Sexual partner preferences: Still an issue, a cage for all

Mauri Favaron
Posted February 6, 2010 from Italy

I write now, from Italy. A country where in the last two years acts of violence against people because of their (sometimes imagined) homosexuality have became more visible. One of the last of these acts occurred at Como, not far from where I live:è-omosessuale-denuncia-di-comogaylesbica-wwwgaynewsit

These aggressions seem to form a blood-stained thread, rooted in the depth of our society. We Italians still remember the rage barely perceivable under the fierce debate on a law proposal granting non-married couples a basic legal acknowledgment and protection - and the hatred openly dripping from many people words: the acknowledgement would have regarded also same sex couples. The enraged, ideological fight on de-facto couples had a major role in fostering the irreconcilable divisions in the centre-left coalition, eventually leading to prof. Prodi's government fall in 2008.

The case of Uganda goes a step more, but in the same direction: homosexuality seen as a moral sin - so important a "crime" to justify life imprisonment and, under some circumstances, death!

Of course, of course! None of this is acceptable!

We live now in the 21-th Century, we all claim being civilized women and men. But may we support this claim with facts, if we imagine that all inevitable?

We need a more tolerant World - and as far as I see, realistically, we may have only if we build it "ourselves".

                                        • *

What's behind?

Hatred and resentment always have reasons, although not necessarily rational.

I see homophoby and misogyny two (of the many) strongly related faces of a single core problem.

We constructed "sex" and "gender".

As the little I know of scientific discoveries and personal experience, these categories are much more social conventions than we might imagine / desire. Sure if we focus on large group averages we may find "differences" between men and women.

But individually, what a woman is? A man?

Less clear even: what is a homosexual? A heterosexual?

What "normality" means in a natural population, like human kind is as a whole, where variation is the actual only norm?

That of sex (more precisely, maybe, gender) is, I realize, so much entwined and fundamental in the way we modern humans define ourselves. No special wonder: it is somewhat related on the reproductive strategy of the species. The word "sex" comes from Latin, "sexus", meaning divided. But the clear-cut barrier among the sexes assumed by this term blurs, as we deal with individuals. And these individuals are the real-world inhabitants, not abstract averages or ideals.

Two, or three, or any small integer N greater than zero genders are a cage. Imposed as an act of domination, a show of the evil power to "give things a name" - and reduce them to an abstract "essence" only the current "priest" know.

Between 6 and 7 billion genders -as many as us humans to date- seems to me quite more acceptable (and am not sure of this, too: it does not consider we all grow and change, nor the people who is no longer with us, and neither the life forms who preceded our race, as ancestors or interacting).

Acceptance of homosexuality as normal may be related to just that: accepting, more generally, that categories of sex and gender are not absolutes, nor necessarily desirable.

And shift attention to what really makes us humans unique, and so precious: the ability to love, the will to explore, the need to share.

Thanks all (and sorry so sloppy)


16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence 2009

Comments 4

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  • Jade Frank
    Feb 07, 2010
    Feb 07, 2010


    I love how you point out and break down the notion of gender and sex. Categorizing people, generalizing people and enforcing laws that adhere to societal norms rather than human rights is illogical.

    Who we are inside and who we choose to love should be personal choices (as long as it's consensual), not something that people can vote on or lock us away for.

    Thank you for putting your insightful spin on the topic - I always enjoy your ability to break down an issue into such tangible and logical reasoning.

    Warm regards, Jade

  • Mauri Favaron
    Feb 08, 2010
    Feb 08, 2010

    Jade, thank for your soul-warming reply!

    I'm not sure to devise so much appreciation! ;-)

    But the issue of freedom of loving (freedom in general) is too central, too important. More even in these days, as we are more and more categorized, "explained" - and ironed out to a narrow space of "acceptable" behaviors. These roles / genders may seem different, and superficially they are. But both are docile, stereotypical, flat, unidimensional... Very good for consumers and "predictable voters" maybe, but deeply inhumane.


    I feel that, "cracking the code", and showing the King is naked (and decidedly unattractive) may help. The problem is, being really able to do so...

    Well, I try, doing the little I can. As anyone of us.

    But on the other side: have you seen ants emptying a sugar can grain by grain? They "are" able! Why not us? ;-)

    Thanks, again,


  • JaniceW
    Feb 13, 2010
    Feb 13, 2010

    Mauri, how succinctly you address this topic. The reality is that all the categories we live with are societal labels for those who wish to ensure they can distinguish themselves from "others". People feel the need to create cages in order to feel secure and safe, so that they can move freely amidst their "own" without fear. Labels help people define others quickly so that they can make an assessment of whether that person is friend or foe.

    But the reality is that we are all unique and so each person therefore would either have their own "cage" or we would all fall within the same one i.e. the human race. There are very few, and I would argue no, labels that people can cleanly and distinctively fall within. The labels male and female do not consider chromosonal variations, heterosexual and homosexual do not distinguish depth of love along the spectrum from friendship to relationship. How close does one have to be with a friend of the same sex to be considered homosexual? Is the physical act of sexual intercourse the defining factor? Of course not. As you said, the cages are not absolutes nor desirable.

    I thank God we are all unique and hope that we can one day celebrate that uniqueness, rather than using it to persecute others, whether by penalty of death, slurs, emotional or physical abuse, or just simple inconsideration.

  • Mauri Favaron
    Feb 14, 2010
    Feb 14, 2010

    Thank you, Janice, for your warm and thoughtful reply.

    How not to agree? We are all individuals! As pearls, we have so much in common, like a shape. But anyone has h** own shade, size, form... Yet all are pearls.

    Constructing "gender", or "race", or "...", does no good service.

    Maybe, we need a massive shift of attention.

    What, as different as we are, makes us "human"? What, besides, "human" means?

    It's so ironical... We, as the human race (a single one, cohesive, neither less nor more variable than any other natural population) have become the most efficient predator ever existed. Diffusion of our race was accompanied by an important mass extinction - "how much" important, we don't yet know: it's still ongoing. "Mass extinctions" can be appreciated fully from the perspective of the "deep time" of geology, and we, collectively, have difficulties just to speak of things occurring on a much smaller time scale - climate to name one.

    We have not yet really found our "place" in Nature. Sure it exists - we just don't know if our species is included in it. We have quite urgent problems, in search of a solution. How to grant our descendants an acceptable future. What to eat the next decade. Which energy source to use. Just to name a few.

    But we route a huge attention to gender, or ethnic identity, or whatever else. Sure they are important aspects of life, as they form a large part of our self-image to date.

    I'm trying to imagine "beyond", as you and many others do. It isn't simple.

    On a side, I feel we need to celebrate our humanness, first of all, with an aim of understanding and accepting it: I'm afraid we need to develop a global sense of responsibility rooted in a deeper knowledge of Nature's mechanisms.

    And the road is so long...

    There are many aspects of our humanness which, seen from the perspective of another planet's visitor, seem really enigmatic, and stand out.

    The way we're built, to begin with. Humans are sleek and gracious, compared to other primates. They have thin bones, a strangely large pelvis. A large skull, like infants. Overall, they look a hyper-feminized gorilla. They are not so sexually dimorphic, also. Clearly, they are primates, a variety of big african apes; meanwhile, they're quite different.

    Are these adaptations to what? Some say to living as a predator. Some others, to the ability to carry babies while moving. I feel a bit of all of these ideas may all apply, but something is still missing. In reality, we don't know for sure.

    Maybe, with a bit of mental energy and more documentation, I'll post on this subject (it fascinates me).

    But turning back, all seems me ironical. Or maybe, a bit tragic - maybe a hyperfeminized big ape "must" develop a keen sense of "gender", to the point of constructing it beyond real evidence. The same for "race": Homo sapiens is highly variable in skin color and proportion, but all these adaptations are extremely recent and on surface. Our eyes "see" them, as they do with gender, because of some form of hypersensitivity having to do with our constitution.

    So, cages we build as dichotomies are not only unjust and illogical. They also turn us away from more urgent problems, on which no one alone may find a viable solution, and where the co-creation (of meanings first, solutions hopefully then) by all people seems to me indispensable. With no guarantee we are "enough diverse" to really be able to devise solutions...

    I feel love, in a society structured like ours, places a special problem. It's inherently subversive. It connects, instead of producing or enforcing dichotomies. I feel it was not by chance so many cultures have tried to define, regulate and control it.

    As you say, love has many forms. Is fluid. It's a primary necessity, too.

    Centuries of regulations have made us believe the forms of love are quite few. And meanwhile, personal experience always, invariably shows there are many others. There is the love for God. For all what lives. For ... Numberless!

    Try regulating it, and you just cause it to spill somewhere else, uncontainable. It transforms with time - I remember how I imagined it as an adolescent, when I mostly received love sometimes without even noticing it; and later, as you grow, you find a need to give it back, having finally realized the mechanism. Gratitude is not enough, however: time has merciless passed, and you have no other chance than giving your love to the current and next generations (in the broadest sense).

    It may then be an individual love, or a "global", more diffused one as well. But no way, you end up transmitting it, hoping nothing in reward for "you now", expecting the next generation will do the same (it will, as dr. Newton's apple left free will fall to ground under gravity).

    In front of this, as you love in a non-pathological, authentically reciprocal, not egotistic, sensitive and respectful way, you do something important. There is not, then, classification worth applying. (Maybe, you have to be a deadly predator - as we human are, that we like it or not - to be so love-thirsty).