Wasn't This Dr. Carson's Point?

A new study suggests that women's sexual orientation correlates with their romantic options.
Women in the study who were rated as more attractive — and so, presumably, could attract sexier mates — were more likely to identify themselves as completely straight than the women who were less attractive, according to a comprehensive survey of health and sexual behavior among teens and young adults.

In addition, the study confirmed that women tend to be more flexible than men in their sexual orientation, with women in the study being nearly three times more likely than men to experience a change in their orientation during the study.
"More flexible," sure, but Ben Carson got in a lot of trouble a little while ago for making a similar comment about the huge increase in male homosexual behavior among prisoners. Nobody doubts that there is more homosexual behavior among male prisoners than among males 'in the wild,' and the obvious reason is that they lack other outlets for their sexuality. You put someone in a prison and tell him he's going to be there for years, even decades, and he's got to figure out how to make a life for himself in that very long time.

Now, correlation isn't causation, and the study doesn't prove that Dr. Carson was right -- it's about women and not men, for one thing, and it's about women 'in the wild,' not women in prison. Finally, "orientation" may not change in many of these males: they may not 'become gay,' but they certainly do practice homosexuality.

Still, if on further study the correlation turned out be because of a causal effect, we'd have reason to think that Carson might be right. It would certainly be worth looking into via additional studies aimed directly at the question. Indeed, perhaps this study already suggests the worthiness of such studies. It certainly makes Carson's opinion sound less than foolish.

12 comments:

Jason said...

I have difficulty understanding the mentality that decides that if women aren't available it's better to have sex with another man than with one's own hand.

Grim said...

Well, as the study says, we're "less flexible." :)

Elise said...

Women in the study who were rated as more attractive — and so, presumably, could attract sexier mates — were more likely to identify themselves as completely straight than the women who were less attractive,

As you note, correlation is not causation. It is also possible that women who are not completely straight are less interested in attracting men ("sexier" or not) and therefore less likely to "follow conventional beauty norms" when it comes to their physical appearance. (The article at the link offers another possible cause-runs-the-other-way explanation.)

That said, I've always thought women's choices of sexual partners were more flexible than men's. Perhaps it's because society presents women as objects of sexual desire more blatantly than it presents men and women are susceptible to that. Perhaps it's because of, hmm, certain physical realities. Perhaps it's because there is (I think) less stigma attached to female homosexual encounters than to male ones.

I missed the whole Carson brouhaha but I think what is wrong with what he said (and he seems to reference this in his apology) is the idea that sexual preference is an either/or kind of thing for each and every person. I believe there are people who are straight and people who are gay, period - and people whose preferences are more fluid, more susceptible to external influences and may become set at some point in their lives or remain fluid forever.

(Overheard many years ago at lunch:
Person 1: I thought he was gay.
Person 2: Oh, no, he's strictly bi.)

I don't know why causality matters except for political purposes. Well, and as an interesting psychological issue but one which is probably impossible to sort out in our current situation.

Elise said...

Just to clarify: When I referred to "what was wrong with what [Carson] said" I meant with regard to causality. More generally, he does not seem to have been careful to distinguish between voluntary homosexual behavior and homosexual rape. Homosexual prison rape is about power and violence as much as or more than, it is about sexual preference and gratification.

Tom said...

Elise: I think what is wrong with what he said (and he seems to reference this in his apology) is the idea that sexual preference is an either/or kind of thing for each and every person.

I kind of thought he was saying the opposite, that people actually can change depending on their circumstances.

Elise: I believe there are people who are straight and people who are gay, period ...

I don't. I think we're all fluid, it's just a matter of how fluid, the circumstances we find ourselves in, and individual choices.

However, I'm open to scientific evidence showing otherwise, if you can point me to it.

Ymar Sakar said...

Gender types are born and created by culture genes, but homo roles are more conditioned later on.

Leftist researchers use their Democrat friends to confuse the issue on more than one occasion.

Elise said...

I kind of thought he was saying the opposite, that people actually can change depending on their circumstances.

That's not how I heard it. Dr. Carson said, "...a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.” That sounds either/or to me.

Honestly, though, now that I've thought about it, I think this is a case where I took an off-the-cuff comment and made it mean more than it does. The doctor may well have been trying to stuff a whole discussion about sexual orientation, preference, and behavior into less than 20 words.

However, I'm open to scientific evidence showing otherwise, if you can point me to it.

Nope, just my own experiences and observations. I'm not sure what evidence there could be one way or the other - perhaps the classic adopted twin studies? I wonder though if the sample size could ever be large enough, given how few sets of identical twins are born each year and what a small percentage of the population identifies as homesexual.

Grim said...

Elise:

More generally, he does not seem to have been careful to distinguish between voluntary homosexual behavior and homosexual rape. Homosexual prison rape is about power and violence...

I didn't get that failure to distinguish from the remarks. He didn't speak at length on the topic, but he was talking about behavior after a stretch in prison. What he said was that men go into prison straight, and many of them come out gay. So it's what happens after they 'come out' that is at issue, not sex in prison whether rape or otherwise.

Now, he could be wrong about that -- I don't actually know whether the empirical claim is true -- but in the light of this study, it doesn't sound ridiculous that a long stretch with a restricted set of romantic options might change your mind from what you'd have been inclined to if you'd spent that stretch with wider options.

Ymar Sakar said...

There's a couple of convicted prisoners that have spoken about this, and their video interviews are online. Studying those would be a lot more useful than paying attention to corrupt funded "studies" that is controlled by who knows what.

Elise said...

Grim: I don't know enough about the full text of Dr. Carson's remarks or about how much consensual homosexual activity there is in prison or about how many prisoners go in straight and come out gay to comment intelligently on this so I'm going to do what I should have done in the first place and pipe down about that.

About this issue more generally, however, for a feminist of my age, the person writing this article has reinvented the wheel. In the 70's, stories of women who elected a lesbian lifestyle due to ideological convictions were thick on the ground.

Texan99 said...

My lesbian friends chuckle at this kind of mansplaining. I think Elise is on the right track in observing that lesbians aren't all that focused on a man's ideal of a woman. Women in general are less focused on looks in a sexual partner. Issues that are all-important to men don't even make it onto women's radar sometimes. The exception would be that they make it their business to care because they want or need to make a man happy on the subject, but for lesbians obviously that concern is not primary.

Grim said...

I assure you the same is true in reverse. I only know what a trivet is because Cassandra liked to throw them at me. :)