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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gay Sex by any name . . .

 . . . "but I'm straight"

This is an old report, but I remember commenting on it then, in a group which has now vanished.  The article reported a major study comparing men's sexual identity compared with their actual sexual activity.  About 10 per cent of men who say they are straight have had sex with other men, yet claim they are not gay.  Seventy per cent of them are married.

Point one:  this was ten per cent who admitted to having gay sex.  Yes, the interviewer may have promised anonymity, but  . . .  The report indicated a class divide with working class or members of a minority group or the foreign-born having a higher percentage of men who do this.   I don't know what this means.  Are middle-class whites more in tune with their inner selves, and therefore more likely to be open about their sexuality (which would imply a higher proportion of middle-class than working-class or minority men identify as gay) or are they just better at not telling the truth to unknown interviewers?  It's very hard to believe that the same-sex class divide reflects real divisions in same-sex desires.  But it surely reflects differing perceptions of "truth".  And given unwillingness to admit to a shameful/sinful social predilection, the real number is probably the higher one.

Two:  in the article, a local (Ozzie) spokesman said "many of the 10 per cent would be unwilling to be identified as gay because of the fact that same-sex relationships are still stigmatised, even in a relatively liberal place."  Well, yeah, some.  Except they would prolly not have told the interviewer about the fact they were having sex with men, would they?  Actually, they may simply not think of themselves as gay, either because they like sex with women as well as men so are bisexual (or, better, identify with one of the many bisexualities), or because they regard "gay" as queeny men who dress up in feather boas and wear thong undies.  They're not like that, they believe, even if they do like to fuck men or be fucked by them.  Labels.

"Male" men may enjoy and seek out sex with men but still think they're "all man". If we start talking clichés here, these are men who will bond by talking about how the cement they're standing on has been laid (a recently overheard conversation between two ostensibly straight guys) , or what their car is, or which footy team they barrack for.  They think of themselves as belonging to the whole male tribe (in a way I don't.)    And the cultural majority has defined "male" as identical to "not gay".  Therefore, in their own eyes, and in the eyes of all the blokes they know, including possibly some of those they're fucking, they're straight.  No matter how many times you and I might say "straight? yeah, right," they regard themselves as essentially male except that they fancy a root with a bloke.  Who'm I to piss in their Wheaties?

Three:  these are big numbers.  The UK income tax authorities (not known for their heart) did an analysis about the percentage of the population who would use the new civil marriage provisions, because this would cut tax paid by gay and lesbian couples.  They decided that 7% of the population was gay or lesbian.  This suggests that something just under 20% of the male population either identifies as gay or identifies as straight but is having sex with other men.   Kinsey said:

25 per cent of the male population has more than incidental homosexual experience or reactions (i.e. rates 2-6) for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. In terms of averages, one male out of approximately every four has had or will have such a distinct and continued homosexual experience.


(from my article The End of Gay: the reference "2-6" is from the Kinsey scale, and means all except exclusive heterosexuals)

Think about this:  in a randomly selected group of men, say the blokes in the train or on the tram or in a supermarket, one in four (according to Kinsey) or one in five (according to this analysis) has had more than incidental sex with another man.
 
Four: because these blokes don't think of themselves as "gay" they probably won't support gay rights causes.  It doesn't mean they won't favour gay rights, but we tend (on the whole) to fight harder for causes closer to home than those which (appear) not to really impact us. Similarly, the Christian-Fascists and rocko rightists can say that there are few gays.  The man in the tram will go on thinking that gays are flamers, not "real men" like him, because the at least one in ten of the men around him who have periodic sex with men remain invisible. This is of course why gay rights advocates get so pissed off at these men: the more gay-shaded men are hidden, the more stereotypes are accepted, the harder it is to fight for the right to be accepted as normal.  Hence the continued need for gay pride parades, stereotypes and all.  But do the stereotypes make it more likely that straight-acting gay men or the men discussed in this article will be less willing to support us?

I used to feel that I was the only man I knew who was attracted to other men.  But I have become convinced that there are many, many men who might have sex with other men in the right circumstances. Those "right circumstances" will vary: two sportsmen who are attracted but convinced they're not gay because they're both so "manly": the man on the path in New Zealand who flirted with me (he's not gay, perhaps he thinks, because he hasn't fallen in love with a man, and doesn't want to share a house with one, even though he likes sex with them); the man who loves his wife and his kids but likes to bottom sometimes; the man who simply feels that his affection for his mate needs to be expressed sexually; the man who doesn't even notice the cultural mores, so doesn't really "know" that having sex with your friends is "wrong".  Male (and surely also female) sexuality is much more fluid than we are led to think.

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