Essay: Sex and Guns

When we think about sexuality, we tend to think in terms of it's goals, it's results, it's effects and ramifications, it's ends and products.

I think this is misguided. I think this is the error sometimes called 'functionalism'. To show why, imagine thinking about guns and firepower in the same as we think about sex and sexuality.

Sexual desire occasionally results in the birth of a baby. Therefore we reason that sexual desire has a nature designed to bring about this result. But this is to confuse a description of the effect with a description of the cause. In this case, a physiological description of a newborn baby would tell us nothing about the emotions which infrequently lead to procreation.

The mechanical operation of a pistol occasionally brings about the death of a person. This tells us about one of the effects that a gun is capable of producing, but it doesn't tell us anything about the explosive nature of gunpowder, the hardness of bullets, or the engineering of boreholes. In short, an examination of a corpse won't tell us much about what a gun looks like.

Sexual desire is 'short circuited' for a few hours by an orgasm, so we think the purpose of sexual desire is to produce an orgasm.

But do we reason that the purpose of firing a gun is to empty the cylinder? That the motive behind using a gun is to render the gun incapable of further functioning as a gun?

Emptying the gun temporarily turns in into something powerless, and emptying the testicles temporarily removes sexual energy.

Because sexuality ends for a while with orgasm, we think that the point of sexuality is orgasm. But this is like saying the point of a train journey is to stop at the terminus, or the purpose of living is to die.

Sexuality creates emotional bonds, and the gun changes the power structure of a society.
The bonds and the change are real, but to describe the ways that a knot can be tied is not to describe the machine that makes the rope.

No, a description of how a gun operates - the kinetic energy of the hammer, the exothermic reaction of gunpowder, the screwthread of a barrel - is mechanical, not social. And likewise a description of human sexual impulse is not to be found in disections of monogamous frienships, prepackaged pornography, peristaltic ejaculation, embryo fertilisation, or songs about love.

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