6/03/2005

I've just read that scientists have identified a single gene in fruit flies that determines sexual orientation. Crudely put, when switched on in females, said females pursue other females. When switched off in males, said males pursue other males. The scientists involved said they were only surprised by the fact that such complex sexual behavior could be so simply and easily manipulated. Fruit flies apparently have a sort of master switch where sexual orientation is concerned.

Of course, we can all see the implications for humans, although scientists are always sure to caution, these are fruit flies, not humans we're talking about. But how different is a fruit fly from a human, really? I mean, think of Blake's little poem:

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

Further proof that there's not a lot of difference between us can be found in the description of their mating rituals:

"When the genetically altered fruit fly was released into the observation chamber, it did what these breeders par excellence tend to do. It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction."

The only significant difference is that when flies actually get down, they do it for a solid twenty minutes. Most people are done in about three. This is even more striking when you consider the lifespan of the average fruit fly: a week or two (though some species, notably Anastrepha ludens, can last for a year).

That would be like fucking for a month straight without a break, people. Talk about tedium. Even on X.

Speaking of. Hard to know how the news will go down in the gay community, which is of two minds on the issue of what's commonly called essentialism. I don't know why. As Leo Bersani observed in that seminal piece of queer theory, "Is the Rectum a Grave?" there is hardly any environment more ruthlessly darwinian than a gay bathhouse. Behaviorwise, at least. It is actually a cruel caricature, of course.

What rankles some is the whiny, "I can't help it, I was born this way" argument less queer-correct gays sometimes resort to when cornered. It seems to imply that were they able to change teams, they would in a heartbeat. They may just get their chance.

Will the gay community be better off, like the Catholic Church, with a smaller but more hardened, spartan band of brothers? Those who know that by flipping a switch they could be instantly transformed into real-life versions of their beer-guzzling, crotch-scratching, skirt-chasing, back-slapping, wife-beating, belching, farting, nose-picking regular dream guys but stay the course for the greater good, for the sake of culture anyway? Those last die-hards will be like Christs in the wilderness, tempted by the great Satan of genetic engineering. "All this could be yours!"

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