Look, Ma! I Exist!

Over my mid-afternoon bowl of Val’s best minestrone, I began talking with my lunch buddy (let’s call him Clark) about our respective majors. History for me, biology/pre-med for him. Clark then launched into a ten minute tirade about the worthlessness of history. That we can’t learn anything from it and that science is far more beneficial towards the advancement of our species. (I didn’t ask whether our priority should be to advance rather than understand our species)

I then whipped out an article in the New York Times science section whose headline flashed “No Surprise for History Majors: Report Indicates that History Majors Are, In Fact, Valuable.” Clark quickly silenced himself and we awkwardly continued slurping our soup for the remaining twenty minutes of freedom before my History of Prophecy class started.

Sadly, the last half of that anecdote isn’t true. But it’s a decent segue into this week’s topic of discussion, a recent study done to determine whether or not bisexuality exists. The headline literally reads, “No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist.” They exist. Thank you, Northwestern University, for validating the already obvious presence of people who by default exist anyway.

Blogger Lauren Wick (Thought Catalog) compares the article to another scenario; a woman reacting to a study done to determine whether or not women are as intelligent as men. Wick writes, “And then the study’s results are published, and they are: “Women are just as intelligent as men, tests indicate”. Now, how do you feel? Do you laugh about it because, well “duh”? Do you think, “Well, it seems like a frivolous thing to study, but it’s comforting to know that it’s scientifically proven”? No. You do neither of these things because regardless of what the technical, published hypothesis is, you understand that it all started when some doctoral student said, “Yeah it’s controversial, but just hear me out. How cool would it be if we did prove women are naturally less intelligent? Right? Am I right? So cool.”

Don’t get me wrong, science is an incredible field. I have all the respect in the world for it. But something about science sometimes necessitates a corresponding (and maybe even offensively aggressive) lack of humanistic reason. There is a substantial amount of “playing God” involved in scientific study, and I find it painfully difficult to believe that these scientists were unaware of the moral consequences of this experiment as well as its packaging (“They Exist”? Come ON.) Did they do it anyway? Was this a loaded experiment bent on creating even more of a volatile atmosphere for non-heterosexual men and women?

On a broader note, why must there even be a need for proof in the first place? Isn’t the simple statement “I’m attracted to men and women” enough of a justification for the existence of bisexuality? Who cares whether or not bisexuality “exists” for people who aren’t bisexual? Why does it matter whether or not a man is sexually aroused by both men and women? How is this still even an issue?

And the questions keep coming. For me the most upsetting part about this article isn’t even its intentionally or accidentally insulting hypothesis but the fact that there are people out there in the world who believe experiments such as this one to be necessary and/or helpful. What’s worse, they’re probably right. There would be no need to go looking for cold, undeniable scientific evidence to prove something if that something wasn’t being questioned in the first place. So maybe these scientists are (in one way or another) trying to do something decent- silence the fanatics and bigots. Whether they deserve that much time, attention and consideration is a different story for another time.

I’ll end with a quote from American writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer. “The individual who has to justify his existence by his own efforts is in eternal bondage to himself.” Human beings are already imprisoned by the psychosocial Other. Add the Self and you’ve got a full-scale civil war between what you know to be real and what everyone else expects from that reality.