Gay Sex And Reality

Recently a University of Illinois adjunct professor in a course on Catholicism got into unfairly lost his job over expressing his philosophical opposition to homosexuality in an e-mail to his student in what seems to me like a pretty clear violation of academic freedom.

As to the substance of his arguments though, PZ Myers does a great job of tearing through his case that gay sex is immoral regardless of consent because it denies the REALITY (his choice of all caps) of complementary physiology and psychology, both of which complementarities are supposedly only present in cases of relationships of men with women.  The professor, Kenneth Howell cited as fact the common myth that gays regularly fall into patterns according to which one takes on masculine characteristics and a masculine role in the relationship while the other takes on feminine ones in order to argue that even gays are trying to attain the psychological complementarity only genuinely (in REALITY) available in actual male/female dynamics.

PZ goes to town:

REALITY, huh?

Here’s reality. A penis fits nicely in the hand, and a hand is usually better at stimulating the clitoris than a penis in the vagina, and our anatomy is such that our arms are of the right length to comfortably reach our genitals. Therefore, masturbation is a moral sexual act. We can extend this to point out that a man’s hand can stimulate a clitoris and a woman’s hand can stimulate a penis, and therefore, mutual masturbation, as is being practiced by tens of thousands of teenagers on this Friday night, is also a rightful act. There is no practical difference in anatomy or physiology between mutual masturbation between a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple, so these acts are also entirely natural.

This reasoning can be extended to a great many sexual acts: oral and anal sex, frottage of various kinds, fantasy play, sadomasochism, etc. There are more aspects of male and female anatomy in which they are alike than in which they differ, and in fact the only act which can be uniquely performed by a male and female couple is penile-vaginal intercourse. So this one act out of many is all that this professor can point to in order to justify heterosexuality as the only proper interaction, but this requires ignoring the majority of human sexual behaviors. I have to wonder if all Catholic teaching permits in the bedroom is genital-genital contact. How sad for them.

Complementarity is also an invalid requirement. Men have lips and a tongue; women have lips and a tongue. It seems to me that a lot of heterosexual couples acquire a great deal of pleasure from kissing, despite the fact that the anatomy of that portion of their bodies is largely interchangeable (in an abstract sense, of course). Is this wrongful? Or are we forced to agree that the equivalent kissing between two men or two women cannot be judged by the nature of the act to be in violation of natural moral law?

I would entirely agree with Howell on one point: complementarity of the psychology of the two sexual partners is an important part of healthy sex. Unfortunately for his premise, psychology is not so strictly sorted with the genitalia; just as there are many women and even more men with whom I would be miserable and stressed to share a bed, there are people who have a great deal of difficulty finding the necessary complementarity of desire in partners of a different sex. This should be the most important criterion in a sexual partner, whether you can find joy together, and it’s often independent of all that meat below the neck. Although that stuff helps. And the brain often finds arousal in surprising places.

Howell’s ideas about homosexual practices are embarrassingly ignorant. He doesn’t know, so why does he profess to know? This myth that homosexuality involves taking the roles of man and woman is one of the oldest and silliest claims around — it’s not usually true (although it can be, since sex seems to throw out all our rules and expectations). Gay men are attracted to men, lesbians are attracted to women, not to clumsy impersonations of the sex they are less interested in.

Homosexuals and heterosexuals do not engage in actions for which their bodies are not fitted. If they don’t fit, they can’t do them. I mean, really.

The whole post is here.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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