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Biology and destiny

As a thinking person, I'm a biological *semi*-determinist.

[Notes from ten years ago.] I’m amazed at the extent of our culture’s cult of secrecy in matters of the body. Even in this age, people find it terrible to speak of women’s bodies! Menstruation is unmentionable, except maybe in intimate circles of liberal-minded people. What dishonesty! How can feminists, for example, not see that “anatomy (or rather biology) is,” more or less, “destiny,” to quote the old slogan? Freud exaggerated it, but his view has a kernel of truth. Consider these reflections from Christine Downing:

Having wombs reminds us of how much we are part of the ever-ongoing cycle of generations, how much we are used by nature as simply the instrument of her self-continuation. Having wombs reminds us of how much human activity is creative, generative. ...Having wombs reminds us of the womb which gave us birth and also, inevitably, of the womb-tomb to which we will return.
...[Conception] is followed by the mystery of gestation—the slow growing within our body of another life. This for me was an even greater mystery, the most powerful experience I’ve known of my body knowing how to perform a miracle about which “I” didn’t have a clue—and the experience of coming to feel that the real “I” was precisely the knowing body. The excitement of feeling the changes month by month. The changes in my body’s contours and responses. The experience of feeling the new little creature within grow and move and assert its presence. The strange sense of an intimacy of connection to this other who was also still partly myself. The mystery of knowing that I, too, had begun as a being living within my mother’s body.
...Sometimes the child within feels like an invader. Sometimes it feels as though one’s body is betraying one, that more radically than ever before it feels “not-me”. And sometimes things go radically wrong—and then there can come a terrible feeling of unworthiness and failure. We’re “supposed” to know how to do this and to do it easily and well. This sense of failure may then expand and seem to apply to all of our lives, initiating a crisis of depression and self-denigration and despair. How vulnerable our bodies make us.
...The first meaning breasts have for us is nurturance. We received it (or didn’t receive it) from our own mothers, and then if we become mothers ourselves, find ourselves expected to play the role of nurture-giver in our turn. Those of us who actually breast-feed our babies (as I did) may receive deep delight from doing so. The closeness of holding the child so recently within our bodies at our breast, feeling the liquid flow from our bodies into theirs, symbolizes that the connection remains. I remember the bliss of feeling the child become satiated, utterly content, and then falling asleep with my nipple still in its mouth—and my own empathic drowsiness. I knew I wasn’t supposed to bring my babies into my bed, to let them lie curled against my own recumbent body for those middle-of-the-night feedings, but I couldn’t always resist. It was too delicious, too beautiful. I remember, too, the sweetness of their smiles of grateful pleasure when in response to their cries I’d begin to open my blouse, and their eyes so loving fixed on mine as they sucked away.
Even as I write this, more than thirty years since I last nursed a child, I feel the tightening of my nipples, the responding pulse in my vagina. There’s a kind of female eroticism around breasts, a from-within not a looking-at eroticism, that is as compelling as any I know. A lover sucking at my breasts has great power to arouse me sexually, to fill me with delight in being touched there and with longing to be touched below and entered—but powerful as that lover’s touch may be, it does not stir me as deeply as my babies’ sucking.

A being with a body like that and a biological role like that—how could her self-conception not be fundamentally oriented around her body, even more intensely than it is in men? And her biologically ordained semi-passiveness (see especially the second and third paragraphs)—her felt knowledge of it, of her otherness-to-herself, more profound than the man’s otherness-to-himself—how could this not influence her attitudes toward herself and toward the other sex, the more “autonomous” and less biologically “passive”/“receptive” sex?

Or, think of the sexual context with its dynamics of power. When a naked woman presents her vagina to a man, that’s a classic posture of submission. Which is one reason men find it so alluring and affirming: another person has submitted to them.[1] A person has judged they’re worthy and strong enough to take inside her. “I love your power,” a woman might say during sex. I.e., “I love your power over me, in this moment.” For the man, it’s the ultimate validation! (And people wonder why men are so obsessed with sex!) None of this is really “socially constructed,” contrary to Foucauldian fantasies; it is spontaneous, organic, integrally bound up with the dynamics of the moment. The dogma, beloved by postmodern leftists, that we’re all merely passive lumps of clay ripe for “construction” denies humans dignity, creativity, spontaneity, authenticity, and rationality. To a great extent, women and men choose how to act, based on their personal/biological desires and tastes—not only on how they have been “socially constructed.”

These aren’t value-judgments, by the way. They’re facts. Women and men are different. How ridiculous it is that it’s necessary to point this out. –Another example of intellectuals’ self-deceptions.[2]


What's unfortunate is that facts become transmuted into value-judgments. Like, when someone says to a man, even jokingly, "Come on, be a man!" it may sound innocent but what it really means is, "Don't be a woman, or a child! Be an adult, a self-possessed, self-controlling person!" The implication is that not to be a man is contemptible. And women themselves say this kind of thing not at all rarely—"Be a man! You're not a man!"—to taunt someone and demean him (thereby exhibiting a subtle self-devaluation, for they're valorizing masculinity over femininity). The way we talk is saturated with sexism, as is the psyche itself. The sad thing is that this will always be the case. Since men and women are biologically and psychologically different, and the self can easily be estranged from that which is different or other, sexual relations will always be fraught. Sexism is simply part of the human experience and always has been, though we should try to eliminate at least its most destructive manifestations, to the extent we can.

[1] A mentally healthy man won’t necessarily think, in that moment, “She’s submitting to me. I’ve conquered her.” That isn’t a healthy attitude. Objectively, though, a kind of submission is happening, a willingness to receive.

[2] I can imagine that some feminists and postmodernists would be outraged at my having stated these truisms. There are no good arguments to be made against them—I’m doing nothing but honestly observing how people behave and think—but, nevertheless, “I don’t like what you’re saying!” As I’ve written elsewhere, people tend to think on the primitive level of what they like or don’t like, not what the evidence suggests.


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