Philosophy 111 – Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2002)
Human Nature. Mohr. “Is homosexuality unnatural?”
[Students and professors, please read.]
Is homosexuality unnatural? Sartre might answer, “‘You’re free, choose, that is, invent,’ but always ask yourself, ‘What if everyone acted that way?'” Richard D. Mohr, who has actually written on the issue of human nature as applied to homosexuality, actually attempts to answer the question of the nature of homosexuality. Much of what he says I can agree with wholeheartedly, the rest I will leave out of this essay.
If “unnatural” means “man-made,” Mohr points out that “virtually everything that is good about life is unnatural in this sense.” True, there are also very harmful man-made things, and there are many good things in nature that would be even better if man didn’t muck it up. But I do agree that there are even things that come from nature, such as the fighting instinct and the sex instinct, which come to us as neutral, but which we must unnaturally keep control over–it is our moral duty to be unnatural in that sense.
Mohr addresses that the genitals are not limited only to reproduction, and that “Society’s attitude towards a childless couple is that of pity not censure.” I agree, we would never tell a sterile couple never to be intimate again. I agree also with Mohr’s point that the genitals are not solely for reproduction, but also for achieving ecstasy and sexual intimacy.
Mohr shows that there is no proper compass in nature which would reveal any moral laws found in it which would apply to human sexuality (with examples I would have chuckled about if I had read them in Sartre’s essay). I think he gave many good examples, and I can think of many more, of animal behavior we wouldn’t want to model our lives after. C.S. Lewis says that observing what men actually do is not the way to find out how mankind “ought” to behave (that was his explanation for why science can’t observe a moral law)–and Mohr notes that observing animals who do not have abstract thought is not going to get better results.
Mohr says that immorality is not found in a homosexual identity (in and of itself), but in the “social customs, regulations, and statutes that prevent lesbians and gay men from establishing blood or adoptive families, [. . .] the willful preventing of people from achieving the richness of life.” The basic goal of Mohr’s essay is to put an end to such discrimination against gays and lesbians, to put an end to the claim that homosexuality is immoral, by refuting the claim that it is unnatural. I would like to see statistics comparing the sexual responsibility of homosexuals compared to an equivalent sampling of heterosexuals (number of partners, use of prophylactics, average length of relationships, prior conviction(s) of crimes like rape or pedophilia, etcetera). If I had any weight in deciding whether or not a couple should adopt, I would base my decision on their sexual responsibility (among other factors) –not which sex/gender they are sexually attracted to. Of course I would also want to know about the people they (gay or straight couple) plan on allowing to spend time with the adopted child on a regular basis–but that’s just me.
“Is Homosexuality Unnatural?” The Philosophical Quest: A Cross-Cultural Reader, Second Edition. Ed. Presbey, Gail M., et. al. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2000. 282-286.