|I and Thou|
The Sexual Kaleidoscope
Any discussion of human sexual behavior and mating must begin with two clarifying statements; one about the extraordinary variability of the human sexual response and the second about the strong effects of biological determinants on individual sexual behavior, effects that cannot be modified by nurturing techniques. By in large, humans do not invent their sexual interests and behaviors. They manifest their sexual interests and behaviors. If you examine the range of sexual behaviors and aberrations in any society, you are looking through layers of evolutionary development and observing behaviors that originate in different times and places, in different animals, for different reasons.
The human mind appears to be a repository of preferences and behaviors that date back to reptilian hissing, biting and scratching. The most sublime maternal affection and devotion appears in warm-blooded, milk-feeding mammals. Modern career women will talk about the “dinosaurs” or “cave men” when describing suitors who are less than considerate and kind. They refer to old layers of the male mind that offend them. At the same time, women will be aroused by other primitive male qualities and seek sexual liaisons with exciting and “dangerous men”. Their love-making may include hissing, purring, growling, biting and scratching. DNA lays down general rules for body sex and mind sex, but leaves it up to the environment to select from a range of possible combinations.
The environmental determinants begin with effects directed toward sperm and eggs and continue in the maternal womb. The mother’s food, environment and health status are strong determinants. When a baby is born, the external environment influences that disposition of neurons in the brain that direct sexual behavior and maturation. The net result of all the variables is not fully revealed until several years after puberty begins. At puberty three regions of the brain are reorganized to assume gender-specific reproductive behaviors: the prefrontal cortex and nucleus acumens (motivation); the hippocampus-amygdala complex (salience); hypothalamus, midbrain and spinal cord (performance).
Sisk and Foster suggested that: “…attainment of adult reproductive status involves both gonadal and behavioral maturation through a series of brain-driven, developmentally timed events, modulated by internal and external sensory cues… The brain initiates gonadal steroid hormone production at puberty; hormones in turn activate neural circuits mediating reproductive behavior during adolescence”
The best way to understand sexual preferences and behavior is assume that each person is adaptable but has a set of innate preferences that both guide and limit the choice of a long-term sexual partner. Preferences are built on a foundation that is enduring but not fixed and learning experiences can redirect these innate tendencies to some degree. These innate preferences begin with the bodybrainmind blueprint laid down in DNA, but it is wrong to say that “innate sexual preferences are genetic.”
A more correct description is to say that:” Innate preferences are biologically determined by the interaction of DNA/RNA programming with the physical and social environment.” Part of the change is a predictable program sequence that takes an individual through childhood; transforms him or her during adolescence for reproduction; sustains reproductive interest for two or three decades and then retires each individual from reproductive duties. While aging humans may continue to have sex, their interest and ability usually declines and the frequency of sexual encounters decreases.
Fich and Dannenberg suggested that animal research revealed the basic patterns of hormone influence on the development of male and female behaviors. For example, they stated: "The manipulations of neonatal androgens affected adult sexual behavior. Female guinea pigs exposed to testosterone by various regimes during the prenatal period increased male-typical sexual behavior (mounting). These subjects also decreased female-typical behavior (lordosis) when, as adults, they were gonadectomized, primed with estrogen and progesterone, and tested for sexual receptivity. Similarly, male rats castrated at birth reduced male-typical sexual behaviors and increased feminine behaviors in adulthood. These same behavioral patterns were seen in adult male rodents exposed prenatally to stress or alcohol, which disrupts the prenatal testosterone surge in male fetuses. These effects are mediated by aromatization of testosterone to estrogen, since sexual behavior can be masculinized in females and reinstated in neonatally castrated males with early administration of a synthetic estrogen or high doses of estradiol. Estrogen has also been shown to act asymmetrically in the hypothalamus to modify reproductive behavior of the female rat. Estradiol pellets were placed in the left or right ventromedial nucleus during the first two days of life.
“In adulthood, subjects were ovariectomized and primed with estradiol benzoate and progesterone. Subjects with left-sided implants showed reduced lordosis as compared to right-sided implants and cholesterol control. Nordeen and Yahr also found masculinizing effects of estradiol, with local implantation in the right preoptic area leading to increased mounting behavior in adulthood."
The development of psychic gender identity is not an on and off affair but involves a mix of semi-independent variables with many possible combinations. Gay and lesbian hangouts tend to gather diverse individuals with many body-psyche gender variations. While each individual may feel that he or she or she-he is choosing a lover or mate, his or her choices, like all human choices, are directed and constrained by programs built into the brain and modified by hormones and environmental determinants. An increase in man-made estrogens in the environment interferes with male embryo development and promotes female behaviors in males.
Females with more male hormone act like males. Males with more female hormone develop breasts and act more like women. A concern has been voiced about the high level of estrogens in Soya beans, for example. Soya in the diet appears to protect women against breast cancer but no one knows how estrogens will affect infants fed soya milk formulas. Will the males develop female psyches or will girls rush into puberty before their time?
Gender subtypes can be understood by allowing different mixes of six sexual identity and preference programs in the brain:
1 An inner sense of sexual identity - male or female or both
Each person is sexually adaptable but has a set of innate preferences that limit the choices of a sexual partner. Preferences are built on a foundation that is enduring but not fixed. Learning experiences redirect these innate tendencies. Given the opportunity, most humans will experiment with a range of intimate contacts and will satisfy their sexual urges in a variety of ways. Some humans are more open and experimental than others. Some humans have more opportunity to have varied relationships and some are strictly limited by local rules to just one kind of relationship.
Homosexual encounters are common among youthful males and females and do not predict adult homosexuality. Boys will often discover the pleasures of mutual masturbation and the more adventurous boys may experiment with simulated intercourse and sodomy. Girls may extend affection and playful body contact to mutual masturbation and sleeping together. There is no evidence that adolescent homosexual experiences convert a heterosexual youth to a homosexual adult, even though early experiences demonstrate the possibility of pleasurable, meaningful homosexual contact. A heterosexual boy will avoid kissing a male masturbation partner on the lips, will not fall in love with a boy and will continue to fantasize about having a female partner. The homosexual adolescent on the other had will kiss a same sex partner on the lips, will fall in love with a male and will not fantasize about having a heterosexual partner. A bisexual person will be attracted to people of both sexes and intersexes, but tends toward a preferred sexual expression. Some humans spend many years in a confusing, ambivalent state and finally “make a decision” to be male or female, gay or straight. The decision is not the cause of gender polarization but an effect of developments in their brain. A straight heterosexual individual answers the ideal description of male gender: a person who has a male body, feels like a man, is attracted only to women and only has sex with women. He falls in love and marries a woman and has an aversion to the idea of having sex with a man.
An all male-man is congruent in all features of his sex. A true heterosexual woman has a reciprocal set of congruent characteristics. A homosexual male has a man’s body, feels more or less like a man but displays a mix of male and female behavior and is attracted only to men. He falls in love with men, has sex with men and has an aversion to sex with women, although he enjoys female friends. Male homosexuality sometimes runs in families. Identical twins share more of their genes than regular siblings and one twin is more likely to be gay if his twin is. Homosexual men are more likely to have homosexual brothers even if they were not twins. There is a tendency for homosexuality to run in the female line — men whose mothers had gay brothers tended to be homosexual and studies have investigated the possibility that a gene in the X chromosome might be involved. Homosexual adolescents have paid a high price for their same-sex preference and if they were free to choose a lover or mate that was congruent with the wishes of their family and community they would not pursue the homosexual path. These adolescents simply discover what their preference is and can do nothing to change it.
A transgender will have the genitals of one sex, but the mind of the opposite sex. Some transgender are content with cross dressing and expressing the behaviors and attitudes of the opposite sex. Others are so commited to becoming the other gender that they seek surgery to change the external genitals.
Passion varies from human to human. Some humans are affectionate, erotic, fall in love easily and often. Some humans are easily aroused and love sex. Others are cold, aloof and have difficulty forming intimate ties with other humans. Some tend to be irritable and angry and are not affectionate; they tend to remain alone or become unhappily married prudes who criticize and often seek to punish more affectionate and erotic humans. Some require unusual or bizarre sexual stimulation. “Kinky sex” was invented, in part, for hard-to arouse individuals. Sexual arousal is sometimes linked to aggression and cruelty. Fortunately, most people who enjoy bondage and torture just play at sadomasochism and no-one is injured or killed as in real expressions of sexual cruelty. The formalized and ritualistic aspects of sadomasochistic sexuality appear in religious ceremonies world-wide and suggest that this is an innate tendency that is expressed in a variety of ways. Even the nicest humans are fascinated by sadomasochistic stories and will enjoy horrifying terror movies and news reports of unsavory sexual crimes. Some humans are missing the programs that create affection, love, intimacy and empathy. They remain cruel, dishonest and some are dangerous sexual predators.