June 21, 2007

Daddy, why did you become a heterosexual?

The peculiar American culture war raging about the origins, purpose, sinfulness and complexity of homosexuality is amusingly surveyed by Duncan France, who describes himself as a "self-evident" gay man, in his article for New York Magazine.

From phrenological observations of hair whorls and ring finger digit lengths, to gay penguins who do a u-turn the next breeding season, to what makes lesbians have limbs as long as those of straight men (and aren't into casual sex but potluck dinners), it's an amusing overview of how scientists are trying to come to grips with what makes a guy lust after guys (and their female equivalent), how to spot one, and - more sinisterly - how to possibly cure one using prenatal screening for the (as one scientist let slip, "wrong") sexual orientation gene settings.

It's a rollicking read which will make you check your hair whorl, digit lengths, left-handedness, 3D spatial reading ability and your sibling birth order: all indicators on which I score as straight - so much for phrenology then.

If I had a methodological quibble with one of the research projects it would be this one:
When shown pornographic videos, men have an undeniable response either to gay or straight images but not both, according to sensitive gauges attached to their genitals — it’s that binary.
In my opinion many gay men get aroused by straight porn too - as long as there is a guy in the scene. Far better would have been to measure the response to gay porn and lesbian porn. Straight men love some good girl-on-girl action (many would call that "self-evident" too, as a quick ask round of my straight friends has confirmed) while that wouldn't stir any gauges attached to my (or gay mates') loins.

In all, my beef is not so much with the way those scientists want to find out about my sexuality and sexual orientation - I am pretty comfortable with who I am. If it was found I was born that way, so be it. And if it is a matter of choice, well, if I had to go back in time I would make the same choice again.
I would rather scientists spend their time a little bit more productively by researching what makes guys straight, because heterosexuality seems to me a much bigger source of social unrest, deviancy, delinquency, war and unhappiness - and curing this would make the world a better place, not only for homosexuals but their girlfriends too.

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