Friday, June 27, 2008

Casanova a "brainy bisexual"

The 18th century randy man may have loved the ladies (130 of them it seems, which is practically celibate by writer Georges Simenon’s standards) but he was also partial to the odd gentleman. And he wrote a book or two.

It’s all explained on this link, which discusses Ian Kelly’s new biography of him.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Royals in messy relationships shock

I don’t know if any British readers saw last night’s mind-boggling TV programme on the marriage of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. There’s more here.

Dearie me, what a mess their marriage was, principally due to his inability to keep his trousers on. To say he had an eye for the ladies was an understatement – he had two eyes for the ladies, and a couple in the back of his head as well by the sound of it. He probably still has all those eyes: he doesn’t sound as though age (78) is likely to wither him. And while a certain amount of open-marriage, swinging-sixties-ness was perfectly fine by both of them, he essentially treated PM horribly – abandoning her at parties, making her cry on the shoulders of semi-strangers, being very unhappy when she found lovers of her own.

It seems there are also “persistent rumours” that he “refuses to deny” that he is bisexual! Apparently when they first met, PM thought he was gay. Many of his social circle were gay or bi men, and viewers were lucky enough to see the photo of a young male Snowden in drag?!? His closest male friend – Jeremy Fry - was openly bisexual and had been done for importuning (ie trying to pick up men for sex). This apparently stopped Fry being best man at the wedding (which you will note is not mentioned in his obituary)! Snowdon also had an affair with (Mrs) Camilla Fry, and fathered her daughter Polly.

These are Mr and Mrs Fry…

Fascinating stuff – and this is from me, who finds the royals usually very yawnsome. Perhaps you can see it via the Channel Four look again thingy?

And weren’t there also rumours that she was bi? Lawks, those royals!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gay brains again

Another week, another study on how men’s and women’s, and gay and straight people’s brains are oh so different….

According to this report, gay men and straight women apparently performed better at certain language tasks. Lesbians and straight men had better spatial awareness. Etc. There’s more about it on the link above.

Now then, now then…

It seems that what you make of this study (of 90 people, so of course it can be translated to everyone in the world?!?) depends on what you already believe. So: it might mean that, as evolutionary biologist Dr Qazi Rahman says on the BBC site “As far as I’m concerned, there is no argument any more – if you are gay, you are born gay.”

Well, I’m not an evolutionary biologist, or indeed any kind of scientist, but it seems to me that there are still plenty of arguments to be had. Indeed, that there are gaping holes in this kind of research.

Now, in the aftermath of plagiarist psychiatrist Raj Persaud, I would like to announce that I have not necessarily thought up all these ideas on my ownsome: they have come as a result of reading various sites and blogs, such as this and this.

Problem one is that people doing these studies have such a dichotomous view of sexuality – categorically and forever straight or categorically and forever gay (although may take some time to realise this) – that they overlook the many subtleties that even people who don’t like out and proud bisexuality can agree exist.

For instance:

* How do these researchers define straight or gay? Is it the relationship the person is in? Is it self-identification? Or what?

* Just say that you accept the idea that the brains of gay and straight people differ. Is this a cause or an effect of their being gay/straight? Might their brains change back again if they behave in ways that aren’t gay/straight? (Only partly a joke.)

* But of course my main objection to this sort of study is that they divide everyone absolutely definitely and forever into heterosexual or homosexual. The most casual glance around the world shows that many people are at least on some kind of continuum between straight and gay. What happens to those people who are gay when they are young and straight when they are older? Are “situationally gay” – say in prison?

* And of course, that’s not to mention all of us who actually ARE bisexual.

You picks your scientists, you takes your choice
Problem two. It is interesting to look at this research in the light of the study by US psychologist Lisa Diamond – whose book haven’t read yet but which is currently mentioned a lot on the internet as she’s been in a film I also haven’t seen called Bi the Way. She says that women’s sexuality (not all women; some) is fluid – meaning geared towards individuals, rather than men or women. She’s not the only one of course, Michael Bailey – mentioned disapprovingly elsewhere on this blog – did research showing something similar. So if the way straight and lesbian women feel desire is extremely similar (more Bailey’s view than Diamond’s and something I certainly don’t believe) then there’s an interesting conflict here: how do this other group of scientists decide which women are definitively straight or lesbian?

Butch and femme brains
Problem three. They also seem to be – I say seem, because I haven’t read the original document – to be conflating sexual orientation with gender expression here. Gay men = straight women. Lesbian woman = straight man. This reminds me of the old-fashioned and simply untrue view that if you are a camp or effeminate man, then you have to be gay.

There are lots of online “is your brain male or female” quizzes. I remember I did one and came out as having an absolutely androgynous brain. Well, I hope I am empathetic towards others but I’m not keen on endless phone chatting; like dressing up (stereotypically female) and am fairly “visually stimulated” – ie I like looking at attractive people like straight men seem to. Does this really mean I am born to be bi?

Of the two heterosexual men (my son and my partner) with whom I am in close contact, one loves ironing, the other loves chatting on the phone, and both shrieked with terror at a huge bee which I had to shoo out of an open window. I hate ironing and am quite good at map-reading. Perhaps I am “hard-wired” to be bisexual then?

Born which way?
When I have written about “gay brains” before, some people have commented on this site that they knew they were bi from a young age, that it felt natural to them, that therefore they were “born that way”. Nevertheless, just because something feels innate, doesn’t mean it is. It doesn’t mean it isn’t, either. Personally I don't think it matters in the least but many people strongly disagree.

Another scientific report was published today about cancer and how one man’s illness was treated using his own immune cells. The researchers there are “cautiously optimistic”. Why aren’t researchers into the “causes” of sexuality ever similarly cautious about their results?