Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Humans & Sexuality
Alright, so this will be a pretty unusual post. However, it will be one of the better ones lately, which is nice. I won't discuss much about my studies in this one, even though I said I'd do it in the latest post. I haven't had time to write much that is good or substantial lately, because of school, and such. I've been really busy composing tracks together with dem0lecule for the NGADM 2015 too. We're currently in the judging period for one of the later rounds, so even if it were to end here, we're really happy with our work.
I went solo for one of the rounds, even if dem0 was there to support me in the process. The track I made can be listened to here:
But while that is a pretty decent track, I think that the one we made for the current round is much more powerful, especially from an emotional standpoint. It's pretty long, so if you want to, you could listen to it while reading this post.
Either way, what is this post? It is essentially, my reaction (a very long reaction) to a very interesting post made by OneSketchist.
It's about my observations about the theory that could be summarized with (paraphrase) "Everything we as humans do, we do for the ultimate sake of getting laid (and procreating)".
I don't 100% disagree with the premise, but I don't think it's enough to explain what makes us tick altogether. So despite the title of this entry, this text will go deeper into what sexuality isn't to us, than it will go into what it is.
My responses are divided into the first set, and the second one, which is a further response to OneSketchist's response to my response :p
Either way, you might be better off reading the actual comments on the actual blog that they were posted in. But I did fix a few of the spelling errors and such in this version (and because of an edit, there's much more content here). This will be a pretty long and weird read, so be prepared. Here goes:
My biggest problem is that "sexuality is everything" is too limited a sentiment. It is definitely part of what drives us, but something can indeed be simplified to a fault, which I can quite confidently say that this premise is. To begin with, we need to understand that though psychology has its base in science, it can only explain how a human (if we study human pyschology) tends to function when presented with a certain situation. What the "meaning" of the result is, is up for us to decide for ourselves. We could say that the fact that we do something for sex, means that we do it for eventual procreation. But we can always go further, and say that we procreate to preserve our entire species. But even from there, we could go in any direction, and decide a different starting (or ending) point. It's like the question "what is the meaning of life?"
It has no real answer for everyone; people will always differ to some extent on how they feel about this. In the same way, it's a difficult claim to say that the meaning of life for everyone is to procreate. I'll go deeper into this later, but for now, I think that rather, the claim that everything we do, we do for procreation is much more difficult to prove, than it is to disprove.
Firstly, let's take a look at the motivation of a human. Usually, you will find that there are some primal urges that take the first priority for most people. If there is immediate danger; we most likely won't focus on our sexual lust. If we are literally starving so that we're on the verge of death, we won't be able to pay attention even to immediate dangers. Unless that danger is the lack of air, in which case we will first do our very best to gain access to some air, before we can even think about much else.
Now, we can claim that as you said, we want to survive in order to have sex later. It's very similar to the claim of everything that we do, is motivated by a selfish desire in the end. We do a favor, in order to receive a favor later. And if not that, as you said, we can simply be addicted to the feeling that we get when we know we've been helpful; aka, selfish. But once again, I think we need to set some kind of a limit, as we do to so many other things. This entire thought process is based on a fallacy in our way of thinking. You see, while everything we do can be traced to being selfish, we could just as easily make the opposite argument; nothing we do is selfish. Because every action will in some way both help yourself, and someone else in some way, as well as do the opposite; be unhelpful (do harm) to both you, and someone else. We could say that you are selfish all the time, in order to survive and be able to procreate, so that the entire species will in the end survive; aka, not selfish. So with this line of thinking, we get back to the procreation again. But not even that holds up imo.
For one thing, there are people who sacrifice their lives to save the life of someone else. Probably what most people would call a noble death. That is; surviving is not always on the top of our priority list, and if we don't survive, we can't have sex. That said, the sex drive is a strong drive indeed. Because of this, many radical Islamists probably do indeed think that their sacrifice is for the sake of 72 virgins in their afterlife. But there are people who don't believe in that, who still sacrifice themselves, by for example jumping on top of a grenade, to protect their friends. Whether that is a selfish or unselfish act, is up to the people that are/were involved, or simply know about the situation, to decide. Point being, it's probably not for the sake of sex.
Also, it's always faulty to only approach human functionality from only one persepective, in this case, from a biological one. Because indeed, we are complicated creatures, even though we may have a rather simple initial coding. What else would be the sake of learning and evolution, if not to improve the imperfect code we're born with? This too is for the best of the species, usually, but not necessarily for the act of procreation itself, though eventually, what we learn will leave its traces on our primal code. And we've also been capable of creating weapons that could literally kill every single human being on this planet. I don't think that that has arisen from the will to fuck. Of course, biology is merely a concept, or rather, a name we've given to an unconscious phenomenon, which means that it isn't capable of thinking whatsoever, so it couldn't predict that a species could get too far in evolution for their own best. But a human can predict this, because in several ways, we have indeed risen above what you'd think of as standard biological patterns. These patterns are still left in us, but we also possess the cabalitiy of making a conscious (conscious being the key word) decision of going against our primal urges. It's not rare to see people deny sex, even if they'd be attracted to that person. And it's not always something that is motivated by the fact that you can have sex later. Even if the world was to end tomorrow, I know that a lot of people would deny sex even when offered (although they might be attracted to the offering person [As I'm sure you know though, we tend to be more attracted to people with a very different set of genes from us, because that will more often than not result in healthy babies]), because of other convictions, be they logical or not; point being, biology isn't everything. There are the social, and psychological aspects as well. They all interact with each other, but in the end, are very separate forces.
To make things even more plain, let's take a look at homosexuality. Though it may be possible in the rather near future for same sex couples to procreate despite earlier limitations, it has been pretty commonly understood that you won't receive children by having intercourse with a member of your own sex. Sure, some of these couples adopt children, and still help society by raising a child. But there are many couples, heterosexual ones too, that never have been, and never will be interested in raising a child, for a multitude of reasons. Some may feel they're not equipped with the tools a parent needs, some may think themselves not wanting of the responsibility, and others just might not like children.
I mean, there are stories of mothers throwing their children out of 5th story windows, so raising a child certainly doesn't seem to be top priority for all people.
And neither is sex.
I'm sure you've heard about asexuality. Now, I don't know how many people actually are asexual, and what that really means from a biological perspective, as the concept seems so disconnected from my own experiences as a very sexual human being. But whatever causes it, be it an unusual set of hormone levels (which is the case for some people), a decicion never to have sex, or a genuine disinterest in/no bodily or emotional response to anything related to sexuality, I don't think it's relevant for the sake of the argument, which is that sex and sexuality is clearly not the main motivator for such people.
Apart from all this, there are so many complex situations and responses, on so many levels, to different situations humans face, or could potentially face, that indeed, tracing everything back to sexuality is way too simple, and seems rather unimaginative. You can always trace anything back to anything if you try, but that doesn't mean that it makes sense. You can also make up your own understanding of the word "sexuality" like Freud did, which allowed him to base almost all of his theories around sexaulity. Too bad for him that no one (sane) really believes in his theories in this day and age.
Another interesting thing to note is that if you go far back into the history of life, no species whatsoever reproduced through sex, and this alone, makes it pretty much impossible to assume that this is the basis of all that which we do. Because other functionalities that non-sexual life forms possessed, like motoric control and the will to survive, are still left in us humans; the cerbellum is probably what's considered to be among the very oldest parts of our brain, from an evolutionary standpoint, and its main functions are to monitor our movement, as well as account for our initial responses to feelings such as fear of danger. It is also what connects our brain to our spinal cord, which in turn allows our reflexes to be so incredibly fast, as there's no need for all information to even pass through the brain until after a reflex is executed.
I could write even more about this subject, as it is both interesting, and easy to talk about, but I think I've made my points clear enough.
In summary, sexuality is indeed an important motivatior for most human beings, but it is naive to assume it's the only, or even the main drive behind all of our actions. In the end, while it can be frightening to think of how simple our basic coding can seem, it's just something we're given to build upon for the rest of our lives, allowing the more conscious of us to even affect the direction we're moving in to quite an extent. All this said, I am very aware that much of what we do, is because of subconscious decisions we've made without even realizing, which is another subject that can be very interesting to discuss, and has strong ties to the discussion about freedom of will, and whether we even possess such a thing.
Back to this blog!!!
Now, this is pretty much where I left things in the comment section, awaiting some kind of a response. And OneSkechist definitely delivered, and quickly at that, Thankfully! So I wrote a little bit more, though I didn't really disagree with his words (when you get me going, it's difficult to get me to stop).
I urge you to check out his entry as well as his comment, to get the full context of the next part too.
Either way, here is the next part:
I don't necessarily disagree with anything you said, and I myself too allowed for many of these thoughts in the mini essay which I wrote as well by playing around with them for a short while. That said, I don't think it's the way we should look at things, because I could analyze everything we do, as being motivated by our drive to achieve whatever, and come with just as many points. The fact that this is possible, means that rather than the procreational drive being behind everything we do, the procreational drive CAN be looked at as being behind everything we do.
But using the same kind of logic that you used for your arguments, I could argue that we do everything based on our drive for achieving happiness, or any negative emotion as well. While having a general well being is good if you want an optimal situation to have sex in, sex also makes you feel good and improves your general well being (as can your children, and the knowledge that humanity is going somewhere might make us feel great). They are not mutually exclusive, which makes it impossible to say which one is the trigger and which one is the goal.
So what I'm arguing for is not that sexuality cannot possibly be looked at as our primary drive, but more that I don't think it's relevant that it can be, but rather if it should be, or if something else can be as well, like all the other motivators out there.
Especially because of sex disinterested people, I'd say that the claim if anything would be better if it only included raising new generations, as that is something that even people who have no observable sex drive can do; that is, the goal being to strengthen our species. But even that is not always true. Also, the same goes for wanting power; sure. Some people might want power to get laid, or do something even more grandiose, but at the same time, a rapist might rape in order to feel powerful. And not all power hungry people have cared much for sex either, even though the majority has. There are just too many exceptions to this theory, for it to be appliccable to everyone. One of the qualities in pyschological research that is held as the most important, is whether a theory is generalizable to all people, which I don't feel that this theory is. This, in my eyes, is an icomplete theory, that needs completion from our other drives to be able to describe how or why a human functions. That is how the science of psychology has evolved to systemise things, for them to be as accurate and easily understandable as possible. If anything, I'd like to entertain this idea of procreation being a drive behind everything in the end, more as a philosophical muse than a complete psychological theory based in science.
Because of this, our drive to procreate, while definitly important, shouldn't be something you keep going back to from every other drive we have just because you can (except, as I said, as an interesting thought game). Because you can go back to every other drive from the drive to procreate as well: A woman 100 years ago may want to have sex with a man in order to secure a safe living, which you might say is only so that she later can provide this for her children, aka. Procreate. But then again, I can just as easily say that she wants the child so that the child will provide for her when she is old and fragile.
Rather than everything revolving around the act of furthening the group, everything CAN be viewed as revolving around the act of furthening the group (and furthening the group can again be good for you for subconscious selfishness alone, which only gives more power to the theory that everything we do is selfish instead, which really, is not too far from being a polar opposite). It's an important difference.
Because of this entire structure, the argument loses a lot of credibility to me; it has become an unfalsifiable hypothesis. But the fact that you can't disprove anything, is far from being the same as the thing being right. Because the fact that "everything we do is because we as a species want to serve God", can be viewed as a valid statement that's also unfalsifiable. You can't really disprove it, and anything you say against it, could be easily explained as only being part of it all.
But as I've said, I don't disagree that sexuality and the drive to evolve is important to us. However, I find "Sex is, still, indirectly the biggest motivator..." to be an interesting statement, because the word "biggest", and "indirectly" seem to work (not entirely) but slightly against each other. And the same can be said for so many other drives, like my previous example; happiness. It's like counting with infinities. It's annoying, but doable. If many drives could be said to be the most important, the more drives you add to the equation, the less of the equation every individual drive would take. And I think that you really need to factor those other drives in there just as strongly, because they all have the same essential properties, so there is no reason to treat them differently.
But it's okay that you disagree, I won't argue anymore after this, as we don't really seem to disagree on much else that is substantial, except for in which way you should approach the information that we already have. And no way of looking at it will really change the reality of the other ones either, which is pretty interesting, as the viewpoints aren't mutually exclusive either. This is why I chose to focus more on dragging the analysis back from the observation about people, to an observation about how you and I seem to apporach the very words we use, as well as our entire way of thinking about the subject; because that is where it seems like the difference between us on this particular topic is. In the end, I don't think that anyone could claim honestly that either one of us is ultimately right or wrong, as we just come from different viewpoints about the same thing.
I just want to strenghten that if you really wanted to apply such a theory as this to a real situation in order to do something about that situation or use it for gain in the future, you would want to analyze that situation from more viewpoints than the one (not only biological viewpoint, but really, focusing on only part of our biology), in order to have the most effective approach.
Upon sleeping on the subject, I had a few extra thoughts, which I think are worthwhile sharing. These will probably be written only here on the blog itself, but we'll see.
I will try to keep this short and straight to the point (EDIT 2: What a funny joke, ahahaha!).
1. The reason that everything we do is easy to misplace as sexually motivated, is because our behaviors that have survived through time, are behaviors that are compatible with the survival of our species. That is, behaviors like empathy are very useful if a group of animals want to live and prosper, thus it is a property that has been passed on. But what we could call neutral behaviors too, have also been passed on, because they don't disturb the furthening of our group. Like biting your nails. You could say that some of us bite our nails to relieve stress, and a lack of stress makes for a more attractive partner. But in reality, that behavior has probably more likely survived because it doesn't interfere with babymaking. I mean, a few partners may be put off by it, but throughout history, most humans probably didn't care much about nail biting if they had a chance to get laid. Also, I know that biting one's nails isn't something as primal as the reason behind why you bite your nails, but it was the first example I thought of, and it works well enough. Such a thing as biting your nails is connected to a plethera of other complicated mechanisms though, which makes it more of a pseudo-example. I'm sure that you can see the point anyway. While such a behavior can be looked at as being sexually motivated from many different perspectives, the reality is that it just wasn't a huge enough drawback in a personality to die off as a behavior yet if ever (Biting your nails is something that all humans may end up doing because of stress, but it is also partially genetic). It can be good to note that far more behaviors are like to survive nowadays than ever, as our perception of what is a good partner has changed a lot over the years (and we are far more people now than ever too). A different behavior though, which could make it difficult to reproduce (idk, let's make one up: "Kill All Babies and Mutilate Sexual Organs Syndrome"), will not be as likely to survive. So in this sense, it is easy to draw everything back to reproduction. But I still feel like that's not how we ought to think about things, because...
2. Biology as a force of nature, doesn't think. It's not like biology has an ultimate plan. It's like I said; behaviors that are likely to benefit all humans, are more likely to survive through the ages. This doesn't mean that those behaviors are sexually motivated, or procreationally motivated. They just happen to exist, because they don't interfere too much with procreation. That is, our brains usually don't actively NOR subconsciously think that the reason we want to do something (like eat cereal), is because we want to get laid later. It's simply possible to make that connection if you really want to. But is that what humans really think at all? Because biology in and of itself doesn't really think, the only thing that really matters is what we humans really think, or rather, what is going on in our brains. We cannot make an honest claim that something motivates us, if it isn't observable in such a form that can actually be either documented, or viewed through an EEG. Let's not forget that it is actually possible to watch what parts of our brains are active, and how hard they are working. Which means it's actually possible to see if the parts in the brain associated with sexual thoughts "light up" all the time. Spoilers; they do not. In the very least, they're not always the "brightest lights", nor the constantly most active ones. This if anything, tells me that everything simply doesn't lead back to sexuality, at least not more than to something else. Because while we speak of something as being motivated because of our desire to procreate, it's not the reality of what is going on. When we say this, we're confusing the result with the cause. The cause is not "we procreate, thus we do". It's "we do, thus we procreate". So if anything, procreation is not the motivator behind something; we are motivated by other things, thus we procreate. Now of course, sexual drive is a property which highly increases the amount of procreation, which is why we're so horny so often; that particular behavior has survived, because more people with that behavior, have sex, and more of it.
3. This does not, however, mean that sexual drive is the largest of our drives. To create a tie to what I said earlier, take a look at this article.
It's an easy to understand writing, based on a known study. Pay attention to this quote in particular:
"The real shock from Hoffman's study is the relative unimportance of sex in the participants' thoughts. People said they thought more about food, sleep, personal hygiene, social contact, time off, and (until about 5pm) coffee."
That is to say that our other motivators, such as hunger and will for sleep are more prominent than our desire to have sex. Now, I say once again. It is of course possible to claim that we only eat and sleep to be better and more healthy partners. But if you look at what is going on in our brain, and in the brain of biology (there is none), there are no ties to such a claim. And that is why I think it's a bit ridiculous to say that those behaviors are either consciously or subconsciously motivated with procreation in mind; it simply isn't true! Usually, no subconscious process about sex and procreation is going on while we eat that tasty apple, which means to me that it's faulty to claim that that would still somehow be the case, especially as evolution itself doesn't have an opinion; it's just a mathematical process that keeps on rolling.
But remember, as I said from pretty much the start. This is not to say that sexuality isn't a big motivator, in fact, it's a huge one! Especially when we look at ourselves in the mirror, pick a deoderant, or to be more plain, when we have sex or think about said thing. The evidence just points to that it simply isn't our main drive, which is the statement I was arguing against.
Notice the word "was", because just like that, I'm almost finished ;)
I feel like I've well overcooked my points. But that's just how I roll, hehhe. Props to those of you insane enough to read this far though. While you're at it (as more proof of how I roll), why not read this interesting study about long-term vs. short-term rewards. It shows that the emotional parts of our brains tend to be more active when short-term rewards are in question, and the more logical and calculating parts active, when we think about long-term goals. To tie this to the topic I discussed, this would mean that if our ultimate goal was to procreate, it would probably be more conscious and calculated, than subconscious and emotional process. You probably shouldn't relate the result in the study directly to my statement though (that is, don't quote me on this), but it sure seems to point in that particular direction.
(Back from EDIT)
And that's it, as well as where I'll leave it too :)
He may very well respond again later, probably with some pretty cool viewpoints, but I've lost interest in the subject (at least for now) after writing about it for a while, so my input has been done. As I said, the format of this blog entry (as a response) is a new one, but I might do it again some time.
I hope you'll check out OneSketchist if you haven't already, especially as he really draws some cool art too (but really truly especially, because the reads are actually interesting)! Without him to spark some ideas, I probably would've written about something rather boring today instead. Then again, maybe you think what I wrote now was boring too?
Feedback is thus, much appreciated!
Either way, thanks for reading XD
It was nice to write something that actually gets on the same level as some of my older and better posts, for the first time in a while. Maybe I'll finally be able to get back into writing about more interesting and deep materials again?
Only the future will tell, so you'll have to come back and be a part of that future to answer this question ;)