Is sexual preference decided by biological factors?

People decide their sexual preference depending on how aware they are of their options and of their ability to choose, with social norms and biological predispositions playing an influential, but not a determinate, role in the decision.

Arousal, subject to biological predispositions, is involuntary, but a conceptual framework shapes the way input is interpreted, and accepted or rejected due to volition. All humans have the capability of being aroused by either sex**. This does not mean we are all bisexual by default (by nature, at birth). Bisexuality is a developed preference. By default we have not yet developed preference. A conceptual framework or attitude or schemas which includes sexual preference is not present at birth, but is acquired over time after many experiences. How a human’s experience is different from the experience of other organisms, including other humans, is determined by how a human is biologically different from other organisms, including other humans, and by their environmental differences and the resulting differences in their conceptual frameworks (if the organism is capable of developing a conceptual framework). Social norms influence a person’s conceptual framework. The more we see homosexuality and bisexuality become socially accepted, and the more that information is integrated into the conceptual frameworks of individuals, the more likely a person will make a homosexual or bisexual interpretation if arousal results from input, and the less likely they will reject input interpreted as homosexual or bisexual, especially if they have been taught that their preference is determined biologically, though it is not. Different cultures can develop preferences for extremely different tasting foods, and individuals within such cultures are not bound to those preferences, but instead can acquire the preferences of other cultures, and the same is true of sexual preference.

If certain input (grasshopper) is interpreted as nonsexual (not for food), even though it causes arousal (hunger pangs in someone who has very little access to food), because there is no sexual conceptual framework within which to interpret it as sexual (the person and the person’s culture has never considered grasshoppers to be food), the arousal will most likely not factor as sexual attraction (the grasshopper will most likely conceptually remain non-food to the person, unless they are some sort of culinary genius). On the other hand, if certain input (grasshopper) results in arousal (hunger) and is interpreted as sexual (for food), because it is recognized as such in accordance with one’s background information (the person and the person’s culture consider it food), but within a sexual conceptual framework that rejects that certain type of sexual input (the person and the person’s culture consider it repulsive food reserved for those being tortured), the arousal will not be considered preferred sexual “attraction” (if the person eats it as a last resort or because they are forced, they won’t like it, though they may acquire a preference for it over time, considering it appeases their hunger pangs – then again, they may come to hate it even worse, as in the case of p.o.w.s who hate rice).

Regardless what input a person receives from their body, they have the ultimate decision on whether to accept or reject that input. It is not wise to ignore hunger pangs (the need to affiliate very closely) indefinitely, but it is possible to make your body wait until it is more convenient for you to eat (practice sexual discretion). It is also possible to choose healthy food (sex within a lifelong relationship) over junk food (casual sex), though one’s body may crave junk food over health food. One can sarcastically say to one’s body “You may want that, but I don’t want that because it is bad for me.” Another example is alcoholism. Genetically, some are more prone to alcoholism than others, but that does not determine that they will choose to become alcoholics and surrender willingly to their predisposition.

Social norms and biological factors, though they may influence sexual preference, do not necessarily determine it. As is the case in all other preferences, each individual is capable of exercising volition in their sexual preferences, despite genetic factors and social norms, as far as they are aware of their options and their ability to choose.

** “… Bem maintains, …every child, whether conforming or nonconforming, experiences ‘heightened physiological arousal in the presence of peers from whom he or she feels different.’” [Bem, D.J., Exotic becomes erotic: A developmental theory of sexual orientation. Psychological Review, 103(2), 320-335)]. Note: Though the theory agrees preference is developed, it does not factor choice into the development. I therefore do not adopt it as-is. Source of quote (which I do not endorse): http://www.news.cornell.edu/Chronicle/96/8.29.96/sex_orientation.html

Christians consider homosexuality to be “junk food” (more like rat poisoning inside the junk food). Junk food isn’t bad because our bodies crave it (drives and cravings are not bad, the lack of controlling them is bad). Junk food is bad because it is loaded with stuff that has negative health effects and few positive health effects. This whole conversation is kind of a bummer. I prefer to look at the positive when I can — if you focus on that, there’s no room for the negative to spoil the view. I prefer to focus on how blessed I am in my marriage, and cultivate that relationship, rather than pondering all the mud-wallowing that messes up healthy marriages. Rather than focus on junk food, focus on healthy food. The Spartans, a warring society, practiced homosexuality between warriors, and, what’s worse, trained up their young boys in it. They actually thought it made them stronger.

But, are they around to boast about it now? Nope. But that’s not really the point. The point is love, which is a strength more important (in an eternal sense) than any other kind of strength.

Naturally and spiritually we function normally when we keep sex within the bounds of heterosexual marriage, and self-destruct (individually and as a society) when we go out of bounds. It’s like following the rules on the bottle of a prescription drug. If you need it, take it, and enjoy the benefits. If you don’t need it, stay celibate. If you take too much, there will be side effects — regardless if you think you can handle it.

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and now coordinates the CAA Catechism. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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One Response to Is sexual preference decided by biological factors?

  1. Ichthus says:

    When I went to a “Love Won Out” conference (on the issue of homosexuality) with Seph in Arizona (it was put on by Focus on the Family and had speakers like the head dude at NARTH… and was protested) they stressed that loving a person doesn’t equate to loving their sin (just like God loving us unconditionally and blessing us, doesn’t equate to loving our sin). Whatever sins we struggle with, Christians should accept us, but encourage… a.k.a. confront… us in overcoming it, or loving us regardless if we don’t know any better (‘cause we’re not Christians) (hope you got my meaning there… I am a Christian).Such things as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual orientations/preferences… require exposure and life experience. That there are people born with mixed-up genitalia is evidence that our orientation/preference is not “essential” to who we are as humans.Nature can not dictate what is good/bad for us. You could make an argument that monogamy is not good for us because it does not promote reproduction of the species as rapidly as other alternatives. So whether or not something is natural/genetic says nothing, really. What matters is the reason nature even exists—and that reason is love (God’s love).Men should all think of eachother as brothers, and women should all think of eachother as sisters. Love between brothers, and love between sisters, can run very deep and very strong, but the thought of a relationship turning sexual should never even enter our heads when we are dealing with the opposite sex, just as it should never even enter our heads with anyone in our family (besides opposite-sex spouse). It is those types of thoughts that should be held captive, instead of holding us captive. Heterosexual thoughts and actions towards one’s spouse are like filling up on healthy, delicious food—everything else is junk food.Developing any orientation other than heterosexual is a symptom of social illness… love (as God intended it) was lacking somewhere in the individual’s development. That is the cause of all social ills, and God’s love is the cure.I wear Christian shirts at work (not in a “bullhorn” way), and I work with a mildly effeminate male (orientation hasn’t come up). Gave him a ride to his second job the other day. My sister was neighbors with a lesbian couple and works with a homosexual and invited them to her bridal shower at my house—it got really gross, and I ended up acting sort of gross, too (by my standards) and felt guilty about it and have determined not to compromise like that again (by the grace of God)… my sister went to the lesbians’ wedding, but has told them she doesn’t approve of homosexuality, that she thinks it is immoral… but that it doesn’t mean she can’t be their friends. I probably wouldn’t have gone to a homosexual wedding… but I am not positive whether that is a good or bad thing. Just some practical real-life examples to think about, I guess.During His ministry before His ascension, Jesus loved sinners, but didn’t ever condone their sin (neither do I condemn you… go and sin no more). He spoke to them in love, on their level… not in a condemning tone. I think my sister did well in that respect, and I hope I do well if my coworker ever asks me what I think about homosexuality.

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