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Homophobia, nature or nurture?


Gian
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Is it possible that homophobia - fear of homosexuality - is something that is inborn? If so via natural selection? Among our remote ancestors, did homophobes survive better?

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15 minutes ago, Gian said:

Is it possible that homophobia - fear of homosexuality - is something that is inborn? If so via natural selection? Among our remote ancestors, did homophobes survive better?

I suspect distaste for homosexuality is inborn in many of us. Given that we have a drive to be attracted to the opposite sex, we find the idea of sex with someone of the same sex a big turn-off. Consequently we may find the idea of a sexual approach from somebody of our own sex rather disturbing. If that is homophobia, then I am a homophobe. 

It seems to me that the blanket term "homophobia" is thrown around too easily. One needs to draw a distinction between personal sexual taste and the attempts by some to condemn different (minority) tastes in others. It is the latter that society should refrain from.  

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37 minutes ago, exchemist said:

It seems to me that the blanket term "homophobia" is thrown around too easily. One needs to draw a distinction between personal sexual taste and the attempts by some to condemn different (minority) tastes in others. It is the latter that society should refrain from.  

Well put +1

I think it is a crucially important life skill to - in some situations - be able to respect things that we don’t personally like. This isn’t always easy, since we generally tend to equate our own preferences, views, beliefs and opinions with some notion of “truth” about the world. It takes a certain amount of introspective awareness to recognise this dynamic and suspend it, if and when necessary; sadly, not everyone is able to do this.

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3 minutes ago, Markus Hanke said:

Well put +1

I think it is a crucially important life skill to - in some situations - be able to respect things that we don’t personally like. This isn’t always easy, since we generally tend to equate our own preferences, views, beliefs and opinions with some notion of “truth” about the world. It takes a certain amount of introspective awareness to recognise this dynamic and suspend it, if and when necessary; sadly, not everyone is able to do this.

Exactly. But my problem with the term "homophobia" is that it may be closer to my own personal discomfort at the prospect of a sexual advance from another man than it is to any inability by some to respect the sexual preferences of others. So what we stigmatise in society as homophobia is actually not that, whereas a feeling of personal discomfort or distaste, which could perhaps be described as a mild kind of "phobia" (though overstating it), is a natural thing and not reprehensible at all!     

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1 hour ago, exchemist said:

is a natural thing and not reprehensible at all

I’d say a feeling (or any kind of mind-state in general) is never in itself reprehensible, because it is the result of very many different internal and external causes and conditions that we generally do not choose to put in place. What we can choose though - at least to a degree - is how to act in response to our mind-states. Thus, merely having personal distaste or discomfort over anything is ethically neutral, whereas (eg.) beating someone to a bloody pulp because of such mind-states, is not.

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7 hours ago, Gian said:

Is it possible that homophobia - fear of homosexuality - is something that is inborn?

No. Infants don't pop out of the womb hating others for who they love. 

7 hours ago, Gian said:

If so via natural selection? Among our remote ancestors, did homophobes survive better?

No

6 hours ago, exchemist said:

I suspect distaste for homosexuality is inborn in many of us.

This speculation is unsupported by evidence. 

5 hours ago, exchemist said:

my problem with the term "homophobia" is that it may be closer to my own personal discomfort at the prospect of a sexual advance from another man than it is to any inability by some to respect the sexual preferences of others

What would you call it when a female experiences personal discomfort at the prospect of a sexual advance from a man? Why would that be different?

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7 minutes ago, iNow said:

No. Infants don't pop out of the womb hating others for who they love. 

No

This speculation is unsupported by evidence. 

What would you call it when a female experiences personal discomfort at the prospect of a sexual advance from a man? Why would that be different?

Because receiving an unwanted advance from a woman feels qualitatively different to me from receiving one from a man. I do not imagine I am unique. 

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7 hours ago, exchemist said:

Given that we have a drive to be attracted to the opposite sex, we find the idea of sex with someone of the same sex a big turn-off.

"We" as in humans, or "we" as in "all heterosexuals"? I sense this is too general to be a good argument.

If we're talking about "remote ancestors" from the OP, do you think early humans were as homophobic as they later became once the Abrahamic religions told them God didn't approve?

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1 hour ago, iNow said:

 

This speculation is unsupported by evidence. 

 

We all have impressions of how others tick that may not be easily answered with evidence.  I have no idea if social science based surveys have been done on this, or what percent of straight males are uncomfortable (phobia might be too strong a term) with sexual advances from men.  That's probably more a matter of social conditioning in childhood, and defining one's identity within a culture, than any other factor.  As a midwestern straight male, I would definitely be nervous about such an advance while recognizing that a citizen of ancient Athens would likely just get a pleasant ego boost.  

 

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22 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

"We" as in humans, or "we" as in "all heterosexuals"? I sense this is too general to be a good argument.

If we're talking about "remote ancestors" from the OP, do you think early humans were as homophobic as they later became once the Abrahamic religions told them God didn't approve?

Religion comes into it when it comes to censuring people for their preferences, which is the second of the two issues I was trying to disentangle. The first point is the sex drive point, in which by "we" I mean the great majority that has a heterosexual sex drive.  

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Homophobia is a fear. Not just a lack of attraction towards those of the same sex, but fear of those who are gay, and/or (especially) that you might be gay. That sounds like learned behavior.

 

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16 minutes ago, swansont said:

Homophobia is a fear. Not just a lack of attraction towards those of the same sex, but fear of those who are gay, and/or (especially) that you might be gay. That sounds like learned behavior.

Indeed. We learn to shun the things our group/family/community thinks are unattractive. Many heterosexual males equate homosexuality with weakness, the biggest masculine sin.

I remember a kid in elementary school who used to rag on kids who wore glasses (I got mine in 5th grade). He shows up bespectacled on the first day of 6th grade, absolutely devastated that he's now a hideously disfigured aberration. He must have been afraid he'd eventually be wearing them when he was picking on others for it, and in that light it doesn't seem that different from homophobia. Not a natural response, but something learned.

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3 hours ago, exchemist said:

Because receiving an unwanted advance from a woman feels qualitatively different to me from receiving one from a man. I do not imagine I am unique. 

You spoke of an unwanted advance by a man. I asked about a woman also receiving an unwanted advance from a man, and asked why/how that requires a different word. 

You answered that you like it when women come on to you, which I appreciate, but fail to grasp how it’s relevant to the question posed. Can you help me please to understand you better?

2 hours ago, TheVat said:

probably more a matter of social conditioning in childhood, and defining one's identity within a culture, than any other factor.

Agreed, which is why I pushed back on the poster positively asserting it was likely innate. You seem to agree that’s not an evidence based opinion. 

It’s a shame that we’re still in a culture where people attack us for WHO we love and worry not THAT we love. I’d say we’ve got our priorities wrong and need to highlight that at every opportunity. 

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4 hours ago, TheVat said:

We all have impressions of how others tick that may not be easily answered with evidence.  I have no idea if social science based surveys have been done on this, or what percent of straight males are uncomfortable (phobia might be too strong a term) with sexual advances from men. 

So there are quite a few studies in that area. In fact, there are studies trying to define and quantify homophobia (there quire a few papers on it from Hudson and Ricketts dating back to the 80s). These questionnaires try to build scores from questions including the level of comfort with getting sexual advances from a person of the same sex.

An interesting finding from some of the earlier studies is that the level of discomfort is highly malleable. For example after actual interaction with homosexuals, the level of discomfort drops substantially.

For example, from a small study on students in the 80s 61% of students were very uncomfortable but this drops to 18% in a group that had interaction with gay persons.

Other studies show similar tendencies and generally speaking lack of familiarity seems to correlate with discomfort (and prejudices also play into it). As a whole I think it makes much more sense to think about this issue in terms of learned behaviour and specifically the level of discomfort is likely inversely correlated with how much you like or dislike a particular person, rather than the sexual orientation (assuming the absence of specific prejudices, which would influence the like/dislike in the first place). I am fairly certain that getting aggressive, unwanted attention from a person one thoroughly dislikes, even if they are of the opposite sex is more repulsive than a friendly flirtation from someone, who one is comfortable around, but just not sexually attracted to.

I also think that goes doubly for women, as there is also a different level of higher (implicit or potential) physical threat, when the unwanted advances come from a man.

That being said, I have zero inklings how one could make an evolutionary argument out of it. 

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2 hours ago, iNow said:

You spoke of an unwanted advance by a man. I asked about a woman also receiving an unwanted advance from a man, and asked why/how that requires a different word. 

You answered that you like it when women come on to you, which I appreciate, but fail to grasp how it’s relevant to the question posed. Can you help me please to understand you better?

 

I think you understand perfectly well. 

Edited by exchemist
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3 hours ago, exchemist said:

I think you understand perfectly well. 

I wouldn’t have asked if I did. If you either can’t or simply won’t answer my question, please just say so. 
 

For convenience, you said: “my problem with the term "homophobia" is that it may be closer to my own personal discomfort at the prospect of a sexual advance from another man than it is to any inability by some to respect the sexual preferences of others.”

 

And I asked: “What would you call it when a female experiences personal discomfort at the prospect of a sexual advance from a man? Why would that be different?”

You replied that you like it when women flirt with you. I actually don’t know what you mean or why you think that ought to clarify your stance. 

Are you here in good faith, or do you refuse to even try clarifying?

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20 hours ago, iNow said:

No. Infants don't pop out of the womb hating others for who they love. 

 

Science used to say that phobias were socially constructed, but I seem to remember experiments with newborn kittens showing that they had an immediate fear of heights and could "read" 3D space, before they'd had time to be taught anything.

However I suppose a fear of heights is a genuine defence mechanism, wheras a phobia is supposed to be an irrational fear. The idea of 2 gay men "doing it" can't possibly hurt you, but it can still elicit the yuk response. But perhaps there's some evolutionary advantage to not being gay lke

"my genes will reproduce better if I do it with the oppo sex rather than same sex"

Edited by Gian
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20 hours ago, iNow said:

No. Infants don't pop out of the womb hating others for who they love.

I assumed the discussion was around sexual preference, what has love got to do with it? 

18 hours ago, swansont said:

Homophobia is a fear. Not just a lack of attraction towards those of the same sex, but fear of those who are gay, and/or (especially) that you might be gay. That sounds like learned behavior.

 

+1

Though in summary, its a little more complex -

"A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object"

The key point being ( see underlined). 

17 hours ago, iNow said:

Agreed, which is why I pushed back on the poster positively asserting it was likely innate.

Yeah agreed, I think some fears maybe innate, a good survival mechanism. Phobias on the other hand are more likely to be from social construction, a fear of misunderstanding or acceptance, opposition to personal opinions/beliefs etc... 

Edited by Intoscience
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3 hours ago, Gian said:

I seem to remember experiments with newborn kittens showing that they had an immediate fear of heights

Which is irrelevant to my point since I never argued organisms are born with minds in a tabula rasa state. We are not purely blank canvases upon birth, but we’re also quite likely not born hating others for who they love.

Since you’re making the positive assertion otherwise, the onus is on you to support that in the face of my challenge. 

3 hours ago, Gian said:

it can still elicit the yuk response. But perhaps there's some evolutionary advantage to not being gay lke

"my genes will reproduce better if I do it with the oppo sex rather than same sex"

Which is again irrelevant to the discussion about hating or fearing others merely due to whom they happen to love. Try to stop moving your goalposts and make a single coherent point, please. 

3 hours ago, Intoscience said:

I assumed the discussion was around sexual preference, what has love got to do with it? 

Fair enough. Babies don’t pop out of the mothers womb hating others due merely to who they happen to sexually prefer. Better now?

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18 hours ago, iNow said:

Fair enough. Babies don’t pop out of the mothers womb hating others due merely to who they happen to sexually prefer. Better now

Yes, and for the record I agree with you.  

 

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Thanks. I’m just a bit shocked that exchemist refuses to engage in good faith. Wasn’t expecting that from him at all given his otherwise really great posting track record. This subject brings out such weird behaviors in lots of people. 

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On 1/24/2023 at 10:37 AM, Markus Hanke said:

This isn’t always easy, since we generally tend to equate our own preferences,

..it's not easy when gay men come and start hitting on you.. which happens several times a year (if it's winter), or every month (if it's summer).. The last time I had such an "accident" was a week ago..

ps. Don't you feel like a "chick" who refuses a man who wants you?

ps2. No homophobe here, I gently decline.. e.g. "I'm sorry, you're a great guy, but not my type," etc.

Edited by Sensei
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28 minutes ago, Sensei said:

..it's not easy when gay men come and start hitting on you..

I think both your discomfort, as well as your reaction of politely declining, are perfectly ok here - those are not examples of homophobia.

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FWIW, I don't think exchem was refusing to engage, I think he was after a different question on what degree a distaste for homosexual activity (and by extension, any invitations to such) could be genetically mediated.  It's really a different question than the social ethics of how one should respond to unwanted advances from a same sex person.

The simplest hypothesis I can think of is something like this:  in the long period of hunter-gatherer bands, there could be some group selective advantage (where general mortality rates are high, and fertility rates quite variable dependent on ups and downs of food acquisition) in bands where young males reject overtures toward boy-on-boy recreation and focus their attentions on fertile women.  If there were any genetic predisposition towards a distaste for non-reproductive sex, it could have a small selective effect.  I don't know how this hypothesis would be tested, not is it clear if any genetic role would be specifically directed at "distaste" rather than, say, a general conformity to group rules.  Maybe it could just be that H-G bands where there was more respect for the tribal elder telling you, "don't put that in the wrong orifice, or the volcano god will drop hot ashes on you," had a slightly higher fertility rate.  Really, this whole thread might fare better in the evolutionary biology forum.  Or maybe it's too speculative.  

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