The Evolutionary Advantage of Homosexuality

The Evolutionary Advantage of Homosexuality

Looking at our evolutionary history, viewing sexuality as a social act and recognizing its fluidity and spectrum gives a perspective that helps to explain homosexuality as natural. This also gives a different perspective on female sexuality, polygamy, promiscuity and the variety of sexual practices in the world. The reason gay and other non-reproductive sex would likely exist is because sex evolved into a social act. As a social act, sex would have been advantageous during our development as a species, and gender would not matter.

Homosexuality is too common and universal to be an unnatural phenomenon. By some estimates, it exists in about 10% of the human population and has been considered normal and expected of people in many societies throughout history—Ancient Greece and Feudal Japan for instance. Homosexuality is also very common in animals, who are indifferent to their own sexuality and the sexuality of others. In humans, Kinsey established that there is a sexuality spectrum, ranging from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, with most people falling somewhere in the middle. Why is there this variation?

Going by the theory of evolution and natural selection, pervasive traits in a species are generally there for a reason because advantageous traits that help members of a species survive and reproduce stay and disadvantageous ones die out. The puzzling thing about homosexuality is that it seems that it would destroy itself by discouraging reproduction. But it has prevailed, so there must be a good reason for it. We are driven to do and pleased by the things which in a primitive world would promote our survival and propagation. Therefore eating is enjoyable, sheltering ourselves is enjoyable, having sex is enjoyable. We need the instinctual drives and feelings of reward to keep our species going on both an individual and group level. These instincts and traits have been hard-wired in us by the very gradual process of evolution by natural selection that causes species to develop and change over time, creating the vast diversity seen in our world. Evolution favors that diversity as it leads to new opportunities for life and endows it with resilience.

Changes in species generally happen over the course of many generations. For instance, giraffes didn’t just suddenly mutate into having long necks. The giraffe predecessors had, like any sexually reproducing species, variations among its members, with some being slightly better suited to reaching higher up food sources by being slightly taller. Those with the longest necks were better adapted to their environment than their kin and survived and reproduced more, giving birth to offspring with a tendency toward a long neck. Eventually, thanks to the collective of their unique variations, they developed long necks and became a different species entirely, with their own niche on the African plains.

Our own species developed by the same evolutionary process, and we are the product of that. Our lives are shaped by modern times, but our basic instincts and drives are our foundation. As a species, we developed most of these before we developed language and custom. And it is in our developmental era that we need to look to see where our drives come from. There we will likely find the origins of human sexuality and homosexuality, a strange constant of human life.

Sexual reproduction thrived despite the risk of not finding a mate because it creates genetic variation and diversity. But sex itself is not strictly reproductive in all species. In many species that’s the case. For instance, with many fish, such as salmon or catfish, there is no copulation. The females lay eggs to be fertilized externally by the males. With rabbits, there is copulation but no extended relationship. For these species, it isn’t necessary to go beyond that. Their sexual drives are focused on efficiency in creating offspring. But many social species are more sexually complex.

The complicated, inefficient way that humans have sex demonstrates that there is more to it than just child-bearing. We court each other, flirt, get to know each other first, try to find common ground and compatibility and then we move on to the actual sex. Sex itself is also complex–not strictly copulation, but kissing, foreplay, cuddling and everything you can imagine for yourselves. We frequently exhibit monogamy, something relatively uncommon among the Earth’s species, but at the same time, have a serious difficulty adhering to it. Even though we have social norms discouraging it, promiscuity and drive to have sex with multiple partners over a lifetime are extremely common, as is homosexuality. Why do people have such a hard time following these anti-sex social norms? Because they’re unnatural. Sexual variety is ingrained and built-in to us from pre-historic times.

For humans, sex develops strong positive feelings of love, bonding and friendliness. It is a generally accepted idea that men and women develop these loving feelings toward each other, encouraging some degree of monogamy in order to benefit the offspring that may result from sex, as it would tend to keep the fathers around. The preliminary courtship helps to determine if a potential partner would be a good match, and the bodily exploration is a great way to determine your partner’s state of health and get to know them better. This would be especially true during a time when there was no language to communicate with. People who had this positive, loving reaction to sex would have an advantage, and so would their offspring. So the development of love’s connection to sex was a great step forward for us.

Despite these loving feelings, humans are not entirely monogamous. These feelings can and do extend to multiple people. In primitive societies without the rules created by language, people were more promiscuous. Human promiscuity tends to be attributed to the drive to “spread seed”, but this misogynistic concept doesn’t take female sexuality into account. Female sexuality can’t be explained this way because their ability to procreate is limited, yet they don’t lose their drive when pregnant. Another possible motivation behind promiscuity that extends to homosexuality is that sex developed as a social act that helped keep primitive societies together. It was a social lubricant and a way of communication. As a social act, gender would be irrelevant and sex would be a great way of creating bonds, (or caveman style friends.)

This is exhibited in ape societies such as chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest genetic relatives. Both are very promiscuous, and bonobos are especially notable in that they are completely bisexual and constantly use sex as a social lubricant. The bonobos are also very peaceful. They choose to have sex over fighting. For early humans, sex probably functioned like it does for the bonobos, reducing aggression and encouraging cooperation.

If inherited, homosexuality has to be passed on heterosexually. We all have a mix of genes giving us each our individual traits and differences, such as short and tall, or a predisposition to want sex with people of a certain gender. Likely, there is not one gene for homosexuality; it is part of this mixture of genes and predispositions. That would help explain why there is a sexuality spectrum, why most people fall somewhere in the middle, and why, if a society expects bisexuality, people can adapt.

If sex developed to create bonds between opposite-sex parents for the sake of the offspring, that bonding quality would have extended to other partners as well, regardless of gender. Promiscuity and bisexuality would have been advantageous for propagation and also for developing the bonds that would help a person and their offspring’s survival. An individual who had sexual preferences for both genders would have the option to establish connections with more varied partners, thus creating a wider network. This popularity would give him a survival advantage and potentially more chances to mate. This one’s offspring would have the trait and they would inherit the same advantage. Eventually, after many generations, the trait would more or less pervade the group, with some having more of the “gay” trait than others. As the concentration of the gay traits increased, eventually there may be some that get so many that they don’t reproduce at all, limiting and balancing the trait. Those that get “too many” of these “gay genes” curb its propagation but they won’t die out because they come in combination with “straight genes.” Therefore, bisexuality dominates, generally leaning toward heterosexuality. Additionally, the total homosexuals won’t burden the group with offspring, sacrificing their own genes but helping their gene-sharing kin survive, much like worker bees do.

Homosexuality is a natural tendency that has evolved into humanity and other species due to the social advantages it provided in early times. Viewing sexuality as a social act and recognizing its fluidity and spectrum gives a perspective that helps to explain homosexuality as natural. This also gives a different perspective on female sexuality, polygamy, promiscuity and the variety of sexual practices in the world.

Wil and The Doctor (who wishes to remain anonymous)

P.S. You may post any relevant links you’d like. Comments, suggestions and sharing are welcome 🙂

Advertisements

45 thoughts on “The Evolutionary Advantage of Homosexuality

  1. This essay definitely provides some food for though. I find the idea of the theory a fascinating notion to consider. Any chance you could site or link to some of the supporting research studies that you’ve read in relation to this?

    Whether you edit this individual essay or re-post it with the links attached, this could be a useful resource to have access to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah and that’s why I wanted to post about it and bring together some ideas while adding my own. I think that homosexuality and sexuality in general need to be rethought so that people can be comfortable with their differences. The discussion is far from over.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi I guess we were both thinking along the same lines when we posted about sexuality today. I have a couple of family members that are homosexual and they both attempted to live a normal life as society defines. They got married, had children, but went to bed each night living a lie. Now they are free and they both say that being gay was not a choice they made, it is what they are. Your article speaks to this issue. Good read.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like the way you think! Really a good post. One thing I wonder about in the evolution of the species and the role of sexuality in it is if this balancing mechanism is, or will be, tipping us in the direction of more homosexuality as we continue our relentless populating of the planet? Some people point to disease as a tragic form of balancing the population, but is there a mechanism we as yet do not really understand that promotes sexual satisfaction but without offspring? Right now we depend on voluntary birth control, but viewed in a positive light homosexuality would be a great alternative. Keep these posts coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Damn Wil! This has come a long way since its primitive form as scribbles in your notebook.

    Fuck yeah!

    Here is an article by the Huffington Post that suggests female siblings of a gay man are more likely to have “reproductive success” than female siblings of a straight man.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/why-are-there-gay-men_n_1590501.html

    I thought you might like it.

    P.S. I like you how didn’t show all your cards here 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The truth is HS isn’t a ‘evolutionary’ step forward, but an agenda being pushed by the elite via the media to indoctrinate it, not as an ‘alternative’ lifestyle, but ‘the norm’ and actually encouraging otherwise hetro persons to try it. The reason behind this ‘in your face’ agenda is depopulation, an answer to an overcrowded worldwide population. It’s not evolutionary. The media are promoting this lifestyle, not simply catering for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the attempt at providing a counter-argument, but your reply seems a bit shallow and poorly supported. If the media actually ‘pushes’ it and it ‘takes root’ then that can easily support the idea that many people already have curiosities and inclinations towards it to begin with – which they keep suppressed and hidden.
      (Read: Males specifically. Because females have a much easier time and often do this simply out of whim and/or curiosity, without needing ‘the media’ – as you suggest – to push them. A hint at how male sexuality would be if the world were free of machismo-based bias)

      To respond to the latter half of your notions, depopulation? Heh.
      You amuse me =)

      War is much more efficient at ‘depopulation’ than homosexuality.
      If anything, yes, it could be feasible that homosexuality is ‘nature’s pleasurable “balancing” mechanism’ for the population (which, even then, COULD utilize the notion of it being ‘socially advantageous’ as part of that balance). But, other than interest, nothing stops a female-oriented guy from maintaining sexual relations with females EVEN if/when or after they have sex with dudes. So, I believe that debunks your 2nd point. 😛

      Lastly, having homo-oriented experiences doesn’t change your sexual urges towards women. If the ‘media’ was doing anything, it would simply be encouraging openness of perspective, not mass sacrifice of all heterosexual males. (Though…just musing to myself, if such a thing DID happen it would probably cut down on the chances of us evolving in an Idiocracy in the future, heh).

      For ‘Idiocracy’ look here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

      P.s. This previous statement is a dig at general male population, not heterosexual men specifically. If you identify as hetero (more or less), please do not take offense.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not the one who replied to you here lol, but yes I did and I have to admit it was interesting, but I probably didn’t look around it enough because it wasn’t that appealing to me personally. Do you have a link to a specific post that you recommend?

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Wil. Thanks for stopping by my site and linking to your post. What I found most intriguing was your insight on the continued sex drive of pregnant women and its relation to a common explanation of promiscuity.

    On the inheritance of a gay trait/gene, do certain populations (however you parse it: race, gender, nationality, etc.) have more representation of homosexuality, or is it pretty evenly spread across populations?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem, I’m glad you liked it 🙂

      Thanks! I don’t think there’s really much reliable data on homosexuality’s representation in various populations due mostly to predominating stigma and such (sexuality is kind of difficult to study generally). I personally think that a predisposition toward “alternate” sexualities is more or less evenly spread, but I think that how that predisposition develops and is expressed can be affected by culture. I think it’s a combination of nature and nurture basically.

      If you have any relevant links to contribute, they are welcome to keep this conversation going 🙂

      Like

  7. Interesting and thought provoking, good job. I think that the heterosexual and bisexual population will continue to produce approximately 10 per cent homosexual population. There certainly must be science to support that, since it has been around all through recorded history and certainly before. I think the in between population, those with bisexual experience and tendencies, are larger than we might at first imagine. Also, I think there are many males, for example, who would not like to admit their homosexual experiences when they were younger. I am convinced of traits, genes, whatever you wish to say, that produce people who are strictly homosexual without interest in the opposite sex.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’d like to add citations and go more in depth some time in the future and write more about sexuality generally. I think it’s important to the acceptance of homosexuality and other alternative sexualities to discuss the science behind them and their evolution.

      Like

  8. I can tell this was well thought out and has some validity to it. But to say that being gay is an advantage is a little too far fetched for me. Like thats saying if i go around checking out guys and hitting up all the gay bars in town it will somehow be an advantage to my lifestyle….no it wont. Homosexuality to me is a “to each his/her own” type of thing. Where people dont really have the right to say what others should do and not do with their personal lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well keep in mind this is referring to homosexuality, bisexuality and sexuality in general in prehistoric times and the effects of the evolutionary process of natural selection. Many of our traits that were developed before the modern day are no longer relevant (tho I do disagree about that not being advantageous even now lol).

      Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s