Rosalind P. Petchesky recently wrote a piece entitled On the Unstable Marriage of Reproductive and Sexual Rights for Conscience Magazine. Below is my response which Conscience printed in their current Summer 2006 issue.
March 15, 2006
To the Editor
Rosalind P. Petchesky’s provocative article, “On the Unstable Marriage of Reproductive and Sexual Rights”, challenges us to “do the hard work of deeply analyzing their (reproductive rights and sexual rights) differences as well as their interlinkages.” She suggests three areas to be explored: the rejection of sexual hierarchies, non-gender-exclusive services, and reproductive rights of gay men.
I would suggest a more fundamental exploration first. Ms. Petchesky’s article points out, quite correctly, that in the 1970’s our understanding of sexual diversity “was at best primitive.” Alas, after 30 years of academic work, the same can be said now. What biologists, geneticists and psychologists are beginning to understand is the biological-genetic-evolutionary basis of not just human reproductive instincts and behaviors but all human sexual expression, including homosexuality and other points on the sexuality rainbow. Rather than separating reproductive concerns from sexual concerns, I would suggest we look at them together from biological and genetic viewpoints as a part of human evolution. Everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation, is a product of successful human reproduction, and everyone, conversely, is a part of the human reproductive system, whether they bear children or not. A biological analysis could bring a fresh dimension to how, what, why and to whom reproductive and sexual health services are offered and what it means to support the reproductive rights of, for instance, not just gay men and transgenders, as Petchesky correctly calls for, but all men.
The time of an “us” and “them” approach to human sexuality and reproductive freedom is in my view outworn. We are all in this struggle together. Maybe we should try to understand why.
Author, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century.