Misconception Of What An Instinct Is

When it comes to human sexuality, we all have our own views – and that’s understandable because each of us possesses a lifetime of accumulated perceptions on a subject that one way or another, affects us all. However, it does not mean that our individual opinions on the subject necessarily have validity: personal biases cause us to focus on data that reinforces our views, and to discount/minimize that which invalidates them.

Consider the question of whether or not humans possess a sexual instinct. I have had people viscerally object to my assertion that as a species, we lack one. And I must say that the objections have come from intelligent, and often times, well-read people. They’ve expressed incredulity as to how I can be so blind to the obvious fact that without any apparent prodding, billions of people are in heterosexual relationships – or heading there, that they produce over 100 million offspring yearly … and they’ve been doing this evidently for millions for years. The world is frenetically sexed up, they add, with males and females perpetually preoccupied with engaging each other sexually. Thus, my detractors think that to even question the naturalness of heterosexuality is absurd. Moreover, how else would our species be able to survive if not for heterosexual intercourse? Surely, they argue, ‘heterosexuality must be innate, and therefore instinctual’ because of its absolute necessity for species perpetuation.

So, where does science stand on this issue? Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists generally speak loosely of human beings possessing some sort of an instinct to reproduce, to nurture our young, etc. But this is clearly a case of widespread scientific bias because they lack proof of this, and not surprisingly, come up shy of definitively saying that most people on earth are heterosexual due to some genetic predisposition they possess. There is after all, no gene they’ve ever found that determines one’s sexual orientation. And they also do not have a comprehensive theory of human sexuality, one that can explain:

1. why human sexual history has been so bizarre: numerous cultures have displayed almost universal homosexual activity at times, permitted within the boundaries of a societally sanctioned bisexuality. Why did these cultures need to endorse/enforce a minimum level of heterosexuality if it is supposedly innate/instinctive in most human beings?
2. the lack of convincing evidence for human sexual pheromones.
3. our unique freedom among all animals to not reproduce, if we choose. Not a single other animal species has this sexual freedom.

My theory True Nature – A Theory Of Human Sexual Evolution makes the assertion that humans lost their sexual instinct in the course of human evolution, and that it occurred because instincts at some point began to be a barrier to maximizing the potential intelligence of our mushrooming brain. But, we could only lose this sexual instinct once we had discovered that it was heterosexual intercourse that allowed us to reproduce, and that it was beneficial to produce children because they could take care of us in old age. If you wish to acquaint yourself with my ideas go to www.humansexualevolution.com . Here, I want to focus in more detail on the objections people have expressed to my theory.

One female wrote to me saying that pretty much all women experience heightened sexual feelings and arousal during the ovulatory phase of their monthly cycle. This was proof, according to her, that humans have a sexual instinct. She said that she’d come to know many females who shared similar tendencies. Furthermore, she cited scientific studies that showed that female strippers in the ovulatory phase danced more provocatively and were judged to me more attractive by male patrons, and subsequently got more tips than their non-ovulatory counterparts. These same studies presented data that purported to show that females at peak cycle emitted sexual pheromones that presumably were detected by males, who in turn responded more strongly to these females and gave them higher tips after a lap dance.

My response to this was as follows: First of all, humans have no pheromones that have ever convincingly been shown to exist. My explanation for women having heightened libidos during the ovulatory phase was to suggest that when we lost our sexual instinct, we essentially also lost the characteristic visible reddened swellings (present in chimpanzees,) that accompanied the female estrus. I propose that when the pheromonal and visual triggers for the human sexual instinct were lost in the course of human evolution, anything that might have increased the chances of a couple having sex during the ovulatory phase – such as a heightened sexual arousal – would have been favoured by natural selection. This heightened sexual arousal in ovulating women would have constituted a behavioral tendency, not a slavish compulsion like that arising from an instinct. Let’s just remember that none of these women showed a complete lack of sexual self-control (as one would expect from a sexual instinct) during the lap dances … they did not compulsively mate with the patrons, nor vice versa. Lesbian women also have this same heightened arousal at peak ovulation, yet their sexual interest is directed at other women – proving it is not a component of a heterosexual instinct.

What about the notion that heterosexuality is so effortlessly maintained in the world? Is it really? Look at the world around you. No matter what strides we’ve made in some parts of the world in making homosexuality more acceptable, there’s still a lot of stigma and un-acceptance associated with being homosexual. That alone is going to strongly bias a heterosexual orientation development. Being born into a predominantly heterosexual world is another huge influence. And although no one is pointing a gun at us telling us what our sexual orientations ought to be, how many parents would really not object to their children developing a homosexual orientation? Sure there are lots, but statistically they are small in number. Most parents encourage – or at least embrace – signs of heterosexuality in their children, but attempt to stamp out the first signs of any homosexual tendency. Thus, human sexuality does not develop automatically/innately to be largely inclined toward heterosexuality. Heterosexuality is masterfully encouraged from every angle in the environment of a growing infant. A strong indication of when something is forcefully maintained (viz. heterosexuality), is when great effort is made to eradicate anything that opposes it (viz. homosexuality). But, ask yourself why it would be necessary to suppress/control homosexuality if it is indeed genetic (as some would argue), yet only affects a small minority of people statistically (2-4%). Well, clearly the way humanity has always dealt with homosexuality fearfully and/or conditionally, leads one to conclude that it must not be genetic after all, and that the paltry current statistics belie its immense power to seduce an entire population – if an equally opposing force is not marshalled.

So yes, we are all sexed up, and yes most of us are attracted to members of the opposite sex, but that does not mean that human beings by and large have an instinct to heterosexual … it’s just the way the world is largely conditioned to be, and for most of us the intended sexual conditioning was ‘successful’. Similarly, those that are homosexual also do not owe their sexual orientation to genes or biology, but instead to individual experience. An instinct is simply a compulsory pre-programmed behavioral response to a specific environmental stimulus. It is never within conscious control, and by definition can’t ever remain unattended to! Yet there’s nothing compulsory about our sexual natures: our ever-present desire for sexual gratification, so often incorrectly interpreted as a sexual instinct, is comparable to our desire to nourish ourselves – both are biological drives, not instinctive ones – which although mediated by the action of genes, are completely under our conscious control. For example, we also spend a substantial portion of our lives procuring and consuming food, but we can put off eating for days if we wish, and then eat only what our life experience has taught us is adequately appetizing and nutritious. So it is with sex: the object toward which our sexual interests are directed are individually variable based on one’s life experiences. It’s all in the upbringing, in the environment one is exposed to. And like the satiation of hunger, which can be foregone to the point of death by starvation, sex (and reproduction) are completely voluntary acts that can be put off indefinitely with strong resolve (ie. religious celibates).

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