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Girls, Girls, Girls
06/20/2003

This morning, when I blogged about Rob Smith's post about gay marriage, I didn't mention a tangential thought that I had. Smith mentions that his daughter is gay, and it occurred to me that, with every parent in the public light whom I've heard mention a gay child lately, it's been a daughter (Dick Cheney, Dick Gephardt, Cher, and now Rob Smith, off the top of my head). Well, Glenn Reynolds points to a study that might explain some of the reason for that:

The findings confirm what researchers have suspected for some time -- women may prefer to date one gender or the other, but they get sexually aroused by both.

Men, on the other hand, aren't nearly as flexible. Straight men like to watch women have sex, and gay men like to watch men. Case closed.

"This may well be relevant to the flexibility of female sexuality. I wouldn't be surprised if this is one reason why women transition more between sexual identities than men," said study co-author Michael Bailey, chairman of the psychology department at Northwestern University and author of "The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism."

First things first: beyond having questions about how representative a group who would sign up for such a study might be, I'm not extremely confident in the study's methodology — both the method of, umm, measurement and the interpretation of the data. For one thing, I can't tell whether the numbers reflect degree of arousal. For another thing, this statement looks suspiciously phrased:

But the women -- straight or lesbian -- tended to enjoy watching all the types of partners have sex. Only 63 percent responded most to sex involving their preferred gender, a much lower number than among the men.

If a significant segment of the women in the study were lesbians, given what little the article tells us, it could be that some percentage whose "preferred gender" was women were actually more aroused by sex involving men.

But take the study at face value. Wouldn't this have some relevance to the degree to which homosexuality among women is something that they're born with? "Fluid" sexuality looks a bit more like a choice, to me. And if it is more of a choice than it is generally presented to be, that would hardly support the concept of gay marriage. If lesbian marriage were to become socially accepted, women would have one less reason to choose men. Add in advancements in reproductive technology and the pool of potential mates becomes dangerously lopsided.

Oh, sure, there are women (and men) who would chuckle at this. Some feminazis may see it as a goal. However much appeal the idea might have for some women, a dramatically lowered marriage pool for men would, first, sift down to the lower economic classes and, then, turn into a volatile social dynamic.

ADDENDUM:
Although the person who emailed the ideas that this addendum will address promised to comment after a couple of days of consideration, I wanted to jot down some thoughts.

The first point is that there are many more gay men than lesbians. I've no intention of disputing this, although I do want to make the suggestion that there's some room for visibility to affect perception. The real question, with respect to lesbians, female sexuality, and marriage, is the trend. However, even the absence of a noticeable increase in the number of lesbians would not conflict with the thesis that fluid sexuality among a significant percentage of women could become a harmful force in society down the road.

The second point of the email is that women are already having difficulty finding husbands, with a reference to the gender disparity in college attendance, about which I wrote at some length in early May. As a result, the email suggests, more women might opt for single motherhood.

Put all of this together. Granting credibility to the sexual arousal study (and I'm not yet entirely sold on its conclusions), I see no reason that women — whether single mothers or not — would not opt for same-sex marriages once they become legally ratified and more socially accepted, particularly if an increasing chunk of the male population shifts below such careers as require higher education. Consider Rob Smith's comment about his daughter's lesbian relationship:

My daughter is gay, and I am not one bit disappointed about it. She has found herself a good partner who puts up with her shit (and she has plenty, trust me) and lives a much better life than if she had hooked up with some Biker Bozo with a dick. She could have done a lot worse.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 07:00 PM EST



4 comments


I was the person who emailed Justin re: number of lesbians, etc.

Every study I've seen says that male homosexuals outnumber females by a factor of 3 or 4. Yes, the visibility factor may affect one's perceptions, but this is such a large disparity and is so constant that I think that the studies are reflecting reality. I don't have the book handy but the Gina Kolata/Sex in America book (the one that exploded the 10% myth) backs this up.

Going back to your original post about the dearth of boys in college, I think that Barbara Ehrenreich is the smartest leftist around (maybe the *only* smart leftist?), and that her observation about the differing career options of boys and girls is right on the money. I don't think she was defending or justifying; simply explaining.

I think she would be quite sensitive to the dangers of gender disconnect. The problem is that we are consciously creating, for the first time in human history, a situation where men and women are competing with each other economically for the same resources in the same jobs. At the same time, we are creating a situation where there are zero incentives to marry, while there are many disincentives, and in which boys and girls at the crucial adolescent and post-adolescent ages will not be able to hook up.

The ideal marriage in this world is Bill and Hillary. Not good.

Diana @ 06/22/2003 10:04 AM EST


Diana,

Your points are correct enough, as far as they go, and we seem to be in agreement about certain parts of the Big Picture (about Bill & Hillary for sure).

However, getting back to the topic at hand, my emphasis was on the possibility of a trend, now or in the future, in which an increasing number of girls don't even bother trying to hook up with boys because they have been given another option that they find sufficiently palatable.

Justin Katz @ 06/22/2003 01:01 PM EST


Justin,

You have it the wrong way around. Girls are the ones who get asked; guys do the asking. The problem is that men are being socialized away from pursuing women.

Diana @ 06/22/2003 04:47 PM EST


Diana,

It probably won't shock you that I think you're misinterpreting what's going on. Even sticking to the traditional roles in which the boys ask the girls, there girls have had the option of refusing. That being the case, the boys have looked for indications that their propositions might be accepted. This subtle interplay has been disrupted, and at least part of it has to do with the indications being convoluted or not given at all.

Justin Katz @ 06/22/2003 09:09 PM EST