as incoherence but as a game of hierarchy. A brief glance at which group finds itself most commonly on the receiving end of arguments about ‘genital preference’ serves to illustrate this fact.

By far the most common target of arguments about overcoming ‘genital preference’ are lesbians. In old money, then, this is a case of males seeking to persuade females to grant sexual access — a dynamic as old as the hills.

In even older pre-feminist money, being a horndog was understood as a standard male trait. Twentieth-century liberal feminism sought to reframe this behaviour not as innate, but rather an ideological vector for patriarchal oppression. As such it was (in theory) amenable to cure if only we could smash sexist stereotypes.

This has now been succeeded by a post-feminist effort to deconstruct sexual orientation along the same lines, an argument that has in turn been captured by male-bodied people in the interests of horndoggery itself. Under all these efforts to dismantle and reimagine sex relations, the same dynamic keeps recurring: men trying every trick in the book to get into women’s knickers. Perhaps the post-post-feminist effort to defend women against such incursions needs to return full circle to the idea that some sex differences are, in fact, not socially constructed after all.

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 year ago

So possessed by the toxic ideology of identity politics that they can’t see the wood for the trees.

The upshot is: whoever you are, whatever you call yourself, the person you desire is not obliged to reciprocate. The end.

Playing semantic games is no argument for sexual coercion, and the lesbians importuned in this way need to ‘woman-up’ and tell these people, “NO!”. “I don’t fancy you” is a sufficient reason not to have sex with someone.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

Whoa…did the author just say that gays are not necessarily “born this way”? Pass the popcorn, please…

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Smith
Chris Scott
Chris Scott
1 year ago

Actually, I understood it as you can’t choose your orientation; that’s innate, but you can choose your gen*tals. I think some people have too much choice and too much time on their hands. I’m sure very soon we’ll have pen*s or vag*na day in offices and schools, so everyone can identify with the days gen*talia and use the same toilet facilities. Reducing toilets would have the economic benefit of cutting down on the cost of maintaining separate bathroom facilities to m*les and fem*les.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Scott

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Smith
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Scott

As a ‘f*male’ I say no thanks, keep your own loo.

Alastair Herd
Alastair Herd
1 year ago

Well, she did live in a lesbian commune and now is married with kids so….

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Every person can do exactly as they please, as long as it is not criminal and doesn’t impinge on the human rights of other people and groups. The problem with the people under discussion is that small minorities want to dictate what others call them (on an ever moving whim), deal in the currency of intolerance and taking offence and are determined to hound and ruin the lives of people who disagree with them.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
1 year ago

Back in the day female genital mutilation was viewed as a barbaric practice to be outlawed. Now it seems cutting off bits is the new cool.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

…For those growing up in a world where much of social life happens via online avatars, freedom of self-preservation is increasingly viewed as a natural extension of civil rights. For this group, the self is an immaterial substance with an innate, self-defining essence, and everyone has the right to remodel their own body at will…

Yeah, and they are victims of a mirage, although not one that has anything to do with the remodelling they want to carry out per-se, but with the fact that they don’t own their projected personas. They don’t in fact have *any* control over the algorithmic infrastructure that holds those personas, in forms they wouldn’t recognise as their reality were they to hit them on the backside – what exactly would they make of streams of ones and zeroes spread out across hundreds of dark, silent, data-centres across the globe? “Where am I then?” they might ask, “Somewhere in the clouds mate” will come back the gnomic answer.
Until they get to the point where, like them snails, they carry around a high powered computer around with them on their backs *which they have programmed themselves, not let someone else do it for them*, which then holds all this addendum which is essentially an extension of their personas, they have only the chimera of control, no actual control, and are likely sooner or later, to get stuffed by those who do control the hardware and especially the software.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

” Under all these efforts to dismantle and reimagine sex relations, the same dynamic keeps recurring: men trying every trick in the book to get into women’s knickers.”
Being a man, I saw that one coming down the track like a runaway train.
I would add, hastily, that I only tried some of the tricks.

Earl King
Earl King
1 year ago

Biology is literally science. Genitalia is for procreation. Any other ideas about sex are human constructs and not related to science. For that matter XX and XY are again the science of human biology. Having a uterus is for procreation, it doesn’t say one way or the other whether you prefer the fun part of sex to be with a man or a women. While we are at it the fun part of sex has nothing to do with procreation. Hormones however are biology and have a purpose. What has made the sexes behavior so interesting is the fun part of sex. So I’m not really sure about the numbers of those who are not attracted to the opposite sex but I will suggest two things. One, that they should be made to feel oppressed and not welcome in society. Two we are spending way to much time over what is a very small minority of individuals. They are just people.

Earl King
Earl King
1 year ago
Reply to  Earl King

Spelling mistake. “ they should NOT be made to feel oppressed”.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Earl King

This small minority of individuals is disproportionately demanding and loud and angry.