The Sexual Excesses of Modern Civilization

Okay, so that title is total click-bait, but there’s a real story behind it. If you want some good inadvertent comedy (and tragedy as well), check out this article in Atlantic Magazine, and marvel at the Stan Laurel-style head-scratching of a liberal academic elite trying to make sense of facts that demolish their carefully manufactured view of human sexuality.

A couple of anthropologists–Barry and Bonnie Hewlett–studied the Aka and Ngandu people of central Africa for years before getting a sense that they approached sex differently than … well, differently than married anthropologists, I guess. They had campfire discussions in which men spoke of having sexual intercourse several times in a single evening. Being western anthropologists, they immediately assumed this was an African version of Jersey Shore in which men naturally exaggerated their monogamous sexual practices for no apparent reason.

But when they talked to the women, it turned out that, yes, couples did copulate several times in a single evening, and that this was done in order to have children.

I know! Crazy-talk, right? As enlightened Westerners, we know sex has nothing to do with children at all. Babies are just a punishment meted out by a capricious biological processes.

Of course the Aka and Ngandu also had sex for pleasure, but in a place with such extremely high infant mortality, children were not seen as an unfortunate byproduct. They were seen as essential.

And then the Hewletts learned the ugly truth at the heart of these primitive peoples:

[they] found that homosexuality and masturbation appeared to be foreign to both groups

Is the strong cultural focus on sex as a reproductive tool the reason masturbation and homosexual practices seem to be virtually unknown among the Aka and Ngandu? That isn’t clear. But the Hewletts did find that their informants — whom they knew well from years of field work – “were not aware of these practices, did not have terms for them,” and, in the case of the Aka, had a hard time even understanding about what the researchers were asking when they asked about homosexual behaviors.

The Ngandu “were familiar with the concept” of homosexual behavior, “but no word existed for it and they said they did not know of any such relationships in or around the village. Men who had traveled to the capital, Bangui, said it existed in the city and was called ‘PD’ (French for par derriere or from behind).”

Given all this, the Hewletts conclude, “Homosexuality and masturbation are rare or nonexistent [in these two cultures], not because they are frowned upon or punished, but because they are not part of the cultural models of sexuality in either ethnic group.”

Quelle horreur! You mean homosexuality and masturbation are culturally conditioned? That’s unpossible!

Except, it’s not all that unheard of. Other anthropologists have come across cultures without any real understanding of disordered sexual practices, which are largely rooted in psychological and sociological, not physiological, causes. The article attempts to wave the magic wand of genetics at the problem, reassuring their panicking readership that, indeed, genetics can explain this, because SCIENCE! Their genetic mutterings are fairly vague, but from what I can tell, they’re suggesting that if there is a genetic component to homosexuality (“and there is increasing evidence that [there is], in many cases,” they say soothingly), it makes perfect sense that isolated tribes would not have this genetic component.

Because homosexuality has never been found in genetically separated cultures? Try again.

Are they suggesting that there’s a Mitochondrial Gay Eve to match Mitochondrial Eve, and all gay people trace their lineage back to her? How, where, when, and why did this genetic gay component enter the human family tree? Aren’t evolutionists always telling us that we’re nothing but chains of reproduction stretching back to single cells, with all behavior oriented towards passing on the best possible genes? If that’s the case, how does the “gay gene” fit in? It serves no purpose. In fact, it’s functionally sterile, and thus if it existed, wouldn’t it have vanished long ago as an evolutionary dead end? Am I missing something here?

The Hewletts correctly observe the three components of human sexuality: desire, behavior, and identity. They appear to believe that the desire element is universal and hard-wired, but that culture affects behavior and identity. There’s something to be said for this in developed civilizations. Certainly, the whole idea of someone being homosexual (behavior) is barely more than a hundred years old and the idea of claiming membership in a gay sub-culture (identity) is even more recent, while the idea of homosexual activity (desire) is quite ancient.

Where they–and much of modern social science–goes awry is in seating desire purely in biology. It may in fact originate there in some cases. Certainly, we find young children with gender identity disorders that cannot have come from cultural conditioning. At some point we’ll identify exactly what goes wrong in fetal development to produce GID, and maybe then we’ll find a more humane solution than the chemical and surgical butchery we’re practicing now to turn men and and women into non-men and non-women.

But insisting on a biological element in all (or even most) instances of same sex attraction is just junk science. Desire is a mysterious thing, and we can’t rule out some real biological component to sexual disorders, but moving from that to the “born gay” routine is just politically motivated nonsense looking to reaffirm people in their okayness.

The Hewletts believe it’s possible that same-sex desire exists in Aka and Ngandu men, but the lack of any social acceptance or understanding keeps it repressed. To their credit, they are cautious about this claim, and admit there is no proof for it.

The lack of masturbation actually shocked them more than the lack of homosexuality. Homosexual activity requires not only having the desire, but identifying and communicating that desire to someone who shares it, a proposition that is somewhat fraught in certain cultures, to say the least.

Masturbation, however, is a party of one. They find it unfathomable that any people who enjoy the pleasures of sex can fail to treat their genitals as a self-contained recreational unit.

Mired in their Western, modernist, post-moral biases, they fail to see a people who have a frank and practical understanding of sex as rooted, quite simply, in babies and bonding between people of the opposite gender. That’s what sex is. Everything else is simply a misuse of sex. It may be a vastly entertaining misuse of sex, but people trying to eek out a simple existence can be forgiven for not reducing all of life’s experiences to self-amusement and self-gratification.

My favorite part of the whole story, however, comes at the end:

Studies of small-scale, rural, non-Western cultures like the Aka and Ngandu paint a more complicated picture of human variation. The Hewletts remark that, “the Western cultural emphasis on recreational sex has … led some researchers to suggest that human sexuality is similar to bonobo apes because they have frequent non-reproductive sex, engage in sex throughout the female cycle, and use sex to reduce social tensions.” But, the Hewletts suggest, “The bonobo view may apply to Euro-Americans (plural), but from an Aka or Ngandu viewpoint, sex is linked to reproduction and building a family.” Where sex is work, sex may just work differently.

I can’t think of a more perfect summary of the Enlightenment and all the modernist movements that evolved in its wake. The efforts of the intellectual elite for the past 200+ years has been to reduce us all to bonobo apes. In fact, the Western view of recreational sex has been imposed on people who were once very traditionally moral.

And when our civilization falls, and we’re all reduced to subsistence living, the Aka and Ngandu–along with any traditionally religious people who haven’t been hunted to their deaths–can teach the survivors the true purpose of life and sexuality.

h/t: Kathy Schiffer

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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