Vivianne Rutkowski’s last comment, in a long and entertaining series she probably shouldn’t have made if she ever wants to work in Real Estate again, in response to an inquiry about finding someone a house in a community with specific demographics:
As a REALTOR, I would be violating Fair Housing Laws and REALTOR Code of Ethics if I did.
However, as a Home Buyer you have the LEGAL right to research neighborhoods and then let me know what area you are interested in. To do the research you could use some of the resources on my web site. Fair enough?
Actually, no. You could only use those “resources” now if you are a certain, special kind of person: One who doesn’t ask Ms. Rutkowski “too hard” questions like why she thinks a homebuyer who attends church every Sunday and wants to live in a “cul-de-sack” where his or her children “can play safely” would be “VERY unhappy” to have a gay couple also raising children as neighbors; where did she learn the things she thinks she knows about LGBT people; and where did she get the offensive language she used in the post that resulted in her termination.
Happily, the affiliation with Keller Williams has now (finally!) been removed from her other website.
I was not, as I said, happy to learn that this obviously clueless woman had lost her job because of a two year old post I discovered by accident, and I kind of felt bad for her. That was before she embarked on a mission to make that impossible.
Hey… mildly off topic, but all this talk about sexuality had me thinking.
As you know, I am straight… So gauche… I know…
Anyway, I have been thinking of this question of whether homosexuality or other sexual preferences are a choice or if people are “born that way”.
Without doing any research or talking to any gay people about it, I had a hypothesis answer:
1] The answer to that question is – both.
2] Some percentage of gay people are born gay.
3] Some percentage of people choose to be gay.
4] In either case the choice vs birth can be a spectrum, not binary in an individual.
5] In males, choice is less predominate than in females.
6] Females are sexually more capable of choice.
Anyway, just a random thought as to why both sides of that debate seem to come up with good examples. I think there are people who truly choose to be gay. I think in males they are an extreme minority and the vast majority are mainly born that way. In females, I think more choice is exhibited in sexual partners and that they are mainly born more bisexual.
Again, no evidence. Just random thinking and life experience.
And I think this applies to some other sexual preferences. Heterosexuality, S&M, promiscuity, asexuality, and even more obscure sexual preferences etc, are all a combo of natural tendencies by birth combined with choices.
No matter what or why or how someone does whatever they do, it is – I think – none of my business. They are welcome to enjoy their lives whatever way they go as long as they do not hurt others (who do not want to be hurt in the S&M case 🙂 ).
My $0.02… one’s orientation towards men and women can change, but the attraction itself is not a choice. Mine changed, but I didn’t make a conscious choice. It just seemed to happen all of a sudden. If you’re interested, there’s more here.
I truly do not believe that people make a choice to “be gay.” I suspect there are people who are bisexual to some degree who make choices to be with men exclusively or women exclusively due to any number of factors, such as societal constraints or one-too-many negative experiences with the other sex. Sorry to be blunt or crude, but if you don’t like penises, you probably can’t just up and decide one day that you like them.
It’s like carrots. A couple of weeks ago, after a lifetime of loathing carrots (yuck!!!) my kids goaded me into trying one and much to my chagrin, I found that I liked it. I didn’t decide to start liking carrots and I *very* certain that I hadn’t subconsciously buried my liking for carrots. I just started liking them.
LA, I’m not sure your ideas reflect my own experience. Maybe you might want to think of the concept in terms of “orientation” rather than “preference”. See if that terminology influences your list in any way. (Even if we admit no terminology is likely to influence Viv’s.) To me the word “preference” inevitably has a slant toward “choosing”, rather than toward expressing one’s inner nature. I believe it is that inner nature that has the spectrum, in which each of us falls somewhere, and what we choose is how we express it. Those who are primarily oriented toward being heterosexual should not be asked to deny their inner nature in their choice of sexual behavior, and those who are primarily homosexual should not be asked to deny theirs, either. Just my opinion.
“In females, I think more choice is exhibited in sexual partners and that they are mainly born more bisexual.”
That does seem to be the case. There’s evidence of the existence of this gender difference, although it’s debatable whether it’s a hardwired one. One could speculate about a lot of different reasons for it, from biological to culture to socialization.
Orientation is a very specific thing, and doesn’t belong on a list that includes behaviors (promiscuity) and preferences or compulsions (SM, paraphilias?) that transcend orientation. As A.E. illustrates, people do change orientations sometimes (or discover a capacity for attraction to someone of a gender they never expected), but that change is never something that they willfully choose, the way that the “ex-gay” movement would have you believe. It just happens (and it may or may not be welcome). I think it’s very important to understand this – even the proponents of therapy to help people deal with “unwanted same-sex attraction” acknowledge that they are not effecting an actual change in the person’s orientation, only teaching them strategies for behavior modification. The fact that people have the capacity to live contrary to their orientation is not news. Gay and lesbian people have lived closeted lives and married people of the opposite gender throughout history when circumstances made that necessary or it made their lives easier.
Where “choice” comes in is in how a person chooses to live and identify themselves. If someone lives well into their 40s, appearing to be heterosexual and in a heterosexual marriage, and then, maybe once the kids are out of high school, they come out as gay, it may look to those observing that they “chose” to be gay. In fact, they either discovered a change in orientation, or it was there all along and now they are choosing to live in accordance with it. There’s also the reverse phenomenon, in which some young women will identify as lesbian or bisexual, only to find later that the “orientation” wasn’t really there, it was just an identity they were trying on. There’s even a name for that, “Lesbian Until Graduation.” In both cases, orientation just is what it is, however the person chooses to identify at the time. I’m interested in hearing examples of people who choose to be gay from your experience, because I have personally never seen that.
I imagine that the idea of someone successfully “recruiting” you and “making you gay” would be wildly hilarious to you – as it should be. It’s just as ridiculous to think that an adolescent can be “made gay” by an affirming and safe environment. There is nothing that can make a straight kid or adult gay, but there’s a lot we can do to make a gay kid hate himself. As you’ll see in the next post, adults thinking that they can somehow discourage LGBT youth from having the gender or orientation they were created with, if they just refuse to affirm them, is So. Wrong.
Thanks for the dialogue, LA. I think your voice has been a great addition to the Loudoun blogosphere.
To be frank David, I rarely think about or talk to people about Sexual orientation. For me it is a non-issue and it doesn’t cross my mind much. I think the point about orientation over preference is valid.
Since I rarely deal with the subject, I can’t say I know what anyone chooses or doesn’t. To be fair, I can’t recall choosing to be heterosexual. Since I had no real interaction with gay people of note, I remember being curious in the 80’s what it was about (and how it even worked) and renting some gay porn from the video store. No offense, but it was a huge turn off. Then again, S&M is a huge turn off to me too.
I guess I go back to just having a random thought. No evidence. It is interesting that you think paraphilias are different than orientations. I would imagine a person who feels love and sexual attraction to cars is no different than you and I and that it is an orientation albeit rare?
What do you think about asexuality. Is that an orientation?
And while I am thinking, I find homophobia to be strange. Why would they care? I don’t give a damn when I am around gay couples. I don’t even think about it. Why do they care about it so much? It seems so trivial to me.
“To be fair, I can’t recall choosing to be heterosexual.”
Right. It was just something you realized or awakened to, correct? And if you didn’t think about it much, why would you need to? Probably nobody was making you think you should question how you felt.
I’m not giving you my opinion, but the established definitions. “Orientations” are, by definition, the categories of healthy sexual response of adults to other adults. It’s predicated on the fact that we are sexual beings and need sexual intimacy – it’s part of being human. Attractions to objects other than another adult are classified as paraphilias, but people with paraphilias still (usually) have an orientation as well. For instance, the vast majority of people with pedophilias are apparently heterosexual men. One of the conceptual errors people sometimes make is to think that a man who preys on young boys is “gay,” when in fact almost all men like that are attracted to adult females, and virtually never adult males, which when you think about it makes sense. The attraction for them is about sexual power over someone weaker.
I don’t know that much about asexuality, honestly. I don’t want to try to answer that one without knowing what I’m talking about.
I am aware of the pedophilia thing. They are overwhelmingly hetero and attracted to females. It is more about power in the younger ages. I remember looking this up on some debate with Jack on NovaTownHall and it mattered which age range they were attracted to. True pedophiles (primarily attracted to pre-pubescent) were more likely to be attracted to power. Once they hit puberty and post puberty, the thinking of those attracted to those age ranges began to shift. Again, it was a spectrum thing. I think most human behaviours are spectrum like in how people react.
this is the kind of subject I am sure I would be interested in studying more, but on my list of interesting subjects, why people like whatever they like in sex is low on my priority list.
I think that is the biggest mystery to me, is why so many people care what other people do sexually compared to other things they do. There must be a reason rooted in humanity, but I am another kind of anthropologist, so I this subject is deferred on my list.
I think you have seen though, that I will go after people who attack homosexuals. If for no other reason than my belief that all people should have the right to pursue happiness without interference from government. And that they ought to be free to pursue happiness without interference with nosy neighbors That second point is not a right. I see rights as precious and few. That second point is about what society should consider acceptable/polite. Mind your own business ought to be more common.
By the way, I have to say that one of the subjects in Loudoun that impacted me the most last year was the story of that Mother who was removed from her ASM role due to being a lesbian. I found that very upsetting as I saw the potential that had to hurt the child. As someone active in scouts, I was offended that the greater interests were not respected. It is one thing to be a jerk to an adult. It is another to hurt a child.
I don’t know if she reads this blog, but she should know that I – and I am sure others – still think about her case and feel for her and her son. I have been doing my little part to overturn that position in BSA (email writing). Her story is not forgotten.
You make a great point – so much of this is attributable to people having poor manners and not understanding basic boundaries. If you pay attention to these discussions (I mean in the general discourse) you see this pattern: as LGBT people, we tell our own stories and talk about our own lives and experiences; and the people who oppose our full participation in society try to tell our stories for us, tell us who and what we are, explain what our experiences are, etc. We talk about us, and they talk about us – as if they, not us, are the authorities on our lives. That, if nothing else, is breathtakingly rude and inappropriate behavior.
But that doesn’t answer your question: Why do some people feel entitled to violate other people’s boundaries in that way?
I couldn’t answer the question about asexuality because that’s somebody else’s story to tell, and as it turns out I said something thoughtless and wrong that I have to retract and apologize for. Not needing sexual contact to have intimacy is exactly how asexual people describe their own experience, so my statement is not a fact to them. I think the value in hearing other people’s stories and being corrected like that is that it’s what allows us to see and think about things that we would otherwise take for granted about being human, in this case about intimacy.
This was interesting to me, and I realize there’s a good chance it wouldn’t be interesting to you, but there it is. Andrew Sullivan posted about an episode of House in which the assumption is that asexual people don’t really exist, that there must be an underlying medical problem, or they are lying. That’s exactly the rude behavior of making up someone else’s experience for them that I describe above and didn’t want to engage in.
I still think that paraphilias are in the same category. Who am I to say that someone’s sexual attraction to a car is not their orientation. I think human sexuality is all over the place and whether it is one man/one woman, one woman/one woman, one man, three women, 3 men, 2 women, One man and one car, one woman and a wall, it is ALL none of my business. Unless I own the wall of course. 🙂
I think all of this is related. I think all sexually preferences and orientations (including hetero) are a combo of choice and biology with varying amounts of the two from person to person. I think I was mainly born Hetero, but have also chosen to be so or been influence by my environment. I don’t understand exactly why gay people are concerned about the perception that some level of choice exists in orientation. I guess it comes from fear that people might shame them for a choice when they would not if they felt it was not. I understand that concern. But I still want to understand the truth.
And as I have said before, this is not an area I study. So I could be completely wrong. And I will repeat that it matters not at all to me whether someone chooses or is born. Either way, they have the freedom to do so without prejudice as long as they don’t hurt someone else.
I want to be clear that I am genuinely not trying to be offensive. Just questioning/curious/expressing ideas. At my core, I find homophobia offensive.
By the way, I early said that seeing homosexual sex was a turn off for me. I should clarify – that like most hetero men I think – that does not apply to female homosexual sex. That doesn’t turn me off.
And its not like I see homosexual sex and feel disgusted or other harsh things. It just doesn’t interest me and I don’t really want to see it. I feel the same way about hetero S&M as I mentioned before.
And since we are on things I feel as a straight guy, do you think it is wrong for me to be concerned about whether a son of mine would turn out gay. To the degree I have ever thought about it (not much), I have only ever worried about him being attacked like I see done to other gays. Another part of me would worry about biological grandchildren as that is very important to me as something I would want to see in my life. I guess that last point is a natural instinct around carrying my dna into the future.
I am also sure that if any of my kids were to be gay that they would only experience love from me and my wife.
I think we’re on the same page in this respect. This is the same way I feel about heterosexual sex; not disgust, just disinterest.
I am a firm believer in what my friends call the Sears Catalog Theory of Kinks (i.e., you can open a Sears Catalog to a random page and point to something, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that someone, somewhere, it turned on by whatever that is). The fact that people are turned on by all sorts of weird things (guilty!) doesn’t phase me.
I think orientation and [paraphilias/fetishes/kinks] are two different things. Related, but not the same. As a quick analogy: Orientation is like the type of car you drive; kinks are just the optional add-ons to that.
But I digress. I think the reason people care about it (or rather, get bent out of shape about it) is a vestige of xenophobic Neanderthal thinking: “It isn’t of my tribe, therefore it is probably a threat to it.” Those people are different; therefore they’re the enemy. People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer. (As an aside, I just realized that sounds like an accurate description of myself when I was still closeted in high school.) With luck, people grow out of it once they’re older, more experienced, more mature… they realize differences are something to be explored and understood, and there’s nothing to fear except fear itself.
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First of all, there’s nothing offensive about anything you have said. You are actually providing a good model for the kind of discussion we like to see here. If you take a look at our Terms of Service, our commenting policy talks about welcoming disagreement, but that we’re not going to “debate” someone who wants to tell us about ourselves as if they know more about us than we do. What you’re doing is speaking from your own experience and asking questions about other people’s. As long as it’s in that spirit I don’t think you can say anything offensive.
I think the reason that orientation is a different classification from paraphilias is that the scope of paraphilias is narrowly concerned only with sexual arousal and behavior. Orientation is a comprehensive attribute that goes way beyond just sexual response (and if any of us were to keep track of the percentage of time we spend in sexual activity, it wouldn’t amount to much). I actually think the article about asexuality I linked to earlier does a good job of revealing that, because once you remove from the experience of human intimacy the feelings you or I would identify as sexual, you’re left with the other components of orientation. It has more to do with who you’re drawn to spend intimate time with, and sex (with or without other preferences that might be “weird”) is just a small part of that. I think for those of us who are not asexual, it might be hard to separate sexual attraction to someone from those other components, though.
Regarding choice, I want to clarify that I’m not saying people don’t have any choice about how they identify and live. It seems that many, if not most people fall somewhere on the continuum of attraction other than the two absolute poles, that they have at least some element of flexibility. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many gay and lesbian people who have maintained heterosexual marriages. I can think of a lot of gay and lesbian people I know who have been in relationships with someone of the opposite sex, who clearly have the capacity to do so. So in the sense that they choose not to pursue those kinds of relationships, and to identify as what they experience as their orientation, yes, they are making a choice. The recent thing with Cynthia Nixon that people were fussing about is an example of protesting too much, as you allude to. It turns out she’s bisexual, and she chooses to be with women and identify as a lesbian. Good for her, she doesn’t have to choose to sleep with both men and women just because she can.
On the other hand, you describe yourself as what sounds like having no attraction at all to other men. Do you think, even if you were highly motivated, that you could choose to change that? And if you could find within yourself the capacity to be attracted enough to another man to go through the motions of a sexual relationship, do you think you would be a whole, authentic person in that relationship?
The point is, even if you could, does that mean you should?
“I don’t understand exactly why gay people are concerned about the perception that some level of choice exists in orientation.”
When people talk about chosing to be gay, it is usually a preface to arguing against gay rights.
Gay people compare their campaign to get equal rights to the black rights movement of the 60s. But no, their opponents say. Black people are born that way and gay people are gay by choice, therefore it is not the same thing at all.
If you feel discriminated against, then just chose to be straight. Then you won’t have to worry about it. Everybody has the same rights, after all. Gay men have the right to marry the woman of their choice. All they have to do is stop being gay.
Many times when somebody is saying being gay is a choice, gay people don’t like what they are going to hear next.
(should be pointed out that I am not gay, but this is how my friends explain it to me.)
This is a good account of offensive things that are said to gay people.
“Just stop being gay.” Which really means: “Lie. Be inauthentic.” As if that would be a moral choice for anyone.
It is not just a Neanderthal thing, it is a power thing to deny some other person an innate part of themselves or the expression thereof. This whole fundamentalist “I will be the one to tell you who you are, what you can think, what you can do, what you must wear, what you must believe” is always an undercurrent in human society but periodically in history it flames up in various guises and it is always a bad thing when it happens. The fight for basic human rights for all people has been going on for a long, long time.
Yes. And lest anyone think “fundamentalist” only refers to certain strains of Christian and Muslim belief, or from the dominant group in a given society, it can be just as virulent when deployed horizontally. I’m thinking here of the strain of radical lesbian separatism that tries to tell transgender people who they are or that they don’t exist. That fundamentalism is sometimes indistinguishable from the fundamentalism of Bryan Fischer or Lou Sheldon.
Internets ate my earlier reply, apparently.
When I came out years ago, a (now ex) friend responded: “You’re not gay, just bi. And not even that—you’re just trying to be different!”
Twenty-something years later, it still ranks as the #1 dumbest thing anyone has ever said to me.
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