Sexual Revolutions

Is sexuality innate? Did our gender roles evolve in nature? And would we be happier if we abandoned the idea of monogamy? Over eight articles, our Sexual Revolutions series has probed our changing opinions of sexuality and gender. As with any controversial subject, there are still many misconceptions, and as the series comes to a close, here are some of the surprising facts we learned:

We still haven’t found the ‘gay gene’
Despite eye-catching headlines, scientists have struggled to pin down the genetics of homosexuality. As our writer Brandon Ambrosino points out, a purely biological explanation can’t account for sexual fluidity, as our desires morph and change with time and circumstance.
Read more: ‘I am gay but I wasn’t born this way’

Testosterone cannot help a flagging female libido
There is startlingly limited evidence that low levels of the male sex hormone testosterone can explain low sexual desire in women. Despite this finding, women continue to request testosterone as a treatment for low desire, and doctors continue to prescribe it. It is just one of many ways that medicine has failed to understand female sexuality.
Read more: The enduring enigma of female sexual desire

Young children are often gender confused
Our sense of gender is not fixed, particularly in our early years. Quite a number of young children question whether they are male or female, but only around 10% of them will be transgender adults. We need a better understanding of that trajectory, since gender dysmorphia, particularly during puberty, can put a child at higher risk of depression and even suicide.
Read more: The complex circumstances that define your gender

This trans artist helped redefine gender
Our generation isn’t the first to experiment with the boundaries between genders. Decades before Miley Cyrus, David Bowie and Grayson Perry, the French artist Claude Cahun challenged society’s gender roles. Born Lucy Schwob in 1894, she changed her name to Claude – a name used by both men and women in France. Describing her gender, she said: “Shuffle the cards. Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”
Read more on BBC Culture: Claude Cahun: The trans artist years ahead of her time

Many species have more than two genders
Our view of sex in the animal kingdom has been somewhat black and white – we assume that all males of a species will look and act one way, and all females will look and act another way. In fact, Joan Roughgarden at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, points out that many species show more than two ‘genders’, each of which will look and act differently. The bluegill sunfish has three different categories of males, for instance – one of which will actively solicit a menage a trois with another male, and a female, during courtship.
Read more on BBC Earth: We have the wrong idea about males, females and sex

We need an alternative to ‘he’ and ‘she’
The English language lacks a pronoun to describe people who reject the traditional gender binary. But what should it be? You may think this is a thoroughly modern question, but the hunt for a good gender-neutral pronoun stretches back hundreds of years (even the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge pondered the problem) and the possibilities have included ‘they’, ‘ve’, ‘ze’, or ‘ou’.
Read more on BBC Culture: The ultimate 21st Century word

The Asexual Pride movement is growing fast
There are possibly as many asexual people – who feel little to no sexual desire – as there are gay people. But it is only recently that their voices have been heard. In 2003 the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network had just 391 members; today, it has amassed more than 80,000 followers. In our increasingly sexualized world, they want to correct the perception that everyone needs sex for a happy and healthy life.
Read more: ‘I have never felt sexual desire’

The hardest thing about polyamory is other people’s prejudices
Polyamorous people enjoy committed, long-term, relationships with more than one other person. Their lifestyle is completely honest and consensual – there is no ‘cheating’ behind their partners’ backs – and contrary to popular belief, they are just as satisfied as traditional couples and no more likely to feel sexual jealousy. Despite these facts, they are often judged harshly for breaking social norms, and this can be particularly difficult for the children growing up in polyamorous households.
Read more: Polyamorous relationships may be the future of love

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