Born or Learned? Sexuality, Science, and Party Lines

Baby_2
When I first came out into the gay community, one of the most common party lines going around was, “Gay parents aren’t any more likely to have gay kids than straight parents.” Some of the big political battles being fought at the time had to do with gay parenting, and the community was trying to reassure/ convince the straight world that it was “safe” for gay people to have and raise kids, that our kids wouldn’t be any more likely to be gay than anyone else’s. (Of course, many of us personally thought, “So what if our kids turn out gay? There’s nothing wrong with being gay, so why does it matter?” But we knew the straight world didn’t feel that way. Hence, the line.)

Dna_double_helix_horizontal
Not too long after that, I started hearing the party line, “Being gay isn’t a choice — we’re born that way.” Again, this was used in political discussions and debates, as a way of putting anti-gay discrimination in the same civil rights camp as racist or sexist discrimination… and as a way of gaining sympathy. Now, this would seem to be in direct contradiction with the “Gay parents aren’t any more likely to have gay kids” line. If people are born gay, doesn’t that mean it’s genetic, and doesn’t that mean gay parents are more likely to have gay kids? But in fact, these two party lines overlapped. I heard them both at the same time for quite a while… and I never heard a good explanation for why they weren’t contradictory. (Please see addendum at the end of this post for clarification of this point.)

Constructionism
Then I started hearing the strict constructionist line. “Sexual orientation is a social construct,” it said. “Our sexuality is formed by our culture. All that ‘we’re born that way’ stuff — that’s biological determinism, rigid, limiting, a denial of the fluid nature of sexuality and sexual identity.” (I am embarrassed to admit that I bought and sold this line myself for quite some time, in a pretty hard-line way… solely because I liked the idea.)

Argue
And now… well, now it’s kind of a mess. Some in the queer community say, “it’s genetic,” and argue that this is a core foundation of our fight for acceptance. Others fear that the “genetic” argument will lead to eugenics, parents aborting their gay fetuses, the genocide of our community. The constructionist line about rigidity and determinism still gets a fair amount of play. And more and more I’m starting to hear the combination theory: sexual orientation is shaped partly by genetics, partly by environment, and may be shaped differently for different people.

And in all of these debates and party lines, here’s what I never heard very much of:

Evidence to support the theory.

Or, to be more precise: Solid evidence to support the theory. Carefully gathered evidence. Evidence that wasn’t just anecdotal, that wasn’t just personal experience.

The line of the day — and the debates in our community surrounding it — always seemed to be based primarily on personal feeling and political expedience. I’d occasionally hear mention of twin studies or gay sheep or something… but that was the exception, not the rule. And the line has shifted around over the years, based not on new evidence, but on shifting political needs, and shifting ways that our community has defined itself.

Man_using_microscope
I am profoundly disturbed by the ease with which many in the queer community are willing to dismiss the emerging science behind this question. Yes, of course, scientists are biased, and the research they do often reflects their biases. But flawed as it is, science is still the best method we have for getting at the truth of this question (and any other question about physical reality). Double-blinding, control groups, randomization of samples, replication of experiments, peer review: all of this has one purpose. The scientific method is deliberately designed to filter out bias and preconception, as much as is humanly possible.

Scientific_method
It’s far from perfect. No reputable scientist would tell you otherwise. Among other things, it often takes time for this filtering process to happen. And it completely sucks when the filtering process is happening on your back: when you’re the one being put in a mental institution, for instance, because scientists haven’t yet figured out that homosexuality isn’t a mental illness. But when you look at the history of science over time, you see a consistent pattern of culturally biased science eventually being dropped in the face of a preponderance of evidence.

Biological_exuberance
And if you’re concerned about bias affecting science, I think it’s important to remember that many of the scientists researching this question are themselves gay or gay-positive. We can no longer assume that scientists are “them,” malevolent or ignorant straight people examining us like freakish specimens. Many of them are us… and if they’re not, they’re our allies. Yes, science often reflects current cultural biases… but right now, the current cultural biases are a lot more gay-positive than they used to be. And that’s even more true among highly educated groups such as the scientific community.

But more to the point: What other options are being offered? How else do we propose to answer this question? Or any other question about the possible causes of human behavior? If answering it based on science is subject to bias, then isn’t answering it based on our own feelings and instincts even more subject to bias? How can we accuse scientists of bias in their attempts to answer this question — and use that accusation as a reason to dismiss the science — when our own responses to the question have been so thinly based on evidence, and so heavily based on personal preference and political expedience?

Deconstruction_for_beginners
Unless you’re going to go with the hard-core deconstructionist argument that there is no reality and all of our perceptions and experiences are 100% socially constructed, then you have to accept that the question, “Is sexual orientation genetically determined, learned, or a combination of both — and if a combination, how much of each, and how do they work together?”… well, it’s a question with an answer. It’s not a matter of opinion. And it’s exactly the kind of question that science is designed to answer: a question of cause and effect in the physical world.

I’m not a scientist myself. But I’ve been following this question in the science blogs for a little while now. And as best I can tell, here’s the current scientific thinking on this question:

1) Sexual orientation is probably determined by some combination of genetics and environment (with in utero environment being another possible factor). (Here, btw, is a good summary of the current scientific research on this topic, and how it evolved.)

2) We really don’t know yet. The research is in the early stages. It’s probably a combination of genetics and environment… but we really don’t know that for sure, and we don’t know which factor is more influential, or how they work together, or whether different people are shaped more by one factor and others by the other. We just don’t know.

Evidence_poster
But I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: We should not be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer we would like to be true. We should not be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer we find most politically useful. We should be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer is true. We should be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer is best supported by the evidence.

Biology_for_christian_schools
If we don’t, then we are no better than the creationists, refusing to accept evolution because it screws up their view of the world. We are no better than the 17th century Catholic Church, refusing to accept that the Earth revolves around the Sun because it contradicted their theology. We are no better than the Bush administration, refusing to recognize clear warnings about Iraq and Katrina and global warming because it got in the way of their ideological happy thoughts. We are no better than the “Biology for Christian Schools” textbook, which states on Page 1 that, “”If [scientific] conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.”

Gay_marriage_for_better_or_worse
If we expect the straight world to accept the reality of our community, the reality that our lives and relationships and families are as healthy and stable as any other, then we ourselves need to be a committed part of the reality-based community. And we therefore need to accept the reality of the causes of our orientation… whatever that reality turns out to be.

So why don’t we try a different angle for a while. Maybe something like this:

“We don’t really know what causes sexual orientation. And we don’t think it matters. It’s probably a combination of genetics and environment, but until more research is done, we don’t really know for sure. And we don’t think it matters. It’s an interesting question, one many people are curious about — but it doesn’t really matter. Homosexuality doesn’t harm anybody, and it doesn’t harm society, and our relationships are as healthy and stable and valid as anybody else’s… and it isn’t anybody’s business but our own.

Vows
“We deserve rights and recognition because we are human beings and citizens: as much as racial minorities, whose skin color is inborn, and as much as religious minorities, whose religion or lack thereof is learned. The ‘born versus learned’ question is a fascinating one, with many possible implications about human consciousness generally. But it has absolutely no bearing on questions like job discrimination, or adoption of children by same-sex couples, or whether we should be able to marry. We don’t yet know the answer to this question… but for any practical, political, social, or moral purposes, it absolutely does not matter.”

*****

Addendum: As several commenters to this post have pointed out, it is actually possible for a trait (such as sexual orientation) to be genetically caused or influenced, and still not be any more likely for parents with that trait to have kids with it than parents without it. Fair point, and worth knowing. But I think my basic point about party lines, and the prioritization of political expedience over scientific evidence,still stands. After all, we didn’t know that in the early ’90s. Geneticists may have known it, I don’t know — but lay people in the queer community definitely didn’t. And yet we were still willing to repeat both tropes: the “we’re born that way” trope and the “gay parents aren’t any more likely than straight parents to have gay kids” trope.

Born or Learned? Sexuality, Science, and Party Lines
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Fuck Anything That Flies: Bisexuality, Fruit Flies, And The Causes Of Sexual Orientation

Flies
This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

I love science.

From the vaunted Pharyngula science blog comes this hilarious and enlightening news of mutant bisexual fruit flies.

(As they say on Mythbusters: “Warning: Science Content.” Lots of it, if you read the whole linked story.)

Dna_double_helix_horizontal
The gist, in case you don’t feel like reading all the darned neuroscience: In a particular species of fly, there is an occasional genetic variation — I’m trying not to call it a mutation, that’s such a judgmental word — that causes them to behave bisexually. It causes some females to try to initiate sex with other females; it causes some males to wait for other males to initiate courtship; and it causes some males to attempt, equally, to initiate courtship with both females and males.

Anything_that_moves
They will, to be blunt, fuck anything that flies.

And researchers haven’t just identified the existence of the mutation — excuse me, the variation. They haven’t just identified the gene that causes it, even. They’ve identified the specific neurological mechanism.

(Hence the science content.)

Spank
Now, PZ Myers, Pharyngula blogger of song and story, warns that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what this might mean for human sexuality. And I think he’s right to do so. Human beings are rather more complex than fruit flies. And our sexuality is, to put it mildly, a lot more complex. Fruit flies don’t, for instance, get hot for spanking, for latex, for women in seamed stockings, for men in seamed stockings, for bits and saddles, for stuffed animals, for cartoon characters, for curly-haired brunettes who look like Bette Davis.

So the fact that sexual orientation is genetically determined in fruit flies doesn’t prove, even a little bit, that it’s genetically determined in humans.

But it does tell us something about humans, and human sexuality.

It doesn’t tell us that our sexual orientation is genetically determined, or even genetically influenced.

But it tells us that it might be.

It tells us that it’s not ridiculous to consider the possibility.

Bisexual
It tells us that, at least in some animals, a tendency towards heterosexuality or bisexuality — and arguably homosexuality, if you think about those male flies waiting coyly for the other male flies to make the first move — is genetically determined. Entirely, as far as anyone can tell. And therefore, it tells us that it’s not out of the question to think that it might be genetically determined — at least partially — in other animals as well.

Including humans.

And this is an important message: not just for the homophobic right wing, but for the queer-theory crowd as well.

Pink_trianglesvg
There are queer theorists and activists who would be delighted to learn that sexual orientation is genetically determined at birth. For no other reason, they think it makes the civil rights battle easier to fight if they can play the “We were born this way” card. There are queer theorists and activists who think, not only that we might be born queer, but that we definitely are, and that the case is closed.

And there are queer theorists and activists who would be appalled to learn that orientation is determined by genetics. Even partially determined by genetics. Even a little bit determined by genetics. There are queer theorists and activists who actively resist this idea, who see it as dangerous and oppressive. There are queer theorists and activists who not only disagree with this theory, but who think that we should not even be considering it.

But here’s the thing.

We shouldn’t be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer we would like to be true.

We should be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer is true. We should be thinking about this question on the basis of which answer is supported by the evidence.

Manusingmicroscope
The question, “Is (X) behavior learned, genetically determined, or a combination of both — and if a combination, how much of each, and how do they work together?”… this is, at least in theory, a question that can be answered. When it comes to human sexuality, it’s probably beyond our current grasp… but that doesn’t mean it always will be. It’s probably going to wind up having an unbelievably complicated answer, but it’s not the kind of question that inherently can’t be answered with evidence and the scientific method. It’s actually exactly the kind of question that the scientific method was designed to answer.

In fact, we’re already beginning to gather some non-trivial data on this subject. And while the science is still in its infancy, or at least in its childhood, the current evidence seems to be leaning in the direction of “some combination of both.” When it comes to human sexual orientation, genetics, at the very least, probably plays a significant role.

Constructionism
My inner twenty-something queer-theory constructionist is cringing at this. When I came out and started becoming active in the queer community, constructionism (“it’s learned”) was all the rage, and essentialism (“it’s inborn”) was seen as rigid and confining. It’s been hard for me to accept the idea that sexual orientation may not, in fact, be entirely a product of a patriarchal society.

But my inner twenty-something queer-theory constructionist needs to get over it. The question of whether sexual orientation is born, learned, or both — and if both, how and how much — is not a question of opinion. It is not a question of politics or philosophy. And while there will almost certainly be ethical implications in the answer, it’s not a question that should be answered based on which answer we think is morally right or wrong.

It’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of reality. And I think that’s how we should be looking at it.

Because no good — politically, ethically, philosophically, or any other way — has ever come from the denial of reality.

Fuck Anything That Flies: Bisexuality, Fruit Flies, And The Causes Of Sexual Orientation

Lesbian Sex With Men

Please note: This piece discusses my personal sex life, and my personal sexual history, in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff, please don’t. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Whole_lesbian_sex_book
This is about the first time I had sex with a guy, after I’d finally started having sex with women.

And it’s about how having sex with women radically changed the way I have sex. With everybody. Men, women, everybody.

Here’s what happened. I was making out with this friend of mine. Male. And this was clearly not the “just fooling around” variety of making out. This was the “lead-up to having sex” variety. We’d actually decamped from another friend’s living room, where things had gotten started, and gone back to his place to keep things going. This was “making out, otherwise known as foreplay.”

Condom
So we were making out on his sofa, getting increasingly hot and heavy… when for no apparent reason, his momentum slowed down. Like, a lot. Trying to figure out what the heck was happening, I asked if he wanted to get a condom and go into the bedroom… and he said, with obvious embarrassment, that he’d already come, while we were making out.

(I think it had been a while since he’d had sex.)

And here’s where the “having had sex with women” part comes in.

Before I’d started having sex with women, my reaction to a guy’s premature ejaculation had been pretty traditional: disappointment, frustration, embarrassment on his behalf, attempts to soothe his ego, feeling like I’d done something wrong.

But this time, my reaction was to say, casually and matter-of-factly, “Oh. Well, is that any reason to stop?”

I wasn’t trying to make a statement or anything. I honestly didn’t even think about it. I certainly wasn’t thinking of it in terms of, “this is the great lesson I have learned from having sex with women.” It was just an automatic, instinctive reaction.

Train
But it was an automatic, instinctive reaction that was the complete opposite of the one I would have had a year or two before. It was an automatic, instinctive reaction that had been shaped by the sex I’d been having with women — sex in which one person’s orgasm didn’t stop the whole train, but was simply one of many sights on a long and eventful excursion.

And here’s the thing I found especially interesting:

When I said it, he was relieved.

He wasn’t angry, or annoyed, or anything even remotely approaching angry or annoyed. He was relieved. He was happy.

Dick
He didn’t want our encounter to be just about his orgasm, either. Especially since it had fired off before either of us was ready. “Is that any reason to stop?” was a way we could do that. It was a way he could feel good about our encounter, like a sexy, sensitive, open-minded lover instead of a gawky klutz who couldn’t control himself. And it was a way we could keep on having sex. It was a way we could actually have sex that night, instead of an aborted make-out session.

And we did.

I don’t even remember if we wound up fucking per se. But we had sex. Wonderful, sweet, delicious sex. For a good long while. An hour or two, if I recall correctly. With many sights on a long and eventful excursion.

Fucking_austria_street_sign_cropped
Now, of course, you don’t need to be bisexual to learn this lesson. Lots of straight people figure out that sex doesn’t necessarily equal fucking, or even fucking and sucking. Lots of straight people figure out that the presence of an erect penis is not necessary for sex to count as sex.

But lots of other straight people never figure that out. Even today, even in our post- Monica- Lewinksy, “it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is” era, the default definition of sex is still, “a hard dick going inside a hole.”

And I think it’s important to remember that this state of affairs doesn’t just suck for women. It sucks for men, too. My friend was so disappointed and embarrassed that his premature ejaculation had screeched our evening to a halt… and he was so relieved and happy to be offered the idea that it didn’t have to. The obsessive spotlight on the hard dick as the sole focal point and defining feature of sex… it makes for some seriously unsatisfied women, of course, but I think it’s a raw deal for men as well. It’s too much pressure on one little organ.

On_our_backs_guide_to_lesbian_sex
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I think my point is just this: An awful lot of people, of all genders and orientations, would benefit from the kind of sex that lesbians take as a given. The kind of sex where success isn’t overwhelmingly defined by one partner’s “performance.” The kind of sex that doesn’t make a sharp distinction between “foreplay” and “sex,” and that doesn’t have a strong opinion about which has to happen first. The kind of sex where the journey is the destination.

I don’t know where my friend is now. But I hope he remembers. I hope he remembers as fondly as I do. And I hope that from that night on, whenever he couldn’t get hard, or came before he wanted to, he was able to smile and say to his lover, “Well, is that any reason to stop?”

Lesbian Sex With Men

Loading the Dice: Bisexuality and Choice: The Blowfish Blog

Bisexual
I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. It talks about the question of whether sexual orientation is born, a choice, or some combination… and about how the answer to this question may be different for bisexuals than for mostly- straights or mostly- gays. It’s called Loading the Dice: Bisexuality and Choice, and here’s the teaser:

Of course it’s true that I don’t have a choice about who I’m sexually attracted to. And I didn’t have a choice about who I fell in love with. I don’t choose that, any more than anyone else does. But back when I was dating, I did have a choice about who I dated and who I socialized with. At the time that I fell for Ingrid, I was dating women, and socializing in the lesbian community, a whole lot more than I was with men and in the hetero community. And I was doing it out of choice.

To find out how being bisexual means being able to load the sexual orientation dice — and what this implies about the whole question of orientation and choice — read the rest of the piece Enjoy!

Loading the Dice: Bisexuality and Choice: The Blowfish Blog

On The Amazingness of Atheists… And Why It’s Doomed

Scarlet_a
I think the contemporary atheist movement is amazing. I am inspired and enlightened and completely blown away by it, on an almost daily basis. Not to mention vastly entertained. I think the contemporary atheist movement is largely — although far from entirely — made up of people who are smart, thoughtful, ethical, caring, passionate, honest, funny, brave, and able to think for themselves… to an amazing degree.

And I think that amazingness is doomed.

More to the point: I think it should be doomed.

I want to talk about why.

And I want, for what I believe is the 86,467th time in this blog, to make a comparison with the queer movement.

National_coming_out_day
When I was coming out as queer in the 80’s, coming out was still a hard thing to do. And you had to be a special person to do it. (Sorry if that sounds arrogant, but it’s true.) You had to have a strong personality, an independent spirit, a huge amount of self-confidence, a passion for social change, a vision for the future, a wicked sense of humor, a metric shitload of courage, an unbelievably thick skin. (That’s even more true the further back you go. Out queer people in the 60’s and 70’s were fucking phenomenal. I bow down to them.)

So it was easy to be deceived into thinking that there was something inherently special about being queer. After all, when you looked around you in the queer community, what you saw everywhere was totally amazing people. It was easy to forget that the difficulty of coming out was a powerful self-selecting filter for amazingness.

Queer_theory
And as a result, there was often a thread of self-satisfied elitism woven into all that amazingness. The queer theory crowd especially was always going on about how queerness represented this radical paradigm shift, how we were the cutting edge of a new frontier of humanity, how being queer meant seeing the world in a completely different way, how it represented a brand new way of looking at gender, how the liberation of queerness was going to solve world hunger and fill the world with cute puppies.

But as the movement progressed, and coming out became easier and safer, the amazing specialness of the queer community became… well, less and less special and amazing.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Gay_and_lesbian_weddings
I don’t remember who said this first, but the goal of any liberation movement is to make itself obsolete. That goal hasn’t been reached yet in the queer movement — far from it. But as the movement has progressed, as it’s become easier and easier to come out as queer, the queer community is looking more and more like just the regular old human community: not overwhelmingly populated by strong, independent, funny, brave, self-confident, thick-skinned visionaries with a passion for social change, but in fact populated largely by regular folks who just want to get on with their lives. Being queer has become increasingly normal, increasingly no big deal, increasingly not the central defining feature of every queer person’s identity. People have been able to come out of the closet who wouldn’t have had the strength and courage to do it twenty or thirty years ago.

And good for them. That’s exactly how it should be.

Now, this has been a hard pill to swallow for some, especially for the radical anti-assimilation queers. But it seems pretty clear now that having the hots for people of the same sex does not, in and of itself, make you a special and amazing person.

Which brings me back to the atheist movement.

Theatheist
Right now, coming out as an atheist is pretty damn hard. (Easier here in San Francisco… but still not super-easy. Among other things, I’ve had casual friendships lost and closer friendships seriously strained by my outspoken atheism. And the death threats haven’t been a picnic.) So you have to be a pretty amazing person to do it. You have to have a strong personality, an independent spirit, a huge amount of self-confidence, a passion for social change, a vision for the future, a wicked sense of humor, a metric shitload of courage, an unbelievably thick skin.

Atheist_blogroll
And as a result, the atheist community is amazing. Aggravating to the point of madness at times (as was the queer community of the 80’s and 90’s)… but still totally amazing. I love it to pieces.

But that’s not going to last.

We have to be prepared for that. And we have to not let our current amazingness go to our heads. We have to not succumb to elitism. We have to not fool ourselves into thinking that our amazingness comes from anything other than the difficulty of coming out, and the powerful self-selecting filter that this difficulty creates.

Atheism_morality_and_meaning
The recent debate here about the morality of atheists and believers is what reminded me of this, what made me decide to finally write about it instead of just musing about it in my head. See, I think this is part of the reason some atheists are inclined to think that atheist morality is more mature than theistic morality. Because right now, the atheist community is largely made up of people with a very mature, well-thought-out sense of morality and ethics. We’ve had to be. The assumption that morality comes from religion is very deeply ingrained in our culture, and those of us who’ve rejected religion have had to think long and hard and carefully about what our morality is and why. (Many theists have also thought about this carefully — in the same way that many straight people in the 80’s and 90’s had a thoughtful and perceptive understanding of gender — but coming out as an atheist today means having that thoughtfulness thrust upon you.)

Scarlet_a_2
But if we’re successful — if we succeed in making a world in which being an atheist is relatively easy, or at least a whole lot easier than it is now — then that’s going to change. As we succeed in making the world an easier place to be an atheist, we’re going to see more and more atheists who haven’t agonized over their atheism to the same degree that most of us have. As we succeed in making the world an easier place to be an atheist, we’re going to see more and more atheists who aren’t amazingly brave and strong, tough and independent, passionate and confident. We’re going to see more and more atheists who are pretty much regular folks who just want to get on with their lives.

And that’s exactly as it should be.

So we’d better prepare for it now.

On The Amazingness of Atheists… And Why It’s Doomed

The Texas Dildo Massacre, or, Reason Number 2,767 Why Gay Rights Matter To Everyone: The Blowfish Blog

Dildo
As you’ve probably heard, the Texas law banning the sale of sex toys has been overturned. I have a new piece about it on the Blowfish Blog: in it, I talk about what this ruling means — not just for consumers of sex toys, but for everyone who cares about the right to sexual privacy. And I talk about the Lawrence v. Texas case — the Supreme Court decision legalizing sodomy and same-sex relations, the case that was the foundation for the Texas dildo decision.

It’s called The Texas Dildo Massacre, or, Reason Number 2,767 Why Gay Rights Matter To Everyone, and here’s the teaser:

The Lawrence case didn’t just say that gay sex couldn’t be criminalized. It said that people — all people — have the right to engage in any consensual intimate conduct in their home, free from government intrusion. It said that people’s sex lives are not their neighbors’ business, not society’s business, and most emphatically not the government’s business. It said that the fact that the State doesn’t happen to like a particular kind of sex doesn’t mean they have a right to ban it, or indeed to have any say in it at all.

This case says, “Yup. That’s what Lawrence meant, all right.”

And that has enormous implications.

To find out what I think the implications are of the Texas dildo case — and the Texas sodomy case that preceded it — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

The Texas Dildo Massacre, or, Reason Number 2,767 Why Gay Rights Matter To Everyone: The Blowfish Blog

Are You A Sex Addict? Part 2

Part 2 of a two part post. Please note: This post discusses many different aspects of my personal sex life — many, many aspects — in a fair amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read that, please don’t. Really, really don’t. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Test
In the last column, we were discussing this Sexual Addiction Screening Test created by Dr. Patrick Carnes, inventor of the term “sex addiction.” We saw a noticeable pattern in this test: the pathologization of unconventional sex; the pathologization of sex that other people are shocked or upset by — regardless of whether they have any right to be; and the pathologization of people who make sex a high priority in their lives. (Thanks to Dr. Marty Klein’s Sexual Intelligence blog for the tip). Today we continue going through the test, looking at all the questions that a sexually healthy person might answer “Yes” to… and examining what exactly is troubling about this test and the model of sexual dysfunction it represents.

(This piece contains explicit descriptions of sex. If you’re under 18, please do not continue reading.)

Continue reading “Are You A Sex Addict? Part 2”

Are You A Sex Addict? Part 2

Are You A Sex Addict?

Please note: This post discusses many different aspects of my personal sex life — many, many aspects — in a fair amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read that, please don’t. Really, really don’t.

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Are you a sex addict?

Probably.

I seem to be.

Dont_call_it_love
Via Dr. Marty Klein’s excellent Sexual Intelligence blog comes news of this Sexual Addiction Screening Test from SexHelp.com, a site designed “to help those affected by sexual addiction and compulsivity.” The site was created by Dr. Patrick Carnes: inventor of the term “sex addiction,” founder and designer of multiple treatment programs for sex addiction, and author of several books on sex addiction.

According to Dr. Klein, Dr. Carnes admits he has no training in human sexuality. But let’s not focus on that just now.

Because according to this test, I have a problem.

Thumbup
Which is a bit odd. My life is good; my sex life is great. Things in my life are stable and flourishing, and sex is a happy part of that.

So I don’t actually think I have a problem.

I think this test has a problem.

Compleat_spanker
I think this test has several problems. I think this test represents an extremely narrow, rigid view of what can constitute a happy sex life. It pathologizes any kind of sex that’s unconventional. It pathologizes any kind of sex that other people are shocked or upset by — regardless of whether they have any right to be, or whether their sexual sensibilities are reasonable. And it pathologizes anyone who makes sex a high priority in their life.

Man_with_the_golden_arm
And I think this is the problem with the way sex addiction commonly gets treated. In fact, I think it’s the problem with the whole “sex addiction” theory in the first place. I don’t deny that some people behave compulsively around sex, self-destructively and destructively of others. I’d be an idiot to deny that. I just don’t think “addiction” is the right word — or the right concept — for that problem.

And I think this shows up in this test. Specifically, it shows up in the way that unconventional sex, sex that defies conservative sexual mores, or making sex a high priority in one’s life, are all seen as signs of sex addiction.

But maybe I’m in denial. Maybe I’m one of those addicts who can’t admit they’re an addict. Let’s take a look at the test, and at all the questions I answered “Yes” to… and let’s see.

(This piece contains explicit descriptions of sex. If you’re under 18, please do not continue reading.)

Continue reading “Are You A Sex Addict?”

Are You A Sex Addict?

“That’s the fun of it”: An Interview with “Best Erotic Comics” Artist Justin Hall

Bec_2008_2
I’m very proud and happy to present the first in a series of interviews with the artists of Best Erotic Comics 2008. One of the things I’m most proud of with this book is the wide variety of first-rate comic artists I was able to showcase, and I was thrilled to have the chance to talk with some of them directly and find out more about how they work, how they approach comics in general and dirty comics in particular.

Today’s interview is with Justin Hall, best known for his True Travel Tales comic series, and known to Best Erotic Comics readers as the artist of the sweet, kinky, hilarious, and seriously dirty “Birthday Fuck.” Justin and I talked about the comics industry, the sex industry, the challenge of telling true stories, the balance of arousal and artistry in erotica, and lots more.

Please note: Some of the content of this interview, and some of the images illustrating it, are not appropriate for minors. If you’re under 18, please do not continue reading.

Continue reading ““That’s the fun of it”: An Interview with “Best Erotic Comics” Artist Justin Hall”

“That’s the fun of it”: An Interview with “Best Erotic Comics” Artist Justin Hall

Fuck Anything That Flies: Bisexuality, Fruit Flies, and the Causes of Sexual Orientation: The Blowfish Blog

Flies
I have a new piece up on the Blowfish blog. Inspired by a post on Pharyngula, it talks about what causes sexual orientation in fruit flies… and what this fact does, and does not, tell us about what causes sexual orientation in people. And it talks about the problem of approaching this question based on what, philosophically or politically, we would like the answer to be, instead of what answer the evidence is pointing to.

It’s titled, Fuck Anything That Flies: Bisexuality, Fruit Flies, and the Causes of Sexual Orientation, and here’s the teaser:

Now, PZ Myers, Pharyngula blogger of song and story, warns that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what this might mean for human sexuality. And I think he’s right to do so. Human beings are rather more complex than fruit flies. And our sexuality is, to put it mildly, a lot more complex. Fruit flies don’t, for instance, get hot for spanking, for latex, for women in seamed stockings, for men in seamed stockings, for bits and saddles, for stuffed animals, for cartoon characters, for curly-haired brunettes who look like Bette Davis.

So the fact that sexual orientation is genetically determined in fruit flies doesn’t prove, even a little bit, that it’s genetically determined in humans.

But it does tell us something about humans, and human sexuality.

It doesn’t tell us that our sexual orientation is genetically determined, or even genetically influenced.

But it tells us that it might be.

It tells us that it’s not ridiculous to consider the possibility.

To find out more about this possiblity, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Fuck Anything That Flies: Bisexuality, Fruit Flies, and the Causes of Sexual Orientation: The Blowfish Blog