Gender vs. Freedom

When considering the questions of gender and sexuality, the first thing we must recognize is that these two issues are burdened with a lot of semantic baggage which we all have inherited from those who have gone before.

(Originally written on 19 December 2015, but this series of rants has been a longer time than that in coming.
If I had been able to post it earlier, perhaps I could have saved a friend a lot of grief. Or maybe not. The path to understanding is necessarily a string of personal choices, and grief and regret are as much a part of freedom as joy and confidence. And the path that friend took may have been the right one for that friend. I don't know. It was not my decision.

Still, it is time, and maybe past time to write this.

I would have an easier time here, if I had a rant on semantic baggage to refer to, but that's another one that is taking a long time to get right. In the meantime, you might be amused by my rantings on the derivation of value, the flatness of the world, and the assertion of freedom. Yes, those rants do have a bit to say on the subject.)

Words do not have inherent meanings. (I'm sure I have a relevant rant somewhere on this, but I'm not properly organized. It's a mathematical principle that really throws some software engineers for a loop.)

We learn meanings from our parents and siblings and, later, schools, and so forth. Meaning is derived from the context of use, and confirmed and refined by repetition.

Thus, when two people say, "gender", it is not at all given that they are saying the same thing. And when two people say, "sex", it is almost guaranteed that they mean different things. From my observation, differences are usually large for both words, even in the same family.

Non-verbal language may have more inherent meaning, but, even there, we cannot assume that the same act by two different people has the same meaning. One person may wear a certain fashion as an assertion of her independence from the opinions of others, and another may wear the same fashion in an effort to fit in.

And the same person may mean one thing on one day and another on another. Hey. Let's be realistic. The meaning can change from hour to hour or even moment to moment or depending on who she thinks is looking at her.

And, given two different observers (or even the same observer on different days), you have two (or more) different interpretations of the wearing of the fashion.

Gender may color personality, but it does not determine it.

Women may, statistically, show a preference for pink, but, picking a woman at random from a crowd, we would be dead wrong to assume she would like a pink blouse. Men may, statistically, show a preference against pink, but, again, picking a man at random from a crowd, we would be dead wrong to assume he would refuse to wear a pink shirt. You know about this, just as well as I do.

Again, men may tend more to physical violence than women in general, but, picking one woman and one man at random out of a crowd we have no basis to be sure that the man will be more likely to resort to physical violence under a given set of circumstances than the woman.
Statistically, yes. Individually, no.

Logical errors in generalization can be dangerous in real life.

In discussing any aspect of personality, the first thing we have to get straight is that individuals are not statistical creatures.

Statistics is doing math on a group of individuals. You can derive statistics from groups of individuals.

But no amount of math can derive individuals from statistics. That would be like trying to derive an entire file from a checksum, or like trying to read the personality of an unknown individual from a square millimeter of his fingerprint.

(I would have said, from his fingerprint, but I know people who try to interpret personality characteristics from fingerprints, and I don't want to argue with them today.)

Unfortunately, we humans seem to have a penchant for trying to do exactly that. I call to witness the interest in astrology and on pulp literature relating personality to blood type.

So, can we get past this? Interest in fashion (including earrings), preferences in color, tendencies to violence, ability in specific fields of engineering, science, medicine, or even road construction, all of these things have to be separated from the question of gender.

I am a regular guy. I like pink (and other colors). I love my wife. (Sometimes I hate things she does, too.) I enjoy programming computers and designing and building electrical and electronic circuits. I fix the family bikes on occasion.

I dance for exercise. I am usually a pacifist, but don't test me on that on any particular day.

I do not want sex outside my marriage for a variety of reasons. I am the DNA father of my wife's two children.

I like to cook. I changed my kids diapers regularly when they were babies. I wear a wedding band as a nod to social convention, but my skin has problems that make me uninterested in even wristwatches, much less other kinds of jewelry.

(And me sister similar skin conditions, and does not wear jewelry.)

I am an individual. There are only a very few things about me that are determined by my gender.

You are an individual. There are only a very few things about you that are or should be determined by your gender.

Of the few things that are determined by gender, many are actually determined, not by gender, but by social conventions that have been attached to gender.

Pink blankets for little girls, baby-blue for little boys? It's a social convention, promulgated for the benefit of the machines of mass-production and institutionalized medicine. It's not necessarily evil in general, but it could be evil in specific cases.

What actually determines gender? And what is determined by gender? How does gender relate to various aspects of personality, and to social interaction? These are the topics of heated discussion, but most of the discussion avoids looking at the way things are actually related.

We seem to have a fear of looking at the details of this question.

There is a reason for that. Unless one deliberately adjusts to it, even discussing the details explicitly induces various kinds of excitement, and that excitement makes it hard to continue the discussion with impartiality.

But if we are going to discuss it, we should discuss it impartially. Otherwise, our discussion doesn't really get beyond the locker-room jesting and bragging -- and fears -- of school children.

Empirically, we know that pretty much every thing we point to as being "masculine" or "feminine" in human nature is little more than limiting stereotype. Seriously. You know that.

In the extreme, if the stereotypes were true, we'd all be Clark Kent and Diana Prince. We aren't. QED, we have differences, and the stereotypes should only be referenced for amusement, and for giving the other person a break.

Not for pretending we know what the other person should be, do, or say.

Okay, well, I've already argued part of that above. So, I'll say it out loud, in the least offensive way I can:

The only true determinant of gender is the set of genital organs a person has. And the function of those organs is the only thing we should infer from gender, and we shouldn't really infer anything about that, except as a possibility.

(From here on, I'm adding today, 11 October 2016. This is where I got stuck last December.)

Why do I need to know whether you are female or male? I am married. I should no longer have any interest in anything that is strictly determined (and that only partially) by gender.

I don't need to know.

What about single people? Sexual relations outside of marriage are the greatest source of noise in a relationship.

Maybe you kiss someone you are not married to, too deeply. Maybe your lips and hands go where they shouldn't. Which of you is more excited? Which of you might be playing along for some perceived expected gain?

If you weren't trying to do the marriage thing without the social burdens of the marriage thing, you wouldn't be asking whether the other person might be faking it to gain power over you. Or for any other particular reason that isn't really relevant.

(Yes, I admit, I remember the experiences where I learned this. I made a few mistakes when I was single. I repented of them as best as I could, but they still affect my relationships with people, and not for the better. Those sins are no longer as scarlet, but they aren't quite as white as snow yet, either. Some things can be put aside, some things take working out over a long time.)

There is one more reason why we should ignore questions of gender. It's an important one.

You've at least heard rumors about partial sexual differentiation, and you, and the people around you may have been shocked. Get over it. You were only pretending to be shocked. Scared, maybe. Shocked, no.

There are people whom it would be physically difficult to meaningfully fit into the traditional dichotomy of gender. We should not try to force them to. Their numbers range from several in a hundred to several in a thousand. You know some of them. (You may be one yourself.)

Many people have suffered harm because we insisted that gender was binary. We have to quit that, start allowing people with apparent gender ambiguity just be how they turn out, and make a place in society for them as they are.

It would be much easier if we completely quit worrying about gender when we don't need to worry about it.

I think this has to be part of what Jesus was referring to when he said something about eunuchs (in relation to some discussion about marriage).

Every single one of is different in the way our genital organs appear and function.

Every single one of us is different in what sexual stimulation and the acts and thoughts that produce that stimulation mean to us.

Whether one person does or does not "come fully to orgasm" when having sex with his or her spouse (or outside of marriage, either, really) has little to do with whether a child might be born from the act.

Whether a person feels or does not feel sexually aroused by people of the nominal opposite or same sex is irrelevant, as well.

(And romantic love is another topic altogether.)

Honestly speaking, sexual arousal can be learned. I've read enough of various kinds of literature that it is quite obvious to me that it can be learned.

Those who claim that everyone is a closet gay may be missing an important point or two. They may be speaking out of context. But they are also speaking an important truth.

Most humans, if they were given a reason, could learn to be homosexually sexually oriented. It isn't relevant. Most of us could also learn to be heterosexually sexually oriented. It isn't relevant.

Out of context, one might say that all those who think they are gay should just make the personal sacrifices of rearranging their psyches to match the strict heterosexual norm.

Or, out of context, one might say that we should all be willing to have sex with anyone who asks it of us, no matter what gender.

I am sure that both extremes are wrong. (And going to either extreme tends to cause people to behave in duplicity.) 

There are some problems with social recognition of formalized homosexual relationships. But before we can talk about those problems, we have to acknowledge that gender should not be a reason to force anyone's behavior to fit artificial norms. We also have to talk about what natural norms society should be able to expect, but that's a subject for another rant or two, later. I have some other things I need to do now.

(Yes, society does have the right to put some restrictions on sexual promiscuity, but I have to build some context to talk meaningfully about that, as well. That context is not very well established here, so I don't really want to attempt to talk about those restrictions.)

Oh. Here are a few other related posts:

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Love and Hate

Is Every Difference a Perversion?

Love, Passion, Power, and Chicago

I think I have other posts that are relevant, as well, but those are fairly recent and were easy to find.


Here's one recent one I left out:

Sex Is Not For Fun


Popular Posts