Sex: we are having more of all kinds

A statistically robust study reports that more Americans are engaging or have engaged in homosexual activity over the course of the last  forty years. The change is caused by people who report having had sex with both men and women and not by the growth of the exclusively homosexual.

 “People over time are reporting more same-sex sexual experiences than ever before,” said Brooke Wells, a social psychologist at Widener University’s Center for Human Sexuality Studies.

The behavioral trend, reflected in an annual survey conducted between 1973 and 2014, was fueled largely by people who had sex with both men and women. There has been little change in the number of people reporting exclusively homosexual behavior.

The changes were reported Wednesday in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The research team included faculty from Widener, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State universities. A total of 33,728 people answered the survey over the 41-year period.

The number of U.S. adults who said they had at least one same-sex sexual partner doubled between the early 1990s – that question wasn’t asked earlier – and the early 2010s, from 3.6 to 8.7 percent for women and from 4.5 to 8.2 percent for men. Bisexual behavior rose from 3.1 to 7.7 percent, accounting for most of the change.

The survey found that only 1.7 percent of men and 0.9 percent of women said they had exclusively homosexual sex.

This study discredits the figure of 10% that was given for homosexual population, which was a political fiction of the gay lobby.

The surprise for some will be how to reconcile ideas of gay and straight with the fact that some people, a growing minority, report engaging in sex with both men and women. The difficulty lies in deep- rooted ideas which  are held by the straight and the gay alike.

People have been brought up in a language that defines us as either gay or straight, like an immutable Platonic ideal. Some are spheres, some are cones. No cross over, ever. So sexual orientation is a category, a classification,  rather than an activity. The gay movement has never, to my knowledge, deviated from this ideological stance, and neither has the Anita Bryant crowd.

The line the Gay Lobby peddles is that people are immutably gay or straight,  that homosexuality is an innate condition, that one is born that way, and that to deviate from this view is a heresy.

I recall Cynthia Nixon, a star of the late series Sex and the City, once dared to offer some non-conforming views. She has had both male and female lovers. She expressed herself this way about it:

She recently caused controversy among the gay community when she told The New York Times that homosexuality was a personal choice for her.

The notion that she had a choice in the matter outraged the ideological orthodoxy of the gay movement. [Yes, Dorothy, there is such a thing}.

But now, Cynthia Nixon has sought to clarify her comments further in a statement to The Advocate, telling them that bisexuality is not a choice, but her decision to be in a homosexual relationship is.

The same people who would be outraged to hear that intelligence is 75% inherited, for instance, foam at the mouth when it is suggested that some people might exercize choice in the sex of their partners. How can bisexuality not be a choice, when the sex of one’s partner is a choice? How can free will have a role if the one’s sexual orientation is 100% inherited?

The only way to make sense of this distinction between an inherent ‘bisexuality’, and a free choice of a person to bed a man or a woman, is that ‘bisexuality’ is being abstracted into another kind of Platonic essence distinct from one’s actual choice of bed partner, which is an activity. So we are back to the Platonic solids again, and we simply add a dodecahedron to the sphere and the cone.

I object to the abstracting of an essence from a pattern of activity.

At various times and  places, in various cultures and religions, homosexual and heterosexual relations have been practiced by one and the same person without any social stigma, and at other times and places, in other cultures and religions, homosexual activities and desires have been repressed by force of law, religion and culture, and self-repressed in consequence.

We happen to be in one of those rare moments in time when we can observe  that our culture, for better or worse, is transforming from an extremely homophobic one to something somewhat more tolerant. But we are still carrying around two incompatible ideas in our heads: that homosexual activity is not a choice, but is the expression of an immutable pre-existing condition,  and that somehow the fact that it is not really a choice makes it all right. It is okay to have same-sex sex if we belong to Team B, but not if we belong to Team A. That would be wrong. Team A should never cross over into Team B. That would be like going to the dark side. If people choose to have homosexual sex, then somehow it is wrong, but if they have no choice in their orientation, then somehow it is okay.

The gay political movement has accepted this specious argument. So have most straight people. The data reveal that, as sexual attitudes change, and repression lifts, more people either admit to homosexual activity or, as I think, feel free enough to indulge in it. There cannot be a near doubling of ‘bisexuals’ in forty years if sexual orientation is genetically immutable, like eye colour. But if our behaviour is mutable according to fashion, and  levels of repression, or the absence of repression, then we can and do change.  To ascribe the propensity to have sex with one sex rather than with the other as ‘genetic’ seems a completely unnecessary stretch.

Our language and thinking are still embedded in the previous era. Even if we have become more accepting of ‘gays’, we still firmly believe that people ought to be one or the other.

To use the word ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ in this sense is to use the language of Platonic abstractions. I do not think for second that all those men and women , those 8.2 percent of men and 8.7% of women in 2014, are ‘gay’. Neither does calling them ‘straight’ add to our understanding. They are just people having sex.

Except for that small minority of people who are exclusively homosexual (1.7% of men and 0.9% of women), I think it is misleading to categorize people who have had sex with their own as well as with the opposite sex as ‘gay’. Sex is an activity, not a condition. Something we do, not something we are.

This is Heresy #1 to both Team A and Team B. If sex is something we do, rather than a condition that we are, then sexual activity is rather more like preferring golf to tennis, than it is like being Protestant rather than Catholic, and more like both of them than it is to be blue-eyed or brown eyed.  “He’s a golfer, but plays good tennis too”. Why do we have no trouble with this formulation, but feel awkward with “he likes women, but plays with the men too”? Why is sexual orientation treated as the Big Deal of identity politics? Because we are uncomfortable with sex.

I can see a strictly Christian view of the matter would say that sex should only occur inside marriage. (I do not agree but I can see the consistency of the claim). I can see a socially conservative view that would prioritize the claims of children to a stable home environment over the claims of parents to sexual freedom, and thus that, regardless of sexual activities,  child-rearing must prevail over all other claims. I agree with this view.

That society must give priority to child raising is not in question. What ought to be in question is our either/or attitudes, held by Team A and Team B alike, that one’s choice of sex partner is the exclusive result of an  immutable genetic disposition. The right of people to engage in sex with their own sex, or with the opposite sex, should be a free choice of the will and not, as gay identity politics would have it, an expression of something as unchangeable as eye colour.

We have bought into the existence of pain-inducing and false abstractions, which hinder our understanding of ourselves and the human species. Both sides of the gay/anti-gay debate seem to have accepted these Platonic abstractions as real . Contrary to ideology, many more people seem to be acting on the realization that one’s sex partner is a choice of the heart and the will, and not the expression of an immutable biological condition. A future age will wonder what on earth we meant to do when we divided the world  into ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. We are just human. We can be sexually attracted to almost anyone in some conditions, and attracted to no one in others. Dividing the world into the Platonic abstractions of gay and straight hinders us from understanding both ourselves and other people.