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Marx’s dialectical materialist philosophy rests on the axiom that humans have needs and desires the satisfaction of which exist outside themselves.  Thus, humans must ‘go over’ into an “other” to find self satisfaction.. That “other” is on the one hand, nature, and on the other hand, others of their species.  Because, according to Marx, man is by nature a social being, the social other to which people turn to find satisfaction encompasses individuals, social groups,as well as socio economic structures as a whole.  The most basic of these needs are food, water, clothing, shelter and sex.  The satisfaction of these needs is both necessary and pleasurable.  We eat not only to survive but because eating is enjoyable, a cozy home gives us pleasure and shelter.  Sex is unique only in the respect that whether or not it is pleasurable or engaged in for pleasure,  it does not merely sustain but reproduces human life.  It is the mode of reproduction of the species.

The satisfaction of human needs and desires is both the register and the motive force of human physical and social evolution.  As people engage with and appropriate nature to fulfill their desires and needs, they evolve.  On the one hand, they constantly develop new means and modes of appropriation and production, i.e. new technologies and social structures,to fulfill their wants and needs, and concomitantly, new needs and wants.  Whereas our not so distant ancestors were content to communicate with one another directly in a shared space, we moderns want and need our cell phones which enable us to communicate with anyone anywhere, without the necessity of being physically present to do so.

Marx refers to the totality of relations both to nature and to others, including both technological advancements and socio political structures in and through which human needs arise and are satisfied, as the mode of production.  Each mode of production has two characteristic components.  On the one hand there are the means and forces humans employ to appropriate nature (nature itself is considered part of the means of production), and the second is the relations of production,which are the relations groups of individuals have one another as mediated by their relationsto the means and forces of production.  In capitalist society, there are those who own and control the means and  forces of production, and those who  do not own, but work with these means and forces.  Thus, while the working class actually labors to  produce what is necessary to satisfy people’s needs and wants, the capitalist class actually controls the fulfillment of  human needs and wants through control over distribution, wages, and the extraction of profits.  Furthermore, the forces and relations of production in each epoch together are the ‘base” as Marx calls it, from which the political, economic, ideological, religious, educational  and cultural superstructure arises.  The purpose of this superstructure is to support and sustain private ownership and the social relations of production that arise from it, and hence, the dominance of the ruling economic class.

However, there is one dimension missing from this quite precise understanding of human social evolution, and that is what I will refer to as the “mode of reproduction”, or the way in which the species physically reproduces itself. While humans qua humans have always possessed this ability, when, where, why and how they do so, as well as how they regard and treat both the means of reproduction, specifically women, and the products of their reproduction, children, are socially and materially determined factors.  Just as in capitalist societies where those who own and control the forces and means of production determine both directly and indirectly, if, when and how the needs of the majority who labor but own nothing, will be fulfilled, in patriarchal societies, where males hold economic and political power, and women are excluded from such power, males determine if, when and how women reproduce, and how the products of their reproduction will be regarded and treated.  Thus, we find in many societies that women are not allowed by the patriarchal structure,  to do anything to prevent reproduction, and, from Greek and Roman times to today in many parts of the world such as Indian and China, where females are economic liabilities rather than economic contributors,   female infanticide is practiced, and women who do not produce sons are scorned and punished.

It is the economic and political structures of patriarchy that make women economic liabilities. In all patriarchal social structures, women find themselves excluded from equal participation in the economic relations of production.  As a result, women are forced into the position of being dependent on men for the satisfaction of their needs, wants and desires, just as workers as a whole are dependent on those who own the forces of production.Thus, out of necessity, the majority of women in  patriarchal societies, seek to attract, win or become the possession of men who are best able to satisfy their needs and desires in much the same way as workers sear for good jobs and higher wages.Just as the working class is used, controlled and exploited by capitalism, women are used, controlled and exploited by patriarchy which values them for their ability to arouse and satisfy desire and produce children.   They are the “force of reproduction” who do not control but are controlled by the larger, patriarchal superstructures in a variety of ways – from the use of direct force, through religious, social and political indoctrination which serves to obfuscate their oppression, making it seem both natural and normal.   Thus, from the patriarchal base in which men seek to possess and control women’s bodies and reproductive capacities, arises a patriarchal superstructure, which serves to support, perpetuate and obfuscate women’s exploitation by making it appear both natural and eternal.

Just associeties can and have been defined by existence of classes, so too patriarchy sustains and in turn is sustained by a rigid division of human beings by gender. It is expected that one is and must be either absolutely a male or absolutely a female.  Any blurring of roles would automatically lead to a blurring of relations of power. Accordingly, a clear system of identification and categorization must be maintained:  depending on the society, women and men must look, dress, and act in a certain ways based on their gender.   Those who do not do so, whether male or female,  are punished in one way or another – through public ridicule, social ostracization, political exclusion, through discrimination, and of course, by violence.  Yet throughout history and across cultures such individuals have existed, whether as hermaphrodites, or as members of what is now called the LBGT community.

When a large subgroup within patriarchal societies rejects by its very existence the binary division of sexuality of the dominant mode of reproduction, it can be very threatening to the patriarchal powers that be.  In some societies, particularly those who do not have a great need for high levels of reproduction, these non reproductive, gender blurring  forms of sexual behavior are accepted and even condoned.  One need only think of ancient Greece, where even though Patriarchy was strong, and women lived seclusion and exclusion of women from the socio political relations of the polis, and where  female infanticide were practiced, non reproductive sexuality between men, and in the case of Sappho, women, went on without being persecuted.  However, even within this context, it was accepted and understood that the man who played the male role in homosexual relations was the better and superior while the one who played the “female” role was considered the lesser and inferior.  In other societies where there is a great need to increase the population, and patriarchy is supported by state and church, such as in Russia, the sexual division of reproduction is strenuously maintained and those who do not strictly adhere to the status quo are in grave danger.

Of course, when we speak of human sexuality we are speaking of two things, which although difficult to separate, can be separated. on the one hand, its role and function in the reproduction of our species, and on the other, of the pleasure principle. The coming together of both genders is today a requisite for reproduction, however, even this mode of reproduction, like death,  is the product of the evolution of life. Our biological ancestors did not need an “other” to reproduce, but could simply divide themselves, and did not, as individuals, die but simply cloned themselves ad infinitum. There are to this day many diverse ways by which living creatures reproduce.So too, technological and scientific evolution is pointing the way to a time in the not too distant future, when reproduction will not require the copulation of two individuals of different genders.

When it comes to the pleasure principle, non heterosexual pleasuring has occurred throughout history, across cultures, and even across species.Recent research has found that homosexual behavior in animals may be much more common than previously thought. the discoveries of homosexual behavior in more than 10% of prevailing species throughout the world. In 1999 Bruce Bagemihi wrote a book called Biological Exuberance, which presented so many examples of non heterosexual relations, from so many different species.  Since then non heterosexual pleasuring has been documented in  hundreds of animal species.  Female Japanese macaques might have playful sex with each other one day and then mate with males on another Pairs of male elephants sometimes have special companionships that last for many years and include sexual activity.  Bonobos are notorious for their indifference to who they pleasure or are pleasured by.  Female bonobos even have sex when they are outside their reproductive period and can’t get pregnant.In flocks of sheep, up to 8% of the males prefer other males even when fertile females are around.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals

In America, a patriarchal nation in which women, although ostensibly “equal” are still at a decided economic disadvantage; a  particularly religious nation and hence one inclined to view non reproductive sexuality as sinful, and non heterosexual sexuality as an abomination, there has been a never ending attempt to, on the one hand, clearly define the difference between males and females, and on the other,  label those who are not heterosexual as deviants suffering from some genetic, physical or psychological disease.  Thus religious leaders of all ilks,who continue to attack homosexuality as an abomination, have been joined by academics such as Sandoldman, a well-known psychotherapist, who said: “It is the consensus of many contemporary psychoanalytic workers that permanent homosexuals, like all perverts, are neurotics.  Or consider the remarks of the respected criminologist Herbert Hendin:Homosexuality, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse appear to be barometers of social stress… Criminals help produce other criminals, drug abusers other drug abusers, and homosexuals other homosexuals. “(Cited in Horton, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/07/13/is-homosexuality-inherited)

Thus, as we can see, any and every deviation from the accepted social and reproductive roles of males and females is viewed as an illness at best and a crime at worst.The root cause for this criminal mental illness has been blamed on everything from bad mothering (which, in turn has been blamed for a wide variety of “deviations” such as Autism) to hormonal imbalances, to genes.  But, as recent scientific research is increasingly indicating, there appears to be no biological basis for non heterosexual inclinations, and so we must at least consider the possibility that alternative forms of sexual behavior are normal…as normal as heterosexuality.

The larger and better question may be whether heterosexuality is itself natural and not a social construct.  The ultimate question to my mind is, apart from the need to reproduce, is there any reason one should love, desire, find pleasure in, give and receive satisfaction from only one opposite gender.  Should the great human need to love and be loved, to experience sexual enjoyment and satisfaction be limited to experiences with only one half of the human race?  The answer is, apart from reproduction, and sexuality does exist apart from the desire to reproduce, no.

It can be concluded that deviation from patriarchal sex roles in the face of relentless indoctrination from the second humans are born -pink for girls, blue for boys; baby girls greeted as hey “sweety”, and boys as “hey buddy”;  the giving of toys on the basis of gender; activities and social interactions that are based on whether the child is male or female;  the relentless, omnipresent projection of well defined sex roles- is a direct challenge to patriarchal power, just as the failure to accept that society is naturally divided into rich and poor is a direct challenge to capitalism.  That In the great ocean of sexism into which we are all born and live out our lives,  people surface who reject the sexual division of gender is both miraculous and revolutionary.  That they do so in the face of discrimination, persecution, and at the risk of physical harm and the possibility of being murdered, makes them great heroes.

Mary Metzger is a 74 year old semi retired teacher. She did her undergraduate work at S.U.N.Y. Old Westbury and her graduate work In Dialectics under Bertell Ollman at New York University. She has taught numerous subjects, from Public Sector Labor Relations to Philosophy of Science, to many different levels of students from the very young to Ph.D. candidates, in many different institutions and countries from Afghanistan to Russia. She has been living in Russia for the past 12 years where she focuses on research in the Philosophy of Science and History of the Dialectic, and writes primarily for Countercurrents. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and the great grandmother of two.


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