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Paint CHiPs
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Unpacking Gay Promiscuity

An interesting Andrew Sullivan post today that made a lot of intuitive sense, that I hadn't heard expressed before (or well enough that it suck with me).

The background for this post is in response to some recent remarks by Ann Coulter and Mickey Kaus. Coulter was on TV a week or so ago and made comments to the effect of that Bill Clinton's promiscuity is probably revealing of latent homosexuality, the thinking being that both promiscuity and gayness are born of narcissim, and that being one entails being the other (gays are promiscuous, and the promiscuous are probably gay on some level, so gay = promiscuous). Mickey Kaus, a favorite target of Sullivan, defended her comments on the grounds that, according to him, she was speaking basic evolutionary psychology.

I don't read Kaus, and normally don't even bother being offended by Coulter (who is basically just a rodeo clown of Republicanism at this point), but I've heard these views expressed a number of times by Republican-leaning people, in real life and on the forum (lucidnightmare and euphoriba, notably). I've never denied that gay men are probably more promiscuous than straight men, taken as a whole, but I've always objected to the attribution of that surface truth (?) to some sort of inherent quality of gayness.

Anyway, Sullivan's point (and he wrote a book on the subject, which I haven't read) is that of course gay men are more promiscuous--because they're all men, and being a man, not being gay, means you're more likely to be promiscuous, and it's THAT which is supported by evolutionary psychology. He's right, as far as I can tell, but anyway his post got me thinking about it and added some clarity to my own thoughts. Post follows (Sullivan's also been on a Mel Gibson tear lately, so there's some tie-in with that):




Mickey Kaus is defending anti-Semites and homophobes again. Funny how often he does that. His only comment on the Gibson case is in defense of the rabid anti-Semite. Like the bigot he defends, Kaus also has, shall we say, some issues around homosexuality. He even trotted out the old "narcissist" trope this week. What's next? Protecting children from gay "recruitment"? Kaus defends his friend Ann Coulter's bigotry, and it's worth unpacking his argument. The claim that Coulter is making and Kaus is seconding - that same-sex love is inherently more promiscuous than heterosexuality - has a simple, logical rejoinder: lesbians. Where are the lesbian bath-houses, Ann? Where's the rampant lesbian promiscuity? Aren't lesbians homosexual? Or do we just deploy these terms broadly, whenever they can be used to stigmatize an entire minority?

The phenomenon Kaus and Coulter are pretending to deal with is called testosterone. It's called men - gay or straight. And Peter Beinart is right: by inherently equating homosexuality as such with promiscuity, Coulter is peddling an old homophobic slur, and Kaus is backing her up. Her point about Bill Clinton - that because he is promiscuous he is somehow gay - is a revealing inversion of the truth. The truth is that many gay men are acting like Bill Clinton, because, like Bill Clinton, they are full of testosterone, and, like Bill Clinton, they can get sex when they want. Clinton gets it and has gotten it because of his charm and his power (which he regularly abused for sexual harassment purposes). Many straight men would do the same if they could get away with it. Can you imagine the lines for straight bathhouses if women were as eager to get it on with strangers as men are?

Gay men get it because their emotional and sexual universe is all-male and so twice as testosterone-laden as the straight male sexual universe. There are no straight women to direct and restrain their sexual drives and, in forty-nine states, no social institutions strong enough to support their relationships. Coulter's real issue is with men, not gays. But she and Kaus tellingly displace this issue onto homosexuality as such - because that is the classic bigot position. In the bigot's mind, everything is always the minority's fault. (Notice how Kaus also sees the gay-defender as a "bully"; it's an almost clinical case of prejudice, the way many minorities feel terrified by a tiny minority among them). For bigots, the testosterone problem that is universal among men is somehow inherently - and not just circumstantially - unique to gays. Every discomforting aspect about human nature, in the bigot's mind, becomes associated with a minority they already despise. For Gibson, war is about the Jews. For Kaus and Coulter, promiscuity is about the gays.

In fairness to Mickey, however, he supports civil marriage for gay men, the only social institution that has been known to restrain and direct testosterone to more satisfying and stable long-term ends. He's admirably honest about his own visceral discomfort around gay men - and supports gay civil equality. It's a shame he can't cope with gay men, but that's his loss, not ours. Coulter, for her part, has no real opinion about it because she has no real opinions about anything. She's a performance artist. She says what pays. If she were to support gay equality and actually back up her claim to "like gays," she would, alas, lose part of her base and the mucho moolah that comes with it. And so she's against it: her accountant made the call. Mickey's act, meanwhile, is becoming sadly more transparent. To paraphrase Hitch on Mel Gibson, if someone confesses "visceral surface revulsion" at gay sex one day, accuses gays of narcissism the next, and minimizes anti-gay violence the day after that, I have to say that if he's not an anti-gay bigot as such, then he's certainly getting there.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 06:17 PM
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Paint CHiPs
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One of my finer thread titles in recent months, by the way.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 06:27 PM
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Smug Git
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I also have always suspected that the difference between the promiscuity of straight and gay men is that the gay guys are ploughing a more fertile furrow, being as how they only have to persuade other men of the merits of getting off.

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BROKEN_LADDER
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But the reason they're gay is that a part of their brain has been feminized, which is why they are into flowers and fashion shows. So that "men are more promiscuous" thing doesn't strike me as the majority of the answer...maybe a big part of it.

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Paint CHiPs
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quote:
Originally posted by BROKEN_LADDER
But the reason they're gay is that a part of their brain has been feminized


huh?

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:16 PM
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Trenchant_Troll
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Re: Unpacking Gay Promiscuity

quote:
Originally posted by Paint CHiPs
An interesting Andrew Sullivan post today that made a lot of intuitive sense, that I hadn't heard expressed before (or well enough that it suck with me).


Interesting Freudian slip there, blogboy.

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skalie
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quote:
Originally posted by BROKEN_LADDER
But the reason they're gay is that a part of their brain has been feminized, which is why they are into flowers and fashion shows. So that "men are more promiscuous" thing doesn't strike me as the majority of the answer...maybe a big part of it.


Still striving for that illusive WTF? point?

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:18 PM
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Paint CHiPs
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Re: Re: Unpacking Gay Promiscuity

quote:
Originally posted by Trenchant_Troll
Interesting Freudian slip there, blogboy.


I hate using laptops.

I think that was a triple entendre, right there.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:24 PM
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BROKEN_LADDER
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quote:
Originally posted by Paint CHiPs
huh?


hormone levels at very early stages of development determine whether the brain will be masculinized or feminized. having a desire to construct things and also tear things up is a typically male pattern, which is why young boys like legoes, but also like taking their toy hammer to various things and trying to destroy them. girls typically want to brush their dolly's hair and play house. these typical behaviors are powerfully influenced by hormones, in the womb.

i once saw a profile, on tlc or some such, of this young girl who had gotten too much testosterone in her embryological development. she had lots of typically boy interests, like mechanical and constructive interests, and a lot of more tomboyish desires like wanting to climb trees. the areas of the brain that control sexual attraction are also affected by these hormones. not to say that she'd become a full-fledged lesbian in her case, but that these physiological effects are well documented.

i've also read a story about a trans-gender case where she was mostly a girl, but had partially formed testes. the testes were surgically removed (i don't even want to know how this was done, or whether they were still inside her body or what the hell ever) as soon as she was born, and she had a vagina and a uterus and was otherwise a woman. however she turned out to have typical male behaviors and was attracted to women. she was like a man in a woman's body, because the testes had produced enough testosterone to masculinize her brain by that point.

here's something from a trans-gendered/lesbian/gay support site:

quote:
All fetuses, between 8-10 weeks, receive "hormonal showers" at this crucial developmental period. Usually, these hormonal showers lead to the formation of the testes and ovaries in XY and XX individuals respectively. Due to factors unknown, usually attributed to stress in the mother, certain medications or just unusual circumstances, the "dose" and/or timing of these showers can sometimes be a little off-target. XY fetuses receiving too little androgens, yet while still having the XY genotype are thought to most probably eventuate as gay. If the hormonal shower is even more different or ill-timed - i.e., even less androgens are released or the timing is further off, the result will most probably be a transsexual - i.e., phenotypically and genotypically male with testes etc, yet, due to not being showered with enough androgens at the right time, the brain hasn't sufficiently masculinised and remains feminised (feminine is the base "template" for all organisms).

In FTMs' case, it's thought that the development of the ovaries occurred ill-timed when in relation to the hormonal shower - i.e., when the hormonal shower occurred, the ovaries weren't yet developed enough to produce the estrogen that would balance out the androgen shower ... hence, phenotypically and genotypically female, but with masculined brain due to the androgen shower.

Like in the case with homosexual men, this fluctuation in hormonal shower timing, when occurring in XX individuals but to a lesser extent, is thought to be the cause of lesbianism.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:36 PM
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Talarohk
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EDIT: B_L answered the question first, and more thoroughly. Here's what I was going to say:

One popular (if controversial) theory of homosexuality is that the brains of gay men were exposed to a different hormonal mix at some point during development, causing part of the hypothalamus (which is involved in sexual behavior) to devlop along more feminine lines. If you're interested, one place to look is the work of Simon LeVay.

Last I heard (which is admittedly not in the immediate past), it was still a controversial point. The data is suggestive, but not conclusive. There may have been similar work about lesbians.

It seems like a likely explanation to me, but this sort of difference in brain structure and function is very, very hard to nail down; we just don't know enough about how this sort of stuff works to make solid statements.

Still, it's probably the current best guess.

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Paint CHiPs
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That's a little bit different than saying their brains have been "feminized".

I'll put my reply in simple terms, apropos of this conversation: The gay man's brain, before it is a gay brain, is a man's brain.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:45 PM
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Hawley Griffin
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quote:
Originally posted by BROKEN_LADDER
But the reason they're gay is that a part of their brain has been feminized, which is why they are into flowers and fashion shows. So that "men are more promiscuous" thing doesn't strike me as the majority of the answer...maybe a big part of it.


what about masculine gay dudes and feminine dykes?

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:46 PM
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Paint CHiPs
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On the plus side, if you're going with the "gay mens' brains have been feminized" argument, that's an awful good argument for gay men being better qualified parents than straight ones.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:47 PM
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Hawley Griffin
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how so?

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:48 PM
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BROKEN_LADDER
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quote:
Originally posted by Talarohk
It seems like a likely explanation to me, but this sort of difference in brain structure and function is very, very hard to nail down; we just don't know enough about how this sort of stuff works to make solid statements.


Everything I've read says that the link between hormonal release/timing and masculine/feminine behaviors (like wanting to fuck a guy vs. a woman) is fairly well established. What's not well established is precisely what parts of the brain are changed, and how.

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Old Post 08-01-2006 08:51 PM
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Trenchant_Troll
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It's the part that makes you want to avoid eternal damnation.

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Paint CHiPs
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quote:
Originally posted by Hawley Griffin
how so?


The nature of biochemical differences between men and women. The latter being more nurturing, less risk-taking, more protective, yadda yadda yadda.

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Trenchant_Troll
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No wonder you never get laid.

EDIT: by women anyway

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BROKEN_LADDER
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quote:
Originally posted by Hawley Griffin
what about masculine gay dudes and feminine dykes?


I really don't think there are many. I used to work on the Castro in San Francisco, and I can personally vouch that even the biggest most ripped up gay dudes you could ever imagine talk with these lisps and say things like "oh, that's cute on you".

For those rare exceptions, I think it's good to acknowledge how vast and "intravariant" the brain is. It certainly stands to reason that parts of the brain controlling attitudes and interests could be very masculinized, while regions that control sexual orientation (tell me to get a big hard on when I see a porn where two girls are going down on each other) could be feminized.

I mean, if you think in an evolutionary biology sense, being attracted to females and being attracted to males are intrinsically male and female characteristics respectively. So I would say that a deviation from that would amount, by definition, into a masculinization of feminization of some region of the brain.

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Mugtoe
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Gay men are more promiscuous?

Who says? Anne Coulter and PaintChips?

Before everyone starts expounding on this, what are the actual facts you're referring to?

I think I am the only (overtly) gay man in this thread so far, and I know of no definitive evidence to support anything that's been written up to this point. I also have no anecdotal evidence in forty-two years for me to conclude that me or other gay guys are any more promiscuous when we're single than any other group of men in the world.

There is a whole world of gay men who don't center their lives around the bars or in any other place where they can be easily identified and surveyed. So every generalization that is made about gay people is likely only to refer to those who come forward and identify themselves as such.

So everyone is really just talkin outta their asses when they talk about what gay people are psychologically and socially.

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BROKEN_LADDER
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quote:
Originally posted by Paint CHiPs
The nature of biochemical differences between men and women. The latter being more nurturing, less risk-taking, more protective, yadda yadda yadda.


Yeah, and with me it's weird. I have this violent temperment, and I've always been pretty athletic, and into wrestling with other jock-ish buddies and what not...yet I've got this huge nurturing side...I love little kids and animals. I can watch project runway with my girlfriend and take interest. I cry at movies a lot. I also often find certain guys to be very empirically handsome, like Brad Pitt, or this guy I know here who's a musician. Not that I feel the desire to fuck them mind you, but I think that I probably think, "Oh, he's really handsome" more than a lot of guys probably do. This seems to be indicative of that "grey area" that can exist because the brain's net behavior is the result of the interaction of lots of diverse regions.

But then that begs the question, do I cry at movies and feel sentimental toward babies and animals because I was raised (primarily) by my mom, and then I just got my temper from seeing my dad beat the hell out of people and animals? Or was my brain just a little less masculanized in certain ways, and that's why I think Brad Pitt's such a stud, and cry at movies?

But I'm showing my cards here...I should end this tangent...

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Smug Git
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quote:
Originally posted by Mugtoe
Gay men are more promiscuous?

Who says? Anne Coulter and PaintChips?

Before everyone starts expounding on this, what are the actual facts you're referring to?

I think I am the only (overtly) gay man in this thread so far, and I know of no definitive evidence to support anything that's been written up to this point. I also have no anecdotal evidence in forty-two years for me to conclude that me or other gay guys are any more promiscuous when we're single than any other group of men in the world.

There is a whole world of gay men who don't center their lives around the bars or in any other place where they can be easily identified and surveyed. So every generalization that is made about gay people is likely only to refer to those who come forward and identify themselves as such.

So everyone is really just talkin outta their asses when they talk about what gay people are psychologically and socially.



Well, you yourself have claimed to have had sex with more people than the rest of us have had hot dinners, so that would rule out the bit about you personally not being more promiscuous than the average bear (snigger).

Promiscuity is a two-way street; if men are, say, more promiscuous than women, having men at both ends of that street would presumably allow for more sexual activity. Not that I'm 100% certain that men are more promiscuous than women, although if I had to guess, I'd guess that they were.

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BROKEN_LADDER
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quote:
Originally posted by Mugtoe
Gay men are more promiscuous?

Who says? Anne Coulter and PaintChips?


I just lived in San Francisco for two years, and I can say without a doubt yes. I can't even count the number of times I'd walk past two gay guys who had stopped to chat on the street, and were talking all kinds of crazy "mack daddy" shit to each other. "Oh...you're thuper exotic...what do you have in you honey? Some Native American? Oh, honey, that's hot...what are you doing later?"

It wasn't like the way guys even usually mack on women, where they have to be kind of...you know, passably polite and gentlemanly. It was always just pure unadulterated "let's fuck now" talk. I think the fact that it's men talking to other men does make a lot of sense, the more I think about it.

When my buddy came out to visit me for a few days in late April, he commented on this. Coming from the city where Fred Phelps lives, he was used to defending gay culture so much. But he seemed to be really let down that this was the state of things in a place where gays were totally accepted and liberated. Oh and don't even get me started on the Castro. You could get ass fucked in a bathroom there in two minutes flat.

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Mugtoe
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yeah, some of my best friends are black

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Trenchant_Troll
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Man, BL, you know a lot about this.

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