Understanding of human sexuality & homosexuality

Understanding of human sexuality & homosexuality

Understanding of human sexuality & homosexuality

The objective of this week is to study homosexuality both in Homo sapiens and others in the animal kingdom from an evolutionary perspective. The emphasis is on non-human primates, i.e. our nearest living genetic relatives, most particularly the great apes – gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. This week may seem set apart from the others, and for good reason. While we have been studying cultural anthropology so far, this week examines the anthropology of homosexualities through the contributions of primatology, a branch of the sub-discipline of biological anthropology. As the assigned article points out, we find it hard to resist drawing inferences on human sexuality by witnessing our primate cousins in action.

The study of homosexuality in animals brings us back to another consideration of essentialism and constructionism (see Week Four). If homosexual behavior happens in non-humans, then it is natural, and should be legally protected as part of the array of consensual human sexuality. But what of the counter argument? Animal behavior is no justification for human laws, customs, and notions of right and wrong. After all, some animals eat their young.

Two female bonobos engage in genito- genital (GG) rubbing
Bruce Bagemihl’sBiological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, provides an extensive overview of same-sex behavior in over 450 species.
An entire book could be written on queer birds, which have been observed and recorded by ornithologists for over 100 years. Female gulls perform courtship rituals with each other, mate with males, but return to their same-sex partners as soon as possible. Their pairings may last for years. Greylag and Canadian geese form male pair bonds. Zebra finches form female pair bonds. Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins and media superstars at New York’s Central Park Zoo, are inseparable.
Among sea mammals, homosexual behavior has been observed by both female and male bottlenose dolphins. A female manatee will attract males when she goes into heat. After she has made her selection of mate, the rejected males will have sex. Up to four males have been observed in sexual positions with each other, complete with erections, thrusting, and ejaculation.
Evolutionary science would suggest that homosexuality is some kind of adaptation to survival. If not, it would likely have been selected out of humans and other species long ago. If homosexuality has a biological origin, and widespread observation of animal behavior suggests that it does, then it is being passed down by heterosexual behavior.
For Further Reading:
Bagemihl, Bruce. Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. New York: St. Martin’s 1999.
Parish, Amy Randall. “Female Relationships in Bonobos (Pan paniscus).” From Human Nature, volume seven, number one, 1996.
Stein, Edward. The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.




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