Why Wouldn't Gays and Lesbians Want the Bisexually Oriented to Experiment with Homosexual Behavior?

I appreciate Orin's response to my post, and I agree that my post is based in some measure on speculation, as claims about people's motives often are. Yet it strikes me as sound speculation.

Recall that one premise of my post (for which I have considerable data) is that there are many people who have bisexual orientation, in the sense that they are attracted at least in some measure to both sexes. Of these, some may engage in purely heterosexual sexual behavior, others in bisexual sexual behavior, and others in purely homosexual sexual behavior. Social pressure, as well as internalized feelings of shame or guilt about homosexuality, may push many of the bisexually oriented into the purely heterosexual sexual behavior category.

Why wouldn't gays and lesbians who think that homosexual behavior is just fine want these people to experiment with homosexual behavior? After all, once some of these people overcome social and personal inhibitions, they may find that they're much happier in same-sex relationships than in opposite-sex relationships. Others may find that they're happier engaging in a mix of such relationships.

If the bisexually oriented person hasn't tried his homosexual side, I would think that many gays and lesbians would think that this is a shame: There must be something that keeps the person from looking into something that might give him or her great happiness. Working to convert a bisexually oriented person from a purely heterosexual behavior pattern that completely ignores the person's heterosexual side to one that is more open to the person's homosexual side -- even if only as an experiment to see how strong that side is -- would, it seems to me, be thought of as a good deed. (It would be seen as an especially unselfish good deed if the work involved destigmatizing homosexuality and making the bisexually oriented feel better about their homosexual side, rather than just having sex with the person directly.)

This is what I was trying to get at by posing the five questions in my original post. My sense of human psychology, based on which I'm speculating about people's intentions, would be that many gays and lesbians do think such conversions (or persuasion or influencing or whatever one may want to call it) are good; and I think the five questions help explain why that might be so.

Orin suggests otherwise: "Most people who encounter social disapproval for their conduct are probably more concerned about ending that stigma than about getting other people to be more like them." But I'm not sure that it quite works that way. Many people who encounter social disapproval for their conduct become especially aware of such disapproval, and especially empathetic of those who are in the same boat. I think to myself (to borrow an example I gave in my earlier post): What if I were a heterosexual in a hypothetical future overwhelming homosexual society, and I had overcome my original shame and fear at experimenting with heterosexuality? I'd think that I'd then want to make sure that other people like me -- including those who are bisexually oriented, but may end up happier in a heterosexual relationship than in a homosexual relationship -- felt comfortable experimenting, too. I'd even urge people who fit that profile to experiment (again, not necessarily with me), just so they can avoid the possible unhappiness of being stuck in relationships that aren't satisfying for them as they could be.

So it seems to me contrary to what I know of human psychology for gays and lesbians not to want the orientationally bisexual / behaviorally purely heterosexual people to convert to a more bisexual or homosexual behavior pattern. It's speculation, but it seems to me likely correct.

Goober (mail):
Why wouldn't gays and lesbians who think that homosexual behavior is just fine want these people to experiment with homosexual behavior?

Assuming this isn't merely rhetorical, respect for personal autonomy seems a sufficient reason. Many gays, after all, simply want straight society to respect their different sexual orientation; turnabout would not only be fair play but strategically wise.

And from what observation about human psychology do you get this principle of "as for me, so for thee"? I think there are a lot of people who do, in fact, want everyone else to choose the same lifestyle that they have chosen for themselves. But if I may traffic in stereotypes, such people are infrequently gay, and infrequently very tolerant of homosexuality.
8.22.2005 8:50pm
Jody (mail) (www):
All moderately successful memes attempt to propagate themselves. Why would the homosexual lifestyle (or heterosexual lifestyle for that matter) be any different?
8.22.2005 8:57pm
Goober (mail):
The Richard Dawkins idea, again? Well, homosexuality is in a rather obviously odd position from the Darwinist/biological perspective, wouldn't you agree?
8.22.2005 8:59pm
torrentprime (mail):
IMO, it's not a matter of why "wouldn't" gays and lesbians want people with homsexual sides/feelings to experiment or express themselves. The question is "Why would gays and lesbians want anybody to do anything different at all?" I personally don't care if all my straight friends never go near or even consider a same-sex experience. It would be neat, give us somthing more in common, blah blah, but it is not in any sense of the word a goal, or an effort or anything that I would actively pursue or encourage. There is always a sense of "oh cool" when you find out that someone is on your team, or shares something with you, but the objection people have to your original posty was more of the implied intent of the conversion, that is was something gays and lesbians are actively seeking. The only time gays seek to "encourage" someone to experiment is if we think he's hot. I say that light-heartedly but seriously; building a bigger base isn't something, I think, that most of us are interested in.
8.22.2005 9:18pm
Jack Sprat (mail):
Well, it isn't the case that whites who engage in serious interracial relationships with blacks encourage their white friends and family to get a black significant other...why wouldn't gays and lesbians have a similar indifference?
8.22.2005 9:22pm
Craig Oren (mail):
I have repeatedly been told that the *last* thing any gay person wants to do is to hit on someone who is *not*. Sometimes it's not in the meme's interest to prosleytize
8.22.2005 9:31pm
Keith Hilzendeger (mail):
I will comment solely on the title:

This rhetorical question smacks of the stereotype of the promiscuous gay person.

Now I'm familiar with Professor's writings well enough to know that his observations are hardly grounded in that stereotype. But I had to scroll past this post to get to Professor Kerr's response, so I will read that, and then read Professor's response, and then maybe comment again more intelligently.
8.22.2005 9:36pm

You must know some gay people, why not just ask them?
8.22.2005 10:04pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
I think people may be missing the point here with the use of the somewhat loaded word "convert". Eugene is not claiming that gays are looking to convert straights. Eugene is claiming that if a gay person thought someone else might be homosexual or bisexual but has never tried a homosexual relationship, it is THOSE people that they would encourage to explore that side of their sexuality.

And I see nothing wrong with this. If I see a friend have a possible interest in something which I find to be wonderful, why wouldn't I encourage him or her to try it? That is a far cry from going up to friends who have shown NO interest in something, and actively attempting to push it on them.
8.22.2005 10:07pm
Keith Hilzendeger (mail):
See, here I was not wanting to assume that Professor's motives grew out of a despicable stereotype. When I first read these two statements particularly:

1. "Why wouldn't gays and lesbians who think that homosexual behavior is just fine want these people to experiment with homosexual behavior?"

2. "If the bisexually oriented person hasn't tried his homosexual side, I would think that many gays and lesbians would think that this is a shame: There must be something that keeps the person from looking into something that might give him or her great happiness."

I thought that my first reaction was a slam dunk!

But Professor is much cleverer.

In one sense, I agree (gasp!) with Professor: Gay people (as a collective) want everyone to feel comfortable engaging in homosexual activity, to the extent each person is comfortable doing so, because if large numbers of people did so, there would be a concomitant reduction in the level of stigma society places on gay people in particular. As the stigma eases, gay and lesbian people are freer to form relationships that give them the most happiness -- even if those relationships would be with other people whose sexual orientation is the same as theirs.

But this does not require an individualized conversion effort (as the Christians believe their religion is to be spread) so much as a societal conversion. Wouldn't it be great to live in a society that tolerates a variety of sexual behaviors? Or in one that, at a minimum, tolerates homosexual activity between consenting adults who exchange no money? Having asked this question, one could understand Lawrence v. Texas as a "conversionary" decision, using that word as Professor has used it earlier today.

However, on the individual level, I can say based on my own experience:

1. I don't want people to do anything they're not comfortable with from the beginning. If you're bisexually oriented, and aware of that orientation, you've done enough thinking about the possibility of same-sex activity to realize your comfort level. I am loathe to perturb that comfort level.

2. Consequently, I don't regard it as a shame that these bisexually oriented people who are uncomfortable with same-sex sexual activity don't engage in that activity. In fact, I don't regard it at all. For me, they are functionally indistinguishable from straights, who I don't seek out as sex partners.

As to these two observations of mine, your own mileage may vary.
8.22.2005 10:12pm
Darwin (mail) (www):
One (sorta) related issue is the way that Bisexuals are often treated by the LBGT community. I live in San Francisco, and have more than a few bisexual friends. There are various social pressures from both straight and gay society. Anecdotally, I would say that the most common pressure is for the person to decide one way or the other. Bisexual people make some "pure" gay people nervous in the same way that they make "pure" straight people uncomfortable : they imply that the "pure" person could become the other one if they chose to.

Fpr example, bisexual women are frequently treated harshly by the lesbian community for being either "inauthentic" or "traitorous" to the core of the community. CF the movie "Chasing Amy."

I think ultimately this discussion is about behaviors which apply equally to both sides.. I missed the intro (and am busy at work) but I think it's no more accurate to consider homosexuals to be "recruiting" or "prostletyzing" for homosexuality than it is to consider heterosexuals to be doing the same for heterosexuality.

8.22.2005 10:20pm
Paul Gowder (mail):
Again, I think there's a crucial error in this argument, and it's here:

If the bisexually oriented person hasn't tried his homosexual side, I would think that many gays and lesbians would think that this is a shame: There must be something that keeps the person from looking into something that might give him or her great happiness. Working to convert a bisexually oriented person from a purely heterosexual behavior pattern that completely ignores the person's heterosexual side to one that is more open to the person's homosexual side -- even if only as an experiment to see how strong that side is -- would, it seems to me, be thought of as a good deed.

That argument rests on the assumption that a person with bisexual tendencies who manifests only heterosexual behavior would increase his or her happiness by manifesting bisexual behavior. I think that this assumption is both false (because of the massive scorn, discrimination, and even violence directed against gays in our society) and totally unlikely to be held by any gay person who would be doing the converting (since they'd have personal experience of said scorn, discrimination, etc.).

It would seem to me, from my admittedly uninformed straight guy perspective, that no gay person who had a compassionate interest in the well being of another who might be engaging in repression of bisexual tendencies would want to inflict the horrible social hatred that gay people get on them.
8.22.2005 10:25pm
Downtown Lad (mail) (www):
Honestly - if I had a friend who was truly bi, I'd probably ask him why he wouldn't just stick with his straight side.

Being gay is not easy. You have to deal with a lot of hate and a lot of bullshit. People stereotype you from day one. People LOOK at you differently.

Why in the world would I wish anyone to be gay?

If I had a "choice", I dunno what I'd do. It certainly would be easier to be straight. It'd be so much easier if I could just get married and start a family. But I'm not. I'm gay. And it's part of my identity now. And I think it's made me a more interesting person.

But coming out was something I had to do on my own. To each his own.

Then again - I think bisexuality is just a stop on the way to gaydom. At least for 95% of self-proclaimed bisexual men. I have a couple of friends that claim to be bi, so I have an open mind. But it always seems that after a few years, they claim to be 100% gay and then say "what was I thinking".
8.22.2005 10:37pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail):
Considering the pressure for the bisexual person to choose sides led me to another speculation. Does not the existence of bisexual people imply that sexual orientation is not merely biological -- that some elements of environment and choice enter in? I have not thought through how this might affect everyone's political arguments, but it strikes me as an important addition.

Even if we were to postulate a multiple-genetic (or prenatal) origin for homosexuality, we would only be pushing the question back a bit. The questions of choice and determination would still be sticky.
8.22.2005 10:49pm
Josh Jasper (mail):
We're trying something new here, perhaps quixotic but I hope useful. We'd like the posts to be civil, of course

Well, this was a total failure. I've seldom been less insulted. I'm sure the authors of "The Bell Cure" thought they were engaging in "sound speculation" as well.

-Josh Jasper
8.22.2005 10:53pm
nk (mail) (www):
If you are elliptically trying to make the point that the question "whether there are gay or lesbian people or only gay or lesbian behavior", by positing "degrees of homosexuality", is a political one subject to discussion, you have succeeded. You are liable to make as many enemies as friends by doing so, though. It is a very polarizing issue. On the other hand you have precedent on your side. Homosexuality was considered a paraphilia until the American Academy of Psychiatry voted that it was not in the early 70's. Personally, I agree with my state which decriminalized private adult consensual conduct when it adopted the Uniform Criminal Code in 1968: "As long as they don't do it in the middle of the street and scare the horses."
8.22.2005 10:55pm
Downtown Lad (mail) (www):
Assistant Village - I'm pretty sure a bisexual would claim that they don't have a choice. They like BOTH men and women.

It's kind of like if you liked vanilla and chocolate ice cream - and the vanilla lovers and chocolate lovers kept telling you to "choose" one vs. the other.

So many bisexuals probably choose to date both sexes until they meet one that they want to spend the rest of their life with.

I don't think being gay is genetic. I think it's based on the amount of testosterone in the womb. That's the current scientific thinking. So gays are born with one genetic sex, but their brain can develop as the opposite sex (or towards the opposite sex). So, while not genetic, people are most likely born gay.
8.22.2005 10:58pm
Downtown Lad (mail) (www):
nk - Are you even aware that Sigmund Freud himself realized that homosexuality was not a psychiatric illness? Freud did think that gays could be changed, ONLY because he thought all people were inherently bisexual. Today, of course, we know that assumption is wrong.

"Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty too.... - Sigmund Freud

"If [your son] is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed...." (reprinted in Jones, 1957, pp. 208-209, from the American Journal of Psychiatry, 1951, 107, 786). - Sigmund Freud

Stop making it appear that this debate suddenly came about in 1973. It had been going on since the advent of psychoteraphy. The science is not that old, and the founder (Freud) figured out pretty quickly that being gay was not an illness.
8.22.2005 11:09pm
I'm surprised there's even any disagreement about this.

Take your average single, heterosexual man. We'll call him "Bob". Bob finds himself strongly attracted to a woman who has, thus far, only had sex with women. However, after getting to know her Bob becomes fairly convinced that she might be open to trying hetro sex as well. Does anyone honestly believe that Bob isn't going to hit on this woman? I mean, come on -- of course he is. If there's even a chance of a relationship there, Bob's going for it. Wouldn't we all? I know I would, anyway.

So color me skeptical, but I've never seen any indication that gay men are less horny than straight men are. There are social issues that might make a gay version of Bob unwilling to hit on a potentially-bi man, but that doesn't mean Bob wouldn't WANT to.
8.22.2005 11:39pm
Downtown Lad (mail) (www):
Wanting to sleep with someone and wanting to make that person gay are two entirely different things.

I want to sleep with Brad Pitt. That doesn't mean I want to convert Brad Pitt to being gay. I realize he's happy in his heterosexuality and I'm fine with just fantasizing about him. And if I found out Brad Pitt was bi, I'd want him to do whatever made him happy.
8.23.2005 12:11am
Gahh! This post and the preceding demonstrate precisely the limits of legal reasoning. Eugene thinks that by pure logic and carefully constructed categories and a little pop psychology, he can deduce the answer to questions which in reality need empirical study, or even just a some experience in the real world...
8.23.2005 12:48am
And I'd also like to add that the underlying premise of both of these posts -- that gay people are promiscuous -- is really offensive.
8.23.2005 12:50am
nk (mail) (www):
Downtown Lad,

My only point was that the issue was treated in a political manner. Nobody said, "I did this double-blind prospective study and here are the results". That is why I said that it is a political question as opposed to a scientific question. I make no further implications and as a political question I would not deny any right to any human being that I would not want denied to me.
8.23.2005 1:11am
Drewsil (mail):
I'm writing to point out something which I'm not sure is quite correct. The relevant quote from the begining of the article is:

Recall that one premise of my post (for which I have considerable data) is that there are many people who have bisexual orientation, in the sense that they are attracted at least in some measure to both sexes.

Depending on how you mean the above statement it could be wrong. Particularly there was recently a study which looked at male arousal when watching explicit movies (porn) that featured either women or men. The measure used was the obvious involuntary response. Initially the subjects were self sorted into Hetero, Bi and Homo sexual. The results were that there was not a single subject that could be qualified as bisexual by this measure, all exhibited a strong prefference for one sex over the other.

Granted human arrousal can be due to many other things than pure physical attraction, which is what I assume you mean in the post. The involuntary responses of women are harder to measure empirically and I'm not aware of any similar research on their bisexual tendencies. So as far as the male population goes I remain unconvinced that there are a substantial number of bisexuals, and even more skeptical that such a smooth transition as you posit could be managed. In my personal experience many bisexuals have a preffered sex for a partner, and while they occasionally will daly with the other sex, it would be extremely difficult to convince them to forgo their sex of choice completely, whereas the converse is not true.

A more detailed discussion of what you mean by bisexual (for example people who are willing to have some relations with their nonpreffered sex vs. people that are indifferent to their partners sex), and the specific conclusions that can be drawn from the data you have could be useful.
8.23.2005 1:16am
none given:
I think it's a mistake to classify the desire for (and consummation of) sexual relations between a gay person and a non-gay person as an attempt at "conversion". Speaking empirically (and bluntly if you will forgive my intemperance) I have had sexual relationships with self-identified heterosexual men quite a number of times. My first sexual experience (as a teenager) was with a man who is now happily married to a woman. I never harbored any illusions regarding the nature of those relationships, nor did I think of them as attempts to "convert" the heterosexual men to the gay "lifestyle" (something I do not live myself if it is defined more broadly than who I choose to have sexual and/or emotional relationships with). Sometimes my encounters with ostensibly heterosexual men was related to an interest in sexual experimentation on their part.

But it was also, and often exclusively, about physical pleasure. In my experience, self-identified heterosexual men who have some form of sex with other men often do so simply for sexual release. They know that there is a ready and willing population of men who want to satisfy them, so they take advantage of this without necessarily having any "homosexual" feelings or desire for the male body. This is why I think that it is a mistake to think of heterosexuality and homosexuality as some sort of oppositional subspecies and think of them instead as a range of behaviors, sexual and emotional. I am aware that both the activist gay "community" (whatever that actually is) and the activist anti-gay community has a great vested interest in retaining this essentialist binary system, but I think it has caused so much erroneous thinking on the part of everyone that tries to sort out its twisted logic that it is perhaps time to abandon it. Perhaps that has already begun.

I will add that my experiences are certainly those of a man, and the sexual behavior of men, whatever their "orientation", is going to be different than that of gay and not-gay women, so I don't presume to speak with them. Please forgive my blunt talk about sensual matters, but I did think it germane to the discussion since I have first-hand (no intemperate pun implied) knowledge of this subject.
8.23.2005 1:21am
Wanting to sleep with someone and wanting to make that person gay are two entirely different things.

Not really, if you're planning to have a monogamous relationship. That sort of implies an expectation that your prospective partner will be confining himself to one gender for the forseeable future.

Granted, you might not consider that "coverting someone to homosexuality", since presumably the guy will still feel sexual attraction to women (even if he doesn't act on it). That's a reasonable objection. However, that situation does meet the definition of "converting someone to homosexuality" used by religious conservatives. The difference between "converting from heterosexuality to homosexuality" and "permanently abandoning sex with women in favor of sex with one man" is, from a religious conservative standpoint, pretty much nonexistant.

And if I found out Brad Pitt was bi, I'd want him to do whatever made him happy.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you knew Brad Pitt well enough to want a relatioship with him: sure, you'd want him to be happy. But you'd also want what makes him happy to be, well, *you*. For example, I want Angelina Jolie to be happy. But if I thought I had a shot with her, I would definitely try to convince her that the key to happiness involved lots of mad passionate love with yours truly.

Besides, it isn't like people wear little nametags that say "Hi, I'm totally gay" and "Hello, my name is Entirely Heterosexual". How would anyone ever get laid if they waited to be completely sure of the other person's orientation before even starting to flirt with them.
8.23.2005 1:29am
Columbienne, your assertion that Volokh's argument is premised on gay promiscuity indicates that you haven't thought very carefully about the situation he's described. There are probably dozens of examples that don't involve any promiscuity whatsoever, but one would be: a gay person in a committed relationship could suggest to a bi friend that he join a committed relationship with someone else of the same gender. Alternatively, a single gay person and a single bisexual person could join a committed relationship (and even marry, depending on their location) before having sex.
8.23.2005 1:38am
Lynn Gazis-Sax (mail) (www):
Well, speaking as someone who has been a bisexual woman moving in lesbian circles (now monogamously heterosexually married), I can tell you just why a gay or lesbian person wouldn't want to "convert" a bisexual, just as I heard it myself, at the time. Some people would much rather avoid getting involved with bisexuals, because they figure that social approval will win out, every time, and they'll get left for the opposite sex.

This makes for a certain incentive to choose the opposite sex, since men are far less likely to avoid relationships with bisexual women than lesbians are. Or at least, such was the case a couple of decades ago, when I was still single.
8.23.2005 2:21am
Amber (mail):
A somewhat tangential point, first. Males and females are not gay in the same way. The epidemiology (not the right word, but I mean the patterns throughout life in the populations: when people come out, etc.) is different, the subjective experience is different, and data is coming out that the biology underpinning gayness in the sexes is different too. Point being that a surprisingly complex phenomenon is being given a single name here, one of many confusions.

The question you ask is, why wouldn't gays want bisexuals to experiment with gayness? Simply put, because that's not what the bisexuals want. Most gay people have firsthand knowledge of the harm done by an imposed sexuality, and no reasonable person wants to perpetuate such a thing. Converting a bi person to a homosexual lifestyle, which you think would be a Gay Good Deed, does not help gay people in the long run. it denies the person's reality just as much as the straight world did when it tried to make them straight.

There may be a sense in which non-straight people believe in increased experimentation as a good thing, but it's not the sense in which you think, which seems to be "more homos means more people for me to fuck." An environment in which fluidity and experimentation is permitted is an environment in which it's easier to become and be whatever you are. However, people's circumstances are all different and only an asshole would say this experimentation is an absolute good. Maybe Bob shouldn't explore his sexuality just now, with his wife 8 months pregnant; maybe Jane should wait 6 months until she's out from under her fundamentalist parents' roof. The goal of this approach is not to increase the gayness in the world, but to increase the happiness.

Hmm, perhaps this is where the confusion with religion comes in. Religions think the path to happiness/a better world goes through them, but gay people know that not everyone is gay, and DO NOT SEE gayness as the route to happiness for everyone. Maybe it was for THEM, maybe they think it will be for someone they can see is struggling, but the key word here is "maybe": no convert-seeking religion says "Maybe we're the key to happiness, and maybe not, the decision is yours." If a gay person thinks a bisexual would be happier gay, it's because he thinks that the bi person IS actually gay, and in coming-out-related denial, a not uncommon occurence in the male community This is why gender matters, wrt my first para: in the gay women's community, almost everyone knows or knows of true bisexuals who have made some long-term choice or other, and if the existence of the bisexual is doubted it's usually doubted in the other direction ("She's really straight").

I think you should listen to a few coming out stories to understand where the universality lies in being gay in our culture. It seems that right now you think that its sexuality that unites gay people ("gay people want more gay people in the world"), but the universality is actually in the realization that you are an Other of some kind, and that you have had to deal with that Otherness.
8.23.2005 2:26am
"And I'd also like to add that the underlying premise of both of these posts -- that gay people are promiscuous -- is really offensive."

And the premise of your post is detached from reality. Not that Volokh implied gays were more promiscious, but gay males are, generally speaking of course, much more promiscuous. I realize that you may feel any generalization is offensive. More to the point, however, is that Volokh's post has nothing to do with promisciousity (except inasmuch as the person would have to experiment with at least one person). It seems people are going WAY out of their way to read some kind of sinister "underlying premise" into Volokh's recent posts. First, it was "convert" was an unacceptable term. Now several commenters have stated Volokh is guilty of stereotyping homosexuals as promiscuous.
8.23.2005 6:55am
Arvin (mail) (www):
I don't think Eugene means either that if a gay person knows that a bisexual person has never tried the homosexual side of bisexuality, or that a straight person thinks he might be gay, that gay person will automatically pounce and nag and cajole until the person tries it. I think it's more like, if I were to say to Bob, "Bob, I know I've always dated girls, but lately I've been fantasizing about having sex with men." Bob might say, "well, I went through the same thing when I was your age, and finally I realized that maybe I was gay. So a few months later, I met John and we tried some stuff and I really liked it." Thus letting me know that it would be okay if I wanted to try, that it wouldn't make me less of a person, or "bad" or whatver. And also letting me know that I wasn't alone. This likely would make me more likely to experiment, because before I was dealing with fear of newness AND fear of social condemnation. Bob's "encouragement" at least took a little away from the fear of social condemnation. Thus lowering the barriers a little.

Does this equal "conversion"? That just degenerates into a semantics debate. I think Eugene's point is that the sort of "conversion" described above (which maybe you want to re-term "encouragement") happens, and there's nothing wrong with it if it does.
8.23.2005 7:50am
Not given for obvious reasons:
I could shed some light on this, but this is not the forum for a truly honest post, and I don't want to get involved in the politics of this whole thing. I will give an example of someone I know, however, who wanted first off, to be a mother, and who lived in a suffocating het relationship, constantly self medicating, and under the care of psychiatrists who prescribed powerful drugs.

She has come out as gay, and has finally found some kind of equalibrium and a modicum of happiness (obviously, I am editing a lot out of this story). She owes some of this to the openness, understanding, and support of her gay friends. She as made a 'choice', but the choice was the partner, not the orientation.
8.23.2005 10:48am
jerry (mail):
Professor Volokh, you should do a post around this topic: list all the reasons any individual, at some point throughout their life, should and should not experiment with bisexuality. Feel free to reference psychology, animal behavior, religion, cultural norms, freakonomics, opportunity costs, absolutely anything you wish.

In your original post, the only two reasons you listed were anti reasons, based on fear and disapproval. "It thus increases the likelihood that the bisexually-attracted people who would otherwise engage in purely heterosexual relationships (because of fear of social stigma, or because of their own disapproval of their homosexual attraction)...."

Seriously, create the two lists, I think we would all find it educational.
8.23.2005 11:22am
mythago (mail) (www):
It seems pretty obvious that Professor Volokh doesn't know any gays or lesbians well enough to chat with them over coffee. (Fear of conversion?)

Because if he did, he'd know quite well that the lesbian community, generally speaking, very much disfavors bisexual women "exploring their homosexual side" or "becoming more bisexual." That's seen as dabbling, or trolling for a third party for one's male partner's amusement, or fence-sitting.

Let's also note that an awful lot of gays and lesbians--perhaps the majority--do not believe that bisexuality even exists. Bisexuality is the aforementioned "fence-sitting," or a stage that people who are really gay or lesbian go through due to social pressure and denial, in this view.
8.23.2005 11:38am
wondering (mail):
instead of speculating, why not go out and talk to some gays and lesbians and ask them these questions? that would seem a lot more intellectually honest.
8.23.2005 11:48am

Columbienne, your assertion that Volokh's argument is premised on gay promiscuity indicates that you haven't thought very carefully about the situation he's described.

Volokh's entire first post was centered on "experimentation," including question #4 where he deduced it was true that all gays would make themselves available for "experimentation" with their questioning friends, as long as they were able to avoid emotional consequences. I assume Volokh does not mean "meet for tea" when he says "experimentation."
8.23.2005 11:55am
Hamilton Lovecraft:
You're still using the term "convert" for something that is nothing of the kind.

When you take off your Halloween costume, are you converting from clownhood?
8.23.2005 12:09pm
Roaring Tiger (mail) (www):
I problem I see with the gay tracks today in Volokh is an underlying assumption of a single gay community. In reality, it's highly diverse -- just as the hetero community is. Thus, any sweeping statements centered on thoughts of "gay think or do this..." are rather doomed to be myopic. For almost every post written here about "gays this" I found an exception either with my own beliefs (I'm a lesbian) or those of other gays I've known.

The biggest problem I see with the whole conversion discussion is confusion over what constitutes conversion. There has been a tendency to mix "invitations" with the concept of conversion. One is a choice given and the other is a form of cohersion.
8.23.2005 12:22pm
Right, Roaring Tiger. The problem with Volokh's mindset is that he approaches everything like a legal problem with hermetically constructed categories, which is an utterly insufficient way to address questions of culture.
8.23.2005 1:23pm
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
Craig: interesting comment. I'm not sure I agree. Some gay men are much more interested in despoiling the innocence of a straight man than in having a normal healthy relationship with someone like them. This is not unique to the gay world; many mature (well, physically mature) men fantasize about despoiling the innocence of a young woman, rather than a mature partner of their own age.

Re. the turnabout-being-fair-play and respect comment, near the top:


Respect for others' orientations _obviously_ being a hallmark of straight society - just look at the 1950s, when many gays had to be closeted - so clearly the Gay and Lesbian Agenda should include, #5, stop being so open about it all, live and let live?

Pardon me for scoffing; the straight sexual revolution may not have been caused by the sudden de-closeting (or is it re-de-closeting) of gays and lesbians and other fellow travelers in the 20th century, but they're tied together. Suggesting that gays as a whole stop being flamboyant or Out or aggressively sexual - not that all are, but in some sense the Movement was about Liberation and Openness - again, Columbienne, this isn't about categories but about overarching philosophies - is to try to sweep back the tide.

I'd welcome further discussion of this topic over at my blawg; sooner or later someone will have to write a sensible post on sexuality and law. Much has been written, but it's largely lost in the nonsense. Like this series of posts, I might suggest but won't.
8.23.2005 2:08pm
durendale (mail):

This doesn't mean that most gays and lesbians are trying to do this to particular people up close and personal; there are obvious costs to that, such as the risk of rebuff if you get the other person's interest wrong . . . .

The Matthew Shepards of the world surely agree with you. This points up something else that is offensive about the underlying assumptions of the post. It seems to me that for many, many glbt people, sharing one's attraction with a member of the same sex is not a thing to be done lightly, it can be a matter of personal safety in a way that is typically not present in a straight situation. Bruised personal feelings because of a rebuff is not the only thing at stake. IMHO, referring to this very risky, brave and sometimes foolish (that should not be punishable by violence in any event) thing as an attempt at "conversion" is consistent with the mindset that got Matthew Shepard and lots of other gay-bashing victims, bashed.
8.23.2005 6:26pm
brenda (mail):
One thing that members of lower social casts, such as women, gays and ethnic minorities, learn is that the upper cast is unaware of it's own diversity. Or in other words, everyone else but you white males knows just how many of you ain't as "straight" as you'd like to believe you are. It is one of your privileges to not have to be confronted with uncomfortable things. You want to keep your inner deamons and represed desires locked away because it's hard work to deal with such things.

We know differently. We know that many straight men and women do indeed seek out gays and lesbians to experiment with. We know that many of those "cruising" are in fact straight married men looking for a little something extra. You use us to satisfy your desire for novelty and then, because you are overcome with your shame and guilt, you blame us for your behavior.

You want to keeps us in the closet so that you can keep your dirty little secrets and play one against the other.

Time and time again it has been my experience that it is precisely those who most vehemently react to us who are struggling with their own sexuality. After all, if you are truly straight, why spend so much energy on something that has absolutely no relevance in your life? Unless, of course, it does.

BTW, it is very offensive when you sit there and posit how I think and feel. How I experience my life is not something that you have the slightest inkling about. But then, violating the boundaries of women, gays and blacks comes easy doesn't it? It is just another one of your privileges. One you exercise every single day.
8.23.2005 6:30pm
Or in other words, everyone else but you white males knows just how many of you ain't as "straight" as you'd like to believe you are.

That's a peculiar claim to make, especially considering that, of the major American ethnic groups, Caucasians are the one which the most accepting of homosexuality. It also isn't clear why you think you're saying something shocking or new by pointing out that not all "straight" men are totally straight. That was, if you'll recall, Eugene's initial point -- that lots of people feel some sort of attraction to both sexes.

BTW, it is very offensive when you sit there and posit how I think and feel.

Well, if you find that sort of thing offensive, you should probably refrain from engaging in it yourself. :)
8.23.2005 8:13pm
brenda (mail):
No Dan, I did no such thing. I was merely speaking from direct experience and about the hypocracy of judging others from a position of privilege. I did not speculate about a group of people I knew nothing about. In some posts above people are guessing. Sort of like "Well, why wouldn't blacks want to be just like us?" That's talking down to folks and it's offensive. It belittles us and degrades you.
8.24.2005 2:23pm
Nope, not this time:
"One thing that members of lower social casts, such as women, gays and ethnic minorities, learn is that the upper cast is unaware of it's own diversity."

This might get you an 'A' in Marxist Analysis of Human Emotion 101, but how far will it get you in life? Your post indicates a pathetic (my term, and loaded, I know) lack of knowledge of the subject of your opinions. In my experience anyway, and we would all do well to limit our opinions to our own experience when empirical data is lacking, the wealthy, truly priveledged people I know are much more aware and tolerant of each other's quirkiness than the proles, or even well off middle class that I know. Maybe because I don't know the proles as well? I don't know. One thing I do know is that you don't know. Your post is laughable for its seventies era rigid narrow mindedness if nothing else.
8.24.2005 4:14pm
brenda (mail):
But I'm not talking about the wealthy hun. I'm talking about you. Nor am I a Marxist. How I think about things is like this: One of the main things we humans do is construct models of reality. And the nature of reality is such that there can be several different ways of looking at things. No single one is the "correct" or authoritative way of perceiving the world. They are just different. If I am anything, I'm a pragmatist, though I don't agree with everthing they say.

Class is real and America's class system is quite ridged. We don't look at it because of the hysteria that lays just beneath. We are taught not to think about such things but they are still there. Just as you acknowledge when you say: "tolerant of each other's quirkiness than the proles".

Boy! if that isn't a classist statement I don't know what is. You found it usefull to talk about class to make your point. Just as I found it usefull to make mine. Just because a concept was put forward by Marx doesn't make it any less usefull in thinking about the world and how it works.

And I am from my own experience dear.
8.24.2005 9:41pm