Is a revulsion reaction to homosexual sex biological, cultural (or some combination of both)?

The “nature or nurture” aspect of homosexuality itself has already been debated ad infinitum, but I’m curious about what seems to be a relatively common reaction of disgust / revulsion to the concept of gay sex. Yes hot, sweaty, ball-slapping gay sex. Lesbian sex counts too, but let us consider “real” lesbian sex and not necessarily the porno variety, as well as considering the reactions of women to it and not just men. Sometimes you see or hear of this type of revulsion reaction even in people who otherwise strongly support gay rights.

Now it certainly makes sense to say “well, it must be biological since gay sex runs contrary to the strong desire to procreate in most people”. But we also know that what “makes sense” does not a scientifically valid conclusion make. So I’d appreciate any assertions one way or the other to come with at least a modicum of evidence, if it’s out there. Certainly tolerance of homosexuality varies widely from culture to culture, but I really want to get to the root of the purely emotional reaction to the act itself. I’d be inclined to believe that there is some biological element to this reaction but it gets exacerbated by socio-culture forces, and neither one is fully responsible on its own.

So oh wise Dopers, what say ye?

Is there any evidence to suggest that such a revulsion is cross-cultural? Or even that it is consistent throughout this one?

I know of plenty of heterosexuals who are no more revolted by the thought of gay sex than I am by the thought of straight sex (i.e. they aren’t). It simply doesn’t arouse them erotically.

Why is this even in question? What would be the basis for even considering that it could be biological?

It’s very commonly expressed. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard the old trope “I support gay rights, I just don’t want to ever see it or think about it”. I should really expand the OP to include not just sex but any physical displays of affection between members of the same sex. And like I said in the OP, one might attempt to logically deduce that the biological drive to procreate could play a part in this type of reaction, and I want to know whether that has been studied or not.

There’s really no need to get defensive here. I’m trying to approach this from as objective a point of view as possible.

I really don’t see how a trope’s being widespread in our culture is the slightest evidence for its being biologically based. The “Happy Birthday” song is widespread in our culture. It’s probably more widespread than the trope you mention. Does that make it biologically based?

I’m not defensive, just nonplussed.

My personal hypothesis is that people are wired so that it’s fairly easy to convince them when young and impressionable that a particular sexual practice is revolting or alluring*, but that there’s little hardwiring as to which particular sex act qualifies. Most sexual taboos and fetishes seem to vary quite a lot across both cultures and time periods, so I have trouble believing that they are fixed; but at the same time having such fetishes and taboos seems pretty universal and they seem pretty easy to induce, accidentally or deliberately.

  • with a partner they find attractive in the first place.

I think the rigid demarcation of straight/lesbian porn from gay porn with very, very little bisexual porn is an indication that even the most outspoken, friendliest gay rights advocate has little desire to see the actual act they support.

As with most human traits, it’s nuture.

Everything a child knows about sexuality is what their instincts tell them. As such, all children themselves have the propencity for homosexual behavior - sexual desire does not discriminate if one has no basis to do so. In fact, a lot of children exhibit and even ingage in homosexual behavior without growing up to be homosexuals per se.

All children start out wu wei (無爲), uncarved wood, and don’t judge based upon something as relatively complex as sexuality. So if one truly is reviled by the sexual practices of others, whatever they may be, its almost certainly because as a kid papi told them "Don’t be growin’ urp to be no faggot/dyke/et al, ya hears?! :mad: "

For revulsion to a particular sexual behavior cannot be a rational, empirical conclusion one arrives at as an adult, as this would clearly be nonsequitur for a sentient being to be so absurdly biggoted.

But there’s lots of sex that makes us squeemish. Who likes to think about their parents having sex? Who likes to think about old people or obese people or people with physical deformaties or conjoined twins having sex.

We even get squeemish about first cousins getting married when there’s no risk of incest as first cousins are far enough apart.

The thought of eating ants or geoducks fills me with revulsion, but I support the right for people to eat such disgusting things!

Always with the procreation! Look, almost all sex is non-procreative. Plenty of fertile heterosexual people have no desire to procreate, and may even react with revulsion to that prospect. Yet almost everybody has some interest in sex, and for most of us the interest can get rather intense well before, and independent of, our eventual interest (if any) in having children. Even people who do, or will, want children may be interested in sex with partners with whom they would assuredly not want to (or be able to) procreate with.

People in Ancient Rome didn’t seem particularly disgusted by hot sweaty mansex. I’d say we’ve been raised to think it’s revolting.

Yes; we are simply not built along the sex-is-just-for-breeding lines of say, cattle. Both of our genders are sexually active at all times, human females show no obvious signs of when they are fertile, and we have a much lower fertility rate than species that use sex simply for reproduction. For humans sex is about social bonding and recreation much more often than for reproduction.

And on top of that straight couples indulge in practices that can’t result in children too. A woman isn’t going to hawk up a baby after fellatio any more than a gay man would.

Probably a very small bit of biological, and and whopping helping of cultural. In my own case, I fall squarely into the category of: “I don’t care, but I don’t want to see it either.” Why? I suppose it’s because as a hetero male I do not find men arousing. As they are engaging in an act I know to be erotic, my disinterest conflicts with my knowledge of what I am viewing. That conflict is resolved in my mined by placing it into the the rather childish category of “ick”.

The actual mechanism of revulsion is almost certainly an evolutionary trait.

Any trait that would tend to stop someone from going down a reproductive dead end (same sex, post childbearing/child rearing age) or undesirable (closely related, obvious inheritable disability) would be advantageous to the passing on of the genes of that person.

Since once you are sexually excited about someone/thing it can access the very powerful sex drive it would clearly be beneficial if there was anything in a persons makeup that would inhibit them from pursuing one of the above mentioned dead ends.

Someone with a revulsion powerful enough to stop them succumbing to the sexual attraction of another with whom reproduction is impossible/undesirable would certainly be in a better position to pass on their genes.

The problem with this train of thought is that a very large amount of porn aimed at straight males tends to show an awful lot of male equipment in the process and generally rather a lot more than would be strictly necessary. To give a particularly glaring example, in most oral footage, the camera frame is dominated by an erect penis and female bits get little if any air time at all, and, again, this is in porn specifically designed for and marketed at straight men. If there really was widespread revulsion at ogling another guy’s junk, it would stand to reason that much more effort would be made to avoid those sorts of scenes & angles, not play them up. Why is it called a “money shot” if it’s supposedly so gross?

Then there’s the rather less openly obvious issue of how much gay sex goes on without being mentioned. As a personal anecdote, I’ve had sexual encounters (occasionally regularly) with almost every other male I’ve gotten to know well over the course of my life, and 3/4ths of them identify as 100% straight before, during and after and would not dream of ever mentioning it in public. As with all anecdotes, it’s entirely possible I’m an outlier, but I suspect there’s a lot more of that going on that is acknowledged. “Sure, I’ve masturbated with my buddy every other Saturday night for the last two months, but that’s not gay.”

To sum up, I think the common refrain of “I don’t want to know anything about it! Ew!” is simply that the average American socialized male doth protest too much.

  1. The revulsion doesn’t have to be at the junk, and can be offset by the fact that there is an attractive female also present.

  2. I find the idea of a gay guy having sex with a straight very icky, and I’m pretty sure that is cultural.

You find the idea of a gay guy having sex with a straight guy icky? What about two gay guys having sex? What about two straight guys having sex? What about two bisexual guys?

Since the subject of what we find “icky” comes up, I’ll say that I don’t find male-male sex repulsive, and can and have seen gay porn clips with anal sex close ups without it bothering me. But men kissing? That I find yucky. Not mind you just men kissing men; men kissing anything. Other men, women, puppies, the air.

I’m pretty sure it isn’t.

People are very good at overcoming culturally imposed biases if there is an underlying attraction.

If that were not the case there would be a good few fewer paedophiles, not to mention practitioners of various ‘unusual’ sexual practices.

I think the revulsion is biological, but giving a massive crap about what people do in privacy, is cultural.

My reasoning is that it isn’t just gay sex that we find repulsive. Any sex which does not involve at least one person that we find attractive, or involves acts that we wouldn’t find appealing to do, is generally unpleasant to watch or think about, not merely neutral (although in this era of internet porn, our tastes have tended to broaden).

In addition to this, we generally feel uncomfortable when someone who we aren’t attracted to lusts after us.
For men, this unpleasant feeling is rare. This is for many reasons associated with the way male and female sexuality and courting works.
Meeting a homosexual man is about the only way most men will experience that uncomfortable feeling.