Re: Homosexuality: male & female

Lars Eighner (
10 Sep 1996 12:34:14 -0500

In our last episode <513tl5$>,
Broadcast on sci.anthropology
The lovely and talented wrote:

>Lars Eighner is right. The 10% thing is an exaggeration, all the more so
>the 1 in 6 sometimes touted by homosexuals.

The 1 in 6 figure seems to come from some mysterious statistical
manipulation on Kinsey's statistics for those who were homosexual
for at least three consecutive years, but did have at least some
sexual contact with the opposite sex sometime in their lives.

It is, however, to be noted that for some reason it has recently
become popular to say that only those who are exclusively homosexual
their whole lives are homosexual, while those who have one, two,
a dozen homosexual experiences -- some who may be exclusively homosexual
for many years -- are now counted as heterosexual. This is amusing,
for within living memory exactly the opposite was the case, and anyone
know to have had even one homosexual experience was regarded as

Well, of course, the cross-cultural data make it clear that any
such dichotomous view of sexuality is an inadequate model.

I would guess 2-4 percent of
>males are homosexual and a fraction of a percent, up to 1 percent at most
>of females are lesbians. In non-technical terms, men are more likely to
>have something wrong with them than women. There are more male criminals,
>more retarded people, and for that matter more geniuses. It has to do with
>that Y chromosome.

Certainly there seem to be more thick skulled bigots among males.

> I think a superb book, little if ever talked about by anthropologists (I
>guess they don't think it's cool) is "Sex and Reason" by Richard Posner
>(Harvard University Press).

If you don't know every one of Posner's citations by heart, you
haven't been paying attention. He is judge, and his interest
is primarily legal. In terms of culture, this is hardly
ground-breaking scholarship.

>He talks about the fact that some guys are
>straight but they'll settle for a man when they can't get a woman. What I
>always wonder is why in many societies, there is no possibility of
>homosexuality. There is no option. No one ever heard of such a thing.

Actually, not so many. Most societies of which we have knowledge
tolerate or even encourage homosexual relations, at least for some
persons at some times.

>Certainly among the Taman of Kalimantan I tried to ascertain whether anyone
>had been a homosexual and people couldn't understand what I was talking
>about. Appell reports the same for the Rungus Dusun (see his article in
>"Female and Male in Borneo"). My mentor the late Kenneth Payne, who was
>himself gay, and who studied the Bagobo, also said that homosexuality was
>incomprehensible among the Bagobo. And this is in the Philippines, where
>homosexuality is as acceptable as is ever the case anywhere in the world.

In many cases, supposing the investigator to be honest--something that
cannot be taken granted in light of the deceptions that are on the
record--it is simply a matter of not knowing what to ask. For example
among the Lango male homosexuality is a capital offense. One might
leave it at that and not learn that males may adopt the feminine role
and become accepted as women in every regard. They can and usually do
marry men who are in the masculine role and have sex with them. The
Lango don't see this as homosexual because they accept the men in
feminine roles as women. Moreover a certain kind of anthropologist
who does happen to notice these women, will report that they are
homosexual and may take a census of them, but their husbands, who
admittedly have sex with them don't get counted as doing anything

It is still very common in a number of cultures that it is the
person's position in the sex act, rather than the biological sex
of the partner that determines whether the act is considered
"homosexual." Some people in our own culture will say that
same-sex mutual masturbation is not homosexual, because in their
view a sexual act requires that a penis penetrate an orifice. It
follows from that sort of thinking that lesbians never have sex at all,
and indeed, the legal histories of some European coutries seem to
reflect this theory.

Yet it remains true that there undoubtly are some cultures in
which homosexuality is culturally unknown, and these are indeed
mysterious cases.

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