Thursday, November 30, 2006

The myth of homosexuality

Love that title? I thought it would be an attention-getter. Don't judge too harshly before you read, but do know that this may get a PG-13 rating if not worse. I started to write this entry on Monday, and as so often seems to happen, I get a fair way into a bit of clever writing and somehow manage to do something to screw it up and lose it. In this case, I shifted in my seat and kicked the computer's plug out, losing not only my writing, but other documents that had actual importance. Still, I had this clever bit about how I should rename my blog "Theologian Rants Always on Something Homosexual" since it seems to be a far too prominent topic for what I had intended this blog to be; oh, well. On the positive side, I've decided to take a different approach to the topic here which I think will cover a broader topic than my initial attempt. But I ought to get to where I'm going.

Ted Haggard. You've probably heard of the guy. If you didn't, here's what you need to know: Ted Haggard was (and perhaps still is) the leader of a prominent evangelical organization that had a lot of the standard fundamentalist views on homosexuality and drug abuse; in any case, those views were expressed in Haggard's sermons, that much is for sure. Then not so long ago (about a month or so) the story broke that Haggard had had an affair with a male prostitute from whom he had also bought drugs. Haggard claimed that he had only gone to this guy for a massage, and while he had indeed bought the drugs, he had not used them.

Whether or not Haggard had indeed had a same-sex affair or been a user of illicit drugs is not the issue. He and the other leaders of his organization agreed that he had done something wrong, and needed a time to himself for repentance and healing. The public had largely cast its judgment as well, and many of them had decided that clearly, Haggard was a closeted homosexual. It's this judgment that I really wish to focus on here.

Some have said, and I don't think that the view is so very alien and uncommon, that the root of the problem was Christianity's decision to treat the "sin" of homosexuality so harshly, or even to consider it a sin at all. No doubt, Haggard was gay, had always been gay, and had simply spent most of his life burying his true desires under a persona of religious zealotry. If only he had been allowed to live freely, he would have had a simple, happy life as an openly gay man.

I don't buy it. The guy has children, and has been married for a long time--to a woman, natch. A guy spends most of his life having a woman as his sexual outlet, and then has a single same-sex affair, and that means he's gay? I can think of a number of other possibilities that seem more likely, at least to me. Sure, he might be gay, but then, he might be bisexual. Or he may even be a straight man who somehow got tempted to try something that didn't immediately seem pleasing. Sure, the latter seems at face value to be very far-fetched, but I don't think it's out of the question; smoking tobacco is not a pleasant experience for people who try it at first, but many people do it anyway.

In thinking about this topic, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the word "pervert". Generally, the word is used to refer to someone who has an unnatural sexual desire, but since there is a great deal of debate as to what is "natural", this generally gets used to mean: "Someone who has a sexual desire that *I* don't like/approve of." It's far too arbitrary in that sense, but I think there's something telling in what the word means in a more technical sense. Stripping away the moral implications of the word (which is hard to do, since it's a big part of what the word is about), the idea is that perverting something is to redirect it away from its intended use in an unexpected way. (Now, if you're certain that God intended sex to only be between a man and a woman, then any homosexual is a "pervert" in that sense, but I'm not trying to simplify this issue; I'm intending to hugely complicate it!)

Morality aside, if indeed Haggard is gay, and indeed being homosexual is a characteristic that you are naturally born with, then the perverted thing that Haggard did was to get married to a woman! Someone who is truly homosexual should not try to pervert those natural desires by pretending and/or attempting to act in a manner consistent with heterosexuals. But then, if they find they are easily able to do so, perhaps they are not homosexual? They must be bisexual; but then, if we as a society only accept monogamy, how does a bisexual stay true to their sexuality?

Now I've ventured back to the arena of morality again, and I do want to view this issue both from within that arena and without. There is a tendency I feel I have seen in society as of late, and I don't know how prevalent it is. I don't exactly hear about this sort of thing happening very often, but then, it probably doesn't happen so often anyway. The scenario is presented of a man who has been in a long-lasting marriage that to all outsiders seems to be a happy and successful marriage, but then one day, he admits that he has spent his life as a closeted homosexual. Essentially, he says, "I have realized that I need to be honest and true to myself. My wife is a good woman, but I have a desire to have sex with men, and as such, I am leaving my wife to be with a man." A large portion of society seems to applaud this decision. The man is liberated, he's being true to himself, and casting off the chains of an outmoded societal standard that was keeping him from the pursuit of happiness.

Now let's take another man, a man in the same situation before the revelation. He comes to a realization about his true desires, and he decides it's time for him to likewise cast off the chains of outmoded morality and pursue his happiness. "I have realized that I need to be honest and true to myself. My wife is a good woman, but I have a desire to have sex with twenty-year-old blondes, and as such, I am leaving my fifty-year-old brunette wife to be with one." Does society applaud this man? I don't think so. But really, is there such a difference between him and the previous one? If you're in a long-term committed relationship with another person, I think you have a responsibility to stay true to that person. That doesn't mean that separation is never an option, but it's something that shouldn't be taken lightly, regardless of the issues involved. (I'd even go so far as to say that goes for a same-sex couple in which one partner becomes convinced that homosexual relations are immoral; I don't think I'd advise such a person to just "drop their partner like a hot rock," so to speak, but find a way to make the transition out of the relationship as smoothly and respectfully as possible.)

But perhaps you'll claim that in the latter case this is not a matter of a person's orientation, but a matter of a "dirty old man", but that's subjective. The fact is that society as a whole, and various sub-sections of society make up their minds as to what is perversion and what is not, in both a moral and non-moral sense. It's not just Christians that do it, everyone does, and really, I don't think that's wrong per se. We have to judge others because that's how we interact personally; and we have to likewise judge ourselves, because that's how we make moral decisions. What makes choosing a sexual partner based on gender right, and choosing one based on age wrong? Isn't that just another kind of "sexual orientation"?

My big realization (while it may be complete crap, as I'm sure so much of my writing is) is that I was both wrong and right about something I used to think years ago. See, I used to think that people were not born homosexual, but to be fair, they weren't born heterosexual, either. I figured they were born bisexual (although perhaps "asexual" is more to the point) in that what sort of sexual partner one would prefer in adulthood was largely a preference formed by a variety of childhood experiences. Most people ended up going one way or the other, although some people stayed somewhere in the vague middle. I think now that I was right in that potentially each person would be open to a variety of placements on the sexual spectrum based on their early psychosocial development. But I was wrong in a bigger way.

I think I am now convinced that "sexual orientation" is a myth.

Because we as human beings like to judge people and pigeonhole them, we look at a man like Haggard and put him in a box. We say, "He's a homosexual." Really, that's where the word came from, as do many words; there were people that acted in certain ways sexually, and we wanted to put a simple handle on this behavior and build a box where we could contain it. Homosexual. As opposed to heterosexual. But this pigeonholing of people causes the sorts of problems that we have with gays in the military. The people against gays in the military feel that homosexuals will cause morale problems. Why? Because a soldier will always be wondering if there's some guy in his platoon who wants to have sex with him, although he has no interest in that, I guess.

Look, though. Where did the assumption come from? We say, "homosexual males are sexually attracted to other males," and it frankly must sound to some homophobes that there must be thousands of gay men out there somewhere who would like nothing better than to catch you with your pants down, right? But do you assume that every heterosexual woman in the world is looking to sleep with you? Do you want to sleep with every single woman in the world? (Maybe you do, and maybe there are indeed gay men who likewise would be amenable to sleeping with any other man, but it's certainly not the norm.)

The simple labels that we put on sexual orientation make the subject look like it's a simple matter, but it simply is not. The number and scope of the issues are huge enough that several books could be and have been written on the subject. If a person enjoyed masturbation, isn't that sex with a person of the same gender? Is a bisexual really a bisexual if they've never had sex with a member of the same gender? People say that pedophilia has nothing to do with homosexuality, but I wonder; aren't there male pedophiles that only molest young boys? Aren't there others that only molest young girls? Might one say that the former is a homosexual pedophile while the latter is a heterosexual one? Nobody wants to be associated with pedophiles, so if you're in the homosexual "box", you don't want (homosexual) pedophiles in the box with you, surely. Is sexual orientation about finding certain people attractive, desiring to have sex with certain people, or being sexually turned on by certain people? I once knew a woman who was a lesbian, but she was turned on by watching gay men kiss; what does that say about her "orientation"? What about the whole can of worms of the sexual orientation of transsexuals and intersexed individuals?

The fact is, the world does not consist of merely two types of people, homosexuals and heterosexuals. The world consists of six billion individuals each of whom has their own particular sexual desires. This is neither right nor wrong, it is simply a fact. Perhaps each and every one of us is a "pervert" in someone else's view?

8 comments:

Liadan said...

>>A guy spends most of his life having a woman as his sexual outlet, and then has a single same-sex affair, and that means he's gay?<<

When considered in light of a society-- particularly the evangelical subculture to which Haggard belongs-- which encourages people of homosexual (or bisexual) orientation to marry heterosexually, the case of "heterosexually married gay man" is sadly not an uncommon one.

I do agree that Haggard could well have been some proportion of bisexual, but the extreme lengths he went to-- a three-year relationship with a male escort?-- suggests that he wasn't just an otherwise straight guy out for weird kicks.

>>if indeed Haggard is gay, and indeed being homosexual is a characteristic that you are naturally born with, then the perverted thing that Haggard did was to get married to a woman! Someone who is truly homosexual should not try to pervert those natural desires by pretending and/or attempting to act in a manner consistent with heterosexuals.<<

Phrased differently, I'd be inclined to agree-- gay people shouldn't be marrying heterosexually-- not because it's somehow "perverted," but because it would be wrong to deprive one's opposite-sex partner of a full sexual relationship, which a constitutively gay person is obviously going to be unable to provide.

>>They must be bisexual; but then, if we as a society only accept monogamy, how does a bisexual stay true to their sexuality?<<

Bisexuality, as I have understood it by talking to various bisexual friends, speaks of potential partners, not required quotas. The classic bisexual will be equally happy with EITHER a male OR a female partner. Requiring a male AND a female partner would be polyamory, which is a different debate entirely.

>>But really, is there such a difference between [the gay man] and [the man who prefers blondes]?<<

Presumably the man who prefers blondes is also capable of being attracted to brunettes. I, personally, would have a different reaction to a bisexual man dumping his wife to go find a man than a gay man. Your analogy, therefore, is incomplete.

>>I think I am now convinced that "sexual orientation" is a myth.<<

Okay, having read the rest of the post, what you've actually argued is that a strictly BINARY understanding sexual orientation is a myth. Anyone who's familiar with the Kinsey scale / Klein grid already knew that. Arguing that we can't therefore make general descriptive statements about particular types of sexuality is stretching it.

Brucker said...

>>"heterosexually married gay man" is sadly not an uncommon one.<<

Clearly not, but I have a hard time understanding how it is that a gay man can manage to have a straight relationship that comes even close to being successful. I tend to think that such men are probably bisexual if they managed to pull it off.

>>...not because it's somehow "perverted," but because it would be wrong to deprive one's opposite-sex partner of a full sexual relationship, which a constitutively gay person is obviously going to be unable to provide.<<

Exactly. I find it hard to believe that if Haggard was truly homosexual that he would have been able to make his wife happy for a moment with their sex life.

>>Bisexuality, as I have understood it by talking to various bisexual friends, speaks of potential partners, not required quotas.<<

Right, but I think that goes back to my point, that I don't think "being true to one's sexuality" is a virtue. If a gay man tried to closet himself by marrying a woman, isn't leaving her for a man in the end just trying to use two wrongs to make a right?

>>Presumably the man who prefers blondes is also capable of being attracted to brunettes.<<

Are you sure? Maybe he doesn't think so. It seems like sort fo a movie cliche or something, but I'm sure it's not uncommon in real life for a guy to just one day say, "Eh, she no longer turns me on. But I still have sexual needs!"

>>...what you've actually argued is that a strictly BINARY understanding sexual orientation is a myth. Anyone who's familiar with the Kinsey scale / Klein grid already knew that.<<

Well, I'm familiar with the Kinsey scale, althought not the Klein grid, but I assume it's something similar. What I'm saying is that I think sexuality is not even a matter of a spectrum/grid but a personal matter from one person to another. Truly there are men who are attracted to women with a particular hair style, men who look a particular age, or even farm animals. Call it a natural sex drive or a perversion, aren't they all, in a sense, an "orientation"?

Liadan said...

>>Clearly not, but I have a hard time understanding how it is that a gay man can manage to have a straight relationship that comes even close to being successful. I tend to think that such men are probably bisexual if they managed to pull it off.<<

Of course, this assumes his marriage was "successful" simply because they're not divorced. I'd go so far as to say that a marriage in which one partner feels driven to seek outside it for sexual or emotional satisfaction is unsuccessful in some sense. Oscar Wilde was married too, after all.

>>Exactly. I find it hard to believe that if Haggard was truly homosexual that he would have been able to make his wife happy for a moment with their sex life.<<

What makes you think he did? Or even cared? In the evangelical Christianity I grew up in, you were lucky if it was even acknowledged that women HAD sexual needs. Our job was to dole out the sex as a reward for good behavior.

>>Right, but I think that goes back to my point, that I don't think "being true to one's sexuality" is a virtue. If a gay man tried to closet himself by marrying a woman, isn't leaving her for a man in the end just trying to use two wrongs to make a right?<<

I think in that case, you've ended up with a choice of two wrongs, one of which is the lesser. Divorce obviously isn't fun, but is remaining in a dysfunctional marriage not wrong as well? I'd argue that brings harm to both partners as well and divorce, while not ideal (ideally the marriage wouldn't have happened in the first place) is often the best option available.

Gene Robinson's story is like this-- he and his wife divorced by mutual consent, he did his damndest to stay involved in his kids' lives, and now both he and his wife have other partners and remain friends and co-parents.

>>What I'm saying is that I think sexuality is not even a matter of a spectrum/grid but a personal matter from one person to another.<<

I fail to see why these are mutually exclusive propositions. You can have highly individual personal sexualities with a broad range of quirks and idiosyncracies, that can nevertheless be broadly described with references to types and categories based on observation of what forms those quirks can take. Saying that a lesbian is a woman who likes women doesn't mean that all lesbians like women the same way, or the same kind of women, or like doing the same things with women.

Put another way, everyone has a different body, with different and individual processes and medical quirks, and illnesses and syndromes will show up differently in different people. Does this mean that no doctor can ever make any kind of diagnosis because Everyone Is Different? Or that those diagnoses-- those labels, if you will-- are based on broad descriptions of observed phenomena?

Brucker said...

>>Of course, this assumes his marriage was "successful" simply because they're not divorced.<<

I suppose you're right. I do notice that among some sectors of the evangelical society, divorce is considered a cardinal sin.

>>In the evangelical Christianity I grew up in, you were lucky if it was even acknowledged that women HAD sexual needs.<<

I guess that's something that also varies from place to place and church to church. Every church that I've ever attended has been very positive about sexuality. The former pastor of my current church once said in a sermon, "If the husband wants to have sex three times a week, and the wife wants to have sex once a week, how many times a week should they have sex? It's not one, the lowest; it's not three, the highest; it's not even taking two as the average! The correct answer is four: once for her and three times for him."

In any case, I no doubt am making just as many assumptions about Haggard as anybody, just different ones.

>>I think in that case, you've ended up with a choice of two wrongs, one of which is the lesser.<<

I'm just saying that abandoning your spouse for the purpose of selfish sexual gratification is probably the worst option. That is not to say that divorce is unacceptable, but only that whatever a person's reasons are for wanting a divorce, they should be examined carefully, discussed, and if amenable to both spouses, counseling should be taken.

>>Gene Robinson's story is like this-- he and his wife divorced by mutual consent, he did his damndest to stay involved in his kids' lives, and now both he and his wife have other partners and remain friends and co-parents.<<

And I'd say that's wonderful. It seems to me that in the media we see an emphasis on the end result rather than the process; and while the end result is often going to be the same, the process will differ widely.

>>I fail to see why these are mutually exclusive propositions.<<

For most people, they probably aren't, but exceptions abound. What about the case of the lesbian I mentioned in the post who was aroused by gay men? What about men who go under the knife to be made into women sothat they can be lesbians? What about men who like having sex with women, but prefer to have the woman wear a strap-on and anally penetrate them? All of these are real-life examples that seem to me to defy definition on a spectrum. Furthermore, the abundance of different quirks is something that tends to throw a wrench in the matter. I mean, there are necrophiliacs, but are there pseudo-necrophiliacs who like to have sex with people who have terminal diseases? (Maybe there are, I wouldn't doubt it; my point is that your sex partner really is either dead or alive, don't you agree?)

>>Put another way, everyone has a different body, with different and individual processes and medical quirks, and illnesses and syndromes will show up differently in different people. Does this mean that no doctor can ever make any kind of diagnosis because Everyone Is Different?<<

Of course not, but illnesses are also not on a spectrum. "Oh, you've got a headache? On a scale of one to ten, how much does it hurt, because there's a disease associated with 9s and 10s, another associated with 6 through 8, etc." I mean, we don't say that a person has "a mild case of transvestitism" because he likes to wear hats with flowers on them, or do we? I'm pretty sure we tend to simply say that a man is a transvestite if he endeavors to make himself appear feminine, whether it be fully-convincing drag, or just a little lipstick.

Liadan said...

>>In any case, I no doubt am making just as many assumptions about Haggard as anybody, just different ones.<<

Honestly, I think the most important thing Haggard demonstrates about sexuality is that if you treat your sexuality like a dirty, nasty, sinful preoccupation, it'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

>>I'm just saying that abandoning your spouse for the purpose of selfish sexual gratification is probably the worst option. That is not to say that divorce is unacceptable, but only that whatever a person's reasons are for wanting a divorce, they should be examined carefully, discussed, and if amenable to both spouses, counseling should be taken.<<

Oh, I totally agree. Which is why I have a problem with *bisexual* men dumping their wives because they've decided they'd rather have a boyfriend right now. But I'd take issue with describing divorcing one's spouse because one is GAY as "dumping them for selfish sexual gratification." If sexuality was just about the most efficient way to get one's rocks off most women would be happily married to vibrators; there is a bonding element to sexuality that makes a gay person married to a straight person a much worse proposition than just not getting one's orgasm quota filled.

I've been in the situation of a gay person in a relationship with a straight person. It wasn't a bad relationship while it lasted, and we parted on enviably amicable terms, but that year made it clear to me that a long-term relationship with a man was not going to be feasible-- because there was a bonding element that simply was not there for me.

There is such a thing as a "mixed-orientation marriage" wherein a gay and a straight spouse choose to stay together after one of them belatedly sorts out their Kinsey score, but as I understand it, they either (a) don't last very long-- I think five years was the upper limit for upwards of 90% of the sample, or (b) are open marriages.

>>What about the case of the lesbian I mentioned in the post who was aroused by gay men?<<

Lesbians who read/write/draw/etc. slash fic are a well-known phenomenon, actually. Heck, I think my girlfriend has written m/m slash, and she's not the least bit interested in sex with actual men. Most of them will tell you that it's the erotic dynamics of the relationship, not necessarily the sexual acts or the bodies of the men themselves.

>>What about men who go under the knife to be made into women so that they can be lesbians?<<

BZZZZT. Gender identity is a different issue from sexual orientation, or I'd be a transman.

I have to admit, it is funny watching men of recent acquaintance try to sort out whether they should treat me like a chick, because I *have* boobs, or a sort of honorary guy because I also *like* boobs, because their heterosexual identity is so enmeshed with their masculine identity-- they've never had to separate the two, because culture not only doesn't demand it, but encourages the collusion-- that the idea that liking women exists independent of maleness is sort of a mindtrip for them.

>>What about men who like having sex with women, but prefer to have the woman wear a strap-on and anally penetrate them?<<

This is really only confusing if you assume that enjoying anal penetration = gay. As I understand it, straight men have the same nerve endings and prostate capabilities as gay men. There are also, for that matter, gay men who don't like anal penetration.

>>your sex partner really is either dead or alive<<

http://youtube.com/watch?v=4BRI0NtQ1DU

>>Of course not, but illnesses are also not on a spectrum.<<

Not to stretch the analogy past its usefulness, but diagnoses take into account the relative severity of the illness involved, and the various ways the illness can manifest. Joe and Bob can have totally different symptoms, or levels of symptoms, and yet both can be diagnosed with cancer-- maybe John has Stage 1 prostate cancer and Bob has a Stage 4 glioblastoma, but they've both got some form of cancer.

>>"Oh, you've got a headache? On a scale of one to ten, how much does it hurt, because there's a disease associated with 9s and 10s, another associated with 6 through 8, etc."<<

Well, actually, the relative severity of the headache involved might signal a different illness. Mild but constant headaches might signal some kind of fatigue symptom, whereas a sharp and severe headache might be a brain tumor.

And there actually is a ten-point pain scale.

(I defend my analogies to the bitter end!)

Brucker said...

Don't worry about your bitter defense of analogies; I do the same thing.

>>Honestly, I think the most important thing Haggard demonstrates about sexuality is that if you treat your sexuality like a dirty, nasty, sinful preoccupation, it'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy.<<

No doubt. In many important ways, our sexuality is what we make it.

>>there is a bonding element to sexuality that makes a gay person married to a straight person a much worse proposition than just not getting one's orgasm quota filled.<<

Maybe it's just my bias due to my own placement closer to the middle of the Kinsey scale, but I find it hard to believe that one cannot find emotional fulfillment with a close friend regardless of gender. It's emotional fulfillment that I think is the true core of a successful relationship, much more than anything sexual, although I'll grant that sexual compatibility is something that ranks way up there for things that make for a healthy relationship.

>>...a bonding element that simply was not there for me.<<

Is that neccessarily about your sexual drive, though? Maybe I misunderstand what you're saying, but I'll shamefully admit that after 11 years of marriage, I've just in the past couple of weeks come to accept that I'll never understand my wife as deeply as I'd like to because her female brain and my male brain are fundamentally different in the way they process emotions.

>>Most of them will tell you that it's the erotic dynamics of the relationship, not necessarily the sexual acts or the bodies of the men themselves.<<

Sure, but that's not the point. I know she didn't desire to have sex with those men, but nonetheless, there was something in her pschosexual makeup that made her aroused by it. Most men find lesbian sex a big turn-on, but I assure you my wife would not be in the least aroused by gay porn of any sort.

Being aroused by people of a certain gender and wanting to have sex with people of a certain gender are not necessarily as deeply intertwined as society as a whole would believe, but both are aspects of sexuality, are they not?

>>Gender identity is a different issue from sexual orientation, or I'd be a transman.<<

Different, yes, but not totally divorced from it. A man who wants to have sex with men as a man is homosexual, but another man who wants to have sex with men as a woman is suffering from a form of gender dysphoria. Is the latter person a homosexual who wants to become a woman, or a straight woman trapped in a man's body?

>>...the idea that liking women exists independent of maleness is sort of a mindtrip for them.<<

I have to admit, one of my closest gay friends in college once had an awkward conversation with me in which I tried to elicit from him "What is it like to not care about breasts?" Of course, not caring about them, it wasn't something particularly suitable for discussing; it's just the way it was for him.

>>This is really only confusing if you assume that enjoying anal penetration = gay.<<

Which a lot of people do assume. While I neither assume nor find the idea arousing myself, I do think I see what the issue is. In many ways it may seem even more unnatural than gay sex, since at least in gay sex, the person penetrating has a penis. In having a female partner doing the penetration, she'll either have to use some sort of device or I suppose digital stimulation is a possibility.

Basically, the idea is that of a man wanting sex with a woman, but a woman with a penis. (If the spammers are any indication, that's not such an unusual preoccupation anyway. :P ) It's sort of a contradiction in terms.

>>http://youtube.com/watch?v=4BRI0NtQ1DU<<

And yet somehow I knew that was coming...

>>John has Stage 1 prostate cancer and Bob has a Stage 4 glioblastoma, but they've both got some form of cancer.<<

Admittedly, biology and medicine is not one of my strong points, but it's my understanding that "cancer" is not so much a single disease, but a whole family of afflictions that have certain similarities. Someone I know was recently found to have cancer in his lungs, but the doctors said it was not lung cancer. Even though it was in his lungs, they could tell it was from somewhere else in his body.

Taking your analogy and running with it myself, say homosexuality is the "cancer", but you have a guy who is gay and wants a sex change. Is the "gender dysphoria cancer" a separate disease from the "gay cancer", or was it simply that the "gay cancer" "metastasized" to gender dysphoria?

>>Mild but constant headaches might signal some kind of fatigue symptom, whereas a sharp and severe headache might be a brain tumor.

And there actually is a ten-point pain scale.<<

I know, that's actually why I used it, although it really makes little sense to me: I actually went to the ER with a headache last year, and they asked me where it was on a scale of ten. I said I guessed it was an eight, but I suspect if someone walked in with a baseball bat and smashed my kneecaps, I'd have to say, "Oh, if that headache was an eight, my knees are a 23!" The point is that saying a headache is an eight isn't a description of the real problem, only a symptom. Sure, you have a Kinsey score, but do you think that simply giving your Kinsey score is all it takes to describe your personal sexual drive?

Liadan said...

>>Maybe it's just my bias due to my own placement closer to the middle of the Kinsey scale, but I find it hard to believe that one cannot find emotional fulfillment with a close friend regardless of gender. It's emotional fulfillment that I think is the true core of a successful relationship, much more than anything sexual, although I'll grant that sexual compatibility is something that ranks way up there for things that make for a healthy relationship.<<

I suppose there I would have to argue that emotional fulfillment, as it were, isn't a separate entity from sexual fulfillment. Not that there aren't people who are very good at separating their emotions from sex, but generally speaking, your sex life with your partner is going to be part of the emotional bond you have with them. Even a couple who is happily mutually celibate would still be "sexually fulfilled" in that their lack of a physical sex life is agreeable to them both.

A marriage is more than a close friendship-- built on the same foundation, perhaps, but to different ends. My girlfriend *is* my friend, but she is not JUST my friend because there is more to our relationship than that.

>>Is that neccessarily about your sexual drive, though?<<

Without getting too detailed about it-- there was only so long that my regard for him as a person could overlook my libido's firm conviction that a *male* person was not going to cut it in the long run.

>>Most men find lesbian sex a big turn-on, but I assure you my wife would not be in the least aroused by gay porn of any sort.<<

And yet if you've been to any con in the last decade or so, you'll have seen the flotillas of yaoi fangirls. Clearly boy-on-boy action has its fans among the ladies.

>>but a [biological male] who wants to have sex with men as a woman is suffering from a form of gender dysphoria. Is the latter person a homosexual who wants to become a woman, or a straight woman trapped in a man's body?<<

Most straight transwomen will tell you (based on what I've read, anyway) they consider themselves the latter. Even the nelliest gay man has a sense of himself as a MAN, but a transsexual woman does not-- she sees herself as a WOMAN. On the flip side, a lot of transmen spend time identifying as butch lesbians, but ultimately transition-- because being even a very butch lesbian is not the same thing as being a man.

The connections between gender identity and sexuality per se are an area of study unto themselves, but suffice it to say that Western society tends to collapse gender identity and sexuality to a reductive extent. Hence the "wait.. do we treat her like a CHICK, or a DUDE?" conundrum I've run into.

>>In having a female partner doing the penetration, she'll either have to use some sort of device or I suppose digital stimulation is a possibility. Basically, the idea is that of a man wanting sex with a woman, but a woman with a penis. (If the spammers are any indication, that's not such an unusual preoccupation anyway. :P ) It's sort of a contradiction in terms.<<

If lesbians and rocket-shaped sex toys are any indication, liking penetration != wanting an actual penis to do said penetration. In the same vein, saying that straight men who like anal sex therefore like women with penises is... how shall I put this... a bit of a stretch.

>>Taking your analogy and running with it myself, say homosexuality is the "cancer", but you have a guy who is gay and wants a sex change. Is the "gender dysphoria cancer" a separate disease from the "gay cancer", or was it simply that the "gay cancer" "metastasized" to gender dysphoria?<<

I'd say transsexuality would be a separate syndrome with "symptoms" which initially mimic homosexuality, much like Lyme disease initially feels like a really horrible flu. (Not that I'm especially thrilled to be using a disease model, but I did start it, after all.)

>>I know, that's actually why I used it, although it really makes little sense to me: I actually went to the ER with a headache last year, and they asked me where it was on a scale of ten. I said I guessed it was an eight, but I suspect if someone walked in with a baseball bat and smashed my kneecaps, I'd have to say, "Oh, if that headache was an eight, my knees are a 23!"<<

Yeah, I actually had a conversation with my brother about the subjectivity of the pain scale the other day. It's not totally useless, but it's hardly a definitive measure of anything. That's medicine for you.

>>Sure, you have a Kinsey score, but do you think that simply giving your Kinsey score is all it takes to describe your personal sexual drive?<<

That's why all the cool kids are using Klein grids! It's like the Kinsey scale cubed-- has ratings for all sorts of different aspects.

I jest, but yeah, sexual orientation doesn't describe everything, or even most of someone's sexuality-- and I would argue that it's not meant to; all it does is describe someone's preference of partner gender. That doesn't mean labels like "homosexual" are useless, but they're often used to connote more than they denote culturally-- which is the real problem. The "myth of homosexuality" is not that homosexuality per se doesn't exist, but a monolithic, Platonic ideal of Homosexuality doesn't actually exist in human form.

Brucker said...

And perhaps, as much as I have enjoyed the debate, that's where I'll let it drop, bacause that's my point.

The title "The Myth of Homosexuality" is not meant to really say that there is no such thing a homosexuality, but was tool to get people to read, or so I hoped. The real point is that when you say "so-and-so is a homosexual" not only are you not saying anything about them as a person outside of the sexual realm, but you're actually not saying much about them within the sexual realm, either.

And to open another can of worms, all of this also gets complicated by politics on both ends of the spectrum. I know a lesbian who is looked down upon by other lesbians at times because her girlfriend is bisexual. So on the right they say your relationship os not valid because it's with a woman, but on the left they say it's not valid because it's with the wrong sort of woman!

Anyway, thanks for pointing me the Klein grid concept, which definitely comes closer to a full classification, but I still don't quite think it covers all the bases.