Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

Over the last year, XUP Jr. and I have had quite a few discussions about bisexuality. As I’ve mentioned before, she goes to an arts high school. The kids have to audition to get into one of the five arts streams – visual art, drama, dance, music or literary arts – and the competition to get accepted into the program can be tough. So, the school is a little different from most high schools. The kids are very motivated to be there and the whole school is a more open-minded, warmer and accepting environment than perhaps the average high school.

Now, whether the arts attracts people with a greater variety of sexual orientations because people with artistic inclinations are more liberal and tolerant or whether people with different sexual orientations are more artistically inclined, I don’t know.

I do know that at XUP Jr.’s school a huge percentage of the boys (who are outnumbered 2 to 1 by the girls) identify as gay or bisexual and many of the girls identify as lesbian. The rest of the girls either fight over the 5 boys in the school who still claim to be heterosexual or spend a lot of time considering their options.

XUP Jr. has been interested in some of the “bisexual” boys, but has found that they seem to only hang around girls when they’re between boyfriends. And this, among other things, has lead to the bisexuality discussions.

“Can someone actually be bisexual,” she asks? “What do you think I am?” she asks. “I like boys, but they’re all gay and I have a lot more fun with my girlfriends, but half of them say their lesbians or bisexual. Can I just be asexual for now? Why did you let me go to this school, anyway?”

I think all mammals have the potential to respond sexually on some level to some members of both sexes. I think all humans feel some emotional and/or sexual attraction to both men and women.

According to some research at the Harvard School of Public Health, in 1994, 20.8% of men and 17.8% of women admit to same-sex sexual attraction/behaviour at some time in their lives.

The famous Dr. Alfred Kinsey, whose research determined that 10% of the American population was homosexual, also determined that sexuality wasn’t a static idea, but rather a somewhat fluid notion where people could be rated on a scale of zero to six, depending on their level of sexual/emotional orientation: 

  • 0: Entirely heterosexual.
  • 1: Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual.
  • 2: Predominantly heterosexual, but with a distinct homosexual history.
  • 3: Equally heterosexual and homosexual
  • 4: Predominantly homosexual, but with a distinct heterosexual history
  • 5: Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
  • 6: Entirely homosexual
  • He later added a 7 for “asexual”

I don’t even think we need a label or a “definition” of bisexuality. I think most people have a preference for one gender over another, but some do not deny their attraction for the other gender and some act on that attraction sometimes.

I also think that time and experience can shift attraction levels toward one gender over another. I also think that attraction, for people open to relationships with both genders, is often more dependant upon the person’s personality or other attributes rather than on the person’s gender.

A study published in the August 2005 Psychological Science journal explores bisexuality in men:

In experiments, they measured genital and self-reported sexual arousal to male and female stimuli, and found self-identified bisexual men did not have a strong genital arousal to both male and female sexual stimuli. Instead, they had strong genital arousal to one sex or the other, but not to both. Most of the time, bisexual men had a genital arousal pattern similar to that of gay men, with stronger genital arousal to male stimuli.

I’m not aware of a similar study done on self-identified bisexual females, but I expect the results would be very similar — to the extent that I think, bisexual females would also display a stronger genital arousal to male stimuli.

I could be wrong. What do you think?

In any case, as confusing and often frustrating as all these questions and uncertainties might be for XUP Jr. and her peers right now, I think the teen years are perfect time to explore these questions and uncertainties. Much better, for instance, than finally being able to really think about your own sexuality when you’re 40 and have a couple of unhappy marriages behind you.

I think it’s great that teenagers are able to be this open with their peer group and discuss these things and not feel like they’re being channeled into some lifestyle that may not feel right for them. Or that they have to hide and agonize about their non-mainstream thoughts, ideas and feelings.

So I’m glad I let XUP Jr. to go to this school, despite the dating challenges. I don’t think that spending her teenage years not being pawed by jocks is necessarily a bad thing.

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17 responses to “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

  1. My teenaged son goes to the local high school. It serves a large region in a predominately rural farming area, plus a university small town with a population of 3000, and several other larger small towns.

    You know what? He and his friends are wrestling with the exact same issues! So I don’t think it’s the art school, I think it’s some huge shift going on socially right now. The GLBT Youth group is a happening mid week date round here. Last week they made cute little 1″ buttons together from cropped magazine images.

  2. I of course am absolutely hetero unless I get turned on by a guy but there’s nothing wrong with that, but do you realize how many parents would love to have their kid ask if it’s ok if they be asexual for now?
    Most would agree and hope that lasts till about 35 years old.
    The acceptance of bi gay or anything else “different” is still I think very scary for most. I know in jockdom it is still looking for trouble to even hint about such things and it is still considered a pretty good put down to accuse someone of being gay.

    That being said I think the kids even the jocks are much more aware that there are such things in the world of ordinary people unlike when I was growing up. I blame Ellen.

  3. Reading mudmama’s comment makes me wonder what it’s like in my hometown high school nowadays. Back in the 80’s people definitely did not talk openly about such things. In my group of 10 or so high school friends, there was 1 gay guy, 2 lesbians and 1 bisexual, but not one of them was out during high school–not even with each other. I like to think that teens are able to be a bit more open there now, but I don’t know.

  4. In terms of Kinsey’s scale and would rate myself as number 2. I am more attracted to men, but I have been attracted to certain women and dated a few in the past.

    It’s great that you are willing to discuss orientation with your daughter and are open-minded about her questions. 🙂

  5. Dr. Monkey – I kow she will. Teenagehood is so much fun, isn’t it?

    Mudmama – Oh. That’s interesting. And very good to hear. But I still don’t think we can say that about every high school. I think your neck of the woods is a lot more liberal than a lot of other areas in the country anyway. I found Nova Scotia in general a lot more laid back about a lot of things than Ontario – especially when it comes to alternative lifestyles.

    Dave1949 – I know…. Just because your boyfriend is gay, doesn’t mean you are, right? And, yes, I’m quite happy to go with the asexual thing for as long as she wants to keep that up. She’ll figure it out when she’s ready.

    MaryLynn – I went to high school a little earlier than you and back then not being heterosexual wasn’t even an option or even anything on anyone’s radar (Except for the people who weren’t heterosexual I suppose. I can’t imagine how they lived with such isolation). I think there’s still plenty of ostracization going on in high schools and society in general, but at least things are improving.

    Pauline – Well, coming from a family who refused to talk about anything, ever, I’ve always made it a point to be available to talk about anything, anytime. She’s actually a lot more conservative in her thinking than I ever was – which makes for some interesting discussions sometimes.

  6. This interesting lecture is on the topic of sex and human psychology. Among other things, it says:

    “Finally, and a final topic, some of us, about 98%–and the numbers are very difficult to pin down. Maybe it isn’t 98%; maybe it’s ninety-seven, maybe it’s ninety-nine. Let’s say 98% of women are sexually attracted to men. About 96% of men are sexually attracted to women. And the numbers vary and it’s very difficult to estimate it properly. As you could imagine, there are all sorts of problems with this sort of research. But there’s some proportion of the population that’s exclusively homosexual–some proportion of the population of men who are only attracted to other men, some proportion of the population of women who are only attracted to other women. When people talk about sexual orientation here, it’s important to realize we are not talking here about behavior. There are all sorts of reasons why somebody might have sex with somebody of the same sex. You know, they might be bored. You may, you know, be experimenting, be whatever. The question is, “What do you want to do?” All things being equal, what sort of person–if you could be sexually or romantically involved with any person, who would it be? And most people are heterosexual. There’s a considerable amount that varies cross-culturally of people who are bisexual. But the real puzzle is exclusive homosexuality. So, why?

    You would now expect me to say, “Well, being gay and being straight is built in. It’s hard-wired. None of these stories seem right. It seems to be built in.” And the answer to that is, sort of. So, if you do the standard behavioral genetic tests, and you by now know how to do them–you’d look for differences between monozygotic and dizygotic twins, you’d do the adoption comparison–you know adopted siblings and biological siblings. The answer is yes, you find that there is some sort of genetic predisposition towards homosexuality. But it can’t be entirely genetic. One reason why it can’t be entirely genetic is, if I’m gay and I have an identical twin, the odds that my identical twin will be gay–it’s about fifty percent. Those are very high odds compared to the average in the population. But if it was truly genetic, entirely genetic, what should the number be? A hundred percent – he’s my clone. He should be exactly as I am. And it’s not. So, we know then that some sort of experience, possibly prenatal experience, is what explains it.”

    The video of the lecture is also available in several formats.

  7. Thanks. Now I have Mötley Crüe going through my head…

    Things are much different these days than when I was in high school (man, that makes me sound too old!). But I went to a small town high school where the only colour was white, the only language was English (with a smattering of Ojibway, Finnish and Estonian) and the only sexual orientation was hetero… or so we thought.

    Truth is that we didn’t talk about sexuality in 1970’s small town Ontario. Sex was a cool topic and a wonderful past-time, but I didn’t know any gays or lesbians. I’m sure there must have been some, but they hid it well. “Coming out” would have been a very, very brave thing to do!

    Hell, outside of the folks from the nearby Reserve, I didn’t meet a non-white until I was 11, a Jewish person at 18 and a gay or lesbian until I was 19!

    Anyhoo – thanks for the heads-up! If we stay at our current residence, my little ones will be going to that same school…

  8. Milan – Thanks. The most interesting question comes after the part you quote.

    Trashy – If your son is straight, he will be in heaven. Someone said to me recently that if in his next incarnation he came back as a straight man again, he would enroll in that school.

    Grouchy – When she gets to the point of considering open relationships and multiple partners, it will be past the point where it’s any of my business.

  9. My first partner was a heterosexual woman that went to being a bisexual woman and held firm to the opinion that everyone was bisexual if the right person came along. I was the right person for 10 years. Now she is married to a man and she has a child. I either have to say to myself she really was bisexual but more strongly attracked to men or she is a lesbian that went back in the closet for her family’s sake. Sexuality is really a fucked up issue can’t we all just love who the hell we want to and not put labels all over ourselves?

  10. In a world where more and more consideration is given to the individual and less and less concern is demonstrated for all of humanity, I think human sexuality is just another playground for self expression. Regardless of whether or not there is a natural tendency for everyone to be slightly bisexual, I think the interest in a growing number of (formerly) bizarre sexual interests is proof that, with the passage of time, it has become more and more difficult for young people to find a new way to be “cool” or “radical”.

    The challenge for each passing generation is to cross a new line and break a new barrier. There was a time when what was best for society tended to influence the actions of the young adults. There was also much less time available for self indulgence, as compared to today. When people spend more time providing for their basic needs, they don’t have the luxury of exploring new ways to be unique.

    Self exploration can be a full time occupation, especially when there is no requirement to do something productive. Thus in a country where almost everyone has access to more than they need, there is plenty of time for naval gazing and when you take into account the hormonal explosion and lack of family or social restraint, pretty much anything goes.

    I confess, the world I prefer to live in is a product of family values. To be clear, the family values I am speaking of would have young adults contemplating their future with respect to finding a spouse, settling down and raising a family. The process of performing the preceding tends to create a specific atmosphere in society. People caring for children has a different attitude than people who have yet to consider the possibility of caring for children.

    Without the the desire to build a family, it is very easy to spend two or three decades “having fun” and not giving much thought to the relationship between self indulgent actions and the effect they have on other people. How do I know this? Personal experience. I’m walking proof a life lived without concern for creating a family unit is a life lived without regard for society.

    OCDriver2010

  11. Reminds me of a thought I’ve had in my head.

    First, I think homophobia is much more strongly directed at men then women. I could be wrong though.

    Now, I’ve always found gay bashing to be quite weird. Especially when done by straight men. I mean, if all the guys around you are gay, then that means less competition, no? I feel a true patriarchal society would foster both male-homosexuality and polygyny, and I’m curious why this is not so.

    One of the explanations that I can come up with is that homophobia in males is really self-directed (towards self and sons), in order to keep one’s genes in the mix.

    Another thought. When it comes to gay marriage, many straight people say “Gay marriage won’t affect my marriage, so they should be allowed to be happy”. And certainly for gay people this is true. But how about the people at the margins. Ie: if you’re a straight women who is married to a man, how do you know that your guy isn’t bi, and only committed to women because of societal pressures? Has he ever seriously thought about swinging the other way, or just found that he likes girls so why push it? In a more liberal world, maybe he chooses the cute little artsy boy instead of you.

    Maybe homosexual stigmatization is really directed at the people with a choice, so that society has babies, and gay people are just an unfortunate causality.

    I don’t know, just some random thoughts.

  12. Cedar – Ah, you were Anne Heched! You’re right though, I don’t know why we have slot ourselves into some category. That’s what’s messing all this love and sex and marriage stuff up so much in the first place.

    OCDriver – Oh boy. You do NOT want to get into a discussion here about family values and whether or not it’s “self-indulgent” to find your happiness outside of that Judeo-Christian paradigm. Life might have been peachy keen for white heterosexual men back in the day when society dictated exactly how you had to live your life, but a hell of a lot of other people were suffering – and still suffer from the dictates of the “good old days”. You go ahead and live your perfect family-values life, but why does that have to include trying to make everyone else adhere to your ideas of what’s right? Are you honestly suggesting that people become gay because they think it’s cool and unique?

    Fred – I think there is discrimination against gays and lesbians and everyone else who is different because it’s human nature to be afraid of and feel repelled by anything that’s too different from them and that they don’t understand. It happens in the animal kingdom too. Go to a park and watch the squirrels. If the park contains predominantly grey squirrels they will chase and harass the black squirrel mercilessly. And the albino squirrel will be killed before he gets too old. Except that animals are only acting on instinct – probably to preserve their species and keep the oddballs out of the gene pool. But we’re supposed to be more intelligent and not just react to things by instinct. We have reason and compassion and empathy which most animals don’t have.

  13. Just two things:
    1. Can you please send me a registration form to your XUP Jr.’s school so that my daughter can also avoid being “pawed by jocks.”
    2. I’d like to order one of those Walmart parent needlpoints that Lynn is going to be making (previous post on yelling).

  14. XUP wrote:
    OCDriver – Oh boy. You do NOT want to get into a discussion here about family values and whether or not it’s “self-indulgent” to find your happiness outside of that Judeo-Christian paradigm.

    OCDriver2010 replies:
    I just re-read what I posted. I did not mention religion in my post. I was certainly NOT speaking of the Judeo-Christian paradigm.

    XUP wrote:
    Life might have been peachy keen for white heterosexual men back in the day when society dictated exactly how you had to live your life, but a hell of a lot of other people were suffering – and still suffer from the dictates of the “good old days”.

    OCDriver2010 replies:
    I don’t think I wrote anything to indicate I felt heterosexual men should be in control of anything. I assert a world filled with people who are concerned with caring for their children is a very different world than one where people are not interested in settling down and raising a family. (I think you made an assumption.)

    XUP wrote:
    You go ahead and live your perfect family-values life, but why does that have to include trying to make everyone else adhere to your ideas of what’s right? Are you honestly suggesting that people become gay because they think it’s cool and unique?

    OCDriver2010 replies:
    I know for a fact, or as close as I can get to a fact, that some people have chosen to adopt a gay lifestyle because it is cool. I’ll agree a certain segment of our society have strong inherent homosexual urges, no doubt about it.
    With respect to what is right or wrong, I made no claims, I just said I prefer a society where family values, people being very concerned for the well being of others, was the focus. In my experience, people who are only worried about their own happiness don’t make very good neighbours.

    OCDriver2010

  15. i’ve noticed over the past few years there is a trend to be bisexual in our young folk.

    i agree with you that we can be attracted to both sexes depending on the person. i know for me, when i’ve fallen in love it’s based on who they are on the inside.