Friday, April 16, 2010

Michael Bailey and bisexuality - again

I am not in the UK at the moment. Not, indeed, anywhere with a reliable internet connection, but I read this and thought of you dear followers, regular readers, and people who find this site via Google, Twitter, Sex is Not the Enemy, Bipolar Bisexual,Mark Simpson and other sites that link to me.
It's about Michael Bailey, he who has been so controversial in denying that bi men are really bi.
The piece below (which was posted on the academic bi yahoo group) begs so very many questions - but I thought it interesting to throw it out there and see what you think.
Lots of love and post soon...
Sue x

The Daily Northwestern - NU Prof. Bailey researching possible 'gay
See piece here

Recent research from Northwestern Prof. J. Michael Bailey raises new questions in the science behind sexual orientation, namely bisexuality and the prototypical "gay gene."

In his studies on bisexuality, Bailey, a psychology professor, and a team of researchers look at sexual arousal patterns to objectively determine sexual orientation in men and women. Bailey tracks the subject's brain activity while they are looking at erotic pictures to essentially determine "what turns them on," he said.

One new finding is in the sexual orientation of women. Bailey said he found most of his female subjects to be scientifically bisexual, even if they subjectively thought otherwise.

"Women don't work in the way we thought, based on a lot of research we did five to 10 years ago," he said. "Women, at least in the laboratory, get aroused to both stimuli."

This changes everything, Bailey said.

"Now I don’t even know if women have something like a sexual orientation," he said.

About two-thirds of women are showing arousal patterns that differ from what they consider to be their orientation, said Adam Safron, a research consultant on the project.

"Women are not being driven in their arousal pattern in the same way as males," he said.

Male arousal patterns were less flexible than female patterns, Bailey said. Men who believed themselves to be bisexual were aroused by both female and male stimuli but exhibited a stronger arousal to males than females. Bailey published a paper in 2005 suggesting bisexual men do not have bisexual arousal patterns. If sexual arousal patterns are the key to sexual orientation and his research is accurate, male bisexuality may not actually exist, Bailey said.

"I never meant to suggest bisexual men were lying about their sexuality," he said. "But there has been some skepticism about if bisexual men are really bisexual in the same way gay men are gay or straight men straight."

Safron said the science behind sexual orientation can get complicated.

"In terms of what people tell you they like, you can't always trust what they tell you, especially with something as emotionally involved as sexuality," he said.


Jess said...

I don't think sexual orientation can be scientificaly determined... Because sex also means feelings. (not always, I know, but it's something very touchy) I hate the people who always try to make things rationnal. Because it doesnt work like that...

I'm glad I found this blog!

Mihael said...

I just discovered your blog and I couldn't help it, I had to comment your last article.
Baily's naivety makes me smile, because I really consider this as naivety. I don't blame sciences for their desire for exhaustivity, but it seems they always lack some common sense.
Concerning the women being aroused by "both stimuli" even when they said they were either lesbian or straight: isn't it simply due to the fact that women's desire functions differently compared with men's? I mean: sexologues often point at the fact that women tend to "use their imagination" more concerning sex - while men tend to be "more simple", "more physical". In other words, a woman who sees a picture of a woman naked and "gets excited" isn't obligatory lesbian: she simply identifies with the woman represented, maybe? (Whereas a straight man in front of a picture of a naked man would be more reluctant to identify with the guy, precisely because of the fear of being considered gay, who knows?)
In other words, I think the fact that in most societies male homosexuality is more harshly fought (whereas female homosexuality is part of straight men's fantasms) could be a better explanation than the "basic" conclusion Baily reaches.
As for male bisexuality: that reminds me of the tests you can make on facebook "how much gay/lesbian/straight are you?" and you end up with a percentage of your homo- and hetero-sexuality. I remember I had ended up with something like 25% lesbian, 75% straight. Or something like that.
So after all, is Freud right? Everybody is born bisexual, but finally makes a choice when they get older...and some just can't choose, or do choose, but still remain unsure about which side to choose.
After all, why should we choose a side? That's the principle of bisexuality, isn't it? The refusal to eliminate possibilities. Not the impossibility of "preference".

Sue George said...

Mihael... Indeed.

And thanks Jess.

Anonymous said...

J. Michael Bailey seriously needs to shut his willfully ignorant trap about anybody whose sexuality he doesn't understand. In other words, everybody except for creepy straight dude trannychasers like himself.

boy about (oak)town said...

What, J. Michael Bailey doubts male bisexuality exists and question sexual orientation? I'm shocked. This guy's is a joke and the fact that he has tenure is a sad statement about the state of academia.

Anonymous said...

I think what the Bailey study misses is everything else. I am a top bisexual man. I watch both straight and gay porn but anal sex and certain shots in gay porn turn me off. I rarely watch lesbian porn. But the "everything else" are things like tone of voice, feminine mannerism, etc. ALL the men I dated were submissive, had high voices, gentle, liked my dominance (I am 6'3" 220 lb x football player). I am turned on by the feminine in both a man and a woman and the men I have dated I have considered in some respect women. I think Bailey really misses the boat entirely. And also there is actually very little porn of feme men out there as far as I know most of it is geared to word the cult of the fetishizes top.