A quantum physics explanation for polyamory, BDSM, and queer people

A quantum physics explanation for polyamory, BDSM, and queer people
Credit: sakkmesterke/Shutterstock

Quantum physics! Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about sex. Cultural norms would have us believe that human sexuality is divided up into a series of categories. We’re all supposedly somewhere between totally heterosexual and entirely homosexual on the Kinsey Scale, and everyone’s either male, female, in-between, both, or neither. From a quantum mechanics perspective, none of this makes any sense.

It’s not that anyone is necessarily “wrong” about human sexuality, it’s that we simply don’t understand it. Sexual preference, gender identity, sexuality, and sex/gender presentation are all subjective ideas reared in the recesses of the human capacity for emotion. From an early age we’re told how we should identify – boys get the blue toys and have girlfriends, girls get the pink toys and have boyfriends. By the time we’re old enough for biological sexual impulses to manifest, usually before puberty, we’ve been conditioned to view sexuality and gender through a socio-normative lens.

However, the natural world doesn’t operate under any similar constraints. We all know that non-heterosexual behavior is rampant throughout nature. But most of this evidence was gleaned on accident. There haven’t been many comprehensive studies on animal sexuality that didn’t assume a classical view of “mating” dependent on apparent biological gender.

Most of the time when we encounter two animals having sex, we assume one’s male and the other’s female. Even among wildlife researchers, few have gone so far as to interrupt a pair going at it to do an eyeball check on their genitalia.

The same kind of binary assumptions lead some to believe that trans humans – those transitioning or transitioned from the gender they were assigned at birth to the one they identify with – are somehow changing a fundamental truth about themselves (ie: becoming something they didn’t begin as). It’s also what leads cultures to treat non-heteronormative sex and sexuality as taboo or unnatural. Convention says we should all be heterosexual, monogamous, males or females. Everything about our sexuality, from who we bang to how many people we bang is currently plotted along a binary spectrum, presumably because humans love labels. But the universe isn’t binary.

Writer and performer Amrou Al-Kadhi told GCN magazine about their struggle with being non-binary (someone who primarily identifies as neither male nor female) and how studying science has helped them come to terms with their choice of gender expression:

Quantum physics to Newtonian is to me what queer theory is to heteronormativity, i.e., looking for normative constructs of society – male, female, of gender, of race, categorizing everything in a neat, rigid way.

I am very comforted by this as a queer person with no real fixed identity. It gives me immense hope that there’s this model of the world, this real physical, philosophical model which shows us that reality is just a set of contradictions with no real fixed foundation.

It is in this model of space-time as a series of entanglements that I’m able to piece together all of the fragmented sects of my identity – being able to identify as British and Iraqi, as queer and Muslim, as someone of many genders and potentially no genders at all.

In quantum physics, an “all encompassing” model makes far more sense than a narrow one that only accounts for binary “this, that, both, or neither” thinking.

Researchers from the University of South Dakota point out the following criticism of the binary sexual spectrum model:

The spectrum model has been criticized as being limiting in describing the full range of possible sexualities and genders. Critics of this model argue that male/man and female/woman are not truly opposed to each other but comparable.

A single line connecting two points doesn’t make space for identities that exist totally or partially outside of those points rather than between them.

And what about those that simultaneously exist in more than one point along the spectrum or maintain a fluid dynamic?

We’ve learned a few things about the universe that challenges every assumption we have about ourselves. Our consciousness itself may simply be the result of quantum interactions emerging from our complicated neural networks: aka our brains. And, if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, the ‘multiple worlds‘ theory says there’s probably an infinite number of yous in just as many universes. In some of those manifestations, you’re probably observed as being more or less queer, monogamous, or male/female than you are here, now.

Quantum mechanics can even explain our decision-making processes. Why are some people asexual by choice and others pining for sexual contact? Why are some people demonstrably attracted to shoes, tractors, or other inanimate objects with no inherent sexual allure? It’s easy to chalk these things up to “different strokes,” but perhaps there’s more to the human experience than just being unique like everyone else.

Quantum cognition says that the order in which we learn or experience things can have a major impact on the choices we make. For example, if you ask a co-worker how they’re doing, it’s likely they’ll say “fine” or “good” or some variation. But, if you remind them of something negative first, “hey, I heard you got passed over for a promotion,” before asking, you’ll likely get a different answer. By creating a mental association you’ve changed how information manifests. What’s significant here is that the person may have legitimately felt fine before your negative reminder “bumped” into them.

That’s what happens all over the quantum universe. Tiny subatomic particles are constantly “bumping” into each other and forming systems. These systems spin, flip, and race with infinite potential until something causes them to “collapse” into a physical something, like a star or a piece of space dust, or charged particles. But this isn’t a fixed state, everything in the quantum universe is in constant flux.

Physics tells us that entire planets can become entangled – meaning they could exist in more than one place at a time – and there’s no reason this logic shouldn’t apply to expressions of human sexuality and gender.

Our sexuality, sexual attraction, and gender identity may manifest in a very similar manner. We’re all a bunch of interacting subatomic particles that could, theoretically, find ourselves in physical quantum states such as superposition and entanglement. We need a new model for human sexuality that doesn’t rely on the need for static expressions of gender and sexual identity – we need a Schrodinger’s cat for sexuality and gender.

So here goes: Schrodinger’s Sex Cat, if you will, exists in all possible gender and sexuality expressions inside its quantum box. It’s nonbinary, intersex, trans, male and female, queer and heterosexual, polyamorous and monogamous, and equally identifies as into BDSM and vanilla (a colloquial term for people who don’t engage in kinky sex), all at the same time.

At the end of the day we’re all made from the same thing: literal stardust. If that’s not proof we’re meant to be absolutely fabulous and unconstrained by binary limitations, I don’t know what is.

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