Sexual Orientation and Free Will

In "How Choice and Emotion Can Influence Sexual Orientation," Ronald Pisaturo argues against biological and social determinism and for free will as the determiner of sexual orientation. He takes a position that bears some resemblance to an argument I've seen here before, one of Grim's, I think, that we express free will not always in the moment, but in habits. That is, there is no moment when someone makes a conscious decision to be homosexual or heterosexual, but that these orientations are the culminations of many decisions over many years.

It is particularly interesting to me because he argues that heterosexuality is also a choice (or, a long series of choices). In the past, I have simply assumed heterosexuality was the norm and there was no need for a choice, but Pisaturo's argument here intrigues me and I will have to think about it.

In any case, it is an argument I am highly susceptible to, so I invite anyone who is interested to read and poke holes in it, or say whatever else you'd like to say about it.


Grim said...

The argument you're thinking of was mine, but it wasn't here: I published that one at Winds of Change back in its heyday. It was called Aristotle and the Ten Second Problem.

Anonymous said...

This was very interesting and horrifying. Two homosexual parents.

Grim said...

I hope the FRC study she cites turns out to be horribly wrong. Unfortunately the only commentary I've found on it is from the SPLC, whose credibility with me is not greater than that of the FRC's. I know for certain fact that the SPLC is tremendously unfair in many of its treatments, whereas I only suspect that the FRC may sometimes be blinded by the intensity of its beliefs.

Grim said...

In any case, to get back to the claim, I don't know the answer here. I think it's right to say that you can at least mildly adjust your sexual interests through practice. If you meet a partner who has interests somewhat different from your own, you can learn to enjoy hers by being sexually excited by her while engaging in the by-itself-unstimulating practice. A mental association might form, and you might come to find the practice engaging.

On the other hand, I really doubt you can make a major shift like the one under discussion here. Clearly lots of gay men have married, had lots of straight sex, had children, and not been 'turned' by the experience. Practice can't account for that, as all the practice -- and even all the will, in cases of gays who really wanted to be straight in order to fit in -- has failed to accomplish the change.

Tom said...

Thanks for the link!

Pisaturo is talking about early formation, how we initially choose to be straight or gay, not really about making major changes once we've been one or the other. Also, he doesn't really talk about practicing homosexuality or heterosexuality, per se. He talks about how we choose to live our lives and what we come to value as a result. Those values, he argues, express themselves in our sexuality.

As for making major changes, there are some homosexuals who have succeeded in becoming straight as well, so I don't know that the failure of others tells us much. Losing weight or quitting smoking is hard; that's probably a lot harder. However, there is no strong scientific evidence that sexual orientation is determined by biology, we aren't just born that way, so we need another answer.