Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sex and Sex

There are four legs to stand on. The first, be romantic. The second, be passionate. The third, be imaginative. And the fourth, never be rushed.
- Charles Olson

Sex and Sex

This book has shown that sex is ultimately in the mind and that our minds are infinitely unique in sexual identity. What does this imply for that other sex, the sex of sexuality and sexual relations—the sex of love and the love of sex?

Beyond Gay or Straight

If we are all sexually unique beyond male and female categorization, then the terms heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual lose much, if not all, of their meaning. The paradigm of sexual continuism predicts that in the new millennia society will evolve to a state of multisexual orientation. Persons will love, and fall in love with, persons based on their emotional feelings for the person, not for the person’s genitals. As this occurs, the age-old apartheid of sex will finally be fully gone.

Sexologists have long suspected that innate heterosexual and homosexual orientations are myth. Ancient civilizations like that of the Greeks had little problem with the concept that men would make love to both women and boys. Anthropologists have uncovered societies in which women make love to women and men. Since the prime motivation of people to engage in sex is that it feels good, and this good feeling is achievable with either sex (or even self), there is no logical reason to assume people are inherently hetero- or homosexual.

Hetero- and homosexuality, in fact, are artifacts of sexual dimorphism. As long as people are either male or female, it follows to many that one must either be gay or straight, seek sex with the same or with the opposite sex.

Bisexuality was, however, always a gaping hole in the dimorphic model of sexual relations. If persons seek either the same or the other sex, what explanation exists for bisexuals? The paradigm of sexual continuity points out that all persons are inherently bisexual but uses the term multisexual to reflect this potentiality. The term multisexual is used to avoid the implication that there are but two (“bi”) sexes from which to choose lovers. Multisexual emphasizes the uniqueness of our sexuality and that of our lover. It also emphasizes the diversity of sexual continuity, just as the word multicultural means comprised of diverse cultures.

One of the most recent extrapolations of the sexual dimorphism paradigm comes from Simon LeVay, a neuroanatomist and Dean Hamer, a geneticist. Both claim to have uncovered evidence that homosexuals have a different size section of their hypothalamus that (1) is due to a genetic code and (2) presupposes such persons to seek the same-sex partner as a lover. This hypothesis raises a number of interesting questions. What does it mean to seek the same “sex” partner? Does it mean a butch lesbian is attracted only to another butch lesbian, or would a femme lesbian qualify? For most persons sexual organs are just one part of a comprehensive relationship. Most gay couples, like straight couples, are composed of complementary rather than similar personality types.

LeVay and Hamer may have found evidence not of a “gay gene” per se, but of an “erotic gene” that encourages (but does not dictate) the erotic component of our unique sexual identity, as described in chapter 5. In one of their most recent writings they now observe “that the hypothetical gene acts indirectly, through personality or temperament, rather than directly on sexual-object choice.” In essence gays may be one of several groups of people who have a heightened erotic component to their personality and hence to their sexual identity. This heightened erotic element enables gays to be more willing to break social rules insisting on male-female erotic pairings. In LeVay and Hamer’s words, “People who are genetically self-reliant might be more likely to acknowledge an act on same-sex feelings than are people who are dependent on the approval of others.” Other avowedly straight persons with strong erotic components to their sexual identity might also have the same-size hypothalamus as LeVay found in his population of homosexuals. Such persons may have expressed their erotic drive in other ways, such as through bisexuality or untraditional lovemaking. Implicit in LeVay and Hamer’s research is that as sexual apartheid crumbles, sexual diversity will increase. This is because it is the absence of “social approval” that limits unique sexual expression to those with the most erotically rebellious genes.

Even the geneticists concede that barely half of our sexual orientation is due to genetics. Hence, anyone can be a sexual rebel. All sexual rebels share a common willingness to be different erotically. The difference gets expressed in a wide variety of ways depending on opportunity, chance, romance, and environment. The preference for a lovemate based on anatomy or skin tone, rather than soul, simply reflects our deep tradition of racial and sexual apartheid.

Multisexuality

Sexual orientation in the third millennium will evolve toward a multisexual model because “male” or “female” sex types will fade away. Persons of any genitals will feel free to identify themselves as olive, magenta, coral, ebony, or white, or as femme, butch, tough, tender, or trans. With this continuum of sexual possibilities, gay, straight, and even bisexual labels will lose all meaning. People will fall in love with people; sir and ma’am will go the way of thou and lord. We will all still have our preferences. A hard-charging orange-gendered entrepreneur may still seek a stay-at-home purple-gendered mate. But whether the entrepreneur or the mate was born with a penis or vagina will have the same relevance as size, hair color, and skin tone. Apartheid of sex will go the way of apartheid of race, of class, of nationality, and or religion.

Multisexual partnerships will still face all the possibilities of gay and straight couples. There will be questions of sexual compatibility and of commitment. Concerning compatibility, age-old mount-or-be-mounted questions will still be with us. The difference is that it will no longer be assumed that the one with the penis mounts or that the one with the vagina takes the passive position. In a multisexual world it will be clear to all that preference for “active” or “passive” sexual positions is a function of each individual’s unique sexual identity, not the person’s genitals.

Also, sex roles will more easily be seen as fluid, as capable of changing from day to day or year to year. When society understands that the mind dictates sex roles, it is possible to think that one’s sex role is easily alterable. After all, we do change our minds.

It is even possible to redefine one’s genitals, temporarily for sex or for a longer term as part of a sexual identity shift. There are persons in the transgendered movement who think of their penises as enlarged clitorises, and obtain sexual satisfaction by rubbing rather than penetrating their lovemate. There are persons with vaginas who think of their clitorises as small penises and, often with the help of strap-on-dildoes, obtain sexual satisfaction by penetrating rather than rubbing their lovemate.

Is the lovemate of a person with a vagina who uses a strap-on dildo gay or straight? Does it matter if that lovemate has a vagina or penis, when the other partner feels as if she is a male? Suppose the lovemate also has vagina, which is penetrated by her partner by means of a strap-on dildo. Are they still lesbians if the partner lives, dresses, and thinks of “herself” as a man? Are they still lesbians if the partner has had a hysterectomy to eliminate “her” period? What if “she” also had a voluntary breast removal operation to give “her” a male-like chest? Are they still lesbians if the partner also takes small amounts of the “male” hormone testosterone, which within months gives a “woman” a beard and deeper voice? At what point are the couple no longer lesbians but instead just having unique sex?

There are no easy and valid answers to the above questions. It would be easy to say the couple were lesbians until one partner actually had her vagina surgically transformed into a penis. But this answer is not valid, for the action of the surgeon has not changed the sexual orientation of the pair. The action of the surgeon has changed only the details of how the pair has sex. It would be valid to say that the couple was heterosexual from the point that one partner thought of “herself” as male and the other thought of herself as female. But this answer is not easy, because neither partner probably has a fixed perception of the transgendered lover as either male or female. The transgendered lover is somewhere in between. And so is the mate.

The clearest answer to the sexual orientation of our pair of lovers is the multisexual label offered under the paradigm of sexual continuity. Their love for each other as persons is more important than the sexual identities. At least one of their sexual identities is unique, not the same and not the opposite. This makes them both multisexual lovers.

A current legal impediment to multisexuality are sodomy laws. These laws are in effect in many states and, in their most strict version, prohibit any form of sex other than frontal intercourse between partners with opposite genitals. The U.S. Supreme Court’s much criticized decision in Bowers v. Hardwick affirmed the rights of states to prohibit sodomy. However, the Supreme Court’s decision was based heavily on heterosexist, male-or-female notions. The Court’s decision would lose meaning under the paradigm of sexual continuity. If no one is definitely male or female, if we all are of unique sexual identity, then sodomy laws are arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Multisexual lovers also face the same issues of commitment that are faced by gay and straight couples. By living together and contracting, it is possible for a multisexual pair to approximate the mutual commitment that the law reads into a formal marriage. But suppose the pair actually wants to get married and to have children. What unique problems do a multisexual couple face?

When a multisexual couple goes to get married, they usually will have to declare themselves to be of opposite sexes. Whether or not this is actually the case is a relative question. On the one hand, the pair’s birth certificates would probably be the definitive statement of their sex as far as a judge is concerned. But most marriage clerks do not require birth certificates as proof of sex. Self-reported sex and personal appearance usually suffice. A multisexual couple may have the same kind of genitals (and hence same-sex birth certificates) but different sexual identities. As long as one of them checks “male” and the other checks “female,” and they act the part, they should ordinarily be able to get married.

If their mutual commitment breaks down, one spouse could insist on an annulment instead of a divorce, arguing that the marriage was not valid in the first place, since it was a marriage between two persons of the same sex. But if the other spouse wants a divorce instead of an annulment, probably for reasons of support, that spouse could argue that the marriage was between persons of opposite sex, as originally sworn to in the marriage certificate. A judge must then determine whether the sex of the couple is determined by the genitals at time of birth or their sexual identity at time of marriage.

If the multisexual couple’s commitment to each other remains strong, the question of children may soon arise. There are many options and possibilities here. If the couple lacks sperm, one of them may obtain artificial insemination. Now suppose the multisexual couple is composed of two persons society identifies as women. They lack sperm not because of sterility, but because neither has male gonads. Does the child then have two mothers or a mother and a father? If one of the women was a sterile man, we would think of that sterile man as the father even though he didn’t inseminate the mother personally. There is no difference in the status of the non-childbearing parent in each case except that one has a sperm-free penis and the other has a sperm-free vagina. Should the difference in their normally hidden genitals make one a “mother” and the other a “father”? This raises the question “What exactly is a mother or a father?

In a sexually dimorphic world, a mother is a female parent and a father is a male parent. But what happens to these definitions after the fall of sexual apartheid? There are a number of possibilities. One is that the terms mother and father will become archaic, replaced with the phrases my parent Sue or my parent Steve. Another option is that the terms mother and father will retain their ancient association with the more nurturing and more dominating parent, respectively, but will become disconnected from genital-based sex roles. In this case a kid might say, “I love my dad, and she loves me.”

Cybersex

Computers and telecommunication are likely to play an important role in dismantling the apartheid of sex. It is much easier to disconnect ourselves from thousands of years of rigidly fixed notions about sex and gender when we telecommunicate than when we are face to face. Interacting with other people via computer networks in called “meeting in cyberspace.” Multisexuality can grow rapidly in cyberspace.

Hundreds of millions of people are connected via computer networks that offer a wide variety of “meeting places,” where people “talk” to each other via typed-out messages. To get on one of these computer networks you must choose a name for yourself. Then, when you “chat” with others at a “meeting place,” the computer network automatically inserts your name before each of your typed-out messages. If you meet someone in person, it takes a lot more guts than most of us have to introduce yourself with a name that doesn’t fit your sexual appearance. In other words, in-person meetings reinforce sexual stereotypes. But in cyberspace, you can readily pretend to be a different sex. You can choose a name appropriate to an “opposite” sex, or you can choose a name that is transgendered. Cyberspace readily allows people to transcend their known sexual identity. Just as Hollywood computer graphics can “morph” one image into another, cyberspace lets us MorF (male or female) one sex into any other.

Today cyberspace is fairly limited in human expression as compared with the audio, visual, tactile, and proxemic (body language) possibilities available in face-to-face meetings. On the other hand, cyberspace is very expansive in human expression as compared with the sexual conformity required in face-to-face meetings. An exciting opportunity on the horizon is the merging of virtual reality into cyberspace to enable face-to-face dynamics without sexual conformity. This new frontier, called “cybersex” is an excellent proving ground for the multisexual world of the twenty-first century.

Virtual reality means using computer technology to immersively feel, see, and hear another place. Today’s computer networks don’t yet approach virtual reality, because cyberspace is not yet immersive. In essence, today cyberspace lets us non-immersively read, see and hear about another place. We can even virtually be in another place, such as via multi-player role-playing games. But the illusion requires our steadfast attention to the display screen, and lacks much if not most of what “being somewhere” is all about. There are two main reasons cyberspace is limited today:

• The peripherals needed for virtual reality (smart clothes or body jewelry and smart glasses or contact lenses embedded with wireless electronics) are not generally available at consumer prices.
• Software is not yet ready to convey the quality of digital immersion needed for “plug and play” persuasive virtual reality.

Each of these limitations is likely to change in the next ten years. Limited-capability “data gloves” and “electronic helmets” have now found their way into toy stores. With the ever-falling prices of computer chips, it won’t be long before a piece of electronic clothing will be available for every part of the body. Soon thereafter, eyewear will also be capable of transitioning not only from light to dark, but from physical space to cyberspace. The display screens of tomorrow are the little pieces of plastic we set before our eyes.

Wireless communication links, as used in mobile and remote-control devices, will provide a two-way connection between the electronic clothing and a ubiquitous wireless network. The electronic clothing will be able to give the wearer the sensation of being touched or squeezed or even of warmth and coolness. The same “electronwear” will enable one’s movements to be transmitted back into cyberspace. Through our intelligent contact lenses or glasses, we will see our presence in cyberspace. As clothes become wearware, and as eyewear becomes eyeware, virtual reality will become the way the internet is presented.

Meanwhile, the business and technology mergers of computer and communications companies will provide cyberspace with the information superhighway capacity and omnipresence it needs to convey virtual reality to all participants. To show how fast communications revolutions occur, consider that it took less than ten years from when the first one hundred miles of fiber-optic cable was laid (1980) until the entire country was crisscrossed with fiber optics (1989). Similarly, it took less than ten years from when the first cellular telephone system came on line (1983) until every city and 95 percent of the interstate highways had cellular phone service (1992). About ten years later, more Chinese had cell phones than Americans. By 2008, over half the people in the world had both a cell-phone and an internet account. The feared “digital divide” between technology haves and have-nots is a transient myth. A lasting reality is the “digital dispersion,” a relentless spread of ever more bandwidth to ever more people with ever more connectivity. In my 1980 article, International Regulation of Digital Communications Satellite Systems, I labeled this the “maximum channel dispersion principle.” Absent government interference, channels of communication between people will grow ever deeper, broader and more diverse. We are an insatiably communicating species.

When cyberspace is enhanced by virtual reality, there are innumerable opportunities to “try on” genders as part of cybersexual explorations. First there is creating your image. A digital camera puts your image on the screen, and on the web. From there you take charge as the editor. Feminize the face, masculinize the voice, “morf” the body, androgynize the clothes—all will be readily possible using virtual reality clip art and drawing tools. Many genders can be created and saved under sexual identities as “violet blue,” “burnt orange,” or “Madonna.” After one last check in the mirror, you are ready to hit the cyberclub. Log on, zap—there you are in the midst of a dozen other people, walking, talking, sitting, and dancing in a realistic clublike setting. Everyone sees a different image, since the image transmitted back to them is the view from where they are in the cyberclub.

Now you are on your own. Your behavior, attitude, and conversation are where your creativity and personality come into play. But you don’t have to play macho man or shy guy, and you can be any kind of girl you want to be. Dance by yourself, dance with another, touch a person without caring about sex. Tomorrow try another gender. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about because all you have to say is “Log Off” and you are gone.

The cybersex scenario is within technology’s ten-year reach. Intermediate steps such as computer videoconferences, with users choosing and editing their on-screen display, already come bundled with Apple computers. All of this technology will be used for sex. In short, technology will be used to try on genders and to pave the way for people being liberated from a single birth-determined sex. Like the simulators used in driver and pilot training, cyberspace prepares us for the postapartheid twenty-first century multisexual world.

Is There Transhuman Joy Without Orgasmic Sex?

There will be some killer orgasms resulting from having avatars in cyberspace linked to neurohormonal-rich homo sapien bodies in real space. But the uploaded transhuman software beings occupying cyberspace -- the ones with consciousness, autonomy, rationality, empathy, but without hormones, endocrines and tingly neurons – may not be able to experience an orgasm, at least for a few decades. We don’t yet know if setting connection strengths between various saved images, sounds, and other bit-streams can ever replicate the feelings of a flesh body, let alone the transcendental consumption of a hotly erotic one. We can only speculate as to whether stuff like speeding up, slowing down or rhythmically oscillating processing speed is orgasm-like. The cognitive consciousness of humans will be replicated in transhumans well before our erotic sensations are.

Would it be ethical to create a transhuman incapable of orgasm and probably devoid of many other sensations? Would anyone want to upload their mind into an independent transhuman form knowing that orgasms and other sensations had to wait for fundamental cyber-biological advances decades in the future? The answer to these questions is clearly yes. Humans experience a tremendous variety of joys, of which orgasmic release and other sentient wonders are but a subset. There is the joy of learning, the joy of conversation, the joy of fiction and the joy of being witness to the tremendous diversity of life. Only very rarely do even severely paralyzed people wish for death. They report finding immense pleasure in the familiarity of friendly faces and voices. A strong, intellectual happiness also comes from just holding onto hope for a brighter tomorrow. Be it placebo effect or true progress, every indication that one’s hopes are being fulfilled gives off the sportsman’s joy of gaining a point.

There is a cognitive satisfaction in the human mind when things “fit together”, or when “harmony is achieved.” For this kind of joy neuro-hormonal stimulation is unnecessary. This is the joy of a Spinoza, the zen-like satisfaction that comes with understanding, or even meditating upon, a universal order or underlying truth. Transhumans can reap bushels full of this kind of joy from reading, viewing media, role-playing and (virtual) coffee-klatching in cyberspace. An uploaded mind in cyberspace can calm itself with the discipline of a master yogi, and feel the nirvana of nothingness. Nobody doubts there are joys beyond those of the flesh.

The ultimate hope for most uploaded minds will probably be for a physical implementation. One option likely within this century is being downloaded into a nanotechnological reproduction of or improvement on the homo sapien body. Another option, available even sooner, is being downloaded into a cellular-regenerated homo sapien body grown ectogenetically (outside a womb) to adult size. Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon describes a world in which both of these type of body forms compete in the marketplace to host the minds of uploaded souls.

Thus, there does appear to be a good case for transhuman joy without orgasm. There are the pleasures of the mind. There is the contemplation of the soul. There is the contentedness of camaraderie. And there are the joys of hope incrementally fulfilled, with each advance in mind embodiment celebrated like a solid base hit. Finally, we can’t be so sure that digital orgasms will not be available. For transhumans, just as for humans, the world’s oldest pleasure will have an incredible ability to draw money and talent to its quest.

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