Thrice Xandvii wrote:
Does homosexual behavior exist in all human cultures (without learning from other cultures)?
I don't have anywhere near enough information about all cultures on the planet to answer definitively, but seeing as how it is an innate predilection and not a learned behavior, I'd say yes.
Well now... that's a bit tricky, isn't it? IS homosexual behaviour not learnt behaviour?
Is ANY sexual behaviour truly innate? I mean, if you raised a boy and a girl in isolation with no information from outside, what would happen if they were attracted to one another? Would they, as it were, instinctively understand the physics of the transaction? Or would they, as I suspect, fumble around a bit, investigate the topic in an empirical, trial-and-error fashion, and eventually work out something mutually satisfactory to both parties?
Certainly, outside the realm of actual coitus, which seems almost universal among cultures, sexual behaviour is learned and culture-bound. Most obviously, oral sex is intimately conjoined to culture, climate, economics etc. Until the modern era, oral sex in Europe was considered a greater taboo than sodomy, for obvious reasons. [Presumably the Romans were a lot more keen on it, since they had much more appealing genitals] Likewise, I seem to recall that at least one mediaeval Indian sex guide goes so far as to consider double (vaginal and anal) penetration, yet never suggests oral sex at all.
Similarly, I believe sodomy was much less common in earlier eras. Famously, among the Greeks sodomy was the exception even in homosexual encounters, with intercrural stimulation the norm.
Indeed, it's worth pointing out that although coitus is near-universal, it only recently attained its modern popularity. At least as late as the 18th century, manual sex was more common, or even just simultaneous masturbation. If you look at Pepys, for instance, a man who was constantly
obsessing over sex, having affairs, having quickies in closets, going to wife-swapping orgies and so on, he almost exclusively was just rubbing, groping, stroking and so on, with relatively little actual penetration of anything. This makes a lot of sense when you consider a) the medical complications of venereal diseases in an era before modern medicine, and b) the unreliability and expense of contraception in the period.
So I'm not sure at all that any sexual behaviour is actually innate and non-learned.
In terms of attraction
rather than sex
... well, are we sure that's innate and non-learned? I don't think there's actually any scientific reason to think this, let alone be certain of it. Indeed, the science seems pretty clearly pointed in the other direction. The biggest research on the subject, the swedish identical twin studies (the swedish twin studies study all the identical twins in sweden, throughout their lives... 7,600 people, more or less) showed that for men, only 35-40% of sexuality could be attributed to genetics, and that for women it was less than 20%. For both men and women, about 60% of the cause was found to be individual life-experiences (things like histories of illness, trauma, influences from friends, nature of earliest sexual experiences and so forth). (The difference between men and women was that women were also influenced by shared experiences in their upbringing (things like parental attitudes, social attitudes, socioeconomic conditions, etc - basically what this means is that non-identical female twins, sexually speaking, look much more like identical twins than they would if genes were the only reason for their similarities), whereas men weren't influenced by these in the slightest.
[Other twin studies with smaller sample sizes vary in how much of sexuality they ascribe to genetic factors, but they mostly seem to agree with the swedes, and all seem to put it at less than 50%, even for men]
This tells us that on the one hand there are clear genetic propensities toward homosexuality, but on the other hand that most of an individual's homosexuality is determined by what happens to them in their pre-sexual life, rather than anything innate in them.
We also know from looking at other cultures that some cultures have very different levels of same-sex preference being expressed. On the one hand, those with less homosexuality can easily be waved away as 'they're all repressed!', but those with more homosexuality are trickier. Most famously, in ancient Athens and some other Greek cities, male homosexual attraction was considered the norm, and openly expressed. So we must conclude one of:
a) lots of Greeks were pretending to get hard-ons from looking at boys
b) a vast percentage of modern society secretly fancies boys, but they just don't admit it
c) there has been a colossal shift in population genetics over the centuries
d) sexual preference is not innate, but is instead culture-dependent.
I know for me, I knew I was gay well before I knew what to call it or what that entailed. I would assume other people understand that they are attracted to same-sex persons... whether or not the culture they are in allows that type of behavior is a very different story of course. Where it is highly stigmatized or where there are strong social pressures to marry or father children in exclusion to relations with same-sex persons I'm sure it is very rarely outwardly displayed. Of course, this makes it hard to know if these types of cultures have homosexuals, since we can't know what's in their minds.
It's worth pointing out that male homosexual behaviour is extremely common in many species of animal... but male homosexual preference is much more controversial. Indeed, according to some papers I can find, it's never been demonstrated in any non-human species, except among domesticated animals (where it may have been indirectly selected for) and in zoos or other extreme situations. It does not appear to occur among apes. [as opposed to homosexual behaviour, which is commonplace among apes]
It's also worth noting that apparently many studies of 'primitive' societies have failed to find evidence of male homosexual preference, despite finding evidence of male homosexual behaviour, including in socially-approved ways. [Eg, apparently male homosexual behaviour is near-universal among adolescent Yanomamo males, where it plays an important role in the formation of adult alliances, both personal and political... but apparently researchers still haven't been able to find adult men who display homosexual preferences] - and it's worth noting that this can be the case even when researchers have found other taboo behaviours like bestiality, adultery, or indeed murder, etc - so we're on slightly shaky ground if we want to write this all off as 'they just don't tell researchers about that'.
According to one peer-reviewed study I can find, social concepts of male homosexual preference are proportional to the degree of social stratification in that society. It may be selected for either culturally or genetically (there are a lot of studies suggesting that genes relating to male homosexuality may also increase female fertility).
So we certainly can't say that there definitely ARE any human societies without gay people. But on the other hand, I don't think it would be wise at all to say that there AREN'T.