Although Western societies become more and more accepting towards the diversity of sexual preferences, a big part is still averse to and discriminatory against other sexual orientations than heterosexuality. One major cause for that is our current understanding of “sexual orientation“. The purposes of my paper are to analyze why it promotes discrimination and to discuss how it could be changed, in order to reduce discrimination. Changing our understanding of “sexual orientation“ from scratch seems promising, because it means creating a profound breeding ground for antidiscrimination protection and a more tolerant, inclusive and equality based kind of thinking.
Although societies1 become more and more accepting towards the diversity of sexual preferences, a big part is still averse to other sexual orientations than heterosexuality. One major cause for that is our current understanding of “sexual orientation“, for it promotes discrimination. In order to reduce discrimination, changing our current understanding of “sexual orientation“ is a promising solution. It is particularly promising, because we work on the basic framework rather than on the “symptoms“: Changing our understanding from scratch means creating a profound and sustainable breeding ground for anti-discrimination protection and a more tolerant, inclusive and equality based kind of thinking.
In section 2, I will show how we currently understand “sexual orientation“ and analyze why that understanding promotes discrimination. In section 3, I will make a proposal of how we could change our understanding of “sexual orientation“ in order to reduce discrimination. In section 4, I will conclude with a brief overview of my results.
Since Western societies are sufficiently similar in their societal and cultural dynamics, I will restrict my analysis to those. I will leave open whether my proposal could also be implemented in other societies.
APhil: Topics in Ontology “SEXUAL ORIENTATION“ REVISED by Andjelika Eissing-Patenova
2.WHY OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF“SEXUAL ORIENTATION“
In this section, I will clarify our current understanding of “sexual orientation“ and analyze which elements of that understanding promote discrimination.
2.1 OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF“SEXUAL ORIENTATION“
Our current understanding of “sexual orientation“ contains the three categories of heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. This understanding entails three elements: First, if we want to know which sexual orientation an individual A has, we ask which sex2 A feels sexually attracted to. Second, one’s sexual orientation is determined by a sufficiently consistent preference pattern, rather than being merely based on temporary desires. Third, the categories of homoand heterosexuality additionally entail a reference to the own sex, or, in other words, a relation between the sex of A and the sex of B, the person(s) A feels attracted to. Thus, we ask whether A is attracted to the opposite (heterosexual), same (homosexual) or both (bisexual) sex(es). (Dembroff 2016: 1 f.)
The composition of the terms „sexual“ and „orientation“ does not necessarily imply the above described meaning. Our current understanding of “sexual orientation“ emerged arbitrarily and not because the term intrinsically entails that understanding: Particularly, it seems to result from the 19th century in which Western societies systematically began to other homosexuals, who were not regarded as normal. (Tweedy 2011: 1466 f.)
2.2 THE REFERENCE TO THE OWN SEX PROMOTES DISCRIMINATION
The categories of heterosexuality and homosexuality imply a reference to the own sex (Dembroff 2016: 2). This element is problematic, if we look at the objects of attraction: The idea of the same/opposite relation presupposes cisnormativity, i.e. that everyone can be clearly ascribed a sex at birth based on anatomical characteristics (Dembroff 2016: 2). But this is not that easy. The Within our current understanding of “sexual orientation“ we usually refer to sex as the biological anatomy.
APhil: Topics in Ontology “SEXUAL ORIENTATION“ REVISED by Andjelika Eissing-Patenova medical criteria for assigning a sex at birth are not even clearly determined (Haslanger 2016: 134 f.). This problem is especially salient considering hermaphrodites who have the genitals of a man and a woman at the same time. It probably happens that they are assigned a sex arbitrarily. Persons whose sex is not clearly visible are therefore discriminated, since they are excluded from being regarded as “normal“ objects of attraction, including further beliefs that they might not find a partner, create a family and “normally“ take part in society.
Furthermore, Western societies have developed the conviction of heteronormativity, i.e. heterosexuality should be socially and politically privileged (Dembroff 2016: 2). For example, in American countries only heterosexual monogamic spouses enjoy specific tax breaks and social security benefits. (Tweedy 2011: 1505 f.) But discrimination already takes place socially towards all those who don’t feel attracted to the opposite sex. In fact, not everybody wants to live in that kind of partnership or marriage, but prefers marrying someone of the same sex or maybe not marry at all. Since that kind of choice does not harm anybody, humans should have the personal liberty of choosing how and with whom they want to spend their lives without having to suffer from receiving less rights. And even if someone dreams to live in a heterosexual monogram marriage, not everybody is so lucky to find a spouse. Those persons are also politically discriminated, although they don’t have enough power to alter their situation.
A very simple but striking argument shows why the prohibition of same-sex marriages is an act of sex discrimination: Julia and John both love Tom, but only Julia is allowed to marry Tom. Julia has that right because she is female and Tom has the opposite sex, while John has no right because he is male and Tom has the same sex. (Dembroff 2016: 20) John is thus not provided with equal chances. He is discriminated for his sex for which he is not responsible. Fortunately, many countries around the world, for instance Iceland, Spain, Canada, etc., have already legalized same-sex marriage, but still many have not. (Chamie/Mirkin 2014: 531) And that is based on our current understanding of “sexual orientation“ which includes the same/opposite relation resulting from the reference to the own sex.
- Quote paper
- Andjelika Eissing-Patenova (Author), 2020, Our understanding of "Sexual Orientation", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/536748