The fallacy of sexual naturalism

My mother is a professional musician, and the metaphor of music has helped me explain sexuality to numerous audiences. Open a textbook on human sexuality, and nine times out of ten it will begin with a chapter on anatomy and physiology. This opening sets the stage for the assumption that “the biological bedrock,” as it is often called, must be understood before we can look at anything else, such as what people want, what they experience, how they get their ideas about what sex ought to be, and so on. Furthermore, the biology presented in these texts always dwells on the anatomy and physiology of the genital organs, never of the tactile reception of the cheek or lips or the physiology of aroma preferences. You’ll find the physiology of arousal but not of pleasure, of performance but not of fantasy. So, it’s not just biology that is being portrayed as fundamental, but a certain kind of biology.

Open a textbook of music, in contrast, and you will not find chapters ont he bones, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles of the fingers (for playing the piano), the hands (to play cymbals or cello), or even the mouth or throat (for flute or singing). And what about the physiology of hearing or of the sense of rhythm? Why don’t music texts start with biology? Isn’t biology as fundamental to music as it is to sexuality?

Leonore Tiefer, Sex Is Not a Natural Act, Pg 6, Westview Press

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