Tuesday, July 12, 2005
by Wayne Besen
Certainly no one is suggesting the "B" come out of the GLBT movement, but a new study by a group of researchers in Chicago and Toronto questions how widespread bisexuality is in men and shows a need for more comprehensive studies to examine the topic.
The controversial experiment recruited 101 young men from ads placed in gay and alternative newspapers, with 33 identifying as bisexual, 30 as heterosexual and 38 as gay. The psychologists had the men rate their desires from 0-6, with 0-1 indicating heterosexuality, 5-6 signifying homosexuality and bisexuality falling in between.
The subject's members were hooked up to a sensor that shows sexual desire by measuring blood flow to the penis. The human lab rats were then shown gay and lesbian pornography to see what truly turned them on.
About a third of the men in each group showed insignificant response, which is not surprising because a lot of men are not easily aroused by porn. There is also the likelihood that the men were shown porn that did not appeal to them. No matter our sexual orientations, we all have "types" that we find attractive. For example, I rarely date anyone who can out-bench press me. So, if I were shown a bunch of muscle head types, it would have as little effect on my arousal as lesbian porn.
Surprisingly, the men who self-described as bisexual were interested in either female sexual images or male, but not both. Three-quarters of the group had arousal patterns indistinguishable to those of gay men; the rest were identical to heterosexuals.The New York Times
did a cover story
in their Science section on the explosive study under the provocative headline, "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited." Sadly, reporting on research that questioned assumptions on switch hitters earned the Times brickbats by leading GLBT advocacy groups.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a media watchdog, bitterly complained
that the news article "promotes bisexual stereotypes" and "veers toward hasty generalization."
Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
said, "We remain stunned that The New York Times
Science section would carry such a shoddy, sensationalistic and downright insulting story." He went on to complain that the study is flawed because it equates sexual orientation with sexual arousal and that the Times should "be ashamed".
While there are certainly other aspects to sexual orientation, such as love and emotional connection, sexual arousal is generally recognized as a key component. Arousal is the universal alarm bell that made each gay man in high school think, "my God, I want to sleep with the quarterback, I must be gay!"
Mainstream America understands the centrality of arousal in sexual orientation. That is why people "get it" when a large packaged male or a big-busted woman strolls by in a beer ad and heads automatically turn. As humans, we see, we like and then we react. It is usually a primitive, reflexive response, not the "complicated" exercise some people make it out to be. It only becomes complex when we build walls and weave intricate webs of denial, so we do not have to acknowledge the often-painful truth.
What is so threatening about this new study is that it used a crude device to show a cause and effect relationship that deftly peeled away all the convoluted hang-ups and justifications that keep many homosexuals from coming out of the closet. Indeed, a 1994 Advocate
Magazine survey found that before coming out as homosexual, 40 percent of gay men described themselves as bisexual. The new research simply confirms the Advocate survey and what many gay men say privately about bisexuality.
Please, don't misconstrue what I say. I do not question for a moment that true bisexuality exists for males. All people who claim bisexuality should be respected and not have their orientation questioned. Furthermore, they deserve full legal protection from discrimination, whether it is at the hands of straight or gay Americans. Many bisexuals are leaders in the GLBT movement and should be applauded for their heroic efforts.
However, this study implies that bisexuality in males is a more rare phenomenon than we previously thought, just as true ambidextrous people are difficult to find among the vast majority of left and right-handed people.
I can understand the noble impulse to defend an integral part of the GLBT community. Indeed, there are insidious stereotypes that must be combated, such as the absurd and offensive notion that bisexuals are unstable and have more difficulty with monogamy.
Nevertheless, shutting down debate, hounding the media and savaging science are not in the best long-term interest of GLBT people. There are many legitimate criticisms
of this study and NGLTF did a real service in bringing these flaws to the fore. Most of these criticisms may prove to be true. However, this does not change the startling fact that the bisexual subjects in this one study had a different arousal pattern than they professed. This research is intriguing and merits further study with new researchers and a much larger group of participants, not reflexive attacks and derisive dismissal.
I just read this story and I must say that I'm disappointed with the study. It's misleading, extremely weak, and I'm afraid that this is just another way for those who DON'T believe in bisexuality to doudt those who are.
This study is also another way for researchers to associate sex with being GLBT and I'm telling you that there's more to us than jumping into bed with someone. As a bisexual woman, I'm offended that this study was even conducted. Why do we have to prove ourselves time and time again that we exist? Surprisingly, we bisexuals had to fight to make our voices heard in the gay and lesbian community! The study is NOT making things better for us. If anything, it's only holding us back.
posted by , at
Once again the men and the penis dominate the discussion of bisexuality. I have noted in my travels around the INternet that almost all of the letters written in protest (with some quite notable exceptions) tend to be written by women.
What's wrong boys, cat got your tongue?
I am sick to death of "scientific" studies that look at one group of men and instantly begin to extrapolate to the entire human race. Not only is this absurd, it is misogynist thinking at its worst.
We are here. We are not invisible. We are not "people" or "persons"; we are women. We are not just small men with breasts. We are biochemically, psychologically, culturally, and spiritually different from men.
Please include us in the conversation when you address the entire *L*GBT community.
posted by , at
I agree. Much more research is definitely needed. God forbid that we trust people's own intimate understanding of their sexuality. Then it gets all messed up with things like romantic attraction, political ideology, cultural influences...you name it. How complicated and confusing! I say at the age of 18, every citizen should be hooked up to one of these devices, shown a bunch of porn and have their scientifically validated sexual identity branded on their forheads for the world to see. Then we'll know exactly who we can sleep with and who's "on our side" and the paranoid among us will finally be able to rest easy.
Heather (in sarcastic mode)
posted by , at
Thank you Heather.
Wayne, better, thank you.
To be honest, I really don't understand what the point of this research was. It was shoddy and means nothing.
Why are we still discussing this?
posted by Willie Hewes, at
This is a nice half-backwards step from your original biphobic rant, but the earlier proclamations from lgbt organizations weren't "brickbats." They were pointing out quite correctly that both the major research groups involved in this study have a history of unethical behavior and publishing junk science, and that the measurement instrument they used is not generally regarded as reliable. But if you want to keep defending the man who wants to find a way to wipe out the gay population via selective abortion, hey, go ahead.
posted by , at
Thank you, Heather. :-) You beat me to it.
And of course, everyone knows that your reaction to someone else's porno and erotica selection indicates *your* sexual tastes, too.
To further illustrate my point, I issue an invitation: Come over to my house, Wayne. We'll watch NASCAR and listen to N.E.R.D. and Larry the Cable Guy while you casually wear electrodes strapped to your genitalia. Those things turn me on and make me want a man, so obviously they should do the same for you. If they don't, then it's obvious you're not really gay and you're lying about your identity, even if you did gaze longingly at the little twink I personally wouldn't have looked at twice on your way to my house...right?
Again, who does it serve to keep telling other people--any other people--that they're lying about their sexuality, or to try to prove who is "really" what? Aren't we as sexual minorities best served when all sexuality that involves consenting adults is treated as equal, and so are all people?
posted by CrackerLilo, at
wayne. u r so dumb. i think the real scientific study is how can someone as stupid as u exist?
"Arousal is the universal alarm bell that made each gay man in high school think, "my God, I want to sleep with the quarterback, I must be gay!" Mainstream America understands the centrality of arousal in sexual orientation."
posted by , at
Okay. One for the *other* side. In the hands of reliable researchers this type of study could possibly lead to a breakthrough in terms of a genetic factor, among others. This study, however, seems to be just a hatchet job aimed at furthering stereotypes, etc., so as we go calmly along our way we can ignore and perhaps even vilify those who use this as an adequate study of sexuality. As a gay man I admit to times of saying that there is no real bisexuality. Well slap my face! There is and I am sorry for thinking this way. If we are to show a united front to the other side we must make the extreme effort to accept each other and to get along no matter what. It is in our best interest to forget the differences in our community while we try to convince others that difference is what makes life a true experience.
posted by , at
I have never understood why the Bi issue gets "gay" and "straight" people so upset. If a person is able to have sex (and either does or wants to), then they are bisexual. I think it bothers the gay people who wish they were straight. and it bothers the straight people who have a curiosity about gay sex but have a religious hangup about it. All the study told me was that people are going to have 1 or more types that appeal to them more than others. Can't we all just get along??
posted by Steve Talbert, at
Sorry to differ from your other responses, but I am not overly concerned with the "B" and "T" in GLBT. If an individual is capable of happiness in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, then he or she is capable of functioning as a monogamous heterosexual, and I don't see the need for special recognition or protection of that person as "bisexual". And frankly, I consider transexuality to be unnatural. Science may eventually prove that homosexuality is genetic, but I find it difficult to believe that nature intended someone with an XY chromosome pair to be female or an XX chromosome pair to be male.
posted by , at
I hate these frickin fence-sitters.
One day they publish a completely rabid and hate-mongering blog called "Bisexuality is Bullshit."
The next day they publish a middle-of-the-road blog saying "Of course no one is saying the 'B' should come out of the GLBT movement."
What is wrong with people like this? Are they confused? Are they in denial? Are they just being "trendy" - especially after NGLTF suddenly gets on board? Are they just experimenting? Oh no ... I see ... they're WAYNE BESEN.
posted by bunnigyrl69, at
Wow, there's a lot of emotion in these responses. Has anyone ever thought of objectively analyzing this data and coming to a logical conclusion instead of worrying about how it will be applied socially? Just a thought.
God bless GLAAD, but they tend to do what they think will help the LGBT community, whether or not it is supported by objective facts. Most of the time, naturally, science supports the normalcy of the LGBT community, but sometimes GLAAD and other activist groups get a little too excited.
As Besen clearly pointed out, this study just suggests we have much to learn about the prevalance of bisexuality in men. He never said it wasn't flawed. The fact that scientific studies most often neglect women is a totally valid point, but that's nothing to be offended about. Just take that information into account, rationally, without getting all hot under the collar. As far as I know, this study never claimed to represent all human beings, only the males in the study.
And if you feel underepresented, then conduct your own scientific study with your own controlled variables. Who else is going to do it, right?
How about a little more reason, and a bit less reactionism? Don't we all hate the latter when it comes from those who are truly anti-gay, like the radical Christian Right?
posted by Ryan Grant Long, at
"If an individual is capable of happiness in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, then he or she is capable of functioning as a monogamous heterosexual"
And of course, that's *exactly* what every bisexual person wants. Halelujia! I can be just like straight people! Woo hoo! Hey, why am I even calling myself bi? I could just say I'm straight and noone would know the difference. Just kill off that queer side all together. Paaaaarty!
Heather - who's noticed that biphobia is really just internalized homophobia on the part of gays who can't possibly understand why people might *choose* to be like them. Newsflash: you guys will have a hard time combatting other people's homophobia if you can't get over your own.
posted by , at
Welcome to our company which sells all kinds of Sword of the New World Vis, very cheap Sword of the New World Gold, and the more cheap snw vis. If you have to buy vis, please come to our company, we can give you the best Sword of the New World money and best service.
posted by , at
Yesterday, my boyfriend gave me a lot of Pirates of the Burning Sea Gold
I regard the buy potbs Doubloon as the gift to return him.
The potbs gold is attractive
I have plenty of the potbs Doubloon. so I use the potbs moneywith him toghther.
posted by xhsjsss, at
It is the shadow of legend Gold which make me very happy these days, my brother says sol gold is his favorite games gold he likes
, he usually buy some buy shadow of legend Gold to start his game and most of the time he will win the cheap shadow of legend Gold back and give me some shadow of legend money to play the game.
posted by derfefww, at