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HOMOSEXUALITY: FIXED PREFERENCE OR ADJUSTMENT TO UNTOWARD CIRCUMSTANCES?

Updated: Nov 9

Homosexuality has long been an enigma. Heterosexuals have considered the erotic behavior of homosexuals to be a perverse repudiation of their masculinity. Historically, these men have been punished for “voluntarily” electing to pursue reprehensible antisocial activities. The question looms largely. Why do homosexuals avoid relating to the opposite gender when this male/female connection appears the way most things function throughout nature? Heterosexuality is, after all, the approach human physiology supports, and which has been the norm between the sexes for millennia. Why do these men continue to do that which is inconvenient, and pursue involvement with the primary physical identifier of gender when they are similarly endowed themselves? Freud and other psychoanalysts based their interventions on the idea that men pursued men because they feared women’s genitalia. But surely, is not sexuality sought for satisfaction, something wanted? Men seek sexuality with other men at the risk of severe censure. They persist despite being shamed and ostracized, often cursed and abandoned by family as well as their fellowmen. They hazard even disease and death. Is it possible that these men seek other men because they are truly unable to shed their need for same-sex intimacy? Could their inclinations serve a positive purpose?

It should be understood by now that individuals do not consciously choose their sexual orientation. Around adolescence they “discover” the gender to which they have become erotically responsive. By the time assurance of their preference is affirmed within to themselves, elements of the responsiveness are already rather fixed. Such has occurred naturally during a developmental period when potentials to refine particular preferences, to go one way or the other, have been naively utilized and they end up same-sex attracted. Indelible learning has occurred. The pattern of responsiveness has thus become “hard-wired” in the brain. It is tied cognitively and affectively to values associated with multiple environmental triggers impacting all sensory modalities of the body: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. This seating of erotic value and responsiveness has evolved gradually through childhood. Its resistance to change has been likened to patterns found among various species when behaviors become imprinted during critical periods of very early physical and social development. Further, repetitions of behavior strengthen the probability of its reoccurrence whenever relevant stimuli are encountered.

Following are a few quotations that may shed light on the puzzling how and why of homosexuality. The first is from a book by Thorkil Vanggaard, entitled Phallos: A Symbol and its History in the Male World.

The symbol is an image, usually visual, a picture which comes to the mind in thought, fantasy, or dream and which has, underlying it, a multiplicity of meanings and feelings. By the symbolic term phallus, we express the idea that beyond the practical function of the genital in its fully erect shape as a means of procreation and pleasure, it is a pictorial representation of the essence of manliness, a representation of the synthesis of every imaginable aspect of proper manhood. Thus, for the boy, the phallus represents the grown man’s greatness strength, independence, courage, wisdom, knowledge, mastery of other men and possession of desirable women, potency – – and everything else a boy may look up to in men and desire for himself [1] (emphasis added).

This explanation provides a critical key to understanding why gay men pursue engagement with this particular part of other men’s anatomy. The drive is not for sex. Nor is it a repudiation of their being male. Paradoxically, it is just the opposite. These men are not eschewing masculinity; they want to be more manly. Masculinity is the god of homosexuals. With this view in mind, it is important to consider psychologist, Jerome Kagan’s, clarification about the power and persistence of males’ need to internalize gender role skills and identity. He wrote:

The motive to match one’s behavior to an internal standard – – to make one’s behavior conform to a standard of masculinity, let us say – – differs in two fundamental ways from the traditional description of the motivational process associated with aggression, dependency, or sexuality. The strength of the former set of motives does not wax or wane to the degree that is characteristic of sexual or aggressive motivation. The arousal of sexual or aggressive motives is dependent, in large measure, on external provocations. The desire to make one’s behavior conform to a standard of masculinity, however, typically does not drift from negligible strength to intense values in different situations or over short periods of time. Further, receipt of whatever reward maintains the tendency to appear masculine does not weaken the motive underlying the response. The performance of masculine acts does not weaken or destroy temporarily the desire to continue such behavior. For sex and aggression, on the other hand, consummation often attenuates the strength of the motive for a period of time.[2]

That urgency to achieve a sense of gender role identity and competence never wanes. It defines who men are or what they want to be. That motivation to incorporate masculine identification is what is in play when any are same-sex-oriented or attracted. That powerful impetus simply, and not so simply, defines the sex or gender toward which identity-deficient individuals need to interact in order to grow and mature. For this reason, gay men are oriented and drawn toward males rather than females. They do not avoid or flee from women because of fear. They pursue men because of needing something they do not believe they have, something they did not incorporate earlier in their lives. Unfortunately, when they find themselves unable to approach and merge with heterosexual men to internalize the needed sense of manliness, they resort to erotic intimacies, symbolic engagements that are really relational mirages.

This third quotation is from gay psychologist and protégé of Alfred Kinsey, Clarence Tripp. He commented on the relevance of masturbation in the development of compulsive homosexuality. For a time, while discovering their body’s marvelous capabilities, most boys engage in self-pleasuring. But masturbation plays a different role for boys who have grown up without closeness to their fathers and/or close connections with their same-gender peers. Erotic fantasies accompanying the behavior serve a different purpose for these gender-role estranged males.

A considerable body of data indicates that boys who begin masturbating early (usually before puberty) while simultaneously looking at their own genitalia can build a crucial associative connection between maleness, male genitalia, and all that is sexually valuable and exciting. These associations amount to an eroticism which is “ready” to extend itself to other male attributes, particularly to those of a later same-sex partner.[3]

Obligatory homosexuality is characterized also by its compulsive, addictive nature. Following is a quotation which speaks particularly to the psychodynamics of addiction. It describes what likely happens when a homosexual experiences his erotic “fix” with an idolized man.

And from Peter Tractenberg regarding addiction:

At the center of every addiction, as at the center of every cyclone, is a vacuum, a still point of emptiness that generates circles of frantic movement at its periphery. By “addiction" I do not mean the physical necessity that binds a junkie to heroin or a smoker to nicotine. I use the word to connote a psychic state that often predates the addict's first encounter with his drug and that remains unchanged throughout the career of his substance abuse. It is characterized not only by feelings of worthlessness, the conviction that one deserves nothing more than the destiny of a drunk or junkie, but by a blurred and tenuous sense of self – a fundamental uncertainty about one's own existence. That uncertainty breeds hunger, a ravenous desire to be filled, to be validated, to be made whole. When the addict takes his fix, or the alcoholic his drink, what he experiences is not so much pleasure as a sense of completion that has been missing until that moment. His drug gives him a brief assurance of his own boundaries and substance: it tells him, "Here you are.” The void calls out for satisfaction – a satisfaction that must be repeated endlessly since the void is finally unfillable [in that manner] – and that cycle of hunger, momentary completeness and renewed emptiness comes to be the sole drama of the addict’s life.[4] (emphasis added).

I submit that for obligatory homosexuals, genital transactions are sought less for sexuality per se, than to obtain what they represent symbolically. An addiction is a behavior believed to provide relief, but which instead, exacerbates the underlying problem. Relationally hungry men, unable to find identity and fulfillment through symbolic associations, keep searching, ever hoping to find the right person to complete themselves. This is most likely the dynamic supporting gay promiscuity.

This quotation is from Martin Duberman, a prominent gay activist and historian. He cited the motivation he believed fueled his own erotic pursuits.

In some complicated way, I think all my homosexual activity is an attempt (among other things) to identify with the masculinity I never was sure I had. Simply, entered by a man is perhaps the most direct way of incorporating and absorbing that masculinity.… The fantasy remains strong: to be possessed by – and thereby to possess – a real man and his qualities[5](emphasis added).

Can we now begin to understand why boys who never had a father and/or peers to teach them how to be a man, or had an abusive father who taught him to fear men, are often driven to obtain love, particularly from males, to internalize and strengthen a masculine identity?

There are numerous reasons for boys’ failure to be securely socialized in the masculine role. However, this need to feel like a man is near to the need for life itself. Self is soul, and masculinity must be felt within, internalized, even if those manly virtues can be taken in and experienced only evanescently, incorporated symbolically.

There is a saying that the value of a crust of bread depends upon how long one has been without nourishment. Obviously, powerful forces impel boys and men to seek their strange intimacy with others of their gender. Psychiatrist, Richard Green, studied young boys over time (longitudinally) who, as they matured, became homosexually oriented. He described them categorically as “male affect starved.”[6] They were motivated by needs and requirements for the love and acceptance of other idolized males. He wrote: “…father-son shared time in the boy’s first years appeared as a critical variable for the development of sexual identity. ‘Male-affect starvation’ is what I see as a continuing force operating from early childhood in males who had a poor relationship both with their father and with male peers”[7] (emphasis original).

From another pioneering study, psychiatrist, Irving Bieber, wrote that these boys had been deprived of important empathic interactions which peer groups provide. The ‘esprit de corps’ of boyhood gang-life is missed. …More than half our H-sample were for the most part, isolates in preadolescence and adolescence, and about one-third played predominantly with girls.[8]

Bieber emphasized his conviction: “We have come to the conclusion that a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son…”[9] (emphasis original). As Bieber ended the report of this study, he noted optimistically:

We assume that heterosexuality is the biologic norm and that unless interfered with all individuals are heterosexual. Homosexuals do not bypass heterosexual developmental phases and all remain potentially heterosexual[10] (emphasis original).

What these men seek through intimate erotic rapport is really not what they already have and which they possessed from birth. What is earnestly and even compulsively sought is something felt to be agonizingly lacking within. They desire emotional attunement and resonance with valued males to whom they are drawn. They seek not the physical identifier of gender, but the masculine virtues this organ symbolically represents.

From this point, very important questions arise: What experiences discourage some boys from internalizing those very masculine attributes they so highly value? And, what prevents needful men from obtaining those qualities and attributes which are symbolized by the primary identifier of gender?

********

My further hope in this blog is to consider additional facets of the homosexual complex, the whats and whys, and then identify ways that men who wish to grow beyond obligatory homosexuality can help themselves to do so. They deserve and need a way forward.


[1] Vanggaard, T., Phallos: A Symbol and Its History in the Male World, 1972, p. 56. *Remember, Cloy Jenkins affirmed, “I was homosexual long before any kind of sexual experience.” [2] Kagan, J., “Acquisition and Significance of Sex Typing and Sex Role Identity,” Review of Child Development Research, Vol I, Hoffman, M. L. and Hoffman, L. W., (Eds.) Russell Sage Foundation, 1964, pp. 137-163. [3] Tripp, C. A., The Homosexual Matrix, 1975, p. 83. [4] Trachtenberg, The Casanova Complex, 1988, p. 28. [5] Duberman, M., About Time: Exploring the Day Past, 1986, pp. 373 – 374. [6] Green, R., `p 377 [7] Ibid. [8] Bieber, I., Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study, 1962, p. 317. [9] Bieber, I., 311. [10] Ibid, p. 319.

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