How flexible is human sexuality?

There has been some discussion on Kindred Spirits about whether or not peoples orientation can change over time. Could somebody start out as bisang and move up the consanguinamory scale if they ever have a consang relationship? Could they move down the scale if they have a regular one? Interesting question to be sure. That said, let’s explore the evidence. Remember, this essay is not intended to give a definitive answers to these quetions, rather it’s purpose is to simply brainstorm what we do know and see in which direction the evidence is pointing. Without further study, none of us can claim to know for sure (even though we may be certain about our own experiences).

FACT ONE: Many people, once having a consang relationship do not wish to go back to having regular relationships, however this doesn’t apply to everyone.

The debate we’ve been having is whether or not these people who would not now want a regular relationship have moved up the consang scale and become MORE consang as a result of having a relationship with a family member, or whether they were ALWAYS fully consang but did not realize it. The truth is: we don’t know for sure. It could be one way with some people and the other with others. The evidence at this point doesn’t point either way, it’s a matter of interpretation.

HOWEVER, what of the people who have had a consang relationship and still feel that they can date regulars? These people clearly did not move anywhere on the scale, they were, and still are bisangs. Could this point to human sexuality being more fixed that we would think, or could it point to it being flexible for some but not for others? Interesting thoughts to say the least.

FACT TWO: People appear to be unable to consciously change their orientation, even if they want to.

It’s a well known fact that people cannot just change what they are. How many people of non-standard orientations have wished at one point or another that they were ‘normal’? How many gay people underwent conversion therapy, only to find that it did not change their orientation? A lot to be sure. I see no reason why our orientation would be any more or less flexible than it is for other orientations. This appears to indicate that sexuality may flex a little, but not a lot.

FACT THREE: Older people appear less flexible than younger people.

Sexuality may be more flexible when people are in their teens and early 20s. How many people do you know who, for instance, may have experimented with a same sex partner in their youth, and then gone on to be strictly heterosexual for the rest of their lives? Same with consanguinamory, there are a lot of people who may have had something with a sibling as a teenager, only to later date outside the family and ultimately settle down and marry.

Does this mean that sexuality is less fixed when people are younger, or does it only mean that younger people are more willing to try different things because they’re still learning about themselves and the world around them?

Are older people more set in their sexuality because they’ve experimented when they were younger and discovered what their sexuality has been all along, or were they flexible when they were younger and became less so as they aged?

Bottom line

Ultimately, this appears to boil down to the nature/nurture debate. I am inclined to think it’s a bit of both, that sexuality is at least in part hard wired, but that positive and negative experiences can help shape around the edges. Those of us who are consang or bisang have always lacked Westermarck Effect, I think that part is for sure hard wired. That said, where land on the scale could be slighly influenced by our experiences. Would I have turned out bisang as opposed to fully consang had I have not had such a remarkable relationship with my dad? I’ll never know, but I do know that I would never have been a regular because I am not wired up to have Westermarck Effect.


One thought on “How flexible is human sexuality?

  1. I think some of the flexibility question depends on the order of the relative, too. Dating a cousin isn’t the same as dating a parent, offspring, or sibling. The further the relationship, the less likely it is to move you up the scale. That’s my guess, anyway.


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