James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘gay’

Sexuality in Sri Lanka

In Cultures on March 13, 2011 at 7:51 am

I posted previously about widespread bisexuality among men in South Asia, but I noted that women’s sexuality in South Asia has remained somewhat invisible. Equal Ground, an organization addressing the sexual and gender rights of the Sri Lankan community, has just launched a campaign to make women’s sexuality more visible. Check out their powerful poster, which reads, “A Woman Loving Another Woman is Also a Woman: Respect Her Rights.”

Homosexual acts are still illegal in Sri Lanka (if widely practiced by men who think of themselves as straight) and homosexual status is persecuted, but we should keep in mind that Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to grant suffrage to women, and it was the first country to elect a female head of state. Also, nearby India recently decriminalized homosexuality. So change may be under way.

If you are interested in bisexuality (and the history of women’s suffrage) in Sri Lanka, read the excellent historical novel, Cinnamon Gardens, by Shyam Selvadurai. He is also the author of another beautiful novel, Funny Boy, about growing up gay and gender atypical in Sri Lanka.

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.


In Sexual Types on October 28, 2010 at 5:26 am

If you are young or engaged in political and academic discourse about sexuality, you may prefer to identify yourself as queer rather than as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. By calling yourself queer, you challenge the idea that heterosexuality is normative, you imply that the gay-straight and male-female binaries are overly simplistic and restricting, and you assert political solidarity with others who resist being judged on the basis of their sexual preferences or gender identification. You may consider yourself post-gay and beyond labeling. You are open to exploring sexual feelings for the opposite sex.

If you are queer, others might view you as simply gay or bisexual, but your choice of terminology reflects the value you place on the potential for change and variation in sexual matters and your reluctance to fix a restrictive label on complex erotic tastes, emotional ties, gender roles, and behaviors. If you are primarily attracted to members of the same sex, you may identify as queer to reflect your own commitment to remaining flexible, or you may call yourself homoflexible.

Some who identify as queer also feel more comfortable thinking of themselves as androgynous or are attracted to men and women who are not typically masculine or feminine. In that sense, queers reject gender roles and stereotypes as well as fixed sexual orientations.

Michael Stipe, the lead singer and front man for R.E.M., identifies as queer rather than gay. He has said in interviews that he is most attracted to men but has had feelings for women as well and considers the label gay too narrow for him.

Gay and Lesbian

In Flexible People, Sexual Types on October 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

If you are gay or lesbian (the term usually preferred by gay women), your sexual interests are directed almost exclusively towards members of the same sex. You have probably had some heterosexual experiences, but they have felt uncomfortable, unpleasant, mechanical, or devoid of passion and affection. From an early age, you have been most attracted to, fallen in love with, and sexually desired other men (if you are gay) or women (if you are lesbian). Over the years, you probably began to realize that forming a relationship with the opposite sex was not for you, and if you continued to date, you did so to provide a cover or to please your family. You began to identify with the idea of being gay or homosexual, especially if you were exposed to gay family, friends, or role models.

Since society discourages homosexuality in so many ways, those who identify as gay or lesbian tend to be those who feel they have no other choice. You may feel you were “born that way,” and several scientific studies suggest there may be a genetic component. If you have any feelings at all for the opposite sex (in other words, if you are naturally homoflexible, ambisexual, flexamorous, or some other flavor of bisexual), you may be tempted to favor those feelings and identify as straight rather than pursuing a path that can put you at odds with your family, church, and society at large.

Some lesbians and gay men express what are generally considered, respectively, masculine and feminine traits (see the description of the metamorphic type). But the opposite is not true: most gay men and women do not grow up feeling that they are, in other respects less masculine or feminine than their peers.

There are many men and women who have come out in recent years and identified themselves as gay or lesbian. Two of the most famous are the Democratic senator, Barney Frank, and the entertainer, Ellen Degeneres.

Bullying Gays: What We Fear in Ourselves

In Announcements on October 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

The suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clemente and the kidnapping and torture of a gay man in the Bronx are just the most recent of several incidents in which gays have been assaulted or taunted, sometimes to death. They seem to fly in the face of polls which have shown Americans to be increasingly tolerant of homosexuality. Do these incidents represent a backlash? Or are they proportionate to the greater visibility achieved by men and women coming out of the closet? Surely these sort of crimes have occurred in the past, but perhaps the underlying motivations were silenced.

In these two instances at least, there is something particularly perverse about the acts. What could be more “gay” (in the derogatory schoolyard sense) than filming your roommate having sex or sliding an object into another man’s anus? A study conducted in Canada about a decade ago found that men with homophobic attitudes were significantly more likely to become sexually aroused by pictures of naked men. This is one of the few studies to confirm a Freudian idea: we see and attack in others what we despise or fear in ourselves. Perhaps the bullies and perpetrators could do all of us, and themselves, a favor by exploring their bisexual conflicts in a more respectful and life-enhancing way.

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.

Women and Gay Fiction

In Media on August 31, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Cintra Wilson
September 2010

An article in this month’s issue of Out magazine describes the growing niche market of gay (or “M/M”) romances written primarily for and by women. Interestingly, the two female authors interviewed for the article describe themselves as identifying sexually with gay male “tops” (i.e., they seem to have metamorphic traits, though they are identified as “straight”).

The M/M market evolved out of “slash” fiction: internet and fanzine-based short stories written primarily by female fans about imagined gay pairings of television and movie characters. Kirk/Spock were the first pair of buddies to be re-imagined in this way, along with Starsky/Hutch and characters from The Lord of the Rings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Harry Potter more recently.

This trend has also been observed in Japanese yaoi, comic books and novels that feature gay men but that are mostly popular with young, presumably straight women. Why are women interested in gay passion? Academicians have debated whether the phenomenon represents a feminist adaptive mechanism or internalized sexism. Perhaps we should ask the same questions of men who consume “lesbian” pornography.


In Media, Sexploration* on August 29, 2010 at 2:19 am

Many of us discovered our sexual preferences in adolescence while flipping through an older friend’s or relative’s stack of pornographic magazines. Now everyone is more likely to find pornography on the internet. A wide selection of pornographic studios provide free content to thumbnail gallery posts (TGPs), so you can browse and see what catches your interest. Most straight TGPs (for example, PicHunter) have links to gay, bisexual, and “shemale” material, so you may have already taken a peek at same-sex or transgender pornography, if only out of curiosity.

All pornography involves acting (not all of it very good), and a single twenty minute scene may have actually involved hours of uncomfortable intercourse. The real sexual orientation of the models may have little relation to the acts they perform (i.e., they may be versatile or simply miscast). So don’t be surprised if the participants don’t always look like they are having fun.

Most “lesbian” pornography, unfortunately, is aimed at straight men rather than women and may seem particularly artificial in its depiction of female passion. But there is at least one good, free lesbian TGP that depicts women who look and behave more naturally, at RealLesbianPorn.

Some gay pornography exploits the gay-for-pay concept by presenting “amateur” straight men who have been tempted to explore their gay side for money, only to find they enjoy it. This may hold particular appeal for bi-curious viewers who can identify with the models. Gaysexer is a good TGP with a wide selection of studios and model types. Gaydemon organizes its thumbnail galleries by type of model and action and includes bisexual and shemale directories

“Bisexual” pornography typically involves threesomes in which two men have sex with each other and another woman. Again, it is created for men but may appeal to women who are turned on by gay sex. “FFM” (female-female-male) porn rarely features women who appear genuinely interested in each other. PenisBot has straight, gay, and other galleries, including a fairly good selection of bisexual images.

When browsing through pornography on the web, beware of fake TGPs that endlessly redirect you to other TGPs and studios or that carry malware. The sites listed on this post seem to be relatively safe. Video clips may carry more malware than photographs.

Bisexual Beats

In Flexible People on August 26, 2010 at 7:15 pm

The Beats: Pictures of a Legend
Edmund White
The New York Review of Books
August 19, 2010

According to White, “Almost all of the Beats were bisexual and one another’s lovers.” Neal Cassady “slept with everyone” (i.e., supersexual or ambisexual). William Burroughs (author of Naked Lunch) married, but his fiction featured explicit descriptions of anal intercourse with young men from third world countries. Jack Kerouac (author of On the Road) and Peter Orlovsky were straight but would “put out” (i.e., heteroflexible) for Allen Ginsberg (author of Howl), who was gay.

Desi Marriage

In Cultures on July 21, 2010 at 8:32 pm

A Uniquely Indian Perspective On Gay Marriage
by Sandip Roy
July 21, 2010

A commentary about Indian parents who bless their children’s decisions to get married, and perhaps have children, with someone of the same sex. New laws make it possible to satisfy old values.

This month also marks the one-year anniversary of the New Delhi High Court’s decision striking down the prosecution of homosexuals.

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.