April 11, 2007

A Theory of Gayness

I was just reading today's article about the genes of romance, in the New York Times ("Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes" by Nicolas Wade), & I had a few thoughts to add to it inspired by some of the BBC nature documentaries I've watched in the past months. (Alastair Fothergill's Planet Earth, sadly lacking David Attenborough, is playing for the next two sundays on the Discovery Channel. It's beautiful - watch it!) Neurologists now believe that the wires attracting a male brain to females or to other males have probably been connected before birth. (This is not true in women, who seem to always be attracted to both sexes, & any specific sexualities come from an innate pickiness for mates & for reproduction.) Now comes the big clue, that two Canadian researchers, Ray Blanchard and Anthony F. Bogaert, "have shown that having older brothers substantially increases the chances that a man will be gay. Older sisters don’t count, nor does it matter whether the brothers are in the house when the boy is reared." This is because of a "a maternal immune response to succeeding male pregnancies."

Obviously this is a mother's genetic response to the type of family she is creating, &, in a larger sense, the type of society she is living in. Having more males in your tribe means more fighting for females when the next generation comes to want to start families.

How males in different mammal species fight for mates varies greatly in levels of violence. A common trend in all animals, however, is what Richard Dawkins calls the "gloved fist", meaning that, no matter how dangerous the tusks or horns, there are civil rules of conduct, the duelers never fight to the kill, and the loser retreats as soon as he knows he's inferior. In the most violent of mammals, like Elephant Seals, whose males are huge & keep humongous harems of females numbering in the hundreds, the loser males band together in gangs & roam the waters, biding time until one can challenge a reigning king. This male bonding occurs in large mammals the world wide, from elephants to deer.

Now humans have many examples of the "gloved fist" romantic warfare, despite what Western movies make us believe. We also have many examples of gangs of males who haven't chosen a mate & settled down in a family to breed yet. But we are the most violent species that has ever lived on this planet. We regularly use our most advanced technologies to murder large numbers of other humans for ambiguous genetic benefits, sacrificing thousands of young males in the process. I could be easily led to believe that that "maternal immune response" that makes some sons homosexual only crops up in a species when that species evolves to be sufficiently violent enough to warrant any benefits from gayness. Some scientists have written that homosexuality increases fertility in other family members, & studies have shown that gay people on average have more relatives than straight people. Also, obviously, gay males are less prone to fighting. Historically, some societies with infamous rampant homosexuality are: Athens during the Greek Empire, Berlin after WWI, & America today: three exceptionally bellicose empires. (The arts and philosophy have also flourished in those places, with many gay men among their most prominent thinkers.) Is creating gay children a biological response to war?


david santos said...

Thanks for you work. Have a good week.

Bare-Footed Athenian said...

damn right boys

MrA said...

Ha! That's a keen linkage there, James. Aren't lions oftentimes gay also?