I was doing a whole stream of consciousness thing when I was looking at a wall-to-wall on Facebook between these two girls. They were sharing their sexuality in reference to a specific event. Anyway, that got me to thinking about the nature of sexuality as a function of power.
It’s been shown that females are more likely to be bisexual than are males, where bisexuality in these studies usually includes a near equivalent preference for men and women both sexually and emotionally. Studies like that are inherently flawed in part because it’s considered a societal normal for females to share emotions in the way that they do and for it to not be considered abnormal, and that the fluidity of female sexuality is considered more acceptable in our society.
I would normally dismiss something like that because it suggest that societal influences create a situation that makes it easier for females and by that nature it would seem likely it’s unequal playing grounds. But then I considered that it doesn’t have to just be causal in one direction (society –> behavior).
What if the difference in the bisexuality, where it reflects a true non-preference for either males or females (indifference is how I want to view it), is a reflection of our power structure and that by itself can actually make (true) male bisexuality nearly impossible. Consider the fact that we live in a patriarchal society, and that men have held power for the majority of human existence. Thus women have fallen into a de facto powerless position (but only relatively).
I should preface that the following argument will assume that there is a choice component of sexuality, which I’m not necessarily saying but makes the following argument a lot easier. A female is more easily able to gain an advantage from being bisexual instead of being homosexual in terms of resources (financial, emotional, etc). Women also gain power (technically) if they’re in a heterosexual relationship compared to a homosexual one. If you have an equivalent preference then it seems likely that you can chose whichever situation best suites you. And it should be noted that this preference can change over time, as female’s sexuality is considered to be more fluid with reference to time than it is for males.
In the same type of scenario it would appear to be beneficial for a male to choose another male, as their combined power is synergetic. Male sexuality is usually considered more stable than females’, going in one linear direction over time. Does it become easier to just stay in that type of relationship (societal discrimination, etc aside)? This mechanism to me is a lot less clear, but I wonder if it has anything to with our patriarchy. Would we see an opposite pattern for fluid sexuality if we lived in a matriarchal society?
Background: I’m sure the above seems all too speculative and that’s probably fair. However, consider one study we discussed in my Psychology of Relationships class. In one study, they looked at a round of speed dating. In the study, males rotated to different females (as is the case with the majority of all speed dating where one partner rotates) and they described a mechanism where the process of rotating created confidence.
That confidence was cited as making males more aware of reciprocal female interests. Females perform more subtle indicators of interests than most males recognize, as males often misinterpret female interests; as a result, males are often very bad at recognizing if there is chemistry. Yet, if a male and female are shown a similar dating scenario via video tape they are both equally likely to guess reciprocal interests. In other words, when you’re in the situation and you’re male, you’re going to be awful at reading the social cues for interest or lack thereof.
Now on to the interesting part. They had women rotate in this speed dating round, and found that the differences in perception of interests were now equaled. Or that once females had to be active, exhibiting approach behavior more indicative of males and what society has ingrained, they were at the same level of interpreting (perceiving) romantic interest. So where does the confidence argument go when it doesn’t help females in decoding the simple, indications of male interest?
It would seem that the ingrained act of males’ approach behavior, either a symbol for submission to another (philosophically) or dominance, is really about power. Women can be, or should I say have to be, more subtle with their rejections or indicators of romantic chemistry because they are considered powerless. You can’t just reject a king and expect to keep your head right? So it’s about power, that inversion of power in that moment yet the pervasiveness of the power structure. Now when a woman would approach she doesn’t have power to lose by asking a male out or seeking his romantic approval in this scenario; it is societally a given that she is not in power anyway.
It’s an interesting effect to see that merely changing who alternates in a round of speed dating can influence romantic interest perception, which is likely to be based on power. So that is kind of how I’m attempting to tie together the argument of what would sexuality be like if we lived in a patriarchy? I’m sure that we’d be a lot less violent.
Chimpanzees are one of our closest ape relatives, and they are patriarchal. And some of their females exhibit partnership-like behavior with each other. And then there are bonobos who live in a matriarchal society, and are actually just ‘dwarf’ chimpanzees (closely related cousins). Bonobos are more peaceful than chimps and have a lot more sex, they have sex to quell arguments and to generally promote pro-social behavior. It’s interesting to see how socially these related species differ based on something seemingly as simple as socio-power structure as it relates to gender.
Bonobos are also more similar in body size between genders than are chimps, who exhibit more sexual dimorphism. Gorillas are an ape extreme, where the males are huge and females small. You can’t as easily tell the sex of a bonobo. And aside from our attire, how sexually dimorphic are humans really?
I’ve rambled on a lot, but isn’t this intriguing in some way? This is actually something I would love to hear feedback on. I have my (limited) analysis from the psychological, super subjective point of view, but what about something that’s say more grounded in ‘reason’? Comment below or leave something anonymously via formspring (link).