377 verdict: Gay sex against nature? Look around, get a life

"Carnal intercourse against the order of nature". That’s quite a mouthful.

While upholding Section 377, the Supreme Court judgment recorded different interpretations of the concept. We are told that “such acts have a tendency to lead to unmanliness and... to persons not being useful to the society”. We learn that Black’s Law dictionary defined “the order of nature” as something “pure”, that “the basic feature of nature involves organs, each of which has an appropriate place”.

What was that? Because the “most unnatural” penetrative sex I have ever heard about is beyond the “impurest” of human tendencies. Male Amazonian river dolphins penetrate the blow-hole -- the cetacean equivalent of our nose -- of other males. While the boys have "nasal sex", female Bottlenose dolphins use their snouts as dildos on other females. Talk about each organ having "an appropriate place".

Image from IBNlive

Image from IBNlive

Yet, we are told that every organ has "a designated function assigned by nature", that "sex and food are regulated" and why "what is pre-ordained by nature has to be protected". Really? Tell that to dolphins or, for that matter, any species that has sex. Animal homosexuality has been known since the time of Aristotle, who described 2300 years ago how he witnessed two male hyenas having sex with one another.

But morality gathered a lot of taboos over time and did not allow biologist George Levick to make public his observations of "depraved penguin behavior" during Captain Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole in 1910. Levick stayed for an entire breeding season with a colony on Cape Adare but did not include in the official report the accounts -- suitably written in Greek -- of non-procreative (and homosexual) sex among male Adelie penguins in the official report. The fascinating details remained unknown nearly for a century.

Since Levick's embarrassment, homosexuality has been recorded in around 1,500 species. About one-third of these instances are well documented. From insects to primates, these species throw up ample cases of sexual activity, courtship, affection, pair bonding, and parenting among same-sex partners. While most show bisexual behaviour, exclusive homosexual orientation is not rare. Among domesticated sheep, for example, about 10 percent of males refuse to mate with females but readily mate with males.

Clearly, homosexuality is as natural as anything observed in nature and not an individual "lifestyle" choice. But a lot of us demand human conduct to be far above bestial standards.

In 2008, when biologist Lindsay Young first reported that nearly one-third of Laysan albatrosses (that pair for life) were actually female-female couples, many shot back in anger, asking rhetorically if people should follow other “natural” practices, such as animals raping one another or eating their young.

Of course, such outrage conveniently overlooks the fact that, unlike rape or filial cannibalism, consensual same-gender pairing or sex does not violate or endanger. And this debate over “naturalness” and demanding biological justifications from the wild also trivialises the issue. We anyway understand very little of animal behaviour yet.

While some species may have practical purposes — group bonding, honing sexual skills or simply tiring out competition — for engaging in homosexual acts, it is equally possible that others do it simply because they enjoy it. There cannot be any single explanation of why individuals of different species engage in activities that appear homosexual to us, just like we cannot hope to understand every member of the LGBT community from a fixed perspective.

But obsessed with a distorted sense of purity, our social morality perhaps resents the very idea of "pure" pleasure and happiness for the sake of pleasure and happiness. Have we rushed too far down the Darwinian path -- where every aspect of our behaviour must eventually lead to reproduction – merely because it suits our Grinch mentality? Do we demand as a society that sexual pleasure remains a spinoff of a supposedly greater purpose and feel unsettlingly guilty when pleasure itself appears to be the goal?

Zoo-Dolphins

Bottle nose dolphins have a lot of same sex 'carnal' relations

But for the appalling hypocrisy, such moral tyranny would appear comical since none of us let go of any opportunity to pursue what makes us happy, even if it is socially taboo, as long as we can get away with it. We don’t really care what abomination the 30-million-strong LGBT community indulges in as long as they keep it, like the rest of us keep our own unspeakable deeds, in the closet. We want legal provisions to hold them guilty of pleasure because they refuse to feel guilty for their existence like the rest of us feel for our deviations.

We may want all we like to believe that our choice of pleasure makes us what we are, but it is who we are that determines what makes us happy. And derived consensually, no happiness needs justification.

One winter evening more than two decades ago, a young lecturer sauntered down uninvited to a coffeehouse table occupied by a bunch of university students busy exchanging notes over a few thin volumes of poetry. For a few minutes, they listened in silence as he guffawed and wondered what the “unproductive fad for abstract poems” ever achieved. Then, a deadpan girl cut in: “So why do you masturbate?”


Published Date: Dec 12, 2013 04:17 pm | Updated Date: Dec 12, 2013 04:23 pm

Also See