Is Sexuality Natural or Acquired?: No. 6’s Take on the Issue

A while back, I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of watching the highly imaginative story produced by the noitaminA studio named No. 6.  Whether another yaoi will ever grab me in this way, I highly doubt.  Then again, the homosexuality of the characters was toned down to two kisses and a beautiful friendship–if only it had only remained the latter!  The heroes struck me as a modern Orestes and Pylades.  (Please read a little Aschylus or Euripides if that reference went over your head.  You won’t regret it, especially Euripides: Ten Plays, translated by Paul Roche.)

Orestes and Pylades

But, I digress.  Since many reviews of this show have already been posted across the blogosphere and watching the first episode should be enough to convince most any otaku of good taste to watch it, I intend to to focus on the peculiarities of the relationship between the two protagonists, Nezumi and Shion, juxtaposed to that of Shion and Safu.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, Shion lives a cozy life in one of the six remaining major cities to have survived an apocalyptic event.  He is enrolled in a program for gifted children, where he meets Safu, a precocious young girl who becomes his childhood friend.  (I must confess to have been shipping for this relationship to win out, but was sadly and morally disappointed.)  Around Shion’s twelfth birthday, he takes a fugitive of the same age into his home for medical treatment.  Unfortunately, the authorities discover this and punish Shion and his mother by removing them from their cushy lifestyle and suspending their privileges.  (No matter.  His mother seems happier as a baker anyway.  On the balance of the scales, a career as a baker must always be prefered to practically any high paying job with its workplace politics, stress, and long hours.)

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Shion and Safu do not separate as they grow into adulthood.  Yet, a very odd mood adheres to this relationship.  Shion possesses a very logical, Spock-like air about her or, to be more precise, she may be considered a tactless, female Spock.  Twice, she emotionless requests Shion’s sperm, which is very odd for a girl who’s otherwise perfectly okay to take home to mother.  This rationality about male-female relationships, while being endearing on some level, overly de-romanticizes their relationship.  I think that the show might go so far as to claim that love between men and women is dull and ordinary–a matter of course like death and taxes.  Nothing energizes the relationship between Shion and Safu; though, one can’t deny some latent passion between the two of them, which becomes apparent as the series progresses.

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On the other hand, the friendship between Shion and Nezumi is dynamic, fun, and full of surprises.  (Why couldn’t they just stay good friends?)  When Nezumi meets Shion again after growing up, we discover that he forms part of a resistance group operating in a slum outside of the city of No. 6, is more well-read than you or I will ever be, and performs in theatrical productions.  (In the case portrayed in the anime, he stars as a woman, which would be okay if the theatrical situation was as in Shakesperian or Ancient Atheinian times, but not so much here.)  On the other hand, Shion proves to be tougher and more resourceful than Nezumi thought possible.  Contrast that with the mundane relationship between Shion and Safu!

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But are these facts enough to lay the ground for a romantic relationship between members of the same sex?  I mean, some hold the opinion that all friendships are latently sexual, but that opinion appears rather hare-brained to me and anyone else with real friends.  What is certain about the writer for No. 6 is that they deny that people have a set sexuality given from birth.  Somehow, one’s sexuality is formed by experience, a view which most people refuse to hold.  After all, most arguments as to why people should tolerate homosexuals and attempt to accomodate their lifestyle rely on the idea that homosexuals derive their sexual orientation from their nature; therefore, are neither responsible for it nor capable of changing.  The situation presented in No. 6 avers that we wish to become most intimate with those we find most engaging and that full intimacy involves engaging them on a romantic level.

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An interesting thought, but most friendships don’t turn down the road of homosexuality–no matter how boring the same people might find their spouses or lovers in comparison to their friends.  Men in particular seem to be placed in situations where they can develop intensely close relationships to one another: going camping, military service, fishing, hunting, sports, cigar smoking, and a host of other activities from which their womenfolk tend to be excluded.  Can sexual orientation really be the result of conditioning as the show purports?

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I would argue against the notion that sexuality is conditioned.  The nature of heterosexual relationships allows for it to continuously evolve and become more interesting in a way that homosexual love cannot.  Love constantly needs to grow.  The means by which married love (the proper end of heterosexual relationships) grows is through the nurturing and education of children.  The bond between the couple becomes stronger through watching their children’s struggles, seeing how their spouse interacts with each child, and seeing different reflections of themselves and their spouses in their children.  This is something denied to homosexual couples–even in the case of adoption.  Their love cannot evolve in the same way because they cannot generate children.  This leads to a stagnation and loss of love–something which plagues heterosexual couples badly enough–and must even be worse in the case of homosexual couples.  Hence, God, in his infinite wisdom, created each side of humanity with a specific nature, and the respective ends of this nature are clearly pictured at the end of Genesis chapter 2.

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8 comments on “Is Sexuality Natural or Acquired?: No. 6’s Take on the Issue

  1. […] Medieval Otaku discusses homosexuality in terms of nature v. nurture as he investigates No. 6. [Medieval Otaku] […]

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  2. Sebz Dima says:

    Great read, commendable because while homosexuality as a Christian issue is proposed at the end, there’s no note of condemnation.
    iirc the Catholic doctrine defines homosexuality as an objective disorder, meaning that the homosexual inclination of a person is not a choice, and therefore not sinful on its own. Acting on that inclination, knowing what it means and choosing to do it is another thing.
    There are implications, but I don’t remember if Shion’s orientation is explicitly defined. We could say that Nezumi is the only person he would turn homo for, given their previous experiences.

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    • I’m glad that you liked the article! As a Catholic, I try to adhere to the Church’s opinion on the matter, which is basically “hate the sin, love the sinner.” So, I try to steer clear of condemning people.

      Recently, some of Aristotle’s work has found itself on my reading list, which is very much concerned with how everything is ordered toward an end. The way the two possible romantic relationships where presented in the show, to my mind, seemed to indicate that the author didn’t believe in sexuality having a nature in the classical manner or by way of genetic predisposition, which rather interested me. You are right in saying that Shion’s orientation was never defined, but that kind of reinforces the idea that the author conceives of us as being a tabula rasa in regard to sexuality. People holding that view are pretty hard to find!

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  3. M says:

    Great read, I absolutely adored the series. 🙂 They’re actually one of my favorite anime couples. ^///^; Your evaluation is very thorough. I love seeing people really put their mind to these things and discover new points to discuss! 🙂
    That said, I see your point, but I don’t believe the writers completely denied that sexuality is set from birth. (Correct me if I’m wrong here, as I may be misunderstanding). I think there was always something there with Sion and Nezumi. They were always friendly (for the most part, under the more violent moments of misunderstanding and good-intentions), but they seem unusually close from the night they met. If it was indeed only nurture that influences Sion’s sexuality, then wouldn’t Safu have been the one he loved? They grew up together, in an environment that pushed stable families (as described a bit more in the light novel), probably emphasizing relationships between men and women. He learned about heterosexual relationships, as he was around them (again, assuming because I’m not sure just how strict the government was about relationships in No. 6). Based on this, wouldn’t a relationship with Safu be the obvious choice, or another girl?
    Maybe it was because Nezumi was new and exciting. Maybe Sion fell in love with him because he experienced all these new things with Nezumi. I mean, it’s a common plot in any TV show/movie: The main character goes on an action-packed adventure with a heroine. They usually don’t get along so well at first, but as the movie progresses and the characters fight alongside, they discover more about ach other and fall in love. I think this is similar to Sion and Nezumi’s relationship.
    Okay, I’m getting off topic. I’m going to read the works you mentioned and try to explain things better (I’m obviously bad at that. Sorry). I can see you being right about this, too, though! It’s hard to say without either of their orientations being explicitly defined. I wish we could ask the writer!

    Seriously, thank you for this! It’s really interesting and well explained. Sorry for the long response that really didn’t explain anything well in the end. -__-;;;

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    • Thanks for the nice comment and enjoying the article! It’s true that my argument for the romance between Shion and Nezumi not being driven by nature is not air-tight; but, they went out of their way to show how boring and mundane the relationship between Shion and Safu was vs. the one between our two heroes. I feel that this has to comment in some way on how some individuals do not find heterosexual relationships fulfilling. Then, when you further compare the two relationships, this has to be because they actually do not find their perfect match/soul mate among persons of the opposite sex. Then, I think that the series seems to lean in the directions of saying that one desires someone because of their personality alone (nurture) rather than a combination of personality and sex (nature). Though, it could very well be the case that Shion did not desire Safu more because his nature was homosexual from the beginning rather than the fact that their relationship was static and dull.

      I hope that you enjoy reading Aeschylus and Euripides! They, along with Sophocles, are some of the best tragic playwrights who ever lived. I find myself particularly biased toward Euripides, but I hear that he’s becoming more popular nowadays.

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  4. Luminas says:

    This post is pretty old, so doubtless nobody’s going to reply to me. But I think finding homosexual relationships somehow less fulfilling is a huge mistake— regardless of religion. In fact I think that IS the tragic mistake—- Assuming that what is ‘natural’ always beats out what is personal to someone’s life, in all lives.

    The most intense, passionate, erotic relationship I’ve ever had doesn’t even involve bearing children, or sex at all. I am in love with a heterosexual woman, who is very much in love with me, a woman. But for obvious reasons we cannot bear children or even have intercourse with one another— She’s marrying a man and eventually I’ll find one too. We’re not merely “friends” because the emotion’s far more than platonic (I have a best friend of ten years—I’d know the difference well), but we are not sexual partners. That’s a configuration society doesn’t even have a name for, but it does exist.

    Never forget that a sinful emotion under a religion might be the most powerful and human emotion a person has, and that great men have destroyed themselves in this very way.

    To underestimate love, even a kind you believe illicit, is to make assumptions which are understandable but incorrect.

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    • But, there seems nothing illicit about your friendship! Instead, I must congratulate you on finding such a perfect friend. Friendship is a rather spiritual affair, as C. S. Lewis tells us, and the realm of the intellect or spirit can provide people with more pleasure than the physical realm, cf. St. Augustine: “If people feel pleasure through embracing beautiful bodies, how much more we in embracing the Truth?” I might even compare you and your friend to Sts. Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, who found such pleasure in each other’s knowledge of God and the similarity of their aspirations that the union of their souls made it easy to forsake marriage.

      But, you are right to point out that a relationship with a person of the same sex might provide more enjoyment than the relationship with one’s spouse–even if they are both happy ones. But, I do not think that what is usually termed a homosexual relationship provides one with happiness, because sex destroys what would be a happy friendship. Basically, homosexual acts, because they are sinful, introduce envy or ill-will into the relationship. Envy and ill-will can easily destroy relationships.

      By the way, if you watch anime, a show called Witch Craft Works describes a similar relationship to the one which you have. It boasts some great characters and was my favorite show of the last season.

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  5. […] and Pylades are renown for their friendship.  I myself have used their relationship as a metaphor in this article.  And Mako undergoes many dangers for the sake of her friend Ryuko, in the same way as Pylades did […]

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