The unofficial gay/str8/bi FAQ

Discussion in 'Show Off' started by fortiesfun, Oct 17, 2006.

  1. fortiesfun

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    The completely unauthorized and unofficial gay/straight/bi FAQ:

    A sexual orientation primer​

    Among the most common questions here on LPSG are, “Does it make you gay if you [fill in the blank]?” and “Does it mean I’m gay if I [fill in something you like, think or do]?” This completely unauthorized and unofficial FAQ is my attempt to get a little bit of basic information out there about sexual orientation. I welcome the addition of information from others that might help newcomers, especially young men, with their questions about orientation issues.

    The basic starting place has to be that people use the words “gay, straight, and bi” to mean a lot of different things, and those things are not always easy to sort out. Far from being a simple dimorphic phenomenon (i.e. everyone is either straight or gay), sexuality is a complex experience with at least three well-understood dimensions. It can be separated into: 1. Sexual identity; 2. Sexual desire; and 3. Sexual behavior.

    Identity: When you hear the terms “straight” and “gay” used as self-descriptions you are almost always hearing them employed as expressions of sexual/social identity. Identity is both personal and subjective. Gay and str8 are primarily labels of self-identification, expressing what the speaker feels about himself more than any objective standard. They are constructions of one’s sense of self in the world as much as (or as well as) descriptions of one’s bedroom habits.

    The term “straight” is derived from the Biblical phrase in Matthew about walking the “straight and narrow path,” and implies not only male interest in sex with females (and vice versa) but also often contains a self-defined sense of normalcy and social conformity.

    “Gay,” in contemporary usage, means male interest in sex with other males, but also often contains a self-defined sense of “otherness” and identification with a counter-cultural social community. “Gay” is sometimes also used inclusively to convey female-female sexuality, but is just as often contrasted with “lesbian.” Two decades ago, “queer” was interchangeable with “gay,” but is now often used as a larger umbrella term to embrace all types of sexual non-conformity.

    “Bi” is simply short for bisexual, a term that covers a huge amount of territory. In the simplest sense it means sexual interest in both men and women, but not necessarily at the same time or to the same degree. Asexual is the term for people who are uninterested in sex altogether. Celibate is the term for those with sexual interest who refrain from sexual conduct.

    So, to answer the original question, from the perspective of identity, nothing makes you gay (or straight) except how you feel about yourself.

    Sexual Desire: The second component of sexuality has to do with whom you desire. Sex researchers often use the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” to describe desire as a way of separating it from the slang terms used for identity. Homosexuals are attracted to members of their own sex, and heterosexuals to the opposite sex. Bisexuals are attracted by both sexes.

    Desire has only to do with what turns you on – what excites you. It may or may not be the same as how you self-identify. It is possible, and in fact is somewhat common, for straight men to feel some degree of homosexual desire. Vice versa, most self-identifying gay men still feel some occasional desire for women.

    Some people use the term “sexual preference” to indicate desire, but it has fallen from favor in the gay community because it implies choice about what is attractive. Politically that has huge consequences, but let if suffice here simply to say that few people (gay or straight) experience desire as being under their conscious control.

    Desire is different from sexual response. Men get erections from a great many sources of friction, but getting a hard-on from leaning against one doesn’t mean that dishwashers turn you on. It just means your penis is responsive to vibration. Similarly, most men are responsive to a wide range of visual stimulation (that is, porn) without it specifically meaning anything about their sexual desire. Does it mean that you are gay if you get erections watching gay porn? Maybe, but maybe not. It is possible that it is exciting, but your desire still arises in heterosexual form.

    Whom you desire is an important clue to sexual orientation, but it is not the sole answer, because you may or may not act on your desires, and it may or may not accord with how you feel about yourself.

    From the perspective of sexual desire, it is not you that is homosexual or heterosexual, it is your erotic interests. (Gore Vidal says that homosexual and heterosexual are adjectives, not nouns.)

    Sexual Behavior: The final dimension of sexuality is what you actually do. Researchers increasingly try to factually describe behavior in neutral terms that define the participants and the sexual activity instead of labeling it. Rather than call it gay sex, for example, recent practice would be more likely to use terms like “male-male oral sex” or “male-male mutual masturbation.”

    Sexual behavior tends not to fit into neat categories. Alfred Kinsey developed his famous seven-point scale to deal with the fact that sexuality did not show up in the general male population as an either/or, but as a continuum. (In fact the largest category, almost 50% of respondents, was bisexual.)

    Perhaps the most surprising thing about sexual behavior is how little it correlates with sexual identity. Health workers have begun using a new label – men who have sex with men (MSM) – precisely because the number of men in this category far outnumber the group who self identify as “gay” or “bi.” And to almost everyone’s surprise, in two separate recent surveys, almost 80% of individuals who self-identified as gay revealed that they had also had sex with opposite sex partners in the last five years.

    There are substantial gulfs between what the think about ourselves, what we desire, and what we actually do. There is certainly an argument to be made that behavior is the definitive indicator, but when it comes down to it both researchers and research subjects find a large number of ways to rationalize an enormous amount of sexual behavior as non-definitive. Many things influence sexual behavior including culture, availability (or lack of availability) of partners, and health. In Latin cultures it is common to hold that the dominant (insertive) partner in male-male sexual relations is not gay, while the passive (receptive) partner is. In prison populations sexual behavior is recognized as being a matter of expedience instead of preference. Youthful sex is often thought of as experimental, or as a passing phase. There is no definitive manner in which sexual orientation is determined, no absolute scientific standard against which sexuality can be referenced.

    Continued in next post
     
  2. fortiesfun

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    What causes homosexuality? No one knows. Nor does anyone know what causes heterosexuality either. The theory that sexual orientation is genetically determined has found little supporting evidence so far. A more general theory that sexual orientation develops in the womb with the rush of hormones that start gender development at ten weeks into the pregnancy seems more likely, but unspecific. It is just proposing that sexuality develops at almost the same time as everything else about you. No precise mechanism is involved in this theory. Simon LeVay’s famous finding that there were physiological differences in the hypothalmic structure of gay men as compared to straight men has been widely criticized and not reliably replicated, but comes closest to finding a biological mechanism.

    What percentage of the population is gay? This question is one of the most controversial social questions of our time. Various studies and surveys have produced vastly different answers to this question, but because they define “gay” so differently (or not at all) these studies often tell you more about the researchers’ sexual attitudes than produce useful conclusions about the general population.

    In studies that allow random participants to self-identify their orientation anonymously there is a fairly consistent result of about 5% of males reporting they are gay. Those numbers go down sharply (by about half) when the participants must give up some or all of their anonymity.

    In surveys that assign the sexual orientation status based on conclusions drawn from some sort of analysis of sexual behavior rather than self-identification, as the famous Kinsey study did, the numbers usually begin to go up. Kinsey estimated the percentage of actively homosexual men at 10% at any given time. More recent health care studies associated with AIDS prevention have proposed much higher estimates for the numbers of MSM (men who have sex with men), pushing toward the 25% mark, but the qualifying criteria clearly includes any contact that places one at risk, rather than a consistent orientation.

    Conservative political activist have widely cited a study by the Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers that found less that one percent of the total population is gay, but their definition was so restrictive that as one gay commentator exaggeratedly put it, you basically “had to be taking it up the ass as you filled out the questionnaire to qualify.”

    The most misleading conclusion of most studies is the common assumption that everyone who does not self-identify as gay is automatically, therefore, straight. That is simply not the case. When given a range of options a significant number of men self-identify as bisexual, asexual, or celibate. When “unsure” is an option it also draws a significant number of respondents, especially among the young. Finally, in many studies as high as 25% of respondents decline to answer the question. These answers are often thrown out rather than treated as important data, and the remaining data is often highly skewed because of it. Given the full range of choices, and including non-respondents, studies consistently produce estimates of the percentage of heterosexual men in the 50-60% range. This is much lower than the estimates derived by subtracting the percentage of gay respondents from the total population and show the inherent dangers in assuming that male sexuality is simply dimorphic.

    What can be said, then, with certainty about sexual orientation? Well, here are a couple of things: First, we’ve known since at least the Kinsey report was published almost 60 years ago now, that male sexuality is actually rather fluid. Recently a great many new terms, like “homoflexible” and even “cyberflexible” have become commonplace to try to capture the shifting nature of most men’s desires and behavior over time. We know that if you look at the entire lifespan MSM make up a majority of the male population, but most men still self-identify as straight. If your fundamental feeling about yourself is that you are not gay, there is certainly precedent for that even given rather extensive male-male sexual involvement.

    If you feel you are gay or bi, we also know that is initially apt to involve feelings of alienation from society, and not uncommonly fear, depression, and sometimes even suicidal ideation. Among the things that is most supportive about LPSG is that there are a substantial number of men here who have successfully negotiated the waters of self-acceptance, and who have come to embrace their identities as gay or bi men. Their experience can be extremely helpful. Most are open to corresponding with those still struggling with issues of sexual orientation or coming out. There are also some superb threads about resources for gay men (or other sexually non-conforming men) of all ages who are experiencing issues of isolation or repression.

    For those interested in more detailed and objective information, Wikipedia’s entry on sexual orientation is a good starting place.
     
  3. DaveyR

    DaveyR Retired Moderator
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    Great post there Forties. This and the previous FAQ you did recently should be stickies. :smile:
     
  4. fortiesfun

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    Man, Dave, you responded in less than 3 minutes! Thanks for the compliment. I certainly appreciate it.
     
  5. D_Sheffield Thongbynder

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    Great post, FF -- as always.
     
  6. dudepiston

    dudepiston New Member

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    Yeah, that's not the only thing Dave does in 3 minutes :)

    And, great post here Forties. I really appreciated it, and the great things you've said to me in PM's. You have no idea how it's helped.:smile:

    DP



     
  7. DaveyR

    DaveyR Retired Moderator
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    WHAT - at my age more likely 3 hours :tongue:
     
  8. D_Sheffield Thongbynder

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    With the Pope looking over your shoulder, it probably takes you three days, Dave.:wink:
     
  9. DaveyR

    DaveyR Retired Moderator
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    Cheers for that John you've just fucking put me off for life!!!!
     
  10. NCSLionheart

    NCSLionheart New Member

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    These are actually numbers that Ive heard many times before. I never really acknowledge this statistic in my daily life, but if its true, that would mean 1 out of every 4 men are homosexual. o_0 Doesnt that number seem a little high? Even if the statistic is 10%, even THAT seems to be quite high.

    In all honesty, with all the social stigma going around these days that homosexuality is a bad thing (lets not forget, however, that the world is gradually becomming more accepting of homosexuality), you would think that the percentage of homosexual men would be only a fraction of a percent. I mean... think about it--10 percent of all men--if thats the case, maybe homosexuals arent such a minority afterall. Thats... probably enough to be all the men in what--a continent?

    Then again, I suppose you have to figure in what country these statistics are taken. I cant imagine that men throughout the entire world are equally pre-disposed to being homosexual. Which, scientifically would mean that it is a persons upbringing (not their genetics) that lead to them being homosexual.

    Well, thats my rant. Dont take it to heart or anything... as Im no certified scientist on homosexuality. Just my take on the subject. Either way, I find it incredibly hard to believe that 1 out of 10 men I come across is gay... but if it is true, then Ive been looking at the world in the wrong way my whole life o_0
     
  11. DaveyR

    DaveyR Retired Moderator
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    This really jumped out at me in your post NCSLion and it has struck me a few times recently reading other threads.

    Why is it that the US seems to be bucking the trend? What is happening in the US that is not happening elsewhere in the world that is promoting a social stigma to homosexuality?

    Now I know that some are going to jump straight in and blame your president. One person surely cannot affect people's thinking to that extent can they? What really is going on over there?
     
  12. joyboytoy79

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    As is most often the case, Doc, i find your post well thought-through, and well written. If anyone reads this and still doesn't know of he is gay, he is one confused man! (which is not unusual... )
     
  13. joyboytoy79

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    Lionheart-

    That is NOT AT ALL what the data is saying. The data is saying that 1/4 of men, over the course of their entire lifetimes have some sort of homosexual experience. It does not define these men AS homosexual. It does not say they ARE homosexual at some points in thier lives. It does not define "homosexual experience." It simply says that an estimated 25% of males have some sort of sexual encounter with another men at some point in their lives. I don't think that sounds so high, considering the number of men who admit to having jacked off with a friend.
     
  14. hungthickdc

    hungthickdc Member

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    If I can add my 2 cents.... this is a topic that truly fascinates me. I left the U.S. and am now living in the Caribbean. It has really opened my eyes in terms of how homosexuality is perceived. Based on my experiences, I've come to the conclusion that in the developing world (they hate when you call it the Third World), homosexuality as we know it in the developed world, doesn't exist. For most here, homosexuality is not even in their realm. For instance, I see many men here that would be considered effeminate in the States, but are considered perfectly normal. And no one would presume they are gay. Because nobody is gay. What I mean by that is that they don't even consider it. They don't have gay people. Gay people exist elsewhere. And because men here would never presume you are gay, they tend to be much more casual and forward with other men. Because they aren't worried that people will think they are gay. Hmmm... I'm not explaining this well... let me try this.

    In many developed countries, homosexuality has become an integrated part of the society. People openly identify themselves as gay or straight. (Sorry if I don't delve into Bi/Transgendered... trying to keep it simple). In a society where it's generally okay to be gay, straight men are more inclined to feel the need to openly identify themselves as straight. Not in a "Who you calling gay?!!" kinda way... I'm not implying that they are necessarily threatened by gays. But a straight man can no longer walk down the street and assume that everyone knows he is straight. I think the result of this is that men feel the need to specifically identify themselves as gay or straight. There is no middle ground. Take NCSLionhearts response as an example. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that if 1 in 4 men has had a sexual experience with another man, then 25% of men are gay. That illustrates my point beautifully. It is my assertion that prior to the open expression of gayness/straightness, things weren't so black and white. And that gets me back to the point I wasn't making so well regarding what I've seen in developing countries. Because there is no open expression of sexuality, everyone is presumed to be straight. So men generally don't need to assert the fact that they are straight. And to take it a step further, men here don't identify themselves as gay, just because they have sex with other men. I realize this is anecdotal, but in my experience, it is much easier to get a "straight" man to fuck around with you here than in the States. Because in the States, the man would think "Oh my God? Does this mean I'm gay?". Here it's not like that. They just think "Hey, that was fun... maybe I'll do that again." And then go home to their wife/girlfriend.... cuz they're not gay... nobody is.
     
  15. dags

    dags New Member

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    Alot is going on in the US. In fact too much is going on in my opinion. Its just not like it used to be when I was growing up. People, everywhere! Crowded, all major cities have grown tremendously. I must be getting old, I shop weekdays when most people that work 9-5 are at work. Otherwise on the weekends its fucking crazy! Cars! and Traffic! As far a the eye can see. We have become much more racially diverse all over. Which I think is cool. But for some reason unless you are in a huge metro area where there is a large gay/lesbian visible community, attitudes can still be pretty conservative.
    I have seen positive progress though, both High Schools in my hometown now have G/L support groups. Looking back to 1985 we would never have dreamed of such a thing.
    Alot of positive things have happened but I ask the same question. Why is the US still so uptight? From the movies and TV shows I have watched from the UK (and Canada), like Benny Hill, Kids in the Hall, Little Britain, Are You Being Served, The Young Ones (thats an oldie!) and Independent films made in the UK, attitudes are much more relaxed and comfortable and accepting of gays. The feeling I get is that the overwhelming majority of people over there just accept it as part of life. And the humor reflects that. And so I'm thinking like why did my ancestors leave the UK anyway! Damn them! LOL
    The US has alot of issues on several levels going on right now, I just hope things will get better with all of them in my lifetime.
    My Daughter went to Oxford this past summer through a program at college.
    I found her stories and observations about the differences between our countries very interesting.
    For one thing in the US I see so many people that are so driven by money.
    Plain and simple.
    They have to have the absolutely HUGE house, with the ever popular HUGE Sport Utility Vehicle (poor fuel economy of course), they just want to have everything, and NOW. And some people do it and its all bought on CREDIT. To some people they have to keep up with the Joneses. Members of my own family are part of this way of thinking. I love them but it would all be too exhausting for me, I don't want to have almost every cent of my pay go to making payments until I'm old and gray. My home is paid for and its staying that way. I have known people who are so extended on credit with an exuberant house and car payments they hardly had any groceries to speak of, seriously. But...I guess they can live on the friends and neighbors admiration of their fabricated "picture perfect" life.
    They don't own anything outright, if these people loose their job or have some horrible health disaster I hope they have some insurance plan that will carry them. You should see the foreclosures in the weekend paper!
    Its excess to the extreme. And I'm not saying not to buy a big house I'm just explaining a trend and pointing out that one of the issues is greed, selfishness, materialism and wastefulness.
    While some people are so preoccupied with making money other things like quality time for themselves and their families slips by the wayside.
    Its no wonder the prisons are full. And some of the horrible murders by kids lately. I recently read an article in the paper of how we are getting more socially isolated. I hear almost every other week about more cuts to the public schools budget and the local county's budget, less funds for the police department and the probation officers. Probation officers are so overwhelmed with cases as it is I hear now some offenders will have to "report in " to a kiosk (in the courthouse I assume, but you never know maybe they will conveniently have them in Walmart or something LOL) because they just are overwhelmed. I just don't understand, where is all the money going? There seems to be plenty to piss away on frivolous programs. Its ridiculous and shameful. One of the richest countries representing freedom and all this BS going on. Not enough people stand up and come together to get something done. We don't have huge protests like in the 1960's. People just think the government will run itself, well, be careful what you wish for. Last year on the world news I saw people in France totally PO'd because the president was going to change part of the employment laws. What happened there needs to happen here, people need to have some balls and start speaking out. Basically what I see for the most part is that as long as the paycheck keeps coming in and nothing feels to be affecting some peoples lives, they don't really care.I'm not trying to personally offend anyone. I'm just using commom sense and describing some of the behaviers and trends that are contributing to the reall big picture.
    The larger social issues and causes. Everything contributes. I know I got a bit off topic but hey Dave Rock, you asked what was going on.
     
  16. B_Stronzo

    B_Stronzo New Member

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    Two words Dave; Fundamental Christianity

    As long as those bastards are allowed to base their hateful argument on several out-of-context references to "men lying with men" Amerikuns will think themselves justified in legitimizing organized condemnation.

    Of all the "civilized" or "modern" nations on this globe we're the least tolerant.

    Odd isn't it since we were settled (early-on) by those who'd suffered directly from the marginalization of intolerance.........
     
  17. NCSLionheart

    NCSLionheart New Member

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    whew boy... thats a lot to respond to... I'll start from the top >__>

    On the whole social stigma issue... I actually thought it was the other way around--but this is obviously because you and I look at this from different points of views--I'm American, and youre not. Don't read that the wrong way though, Im not one of those people who thinks the world needs to be rid of homosexuality. My personal view is that if you love someone, and he/she loves you back, then there should be nothing to stop it (in case there was any confusion).

    Back on topic though... from my point of view, I always thought that of all the countries out there, America was one of the most accepting of homosexuality. Now, I do live in California, currently, which is where most of America's homosexuals live, if I'm not mistaken, no? That could be why things seem different over here rather than on the other side of America. On the other hand, arent there some countries that actually KILL people for being gay? I coulda sworn I heard something like that about middle eastern countries somewhere... dont remember where I heard it though.

    Finally, probably the easiest answer to your question: What is happening in the US thats not happening elsewhere... That question is actually very easily answered: Americans are EXTREMELY close-minded to the rest of the world. Thats actually kind of why I consider myself lucky. I was born and raised in Japan from 2 white parents (yes, Im white myself, not inherently Asian at all). My parents were still US citizens, so I was still born with US citizenship, and eventually moved back here at age 11. And I was really struck at how different things were over here. In Japan, its common for students to learn history of ALL places around the world, while in America, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is about American history. Now, thats just the tip of the iceberg obviously, but the whole close-mindedness thing begins with a childs upbringing and education. Now, all other Americans out there, dont get me wrong either--Im not saying American children are brought up WORSE than children in other countries... just differently. Im honestly not one to say whats good and whats bad.

    The fact is, at least in America, that there is indeed a social stigma tied to being homosexual. As to whether or not there should be is anyones opinion, but the stigma still remains, and most-likely will remain for a very long time. Personally, I believe America, as well as the rest of the world, is beginning to accept homosexuality, which is definitely a step in the right direction. But its still going to be a while before noticeable progress is made.

    lol, sorry if I sound weird here--this is a touchy subject for some people, and Im trying not to offend anyone.

    Finally, as for the president comment--I really havent paid attention to George bush since we first elected him. Mostly because Ive never been interested in politics at all. So I cant exactly comment on that, but I can definitely say that the whole anti-gay thing going on is NOT the presidents fault. *shrug*


    Next thing that caught my eye:

    That was my mistake, I misread the post. But, if you take your example of guys jacking off with other guys, I don't know if I would necessarily classify that as a homosexual experience. :p Thats just guys being guys, right? Obviously its different if theyre jacking each other off. Then again, the entire FAQ stated that one of the biggest problems is in determining what is classified as homosexual, and what is not--so this is kind of a moot point by me. I dunno--too complicated for me to think about.

    And then...

    That quote is also due to my mis-reading. I don't believe that anyone who has had a homosexual experience is necessarily gay. As I just stated, I interpreted the FAQ to be outright saying that 1 out of 4 men is gay...period. Obviously now, I see I interpreted incorrectly. Hell, I've been in the presence of other nude men doing whatever sexual things they were doing before, but I know Im not gay.



    This is definitely a dynamic subject. I could write a 1000 page report on it and still not cover all the bases that I want to cover. Thats probably why the world has been debating over the gay/straight issue for so long. And to make matters worse, society (or at least some societies) has put a "right and wrong" aspect into it, which can make it hard to discuss openly without offending one party or another.

    So as a final word, no straights, gays, Americans, or Japanese were hurt in the making of this post. If I did say something here that seems offensive, that was not my intention, but I realize that it happens from time to time in these debates.



    Edit:________________________
    just wanted to say... you explained that as well as anyone else could explain it. I know exactly how you feel about it--and I know its incredibly difficult to put these things into words. But that paragraph is essentially the underlying blunder that divides people on the whole gay/straight subject.
     
  18. fortiesfun

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    Wow! This thread certainly stirred up a lot quickly. I can't and won't dig into the question of tolerence in the US vs. the rest of the world, though it does interest me. I would suggest that is a topic for another thread sometime, perhaps in the "Etc, etc." Forum.

    But Lionheart's original post captures the common reaction to sexual orientation discussions. That is, what the stats he quotes tell us is that his estimates of "out and proud" gay men are not far off. This paragraph would suggest that the numbers of openly gay men are closer to one in forty:

    But, what shocked America in 1949 when the Kinsey report first came out, and what continues to shock us today is that there is a whole lot more male-male sex going on than is happening between the guys who march in your local gay pride parade. In the words of the immortal Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and they are us."

    The studies that arrived at the 25% figure that so deeply concerned him do, in fact, suggest that one in four men at some point in their lives are having some degree of gay sex, and probably more than just jacking off together at that, since the line being drawn is that it is male-male sexual behavior that requires protection to prevent HIV transmission.

    What brought Kinsey under attack in the first place, and what continues to make this issue contentious, is not the estimates of the numbers of gay men, but the assertion that many self-identified "straight" men, at least occasionally, participate in male-male sex. It is an important finding about male sexuality that may seem counterintuitive, but it has consistently shown up over five decades now. That it doesn't seem plausible doesn't mean it isn't true, but it tells you a whole lot about the difference between the surface appearances of social life and their deep structure.
     
  19. DaveyR

    DaveyR Retired Moderator
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    I take your point Forties and sorry for the highjack it was not intentional.

    Thanks to those who reponded to my question - all very interesting. I have some follow up points and questions which I will address in a new thread when I have a little more time to put my post together. Thanks in the meantime.
     
  20. BJT

    BJT New Member

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    That was an amazing post. Very good insight, also a good read.

    Keep up the good work man
     
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