Recently, famed neurologist and potential 2016 presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson recently argued that being gay was a choice, citing that some men enter prison straight and leave homosexual.
He later apologized for any hurt he might have caused, stating that he could not really argue it was a choice, but instead, that it’s a simple unknown, correctly pointing out that there are no proper studies to indicate how someone becomes gay.
Dr. Carson, while being a brilliant neurologist by all accounts, is someone whose profession involves dealing with the mechanical aspects of the brain. A psychiatrist however, is someone who deals with the behavioral aspects of the brain. Two very different sciences, arguably only related by the fact that they both revolve around the brain.
This means Dr. Carson is someone who would not be considered to have an expert opinion on the psychological aspects of human sexual behavior.
The American Psychological Association (APA) however are experts, and they define sexual orientation as “normal aspects of human sexuality.” But let’s delve a little further into what it means to be gay.
While your humble author is not gay, and cannot speak to what it feels like to be gay, I don’t have to be. We can analyze this pretty easily by looking at multiple aspects of sexuality in general with a skeptical eye.
First, we must understand that being homosexual, and engaging in homosexual acts are two entirely different things that under any situation, may or may not be related.
Acting homosexual would be the process of engaging in a homosexual act, and that is entirely a choice of basic human free will. Using the prison example, if I were to be raped by another man, I involuntarily engaged in a homosexual act, but that does not mean that I magically became homosexual in that instant.
Being homosexual, means that a person is sexually attracted to members of the same sex and not the opposite, irrelevant of whether they’ve actually engaged in the act. For instance, there are many accounts of gay men who marry and mate with women, even though they are genuinely only attracted to other men, in order to fit into societal structures better. Despite never having homosexual sex, such men are homosexual.
I had a person argue that once you first engage in sex with someone of the same sex, then and only then, are you gay. But by this logic, all virgins are asexual, and will only have their sexual orientation determined once they finally get to enjoy that sweet lovin’.
Are we really going to argue two twelve-year-old boys for instance, who haven’t had sex yet, but one is attracted to girls, the other boys, are the same? This logic is unilaterally flawed.
But let’s get back to the idea of choice, and specifically what sexual orientation even is.
Again, consulting the APA, “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes.”
We all know what attraction means on the surface of it, but what is attraction psychologically? It’s an instinct all animals in the animal kingdom possess (yes, humans are animals), usually for the purpose of procreation, but some animals also use it for social bonding or even fun. Humans are not exclusive in this, research has shown that many animals engage in sex for non-procreational purposes.
The social bonding and fun issues can explain away Dr. Carson’s prison analogy easily enough. Prisons are not co-ed, so if you introduce any person into a population with only their own sex to interact with, the natural order of things for these people will be to form social bonds, some of which will likely escalate to one of a sexual nature. While this is not true for sociopaths who don’t need such bonds, not all prisoners are sociopaths.
In prison, homosexuality is merely the only option for sexual activity available to them, so the instinct to have sex for the pleasure and the emotional bonds it may bring, eventually overcomes the instinct to have sex only with someone of the opposite sex. Once they get over that initial fear of the unknown, like overcoming the fear of jumping out of an airplane with each successive jump, it would be quite easy for an otherwise heterosexual male to embrace homosexual behavior if it were the only option available to him.
While I accept that many may have experienced homosexual activity for the first time in prison, I could find no study to support that many don’t leave prison and resume heterosexual activity once members of the opposite sex are again made available to them.
But is attraction in general a choice? The answer must be no, and I can prove it.
Throughout my life, I’ve often fallen in love with women who didn’t love me back, nor gave me any indication they ever would.
I’m obviously not alone in this. If hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, unrequited love must surely be the second. I think most of us have experienced it at one time or another.
Unrequited love brings one thing and one thing only—pain. While masochists may like a little pain, no one enjoys the pain of knowing someone you want doesn’t want you back.
Let’s try an experiment. If you’re single, there’s likely someone right now that you are in love who doesn’t love you back, otherwise, you wouldn’t be single, right? You know being in love with them only brings you pain, so right now, I want you to stop being in love with them…go ahead…close your eyes and make that choice. Wasn’t that easy? It wasn’t? You couldn’t just choose to not be in love with them anymore? Why not?
If you can’t choose to turn off your attraction, by what logic could one argue that homosexuals can choose to change who they’re attracted to either? It’s a clear contradiction of concepts that cannot be reconciled except to acknowledge it’s not a choice.
Since I experimented with the single men earlier, married men, you and I both know that you are attracted to women other than your wife on occasion. It’s in our core nature to spread our seed everywhere. You may love your wife entirely, but you can’t control that sexual desire.
But if you’re truly a loving husband, you choose to remain faithful to your wife, despite your desire to have sex with another. That’s the exact same thing that happens when a gay person chooses to only engage in heterosexual sex, proving that being gay and acting gay are not the same thing. One is a choice, one is an uncontrollable instinct.