Archive for the 'Bisexuality' Category

Same-Sex Marriage and the Supreme Court

by Jason Stotts

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I’ve been busy getting the podcast together and getting ready for another interview with Radically Candid today.  However, I want everyone to know (like you wouldn’t already know this), that Erosophia fully supports same-sex marriage and will continue to fight the philosophical battles related to same-sex marriage and just gays being treated like real people with real rights.

We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long battle ahead (no matter which way SCOTUS rules).

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Polysexuality and Cultural Acceptability

by Jason Stotts

I linked to an article the other day on Scientific American that said:

On Valentine’s Day, images of couples are everywhere. They’re buying each other diamond rings, making eyes over expensive restaurant meals and canoodling over chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. But two-by-two isn’t the only way to go through life. In fact, an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex — with their partner’s full permission.

Think about that for just a minute. Let’s focus on just this part: “an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans [are polysexual].”  Four or five percent.  The current US population (according to the US Census for July 2012) is 313,914,040 people, 313 million people.  So, that means there are 12,556,562 to 15,695,702 people who are actively polysexual in the United States!  And that number is sure to be dramatically underreported as fears about privacy and shame keep people from honestly reporting.  If you put all those polysexual people in one state it would be the 5th most populated state in the US.

You know what’s a shame?  That those 5% of the US population, those 1 in 20 people feel ashamed at their desires and feel like they will be rejected by society at large.  They feel like they need to hide their real selves and their real desires so as not to be shunned by our society.  What’s really a shame is that these 5% of people are the ones acting most naturally according to our human nature.  We are a naturally polysexual species and if it weren’t for the judeo-islamic-christian hatred of the body, then more people would feel free to be themselves and act according to their nature.

Consider a contrast case.  Most estimates put the homosexual population of the US around 3.5%.  Think about that for a minute.  What was life like in the US for the gay population in the 50’s?  What is it like now?  What’s the difference between the gay population now and the polysexual population now?  There are more polysexuals, so it’s not that.  The difference is that some brave gays stood up and fought to be recognized as real people.  They fought against the religious hatred and mysticism and fought to be recognized as a normal and natural sexual orientation (which it is).

Why not the polysexuals?  There are more polysexuals than gay people (although, admittedly  there is definitely overlap between the populations).  Why can’t the polysexual population stand up and say: “We are not ashamed of our sexuality!”  All the movement needs is a charismatic leader who is willing to be the face of the movement and who can argue clearly why polysexual is both natural and normal and nothing to be ashamed about.

Frankly, I think it’s time that polysexual people stop hiding in their closets and come out to their friends and families about their lifestyles.  If 1 in 20 people came out, there would be no stopping the movement.  Even if you don’t think you know someone who is polysexual, if you know more than 20 people, the you definitely do.  It’s time that we end this crazy puritanical fear about sex and started living our lives in whatever way works best for us without any fear or shame.

A world where people can sexually be themselves is a world I want to live in.

—————-

See also my related essay: Sexuality and Privacy

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Sexuality and Privacy

by Jason Stotts

I think that some of the ideas that people hold about sex are quite interesting.  Some people think that monogamy is natural (it isn’t, although it still might be an optimal form of relationship for some people).  Some people think that the purpose of sex is reproduction (that’s only one possible end of sex, the number of live births per sex act is about 1 to 1,000). Some people think that only heterosexuality is natural (it’s not, a certain percentage of the population is homosexual in any culture).

Another interesting idea is that sex is private.  Some people take this idea so far that they won’t discuss anything related to sex: not things related to reproduction, not things related to sexual health, not things related to relationships, not anything at all.  This, however, is completely irrational.

Sex is an important part of a human life.  Unfortunately, we’re not born knowing anything about sex.  Not about how to do it, not about how to do it safely, and especially not how to do it well.  We must learn all this information and we can either do that through trial and error or by learning about sex from others, in the way we learn about everything else.  The problem with trial and error is that, while it works adequately for things like technique, it works terribly for things like sexual health and reproduction.  Many STI’s are incurable and will harm a person’s life.  Getting pregnant when you don’t intend to can be very traumatic and forces a person to choose between options they might not want: carrying a child to term or getting an abortion.  Even with sexual technique, trial and error isn’t a great option.  Most people know little to nothing about sexual anatomy or technique and their lives would be greatly improved by this knowledge.

Thus, a person’s life would be objectively improved by learning about sex and sexuality.  Consequently, to not learn about sex, at least the basics, would be immoral.

Now, admittedly, there is some sense in which sex can, and perhaps should, be private.  The things you do sexually with your partner, or partners, is no one’s business except your own.  You can choose to share that information with others or not.  While I don’t think you should just tell everyone you meet about your sexual exploits, I also think that it’s good to talk to at least some people about it.  Many people, especially before the advent of internet forums and chat rooms, thought that their sexual practices were unique to them and abhorrent, because they went beyond the christian idea that sex is only for reproduction and not for pleasure.

If we more freely shared information about our sex lives, then we would see that others have the same desires, thoughts, fantasies, and feelings.  Sharing information about our sexualities would help to normalize different kinds of behaviors and desires in our culture, behaviors and desires that are actually already common in practice.  Part of what makes certain kinds of sexuality shameful for some people is thinking that their desires are “abnormal” and this troubles them.  But, I doubt anyone has a truly unique sexual desire.  In fact, the range of what’s (statistically) “normal” would probably surprise most people; like, for example, adultery (more than 50% of people in our culture have experienced infidelity).

So, the question is, what is the line that we should walk regarding sex and privacy?  Certainly, we should not tell everything to everyone, but neither should we make the mistake of not even talking about sex with our partners.  We should treat sex as a normal part of a healthy human life and as an important part of what it means to live a happy human life.  We should always talk to our partner or partners about it and about our likes and dislikes, our desires, and our fantasies.  We should seek out information about sexuality to improve our lives and make sure that we have adequate information about sexuality to live well.  Ultimately, the exact amount of information that one shares with others, to whom they share it, and in what contexts, is a matter of personal preference and personality and must be decided by each individual. However, we must not let our personal preference lead us to live less well than we could otherwise.

Another question we should address is why people want to keep their entire sex lives private and feel shame whenever sex is discussed openly.  This shame comes from accepting ideas that that sexuality is base and low, that it is not natural, and that it is unimportant or even detrimental to living a good life.  In our culture, these ideas come from the christian hatred of the body and of this world.  In christianity, copying Plato, the body is nothing but a corporeal prison of the soul that taints it with its desires, urges, and drives.  These base bodily things cloud the purity of the soul and prevent it from reaching its highest possible state in the realm of the forms (heaven).   People who believe these misanthropic things and internalize these beliefs experience shame about their bodies and about natural bodily processes.  They also experience irrational expectations about what their bodies should be like and how they should behave.

Now, it can be perfectly rational to not disclose everything about one’s sexual practices and past to just anyone.  However, if the reason that one doesn’t share any information is due to shame, then this is illegitimate and needs to be worked at to be overcome.  There are lots of reasons why one might not want to disclose information about one’s sexuality, like fear of reprisal, loss of future job prospects, etc.  However, it should be pointed out that the situation won’t ever improve for people with alternative sexualities until they start coming out in large numbers so that “normal” people realize that they actually know people who are gay, or who are polyamorous, or who are swingers, or who are into BDSM, etc.  There is very clear historical evidence for this in the gay movement, where homosexuality was considered aberrant and unnatural, until gay people started coming out in large numbers and demanding recognition for who they were.  Now, although our culture still has some hang-ups about homosexuality, the culture is moving inexorably towards treating gay people as real people who have rights and can participate in societal rituals like marriage.  If other alternative sexual groups want to have the same kind of recognition and acceptance, they too must come out and be open about who they are.

Ultimately, there are good reasons to keep sex private, but there are also very good reasons to be open about sexuality and to share information about sexuality.  The appropriate path for any particular person must be cut by them, but I hope that this essay will have given some useful things to think about when considering whether to share information about sexuality and how much information to share.  I do think that if we are to err in our disclosures, it would be better for all of us to err on the side of too much disclosure rather than too little, because at least with too much disclosure we will see our society change for the better.  Additionally, if we don’t discuss this oh so very important part of human life, this leads us to have a sub-optimal life and will impede our long-term happiness.

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Google+ Hangout

by Jason Stotts

Last night I hosted an impromptu Google+ hangout and answered questions that people emailed to me and asked in a live chat.  The video is up now on YouTube if you want to check it out.

For anyone wanting a link to the essays I referenced, they’re here:

– “On Polysexuality

– “Objectivism, Masculinity, Femininity, and Homosexuality: Initial Thoughts

– “Sexual Ethics and Objectivism (ATLOSCon 2011)

The books I referenced are:

Anal Pleasure and Health

The Ethical Slut

Sex at Dawn

Opening Up

If I missed anything, feel free to call it out in the comments.  If you have follow-up questions, you can ask them below.

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Question: The Moral Hazard of Bisexuality

by Jason Stotts

I love getting questions from readers, even though  I don’t always feature them on Erosophia.  This question is one that many people probably have, so I thought I’d share it and my response for those of you who won’t ask, but still want to know.

Today’s question is on the moral hazard of bisexuality:

Hey Jason,

I just discovered your blog today and it is truly enlightening. It’s great to see such reasoned application of Objectivism to sexuality.

My question is whether you’ve covered this topic before (I did not see it by searching the tab under “Bisexuality”)

Should a bisexual male who can love women and is attracted to them, also have sex with men who he is only attracted to sexually? I am very turned on to the idea of receptive sex with men, sometimes, but I don’t think I can ever “love” them. I guess I’m a Kinsey 2 maybe. I rarely, if ever, see a man in real life and get turned on. But I know receptive sex and having someone turned on by me is appealing.

If one were to fulfill those sexual desires, wouldn’t they be divorcing sex from emotion if they can’t love a man?

Thanks a lot,

Stephen

PS: My girlfriend knows about this attraction (and she is perfectly fine with me exploring it).

It’s a good question, isn’t it?  Here’s my response:

Stephen,

I haven’t covered this topic explicitly in terms of bisexuality, but I have covered issues of non-monogamy before, like in my essay “On Polysexuality” or “Sex without Love.” Basically, my position is just because you have sex with someone you don’t love doesn’t necessarily divorce your sex from your emotions. I don’t think you can think of this issue in terms of “will this particular sex act divorce my emotions and sexuality,” but rather, “is the general way I approach sex and relationships going to divorce sex and emotions from each other.” I think that a person in a committed relationship has less to worry about divorcing sex from love than does a single person, since the person in a committed relationship has already firmly connected love and sex in his life through his relationship. So, check out those essays first.

Now, some practical suggestions. If you don’t want to worry about the risks and strains associated with bringing a new partner into your relationship, there is always the option of pegging (1, 2, 3, 4). If your girlfriend is open to the idea, that would be a way to experience receptive anal sex without the risk of disease, opening of your relationship, or any worry about divorcing sex and emotions.

Also, have you considered a threesome with another bisexual man? if you don’t know any personally, try an alternative sexual lifestyle website like Kasidie or another good site. I would not, however, suggest Craig’s List. There’s a really big difference between the people who are seeking out sex in a swinging context with its established guidelines about how to behave and emphasis on safer sex (no sex is truly safe) and those who are seeking it out on CL. A threesome can make both you and your partner feel safer, since you’re experiencing everything together.

Ultimately, I think that you can safely fulfill your desires and not run any sort of moral risk if you are honest and open with yourself, your partner, and any future lover about what you want and need.

~Jason

P.S. Feel free to write me if you have more questions.

If you have a question you want answered, write to me.  If you want private consultation about your sex life or relationship, we can work out an arrangement for that too.  I’ve been wanting to get into some sex and relationship direct-advice-giving (it’s illegal to call it counseling)  and there’s no time like the present to start.

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Aporia: Sexual Orientation

by Jason Stotts

Aporia (Ancient Greek: ἀπορɛία: impasse; lack of resources; puzzlement; doubt; confusion) In philosophy, a philosophical puzzle or state of puzzlement;  In rhetoric, a rhetorically useful expression of doubt.

Sexual orientation is a confusing subject.  So confusing that some people have taken to the idea that your sexual orientation is whatever you want it to be, that whatever you self-identify as must be your actual sexual orientation.  But, I find that idea at least…problematic.  What about the issue of self-deception?  What about the issue of other-deception?  What about contexts in which it’s acceptable to be different and cultures where it isn’t?

If a person’s sexual orientation is simply what they self-identify as, then how do we treat a man who calls himself straight, but who only is aroused by men, who only has sex with men, and who has no desire to ever be in a relationship with a woman or have sex with one?  Certainly he’s at least self-deceptive, but isn’t he also wrong that he is straight?  If it’s true that this man does the opposite of what a straight man would do, then this man is not straight.

What about the man who calls himself straight, who is in a relationship with a woman with whom he regularly has sex, but who also feels a strong desire to have sex with men and does so on a regular basis.  He’s not self-deceptive because he knows his desires and acts on them.  He’s likely hiding his true orientation from others because of the stigma of being a male bisexual, but in so doing so he’s communicating something false about himself.  Should we simply consider him a liar?  A coward for not being true to himself?  He’s not wrong about his sexual orientation, since he actually does know what it is, but there is a problem here for other people who might want or need to know his sexual orientation (for example, the men with whom he has sex or his own partner).

So, no matter what sexual orientation is, it’s definitely not just whatever you might self-identify as.  Your sexual orientation is more than simply whatever you feel it is.

Part of the problem is that we have this polarized idea of sexuality: that everyone is either gay or straight and these are mutually exclusive categories.  But this is wrong and misses much of actual human sexuality.  Sexual orientation is not binary.  It is, at the very least, a continuum of sexual options.  I think this is best captured in the Kinsey Scale, which is 0-6, with 0 being a “perfect heterosexual” who only desires and has sex with those of the opposite sex and 6 is a “perfect homosexual” who only desires and has sex with those of the same sex.  Then there are, obviously, the vast majority of people who are somewhere in between.

One alternative scale involves ranking a person on two independent axes: androphilia and gynephilia, or desire for men and women (respectively).  So, a person could have 8/10 desire level for women and a 4/10 desire for men, making them a bisexual.  With this schema, the levels of arousal for men and women are independent and indicate desire for that sex.  Thus, one advantage of this system is that also measures level of overall desire for sexual activity as well as sexual desire for each sex.  I’m not sure which I think is better, but this system does capture more than the Kinsey system, which itself captures much more than the standard dichotomy of gay vs. straight.

Of course, there much these scales don’t capture, like propensity to form relationships versus simply having sex with a person, or a person’s overall level of sexual desire (perhaps their desire for men or women is only moderate, but they really enjoy masturbating), or the fact that a person’s sexual proclivities and orientation can change over time.  But, it does, at least, help move us in the right direction

Of course, one issue that we haven’t addressed head on is the issue of action versus desire.  Or, is being gay a matter of doing gay things or having gay desires or both.  I find this issue more confusing that some of the others.  For example, what should a man who considers himself a Kinsey 2 (bisexual – opposite sex leaning) because he has both desire for men and women, even though his desire for women is stronger, but who has never, due to lack of opportunity, had sex with a women and has only had sex with men?  He self-identifies as bisexual on the heterosexual side, but he’s never had sex with a woman.  On the other hand, it’s not because he doesn’t want to, but is merely frustrated by the situation.  This is further confounded by the fact that many men grow up in our culture with internalized homophobia and try to be bi as they come into their sexual maturity so they can maintain some semblance of being “normal,” when they really know their probably a K5 or K6.  But, leaving aside the issue of whether this particular man is being self-deceptive, what should he be considered?  I find it very strange to call him a K2 when he’s only had sex with men.  Perhaps sexual orientation is simply a matter of ideal situation and not of actual situation.  But that doesn’t seem right either.  I might wish I were a K6, but if I’ve only ever had sex with women, then that obviously seems wrong.  I don’t have an answer for the question of whether we should judge sexual orientation by action or desire, or perhaps both, but it’s an interesting topic that needs more investigating.

I wonder, though, what we should do about children, adolescents, and young adults.  Should we really consider a young person to be gay, bi, or straight when they have no actual sexual experience?  Is this not being at least somewhat…optimistic about their guessing powers?  Should we simply accept that this is what they think they would like to be or should be when they get older?  Should we consider their orientation an open question until they have some experience?  As unlikely as this last sounds, there would be some definite advantages to it: people wouldn’t try to force themselves to conform to their adolescent beliefs growing up and could approach the issue of orientation with an open mind.  Their sexuality could be treated as very tentative until they’re older, maybe even their mid-twenties.  Of course, perhaps it’d be better if we all held our sexuality less rigidly and treated it as at least something of an open question.

Ultimately, I still have more questions than answers on the question of sexual orientation, but I think the topic is a rich one and deserves more careful analysis that it usually gets.

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Aporia: Sexual Identity

by Jason Stotts

What is sexual identity?  Is it simply being gay or straight?  Is it all possible facts about our sexuality?  Is it how we structure our relationships and love as well?  Does my sexual identity include facts about whether I’m monogamous or practice polyamory?  Should it include whether a person has sexual integrity?  Should fetishes and desires be included?

This issue has captured my attention recently while contemplating sexual orientation.  People often refer to a person’s sexual orientation as their “sexual identity,” yet, that seems much too thin to me.  I certainly don’t think that describing a person as straight or gay exhausts their sexual identity: in fact, it seems like more of a basic starting point than any deep information.  If all straight people were the same as each other, if all bisexual people were the same as each other, if all gay people were the same as each other; then sexual orientation might exhaust sexual identity.   But this is plainly not the case.  Sexual identity must be something more than simply orientation, although orientation is definitely a part of it.

But what else should sexual identity include?  It seems, at least at first blush, like it should include anything and everything about a person’s sexuality to which they are firmly committed and which form the core of their sexual experience.  By this I mean that if a person can’t think about sexuality without thinking of it through the lens of BDSM, then this is an important part of that persons’ sexual identity.  If a person can’t imagine becoming sexually aroused without their fetish, then this is an important part of their sexual identity.  So, tentatively, let us say that anything without which a person couldn’t imagine their sex life being good for them is an important part of their identity.

But, this raises the question, should literally anything be included?  Should we have to include anything in a statement of our sexual identity?  Should I need to say that: “I’m into {a,b,c,f,u}, but not {d, z, r, t}, and sometimes {q, j}?”  That seems much too cumbersome.  Of course, on the other hand, it’s not too likely that any particular person has a large set of sexual things that are very important to him.  Most people could probably communicate their identity with something like: I’m a bisexual woman who is mostly monogamous with slight polyamory leanings and also like some light BDSM.  It certainly seems like the stronger you hold a desire, the more it is part of who you are.

Perhaps it would be useful to delimit identity to just a couple of axes that are the most important, like: orientation, level of overall desire, sexual openness, relationship and love openness, and interest in kink.  Each of these could have a scale of 0-6 denoting orientation (Kinsey Scale), overall level of desire (asexual – nymphomania?), (monosexual – polysexual), (monogamous – polyamorous), (none – very kinky).  It’d be a little awkward to get it going, but it’d be easy to communicate your overall desires to someone quickly as “I’m a {6,6,0,0,6},” which would be a very kinky, very horny, homosexual.

Even if the scale idea doesn’t take off, and there’s no doubt it’d be a lot to get people to go to it and it might not even be worth it, I think I’m at least correct that sexual identity is much more than simply sexual orientation and if we at least move to a richer view of sexual identity, then we will have a better chance to understand our own sexuality and communicate it to others.

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Bisexual Invisibility and Coming Out Bi

by Jason Stotts

In a recent column, Dan Savage argues that more bisexuals should come out of the closet so that they can be out in the open as part of society and can live their lives with integrity as who they really are.  I fully agree with Dan about this point.  All too many people think that bisexuals don’t exist because they (apparently) don’t know any bisexuals.

Not only would it be great if more bisexuals were out to their partners, it would be great if more bisexuals in opposite-sex relationships were out to their friends, families, and coworkers. More out bisexuals would mean less of that bisexual invisibility that bisexuals are always complaining about. If more bisexuals were out, more straight people would know they actually know and love sexual minorities, which would lead to less anti-LGBT bigotry generally, which would be better for everyone.

I firmly think people of all kinds should be open about who they are and what they like and that they should live their lives with integrity.  If more swingers were open about being swingers, people would understand it better and would realize how many people are swingers.  If more Objectivists were open about their Objectivism, people would realize how many of us there are and that many reasonable and intelligent people are Objectivists.

I think we should take a lesson from homosexuals and how much support and freedom they have won for themselves through being open about their homosexuality.  Sure, it’s not without some hardship and some people’s lives were made worse, or tragically even lost, but now homosexuality is largely accepted.  This same tactic of being visible and proud of who you are will work for any minority and I think bisexuals should be the next out of the closet.

—————-

Update: I wrote this with adults who are in stable situations in mind and I do not advocate one sacrificing himself for a cause.  I think it would be very beneficial for more people to come out as bisexual, but they shouldn’t risk their happiness or life to do so.

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