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You Might Not Choose Your Sexual Urges, But You Do Choose Your Lifestyle and Behavior
Screengrab CNN

You Might Not Choose Your Sexual Urges, But You Do Choose Your Lifestyle and Behavior

Our feelings may not be up to us, but how we live, what we do, whether we indulge those feelings -- these decisions are ours to make.

If you heard a thunderous, whiny shriek emanating through the atmosphere a couple of days ago, that was the sound of our country having a collective conniption fit. It seems to happen quite often these days, so I don't blame you if you hardly notice anymore.

This time, Ben Carson sparked the hubbub when he told CNN's Chris Cuomo that being gay is "absolutely a choice." To prove his point, he cited straight men who go to prison and engage in homosexual acts.

Yes, he flubbed the explanation rather spectacularly, and then he further flubbed it by apologizing later that day for hurting everyone's fragile feelings. He didn't really try to expound on his point or clarify it, but he did take cover from criticism by highlighting his support for civil unions and the rights of individual states to legalize gay marriage.

He bungled the opportunity to shed light on an important cultural issue before retreating and swearing to never discuss the subject again.

Clearly, Dr. Carson is learning how to be a Republican.

Screengrab CNN

It's unfortunate that he didn't take the time to make his message more clear, because he was in fact absolutely correct that no credible evidence exists to suggest that our sexual orientation is genetic or immutably ingrained in us from birth. But rather than make his case by bringing up the sex habits of inmates (not a good example at all, considering much of the sex in prison is about power and dominance, not to mention a lot of these guys aren't given a choice in the matter), he could have brought up the myriad of identical twins studies that show gays were not "born that way." Or he could have brought up the research indicating there is no physical difference in the brain chemistry of homosexuals verse heterosexuals. He could have brought up that even many gay researchers believe homosexuality has much more to do with cultural and environmental factors than genetics or DNA. Or he could have mentioned that the head of the Human Genome Project found that, at most, our genetics predispose us towards a certain orientation, but they do not predetermine it.

Or, better yet, he could have drawn the important distinction between sexual urges and sexual behavior, and pointed out that, whatever causes the former, the latter is always a choice.

Even better still, he could have asked these gay activists to explain why they're so dead set on proving that being gay isn't a choice in the first place. If there's nothing morally wrong with it, who cares where it comes from?

And best of all, he could have pondered aloud about the patently insane notion that our sexual orientation is set in stone from birth, but our gender is not. These same progressive trolls who will gut you in broad daylight for suggesting that anyone has any control over their orientation, will do the same if you posit that our status as boy or girl cannot be reversed according to our specifications. Our proclivities are fixed at the moment of conception, they say, but our gender can be adjusted anytime we like. And how, according to liberals, is it possible to choose our gender? Because if we feel like something other than what we are, then that's what we become. Do you see how this works? To progressives, our feelings rule everything. Feelings are everything. Feelings can't be changed, but our feelings can themselves change anything, including physical realities.

And these are supposed to be the "pro-science" folks.

I don't think Carson handled this question the right way, and I don't agree with what he said completely -- although I agree with what I think he meant, that our behavior is a choice, if not our desires -- but I know for sure that anyone who claims "transgenderism" as scientific fact has no standing to mock Dr. Carson. None. Their position is far more absurd and completely disconnected from anything resembling reality.

There are many factors that play into our sexual orientation. It isn't written entirely into our genetic code from birth. It develops over time, and it can change. Some of it has nothing to do with our choices, some of it does. The idea of someone being gay from birth brings to mind the somewhat questionable concept of homosexual babies and toddlers. It should go without saying that there can't really be any gay 2-year-olds running around out there because children that age aren't sexually attracted to anyone or anything. Their sexuality will manifest itself gradually as they grow older, which is a big part of that whole puberty thing.

Of course this process is influenced by environment and culture and hormones and choice. For instance, a young boy exposed to graphic pornography from a young age will likely develop different sexual urges from one who isn't (what precious few exist in that category). That doesn't mean that one will be gay and one won't, it just means one will be different from the other. After all, this isn't just a gay vs. straight thing. Our "orientation" isn't a binary equation.

There are people with all sorts of "unique" fetishes and attraction, these days we even have folks sexually aroused by inanimate objects and furry mascots. Was that written into their genes from birth? Were they fated to that "lifestyle"? Or were they exposed to, and then made the decision to indulge in, images and activities that helped to develop and solidify those attractions?

I'm guessing all of the above. See, I'm not dogmatic about this. Everyone seems to be looking for the easy answer, but I'm not. We are all inclined certain ways, we have certain urges -- I'm not just talking sexually, but generally -- and these impulses can be traced back to everything from our upbringing, to our hormones, to our culture, to our biology, to the media we consume, to, yes, our choices.

These are interesting quandaries, fine for an academic conversation, but it's not all that important. The real question is this: what defines us?


Are we defined by our urges, or by our actions? Are we compelled to turn our desires into a "lifestyle," or can we live beyond them? Specifically in this case, what does it mean to be something?

Do our proclivities automatically become a state of being?

I would say no, and so in that sense, it is a choice whether to be gay or to be straight. Our feelings may not be up to us, but how we live, what we do, whether we indulge those feelings -- these decisions are ours to make.

Take the example of men who experience same sex attraction but choose to fight it, control it, and even marry women and have kids. In today's culture we are supposed to pretend these men don't exist, or that they exist as traitors to "their people," but I don't see them that way. I see them as men who sometimes feel one way but choose to be another way.

Progressivism, on the other hand, insists that you are what you feel, and what you feel is entirely out of your hands; you are a slave to your emotions (but remember, not to your gender, because that's the one negotiable here). This is really the defining characteristic of their ideology; it turns you inward and tells you to never attempt to transcend your base urges.

When TLC ran a special called "My Husband's Not Gay," about men who experience same sex attraction but choose not to be governed by those desires, liberals across the country threw very predictable temper tantrums. "

How dare they not live according to their sexual urges!"

The Daily Beast published an article plainly informing these men that, nope, they're still gay whether they like it or not. This is the mentality we're dealing with. Either you will submit to being defined by your feelings, or progressives will come along and define you themselves. They believe they have this authority, because literally anything is acceptable as long as it's done in the name of gay acceptance.

A lot of us have not been burdened by same sex attraction, but that doesn't mean we don't have feelings that need to be controlled and suppressed. This is part of what it means to be a human being. We all sometimes experience feelings of anger, hatred, resentment, jealousy, etc. We don't explicitly choose those feelings, yet we know that whenever we indulge them they grow stronger. Our task, then, is to act lovingly, to choose love in word and deed, and let our actions tell the story of who we are.

So what defines us in the end? The feelings or the actions? If we divorce one from the other, who are we?

I can hear the protests: "Being angry isn't the same thing as being gay!" Of course it isn't. I'm only trying to illustrate the point that our actions and our feelings do not have to coincide, and when they do diverge, I believe our actions are what make us who we are.

I could use more relevant examples, but they aren't the kinds of examples gay rights folks like to hear. I could mention how some men are attracted to children or to animals. Did they choose those attractions? I don't suppose they woke up one day suddenly determined to become pedophiles or zoophiles. I would guess they reached that point perhaps after being abused as children, or being exposed to particularly perverse pornography for extended periods of time, or for some other reason. Maybe their biology does play into it somehow, maybe there’s some mental illness involved, maybe there are other factors that predispose them to these perversions. But whatever the reason, they get to decide whether or not they will act upon it. They get to choose to fight it or succumb to it. It is up to them if this will become a lifestyle.

[sharequote align="center"]Those attractions don't have the power to define them. Our actions don't have to follow our feelings[/sharequote]

They decide who they are. Those attractions do not have the power to define them. That's up to them. It’s up to all of us. Our actions do not have to follow our feelings.

And these aren't the only people who might have to suppress their sexual desires and actively make choices in spite of them. Progressives seem to think the Christian sexual philosophy boils down to, "be heterosexual, and do what you will," but it isn't nearly that simple. From the "traditional" perspective, sex is to be contained in a certain and specific context called marriage. That means unmarried people are also called to live a lifestyle that is not governed by their sexual desires. And married people are called to channel those desires towards each other exclusively, until death do they part. Are we hard wired from birth to save sex until marriage? Definitely not. Are we genetically compelled to be monogamous? I think most anthropologists would suggest otherwise.

See, there are really two ways of looking at this. Either your sexual desires are these constant and changeless forces beyond your control that command you to bend to their whims, or they are urges that must be tamed, sometimes suppressed, sometimes expressed, and sometimes altogether rejected.

I'd say the latter.

You choose to be gay, because you are not defined by what you feel, but by what you do and how you live. You may not have complete control over those feelings, but your lifestyle is yours to determine. That's the point. That's what Carson should have said.

But I guess I can't blame him for failing to recite all of this off the top of his head. Besides, this subject seems pretty irrelevant to a presidential election.

On second thought, maybe he just should have said that.

Listen to Matt's latest podcast here. Contact him with general comments and inquiries about speaking engagements at MattWalsh@TheMattWalshBlog.com.

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