July 5, 2005

What if no one is bisexual?

Some researchers attached sensors to 101 penises and then showed the possessors of these penises either all-male or all-female porn movies. It was kind of a lie detector test, because the men had all professed to being heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. All the bisexuals, it seems, were lying -- or deluding themselves. Once you disregard the one-third of men who weren't aroused by any of it -- which, rightly or wrongly, the scientists do -- all the men were distinctly attracted either to males or to females. This contradicts the views of Freud (who thought bisexuality was the norm) and Kinsey (who thought there was a continuum from heterosexuality to homosexuality).

I think you can critique the study in various ways, but I'm also interested in how this finding -- if we were to confirm it as a solid fact and applicable to women as well as men -- would affect various arguments about gay rights. Let me posit that believing Kinsey was right about the continuum is currently causing many people to resist the social acceptance of homosexuality. They are hoping to influence people in the middle of the continuum to choose a heterosexual "lifestyle." But if no one really is in the middle, this attempt at influence is truly misguided. You may as well remove the obstacles to the individual's free choice of sexual orientation.

70 comments:

Mr. I said...

I don't think proving the non-existence of bisexuality will do anything one way or the other for the gay rights movement. The reason being that the people who belive that homosexuality (and thus bisexuality) are not moral ways to live your life only care that you are not heterosexual. Thus, being gay or bisexual is really a moot point to them. They only focus on the fact that you are not heterosexual.

Actually, on further thought the non-existence of bisexuality might actually hurt the gay rights movement. If it can be proven that there is no such thing as bisexuality, then the opponents of gay rights (i.e. those against homosexuality) would have strong fodder to make the logical jump to the conclusion that there then must also be no such think as homosexuality. Or at the very least, the nullity of bisexuality would point them in that direction.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Instead of trying to prove that bisexuals don't exist (with the idea that this would strengthen the gay rights position), I think advocates of gay rights should ask whether it would matter. If bisexuals exist, then some people who engage in homosexual activity have the choice not to do so. If you're pro-gay, ask yourself: Does that matter at all? Does the fact that bisexuals have the choice to pursue heterosexual rather than homosexual relationships make it at all acceptable to infringe on gay rights (or at least bisexuals' rights)? I say no. If I'm right about that, then gay rights (or, more precisely, gay and bisexual rights) must be based on something more than the mere assertion that homosexuality is not a choice.

Heidi said...

Actually, the 2nd page of the study you cite specifically says that they have verified that women have bisexual responses.

Bruce Hayden said...

The reason that this may put a monkey wrench into gay rights is that it, to some extent, puts the lie to the "can't help it - I was born that way" argument, at least as a general rule. In other words, it means that at least some sexual behavior is elective.

But before you get too worked up at this, one additional interesting point is that 3/4 of bisexual males appear to be homosexual. You may be able to suggest that a majority of male bisexuality is really homosexual males trying to fit into a primarily hetrosexual world.

I think that most of us know men who tried to live the hetrosexual life, and, in the end, failed. I know men who got married and even had kids before figuring it out (or probably admitting it to themselves).

Ann Althouse said...

John: The reason I wrote what I did is that I think some opponents of gay rights are willing to make the 100%
gay-oriented persons suffer in order to preserve the pressure on the less-than-!00% gay-oriented persons. I don't agree with that policy, myself, but I'm wondering if the discovery of clear-cut sexual orientation would exclude a concern that really is motivating people who are afraid for young people to learn that it's okay to be gay.

Heidi: I know. It seems awfully strange that the answer should be different for women. But I do think the fear of male homosexuality drives much more opposition to gay rights than concern about female homosexuality.

Mr. I: I stand by my point about the motivation of some opponents of gay rights. And I totally disagree with your second paragraph. The point is to do scientific research and pay attention to it. No research is going to show there's no such thing as homosexuality.

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, in my experience as a straight guy, I am 99% certain that there is a large segment of the lesbian community that has typical hetrosexual response to men.

Let me give an example. Awhile back, I was at a wedding where there were more than a dozen practicing lesbians, all with their partners (it was a wedding). It seemed that most of the pairs had one who was gay, and one bi, since the bi one, with a little booze in her, would react some to us guys. And the gay partners would just go bonkers in jelousy.

And I know of one woman who has been an avowed lesbian for a long time now. And when we are in the same place at the same time, the sparks fly - the sexual tension is thick enough to cut with a knife.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree to some extent with Ann's point that fear of gay homosexuality drives anti-gayness to some extent.

I would suggest that a lot of male homophobia is grounded in a deep seated fear of male rape. It is a fear of a loss of self and of being dominated in a way that most men fear.

It doesn't help that male rape is reported to be common in prisons as a means for imposing domination.

This fear is visceral for many men. Trying to logically overcome it is, in the end, futile, for that reason.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me add to my last point, that this fear of rape is one reason, I think, that brings the two sexes together in a hetrosexual relationship. After all, how can a woman gain power and enjoy a situation that a man would find devistating? It is this basic difference that, to some extent, brings us together.

Goesh said...

What man, be he straight, gay or bi, would want a sensor attached to his penis? Doesn't this bring at least to a small degree concerns of bias to the discussion?
I can't help but think that most men would not want a sensor hooked to their penis. What if the damn machine went awry and you started getting jolts of electricity??

Mr. I said...

Ann: While I agree that there is probably not going to be a study showing the non-existence of homosexuality, my point was more directed towards how the bisexuality study might affect the gay rights movement from the opponents' perspective. People who already don't agree with homosexuality might take the disproving of bisexuality (ignoring of course the bisexuality in women) to mean that there is evidence that people may choose to engage in same-sex relationships, therefore, homosexuality is a choice and should be resisted. To them, there is no such thing as homosexuality, just homosexual behavior. This, I feel, could hurt the gay rights movement, but in all likelihood it probably won't make a difference one way or the other because this study isn't going to change anyone's mind.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am also intrigued by the segment of the males tested who didn't respond to either male or female pictures.

In some of our earlier discussions here, I have wondered whether male secuality is on a continium of intensity - in other words, what the shape of the curve of male libido was over the male population. I would also be interested in finding out whether it differed for hetrosexuals and homosexuals (and practicing bisexuals).

I say this as a male in his 50s who was probably on the higher side for most of his life, but is now going through, to some extent, the male equivalent of menopause. I know plenty of men who through life have not had nearly as strong an urge as I had to be with women, and when with them, to have relatively frequent sex. And now I look at a lot of male and female behavior as frankly stupid, that I accepted before, as I am no longer nearly as driven by sexual desire as when I was younger.

Bruce Hayden said...

Mr. I,

But doesn't the fact that some 3/4 of the avowed bisexuals were actually (apparently) homosexual somewhat refute this? After all, the natural retort would be that the majority of bisexual males were homosexuals trying to live in a hetrosexual world.

How many parents are really that understanding, esp. at first? They are watching their genetic legacy disappear in what might just be a whim of their undutiful, ungrateful, child. Might it not be easier for some to lead essentially a double life - having hetrosexual relationships to appease the parents, etc., and homosexual relationships for their own satisfaction?

Mark said...

Bruce, I really doubt there's much fear of male-on-male rape in the world. Homo-"phobia" may be a fear of something but it isn't rape. Most of the gay men I've known were not physically intimidating. Quite the opposite, actually.

Reminds me that my old girlfriend thought male rape was a common occurrence on Navy ships. That there was even an infinitesimal risk of male rape had never once crossed my mind in the year I'd been living on a Navy ship when she told me that. I wouldn't be surprised if the risk in prison is exaggerated as well.

Mr. I said...

Bruce: I suppose that would be an argument to make that the majority of bisexual men were actually homosexual. But I'm not sure if opponents of gay rights will see it that way. And that's all I'm doing here, is positing how the study might reinforce their thinking.

In my personal experience it has been the case that coming out as bisexual is a sort of transitional phase some people go through. And I have meet quite a bit more bisexual women than men, which is rather interesting.

You further say:

"How many parents are really that understanding, esp. at first?"

Some are, some aren't. It just depends on the parents. I know people whose parents had a horrible reaction at first, but who are now marching in the pride parade.

"They are watching their genetic legacy disappear in what might just be a whim of their undutiful, ungrateful, child."

Yes, this might go through their minds, but there is no reason gay people can't have kids. Adoption and surrogate mothers are several alternatives. And given time parents would hopefully see this.

"Might it not be easier for some to lead essentially a double life - having heterosexual relationships to appease the parents, etc., and homosexual relationships for their own satisfaction?"

This is exactly what happens now. I suppose it would be easier in terms of dealing with family pressure, but the emotional torment of doing this is very draining on a person. And I think that this scenario of leading a double life would support my original point:

How does telling the parents of a gay child that bisexuality doesn’t exist help them to accept their child's homosexuality? Wouldn't you think it would do the opposite (if they had an adverse reaction)? I do.

jeremy said...

Ann: Regarding your response to Heidi, I don't think there would really be anything "awfully strange" to have different results for women than for men. The etiology of sexual orientation is current still so poorly understood, but I would submit that, a priori, the idea that there would be substantial differences is probably more plausible than the idea that they would be the same. (This is vaguely put, I know.)

Ann Althouse said...

Jeremy: You're right. There's plenty of reason to think male and female sexuality are dramatically different.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

Does anyone feel the study itself is very scientific or telling? I am struck by how small the sample is, by the fact that they culled the participants from readers of 'gay and alternative magazines' and by the test itself: measuring erectile response to porn.

Responding to porn and responding to a lover are very different. Any straight male whose been to strip clubs knows that no one in the room watching the girls gets an erection. (Lap dances are a different story).

These 'bisexual' men who aren't aroused by pictures of women, may still in fact achieve erection with particular female partners.

NB: I pretty much agree with the direction the findings are going: bisexuality is a passing phase at best. However, I think the study measures such an narrow slice of sexual response that it has little or no value.

Chris said...

mark: I don't know what "exaggerated" works out to in your book, but this 2000 study (PDF) concluded "that 21% of the inmates had experienced at least one episode of pressured or forced sexual contact since incarceration in their state... At least 7% of the sample had been raped in their current facility. [A]nd at least 4% had been raped during the most recent 26 to 30 months." RAINN claims that for all American males, 3% have been raped in their lifetime.

Mr. I said...

Chris: I couldn't find these statistics on the site, but I'd be interested to see what percentage of the rapes against men (not incarcerated) were perpetrated by women and what percentage were perpetrated by men.

Mark said...

re: fear of male rape. Ok, I did think of an exception (besides prison). How many northern city boys would be nervous about going out in the Georgia backcountry after seeing Deliverance?

Bruce Hayden said...

As to male worries about rape - it isn't the least bit rational. But it does scare a lot of men that other men might want to "do" them.

And you all are right that for the most part, gay men stick to gays. BUT.. a number of us have had gay men hit on us - and try to convince us that we really were gay, or whatever, when in reality it was just the fantasies of the gay guy.

For the most part (98%?), I would agree that gay men are not threatening to straight men. I have found that when a gay guy gives me the look, all I need to do is look at a woman in response. Works like a dream - 98% of the time. But there were a couple of guys back in college who would not take NO for an answer.

Mr. I said...

Bruce: Ok, gay men being aggressive toward a straight man and trying to "convince" him he's gay is NOT rape. I hope this isn't what you were implying!

Bruce Hayden said...

Mr. I,

Part of my point is that coming out can be quite traumatic, even with patents who ultimately do the right thing and support their kids. And of course, there are plenty of parents out there who really put themselves first, and take any suggestion that their kids are gay as a personal affront or attack.

Yes, there are alternatives to hetrosexual marriage as far as furthering one's genes. But I would suggest that if all things were equal, they are not as good as the traditional solution - hetrosexual marriage. (Obviously, not all things are equal if you are only attracted to those of the same sex).

Adoption, of course, does nothing to further your genes - as they are someone else's genes you are raising. And finding a surrogate mother is not all that easy.

My point is not that these are not viable, but rather that for many, hetrosexual marriage is a far easier way to accomplish this.

Bruce Hayden said...

Mr. I,

Not in the least. While not comfortable to be so blatently sought as a sex partner (women tend to be more subtle in their pursuit), there is a big difference between being somewhat pressured and rape.

But that is on the intellectual level. Similarly, the idea that most gay men are only interested in other gay men. The problem is the emotional level, where the line is not as clear as it logically should be.

In short, I am trying to explain homophobia (not the general type that some gays claim whenever someone disagrees with them, but real homophobia, where guys go almost berserk when touched by gay men, etc.). It is real, and it is visceral in some men.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me also suggest that the percentage of men who are highly homophobic is probably several times that of men who are homosexual.

To me, the ultimate solution is, for example, when we met the son of one of my father's best friends at their club. The son was with his partner and their two adopted kids. Contrast this with Gay Pride parades, etc., which tend to push all the wrong buttons with the homophobic.

downtownlad said...

Ann - Your point is correct. But you forgot another thing. What this really shows is that many "bisexual" men are lying. Since this study creates further evidence that being gay is not a choice, is the Religious Right now going to encourage gay people to lie, by pretending to be straight?

Last time I checked, "thou shalt not lie" was one of the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not be gay" was not.

Mr. I said...

Bruce: I don't think seeing two dads with their kids is going to make a homophobic person say, "oh, well that's nice," and help them to understand gay relationships better. If someone has such a hatred (i.e. fear/misunderstanding) of gay people, then seeing them in a "normal" way probably isn't going to do much to change his mind.

On the other hand, folks who aren't so homophobic seeing the two gay dads and their kids might benefit from the experience. It's all about audience in these situations.

Bruce Hayden said...

Mr. I,

You may be right. It may not help with true homophobes. But one thing that this sort of thing does is reinforce that gays are normal people (too). The problem (IMHO) with Gay Pride parades and the like is that they emphasize the sexual nature of such, and thus the differences between gays and straights, not simularities.

Mr. I said...

Bruce you said, "The problem (IMHO) with Gay Pride parades and the like is that they emphasize the sexual nature of such, and thus the differences between gays and straights, not simularities."

It's interesting you say this because in the '50s and '60s this is exactly what a lot of gay people tried to do. They tried to show the non-gay world that they could be "normal" in every way straight people were except the gay thing. It didn't work too well. Not to say that this isn't something that might benefit the gay community today, but why should the gay community have to prove similarities with the heterosexual community to gain acceptance?

knoxgirl said...

"What if the damn machine went awry and you started getting jolts of electricity??"

LOL

knoxgirl said...

Mr. I and Bruce Hayden:

I agree with both of your last points...

I don't think gays are at ALL obligated to assimilate into heterosexual culture.

However: I have found that some of the more "theatrical" behavior at gay rights parades rubs me the wrong way because I feel like it's forced or contrived. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it...but I do sometimes feel like they themselves are unwittingly helping to reduce gays to stereotypes.

Perhaps that feeling does mean I expect them to assimilate! Anyway...

Mark said...

My own homophobia is the fear of another more-protected-than-me-by-law-or-custom special interest group.

But I don’t have kids. If I did I wouldn't want one of those guys in the Gay Pride parade as my kid’s teacher. Sometime you just need to trust your instincts.

downtownlad said...

And how many Pride parades have you been to Mark?

Why does the news media always put the crossdresser as their Pride poster-boy, but always ignores the thousands of military, policemen, firemen, teachers, etc. who march?

If you actually attended a Pride parade, I think you'd be rather surprised that the typical gay person marching looks just like everyone else.

You may not want a gay person teaching your kids. But I highly doubt that most Americans would want someone as prejudical as YOU teaching their kids either.

Mark said...

There's the one cross-dresser but thousands of typical-looking police and firemen. Yeah, right.

Ann Althouse said...

Please see my pictures and description of a gay pride parade that took place here in Madison about a year ago.

Knoxgirl: You write "I have found that some of the more "theatrical" behavior at gay rights parades rubs me the wrong way because I feel like it's forced or contrived." -- One might say something similar about some exaggerated hetersexual behavior -- say at hockey games.

downtownlad said...

I suggest you attend a parade. There were half a million attending the parade in New York this year.

Why don't you comment on something else that you obviously know nothing about.

downtownlad said...

Good pictures Ann! I think they fairly capture the spirit of a typical gay pride parade. In other words, all different kinds of people. Certainly better than your typical media coverage, which obviously goes for sensationalism first.

knoxgirl said...

downtownlad:

"Why does the news media always put the crossdresser as their Pride poster-boy, but always ignores the thousands of military, policemen, firemen, teachers, etc. who march?"

I share your frustration on this. The more extreme "poster" types we are always shown is not at all reflective of any gay people I know. Similarities *definitely* outweigh differences.

Mark: there's a difference between homosexuality and pedophilia.

Ann: I agree with you on the hockey and that behavior I also find simultaneously fun and annoying.

downtownlad said...

I take offense to the hockey analogy.

As a gay, hockey fan, I don't like being stereotyped as "heterosexual".

:)

Freeman Hunt said...

Mark: there's a difference between homosexuality and pedophilia.

I don't think Mark ever claimed that they were the same. I think it was pretty obvious that he was referring to the more outlandish Gay Pride participants who are generally shown in pictures of these events. Even then I don't think he was saying that such people are pedophiles. Probably meant something more along the lines of "I don't want to see my kid's third grade teacher in a parade wearing leather underpants and a penis hat." A pretty reasonable instinct if you ask me. He probably wouldn't want his kid's teacher to be a straight lady who walked around in hot pants and tube tops either.

I also think that the more outlandish stuff at Gay Pride events hurts the cause. Every gay person I know is totally normal and would never be caught dead walking down the street in some crazy sexualized costume. If I did not, however, know so many gay people, I might be led to assume that the wilder Gay Pride participants are representative of the gay population since the pictures of them are generally the only ones anyone sees of Gay Pride marches.

Agatha said...

Bruce: Did your law school not require English Grammar as a requisite course? Wallowing through your endless comments is always a painful experience.

And it's hetero, not hetro! ....................

knoxgirl said...

freeman:
"Probably meant something more along the lines of "I don't want to see my kid's third grade teacher in a parade wearing leather underpants and a penis hat."

If this is the case, my apologies to Mark.

And: if there are ANY grammatical errors in this, my apologies to Agatha... please don't turn the hater-ade on me!

Mark Daniels said...

This is the other Mark commenting, Mark Daniels.

I frankly don't see why this study should have any impact on the law or on ideas about people's rights.

To be honest, I'm one of those Christians who believes that the practice of homosexuality is wrong. Given the social climate, my life would be easier if I didn't feel compelled to believe this.

But I also believe--and this, too stems from my faith--that the law should allow for two consenting adults to live as they choose and that if states want to establish some sort of institution akin to marriage for persons of the same sex, that would be fine.

Neither my marriage or my rights would be threatened by allowing such covenants.

The research you cite, Ann, may say something about the nature of sexual orientation and whether Kinsey was right. That may be of interest in discussions of theology or psychology. But, to my mind, it has zero political or social significance.

As long as what turns people on doesn't harm others, they should be able to pursue any lifestyle they please.

Mark said...

To show I'm not prejudiced in any way whatsoever no-way, no-how, if my kid's hetero, non-pedophile teacher paraded down Constitution Ave in their S&M gear with the assless pants, I'd demand a new teacher. Tough buns (no pun intended).

downtownlad said...

Mark Daniels - Spot on!

As long as what turns people on doesn't harm others, they should be able to pursue any lifestyle they please.

Exactly. I don't approve of Britney Spears getting married for 18 hours. But if that's what she wants to do - I really couldn't care less. If Tom Cruise wants to believe that aliens are occupying people's bodies, let him.

You're never going to get consensus amongst 300 million Americans. So let each of them pursue happiness as they see fit, as long as they are not doing harm unto others.

Steven said...

Last time I checked, "thou shalt not lie" was one of the Ten Commandments.

Um, when was the last time you checked, exactly?

And no, "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is not the same thing. There is a tremendous difference between lying in general and slander or perjury in particular, whatever Immanuel Kant said.

Elizabeth said...

Mark, I appreciate your honesty is saying that your own "homophobia is the fear of another more-protected-than-me-by-law-or-custom special interest group." I hope you do a little research on this; you'd find that "special protections" for homosexuals is a bogeyman of the religious right, and not at all what gay people seek, and certainly not our current legal or customary status.

Right now, in Louisiana where I live, I have the "special right" to be fired by my employers if they decide they don't a gay employee. My performance is absolutely irrelevant. I could not sue, nor seek any other redress.

In seeking the right to marry, or form a civil union that includes the same responsibilities and privileges of marriage, we're not seeking special rights or protections, but equal status. You'd think I'd have that, being a citizen, but I guess I'm a special citizen.

The idea that gay people are "more protected" than you is pretty ridiculous, isn't it?

Mark said...

Elizabeth: I'm sure it depends on where you live. Wisconsin and California likely have different laws and customs. Perhaps in some places your employer would not dare fire you because you're gay, regardless of how awful you are as an employee. Or that may be common practice in the entire country in 20 years. I'm not in favor of parsing the country up into various classes of victims. Sorry.

The "religious right" is itself a catch-all bogeyman.

Kathy Herrmann said...

I agree with Ann that "fear of male homosexuality drives much more opposition to gay rights than concern about female homosexuality." And I think it has historical roots.

Out of curiosity, I went googling for vague remembrances of Spartan sexual practices for dominance and came up with an interesting post by Mary Ann Tolbert of the Pacific School of Religion on "Homoeroticism in the Biblical World" (http://www.clgs.org/5/5_4_4.html). The whole article is excellent but this caught my eye...

"The single most important concept that defines sexuality in the ancient Mediterranean world, whether we are talking about the kingdoms of Egypt or of Assyria or whether we are talking about the later kingdoms of Greece and Rome, is that approved sexual acts never occurred between social equals. Sexuality, by definition, in ancient Mediterranean societies required the combination of dominance and submission. This crucial social and political root metaphor of dominance and submission as the definition of sexuality rested upon a physical basis that assumed every sex act required a penetrator and someone who was penetrated. Needless to say, this definition of sexuality was entirely male—not surprising in the heavily patriarchal societies of the ancient Mediterranean. Nevertheless this assumption that the difference in status between the dominant penetrator and the submissive penetratee was essential to all sexual behavior is prevalent in most sources from at least the Egyptian empires of the Second Millennium BCE all the way through the late Roman Empire and beyond. Of course, we must recognize that the vast majority of the laws and other texts from antiquity that give us some insight into sexual roles were written by elite men."

Kathy Herrmann said...

Bruce said, "The problem (IMHO) with Gay Pride parades and the like is that they emphasize the sexual nature of such, and thus the differences between gays and straights, not simularities."

I have mixed feelings about the gay pride parade because of the extent of its sexualized nature -- and I'd have similar thoughts about a blatantly sexualized hetero event. I'm more comfortable with private expressions of my sexuality. An exhibitionist I'm not!

That said, though, I also suspect that one reason that pride parades are so sexualized is, at least in part, because society at large places so much emphasis on gay sexuality in defining gays.

Speaking for myself as a lesbian, my sexual expression is just one part of who I am, and not necessarily the first descriptor I'd think of for myself.

Additionally, while my orientation is to have sex with women, my attraction to them goes far beyond sexual desire. For lack of a better description, I desire the "essence" of woman.

I can't speak for other gays, though, and especially not the men -- or probably butch lesbians for that matter!

Elizabeth said...

Mark,

Supporting equal rights for all American citizens doesn't create classes of victims. Denying rights to identifiable classes of citizens does that.

And anti-gay bigotry, whether in law or in custom, as you put it, exists in every state of the union, in every country--it's endemic to most cultures. I doubt you really have the perspective to know much about it. You seem to be walking around with the fear that homosexuals are going to be more privileged than the average straight white male. That's just ludicrous.

Kathy Herrmann said...

I agree with Elizabeth's comment confronting Mark (and I'm not sure which Mark). Using his definition, the only group that qualifies as a protected class with special rights is heteros.

For example, there is nothing "divinely endowed" when it comes to marital benefits for hetero spouses. These are laws written by humans for humans. What many of us queers are saying, is we simply want similar legal protections for our own committed partnerships and partners. And I don't care if you call those legal protections "marriage," "civil unions," or anything else.

Speaking for myself, I want nothing more. However, I want nothing less either.

Bruce Hayden said...

My view is that the pedophile problem was a strategic mistake by the gay community. Yes, homosexuals are probably no more likely to be pedophiles than anyone else. But, NAMBLA et al. sought to join the gay community and were not turned away. The result is that you see pedophiles marching in gay parades, and, thus, being tacitly accepted as part of the gay community.

Bruce Hayden said...

Roaring Tiger,

I don't things have really changed that much since ancient times. But as a straight guy, I would assert that the distinction between penetrator and penetrated is still very much with us. It is the fear of the later, I will submit, that drives a lot of male fear of rape and, ultimately, male homophobia.

Mark said...

Elizabeth,

If I get assaulted, it's assault. If you get assaulted, it's both assault and a hate crime. If it's not today, it will be tomorrow.

amba said...

Yow!! 55 comments so far! Wish I had time to read them. Just wanted to point out that The Reaction has a really good post on this, agreeing with the "other researchers" mentioned in the original article who say that "genital arousal may mean something, but it surely can't explain it all."

Bruce Hayden said...

Amba may be correct that genital arousal may not be everything when it comes to determination of whether a bisexual male is homo or hetro-sexual.

First, researchers have found other ways of determining this - such as brain waves, eye movements, etc. It would be interesting to see if genital arousal got identical results. Also, there was a large number of men who apparently didn't react either way genitally. Possibly, they may react in some other way.

Also, some of the later posters point out that there is often more than just the pure physical response involved. So, for example, someone might respond sexually (or genitally here) to one sex, and emotionally to another.

This later would be, to me, not unexpected. One physiological theory about male homosexuality is that it results in insufficient testosterone to the brain fairly early in gestation. Apparently, there are three different times when these shots of hormones are necessary to completely masculinize a prenatal brain.

Part of the masculinization is apparently actual sexual orientation. Another is sexual approach - active versus passive. So, it would not be unexpected if some males responded at one level to men, and another level to women.

Abacquer said...

I believe that choice is irrelevant, and both sides of the gay rights/gay marriage issues would do well to ignore it as a deciding factor.

I can choose my religion, my marital status, and whether or not I will parent children, and yet these are protected against discrimination by law. They are recognized protected classes right up there with race and gender.

America is supposed to respect and protect the freedom of citizens to choose how to live their lives provided their choices don't impede on anyone else's ability to do so.

The study is interesting, but probably not too reliable, as the most sexual organ in the body is the brain, not the genitals.

I for one, continue to buy the Kinsey theory that we all exist on a continuum of sexuality from homosexual to heterosexual.

Bruce Hayden said...

Abacquer,

You are right that the study may have room for improvement. But if it's findings are relatively accurate, then Kinsey is wrong, esp. as to men - we are either hetero or homo-sexual, but not really in between. We shall see.

Elizabeth said...

Mark,

I've been riveted by your images of marching pedophiles and fear of penetration (I'm guessing you don't know about the hetero gal sex flick "Bend Over, Boyfriend!").

But I'm beginning to realize you're just full of misinformation. If you get assaulted by someone targeting you for being a white man, it would be a hate crime, if your state has one. Likewise, if you were walking in a part of town where gay bars are found, and some hopped up suburban straight boys, out for a night of queer bashing, attacked you, yelling "Faggot!", it would be a hate crime. If I got assaulted by someone who had no idea I'm gay, or who simply wanted my purse or my car, it would not be a hate crime. Hate crime isn't defined by the actual racial, gender, or sexual identification of the victim, but by the demonstrable motivations of the perpetrator.

If you're determined to continue playing the victim, go ahead. Enjoy the fantasy.

Tom Strong said...

Mark --

If I get assaulted, it's assault. If you get assaulted, it's both assault and a hate crime. If it's not today, it will be tomorrow.

Like you, I am skeptical of hate crime laws.

However, there is nothing about hate crime laws that creates "special rights" for gay, lesbian, or nonwhite citizens. Having someone who attacks you be subject to a longer sentence is not a "right." At worst, it's a misdirected effort by society to correct for pervasive injustice.

In my opinion, legalizing gay marriage/unions and allowing gays to openly serve in the military would be far more effective measures. And neither of these approaches would create "special classes" of citizens.

You can be against equality if that is what you believe, but your argument about special treatment is unfounded.

knoxgirl said...

"At worst, it's a misdirected effort by society to correct for pervasive injustice."

I agree with your characterization, but unfortunately, hate crime legislation is not necessarily harmless. I remember hearing about a case--I think on NPR--a couple years ago. I think I'm getting the story right, maybe somebody less lazy can find it for me:
This black guy was very racist and was very vocal about it; he was known for hating whites. Anyway, it turns out, he killed this white guy. However: race had nothing to do with it--there was a robbery, or something like that involved.

But this guy was at risk for being charged with a hate crime because of his past statements against whites--even though that was not the motive behind the particular crime he was being charged with.

This, to me, is a very frightening "Thought Police" scenario. And it puts in stark relief how good intentions can end up with really bad unintended consequences.

I'm admitting that I don't know if I'm remembering that story exactly right, so if I didn't--please nobody jump on me!

Mark said...

Elizabeth -

Your well-honed sense of victimhood seems to have made you hateful. Poor baby.

Elizabeth said...

Like Tom Strong and knoxgirl, I'm not a supporter of hate crime legislation. The only think I like about such laws is that they give police and the FBI a mechanism for tracking types of crimes and noting patterns. The information is a good thing, but increasing penalties because of the motivation for a crime that in actuality isn't different from another beating or assault, doesn't make sense to me, and does create the idea of thought crimes.

I don't want special protections, but I do want the full protections other citizens have.

Christopher Althouse said...

One problem with the study is that--if I'm reading this correctly--the men were only show homosexual porn. They were shown men with men and women with women. The reason for this is obvious--if you show heterosexual pornography, you don't know whether the subject is getting turned on by the man or the woman. The problem is that many men are turned on by porn based on their ability to identify with someone in it, and lesbian porn doesn't provide this for a man. Only men who are turned on by images of a sexual situation they can't possibly by a part of (a purely lesbian one) are seen as having heterosexual arousal in this study. What if bisexual men are primarily narcissistic and are at least as concerned with their own bodies during sex as they are with their partner's? This could be the very reason they make little distinction between male and female partners--to them, it's about their own bodies and what they can do with them. If this is the case, the study could be totally accurate and bisexuality could still exist. Perhaps the men who were not responsive at all were heterosexuals who need to see something they could be a part of.

One more point: it seems to me that a lot of people would become aroused by the attention itself rather than the images they were being shown.

Qwfwq said...

If a man is looking at sexual images on a computer screen with some machine wrapped around his penis, usually, he is alone. So this study seems to be more about pornography and masturbation than about actual sexual preferences. Did the bisexual men in this study have an exclusive preference for gay or straight porn, or did they use a mixture of gay and straight porn, or did they use pornography at all?

If a straight man was induced to masturbate while watching gay porn how long would it take before he started to test “gay” or “bi” in this experiment? A week? Two weeks? Three days? (I assume, of course, that he would actually remain straight.) How long would this conditioning last? What effect would exposure to Imipolex G have? I’ll have to finish Gravity’s Rainbow!

amba said...

There's another great discussion of this issue at Non Euclidean Cafe.

gt said...

Bisexuals don't exist, all negros like watermelon, all jews are part of a cabal that controls the banks and the new york times....
Being told we don't exist is the clasic putdown bisexuals live with and are tired of. It's offensive when the times does it and when ann does it.
I wasn't clear if the people doing the study were saying that, or if it was added spin. More offensive still to be told that when we say we do exist, we are liars.
If the study has any scientific validity (about which i'm not sure),
it seems to be saying bisexuality is a strategy, one that makes sense in game theory terms.
On average I might be 4 times as attracted to millionaire supermodels than to the average joe walking down the street, but exclusively dating supermodels might not be a viable strategy for me.
As a low-status male, my chances of being hit on by a woman looking for a one night stand are low, so it's a better investment of my time to go to a gay bar. But that guy's likely to leave in the morning, so for long-term deeply emotional relationships, I'm not going to rule out women in my social circles where there's been a chance for trust and respect to grow over time.
Bisexuality makes sense for me. I don't know how my electricly-sensored penis would respond (was the f/f porn made by and for real lesbians, or was it porn stars pretending?). I might well have a stronger response to one or the other - that does not in any way disprove my bisexuality.

Ann Althouse said...

GT: I think you have a different definition of bisexuality than the one the scientists had. They were looking to see whether there really was such a sexual orientation. You're talking about which acts one chooses to engage in, separate from what your prefence is. Under your definition, a man who is exclusively attracted to men but has sex only with women (for example, a very traditional man who follows the convention of marriage), is a heterosexual. But the scientists would view this man as homosexual. I think the scientists are studying the right thing, though sociologists might want to study what you're talking about.

gt said...

GT: I think you have a different definition of bisexuality than the one the scientists had.
Sure. That's because they used a definition carefuly constructed to bear little overlap with reality. It's easier to empiricly verify that there are no black swans if you define swans as being white. Then you can say those black swanlike birds are lying when they say they are really swans.
The word "bisexual" is used in at least two senses. Identification and behavior. The number of people who identify as bisexuals is much smaller than the number of people who behave bisexually.
A more honest study, using the same methodology and data, could have concluded, "we were surprised to learn that bisexuals tend to have strong preferences for one gender or another, rather than being split 50-50." The study did not conclude that the test subjects had no attraction to both genders - which would have supported a conclusion that the bisexuals were lying, or that bisexual relationships develop over time instead of being penile reactions to pictures. It concluded that the test subjects had gender preferences, and went on to falsely claim that we don't exist and are liars. That's bad science, bad politics, and rude.
-arbitrary aardvark.