Our ancestors originally accomplished subsistence through cooperation, just like the rest of the animal kingdom. I believe sexuality contributed toward subsistence by aiding cooperation. Working with others becomes far easier when you are attracted toward them. This can be identified as a common element between the biological and cultural adaptation eras. However, human sexuality changed dramatically between the two. Why and how did it change over time?
Sexuality as we know it today is largely based on the social construct of gender. However, we are exploring a time that exists before this idea had been established. Biological sex was still a category they would have recognized, but it would not have carried the same connotations gender does today. Therefore, sexual attractions would have been approached very differently.
Today, sexuality is both cooperative AND competitive. We dedicate ourselves to another person in sickness or in health, and then we betray their trust. We compete among ourselves (using gender) for the “right” to any particular sexual attraction. For our ancestors, competition had no relation to subsistence. Human sexuality simply aided in their actual focus: subsistence.
When we adapted biologically, subsistence was accomplished cooperatively. Human sexuality aided this process, as it added to the discussion of which individuals cooperated most effectively and why. Human sexuality could tremendously enhance the ability of individuals to relate to one another in societies that lacked any complex social structure.
However, humans began to accomplish subsistence culturally partially through our evolution. Competition was slowly incorporated into society in the interest of developing social structure. Sexuality therefore began to adapt to both concepts. Thus, we have the beginning of its dialectical development; cooperation versus competition.
As competition began to further social structure through culture, the role human sexuality played grew substantially. Rather than simply aiding an individual’s ability to cooperate, it also began to aid an individual’s ability to compete. While subsistence continued to be a cooperative accomplishment, cultural institutions developed competitively in nature.
A society needs to accomplish two feats in order to keep humans solidly within the circle of life. The first one is the production of wealth. In this case “wealth” indicates the required elements needed to guarantee a subsistence [or more]. The second one is reproduction. The next generation always needs to be created and then incorporated into the currently established system. During childhood, the child learns all the necessary skills and experience that child will need to survive within that system.
A cultural adaptation means that production and reproduction are accomplished within a cultural context. Unlike a biological adaptation, a cultural adaptation allows both cooperation and competition to partake in the accomplishment of these two feats. In other words, individuals may compete against one another in the production of culture or for control over cultural institutions. This can occur independently of the cooperative accomplishment of production and reproduction.
It is easy to realize how sexuality is involved in the competition between individuals. After all, it is just as difficult to ignore an individual whom we hate just as much as it is to ignore an individual whom we love. In other words, human sexuality primarily is about how and why we interact with whom we are attracted toward, regardless of emotional input. It also frames competition within the context of advancing cooperation. As this is where human sexuality comes from, it makes perfect logical sense.
A Frolicker of Sexual Fluidity