Sexuality, Nurture or Nature?

Many people like to argue that our sexuality is a product of the environment we are raised in, or that it is simply a choice people make for one reason or another. Many people also believe it’s something that is decided for us, we’re either born with it or we’re not and that it’s something that predetermined by our genetic make-up. Something that is generally well accepted across the board is that human sexuality is something incredibly complicated, brain meltingly complicated really, and that we may or may not ever even find the reason behind it.

For a lot of people, it’s nice to imagine that humans are simple and you can know a person’s sex and then you’ll know all sorts of things about them deeply and clearly- except that’s not how it is most of the time. There are some people who fit into that nice little box but the vast majority does not. There are many variables and contributing factors to human sexuality, such as your biological sex, gender, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and sexual behavior. To argue whether or not your sexuality is a product of nature as opposed to nurture as well as the opposite argument there has to be first a firm understanding of each of these.

A person’s biological sex, as defined by Planned Parenthood, is “… is how we are defined as female, male, or intersex. It describes our internal and external bodies — including our sexual and reproductive anatomy, our genetic makeup, and our hormones. ” Biological sex is what your body is and it’s not necessarily the same thing as your gender. Biological males bear both X and Y chromosomes and usually have male genitalia, biological females have two X chromosomes and usually have female genitalia.

There are all sorts of variations of this as well, in the case of intersex individuals they may have a combination of the two and in some cases there have been individuals born with two sets of male or female genitalia. When DNA and chromosomes a person’s sex is generally a set in stone thing but there are procedures that involve altering the genitalia to work and act like another and even complete removal of them that could result in having a person’s ‘sex’ registered as another. “Our gender includes a complex mix of beliefs, behaviors, and characteristics.

Gender is determined in a person’s brain and a person could be a man, woman, neither, or both, or any variation of any of these. Trying to name them all is like trying to label every point on an infinite continuum and that’s what we’re dealing with here. Gender, unlike sex, and not usually binary and this is what decides what sort of pronouns you should use with the individual. Sexual orientation is just as complicated and broad as gender but for the sake of defining it sexual orientation is what your body wants to have sex with, what your body is telling you to attempt to produce offspring with.

Obviously humans don’t always have sex for the sole purpose of producing offspring and even animals such as the dolphin and bonobo have sex for pleasure and hundreds of different animals have homosexual sex. Homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual, and pansexual are common terms used for a person’s sexuality but there are tons of paraphilia which describe a sexual attraction to objects and situations. Romantic orientation may or may not be linked to sexual orientation and describes what type of romantic preferences a person has.

For example; a biological male that only has sex with woman who can only develop strong intimate relationships with men. His sexual orientation is heterosexual but his romantic orientation is homosexual. Though this may not be a very common occurrence it is far from impossible. Simply romantic orientation is exactly what it sounds like it is; who you’re romantic with. Sexual behavior is the last of the common variables associated with sexuality and describes specifically what goes on when you throw another person into the mix.

A good example is a heterosexual priest who, because of his religion, is celibate. His sexual orientation is heterosexual yet he abstains from sexual interaction because of his beliefs, that’s behavior. The most important thing to remember before going into the argument of whether or not sexuality is a product of nurture or nature is that these variables can all be independent of each other and that’s what makes this argument so frustratingly difficult to work with. Charles Darwin himself said “… we do not even in the least know the final cause of sexuality. The whole subject is hidden in darkness. There is no definite proof of either side of this argument and it is still being researched today.

In the article Kimberly Cornuelle wrote for BU Today she describes an experiment in which two scientists “examined identical and fraternal twin brothers—as well as nonrelated brothers who had been adopted—in an effort to see if there was a genetic explanation for homosexuality. They found that if one identical twin was gay, 52 percent of the time the other was also; the figure was 22 percent for fraternal twins, and only 5 percent for nonrelated adopted brothers. These finding have been highly debated over the years but if they are true, wouldn’t that mean that at least part of human sexuality is the cause of nature? Look back again to the example of the heterosexual priest who chooses celibacy.

Religion isn’t a natural thing, meaning part of his sexuality is determined by his lifestyle. All in all there are always going to be people who fit in the box for each argument and there will always be people who do not, leading me to the conclusion that sexuality itself is a mixture between both nurture and nature and that it can be a different combination of the two for each individual. Other people can argue for one way or another all they want but there is no way that it is simple enough to be defined. It probably never will be defined; there are just far too many variables.