The Charge. Simple observation shows that the sexual organs of the male body protrude, while the female genitalia are concave. The organs fit together like an electrical plug in its socket. For this reason heterosexual couplings are simple, direct, and inviting, while homosexual ones are awkward, contrived, and unsatisfactory.
Background. This claim represents a subset of the argument from design. Popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the argument has been revived in recent years by Creationists, who hold that God’s imprint is found everywhere in the world in the form of “intelligent design.”
In the original concept of the argument from design the world was envisaged as an enormous machine, designed by a supreme watchmaker, with all the parts fitting together perfectly. Voltaire wittily parodied the argument by remarking that clearly the bridge of the nose was designed to accommodate spectacles, while the fjords of Norway were placed there as harbors for ships. Still, if all things were perfectly designed by the Creator at the outset, there would be no need for change over time, and hence no human species, which came about as the result of a long evolutionary process.
Modern sex research has pointed to crucial biological discrepancies that have weakened the old notion of the perfect suitability of male and female sexual organs. For one thing, the “fit” of the penis to the vagina is not notably better than its fit to the anus. Some heterosexual men seem to have in fact a preference for dorsal coitus. Then again, if the penis and vagina were so perfectly matched, other elements would be expected to follow suit. Yet the work of sex clinics, such as the one operated by William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, is largely taken up with issues of sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation. Such problems reveal that everything does not always operate automatically, as one would expect if the male and female anatomies were perfectly engineered to operate in synch. In addition, the male and female biorhythms summoned by sexual excitation show notable differences, and much negotiation and adjustment is required to achieve mutual satisfaction. Heterosexual relations are not, so to speak, easy as pie. In fact in one respect male-male and female-female relations are superior, since personal experience has given each partner a good sense of what the other’s needs are likely to be.
In its more sophisticated form, the argument has religious roots. Yet it often survives in ordinary discourse, where the appropriateness of heterosexual coitus is taken for granted.
Response. If this argument were conclusive, everyone would experience more pleasure and satisfaction from opposite-sex couplings than same-sex ones. Yet many do not, showing that this coital practice is not a universal rule, As popular language has it, there are different strokes for different folks.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, Human Sexual Response, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1966; ibid., Human Sexual Inadequacy, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970.