Changing Society or Changing Sexuality?
Throughout the ages, the topic of homosexuality has ranged from socially acceptable to taboo. Even in modern day society, while some people have tolerant views of it, there are those who find homosexuality to be immoral and unnatural. But is it fair to call homosexuality unnatural when it is a phenomenon that not only consistently reoccurs in humans, but also in other animals such as bison, penguins, dolphins, and apes? And while homosexuality did not used to be as pronounced in society as it is today, it is possible that the recent increase in the number of homosexual individuals is not because of an evolution in sexual orientation, but because of an evolutionary change in society that has, in a way, romanticized gay culture.
Among the first records of homosexual activities in humans come from the Ancient Greeks. It was not unusual, in fact, it was encouraged, for an older male to court and take a younger, pre-pubescent male lover. This union was viewed as beneficial to both involved, as the older man would serve as a role model and educator for the youth, while the boy would offer the partner his beauty and love. In addition, it was viewed that males who sexually interacted with other males were at the pinnacle of masculinity, as opposed to modern attitudes where gay people are commonly associated with feminine behavior and homosexuals can be treated as social pariahs. (1) But while sexuality was not a defining factor in this ancient society, this early and accepting outlook on homosexuals would not remain present in the eyes of an ever-changing and increasingly religious society.
With the introduction and widespread practice of Christianity, homosexuality, particularly acting upon homosexual urges, was not only discouraged, but also viewed as an act of ultimate sin that was punishable by death. In the Bible, it states that, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination," (Leviticus 18:22) and, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13) (2) Perhaps it was because homosexuality was viewed as such a terrible crime that those who were same-sex inclined felt the need to repress their sexuality in order to better adapt to an un-accepting society. And while some may view this trend toward un-acceptance as an un-evolutionary change in human society, it could be argued that it is evolutionary because the people of the time behaved in the manner that they thought was progressive and best for their lifestyle. Evolution means progress, and while anti-gay opinions might not be viewed as progressive in some modern opinions, they certainly were prominent changes in society for those time periods.
In addition, Christianity was not the only culture to reject homosexuality. People of the 1950’s America viewed homosexuality not only as something extremely negative, but also as a contagious, mental illness. Because of this, a person with same-sex preferences could find themselves undergoing therapy to reverse their sexual orientation through treatments such as electric shock, psychoanalytic therapy, and hormone therapy, all done with the hopes of ‘curing’ them from their disease. (3) In addition, people were also warned to be on the lookout for homosexuals, as they were considered to be evil people who wanted nothing else but to take advantage of young children. For an example on the outlook of homosexuality in the 1950's, see video. www.youtube.com/watch
Not until the last twenty-five years has the interpretation of homosexuality started to change from mental illness to a pre-determined gene selection. And as of fairly recently, the social stigma that once surrounded same-sex coupling has seemed to fade into the background as homosexuality has started to become not only accepted, but embraced and almost romanticized. A subject that was once taboo is now the source for an enormous cultural change that will no doubt continue to evolve. For instance, in popular media, such as movies, there has been an emergence of gay and lesbian characters that drive the plots of the films. Such movies include, “Brokeback Mountain,” Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Imagine Me and You,” and, “The Birdcage.” The rise of prominent gay culture has also spawned various pop-culture hits on youtube.com, such as, “My Sassy Gay Friend,”www.youtube.com/watch which has over four million viewings, and the “gay” music video rendition of singer Katy Perry’s, “Peacock,”www.youtube.com/watch with over five million views. In addition, the subject has become so common place that references to homosexuality can be seen in every day life, even including commercials for McDonald’s www.youtube.com/watch. And while “My Sassy Gay Friend” might be playing up the stereotype that surrounds the gay community, it is nevertheless showing that a gay person is acceptable, and in the case of this Ophelia, essential for living. In addition, many of these video’s, particularly “Peacock,” has romanticized the stereotypical and flamboyantly homosexual lifestyle in such a way that many comments on the video include all manner of people stating that they want to be a gay man or wish they had lives like those in the video. And to better prove the point that modern society is more accepting of homosexuality, the message at the end of the McDonald’s commercial to, “come as you are,” represents a significant portion of the more accepting 21st century outlook on sexual orientation.
This change in the opinions of society, although not supported by all, particularly conservative religious groups, is still evolutionary because it displays a progressive change in the way different people live their lives, and how the outside force of society affects all. And though there are still those who do not agree with homosexuality, the overall change and acceptance in western society that is quite similar to Ancient Greek society seems to only be getting stronger everyday.
- http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/ancient_greeks.htm. 'Homosexuality and the Ancient Greeks.'
- http://bible.org/article/homosexuality-christian-perspective 'Homosexuality: The Christian Perspective.' Lehman Strauss.
- http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=29692&cn=10 'Causes of Homosexuality: Past and Present Understandings.' Lorraine Benuto, Ph.D., Aug. 10, 2009