Forrest Cameranesi Geek of all Trades

Bleufromagivoria: Nature or Nurture?

An analogy about homosexuality, 2011.

Gay sex is like blue cheese.

Some people like to have it. Other people, not so much. In fact, other people very much not so much. Most people who aren't into it themselves seem to find it rather disgusting, would never want to have it themselves or even be around other people who are having it, and don't understand how anyone could possibly enjoy it. Nevertheless, some people do enjoy it; and perhaps that is a good question: why?

When it comes to homosexuality, that's a question people ask a lot, and hold very strong opinions on. But I wonder, what if we ask the same question about another behavior people are split over, as illustrated above: bleufromagivoria, or blue cheese eating.

What makes someone like blue cheese? Is it nature or nurture? Are blue cheese lovers – like myself – born with a taste for it, is it in our genes? Or is our taste for it a product of our environment, our upbringing, something about the way our parents raised us, maybe? As a bleufromagivore myself, I honestly don't know. All I know is that I like it, and I have ever since I was first introduced to it.

In fact I remember my first blue cheese vividly. I was at a party and a friend asked me if I would like to try it. I was a little hesitant at first; I had never really thought about the idea before, and it seemed like it might be gross; but I was feeling adventurous that night so I gave it a shot, and to my surprise, I liked it quite a bit! I had a lot of blue cheese that night, as much as was offered to me, and I've had a taste for it ever since. Now I'll rarely pass up an opportunity for blue cheese, any time of day, and will even go out on the town to look for it if I feel a particularly strong craving.

Obviously, that initial exposure had an impact on my behavior; you could say that that friend got me hooked on blue cheese, turned me into a bleufromagivore, and argue that this was nurture and environment shaping my behavior. On the other hand, I was inclined not only to give it a try, but to like it once I had; I'm certain that there are plenty of other people who turn quickly away from any such offer, and more still who might try it but quickly decide that it's not for them and never look back. So perhaps something in my nature was always bleufromagivorous, lying dormant or latent, and that initial exposure simply awakened that tendancy in me. It's a difficult question, certainly not one that I can answer by introspection alone. It would probably take extensive empirical scientific research to give anything close to a conclusive answer to such an elusive topic.

But why does it matter? I mean, sure, it's perhaps an interesting academic question, but then so is the evolutionary origin of ruminate digestion in ungulates, and you don't see people getting politically charged over that. Why not? Because it is morally irrelevant. It is not politically important why ungulates ruminate, because the rumination of ungulates is not something particularly good or bad in any politically relevant sense. It's not a phenomenon anyone has any good reason to want to promote or prohibit. Likewise with eating blue cheese.

And likewise with gay sex. The only politically relevant reason to care about what causes people to like gay sex is if for some reason we wanted to induce or suppress such behavior. And why would we? Does it, or its absence, harm anyone? If so, how? That is where the argument should be with regards to regulation of anything. And if it was determined that there was harm involved, the cause of the harmful behavior would be relevant only in determining the most effective means of suppressing it; it would not be relevant in determining whether or not it should be suppressed to begin with.

We wouldn't let a sociopathic serial killer go free because he was 'just born that way'; nor if he was 'just a product of his environment' for that matter. Murder is wrong and should be prohibited regardless of what makes people inclined to murder; and conversely, nothing is wrong with eating blue cheese, and it should be permitted regardless of why we bleufromagivores are inclined to it.

Likewise, if nothing is wrong with gay sex, then that is the case regardless of what makes people inclined toward it. If someone thinks something is wrong with gay sex, then that is the argument which needs to be had. Unless it can be determined that there is something wrong with it, and that something needs to be done to prevent it, the political division over the cause of it is misplaced and entirely irrelevant; and contrapositively, conceding the political relevance of this causal question is conceding that there is something wrong with it. I'm sure that gay rights supporters don't intend to present an argument of "sure it's wrong, but they can't help it, they were just born that way", but in accepting the political importance of homosexuality being nature, not nurture, they are implicitly presenting such a stance, and would be wise to avoid doing so in the future.