‘Pitchers’ & ‘Catchers’: Thinking about gay sex

(Note: this post contains rude words, and talks about people’s naughty bits, and the things that they like to do with them.  If you’re accessing this somewhere where such things might be frowned upon, then you might want to go and look at this entirely-safe-for-work picture of kittens instead…)

There’s a rather cute assumption amongst some heterosexuals that gay men fall into two neat groups: those who like to fuck, and those who like to get fucked.  I don’t particularly blame straight people for this.  When they have sex, there’s one person with a pointy thing, and one person with a selection of holey things into which the pointy thing can be put, and so it’s not unreasonable that they might assume that there’s a similar divide amongst gay men.  In fact, when two men have sex there’s a total of two pointy things, and four holey things, and it’s a rare couple who don’t explore at least part of the full range of options.  This idea that there are two different sexual ‘types’ amongst gay men, each of whom prefers a particular sexual role, is based, I think, on a misunderstanding about gay relationships on the part of some heterosexuals (and a few homosexuals – see below).

Homosexuality isn’t an ersatz form of heterosexuality.  Gay people aren’t ‘heterosexuals gone wrong’, so when we fall in love, we’re not trying to create some tragic imitation of a male-female relationship.  We’re not trying to be as much like straight people as possible, so when we have sex we don’t try and pretend that one of us is a ‘woman’ and one of us is a ‘man’.  A gay man is romantically and sexually attracted, as a man, to another man, because he is a man.  Neither man wants to be a woman, and neither man wants the other man to be a woman.  This is what homosexuality means, after all, which is why I’m always surprised by the difficulty a certain kind of heterosexual bigot has in understanding it.  But perhaps I shouldn’t be, because the truth is, as always, a little more complicated than a neat paragraph like this makes it seem.

It doesn’t take a great deal of thought to realise that in almost every society heterosexuality is the dominant sexual culture, as it certainly is in ours.  This isn’t something I’m complaining about, and I don’t see it as unfair – a substantial majority of people are straight, so heterosexuality is inevitably going to be the dominant force – but it does have a number of effects.  One of the most powerful effects is that it’s very hard to completely resist the tendency to look at homosexuality in heterosexual terms, even if you are, to quote Freddie Mercury, ‘as gay as a daffodil, dear’.  For example, even though two men in bed together can enjoy a more wide-ranging experience than an opposite-sex couple can, you will still find gay men who assign themselves to a particular sexual role, and use the terms ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ (or ‘active’ and ‘passive’, which have the same meaning) to describe themselves.(1)

(If you need a definition, by the way, someone who is top/ active likes to do the penetrating, someone who likes to be penetrated is bottom/ passive, and someone who likes to do both is described as versatile.  Some people insist that these terms relate only to the roles enjoyed in anal sex, while others say that they are more general ‘demeanours’ that apply to all sexual activities.)

As you will have already guessed, I’m not sure that there’s any validity to the idea of a rigid separation between the two.  Based on my own experiences and what I’ve read, it seems to me that very few people are either 100% active or 100% passive.  Most people are versatile to at least some degree, though I do think it’s likely the preference exists on a spectrum, and that some gay men are decidedly more comfortable in one or other role.  Some gay men do still insist, though, that they are rigidly one thing or the other, and the question of why they would choose to view their own sexual urges in what are essentially heterosexual terms is an interesting one.

From what I can tell, people who claim to be exclusively passive seem either to be suffering from a significant level of ‘performance anxiety’, or are sexually inexperienced, and think that being passive is the ‘easier’ option.  There seem to be similar but different motivations for people who claim to be 100% active.  So, there are people who are having some difficulty coming to terms with being gay (even now there are a lot of men who think that because they are never penetrated they can’t be gay, despite the obvious meaning of them choosing to have sex with men and not women).  There are also people who are bothered by the ‘stigma’ associated with taking a passive role (some people see being penetrated as incompatible with ‘being a man’).

All of this ‘analysis’, if you can call it that, is completely anecdotal, of course, but it does act as background for the main point of this post, which is to comment on some of the issues raised by a fascinating article, ‘Top Scientists Get to the Bottom of Gay Male Sex Role Preferences’, which appeared on the Scientific American website a few days week while ago.  The article was written by Jesse Bering of Queen’s University, and its major aim is to provide an overview of the current scientific understanding of what may lie behind the sex roles enjoyed by gay men.  There is much in the piece that is very interesting, although one or two things about it strike me as rather odd.

To start with the odd first, the article takes a strangely defensive tone, as though writing about homosexuality is something which has to be justified.  The second paragraph opens like this:

I’m very much aware that some readers may think that this type of article does not belong on this website. But the great thing about good science is that it’s amoral, objective and doesn’t cater to the court of public opinion. Data don’t cringe; people do.

I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this kind of nervousness in an article written 15 years ago, but in 2009 it seems a little out of place.  Judging by the first couple of pages of comments (the article has attracted a total of 80 at the time I’m writing this, but I haven’t read them all), most people seem perfectly prepared to read about the topic on a scientific website.  A number of commenters object to the article on the grounds that the science seems rather thin, which is a little unfair, I think – the article is a survey of a research field that’s at an early stage, so it’s not the author’s fault if there aren’t a lot of definite conclusions as yet.  Still, in general the author doesn’t seem to have been met with the hostility or embarrassment he was expecting, which is reassuring.

So what of the science the article discusses?  This starts with a 2003 paper by Trevor Hart, which generated the not-particularly-startling revelation that if you ask a bunch of gay men whether they are top, bottom or versatile, and then ask them what kind of sex they’ve had, the guys who say they’re tops will say that they’ve topped, the guys who say they’re bottoms will say they’ve bottomed, and the guys who say they’re versatile will say they’ve done both.  This doesn’t mean that they have actually had this kind of sex, of course, just that this is what they feel comfortable talking about.  Essentially, the researchers have asked the study participants the same question – what sort of sexual activities are you prepared to tell us about? – twice.  It would be a mistake, though, to be too critical of the researchers, as finding out this information wasn’t the major focus of their research.

The work was funded by the Centers for Disease Control in the USA, and was trying to establish if self-identified labels were correlated with unsafe sexual practices.  There has been a persistent belief that men who identify as active are less likely to practice safer sex than men who identify as passive, because transmission of HIV from the passive to the active partner is less likely, and so tops who practice unsafe sex are at less personal risk.  Personally, I had always found this argument fairly contradictory – if guys who fuck say they don’t use condoms, and guys who get fucked say they do, then clearly one or other group must be lying – and I also disliked the implicit assertion that active gay men wouldn’t care enough about their partners to want to reduce the risk to them.  In any case, Hart’s study showed that there was no clear correlation, and that people were about as likely to have used condoms whichever role they said they preferred.  (It’s worth noting that Hart’s study concentrated on gay men who had been diagnosed as HIV positive, a group whom one might expect to have been, prior to diagnosis, less rigorous in their condom use than the majority of gay men.)

Despite this negative finding (which is, of course, revealing in its own way), the study also discovered other interesting correlations.  So, for example, the study found that men who identified as tops were more likely to refuse to describe themselves as gay, and were more likely to have had recent sexual encounters with women.  On its own, this finding would suggest that men who describe themselves as active may be more likely to be bisexual, although this straightforward interpretation is complicated by the additional finding that men who identified as tops were also more likely to admit to feelings of self-loathing about their homosexual activities and desires.  This would suggest that such men may perhaps only engage in sex with women because they are trying to disguise their homosexual identity.  Another tentative conclusion one might draw from this finding is that it offers some support for my anecdotal claim earlier that those who describe themselves as exclusively active may be having some difficulty in coming to terms with being gay, or with the stigma that they believe attaches to being the passive partner.  This is perhaps borne out by another finding from the same study, which suggests that those who describe themselves as versatile seem to enjoy a greater sense of psychological well-being than those who claim to be exclusively passive or active.

Hart also found that the descriptors top and bottom seemed to be valid for sexual activities other than anal sex.  So, for example, a self-identified bottom was more likely to report performing fellatio (sucking cock) than he was having fellatio performed on him (having his cock sucked).  In his Scientific American article, Bering goes on to note that another study by David A Moskowitz and others has confirmed Hart’s findings with regard to sexual role preferences in general, but has also found that the descriptions seemed to apply to even more general behavioural traits, with tops reporting themselves to be more assertive and aggressive (i.e., more ‘masculine’) than bottoms.  On the face of it, this seems to confirm the belief that terms like active and passive (or top and bottom) describe a general demeanour rather than only the role enjoyed within a particular sexual act, but I think there are reasons to be cautious about Moskowitz’s findings.

For a start, he sourced his data from one particular dating website, which invited its users to publicly indicate their interest (or otherwise) in ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’ a very wide range of sexual activities, including several that would only be of interest to a very small minority of people.  The presence of specific information about a broad range of sexual activities was obviously useful in establishing whether there were correlations between the role preferred in anal sex and the preferred role in other activities, but it seems to me that the open discussion of ultra-minority practices such as coprophilia might discourage gay men with more conservative or mainstream sexual interests from signing-up to the website.  This might in turn have an impact on how representative the data derived from it are.

It also seems to me that a website such as the one used for the study, which allows members to search for short- and long- term partners interested in a whole range of ‘fetish’ activities, might be especially attractive to those who are interested in dominance/  submission, which is often understood by its participants to be more of a ‘lifestyle’ than a particular collection of sexual interests.  One might therefore expect that the kind of person who posts a profile on a website of this type might be more likely than a ‘mainstream’ gay man to believe that their status as a top or bottom is applicable in every aspect of their lives.  (Interestingly, Bering also suggests in his Scientific American article that the descriptors ‘dominant’ and ‘submissive’ are synonyms for top and bottom, which it seems to me they are not.  Even the most sexually conservative of gay men would be likely to have some sense of his position on the top-bottom spectrum, but would be less likely to have any feeling for dominance/ submission, which is a more specialised interest, just as it is within heterosexual culture.)

The next study Bering discusses was carried out by Matthew H McIntyre, and reported in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003.  In this research, a relatively small sample of 44 male members of Harvard University’s gay and lesbian alumni group completed a questionnaire in which they were asked to provide a number of details about their childhood, as well as their interest in particular types of work, and their sexual preferences.  McIntyre found that those men who reported stereotypically ‘feminine’ behavioural traits as a child were more likely to have a preference for stereotypically ‘feminine’ occupations, and were also more likely to have taken a passive role in their three most recent sexual encounters (McIntyre only asked his participants about anal sex).  Conversely, men who reported stereotypically ‘masculine’ behaviours as a child were more likely to have a preference for stereotypically ‘masculine’ occupations, and were also more likely to have taken an active role in sex.

As with the data reported by Hart and Moskowitz, this seems to support the idea that a preference for active or passive sexual roles reflects a difference in general demeanour.  McIntyre’s data also seems to offer explicit support for the idea that a preference for being a bottom is associated with stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits, and vice versa.  This apparent association bothers me, not least because it seems to contradict my confident assertion at the beginning of this post that homosexuality is not an ersatz form of heterosexuality.  If gay men can be divided into two groups, one of which ‘acts like a man’ and likes to fuck, and one of which ‘acts like a woman’ and likes to get fucked, then there would seem to be very striking similarities between homosexual and heterosexual couples.  There are, though, reasons for being cautious about placing too much reliance on these conclusions.

Firstly, this association is not what McIntyre was most interested in, and it is not what his research was primarily designed to investigate (I will come on to his main focus in a little while).  Secondly, McIntyre’s sample was fairly small, the people within it came from a fairly narrow social background – they had all studied at the very prestigious (and expensive) Harvard University – and they were self-selected.  Participants in studies are always volunteers, of course, but in this case the fairly low response rate (only 28.6% of those invited to take part did so) suggests that a substantial majority of those contacted by McIntyre were not happy about participating in the research.  Given that my discomfort with the idea that there are ‘manly’ and ‘womanly’ gay men is fairly widespread, it is perhaps possible that those who do not think about themselves in these terms were amongst those who failed to respond, and that this might have had the effect of skewing McIntyre’s results.  I also note that McIntyre’s respondents were relatively old (they ranged from 31 to 76), which may have had an impact on their readiness to describe themselves in terms of a ‘heterosexual’ paradigm, since older explanations of homosexuality tended to focus on the idea that homosexuals were simply heterosexuals who had deviated from the ‘normal’ path of psychosexual development.(2)

This is all very interesting (well, it is to me…), but McIntyre’s primary interest in conducting the research was to investigate if there was a consistent relationship between a physical measurement known as the ‘2D:4D ratio’ and sex role preferences in gay men.  The 2D:4D ratio is a standard measure of the difference in length between the 2nd digit (index finger) and 4th digit (ring finger) on someone’s hand (the right hand is usually used in preference to the left).  A 1998 study by JT Manning and others at the University of Liverpool found that men had, on average, a 2D:4D ratio of 0.98 (meaning that their ring fingers were fractionally longer than their index fingers), while women had an average ratio of 1.0 (meaning that the two fingers were of the same length).  The same study also found that a ‘male typical’ 2D:4D ratio (i.e. a relatively longer ring finger) was associated with higher testosterone levels in men, while a ‘female typical’ 2D:4D ratio (i.e. a relatively shorter ring finger) was associated with higher levels of female hormones in both men and women.  The authors suggested (for relatively complex reasons to do with early-to-mid-term foetal development and hox genes) that the 2D:4D ratio represented an indirect measure of pre-natal exposure to male hormones, and that this early exposure in turn affected the adult production of sex hormones.(3)

Following on from Manning’s work, a number of other researchers became interested in the question of whether the 2D:4D ratio might be associated with a whole range of behavioural factors which are presumed to relate to male and female characteristics.  The largest investigation into the relationship between 2D:4D and sexual orientation was carried out by Richard A Lippa, and was published in 2003.  Lippa’s study found no consistent correlation in women.  Amongst men, Lippa found that a higher 2D:4D ratio (i.e. a more ‘female’ result) was more common amongst gay men, while a lower ratio (i.e. a more ‘male’ result) was more common among straight men.  The study seems (so far as this layman can tell) to have been reasonably well designed, although there are perhaps one or two reasons for caution.

For a start, Lippa himself drew attention to the fact that the differences between heterosexual and homosexual men were very small, and that they were much less pronounced than variations between men from different ethnic groups.  He seems to have taken great care to verify that his findings remained valid across different ethnic groups, and to ensure the accuracy of his measurements, but I remain concerned that, when the differences are so small, minor inaccuracies in measurement might have a major effect.  In this context, the fact that Lippa seems to have been aware, as he was making his measurements, which of the participants were gay and which were straight might have led to him being subconsciously inclined to detect the very tiny signs of a correlation that he wanted to find.  Another reason for caution is that previous studies (which, again, Lippa drew attention to in his paper) had found the exact opposite – i.e. that ‘male typical’ results were more common among gay men than straight men.  These previous studies were far smaller than Lippa’s, and also less ethnically diverse, but this still seems to suggest either that the relationship between 2D:4D and pre-natal hormone levels, or alternatively the link between pre-natal hormone levels and adult sexual orientation, is more complex than might be assumed.

It’s in this light that McIntyre’s main finding is so interesting.  In addition to asking his volunteers to fill in a questionnaire about their behavioural traits and sexual preferences, he also asked them to supply a photocopy of their right hands, in order that he could assess their 2D:4D ratios.  His results showed that, amongst his cohort of exclusively gay men, those who had a smaller 2D:4D ratio (that is, a more typically ‘male’ result) were more likely to prefer a passive sexual role, while those who had a more typically ‘female’ result preferred to take an active role.  All of the caveats I raised earlier with regard to this research – the small size of the study, the restricted social background of the participants, the low response rate etc – still apply, but this finding remains interesting, because it runs counter to what you might stereotypically expect.  If those men who were more ‘typically male’ liked to get fucked while the more ‘typically female’ ones liked to fuck, then this suggests that, even if a lower pre-natal exposure to male hormones helps to determine that a man will be gay, it doesn’t determine sexual preferences in the way one might expect.  In other words, the bigoted presumption that passive gay men are ‘halfway to being women’ isn’t borne out by this evidence.

On a purely personal level, I’m always slightly ambivalent about scientific attempts to investigate sexuality.  I can’t ever quite escape the worry that, even though the actual science is neutral, the way it’s discussed and thought about often isn’t.  For example, it seems noteworthy to me that most scientists who investigate sexual orientation think about it in terms of what ‘causes’ homosexuality, rather than what ‘causes’ heterosexuality.  Of course, on one level, this simply reflects the relative prevalence of the two orientations – heterosexuality is commonplace, homosexuality rarer – but the same perspective can also be co-opted by a more judgemental attitude that regards sexuality in terms, not of what is common or uncommon, but what is ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’.  Those who incline to this perspective can – and do – take advantage of any hint of a genetic or physiological cause for homosexuality as evidence that it can be classed as a ‘disability’ that ‘sufferers’ should be given ‘help’ to ‘overcome’.

Some sexual activists are far more concerned with the negative possibilities of this sort of research than I am.  They see all efforts at analysing or explaining sexuality as attempts to restrict freedom and police pleasure.  They are as uncomfortable with rigid categories like ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ as I am with the idea of rigorously separated ‘tops’ and ‘bottoms’.  Personally, I am too much of an empiricist to ever want to completely abandon the labels ‘gay’, ‘straight’, and, crucially, ‘bisexual’.  It seems to me that observation demonstrates that there are some people who are exclusively attracted to the opposite sex, others who are attracted exclusively to the same sex, and others still who have a non-exclusive attraction to both (although they may have a preference for one over the other).  I certainly don’t think the categories should be prescriptive – no-one should be in the business of telling someone that they have to live their lives in accordance with a particular label – but it seems to me that they remain valid, at least at the level of mass observation.

Anyway, it’s time to start wrapping this impossibly long post up.  When I first read Jesse Bering’s article, I wanted to do a hatchet-job on it.  I was profoundly uncomfortable with the association he seemed to be making between ‘female’ physical attributes and particular sexual preferences.  I still am uncomfortable with that association, and I still think it reflects, in part, a tendency we all have to think about gay sex in straight terms (not to mention a tendency to believe that certain types of sexual behaviour are ‘natural’ for men and women).  Less justifiably, I was also unthinkingly dismissive of the idea that something as complex and shifting and multi-faceted as human sexual behaviour could be explained in what seemed to be such crudely mechanistic terms.

My opinion on the last point has partly been changed by an apparently un-related TV programme I watched this week, called The Secret Life of Twins (although homosexuality is to be discussed in next week’s episode).  I can’t recommend this programme highly enough – it’s a science programme on a mainstream channel (BBC1) in which the material was popularised without being dumbed-down, and it managed to teach me things I didn’t know.  One of those things was that, by studying the differences between non-identical twins (who have, usually, the same upbringing, but different genes) and identical twins (who have the same upbringing and the same genes), it’s been possible to demonstrate that genetic factors are involved in all kinds of behaviours.  So, for example, identical twins are more likely to have the same capacity (or lack of capacity) for religious faith than non-identical twins are.  If genetics can partially influence something as personal to me as my atheism (which is based on the empiricism I mentioned earlier, and therefore affects every idea and opinion I have, including the ones I’m expressing now), then it would seem just as likely that genetic or other physiological factors might have an influence on the kind of sex I enjoy.

Still, the major thing that has changed my mind is chasing down and reading the various papers Jesse Bering refers to in his article, and others that related to the things that he talks about.  I am no scientist (this might be a good time to mention that a D at A-level Biology is my highest scientific qualification…), and so I can’t be certain that I have always understood them (and for that reason alone you shouldn’t rely on anything I say here).  My experience, though, is that reading these studies has been refreshingly free of the ‘but what about the clearly significant factor x that they’re ignoring’ response that I usually have when chasing down the science behind popular articles.  I think there are still reasons to be cautious about some of the findings – I hope I’ve managed to point out why – and I haven’t even tried to look for any studies in a whole range of areas that may impact on the validity of the findings.  I’d be interested, for example, to know about the relationship between 2D:4D and male bisexuality – do bi men ‘split the difference’ between straight and gay men; do bi men who have a greater preference for female partners show as more ‘manly’ than their male-preferring counterparts?  I’d also be interested to find out why 2D:4D seems to be indicative of sexual orientation in men, but not women, and whether this suggests that the whole ‘endocrine model’ (i.e., the idea that early exposure to sex hormones influences the development of adult sexual orientation) is invalid, or if it suggests that male and female sexuality are separate phenomena, and so need separate models to explain them.

On a personal and political level I am, as I say, disturbed by some of the implications of some of this research.  I suspect that a major part of the problem is that I am yet to fully accept that there is a difference between hard science and the uses to which it is put.  This is, clearly, my problem, not a fault in the science.  Even if it does turn out that gay men are, physiologically speaking, more ‘female’ than straight men, that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us, or that we are less valid people as a result.  In any case, given a flat-out conflict between what I would like to be true and what seems actually to be true, I would like to hope that I will always come down on the side of the data.  I wouldn’t be much of an empiricist if I didn’t, would I?.

On that basis I would say that I am very pleased to have found Jesse Bering’s article, even though my initial reaction was that it was simply re-confirming a bunch of un-examined stereotypes, because the process of reading and researching around it (together with watching the BBC documentary) has opened my eyes to a lot of new information.  The article as it stands serves as a very good layman’s introduction to a fascinating area of research, although I would have liked to see it deal specifically with the concern that it may be reinforcing stereotypes, since I suspect I would not be alone in having this initial reaction.  That said, I also think Jesse Bering deserves praise for drawing attention to the apparently contradictory, certainly complicated, nature of the findings in the whole area.  Apart from anything else, it’s a really good way of reminding all of us, whatever angle we approach from, that our preconceptions about sex and sexuality are very likely to be at least partly wrong.

 

(1) – Actually, there are a million of these.  The title of the post is taken from one that relates to positions in baseball – the pitcher throws the ball, while the catcher…well, you can probably work that out for yourself.  I guess the UK equivalent would be the bowler and wicket-keeper in cricket.  Possibly striker and goalie, if you prefer a footballing analogy.  Or, if you’re into Rugby Union, maybe the appropriate terms are inside centre and fullback.  A fullback is, according to the link, ‘unconcerned about the prospect of being gang tackled’.  Excuse me, I just have to go and snigger to myself for a bit…  Return

(2) – I’m well within this age-range myself these days, so I’m not meaning to be rude when I describe it as ‘comparatively old’.  It remains potentially significant that the youngest participant in McIntyre’s study could not have been born later than 1972, with all that implies in terms of the prevailing social, political and cultural attitudes towards homosexuality at the time they were growing up.  Return

(3) – A recent study, published earlier this year, throws doubt on the interpretation of the 2D:4D ratio, arguing that the differences result simply from the fact, as men tend to be physically larger than women, they also tend to have larger hands, and that this may have skewed the results of all previous research.  Lippa’s study seems to have taken account of the possibility that differences in height might explain differences in the 2D:4D ratio (by checking that the correlation remained valid when only people of similar height were compared), and to have found that differences in height did not, on their own, explain the effect.  However, I lack the knowledge and ability to make an accurate assessment of the relative merits of the two claims myself.  Return

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14 Responses to ‘Pitchers’ & ‘Catchers’: Thinking about gay sex

  1. Alex says:

    Rather frustratingly, A Softer World have already mocked the whole ersatz-heterosexuality thing. I was going to do that!

    >>From what I can tell, people who claim to be exclusively passive seem either to be suffering from a significant level of ‘performance anxiety’, or are sexually inexperienced, and think that being passive is the ‘easier’ option.

    That strikes me as being a little [citation needed]. Personally, my tastes run in that direction, and while I’ll cop to sexually inexperienced, I don’t think it applies more generally.
    I think labels like active and passive (or whatever we’re calling them this week) retain some utility, in that, aside from gender roles and the like, in that some people can just prefer to the point of near-exclusivity one kind of sexual role or the other without necessarily buying into any stereotypes or whatever. To put it another way, sometimes a cigar is just a penis.
    …I mean, a cigar.

  2. lsnduck says:

    “the fairly low response rate (only 28.6%”

    Depending on the details, 28.6% might be a very good response rate as these things go.

    “not to mention a tendency to believe that certain types of sexual behaviour are ‘natural’ for men and women”

    I anm glad you put that in. Reading through, that one assumption was ringing lots of very large bells in my head. Passive is normal feminine behaviour and active normal masculine? My wife would hunt you down and slap you with a large fish for that assumption. Closely followed by me.

    Equivalent studies looking at the full range of hetrosexual behaviours would be every bit as interesting *and vital for comparison* rather than relying on a such a sterotype.

    Of course they may already have been done, but I really need to go and do some work; ta for the interesting Monday morning.

  3. Kapitano says:

    I read the same report – but decided it was too silly for me to spend a few hours debunking it. I’m glad you did though, because it’s getting taken seriously by scientists who ought to know better.

    That said, my own thoughts:

    People tend to talk about “Top vs Bottom” and “Active vs Passive” as though they were the same dichotomy. And sometimes they throw in “Dominant vs Submissive” as another false equivocation.

    These seem to be based on two assumptions – the kind of assumptions which are taken as obviously true when implicit and unspoken, but reveal themselves as obviously false when make explicit.

    (1) The partner using the penis is doing all the work.
    (2) The partner using the penis is the one in charge.

    So, the inserter is the active one, the one doing the pounding, the one who moves their body while the other remains relatively still? Not if it’s a typical gloryhole situation – where the “active” partner stands and provides the penis, while the “passive” parter goes to town on it. And not in anal sex situations where the inserter sits quite still and the insertee rides them.

    The notion of “giving vs. receiving head”, where the giver is the one getting penetrated and vice versa, is troublesome to anyone who equates penis-possession with power, especially as most gay male sex is oral sex.

    The inserter is the dominant one, the one who decides who does what and when, the one who gives the orders? Anyone who’s experienced performance anxiety while being told to “fuck me harder” and “get it bigger for me” knows that’s not true.

    Also, I have to wonder how the writers of this report conceptualise lesbian sex. Presumably they think, when there’s no penis, the women somehow bring each other to orgasm by kneeling passively at each other.

    No, it seems to be we’re dealing not with a single spectrum between fucker and fuckee – instead we’ve got three axes to consider.

    Top – Bottom: Who generally inserts, and who generally gets inserted into.

    Active – Passive: Who does most of the moving, whether it’s with mouth, hand, arse or whatever, and who stays still.

    Dominant – Submissive: Who mostly decides what happens, and who mostly goes along with it.

    In stereotypical heterosexual sex, the male is the top, the physically active one, and the boss – not just in the bedroom. The female of course is the one who gets fucked, the one who lies on the bed while it’s done to her, and the demure obedient wife – not just in the bedroom.

    So social roles, interpersonal psychology and sexual preference all intermingle.

    Our gay gloryhole sucker is Bottom-Active-Dominant, which makes his ideal partner on the other side of the wall Top-Passive-Submissive – immobile, happy to let someone else put their mouthwhere they want when they feel like it, and staying errect for the benefit of the sucker. The suckee even provides the climax of the interaction, which isn’t so much their own orgasm, but the cum they provide.

    Of course, the two may not see themselves in this way, and may both define themselves as “the one doing all the work”.

    There are probably other axes to consider – but at the moment I have no idea what they are.

  4. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    A general point first – it’s interesting, i find, that i’ve been simultaneously told that i’ve been too ready to identify stereotypes where they don’t exist (‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’) and, on the other hand, that i could have drawn more attention to stereotypes (‘Equivalent studies looking at the full range of hetrosexual behaviours would be every bit as interesting *and vital for comparison* rather than relying on a such a sterotype’). Sometimes it feels like you can’t win whatever you do…;o)

    I’m going to do a slightly unusual thing (for me), and reply to each comment in a separate comment of my own. You all say lots of interesting things, and if i tried to reply to you all in the one comment, it would turn out to be massively long (oo-er, missus…). Anyway, that means there’s going to be a delay between my replies appearing (and potentially quite a long one if i get distracted by something else), but please don’t assume i’m being mean and not talking to you. :o)

  5. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Alex –

    Hey, nice to see you popping up on my blog again. :o) And thanks for the link.

    That strikes me as being a little [citation needed]

    It’s very [citation needed], i think. To be fair, i do make that point in the paragraph before the one you quote from (saying that my opinions are based on ‘my personal experience and what i’ve read’ rather than anything more rigorous) and in the paragraph after (where i say that ‘All of this ‘analysis’, if you can call it that, is completely anecdotal, of course’).

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, Alex, i think we may be using different words to say fairly similar things. At least, to me ‘my tastes run in that direction’ and ‘some gay men are decidedly more comfortable in one or other role’ seem to be expressing more or less the same idea. It’s the idea that there are particular sexual roles which are wholly separate and apply rigidly throughout life that i find hard to take…er…difficult to swallow…no, that’s no better… oh i know! – unpersuasive. ;o)

    But, like i say, all of this is anecdotal. Or to put it another way – what the fuck do i know? ;o) I hope, btw, that i didn’t offend you. :o)

  6. aethelreadtheunread says:

    lsnduck –

    Depending on the details, 28.6% might be a very good response rate as these things go.

    I’m sure. But i think it still needs to be pointed out that, when only something over a quarter of those who were invited to take part chose to do so, it cannot be assumed that the group who do respond are representative (especially when the researchers do not report having undertaken any statistical analysis to establish whether or not the sample was representative).

    Passive is normal feminine behaviour and active normal masculine? My wife would hunt you down and slap you with a large fish for that assumption. Closely followed by me.

    LOL :o) You do realise i’m going to be looking over my shoulder for an angry straight couple with a fish for weeks now… ;o)

    This may be partly a problem with language, i think (perhaps i should have stuck with ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, but they’re Americanisms, and so they sit slightly uncomfortably with me). In a heterosexual context, active is probably synonymous with assertive, and passive with submissive, and i agree it’s wrong to say that those behaviours map ‘naturally’ or ‘normally’ onto the sexes – they don’t. Generally, though, i’ve been using the words active and passive to mean, respectively, ‘the partner who penetrates’ and the ‘the partner who gets penetrated’. I know of one heterosexual activity – pegging – where the woman would take the active role (in the ‘gay sex’ sense of the word) in sex, and there are probably others (i’m no expert, after all…), but i would be surprised if, in the majority of heterosexual encounters, it was not the woman who was penetrated, and so ‘passive’, in that narrow sense of the word.

    This isn’t something i went into in the post – it’s 5000+ words as it is! – but some of the researchers are making a definite mistake in assuming that being passive equates to being submissive. One thing some gay men enjoy is being a ‘power bottom’. This involves being very sexually assertive (even aggressive), often with an ‘active’ partner who is noticeably submissive. When it comes to actual penetration, though, it’s the assertive guy who receives, and so the term ‘passive’ still applies to him. Obviously, i can’t speak from personal experience, but i would think there are probably quite a lot of straight women who are ‘power bottoms’, to use the gay terminology, and who certainly couldn’t be described as submissive, either sexually, or in their day-to-day lives.

    I agree with your point about the comparative studies of heterosexual behaviour (despite whingeing about it earlier…). They could be very informative, i think. Certainly i’d be quite interested to know if there’s a relationship between 2D:4D and sexual assertiveness/ submission in straight men and women. I’m afraid i don’t know if the studies have been done – i didn’t find a reference to one in any of the papers i looked at, but i didn’t go looking either. I was thinking about gay sex, after all… ;o)

    ta for the interesting Monday morning.

    You’re welcome. :o)

  7. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Kapitano –

    I read the same report – but decided it was too silly for me to spend a few hours debunking it. I’m glad you did though, because it’s getting taken seriously by scientists who ought to know better.

    I’m not 100% sure which report you mean – i.e. whether you’re talking about Jesse Bering’s article, or one of the papers he refers to, or one of the other ones that i’ve dragged into my post. If you are talking about Bering, then i’m not sure i have debunked it, as such. I think quite a lot of the research he describes is at an early stage, and some of it is drawing some fairly large conclusions from not all that much data, and some of the interpretation of the data is rather lacking in nuance, and some of the studies were better designed than others (i was most impressed by Lippa and least impressed by Moskowitz), but my general sense was actually surprisingly positive. The science doesn’t seem to have been distorted in the way that it so often is when you read a ‘scientists have discovered’ kind of headline, and what has been completed so far does, i think, genuinely identify interesting avenues for further (and far more sophisticated) research.

    Also, it didn’t take me a few hours to write the post. I wish it had. It took me lots of hours. Lots and lots and lots and… ;o)

    People tend to talk about “Top vs Bottom” and “Active vs Passive” as though they were the same dichotomy.

    I agree that in general usage the words ‘active’ and ‘passive’ carry a sense of ‘assertive’ and ‘submissive’, but in the context of gay sex i think they are synonyms for top and bottom. Gaydar, for example, uses the words that way, as does Recon. Obviously, you can define your words any way you want to, but i think a majority of gay men would be surprised to hear a ‘power bottom’ described as active, even though such a man is sexually assertive and his ‘top’ is often fairly submissive. I agree with you, though, that using the language in this way is imprecise, and that it tends to disguise and ‘normalise’ the assumption that men who like to be penetrated (and heterosexual women) are sexually submissive, and guys who like to penetrate (and heterosexual men) are sexually assertive.

    The notion of “giving vs. receiving head”, where the giver is the one getting penetrated and vice versa, is troublesome to anyone who equates penis-possession with power, especially as most gay male sex is oral sex.

    I agree that the words give and receive are usually reversed in oral sex. I would habitually say that a man fellating another man was ‘giving him a blowjob’. If you take a very reductive view of sex (which is what i was doing semi-seriously at the very start of my post, with my talk of ‘pointy things’ and ‘holey things’), then the guy giving a blowjob is ‘receiving’ a penis into his body, and is therefore providing a sexual ‘service’ to the guy he’s sucking off. Of course, to think like this you have to ignore the fact that giving a blowjob is itself a pleasurable activity – i don’t have a link to back this up, but i remember Dan Savage saying in a column once that gay male prostitutes report that their clients mostly wanted to go down on them, rather than have the prostitute do the sucking.

    That said, i think there is still a general perception that the person using their mouth to stimulate their partner’s penis is the one who is behaving in a more submissive fashion, and that the pleasure they feel in the act derives partly from the knowledge that they are behaving in a submissive way. This would be even more the case with rimming, i would think. But ‘general perception’ doesn’t neccesarily equate to ‘correct’, of course.

    Also, I have to wonder how the writers of this report conceptualise lesbian sex. Presumably they think, when there’s no penis, the women somehow bring each other to orgasm by kneeling passively at each other.

    LOL. One of the research papers i looked at (Moskowitz i think, but don’t hold me to it) did make a reference to ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ roles amongst lesbians, and that it might be worthwhile to see whether those social roles mapped on to what they referred to as ‘insertive sexual behaviours’. This was the language they used throughout the paper for male-male sexual activities (jncluding ones that don’t involve pentration, like having your boots licked), but still, it does suggest that they were presuming that lesbian sex always involves a dildo. Unless, of course, they were going to reconceptualise oral sex for lesbians as an ‘active’ activity – that is, that the woman performing cunnilingus is a ‘top’.

    Anyway, i agree – thinking about oral sex and the experiences of lesbian women does make the assumption that one person is a ‘giver’ and the other a ‘receiver’ seem even more reductive. In fact i’m starting to seriously wish i’d gone after those non-insertive ‘insertive behaviours’ in the main post.

    No, it seems to be we’re dealing not with a single spectrum between fucker and fuckee – instead we’ve got three axes to consider.

    I don’t want to tell you how long it took me to work out that you meant [plural of axis] and not [things used for chopping wood]… ;o)

    I broadly agree with your three axes, although with the caveat that the words you use to describe two of them – ‘active – passive’ and ‘dominant’ – ‘submissive’ – are generally assumed (in the context of gay sex) to mean something different to what you are using them to mean. Dominance and submission, for example, would I think be usually understood in this context to involve a whole complex of obedience-reward-transgression-’punishment’ (though the ‘punishments’ are intended to be as pleasurable as the rewards), and not just to define in basic terms who tends to lead and who tends to follow (although D/s does involve this sense as well, of course).

    The slight problem i have with the axes is that i think people probably shift around on all of them, depending on what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with, which is why when you write

    social roles, interpersonal psychology and sexual preference all intermingle.

    i find myself saying yes, absolutely. I think it would be very interesting to see some research into how these three things relate to each other. McIntyre did try and look into this, but because he was thinking in terms of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ behaviours, he framed his questionnaire in those terms. It would be very interesting to see the whole issue removed from gendered stereotypes (as Alex suggested in his comment), and just to look into how the extent of social assertiveness, and the general interpersonal ‘dynamic’ of a relationship (if appropriate – it would be just as interesting to look at one-night-stands), is reflected or contradicted in sexual activities which are modelled in the more complex way you propose. I suspect there probably are general associations, which may well hold true across same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, but i also suspect the various inter-relationships would be very, very compicated.

  8. J.Wibble says:

    I think the issue with stereotypes is that most of them do have a grain of truth in them, or stem from a time when that grain of truth was considerably larger than it is now, due to narrower societal definitions of people and their roles.

    I find questions about the role divisions between men and women somewhat more interesting than those between men and other men. The issue with comparing homosexuality to heterosexuality is that it can often fall into the trap of portraying heterosexuality as ‘normal’ from a moral rather than a biological perspective. I don’t think it’s untrue to say that homosexuality is, in biological terms, a deviation from ‘normal’ sexual attractions – after all, the survival of a species depends on reproduction, and if you don’t fancy having sex with people you can reproduce with (without outside assistance) then in purely Darwinist terms this would be an unfavourable trait. However, there is a big difference between talking about purely abstract scientific analysis and the moral connotations of such words as ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’. Homosexuality is no more immoral than the a four-leaf clover, and the issue of reproduction isn’t particularly important nowadays – quite frankly we could probably do with breeding a bit less.

    Relationships and sexual behaviour are far more complicated than can be accurately portrayed in any scientific study, because emotions are not quantitative variables. As I have just spent several weeks trying to convince my 14-year-old sister, sex is not necessarily a logical decision since these bizarre things called “hormones” steal your brain and provoke you into doing things that often in the cold light of day seem to make no sense. I’m aware that’s an incredibly simplified description of the emotional side of sex, but it has been widely indicated (often through popular culture) that sexual preference and behaviour is not something which can be clearly defined, mostly because the number of conflicting variables is astronomical.

    I am probably talking out of my arse again, but my own experience is that the dominance hierarchy of my relationship is very different from the sexual hierarcy and different again from the social hierarcy, all of which are viewed differently from inside and outside the relationship. These roles are also flexible, sometimes on a day-to-day basis and often due to factors that have nothing to do with sex. Personal definitions of roles are always insufficient, and most of the words we have to describe sexual attraction and behaviour are incredibly imprecise, which creates great problems with the ticky-box methods used to scientifically assess these scenarios. It’s difficult enough with two people; introduce a third party and all bets are off. I sometimes think I and my partners should approach some researchers, as I bet they’d be fascinated by us.

  9. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi J Wibble, and thanks for the comment. :o)

    I don’t think it’s untrue to say that homosexuality is, in biological terms, a deviation from ‘normal’ sexual attractions – after all, the survival of a species depends on reproduction, and if you don’t fancy having sex with people you can reproduce with (without outside assistance) then in purely Darwinist terms this would be an unfavourable trait.

    I think evolution is a more sophisticated theory than you allow for. The survival of a species depends on the survival of a viable number of offspring in each generation. In other words, for a species to prosper, there have to be the right number of individuals in each generation. Not so few that the species is at risk of falling victim to disease, or predation, or natural disaster, but not so many that the food and other resources on which the species depends are damaged, and so it becomes progressively harder for each individual to survive. It’s a mistake to assume that increasing the raw numbers of offspring is always the best outcome for a species. In situations where there is a population surge, or a shortage of resources, there is a distinct evolutionary advantage for a species to produce fewer offspring.

    Looking at it this way, homosexuality can be seen as an adaptive trait in Darwinian terms. Because they are more likely to be reproductively inactive, homosexuals are less likely to produce offspring of their own to compete with the offspring of their heterosexual peers. At the same time, the presence of adult homosexuals within kinship groups (what we might call tribes or extended famillies these days) has the effect of increasing the adult:child ratio, with all the advantages that offers in terms of protecting and nurturing the offspring of the group as a whole. In this context, the finding that, for each older brother he has, the chance that a male child will be gay increases by about a third becomes very interesting. It suggests that there may be some natural mechanism at work which favours the production of non-reproductively-active male children once each mother has given birth to at least one likely-to-be-reproductively-active son, and as such provides some evidence for the idea that homosexuality may be a Darwinian adaptation.

    Relationships and sexual behaviour are far more complicated than can be accurately portrayed in any scientific study, because emotions are not quantitative variables.

    It’s certainly true to say this at the level of the individual, but, as i say in my post, i’m too much of an empiricist to want to abandon the attempt altogether. I think that, at the level of mass observation, emotions have predictable effects. We could probably agree on the 3 or 4 ways that people are likely to behave under the influence of the emotional state called love, or jealousy, or heartbreak – and so on. As a great mass, people tend to behave in ways that can be quantified, even though they are acting in a way that may appear to them and their friends to be completely ‘out of character’. At the risk of starting to sound like Donald Rumsfeld and his ‘known unknowns’, we can even predict what sort of unpredictable behaviour people are likely to display under the influence of certain emotional states – like the usually reserved and faithfully monogamous person who goes out to have sex with a stranger when they find out their partner has been cheating on them, for example.

    it has been widely indicated (often through popular culture) that sexual preference and behaviour is not something which can be clearly defined, mostly because the number of conflicting variables is astronomical.

    I agree that there are likely to be a lot of variables involved, but i think human sexual preference is pretty definable, for all that. Take sexual orientation, for example. That’s an incredibly private, personal thing, that some people experience as nebulous and shifting and altering throughout their life, but people still fit into particular, describeable categories. We usually use the words heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual to describe the most common categories, but in the interests of strict precision we should probably use a binomial system, with one term to describe a person’s sex (female, male etc.) and another (e.g. androphile, gynophile andro-gyno-phile etc) to describe the sex(es) they are atrracted to, in order to take account of people who are not exclusively male or female, and the people who are attracted to them. There is certainly complexity here, but i don’t think it’s right to say that this complexity is indefinable. Even if it were, i wouldn’t see that, personally, as a reason to give up the attempt. It’s always, in my book, worth at least trying to understand, even if the attempt is doomed to fail. Like i say, i’m an empiricist… ;o)

    my own experience is that the dominance hierarchy of my relationship is very different from the sexual hierarcy and different again from the social hierarchy, all of which are viewed differently from inside and outside the relationship. These roles are also flexible, sometimes on a day-to-day basis and often due to factors that have nothing to do with sex.

    Our personal situations are obviously different, J, but that’s been my experience too. I think all of these things are shifting, independent (or semi-independent) variables, and i think those researchers who’ve looked at gay male behaviour and tried to find evidence of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits that were reflected across social and interpersonal and sexual roles were looking at the issue in a very unsubtle way. That said, i do find it interesting that physiological factors seem to affect fairly profound aspects of personality and behaviour (like one’s attitude to risk-taking, and whether or not one believes in god), and in that light i think it would be premature to assume that there can’t be a genetic or hormonal aspect to things like sex role preference. It’s certainly possible there isn’t (and if there is, the interaction of all the different factors is likely to be extremely complex), but i think it’s an interesting thing to look into, and it seems like the initial investigations are being reasonably rewarding.

  10. Kapitano says:

    homosexuality can be seen as an adaptive trait in Darwinian terms.

    Yes but there’s a hidden premise here – that nature has carefully crafted human sexuality so that the production and raising of offspring works like a well-designed machine.

    This is the famous Panglossian Paradigm, where every feature serves a definite good purpose, every feature is optimally designed for that purpose, and nothing is maladaptive or useless.

    It’s a way of saying “Homosexuality has a function within reproduction, which justifies its existence”.

    Maybe homosexuality has a place in the grand scheme, or maybe it’s a functionless byproduct of something functional, or it may be just that human sexuality is immensely variable, and the reason nature (or evolution, or god) hasn’t “fixed” this evolutionarily pointless variation is that it isn’t actually a problem to merit fixing, because it doesn’t threaten species survival.

    Or maybe…humans just aren’t designed from the ground up by a supergenius engineer. Which of course, they aren’t.

  11. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi Kapitano, and thanks for the comment.

    OK, first up, a health warning: the block of flats i live in is being renovated at the moment, and i’m writing this reply with the sound of a masonry drill being pushed into a reinforced concrete wall about 6 inches from my left ear. So, if anything in this comment comes across as weirdly aggressive, it’ll be because of the massive headache i’m developing, and not because of a problem i have with you, or anything you’ve said. :o) Coincidentally, if you know of a fool-proof method to make workmen fall of a gantry hard enough that they stop doing annoying drilling, but not so hard that they hurt themselves, then i would be very grateful to hear about it… ;o)

    Yes but there’s a hidden premise here – that nature has carefully crafted human sexuality so that the production and raising of offspring works like a well-designed machine.

    No, there isn’t. That’s not the way evolution works, and i don’t know of any serious evolutionary theorist who has ever thought that it does, Panglossian Paradigm notwithstanding. Random mutation and unpredictability are the absolute centre of evolutionary theory, and have been ever since there has been an evolutionary theory. I am not relying on nature ‘crafting’ anything, nor on the premise that anything in nature works ‘like a well-designed machine’, in my argument.

    What i am saying is that, in general terms, if something exists in nature we would expect to find that it offers an evolutionary advantage to the organism displaying the trait. This is not exclusively true, of course – it would be tricky to make the argument that a disease like cystic fibrosis or haemophillia offers an evolutionary advantage, and so, in the long term, one would expect to see the genetic mutations that cause those diseases weeded out. (Or one would, if human ingenuity were not providing treatments that overcome the reproductive disadvantages of having one of these diseases.)

    or it may be just that human sexuality is immensely variable, and the reason nature (or evolution, or god) hasn’t “fixed” this evolutionarily pointless variation is that it isn’t actually a problem to merit fixing, because it doesn’t threaten species survival.

    Things that offer an evolutionary disadvantage will be burned away more rapidly than things that are neutral in evolutionary terms, but only adaptations that offer a positive advantage will be actively preserved by the evolutionary process. This is not because of a ‘creator’ or a ‘designer’, but simply because, over hundreds of millions of years, multiple random mutations will occur in every section of DNA, and some of those mutations will affect the organism in such a way that a particular trait is removed. The only reason that wouldn’t happen is if the organisms that retained a particular trait were more successful than those who lacked it.

    Homosexuality (if it has a genetic cause at all – and, for what it’s worth, i have never claimed that it definitely does, and i’m still not) seems likely to be the result of an early genetic mutation. The reason i say this is that it isn’t just a feature found in humans, or primates, or mammals, but exists in birds as well. The last common ancestor of birds and mammals is incredibly ancient, and there are a number of very striking differences between me and, let’s say, a swan. For example, there’s the whole ability-to-fly thing, and i also have a really squat and ugly neck… ;o)

    That said there are some similarities between me and swans – our circulatory and respiratory and digestive systems are pretty similar, and we’re both able to regulate our body temperature, and so on. Another similarity between me and some swans is that we are attracted to members of our own sex. Given that the DNA sequences that control so much of swans and humans have changed so radically over time, it would seem rather surprising that the genetic sequence that causes homosexuality (if such a sequence exists, which it very possibly does not) would have survived if homosexuality were a purely ‘neutral’ trait, and offered no evolutionary advantage.

    Or maybe…humans just aren’t designed from the ground up by a supergenius engineer. Which of course, they aren’t.

    I agree with you here, and i’m more than a little surprised that you seem to think i have been arguing that there is ‘a supergenius engineer’ (or god, as he would be more commonly known). What i think we do have is a highly complex, self-organising system. The principle driver of this self-organisation is survival, in that traits which aid the survival of the species as a whole are promoted, and those which hinder the survival of the species are suppressed. Over a period of millions of years this can create incredibly complex phenomena which give the appearance of having been designed – which is why people who don’t know their fossil history can’t understand how something like the human eye can have evolved.

    I would say that we are not yet at the stage where we can say that homosexuality has evolved, or that it is an adaptive trait. We don’t know anything like enough about a whole range of different variables to begin to approach certainty on the issue. Where we are, i think, is at the stage where there are some (to me) truly fascinating early indications that it may be.

    I’d be interested, for example, to know about an alternative hypothesis to explain why male children are more likely to be gay the more elder brothers they have. This is a very clear phenomenon, and seems to persist even where the brothers have been raised apart, and it seems fairly unlikely that it’s entirely random. I’ve suggested that it’s possibly a mechanism to help ensure that there aren’t too many offspring competing for limited resources within a kinship group. I’d be very interested to know if you have an alternative explanation.

    This isn’t a rhetorical point, and i’m not trying to put you on the defensive – i mean quite literally that i would be very interested to know about any alternative explanations. I am genuinely fascinated by this stuff, and i always like to know more about it, whatever angle it comes from. :o)

  12. NiroZ says:

    Seems like your spam filter missed one.

    Hmmm. Well I understand why you would be concerned about research done into finding out what makes people gay, however, I don’t think you really have cause for concern, as after all, gender attraction has in no way correlated to anything bad, thus they have no right or reason to tamper with it. Furthermore, evolution indicates it most likely has a purpose (given it’s prevalence in other animal species, and being around for a long while), thus even less reason to screw with it.

    Additionally, there is a much more nobler reason to figure out things that are predictors of gaydom, and that’s because they in turn assist us in understanding how sexuality is formed itself. The whole of science can be said to be comparing differences. And furthermore, the sooner we crack sexuality, the sooner we will understand how to deal with paraphila’s, the really nasty sexual attractions.

    Although, on the other hand, it does enable others (such as Iran and Russia) to abuse it….

    And I agree with lsnduck, your basically accusing straights what your defending of gays. Yes, you could claim that it’s just a ‘who gets their stuff stuck up the others’, but you seem to be claiming a bit more than that. Especially with; “For example, even though two men in bed together can enjoy a more wide-ranging experience than an opposite-sex couple can, ” Sure, there’s and additional rod. But it’d be a bit simplistic to say that sex is just sticking things in holes.

    Sometimes researches, when there is already a well established correlation between two things, just assume it as a given, although you’d hope that they’d also have similar populations and all that stuff. Other than that, there’s no gregarious errors, certainly nothing related to your interpretation of the papers. Well, that I can see anyway without looking at the papers, but I’m too busy with studying paedophila recidivism to do that. Good job, I’ve seen scientists themselves do much worse. Like here;
    http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3450*****

    ****Warning, should you click this link, any respect for positive psychology will be flushed away. The only saving grace was that it was not peer reviewed.

  13. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi NiroZ, thanks for the comment.

    Thanks, as well, for the heads-up regarding the spam – hopefully it should have disappeared now. :o)

    Well I understand why you would be concerned about research done into finding out what makes people gay, however, I don’t think you really have cause for concern, as after all, gender attraction has in no way correlated to anything bad, thus they have no right or reason to tamper with it.

    This is what i’m trying to convince myself of, but it is still an uncomfortable feeling knowing that people of an opposite sexual orientation are speculating about what makes me like what i like. Speaking of which…

    And I agree with lsnduck, your basically accusing straights what your defending of gays. Yes, you could claim that it’s just a ‘who gets their stuff stuck up the others’, but you seem to be claiming a bit more than that. Especially with; “For example, even though two men in bed together can enjoy a more wide-ranging experience than an opposite-sex couple can, ” Sure, there’s and additional rod. But it’d be a bit simplistic to say that sex is just sticking things in holes.

    It’s a fair cop. As i said to lsnduck, the post is supposed to be about gay sex, and as i said in my first reply to Kapitano, the stuff about pointy things and holey things was deliberately reductive (which is why i used baby language), and only mean to be taken semi-seriously. But, as i say, you’re right, and i can understand why you (and lsnduck) don’t like the way someone who is largely ignorant of heterosexuality is making rather unsubtle generalisations about it. My point would be that this may give straight people some idea of what my initial reaction is when i find people talking about a gay man who enjoys being penetrated as though he is displaying a female trait. Yes, in a very crude and unsubtle way it’s a semi-accurate statement, but the reality’s a bit more complicated. Anyway, i hope i didn’t offend you (or anyone else). :o)

    Good job, I’ve seen scientists themselves do much worse.

    Thank you. As you know, i was rather worried i would make a complete idiot of myself, so it’s a relief that i haven’t done too badly. :o)

    Good luck with your studies – i can’t imagine paedophillia makes for particularly pleasant subject matter.

  14. NiroZ says:

    If your worried about people being able to read you, take heart at the fact that the very best personality tests have only been able to have a behaviour prediction rate of 40-50%, and that’s of a smaller subgroup of the population. (However, you and I probably both fit in that category). Most personality tests are lucky to make it past 30.

    And besides, while they may end up saying that your the way you are because of anti-male antibodies in the foetus (after all, heterosexuals have had to live with the fact that our sexual attraction is to beget a bunch of brats for a while now), I severely doubt they’ll ever watch you though though a secret camera going ‘Ah, and the reason he just arched his back is because his daddy didn’t buy him an elephant at the store when he was 5.’

    Heh, the actual discussion of paedophilia is rather mundane, as I’m pretty sure nobody’s interested in the details, the depressing thing that since the 60′s when they realised this was a problem they’ve yet to figure out something that will fix it. Even castration, be it drug induced or otherwise, only seems to delay them a little while.

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