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Monograph - 15
Conflict of Defining and Disputing Sexual Categories:
WHAT IS WHAT AND WHO IS WHAT?
It seems that most surveys agree that only a minority of people are 100% straight or 100% gay, yet we all have preferences. There are variations throughout and our preferences change somewhat over our lifetime. World-renowned sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey, came up with a scale to define the sexuality spectrum. The 'Kinsey Scale', developed in the 1950s is a seven point system ranging from 0-6. Zero is 100% heterosexual and six is 100% homosexual. At first, the scale only took sexual actions into account. Over the years, it has expanded to take fantasy, love, and thoughts into account also.
Apparently, the 20th Century Kinsey Scale takes into account sexual acts, fantasies, love, experiences, and history of partners to formally categorize individuals in a spectrum of sexuality.
0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
1- Predominately heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2- Predominately heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4- Predominately homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5- Predominately homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6- Exclusively homosexual
(The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex ©1990, St. Martin's Press, NY)
Informally speaking, the way things currently look in our society, human sexuality is not just the three limited categories of straight, gay, and bisexual any longer. In reality, everyone has his or her own unique orientation and preference. Rather than a 'straight-bi-gay' trichotomy, it's more like a 'spectrum-of-fingerprints'. The scale above was used to classify individuals for sexuality research by the Kinsey Institute but when it comes to informally classifying ourselves on this scale, even a range like this seems a bit too strict, rigid, or outdated. Yet it seems to be the most realistic, widely accepted sexuality classification system we have to date. As we can see through looking at world history, human sexuality is very complex and ever-changing based on the views of the era and the society. Contrary to popular belief, it's interesting to see that we've outgrown our sexuality classification system in the modern Western World, which seems to be the straight-bi-gay trichotomy.
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It is also interesting to note that the above scale truly only applies to 20th century American society. Ancient Greeks (and many other civilizations) had no conception that homosexuality and heterosexuality were opposites like we do. What we call 'homosexuality' was so common that they saw every mortal human as capable of both homo and hetero sex. So, can we call the Ancient Greeks bisexuals? No. The term 'bisexuality' is only the term for a midpoint in our own current sexuality spectrum. They had a whole different way of looking at sexuality and men's relationships with women.
Sexuality definitions have changed even in our own country over the years. The term 'bisexual' was completely unheard of until a few decades ago. There were only definitions for the two opposites -- 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual'. There was a time when homosexuality was considered mentally ill or criminal. In fact, anything less than pure, heterosexual, penis-vagina intercourse was considered perverted. It was assumed that any manual stimulation between partners, masturbation, sodomy, oral sex, and general homosexuality all existed on the same perverted level, equal and separate from heterosexual intercourse. It seems that when we examine the history of sexuality, even in the relatively young 225-year-old United States, it's definitely ever-changing.
To me (and others), the term 'bisexual' implies someone who would sleep with either gender at just about any time -- a rather promiscuous individual. 'Bisexual' seems to be a modern term to describe how often, in conjunction with how diverse, an individual's sex life is.
Upon writing Confidential Biography, I discovered something about sexuality labels. Labels, in general, are only a human's way of categorizing things that are too complex for the mind to see all at once. We've attempted to boil sexuality down to the three simple labels of gay, bisexual, and straight but it's just not that simple. In the past, these labels may have been adequate but views of sexuality have surely changed once again. To describe me, the term 'straight' doesn't seem to apply. The term 'bisexual' does not really mean what it's supposed to mean. And the term 'gay' carries the connotation to describe a feminine, festive, or merry male regardless of his actual sexual preference. I don't fit into any of the above and neither do many others. In fact, the majority of us do not fit into them. I think it's important to illustrate how our informal classification system of sexuality labels is almost entirely worthless at this point in time.
To use terms like gay, bisexual, or straight to describe a person completely underestimates not only an individual's sexual capacity for fantasy and experiences but also underestimates an individual's capacity to be something above their sexuality category. In other words, a gay carpenter or a gay lawyer can be categorized as a carpenter or lawyer more accurately than they can be categorized as gay. In most cases, they will almost undoubtedly meet more of the stereotypes of being a carpenter or a lawyer than they would hold to stereotypes for being a gay. Yet we as a society would be more shocked to find out either of these two men is a homosexual. Unfortunately, it is a very juicy detail! Therefore, many people would call them, "Tom, the gay lawyer" or "John, the gay carpenter," Even more simplistically, they might say, "The gay guy that works over there."
Problems arise when peers attempt to classify each other as pre-teens and adolescents. Some males go through the equivalent of sexual harassment as other teens try to seek out and label those who they perceive as less than themselves. It's like nobody wants to be the 'gayest' so who gets called gay, eventually gets displaced from person to person. In some cases, the guys that are all the way down the bottom of the masculinity rank end up having no choice in the matter of their own sexual preference in the future. They've been rejected by mostly all heterosexual peers and cannot identify with their own gender. These males are forced to identify with either female oriented activity and/or seek out males with similar queer or feminine characteristics in the future. Ultimately, sex with another male will be the quintessential form of gender acceptance and fulfill the need for assimilation to maleness. I strongly feel that same gender peers influence our sexual preference more than any other factor. For decades, science has tried to blame the parents, genetics, 'luck-of-the-draw', or hormonal issues. I have yet to see a decent psychological study that examines peer influences on sexuality at critical stages of sexual development, and I'm determined to do something about it.
At first glance, I thought I had come up with the cause of homosexuality when I examined my theory as stated above. I also thought that everything stated would also be true for the inverse -- the cause of heterosexuality. In other words, those who were well accepted, masculine, and had male characteristics would easily identify with the male gender and ultimately become heterosexual (the same for females identifying with the female gender). Unfortunately, trying to prove such a theory as statistically significant would be difficult. There can be so many more factors in what goes into an entire human being's sexual preference. Suppose for example, a male who had enjoyable sexual experiences with another male when very young ended up entirely gay as an adult. He may have been accepted by other guys and had masculine characteristics yet his mind became quite homosexual. Many other sexuality scenarios can arise but I think there is still great worth in my theory mentioned above for many unexplained cases. For the most part, by general observation and interviewing people who call themselves gay, my theory seems to hold true for a significant number of the cases.
Exhibitionist Post and Public Masturbation
An even better approach seems to be to study the inverse -- the cause of heterosexuality. In other words, something has to cause one to be heterosexual. One possibility is this: Heterosexuality is caused by acceptance from one's gender and assimilation to that group. There may be some homosexuals who have had this acceptance and assimilation, but it's unlikely that there are very many heterosexuals who haven't had it, at least to some extent. All of this seems to support the theory of a sexuality spectrum or a Kinsey Scale very nicely. We each need different levels of acceptance from our gender, we each have different levels of feminine and masculine characteristics, and we each meet fulfillment of sexuality development at different levels and different times in our lives. Therefore, a spectrum would exist rather than a trichotomy or dichotomy of conditions. If this is the case, we may be able to change sexual preference to some extent but an all out 'cure' for homosexuality would be out of the question. With these circumstances taken into account, it's hard to say that there is any actual sickness to cure. As I see it, sexuality in general, seems to be a combination of how we are innately (biologically) designed and society's influence on us as a youth.
Even the Kinsey Scale above seems a bit to restricting to describe something as complex as human sexuality. The inventors of the scale created it to classify people for scientific research. I'm sure it serves that purpose just fine if the same criteria are used on all people for evaluation. However, when it comes down to examining that scale, we as individuals can have difficulty identifying with the categories. For example, how incidental is incidental homosexuality? If you think about the same gender 1 out of 10 times while masturbating, does that mean incidental? Or does 1 in 5 relationships qualify as incidental? It's quite difficult to come up with a system of judgment to classify ourselves on the scale. However, the Kinsey Scale is important because it illustrates the fact that there is some sort of variable sexuality range -- possibly even a continuum.
Most exclusively gay men say that they realized they were different at a very young age such as 6 or 8 years old. They say they knew they were gay before puberty. This seems to indicate that they were born gay or it developed very early on. I believe sexuality is something that I acquired early in life rather than something I was born with. I assumed I was straight when I was younger but had the feelings I mentioned about male masturbation since I was 12.
Predominantly straight males can develop homosexual feelings, particularly if they do not have enough common platonic friendship in common with other males. (Note: It is not safe to say that homosexuality as a lifestyle is caused by lack of platonic male friendship. I'm only saying that heterosexual men can develop homosexual feelings for this reason.) When I was deprived of male friends due to change in schools or location, I noticed some homosexual feelings getting more frequent. I also felt arousal and anxiety around other attractive guys during these times. Then, when I made some close male friends and spent time with them often, these feelings seemed to subside quite a bit. After finding this out, I experimented with the theory. I would knowingly deprive myself from same-gender friendships for a stretch of time without any other variables. The theory held true.
How much friendship and acceptance one needs depends on that particular person. I have always been the type to need one or two very close male friends in my life who I see as almost 'brothers'. They are the ones who enable me to develop my gender identity. Some other guys may find acceptance and identity through sports teams, hobby groups or other organizations as I did at various points in my life.
As I said before, I have found that a cause of the heterosexual preference is acceptance from peers of the same gender and assimilation to that group at critical stages of psychological-sexual development. These 'critical stages' normally occur before puberty but can be influenced quite a bit during and after adolescence. Everyone has a different level of acceptance and assimilation to that needs to be reached with same-gender friends. Some need a little some need a lot. Some may never find enough acceptance to satisfy them. It all depends on the individual. I have yet to meet one male that did not need some form of acceptance from his gender.
Same-gender friends do serve some purpose and fulfill some kind of need; otherwise heterosexual males would have no need for male friends at all. I suppose it is possible to make up for 'lost time' by acquiring new same-gender friends but I think that this also would depend on the individual's needs.
When I was deprived of male friends during adolescence, homosexual feelings were not only more frequent but I worried about them more than when I had a platonic social network of other guys. When engaging in platonic behaviors with other males, homosexual feelings seemed to go away naturally yet they never entirely disappeared. When I was lonely and deprived again for a period of months or years, the homosexual feelings came back strong. I can't say that all homosexuality comes from lack of supportive and accepting male friends. All homosexuality is probably not the result of men who simply didn't have enough male friends but I can definitely say that heterosexuals or potential heterosexuals can acquire homosexual feelings for this reason.
also see SexEditorials - Spectrum of Sexuality and the Kinsey Scale
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