The previous article has discussed sexuality and the modern sexual narrative (LGBTQIA+) at length, with regards to how the latter has replaced the traditional sexual narrative in people’s minds, policy-making institutions and research fields, and how this modern sexual narrative has created a kind of sexual anarchy, at least at the level of knowledge production in this domain.
By and large, the success gained by contemporary LGBTQIA+ narratives and its movement, is seen in terms of its impact, while less attention is given to the evolutionary factors and its philosophical bases.
We believe that it is only possible to successfully counter the discourse of modern sexuality and LGBTQIA+ narrative, when all the associated discourses and the general effects that they produce are delineated with highest academic integrity. Only when these factors and their philosophical bases are systematically analysed with legitimate academic rigor will it be possible to evolve a rational position towards this discourse and its affiliated practices. It is imperative to shed light on internal ideological contradictions they have and to thematically present their long-term implications on human civilization.
The whole ideation and process of countering modern sexual discourse is only possible if the central tenets of this discourse are understood in all its forms and shapes and the apparent gaps in its epistemology are highlighted.
Ordinarily, a well-educated layperson wonders over this discourse: is this possible? Does this really happen? The jargon of the whole discourse, the obvious contradictions in the interpretations of simple terms such as men and women and their abhorrence toward basic human nature makes even well-read persons wondrous and at times intrigued.
But this happens only because most of the time, the evolutionary factors governing this discourse are poorly understood. The familiarity with the philosophical underpinnings are least explored, which essentially provides intellectual nourishment to the discourse and positions are taken hastily.
One must admit that contemporary discourse on LGBTQIA+ has travelled a long road, entered in the post-truth era and is thriving and appealing or at times numbing people and their sensitivities towards the morality and ethics of sex.
Concurrent to its humongous success both at policy level and among the urban, elite masses, it divides people on matters of sexuality and sex gender system. It divides people in following not very strict but fluid groups:
1. Proponents of this discourse and its practitioners and advocates.
2. People who openly advocate this discourse but practice normative sexuality.
3. Silent opponents of this discourse.
4. People who maintain silence (neither implicit nor explicit).
5. Opponent both at ideation and applied level.
6. Aggressive religious groups and their collaborators.
All the above-given categories of people and a collective sex-gender system does impact the way this discourse is shaped in public psyche, but as of now it is beyond the scope of this article here. The focus is the most important evolutionary and philosophical underpinnings which ultimately paved the way for the LGBTQIA+ sexuality regime and reached where it stands now.
Darwin’s Theory of Ethics or, Morality as a By-product of Evolution:
Probably among the most sophisticated indirect underpinning for the current sexuality regimen is naturalistic morality. Before understanding how Darwin’s theory of ethics provides intellectual fodder for LGBTQIA+ discourse and its associated trends, it is important to understand, from a balanced perspective, what exactly we mean by Evolutionary Ethics. For the convenience of readers, and not in a naturalistic jargon it can be presented in the form of following broad essentials, according to this theory,
- Morality is not divine. All morality is actually a mere by-product of the human evolutionary journey.
- Morality is no special trait, speciality, or principle at the divine level given to humans. Humans, while evolving from simple living creatures to their present state as humans, felt a need for ethics to ensure their better survival as a species.
- Hence, seemingly moral traits start appearing in primitive human societies (societies not in the sense of modern societies rather hunters, gatherers) can be seen in nature such as collective hunting, sharing food, and protecting the herd etc.
- Simple manifestations of current evolved morality can still be seen in chimpanzees, baboons, apes, and many more.
- There is no moral landscape which is absolute.
- In conclusion, morality according to Darwinian evolutionary frame is not divine and it’s not something ingrained.
In conclusion, morality according to Darwinian evolutionary frame is not divine and it’s not something ingrained.
In this understanding, morality provides group fitness. Group fitness refers to the advantage of collective wellness, i.e, as a species, humans can distribute resources better than other species, which in turn leads to their better survival than the other types. In this regard, ethics and moral values are not absolute as evolutionary relativity is found in them. In short, Evolutionary Ethics sums up all human ethics in a naturalistic framework.
Now if we can juxtapose this naturalistic morality to the concept of Image Dei (an important tenet of Christianity, which means that God created man in his form or likeness). It is interpreted in the Biblical context as covering both physical and spiritual aspects including morality, and here the problem starts ensuing. The Christian world view holds that morality is divine while the naturalistic worldview believes that it’s a by-product of evolution .This very contrast leads to confusion among ordinary Christians who were facing the onslaught of a very plausible explanation of human existence, namely Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Combine it with classical oppression by the Church, an institution brutally used to control and carry out power politics by Christian religious elites. The results were very obvious. Most of the decision makers and elites sided with the notion of naturalistic morality and accepted its relative nature, thus paving the way for alternative sexual morality not based in Christian ethics giving way to legitimize the sexuality beyond classical binary of male and female. This ultimately reduced the intellectual stigma associated with deviated sexual behaviours, viz homosexuality and lesbianism. This leads to concepts such as the Creator of the Universe having bestowed man with important attributes such as high moral character, and having attributes of being beyond sexual and sensual desires starting to fade away from the collective morality landscape of common man. Therefore, the naturalistic examination of morality reduces it to a mere evolutionary construct and nothing more.
No less important role is played by the notion of monasticism, another notion of Christianity held up as very high among the classical Christian worldview. Monasticism in Christianity is not one single term meaning a very specific practice, but a family of similar traditions and rituals that began to develop very early in the history of the Christian Church. Ironically although these tradition/practices/rituals were modelled upon scriptural examples and ideals, but they were not mandated as an institution by the Scriptures. Essentially, it’s a devotional practice of Christians who live as ascetic (Severe self-discipline) and typically cloistered (keeping oneself away from outside world) lives. No pleasure, (including sexual pleasure) no family, no attributes of material life – nothing.
Now on the one hand, people have a choice of naturalistic morality with unlimited access and unlimited freedom with no boundaries, no regulation and no scripture and on the other hand they have the Christian worldview, which is somewhat restricting. Obviously, the chose the easier one.
The picture that is formed is that all psychological desires are wrong and illegitimate. They should all be summarily crushed or controlled. A common Christian man can reach the highest standard of purification only when he brings this philosophy of monasticism and self-denial into the practical world. Without it, he will only be an ordinary man whose sins have already been borne by his God and now he must live with the guilt of lying in the filth of physical and emotional desires, but cannot reach the highest standard of righteousness. And thus, there always remains a kind of longing in the common Christian that he can only reach a certain level of piety and nearness to God, and no further. If he is married, sexually active and enjoys sexual pleasures, he will reach a limited standard of piety and holiness. To go beyond that, he would have to take up monasticism.
In conclusion, the theory of naturalistic morality made humans believe that they were akin to animals, although what differentiated them was that they were social animals. They have no special status. They are not created in any particular way for any particular purpose. In addition, they are sexually independent. Such ideas entered the public consciousness much more easily than the Christian sexual narratives and the inevitable outcome of this was a rise in acceptance and a reduced sensitivity to the whole narrative of LGBTQIA+.
Sigmund Freud’s theories and personality analysis based on sexuality:
Sigmund Freud was a famous Austrian psychoanalyst. Although his concepts of gender and gender analysis, analysis of personality with gender as the centrepiece and his theories about it have been widely accepted, according to many researchers, his theories or his observations have shortcomings in terms of sample size, analytics etc. Sigmund Freud made sexuality central in his analysis of human personality and presented sexuality as the most powerful force. He said that a person’s personality and behaviour are actually the characteristics of sexual attraction. They play an extraordinary role in the evolution of his personality.
This analysis can be easily correlated with the centre point of Darwin’s theory, according to which all species, including humans, follow the principle of survival of the fittest to advance their species. For this, they strive and compete and to fulfil that ultimate purpose, they are sexually active so that they can reproduce as much as possible and ensure the survival of their species.
This extraordinary emphasis on sexuality, and the theoretical appeal of Darwin and Sigmund Freud at the time, dramatically influenced the worldviews of everybody, and gender was seen as a much more important factor or driving force than anything else. In later periods, Darwin’s Theory of Ethics and Sigmund Freud’s theory, “An Analysis of Personality Based on Sexuality”, both received a lot of academic criticism. Many of their points were proved wrong and was intensely criticised, but the research on sexual attitudes remained popular. The discourse of the gender binary and traditional sexual narratives was seen as products of Christian orthodoxy and treating lesbianism or homosexuality as a sin itself became an outdated phenomenon, and this was extended to all other deviant sexual behaviours as well.
With all due respect to Freudian intellectual activism, following are the major objections critics have for Freudian analysis.
1. Sigmund Freud based his observations/theories on just two or three patients who came to his clinic for psychoanalysis. In scientific research, any observation needs to be supported by significant data.
2. Subconscious, the central pillar of Freudian jargon can’t be evaluated by the prevalent scientific methods of research. The subconscious can neither be proven nor completely denied. Therefore, his concept must be accepted per se. On the contrary, there are strong possibilities that subconsciousness can be shaped by myriad factors, sexuality is just one of them. Although, recent research has come up to accept some of the concepts regarding dreams, dream interpretation and personality. But apart from that, many of the personality analysis hypothesis by Freud are still considered as “educated observations.”
Moreover, what Sigmund Freud wrote about personality and sexuality has begun to be challenged by modern sexuality research. For example, in the interpretation of personality, apart from sexuality, there are hundreds of other factors that are more or less as important as gender etc.
It is strange however, that Sigmund Freud’s theories and observations of personality, despite their obvious limitations, are still treated as established theoretical framework and circulated! Why? Because they fit very well into a naturalistic interpretation of the universe/world scheme.
The extraordinary emphasis on sexuality ensured that every colour, every mode, and every shade of sexuality is prized. However, the undeniable evolutionary need and advantage of sexuality is to advance one’s race, preserve one’s DNA and preserve one’s species. If this evolutionary goal is not being fulfilled, what is the use of deviant behaviours outside of the sexual binary? Modern gender narratives fail to explain why all sexual variations outside the binary such as LGBTQIA+ are beneficial for the survival of species, and if they are not beneficial traits why they have a sizable presence in human population (according to Kinsey and proponent of LGBTQIA+, it is rampant and hence natural).
The central notion in the naturalistic framework is that traits which are beneficial are kept and passed on to the new generation. LGBTQIA+ is not giving any survival advantage or benefit as they don’t naturally reproduce.
So, what is the Naturalistic or Darwinistic interpretation of it? A couple of theories that have come up in this regard are so absurd that it seems a sign of triviality to even weigh them academically. For example, it is said that two same-sex marriages give a better survival advantage to their nieces and nephews! And thus protect half of one’s genes! (Half of the DNA in nieces and nephews comes from the father). It would be better if organisms protect its DNA completely. This is a more reasonable argument for Evolutionary Advantage.
However, based on such weak and semi-scientific arguments, efforts to legitimize and provide academic support LGBTQIA+ gained momentum and a combination of Freudian personality analysis based on sexuality and Darwin’s theory of naturalistic morality have been used to justify the sexual practices beyond the binary.
Furthermore, relatively moderate researchers have also taken the sexual dichotomy given by religion for granted. Modern philosophies of sexuality and deviant sexuality have tacitly supported or openly endorsed the silent opposition to the normative narrative of sexual dichotomy prevailing in society based on religion. In this way, Darwin’s Evolutionary Ethics and Sigmund Freud’s Concepts of Personality Analysis based exclusively on Sexuality (that is, sexuality is central to the interpretation and formation of personality!) combined to provide a favourable academic environment for LGBTQIA+ narratives to flourish.
It will not be out of place to mention here that deviant sexuality at that time was limited to homosexuality lesbianism and intersex people (Inter-sex people are those who medically have male and female sexual characteristics). In later periods, various other sexually deviant behaviours kept entering into it.
The third most important role in the propagation and rapid spread of the modern LGBTQIA+ discourse after these two Western geniuses, Darwin and Sigmund Freud is what we would normally refer to as the decline of Christian morality or Victorian morality.
The Decline of Christian Morality or Victorian Morality:
Before proceeding to this point, it is requested to the readers that this is not intended to be a complete analysis or critique of Christian ethics or its other implications.
Christian ethics and the hypocrisy or moral contradictions prevalent in those times and other societal aspects in practice are also not discussed in detail here. The reasons for the decline of Christian morality or Victorian morality are also overlooked. Only those matters which are relevant to the subject are described in a bit detail.
After understanding these points, it is briefly highlighted how the decline Christian morality or Victorian morality has played a role as an important factor in the sexual deviance narrative or the modern sexual narrative.
In simple terms, Christian ethics is generally based on the following points:
- Individuality must be sacrificed for collective good. That is, society and its order are higher than the individual.
- The sphere of sexuality covers men and women.
- Family is the unit of society and human culture. Therefore, the most important responsibility of a man and a woman is to save the unit of human civilization. Sexual desires or sexual pleasures are secondary.
- There are others as well, but these three moral principles/ethical foundations are the most important in the evolution of LGBTQIA+.
Around 1900-1905, at the turn of the twentieth century, these moral ideals and their religious foundations began to die and wilt away. The Renaissance movement that began in Italy in the 14th century gave rise to Modernism in the 17th century and its fruits were soon visible. Modernity, however, destroyed what was remaining of Christian ethics and after that, the position of religion and its principles in collective life, collective decisions, collective attitudes, and collective institutions became a shadow of its former self and became absolutely negligent.
This results in the phenomenon wherein every principle that was derived from religion was considered abhorrent, repugnant, and derisive. And so, established positions around sexuality and related concepts were gradually and deliberately eroded. Earlier it was a punishable offence. Then gradually, there was a difference of opinion about its punishability. Then after that, the disgust or abhorrence associated with it started to decrease. And gradually the people began to accept it.
Along with this trend, came the period when the campaign for human rights became even more intense. Everyone knows what the human rights situation was like in Europe and America. There was open slavery and the treatment of slaves worse than animals; the price of a slave’s life was merely a few coins, and there was the exploitation of women at all levels, depriving women of suffrage (i.e., the right to vote). Hundreds of such factors together gave birth to the human rights movement whose effects were seen all over the world.
Theory of Individual Rights and Unlimited Personal Rights:
Here, the theory of individual rights does not mean a coherent and disciplined theory, but the concepts that are common to individual rights and human rights. According to which, people and institutions are divided into two parts:
1. Those who believe in unlimited individual rights and extreme individualism.
2. Those who believe in limited individualism.
Believers of unlimited individual rights consider society to be a mega narrative or the biggest lie. They say that an individual should do whatever he wants, be as he wishes. He needs no rules, no philosophy, no institution, essentially nothing. This is unreasonable as it has been proven that the world cannot function without rules, philosophy and institutions. There are two further branches among the advocates of limited individual rights: one who is willing to sacrifice individual rights for the collective benefit and others who do not do so.
The concept of unlimited individual sexual rights has played a significant role in the evolution of the modern sexual discourse of LGBTQAI+. According to this, the sexual right of an individual is superior to the collective benefit – such as the influence on public morals, the family system, or the furthering of the unit of human civilization, the “family”, and there should be no need to give up on an individual’s sexual rights and pleasures. There is also no need to limit yourself for collective benefit.
In modern times, many slogans like “My Body, My Choice” are prevalent. But the hollowness of unlimited sexual rights or unlimited individual rights is obvious and everyone knows it is a mirage of sorts. “A person can do whatever he wants” is an open system that can push the entire world into anarchy and uncontrolled chaos. But then, despite knowing this, why are sexual deviations exempt? Why are the collective good and the rights of the individual preferred over the extinction of the collective good?
For answers to such questions and explorations of more debates, Part III will appear in Aura’s September issue.