Nature or Nurture: the debate

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Originally posted 2022-02-12 13:00:32.

The ‘nature or nurture’ debate has been central to the discussion of sexuality for over two hundred years. In brief, the nature school  believes that human behaviour is largely inherited, while nurturists believe it is the result of experiences in childhood, particularly in our interactions with our parents and siblings.

The nature or nurture argument over sexuality spreads out into other areas of thought. So let’s examine it.

substackWhat does ‘nature or nurture’ mean?

The nature school is sometimes called ‘Essentialism’. It is fundamental to the Christian concept of Original Sin, which insists that we are not sinners by choice or because of our background, but because we are human. Our nature is that of sinner and Christ came to absolve us of this. That is how is possible for a newborn infant to be a sinner, in the eyes of Christians, even if she has done nothing other than suck her mother’s tit; sin is innate to being human. However, human nature, so hated by the Constructionists, is not seen as a flaw by the nature school but rather the source of our strength. It is what binds us together and makes us human, for better or worse.

nature or nurture
Nature or nurture. How likely is it that this girl is as she is because of her childhood environment?

Nurturism is sometimes called the ‘blank slate’ or tabula rasa. It was present in the thinking of men like Rousseau, an eighteenth-century philosopher whose thinking gave rise to many of the social movements we know today. It is also central to Marxist dogma, for example. In many ways it is a  development of the idea of individual autonomy, which informed the cultural revolution of the era and gave us the Enlightenment. Nothing is written and we are all able to shape every detail of our lives independently of the past. Today it is commonly known as ‘Constructionism’.


Nature or nurture in Sexuality

Nobody really thought about sexuality until the nineteenth century. Sex was something one did, that was all. Even behaviours that might be called homosexual today, were not considered in those terms, then. In Shakespearean England, well-to-do men often had cross-dressed boys, frequently actors, as mistresses. It was regarded as normal for a man of taste to be attracted both to feminine boys and young women.



Indeed all of the Bard’s women’s roles were written for and played by boys, who were lionised for their feminine beauty. The Angelina Jolie of English theatre in 1600 was a pretty adolescent boy — who was likely a courtesan. Similar practices were prevalent elsewhere, in Imperial China and across the Americas and Asia.

Even when the green eye of public morality focussed on these activities, it did not see a personality type or a sexuality; it saw a behaviour, to wit, buggery — anal penetration. All laws in the West that are today claimed to have been against homosexuality, were actually against the act of anal sex, especially between two males — although in fact, they applied just as much to such sex between males and females, indeed even between a man and his wife, although this was rarely enforced. Other laws forbade, essentially, promiscuity and ‘fornication’ but again, these were specific acts. The issue of what sexuality was driving them was never discussed. Whether or not one approved of such goings-on, the nature or nurture debate was not rehearsed.


Kafft-Ebbing and Ulrichs.

That changed in the nineteenth century with the arrival of Psychology, which has ever since spent a lot of time considering both sexuality and nature or nurture. Richard von Kraft Ebbing and Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, both Germans, were early into the fray and took opposite sides in the nature or nurture debate. Both focussed on homosexuality, a concept which been lately invented by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (actually Bengkert.) This word replaced a range of others, such as catamite or sodomite.

Homosexuality was considered by both to be  a mindset that comprised more than just the act of sex itself, but a range of desires, preferences and appearances as well as behaviours, which could be attached to individuals to categorise them. It was an expression both of Sexuality and Gender, such that Homosexuals were invariably feminised and Lesbians the opposite.

The question was whether this was the result of nature or nurture

Krafft-Ebbing believed that Homosexuality was a kind of contagious mental disease and that the purpose of Psychiatry was to help people to resist and overcome such ‘unnatural urges.’ He believed that it was caused by a debauched lifestyle and morality. On the other hand, Ulrichs, himself a Homosexual (by the understanding of the day) insisted that it had nothing to do with such things but was innate; that Homosexuals were born with a sexuality that did not match their physical sex.


Immediately we see the nature or nurture dichotomy: Krafft-Ebbing was a nurturist and Ulrichs a naturist. The former believed that human behaviour was written by our experiences and crucially, our will, while the latter believed that we were pre-programmed to behave in certain ways. If Homosexuals could not help being as they were, as Ulrichs believed, society should not punish them for it.

These two positions define nature or nurture in this context and remain vital across a range of social issues today.

A classic modern example: a southeast Asian ladyboy performing beauty.

Sexual Inversion

In order to support his claim of ‘born this way’, Ulrichs looked at parameters other than the act of sex and saw that Homosexuals had many in common. As well as being attracted to men, they tended to be small, lightly built, naturally graceful, feminine in manners and to exhibit marked neoteny. They had usually been extremely feminine as young children. Together, he argued, this meant that Homosexuals were fundamentally different from other men, that they were in fact ‘normal women who inhabited the bodies of men.’

Ulrichs called this ‘Sexual Inversion’. It became the standard view and was most deeply researched and explained by the English writer Henry Havelock Ellis. The concept of Sexual Inversion has never been scientifically disproven and indeed, over the years since it was formulated, more and more evidence has accrued to support it.


Ulrich’s observations are as true today as they were then. In his model, only the sexually receptive partner in sex between two males, was necessarily a Homosexual. This was axiomatic. Homosexuals were feminine and sought masculine, conventional men, often (frequently specifically) married ones, as sexual partners, with whom they would invariably play the receptive role. Those partners, when they found them, might have been guilty of buggery, where this remained a crime (France had repealed these laws after the Revolution,) but otherwise they were no different from other men: they penetrated.

Freud and Jung

Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung were the founders of Psycho-Analysis. Jung was actually a student of Freud but later rejected his ideas. At root, this was because Freud was a committed Constructionist and Jung an Essentialist. The nature or nurture debate in many ways defines their positions.

Freud believed that neuroses were the product of nurture, especially in the relationships between the child and his or her parents and siblings. For boys, the most important of these, in the earlier phases, was that with their mothers and for girls, with their fathers. In order to be balanced adults, boys had to let go of their attachment to their mothers and instead ‘become’ their fathers and vice versa for girls. (Obviously, this is a crude description of Freud’s ideas; he may stop rotating in his grave now.)

Therefore, all mental issues, disturbances and neuroses had their roots in early experiences — in nurture; they were Constructed.


Jung began believing the same but soon moved away and fell out badly with Freud. He came to believe that there must be an innate stimulus for behaviour: nature.

Both men were Classically trained; they had to be, in order to attend University then. Indeed, when I attended school in Scotland, one still had to be able to read and write in Latin, to be considered for a University place there. This requirement was only dropped in the mid 1970s. In the nineteenth century, the demands were for a much higher standard and Jung seems to have taken Classicism to heart more than Freud. At least, he found in it clues to human behaviour that could only come from nature.

Jung looked into Classical literature and found that it was all about particular types of people. He called these ‘archetypes’. For example, Perseus was a Hero; so was Jason. Often they had a god for a father (the similarity to Jesus should not be missed.) Achilles was a Warrior; so were Hector and Ajax. There were many archetypes, King, Queen, Hero, Rebel, Trickster, Sage and more. Jung thought that these reflected personality types he saw in his patients and this suggested to him that these were innate, since they had been described for so long. He was therefore an Essentialist; he believed in human nature.




Today, sadly, there is less awareness of Classical literature, but a popular archetype model, though one often misunderstood, is the wolf-pack. Hierarchies exist in both male and female wolves, but in males, there are three basic types: Alpha, Beta and Omega. There is only one Alpha, a small number of Betas and many Omegas. Betas are powerful individuals who might become the Alpha if he fails; on the other hand, while Omegas are individually weak, they are collectively powerful and an Alpha who wishes to retain his position must keep them on his side.

These strata, the Alpha/Beta one and the Omega, are not established by nurture, but by nature. It is their innate nature that makes some wolves more dominant than others.


This archetypal structure and the nature or nurture question itself, can be translated to humans. In politics, an Alpha is always under threat from individual Betas who might oust him. To keep power he must use not only his own strength and aggression to subdue them but also the collective power of the Omegas, which is greater than that of the Betas because of their numbers. So on one hand the Alpha must frighten all the others, but on the other, be magnanimous towards the group. This is why we call some people ‘natural leaders’: they are dominant by nature but popular with the group. Niccolo Machiavelli understood this principle very well.

Jungian psycho-analysis depends on an understanding both of Archetypal models and their interrelations and also of the individual. Indeed, the archetypal method was never intended to be prescriptive but rather diagnostic. Jung sought to help his patients to understand themselves better and to resolve conflicts in their own lives, not to pigeon-hole them.

Interpretive psychology

Both the Freudian and Jungian systems were interpretative. They were not based in statistics, but in the individual story and the analyst’s interpretation of it. During the 1930s, however, this approach was increasingly rejected on the grounds that it did not produce repeatable results. It fell short, for example, of Karl Popper’s demand that science should be falsifiable. That Popper was not a life scientist and such ideas were not really appropriate there, was ignored.

Because of this, another model was proposed, called Psychometry, the statistical science of measuring mental capacities and processes. It was soon widely adopted in the USA and its influence spread after WWII.


Alfred Kinsey


This new, more statistical approach paved the way for Dr Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956,) arguably the most important post-war Western sex researcher and certainly the first US one of any weight. Kinsey was an entomologist and had spent years collecting and classifying fruit flies. He was an ardent Evolutionist and used his studies to great effect, at a time when Evolution was still regarded as ‘controversial’ by some. By definition he was an Essentialist.

When he decided to study human sexuality, he approached it in a statistical manner, as a biologist. He developed a scale of sexuality from 0-6, with 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 being completely homosexual. This scale and similar ones based on it remain in use today. His influence, especially in the USA, was immense and still is.

Kinsey’s work reinforced the idea that Homosexuality was innate and this was somewhat overplayed by popular media interpretations of it. At a time when Homosexuality was still regarded as a mental disorder and had become a political issue, this was understandable, though it tended to obscure the nuances of the work itself. In the nature or nurture debate Kinsey, whether he intended to or not, strongly reinforced nature.


More support for nature

In the 1960s, new evidence came to light, from laboratory studies, on the influence of prenatal hormone delivery, which found that excess testosterone pre-birth tended to make female rats behave more like males. This had already been noted in the phenomenon of the ‘maverick,’ a cow that was born as a twin with a bull calf. These tend to be aggressive and hard to control, like bulls.

In the lab studies, it was also found that added oestrogen in utero caused male rats to act like females, raising their posteriors to other males and so on. Over the years since then, many such studies have been carried out and all suggest the same thing: prenatal hormone exposure has a significant effect on adult behaviour. Sexuality, in other words, is innate, a function of nature.


Performers on stage at a kathoey, or ladyboy, cabaret show in Thailand

The New Gay Man

Towards the end of the 1960s a new male Homosexual movement became prominent in the USA, often called the ‘accommodationists’ or the ‘assimilationists’. They believed that if they assimilated into society as masculine males, they would be accommodated by it. Much of the thinking behind this came directly from Benedict Friedlaender, a German pederast whose ideas had been adopted by the Nazi party and particularly the Hitler Youth. They appear to have been brought to the USA by emigré academics.

However, this new movement also followed Kinsey in seeing homosexuality as a function of behaviours and not of personality type. Indeed it rejected the model — still dominant all over the world and showing no sign of attrition — in which homosexuals are feminine males or masculine females. The former were attracted to masculine males and the latter to feminine females. They are not attracted to others like themselves.

nature or nurture
All is not lost: Nadia. Beautiful. And Homosexual first.

The new model — prevalent only in the West — destroyed the fragile base that the traditional Homosexual males, who were all feminine, had been struggling to build up. Soon they themselves were suppressed, by this new order, which I call the New Gay Man. No femininity was to be allowed under any circumstances and homosexual males had to be as masculine as heterosexual ones. Over the next three decades the New Gay Model became dominant in the West.


Outlawing Femininity

In his takeover strategy, the New Gay Man had outlawed femininity and any reference to it. But this created a problem because it clashed with the older theory of Sexual Inversion. The New Gay Man at once wanted to promote the innate nature of male homosexuality but reject the effect that should have had on gender. Instead of homosexual males being feminine, which they had been time out of mind, now they had to be masculine.

The New Gay Man was in a cleft stick; he wanted his sexuality to be innate, but he rejected the consequence of that, which was that he should be feminine, in order to attract masculine males. In other words, he wanted to have his cake and eat it.


To accommodate this, he turned to Plato via Friedlaender. Plato believed that ‘like attracts like’ Today, the  West remains the only part of the world where homosexual males seek other homosexual males as partners. Everywhere else, the idea would be considered risible. Sexuality is almost universally seen as the attraction of opposites to each other. Gender performance allows homosexual males to appear to be women and so attract the men they desire.


The nature or nurture dichotomy

This is where the nature or nurture dichotomy is thrown into sharp focus. We all know that opposites attract; this is natural. But the New Gay Man, because he wanted to conceal his natural femininity, sought to appear to be a masculine man. This is clearly a Constructed position; it is the result of nurture, specifically of grooming within the New Gay Man cult. As a result of the conflict this provokes, New Gay Man apologists have had to adopt a pretence that attraction is only to sex and that gender is immaterial.

nature or nurture
Humans perform gender to attract the mates they desire. This girl is a Homosexual performing femininity to attract masculine heterosexual men. It is not rocket science; opposites attract.

Gender is a mate attraction system.

However,  gender is a mate attraction system. It is why peacocks are brilliantly coloured and peahens are plain. In terms of nature or nurture, are peacocks as they are because of the way their mothers brought them up? What about in humans? Do girls grow breasts because of their upbringing? Do men have beards for the same reason?

No, female humans are beautiful in order to attract males. Beauty is the expression of feminine gender, which is designed to attract men; so the performance of beauty is a deliberate statement of sexuality and more, sexual availability — which is why feminists, who are often lesbians, so hate it. At the same time, masculinity is optimised to attract females (and not other males.)

The New Gay Man seeks to pretend that, uniquely of all mammalian species, masculine men are sexually attracted to others of the same gender. To do this he protests that his orientation is all about attraction to penises. It is ‘same-sex attraction.’ That doesn’t exist, since attraction is to gender, not sex, but if he can sell that snake-oil, then he thinks he can normalise what is clearly not a natural phenomenon.

Sexual Inversion and Gender

Sexual Inversion causes a general shift towards the feminine, in males and towards the masculine, in females.  In many cultures, recorded for literally millennia,  Sexually Inverted males presented as women. This often involved castration, to prevent adult masculinisation. These individuals were Transsexuals as we should understand them today. Perhaps their most illustrative modern equivalent  today is in the ladyboys of south-east Asia or the travestis of South America. Most importantly, they were — and are — uniquely attracted to conventional masculine men and not to others like themselves. In nature or nurture terms, this is natural.

Nevertheless, by the late 1990’s feminine homosexual males had been all but erased from popular culture in the West. But then a strange thing happened, which only goes to prove the old adage ‘You can’t buck Evolution.’ Suddenly, increasing numbers of sexually inverted males and females began to seek to live in accordance with their sexuality. That is, males lived as woman and females as men. This drove a coach and horses through all the theories about sexuality that the New Gay Man and his allies had concocted.

miriam rivera
The late Miriam Rivera, RIP


Transsexualism in the West had become noticeable even before the 1960s, especially in parts of Europe. Surgical procedures to construct a pseudo-vagina had advanced by this time.


Transsexuals generally showed a consistent profile, one we have seen before. They tended to be small, lightly built, were neotenous and attracted to men, if they were male. Perhaps most importantly, their cross-gender identification appeared in early childhood and remained ‘insistent, persistent and consistent’ through puberty, when they also developed their attraction to men — if they had not already done so. These measures confirmed that they were Sexual Inverts, at the extreme end of a scale.

To put that another way, all Transsexuals were Homosexuals first. In Brazil, the saying is ‘Behind every travesti is a viado;‘ in the Philippines ‘Behind every ladyboy is a batang bakla.’  In order to be a Transsexual, one must first be Homosexual.

Hostility and stealth

Because of the hostility they faced in the West, on the one hand from societies that were hostile to male femininity and on the other from the masculinist New Gay Man and his allies, these individuals, historically, tended to hide. They ‘woodworked’ and lived in ‘deep stealth.’ Instead of trying to assimilate into society as men, they did so as women, often marrying heterosexual men and vanishing from sight, always taking care never to reveal any clues about their past.

These are not the only males who are known today as ‘trans’, but those in other groups  have a different cause for their desire to appear to be women; they are rarely convincing as such. These males are non-Homosexual and so cannot ever be Transsexual. They are transvestites with a mental condition called autogynephilia. Unfortunately, the men in this group are often homophobic, both deeply hostile to any form of Sexual Inversion in others yet relentless in their attempts to colonise a Transsexual identity themselves.


Recently, however, and as a result of an increased awareness of current ‘trans’ issues — most of which actually affect non-homosexual females — Sexual Inverts have come under the spotlight. These, if they live as women socially and take the appropriate hormones, are called Homosexual Transsexuals or HSTS; I call them True Transsexuals or just Transsexuals. Unsurprisingly, the New Gay Man and his associates, including the Autogynephilic transvestites, have reacted viciously to the resurgence of a group they thought they had completely erased.

nature or nurture
Well that sure worked. Behind every travesti there is a viado.

All Transsexuals are Homosexuals

However, the New Gay Man is hoist by his own petard. He seeks to claim that he is as he is because he was ‘born that way.’ His sexuality, therefore, must be innate, not acquired. In other words, he proposes an Essentialist explanation, not a Constructionist one. By doing so he implicitly accepts the idea of Sexual Inversion — something he has been trying to sweep under the carpet these last five decades. But that means he must accept not only that gender is affected by it but also that some homosexuals have to live as women, not as men.

More, he must accept that all Transsexuals were once little sex non-conforming boys just as he was. There is no fundamental difference between a Homosexual who presents in a pseudo-masculine manner and a Male-to-Feminine Transsexual. Perhaps there are degrees of variation but at root, they’re the same thing, they just look different. This truth causes the New Gay Man great cognitive dissonance.

So where do you stand in the nature or nurture debate? Please comment.




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