Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pan 101

I was going to do a "The Poster" post going into sexuality, but it ended up more basic, so I'm posting it stand-alone and will get to myself in another post.

"The fuck is 'pansexual'?"

In the general sense, pansexuality describes inclusive sexuality - that is, it is a term for sexuality which does not imply exclusion based upon a given arbitrary grouping.

By its lonesome, it does not imply dichotomies (i.e. "man or woman") or absolutes (i.e. "only this gender" or "only this anatomy"). This is noteworthy since the popular exclusive sexualities - e.g. bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual - imply both of these things.

For my personal purposes, I use pansexual to describe a sexuality which includes no implicit exclusionary criteria for form, and exclusionary criteria for neurology/mentality only insofar as to exclude that (those) which is (are) incapable of informed consent (excluding, for example, objectum sexuality or bestiality from my usage).

"So pansexuals like, want to fuck everything?"

No more than all [*]sexual members of [gender] intend to copulate with all of [[*] target gender].

The exclusionary principle of a heterosexual man may (given a subject for which absolutist sexuality is true) filter out all non-women from the sexual possibility space, but that doesn't mean that all women are within that possibility space - only that all non-women are not. The given man may have more filters based upon, say, age, hair color, and musical tastes, which further exclude many or most women from the possibility space. Furthermore (and, really, most importantly), passing through all of those filters hardly implies consent. Consent - I cannot stress this hard enough - is only implied by the act of consent.

Okay whatever. So like, why not just say "bi"?

"Binary" is implicit within the term "bisexuality". Bisexuality implies a sexuality for which absolutism (only men and women) and binary dichotomy (man or woman) are true, and refers to a sexuality inclusive of only the remaining binary.

Using the term "bisexual" while being attracted to those outside of the relevant target group (i.e., non-binary identified people) is (or "can be considered" if you need kitten gloves) erasure.

So pansexual is like, what, bisexual + transexuals?

(note on this one: I am going through questions I really have gotten, which is why this one is so 101fail)

First, when you exclude binary-identified TS's from inclusion within the "bisexual" target gender, you're being a bigot.

Second, pansexuality is, as a term, inclusive - agnostic to the concept of a gender binary. It is not "bisexual with [x] added on", even when your term for [x] is not couched in erasure and bigotry. Describing the unlimited case in terms of the limited case is kind of silly and futile.


  1. I would like to be pansexual, but unfortunately, i'm really not: i just can't bring myself to be attracted to (the vast, vast majority of) men or people who look like men.

    Do you think that pansexuality is something that people should aspire to, or that it makes one sexist or otherwise prejudiced/bigoted not to be?

  2. Oh, no, I hope that wasn't what got across! I've heard of people doing that - exalting pansexuality over other sexualities - and I have a HUGE problem with it.

    I do wish there were more terms for sexuality which were nonbinary inclusive or acknowledged the fact that many people of the "primary" sexualities actually have quite variant relationships to their sexuality, but I see that as something separate.

  3. No, i didn't really see that as coming across in your post; i've just encountered that attitude quite a bit before, and have it internalised to an extent myself, making me feel (probably irrational) guilt about not being pansexual. It sort of comes down to whether you think sexual orientation is primarily inborn or primarily socialised, i guess; if you think the latter, then it would seem to follow quite logically that in a world with no sexism, transphobia, homophobia or other sex/gender-related prejudice and/or oppression to impact on people's socialisation, everyone would be pansexual because there would be no reason not to be - which in turn implies than *not* being pansexual is evidence of internalised oppression and/or (conscious or unconscious) bigotry.

    I tend to take the view that sexual orientation per se (in the sense of the potential range of one's sexual attractions, rather than the choices one makes of who within that range to seek sexual relationships with) is, if not necessarily inborn, then at least by definition not consciously chosen (as a conscious choice between X and Y would mean the possibility of choosing X and Y), and therefore that there's nothing ethically "right" or "wrong" about any sexual orientation (not that i'd necessarily think there was even if it was a conscious choice). I agree with you that the existing terms are inadequate, though: genderbitch had an interesting post on that here, although i admit to having difficulty with "conceptual sexualities".

  4. Your first paragraph reinforces a lot of the problems I have with this culture of hardline "socialization" standpoints (particularly on gender, though apparently sexuality as well). Not only does it ignore billions of years of biology and make no sense, not only is it not supported by scientific evidence, but it creates a new platform for shaming everyone that doesn't fit. (Not that socialization is NOT a part of sexuality or gender - it certainly is. But one can be influenced by socialization without being a "blank slate".)

    I see people shaming others for not being pansexual the same way I see someone shaming gays for not being het. The former, of course, does not have so much power, but they can still be damaging.

    I wouldn't go as far as to say that sexuality is by definition unconscious. For example, I personally feel that my sexuality has conscious aspects - I was not attracted to the male form in any context until my teens and the change was at least somewhat conscious. (With regards to men, I am primarily attracted to the neutral, androgynous, or femme presenting, but they're still men and I don't want to ignore that.) I'm okay with generally unconscious, though.

    Regardless, I don't think there is any ethical problem either way. I like one statement you made about evil being only that done to a sentient being without their informed consent - that is, pretty much, my base rule for ethics. And being attracted to this group or that group or whatever - there is no ethical weight to that.

    Also, I've gone through that gb post before, but I am again now (I didn't really take it all in). I'm having a bit of a hard time understanding what conceptual sexuality means, to be honest. If it means not ascribing essentialist reasoning to orientation (like, "I am attracted to women and a woman is anybody with no penis"), then I'm totally behind that, though.


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