Re: [OPE-L] Sexuality, Rationality & Irrationality under Capitalism

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Apr 04 2006 - 16:02:50 EDT

>  A rational choice as such only involves evaluating consciously,
> through some kind of inferential process, various possible options, in the
> light of relevant facts and arguments, to arrive at a consistent or
> workable
> behavioural strategy. But this choice may not involve all facts and
> arguments bearing on the case, nor does it necessarily imply anything in
> particular about the values or interests involved, other than the
> intrinsic practical value of the inferential process itself.


Suppose someone makes choices which s/he considers to be rational.

Then you ask her/him,  "why did you make the choices you did?".

If the person can't reasonably answer WHY choices were made then
the choices can't be said to be rational.

If the person answers "That's what I wanted" or "those are my
preferences" without -- upon further questioning -- being able to
explain WHY they wanted something or WHY they prefer one thing
over another then the choices can not be said to be rational.

Truly rational choice assumes that the person choosing is able to
understand the BASIS for her/his decisions.  I.e. s/he is able to
grasp -- without circular reasoning -- WHY  s/he makes a
particular choice.

Now let us turn again to the subject of  sexuality.

This is not merely a question of sexual preference in terms of
whether individuals are heterosexual,  homosexual, or bi-sexual.
It also concerns the physical, social and personal attributes of
others that are considered to be sexually attractive.

Oh, it's easy enough for people to say that they prefer e.g.
one color and type of hair over another.  That's easy.  What
very few people are able to articulate is WHY they have a
particular preference for hair color and type.  They simply
take their preference for granted and leave it at that.  This
is irrational _because_ they haven't rationally asked WHY
they have this preference.

And, how is it that individuals come to prefer a particular
type of hair,  body shape,  skin color,  weight,  age?  How is it
that they are able to say that a person is sexually attractive
or not based on clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, etc?   How is it
that they are able to identify certain personality characteristics
that they find appealing?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

To answer those questions requires that one question and
understand on some level the way in which social institutions
shaped one's preferences.

This would be no small task since the answers to some of
those questions require that we explore our own personal
development and unconscious desires.  You might say, for
instance, that you desire to be with an emotionally or
physically weak or strong person, but how many people
understand _themselves_ to know why they have that
desire?   This requires that one  confront one's own
personal development (in many cases going back to
adolescence) _and_ the complex way in which we have
interacted with and been shaped by all social institutions,
including our families, peer group members, and those which
I have mentioned previously.

So -- to refer back to the paragraph you wrote above --
we need to know WHY we prefer one characteristic to
another before we can rationally say what are the "relevant
facts and arguments."  While choices are made "consciously"
we have to know what are the relevant _unconscious_ facts
and arguments for us to make rational choices about sexuality.
This is because so much of the terrain of sexuality, sensuousness,
and desire lies in the realm of the unconscious, a realm that
most people are only dimly aware of.    _If _ sexual choices are
in general rational in capitalist society, why do so many (most?)
people feel guilty and insecure about their sexuality?

Embedded within many of these choices in different cultures
are (different) cultural understandings of "love".    When love
comes in the front door, does rationality go out the back?
Is love in bourgeois society even consistent with the concept
of rational behavior?  We like to _think_ we are rational but
if we consider the matter more deeply and critically then the
grounds for that belief become very problematic.  Like
capitalism itself, we are both rational and irrational. We can
not, however, identify, _how_ rational or irrational we are
unless we understand ourselves.  How many of us really
understand ourselves?  How many of are even introspective
-- let alone _critically_ introspective?  How many of aren't
introspective because we are _afraid_ of what we might discover
about ourselves?

In solidarity, Jerry

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