Iain Dale really has to stop projecting his experience to everyone else

People who believe we all choose to be gay

He writes to refute that contention, that people choose to be gay. Or even to refute that life and or experience (or that horror of past psychiatry, the cold mother) \”turn\” people gay. Or not, as the case may be.

And I\’m sorry but this argument that because some are indeed gay from birth therefore all who are gay are so from birth simply isn\’t true.

Human sexuality comes in a spectrum (in fact, in several, there are those just not very interested in sex at all for example, while others think of little else). There are undoubtedly those who only ever have any interest in same sex sex. Just as there are those who are only ever interested (assuming they are one of those interested in sex at all) in opposite sex sex. I would place myself in that second group simply because I\’ve never met a male that created any form of sexual desire in me (and I\’ve met Iain, so sorry there. I\’ve also found that I fail to create any sexual desire whatsoever in almost all of the women I\’ve ever met but that\’s another story.). This doesn\’t mean that it could never happen: I\’ve met only a small portion of the 3.5 billion men extant for example.

Within this spectrum there are undoubtedly those to whom sex is more important than the form of sex is. Any moist crevice in a storm sort of thing. One only has to look at sexual activity in all male (and all female) environments like prison (or boarding schools of old perhaps) to see the truth of this. Environments and availability do change, for some to many people, sexual expression.

The truth is same sex sex (which can be, if you want it to be, divorced from \”being gay\”) runs along that spectrum, some are indeed born interested only in that form of sex. Some are born not interested in it in the slightest: and some bat for either side dependent upon circumstances. And no, that latest group is not what we should therefore call bisexual, that is properly reserved for those who without such a change in environment or availability are happy acting either way.

It is not true to say that all gays have chosen to be gay. But it is also not true to try and insist that all who partake of same sex sex have not chosen to do so. Human sexuality is complicated enough that some indeed do choose dependent upon circumstances. Just as others are indeed formed in the womb.

Matthew Parris\’ analogy for this same point was that it\’s all like the neck of a champagne bottle. There\’s the wide part of the bottle, where most are. There\’s the thinnest part of the bottle, the spout itself and then there\’s that curve from one to the other where people\’s actions and tastes are more malleable. This is actually a pretty good analogy for almost any human interest.

33 thoughts on “Iain Dale really has to stop projecting his experience to everyone else”

  1. Well the problem is the adoption (for largely political campaigning reasons) of an Essentialist definition of homosexuality. That is, it is something you are rather than something you do.

    Which is of course very very similar to the definition of Christianity introduced by Reformation radicals, which may be causation or mere correlation.

    Thus, it changed from “someone who prefers sex with their own sex” to “something a person is“. We see the same thinking in a negatively portrayed sense with “the paedophile”. Except that paradoxically, a man acquires the paedophile essence (but the change is never reversible) whereas the gay is essentially gay from birth.

    It’s very odd. Nobody would apply this essentialism to BDSMers, or furries, or those who enjoy urolagnia[1].

    Personally, I think the essentialist interpretation is neither logical, nor consistent with my own observations of reality. I’ve known too many people “change sides” to believe it. Here’s some anecdata: when my sister was 20ish and (like me) working at the local rep theatre, she had a relationship with an actor who was in his mid 50s. Lovely chap, Shakespearian/BBC bit part type.

    Anyway, he had been, prior to this “gay” for the previous three decades, living in a gay relationship with an older man (another actor), and then when his partner died, he concluded that in fact he wasn’t gay and never really had been, but had been just sucked into it by the vasty amounts of teh ghey in the theatre world. He wasn’t bitter or angry or in denial or anything. That was just his own assessment.

    Things like that just don’t fit with the Essentialist paradigm peddled by gay activists. I don’t think even most gays believed it until it became a campaigning point for civil rights reasons in the USA in the 1980s. Certainly most of the activist lesbians of the 20th century saw it as a choice- a conscious rejection of men- and some of the Rads still do (e.g. Julie Bindel).

    It’s codswallop really, isn’t it?

    [1] If you ever see this on an Italian restaurant menu, never order it.

  2. My wife has a mate who became gay in his 30s after a marriage with a kid, and swears blind he wasn’t in denial all those years (and I believe him, he has no reason to lie). He just said he kind of changed preferences. So whether one chooses or not, it is also not a permanent state of affairs in some cases.

  3. You, Mr Tim, confuse sexuality with the sexual act. That is like confusing hunger with eating.

    You can chose to eat or not, or what to eat, but you cannot chose to be hungry or not to be hungry.

    Sexuality is probably across a spectrum, but whatever it is in a particular individual is likely determined either in the gene make up at moment of conception or by chemical influence during gestation. I say likely because nobody knows, but I do believe the ‘my mother made me a Lesbian… if I get her the wool will she make me one’ idea belongs to another time.

    That some men who are heterosexual will engage in homosexual acts depending on circumstances, one of which being curiosity, another being quantity of lager consumed, is well known but that does not mean their sexuality was changed by the lager (environment) and was changed back by the hangover next morning.

    And of course the reverse is true: homosexuals have heterosexual sex whilst retaining their sexuality.

  4. Occam’s razor suggests the theory that we’re all quite capable of rubbing our genitals on anything that feels nice, and the only thing stopping us wanting to in some respects is conditioning, is actually correct. It’s a nice simple answer to many otherwise tricky questions.

    The really bizarre practice is that of discussing in great depth the genital-rubbing practices of others, as far as I can see. Who the hell cares?

  5. Dave, clearly we can rub our genitals on anything that makes them feel good but there’s pretty much incontrovertible evidence of evolutionary hardwiring for men to be particularly keen on rubbing their penis on the inside of a vagina and for women to be particularly keen to rub their vagina on a penis.

    That that hardwiring goes a bit haywire in some men and women is as unsurprising as the fact that some people with normal hardwiring will sometimes under some circumstances choose someone of the same sex for said genital rubbing. It would be as silly to regard those latter people as “homosexually hardwired” as it would to regard people who choose to masturbate in the absence of willing members of the opposite sex as “handsexual”.

  6. John B: How would a condition that, of all conditions, most mitigates against its own survival be spread by genes. Yes, some are bisexual and even a gay person might have the odd bunk up with a woman but that would not cut it for gene survival across thousands of generations of hard living and short lives that make up human history. Any deviation from maximum fecundity would reduce the potential survival of those gene lines. Even if there is some hormonal difference that causes altered programming in the womb (even were there no genetic code for gayness at all just hormonal imbalance by accident in the womb) children born so will leave fewer offspring. Across those thousands of hard living years, this would lead to the extinction of the lines of women prone to such hormonal errors vs women who are less prone. A purely genetic cause would prob bring a world where genetic homosexuality had an incidence rate similar to very rare diseases. Certainly not the 4% which seems to be the most likely estimate of today.

  7. Here we see John B describing explicitly the Essentialist interpretation, in which there is some essence of “sexuality” which is quite distinct from one’s actual tastes and practices.

    Another well know example of this oddness is of course the idea that “gender” is essential too, so you can be “a woman” even if you’re actually a man. In essence. It’s all very Platonic.

    Not very scientific either, or sane come to that, but then belief systems rarely are.

    I remember one particular discussion about this in a liberal place with a very liberal person, who described a friend of his who is (biologically) female, but transexual (so, essentially, male) but prefers to live and act as a woman, thus as he put it, old fashioned transsexuals didn’t understand her/him/whatever at all, silly old sticks in the mud.

    See, that’s the nice thing about making shit up. You can just make up anything you like.

  8. JamesV-

    Dave, clearly we can rub our genitals on anything that makes them feel good but there’s pretty much incontrovertible evidence of evolutionary hardwiring for men to be particularly keen on rubbing their penis on the inside of a vagina and for women to be particularly keen to rub their vagina on a penis.

    There isn’t actually any “evidence” of that at all. Nobody knows how the brain works in detail, how it is wired, or how things we presume to be instinctive are hardwired into the brain.

    One thing we do know though is that in advanced species, imprinting plays a large role, so it is likely that some form of imprinting is used in our sexuality. It’s unlikely that there is some particularly bit of genetically determined brain wiring that makes me like tits, or brunettes, for instance. I learned those. Besides all else, if our tastes were hardwired, mutations in the species would have be tracked by specific mutations in the brains of the opposite gender, which would be impractical in probability terms (that is, if hominid females start growing permanent tits, males have to wait for a mutation that makes them like tits, which is extremely unlikely within a useful timescale).

    So, one speculation might be that we have to imprint on the opposite gender; which might mean that persons denied sufficient visual cueing (perhaps due to excessive gender segregation, or modesty) might well develop abnormal sexuality. Which might explain the high degree of sexual abnormality among the Victorians (and public schoolboys, stereotypically); a lack of imprinting stimuli. The type species there was John Ruskin, who was disgusted by the site of a naked woman (his wife), having apparently imprinted on idealised artistic renderings in the classical style, and thus couldn’t relate to wobbly flesh compared to marble.

  9. Ian, the evidence is in the fact that the overwhelming majority of us know how to do it without education, prior example, or even for rather a lot of human history a spoken language with which we could communicate.

    Wanting to put your penis in a vagina/put penises in your vagina is absolutely hardwired.

  10. James, I don’t know that, because I can’t think of any significant quantity of humans who have been raised without culture. Presumably our ancient ancestors were learning how to control their bowel movements before we had educational DVDs on the subject, too.

    I’m speculating here, but it’s interesting to me that human cultures everywhere go to enormous lengths to distinguish male and female by fashion, hair, body painting, and behaviours of all kinds etc. This might be an indicator of an “instinct” to clearly distinguish the genders so we know (a) which one we are and should identify with and (b) which one we should be shagging. But even then, you don’t need genes. Culture is very ancient.

  11. The most distinguishing feature about homosexuals is not that the feel sexually attracted to the same sex. It’s they don’t feel attracted to the opposite sex. Which is downright weird.

  12. BIS

    Yes, that’s the defining thing. But we also may ask what proportion of homosexual preferentialists actually genuinely aren’t, and just prefer their own. Being purely anecdotal, back in the 90s when I was working with and socialising in the gay scene in London, I couldn’t shake the feeling after many beery conversations that some significant proportion of my gay friends just couldn’t be arsed with all the effort women require.

    For a beta (and particularly, omega) male, the enormously greater ease of forming gay assignations must have some effect. I often mused on this myself; how I could pick up a guy by just sitting at the bar. If I hadn’t been horrified by the thought of sex without the tits and cunts, and the botty thing, I might have been tempted myself.

  13. I think a pretty good piece of evidence against the “gay is a choice” thesis is to assume the contrary. Who on earth would *choose* to be gay? Not to have gay sex, there’s situational homosexuality and all that, plus what Ian pointed out, but actually choose exclusive homosexuality. Given the stigma against it and the potential penalties, especially in less enlightened times and places, you’d need a pretty strong innate drive to take that kind of chance.

    But we knew all this many years ago when the Kinsey scale was published.

  14. By the same reasoning then, nobody would choose to be a member of an unpopular political creed, religion, lifestyle, etc. It doesn’t really work as an argument.

  15. For me, it comes down to this; as a libertarian, from a strict libertarian POV, any contract offered and accepted is valid. But let’s say we live in Libertopia, and there is great competition for some job I am offering (perhaps due to labour oversupply when the OB-Libs throw open the borders) and so I decide to give the job to the prettiest girl, on condition she gives me a BJ whenever I want one.

    My problem here is that I don’t feel that that would be “right”, because I was brought up proper by my nice parents and I’d be thinking about mum spinning in her grave. I have this idea that you can only have a liberal/libertarian society if people actually have some kind of moral sense to be, um, morally liberal, which basically means spending your time trying to be fair and decent with other people, so long as they are with you, which would mean not applying every bit of leverage you have, just because you have it.

    Which might mean not always getting optimal economic efficiency, but it does mean you’re not a total arse, which is some kind of a public good, I think.

  16. Um, just realised the above comment is in the wrong thread, due to an interruption by the site falling offline as usual, so I saved it then pasted it back in. To the wrong thread. Should be in the “zero hours contracts” thread. Oops.

  17. How do salmon know how to do it? Or bees? Did piscine/apian society have to teach them or is it hard-wired?

  18. Okay, try a thought experiment.

    You do an unethical experiment; you set up an entirely female community. All women running it, all girls from birth being brought up by them. THey are never told about sexual reproduction. Just so they get no hint, there are no mammals or other obviously sexually reproducing animals either (cats, dogs, horses etc).

    They are brought up to expect to marry women, and that sex is a purely recreational activity, and babies are found under gooseberry bushes (or sent by the Gods, or something).

    Now what happens? The girls don’t know anything about heterosexuality. Do they have an instinct for it anyway, a yearning for something (men) which they’ve no knowledge of? They don’t even know that “gender” exists remember. All people are women. The two are synonymous.

    Now after many years, when the girls are adult, suppose you suddenly bring some men into the community. How would they react? Would they be sexually attracted to these creatures? Would they see them as deformed, ugly, mutant, etc? Would they all (or most of them) dump their wives for husbands?

    The question is this; how can you have a gender preference when you have no knowledge at all of gender?

    Even bigger question. Could a transsexual possibly exist in such a community?

  19. Well done Ian, you’ve demonstrated that beings with a well-developed prefrontal cortex can overcome neural hardwiring. We can teach ourselves to do things that don’t come naturally to us, even to believe things that are patently untrue! I’d never have guessed!

    Dunno about bees, but there’s plenty of gay penguins out there. In fact the low level (zeroish in some animals) of homosexuality in other species rather proves my point.

  20. IIRC, there’s some confused penguins in a zoo somewhere that enthusiastic commentators have called “gay” yes.

    Anyway, what the thought experiment questions is whether there is any “hardwiring” to overcome. Or whether, as with many other animals with advanced brains, evolution has us imprint rather than “hardwire” us.

    Famous example: birds are hardwired to follow the first big thing around that they see, which in normal circumstances will be their mother, but humans can use that to make them follow, say, a brightly coloured pair of wellington boots. Following the boots isn’t “overcoming” anything. Whatever they see, that’s mum.

    Likewise, human babies have simple reflexes to clutch and and try to suck something big nearby. They have no internal wiring for “mother”, “breast”, “milk” etc. They’re all learned. All they are preset with is a clutch reflex, and a suck reflex. Then, they imprint on the thing they’ve clutched at and sucked and produced a simple pleasure sensation from consuming the milk. They learn what a mum is, a boob is, and indeed what they themself are.

    The fact that humans so readily develop “wrong” sexual tastes- wrong sex, wrong age, wrong species, pain, poo, anthropomorphic animals (dem Furries again) strongly implies some sort of imprinty thing, does it not? Where’s the Furry Gene? Where’s my “prefers brunettes to blondes to redheads” gene? If sex is hardwired, is also age… in which case, is there a paedophilia (and indeed gerontophilia) gene? All this “hardwired”? Or is there a general sexual subsystem that, like the rest of the brain, learns and configures itself?

    I think it’s imprinting, me.

  21. FFS. Live and let live.

    Whats with the obsession with what other people do with their dangly bits.

    Its none of your business.

    Unless of course you have an interest therein?

  22. The problem is, we have a sexuality obsessed ruling class and government, so what ought to be of purely academic interest and a pleasant subject for science and debate is made into a driver of public policy. Gay marriage, censorship, paedohysteria, etc.

    That’s why we can’t ignore it.

  23. Not when you have had your head kicked in by homophobes.

    Academic thoughts go out of the window when your head is stamped on.

  24. Er… nobody is kicking anyone’s head in. If you want to blame somebody for the century of gay persecution, go shout at the social purity feminists.

  25. There is no instinct in the human brain. It’s because we have no instinct and have to learn everything that has allowed us to evolve to our current highly developed societies.

    Having to learn everything means that we are also the most adaptable species on the planet. We can cope with anything Earth throws at us, living in the cold and the heat, the dry and the wet, the desert or the jungle. Every other animal on the planet has a lot of instinct and only live in the environment that they evolved in.

    Gayness is just another aspect of learning about sex. Most of us have it imprinted during our learning periods that society prefers male/female relationships. Its subtle but it’s there no matter how much nutty parents think that by not having a TV they can bring their kids up without society’s mores, little realising that they interact with loads of other kids and peer pressure is the main method of picking up what to do in society.

  26. @Ian B “Now after many years, when the girls are adult, suppose you suddenly bring some men into the community. How would they react? Would they be sexually attracted to these creatures?”

    Depends. Are the blokes wearing Lynx?

  27. Firstly, when is someone going to point out that Iain Dale has utterly failed to recognise what “phobic” means?
    Secondly, it seems to me that John B is wrong – Tim is not confusing homosexuality with homosexual acts. It is quite possible to have sexual inclinations without indulging in them and Tim appears to recognise that. Thirty years ago I knew three Christians who were attracted solely to the same sex: two chose to be celibate while one joined the “Gay Christian Movement”. Whether to be “actively” gay is undoubtedly a choice.
    Thirdly, are we to believe that the % of the population who are gay has trebled or quadrupled in the last 50 years?

  28. Er… nobody is kicking anyone’s head in. If you want to blame somebody for the century of gay persecution, go shout at the social purity feminists.

    What a load of utter bollocks.

  29. Ah! Guardian Survey excludes anyone who identifies as heterosexual.
    So totally representative
    @ Julie Bindel – the answer is No. I have a wife and two children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *