Sunday, March 27, 2005

Linked and more on bisexuality:

Blogcritics linked to my too-long post on *real* bisexuality (relatively rare) v. having *some* degree of bisexuality (in my opinion, more common than most are aware) and featured a real cool pic of David Bowie, whom I use to illustrate my overall point.

In that very long post, I don't know why I didn't mention the Kinsey scale. But I will now.

For those who don't know. A Kinsey "6" is exclusively gay, a "0" is exclusively straight, a "3," a perfect bi. We tend to think of all gays as "6s," all straights as "0s" and all bis as "3s." What many people don't realize that is that there are a lot of self-defining "gays" who are 4s and 5s, and many self-defining straights who are 1s and 2s. There are also 5s who can and do, on occasion, have sex with women and who call themselves "bi" to appear more "normal," but given that a 5 cannot flourish in any other relationship than a homosexual one, a 5 is essentially "gay." And I'd argue a "4" is gay too.

Similarly given that 1s and 2s cannot flourish, in the long run, in anything other than a heterosexual relationship, 1s and 2s are best understood not as "bis" but rather as "straights" who have experimented with, or who otherwise have the ability to enjoy homosexual acts. And you know what: that's how they, by in large, understand themselves (some of them, unfortunately, are confused or ashamed and disturbed by their experiences).

Being in the "gay and bisexual" community has an "identity" and, unfortunately, a "stigma" associated with that identity. Why would anyone who is fully attracted to the opposite sex, but only less than fully attracted to the same sex choose to "come out" and join the community and receive the stigma of being "bi"? Sure, with millions of people in the nation and billions in the world, a minute % of these people will join the gay or bi community, probably for political or ideological reasons. I think Kurt Cobain, at one point in his life, decided to label himself as "bisexual," yet didn't have much of a history of same-sex relations. Yet, like a lot of normal males (not that Kurt was "normal"), he might have experimented with and enjoyed same-sex behavior in his past. But surely men didn't "do it for him" as women did.

Two other relevant points:

1) There are probably a lot more 1s and 2s than most folks are aware of. First, as I've said, 1s and 2s, by in large, identify as "straight." And Second, when it comes to surveys, they -- especially males -- are likely to lie and never admit to their homosexual experiences.

I call this the "masturbation" effect. Males, who are past the age of puberty, and still in their virile years, when they aren't getting regular sex, masturbate universally. Yet, if you take an opinion pole asking "do you masturbate?" a huge % of those who do (which is practically everyone) won't admit to it. Now for a "straight" guy to admit to a homosexual act is going to be even harder than to admit to masturbation.

And part of the problem is if you admit to having same-sex experiences and actually enjoying them, many will automatically label you as "gay" or "bi"...even though for 1s and 2s to attempt to engage exclusively in same-sex relations, will lead to as much misery and feeling "trapped" as a gay man in a marriage with a female. By the by, I think that many gay men who marry and perform sexually with women are probably 4s or 5s. Most 6s can never bring themselves to sleep with a women. Just as most 0s could never bring themselves to have a voluntary homosexual experience.

2) Justin Katz, with whom I've discussed this theory, I think rightly observes that the more tolerant this society becomes, 1s and 2s, as a group, will have a greater number of homosexual experiences and do so more openly. The stigma against homosexuality may very well lead many 1s and 2s to have fewer, perhaps far fewer, same-sex relations.

Some gay scholars have pointed out that before "gay" was an identity, back when homosexuality "didn't dare speak its name," more homosexual acts occurred between "straights" and "gays." A "straight" guy, who was primarily attracted to women, could turn to gay sex for occasional release, and not have his identity as a "straight" guy threatened. As homosexuality has become more of an identity in more tolerant times, any voluntary homosexual act raises the inference of a "gay or bi" identity. And that's something that many 1s and 2s just don't want.

If I were to estimate what % of society were 1s and 2s in potential, if not in practice, I'd say, probably somewhere between 25-40%. Now for many, this may be only *potential,* that is they never act upon it. Or, they may have had a few same-sex experiences for a very brief time in their life, like during teenage or college years, but no more (and of course they admit these experiences to few if any people).

As I've written before, I think the gay or bi community is about 3% of the population. But these are folks with an orientation that is from 3-6 on the Kinsey scale. If we were to add in all of the 1s and 2s, because they are *some* type of bisexuals, then arguably we are dealing with 1/3 of the population.

But back to Katz's point: In the long run, a 1 or a 2 cannot flourish in any other relationship but a heterosexual one. There is no risk of them "going gay" from their experimentation, so I don't think his future premonition of more people openly experimenting with homosexuality is necessarily a bad one.

In Ancient Greece, where homosexual acts were almost universally practiced by male members of the citizen class, virtually all of them went off to marry children and sire families, and there is no evidence that real, constitutive homosexuals were any more prevalent in that society than they are here. The same is true of Sambia, Islam, prisons, navy boats, all-boys schools, or every other culture or sub-culture where homosexual experimentation is done far more commonly and openly (in Islam, and elsewhere, it's common, but obviously not open) than in general.

19 comments:

Jonathan said...

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Karen McL said...

Been "mulling" these stats over. I've not recalled that I've seen this scale about hetero-homo-bi ratings (and any Kinsey stuff I read was long ago, but I *wonder* about the "true Bi" in wondering about is it defined as "doesn't have a preference either way?" As in, could *date* a guy one week, a girl next..ad infinitum? Cause I do think this would be more *rare* than not in actual real-world circumstances. It seems many "bi" people are more "one thing or the other", but find an attraction to a particular person or relationship and allows them to go "beyond" their general preference...not as a matter of complete indifference to either sex. Is there a "definitional" distinction here? or am I splitting hairs?

Jonathan said...

I think you are right.

There is no perfect analogy to sexuality. But in some ways, race is relevant here.

You could argue that just as there is no pure "race," there is no pure "sexual" orientation. Instead of it being "black," "white" and "gray" (or mulatto), it's more of an infinite shade of grays.

The Kinsey 6 scale is a good way of looking at things. But that too is a socially constructed measurement. But as with height and weight, there's really a continuum. And we can divide up the measurements in whatever way we choose. (For instance, instead of "6," we could have a "10" different numbers on the scale).

My argument essentially is if you are closer to the "straight" end of the spectrum, you are not a real bi, just as if you are closer to the "gay" end of the spectrum, you are a real bi.

If you are strongly attracted to both sexes, then, I suppose, you are a real bi, even if you might tilt one way or the other.

Jonathan said...

I haven't figured out a way to edit these comments, once posted, if there is such a way.

Correction. This should have read:

"My argument essentially is if you are closer to the 'straight' end of the spectrum, you are not a real bi, just as if you are closer to the 'gay' end of the spectrum, you are NOT a real bi."

Much of this, of course, depends on how we define and understand these categories.

No one assumes "race" is a choice. But as with sexual orientation, there is a huge gray area over which we can argue.

In this society, even if someone is evenly white and black in genetic makeup, they get put in the "black or mixed" race box. Why don't they get put in the "white or mixed" race box?

We consider people like Condi Rice and Cornell West as "black" even though they both certainly have more than a nominal amount of white blood in them.

If both of them were to go to a part of Africa where the people were closer to racially pure on the black end of things, both Rice and West probably would be understood as "white" people.

Even me: I'm 1/4 Lebanese. And my mother who is 50% Lebanese, not very often, but on a few occasions growing up, was mistaken for mixed race and suffered discrimination.

So I'm sure that as someone with Arab blood, I have at least a nominal amount of black genes. We can say the same thing of Southern Europeans: Greeks, Italians, (esp. Sicilians).

Are all these folks properly put into the "black or mixed raced" box? If that's the case then the "black or mixed race" box just got a whole lot bigger. In the same way, if you include anyone who has had bisexual experiences or has *some* degree of bisexuality into the "gay or bi" box, then the gay or bi box, just got a whole lot bigger.

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