Here’s why heteronormative may be a thing of the past sooner than we think…
Last Fall, I had a very interesting conversation with Michael Gilbert, USC Professor and author of the extensively researched book, The Disposable Male. We were discussing the issue of sexual fluidity and where it was eventually heading. I suggested that within just a few generations (three to five) bisexuality will likely become the norm for a majority of the population. I was surprised at how vehemently my friend disagreed with my assertion, stating it would take at least 1,000 years, if ever, for that to happen. Well, in light of recent studies concerning young adult sexual identity, it appears that we may both be wrong since it seems to be happening somewhat quicker than even I anticipated…
(Author’s Note: my Partner and I are exclusively heteronormative and harbor no agenda whatsoever promoting or denigrating any particular form of sexual orientation)
Inclusion, Acceptance and Orientation
It is no secret that current younger generations tend to be much more inclusionary in terms of race, creed, gender and sexual orientation. What surprised me however is how quickly inclusion and acceptance seems to be impacting sexual orientation –especially for today’s teens. One study from the J. Walter Thompson Group indicated only 48% of today’s teens view themselves as exclusively heterosexual, down significantly from the 65% of Millennials self-identifying as such. Another recent study of 1600 people by YouGov.uk resulted in 43% of all people 18 – 24 in the United Kingdom do not view themselves as exclusively hetero- or homosexual. Think about that for a moment. That represents nearly half of the young adult population. Given this research, it is not too much of a stretch to consider the possibility that in just two generations (or less) from now well over 50% of the population will view themselves somewhere between 1 and 5 on the Kinsey Scale indicating some level of bisexuality.
Should this trend continue, which I strongly suspect it will, it begs the question: Will sexual “orientation” or “preference” be the more accurate way to define bi-normative behavior in future generations?
The Propagation of the Species Imperative
The reasons for this apparent trend could be debated endlessly, even without the unavoidable cultural, religious and political biases. Going back to my conversation with Michael Gilbert, we both defended our respective positions using evolutionary principles yet came out the other side with two opposing conclusions. His view was that the evolutionary influence on reproductive biology, physiology and cultural-based psychology were so strong that it would be nearly impossible to overcome. My position was that while evolution designed us for procreation (i.e. to be heteronormative), as conscious beings we are much more susceptible to relatively rapid evolution of our beliefs, behaviors and eventually our drives surrounding sexuality. Part of this evolutionary shift of course is a result of greater society-wide acceptance and inclusion. I also believe we are hard-wired to deeply “connect” with other human beings as long as we feel safe. And of course, sexual expression with another human being regardless of physical gender, offers one of the greatest possibilities for connection that two people can experience.
We can thank the cultural, religious and political interpretation of the procreative imperative (often used to wield power over the unruly or unsuspecting masses) as the main source of resistance to non-heteronormative sexual behavior. Anything sexual that flies in the face of procreation is considered within this context as perverted, abnormal, sick or an abomination.
We Don’t Need Sex to Survive as a Species
Intercourse, as fun as it is, used to be the only game in town if you wanted to have children. Thanks to technology, such as in-vitro fertilization, that is no longer the case. And, in the near future, it will become increasing easy to have children regardless of the parent’s gender or the functioning of their reproductive systems.
However, I sincerely believe that our ability to truly connect with others, regardless of gender, race, creed or orientation will emerge as our new survival imperative. With connection comes acceptance, collaboration and the recognition that we are all human beings. A sea of humanity that has the possibility of living in peace, harmony and equality free from the divisive societal renderings that are so prevalent today.