James W. Hicks, M.D.

Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Bisexual Squid

In Research on October 14, 2011 at 5:37 am

Amorous Squid Seeks Partner: Any Sex Will Do
James Gorman
New York Times
September 20, 2011

Deep water squid have joined a long list of species known to engage in bisexual behavior. It turns out that male squid are quite happy to ejaculate on other squid, regardless of whether they are male or female. Of course, scientists don’t really know whether the squid experience anything analogous to sexual desire or pleasure, or whether they can even distinguish between male and female partners in the dark of the ocean depths.

Other species known to engage in bisexual behavior include mammals with relatively large brains, such as bonobo apes and bottlenose dolphins, but also herd mammals and birds.  And of course anyone who has a pet dog or cat has observed bicurious behavior in the natural world. Scientific manipulation of hormone levels in rats can also induce more homosexual behavior, though it’s not clear what this tells us, if anything, about behavior in humans.

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts!

Mac vs. PC

In Research on September 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Alexander McCabe of Question Writer, who automated the Flex Test, was interested whether there might be differences in responses between Mac and Windows users. He looked at the answers of 2000 Mac responders and 3250 Windows responders and noted the percent who agreed (or strongly agreed) with the following statements:

“I am always looking for opportunities to have sex” – 35% Mac vs 30% Windows

“I’m similarly attracted to both men and women” – 25% Mac vs 23% Windows

“I would like to fall in love with both men and women” – 30% Mac vs 28% Windows

“I like to be watched by someone other than my partner when I undress, masturbate or have sex” – 23% Mac vs 20% Windows

“I have had sex with a stranger or in public” – (disagree or strongly disagree) 54% Mac vs 58 % Windows

These are probaby statistically significant differences, but there may be confounding factors that explain them. For example, Mac users might be younger as a group than Windows users, and younger people may be more flexible in general. Or perhaps there is something inherently more flexible about the iLifestyle?

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts! 

Flex Test Findings

In Research on August 5, 2011 at 8:23 am

I’ve just begun to analyze some of the data collected since the automated version of the Flexuality Test was launched in April 2011.

About 5,500 people have taken the automated test.

57% identified as female, 41% as male, and 2% as other.

50% identified as heterosexual at the start of the test, 26% as bisexual, and 16% as homosexual.

(In analyzing the following results, I counted a sexual type as present if the score was greater than 5 out of 10. Results add up to more than 100% because more than one sexual type may be present in any given individual, reflecting the intentional overlap between categories.)

Among women, 47% were ambisexual, 43% were heteroflexible, 26% were flexamorous, 22% were straight, 7% were lesbian, and 4% were queer. As far as sexual traits, 11% had restrained features, 8% were transitioning, 4% were metamorphic, and 3% were supersexual. None were macho, and less than 1% were versatile.

Among men, 31% were straight, 30% were ambisexual, 17% were gay, 12% were flexamorous, 9% were heteroflexible, and 5% were queer. For sexual traits, 17% were restrained, 7% were supersexual, 7% were transitioning, 4% were metamorphic, 2% were versatile, and 1% were macho.

Among those who identified as something other than male or female (e.g., trans, genderqueer, etc.), 58% were ambisexual, 57% were flexamorous, 14% were queer, 12% were gay, and 3% were straight, with reference to their gender of birth. Only 53% scored as having metamorphic traits, which suggests that my scoring of that trait may not give enough weight to each of the different ways in which an individual may feel other-gendered.

Those who have taken the test do not constitute a random or controlled sample, and men and women may have learned about the test from different sources. Nevertheless, it is interesting that women were much more likely to score in the bisexual spectrum (especially heteroflexible, ambisexual, or flexamorous), even though their self-identification at the start of the test was similar to men’s. Relative to the other bisexual types, the flexamorous profile did not stand out as a particularly female presentation, challenging the sterotype that women are more interested in relationships. However, there were more supersexual, macho, and versatile men compared to women.

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts!

Bisexual Invisibility

In Announcements, Research on February 24, 2011 at 6:30 am

Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations
LGBT Advisory Committee
San Francisco Human Rights Commission
(Lindasusan Ulrich, principal author)
January 2011

Download this fascinating report which cogently discusses myths and mistreatment of the “invisible majority.” The report includes a useful glossary and discussion of terminology, as well as illuminating first-person accounts that illustrate the diverse ways in which “non-monosexuals” think about their sexual orientation (the final example on p. 33 is particularly good). The latter half of the report focuses on health and policy matters.

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts!

How Many Bisexuals?

In Research on November 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

I posted previously about the incidence of bisexuality among men and women. Since then, the results of two more national surveys have been published.

The 2008 General Social Survey involved face-to-face interviews with about 2,000 adults (though nearly 13% declined to answer the questions about sexual orientation and behavior). According to an analysis of the data by The Williams Institute, less than 2% of men said they were gay, less than 2% of women said they were lesbian, and less than 2% altogether identified as bisexual. But another 6%, who consider themselves straight, reported having had sex with someone of the same sex. In total, nearly 10% could be considered something other than heterosexual based on self-identification or sexual history.

Of note, women were twice as likely as men to consider themselves bisexual, while men were twice as likely to consider themselves straight even when they had had a same sex partner. This may reflect greater stigma for men in being anything other than straight.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior of 2009 focused more on specific sexual behaviors and was conducted over the internet, which may have been less embarrassing. Nearly 6,000 adolescents and adults agreed to participate. According to the special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine which published the results, about 8% of adults consider themselves something other than straight, with women much more likely to identify as bisexual or “other.” The highest rate of bisexual identification (8.4%) was reported by adolescent girls (who were also much more likely than boys to engage in same-sex behaviors).

The published findings regarding sexual behaviors are frustratingly incomplete, in that they do not distinguish whether insertive anal practices and mutual masturbation were conducted with same-sex or opposite-sex partners, and cunnilingus seems to be the only same-sex activity identified for women. That said, the following rates of same-sex behavior were found among adult men: 8-15% have received oral sex, 6-13% have given oral sex, and 4-11% have received anal sex. Among women, 4-17% have received oral sex from a woman, and 4-14% have given oral sex to a woman. (The ranges reflect the rates in different age groups.)

Again, the rates of same-sex behavior are considerably higher than the rates of gay and bisexual identification, which confirms previous findings that most men and women who have had homosexual experiences nevertheless consider themselves straight (in my schema, most would probably be heteroflexible).

Of note, neither of these surveys sampled institutional settings, such as dormitories, barracks, and jails, where same-sex behavior may be more common. If we were to add in those settings and consider any same-sex behaviors that lead to orgasm, rates of de facto bisexuality would probably be closer to the 20-30% originally identified by Kinsey.

Only 1.5% of Brits Are Gay or Bisexual?

In Research on October 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Last month, the UK released the findings of a government survey conducted in 2009 which found that only 1.5% of adults (aged 16 or older) are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The low rates have attracted media attention, particularly since previous surveys in the UK had suggested rates of 5-7%.

The survey was a general survey on a number of topics, to which one question about sexual orientation had been added. Subjects were asked to identify themselves as heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, or bisexual. 1.0% identifying as gay or lesbian and 0.5% identifying as bisexual.

A closer examination of the government’s report, produced by the Office for National Statistics, provides some explanation for the unexpectedly low findings. The survey was conducted mostly door-to-door and face-to-face, which is known to lower rates of honest reporting on sensitive topics like sexual orientation. In fact, adults living alone (who may have been more likely to be gay or lesbian) were less likely to answer the question about sexuality.

The figure of 1.5% also does not include the 3.8% who refused to answer, stuttered in embarrassment, or identified themselves using a different term. That leaves 94.8% who identified as straight, but the survey did not ask about sexual behavior, sexual attraction, or sexual desire. We know that many people call themselves straight, in spite of having sexual feelings and experiences with both sexes. In fact, among men who have had sex with men in the US, half consider themselves straight (see my earlier posts on US surveys of men and women).

There were a few interesting findings from the survey. Young adults and women were more likely to identify as bisexual than gay, and non-whites were more likely to answer “other” or not answer at all.

Fluid Female Sexuality

In Research on August 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

‘Late-Life Lesbians’ Reveal Fluidity of Sexuality
by NPR staff
August 8, 2010

An interview with Lisa Diamond, the researcher I mentioned in an earlier post, about women who find themselves unexpectedly in love with another woman later in their life.

Women Are More Flexible

In Research on July 21, 2010 at 7:55 pm

A few weeks ago I posted about rates of bisexuality among men. The CDC’s 2002 survey also provided surprising information about women.

As with men, nine out of ten women said they were “straight,” but one of those nine acknowledged some attraction to women as well. Of the ten percent of women who were not straight, half considered themselves bisexual or “something else.” Only one percent of women considered themselves to be homosexual. Altogether, 13% of women said they were attracted to both men and women, which is twice the rate of men who said they were attracted to both sexes.

A more recent survey of nearly four hundred college women found that just over half considered themselves exclusively straight. More than a quarter considered themselves “mostly straight” or bisexual. Only one in twenty identified as lesbian.

According to the CDC survey, more than one in ten women reported having had a sexual experience with another woman. That is nearly twice the percent of men who reported having had sex with a man. But the surveyors asked men and women different questions, so it is difficult to compare the results: men were asked only about oral and anal sex, whereas women were asked about “sexual experiences.”

Among women who have ever had sex with a woman, two thirds still considered themselves straight, and another quarter considered themselves to be bisexual or “something else.” Fewer than ten percent of women who had had sex with a woman considered themselves lesbian.

The Kinsey Group, who interviewed nearly six thousand women in the 1930s and 40s, discovered even higher rates of sexual activity between women. Kinsey found that one out of five women reported having experienced sexual contact with another woman. The likelihood of having a sexual experience with a woman rose steadily from adolescence into the fourth decade, unless the woman married. More than a quarter of women reported having been sexually attracted to, or aroused by, another woman, but less than three percent were exclusively homosexual, according to Kinsey’s research.

Many surveys have found that the vast majority of lesbians had also had sex with a man.

Surveys have defined sex between women in different ways, and differently from how they have defined sex involving men. In spite of these challenges, surveys consistently show that women are less likely than men to consider themselves exclusively straight or gay, and they are less likely to define themselves by the gender of their partners. Recent research and reviews suggest that women are more flexible than men, moving more easily between male and female partners and feeling less defined by sexual labels.

Three New Books about Female Sexuality

In Research on July 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Lisa Diamond is a psychology researcher who has published a number of ground-breaking articles over the last decade based on her interviews with women who have experienced some same-sex attraction. What she found is that women are less concerned about the gender of the person they happen to fall in love with and also less concerned about having a consistent sexual orientation (akin to what I call the flexamorous sexual type).

Last year, Professor Diamond published a book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, which describes her research findings and the broader scientific context. She illustrates the book with quotations and life stories from many of the individual women she studied.

Sapphistries: A Global History of Love between Women, by Liela Rupp, is a beautifully written and comprehensive survey of homosexual desires, encounters, and identities among women throughout time and in different cultures. Sapphistries can also be read as a history of female bisexuality, because most of these women had relationships with men as well. (The same can be said of most “gay” male histories, which typically describe men more properly understood as bisexual.)

Emma Donoghue has just published Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature, a survey which includes many bisexual types.

How Many Men are Bisexual?

In Research on July 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

The answer depends on how and whom you ask, and what you mean by “bisexual.”

The Kinsey Group, who interviewed thousands of men and women in the 1940s, found that half of men had been sexually attracted to another man and one-third had experienced orgasm through physical contact with another man. Very few of these men considered themselves gay; most had also experienced sex with women. Many surveys since have produced similar numbers.

The most recent survey comes from the CDC, who interviewed more than 12,000 men and women about sexual behaviors in 2002.

Nine out of ten men told the CDC that they were heterosexual and only attracted to women. But among the 10% who did not identify as straight, only one quarter considered themselves gay, and even fewer said they were attracted exclusively to men. Most men who were not straight considered themselves bisexual or “something else.”

Six percent of men said they had experienced oral or anal sex with another man, and half of those men still considered themselves straight, while another quarter considered themselves bisexual or “something else.” Only one quarter of men who had had intercourse with another man considered themselves gay, and even most gay men had also had sex with women.

What accounts for the differences between the CDC and the Kinsey research? The CDC was primarily interested in diseases, so it asked only about anal and oral intercourse. The CDC also skipped over men who lived in institutional settings, such as dormitories, military barracks, or jails, where sexual contact between men is more common. Also, any survey which forces you to label yourself as gay, straight, or bisexual is going to miss the much larger group of heteroflexible men, who are bi-curious but likely to call themselves straight, especially in a face-to-face survey.

Note that this research does not reflect rates of bisexual desire and behavior around the world. Research in South Asia, for example, has found rates of anal sex between men as high as 20 to 50%, even though virtually all of them are married or will marry. Even in the US, rates of bisexuality were higher among women and among black and Latino men, according to the CDC survey.

Three New Books about Muslim Bisexuality

In Cultures, Research on July 1, 2010 at 5:50 am

Westerners tend to focus on gay identity and gay rights when speaking about sexuality, but in much of the world, same-sex activity takes place between individuals who do not think of themselves as gay or lesbian and who are likely to be married. All men and women are seen as having the potential to feel affection and sexual desire for both sexes; the act, rather than the individual, is considered homosexual.

This is an oversimplification, but it’s important to emphasize that, while a wide range of emotions and desires are universal, the ways in which they are labelled may vary from one culture to another.

In the last decade, Westerners have become more curious about Islamic cultures, and three new books describe homosexuality in those cultures from different contemporary perspectives.

Afdhere Jama’s Illegal Citizens: Queer Lives in the Muslim World tells three dozen highly personal stories about real Muslim men and women (and transgendered individuals) living all over the world, from Africa to Southeast Asia. The stories are simply told but very moving, and few of the lives follow the trajectories of a Western coming-out story. The individuals are brave but not naive and find various ways to express their love while accomodating to their culture.

Michael Luongo is an author and journalist who has written about his own travels elsewhere. His new book titled Gay Travels in the Muslim World collects stories by predominantly gay Westerners (all men) about their experiences in Muslim countries. Luongo’s own chapter about Afghanistan is among the most fascinating, though a US marine corporal’s account of his encounter with an Arab man while on patrol in Baghdad powerfully shows how much we have in common. Several of the other stories disappointingly reveal a chasm in understanding, if not condescension and exploitation. Most of the chapters describe Muslims who might best be described as macho or versatile, though some might be gay in the Western sense.

Brian Whitaker’s Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East describes the political and religious context in which homosexual activity and identity are expressed and curtailed.

Three other older books provide greater historical, literary, and academic analysis: Islamic Homosexualities by Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe, Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800, by Khaled El-Rouayheb, and Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature by J.W. Wright Jr. and Everett Rowson. These books remind us that, for most of the last millenium or so, homosexual love and desire was celebrated and protected more in the Muslim world than in the West.

Though the titles of each of these books refers to gays, lesbians, queers, or homosexualities, in reality they are each describing, for the most part, bisexual cultures and individuals.