Some studies can go either way on the subject
August 23, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Researchers at Northwestern confirm that Male Bisexuals exist ( NYT )
posted by The Whelk (124 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
*checks under the bed, in the washroom, behind the curtains*
posted by radiosilents at 7:31 AM on August 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


In related news: Abercrombie & Kent to begin offering tours to see them in the wild.
posted by fairmettle at 7:32 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abercrombie and Fitch offers to pay them to stop wearing its clother.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:33 AM on August 23, 2011


Haha, they pulled from a pool of men who'd fucked men and women and had month long relationships with both men and women to prove that men can be attracted to both men and women?

Keep up the good work, fellas.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:33 AM on August 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


“Sexual arousal is a very complicated thing,” she said. “The real phenomenon in day-to-day life is extraordinarily messy and multifactorial.”

That's what s/he said.
posted by griphus at 7:33 AM on August 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


And here I thought it came from a survey of Mile High Club members.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:37 AM on August 23, 2011


Sounds like the same research team who published this groundbreaking study.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2011


Apparently, if you didn't get stiff in a laboratory, it didn't happen. I kind of imagine that this research might be more useful for finding bisexual men with a medical fetish, but, hey....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2011


LOL, no shit sherlock.
posted by Gwynarra at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2011


“Someone who is bisexual might say, ‘Well, duh!’”
posted by three blind mice at 7:39 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone who has two brain cells to rub together might say, "Well, duh!"
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:40 AM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


There was an FPP a while back about " obvious science " and the point was made you have to study boring clearly obvious things cause testing What Everyone Knows is the day to day work of science.
posted by The Whelk at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2011 [36 favorites]


if i can't sort you into the hierarchy of manliness you don't exist
posted by LogicalDash at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


“Someone who is bisexual might say, ‘Well, duh!’”

That's a really offensive stereotype. (Depending on how you imagine them saying it.)
posted by PlusDistance at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2011


North by Northwestern.
posted by ob at 7:43 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why decent hardworking people don't end up getting the research funds they need for clearly life changing research and findings that will create wholly new industrial ecosystem. Meh.
posted by infini at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2011



There was an FPP a while back about " obvious science " and the point was made you have to study boring clearly obvious things cause testing What Everyone Knows is the day to day work of science.


None the less, it's still pretty tiring to find that you can have quite literally centuries of historical anecdote and self-reporting by, you know, bisexual men and their partners...and still have all that dismissed as basically "these people must be considered to be lying or deluded since we can't go back in time and use electrodes to determine their sexual response".

Because I'm left wing and queer and thus lucky enough to talk about sex mostly with people who believe what folks say about their own orientation, I sometimes get to forget that most people think that we have to "prove" our sexuality to scientists for it to be considered real.
posted by Frowner at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


Haha, they pulled from a pool of men who'd fucked men and women and had month long relationships with both men and women to prove that men can be attracted to both men and women?

An earlier study didn't find genital arousal in the population of 'bisexual' men that they studied, but their might be different reasons for people to identify as bisexual besides physiology. It may be that there is a significant population of bisexual men who are 'homosexuals in denial'. This study worked harder at finding subjects who are 'committed' bisexuals, to see if there was a physiological basis for it.
posted by empath at 7:50 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is why decent hardworking people don't end up getting the research funds they need for clearly life changing research

Decent people don't get funding because of bisexual men?
posted by The Discredited Ape at 7:50 AM on August 23, 2011


What? Preposterous. Next you'll be telling me that girl gamers and English majors exist too.
posted by kmz at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


I sometimes get to forget that most people think that we have to "prove" our sexuality to scientists for it to be considered real.

Indeed. As the NYT piece explains:

And of course the studies reveal nothing about patterns of arousal among bisexual women.

If such creatures exist... I suppose we have to wait for the confirmation.
posted by three blind mice at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It may be that there is a significant population of bisexual men who are 'homosexuals in denial'.

It may also be that there is a significant population of homosexual men who are "depraved heterosexuals" who just need to "pray the gay away", but for some reason that's considered less polite to say in progressive company.
posted by Zozo at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nah, they're just greedy.
posted by bardic at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2011



Because I'm left wing and queer and thus lucky enough to talk about sex mostly with people who believe what folks say about their own orientation, I sometimes get to forget that most people think that we have to "prove" our sexuality to scientists for it to be considered real.


You know, I get what you're saying. On the other hand, if there are going to be asshats out there who demand "proof" that we exist, it's nice to have something that will count as proof. The next time someone tries to tell me Science Says That men's orientations are unilateral and inflexible, I'll be able to say "no it doesn't," which is a lot simpler and less exhausting than "okay, fine, but let me tell you some anecdotes about my sex life."
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:53 AM on August 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


Decent people don't get funding because of bisexual men?

No, because all funding goes to studies like these.
posted by infini at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2011


Ooh, are we playing "ironically repeat offensive stereotypes about bisexual men"?
posted by Zozo at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I should have added hamburger to my earlier comment.
posted by infini at 7:56 AM on August 23, 2011


Follow-up studies will no doubt determine this study's methodology and conclusions were flawed by misinterpreting the test subjects' propensity for assuming a wide stance.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:57 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, because all funding goes to studies like these.

That explains why the Large Hadron Collider was just a bunch of dudes watching porn with their genitals hooked up to electrodes! I knew I didn't wander into the wrong building.
posted by griphus at 7:57 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


So I haven't been faking these boners when Eric Northman gets nekkid on True Blood?!
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was the Large Hardon Collider, griphus.
posted by Zozo at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2011 [27 favorites]


Next up: the Large Bisexual Collider! It'll be like an all-bear roller derby league — but more scientific!
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


It may also be that there is a significant population of homosexual men who are "depraved heterosexuals" who just need to "pray the gay away", but for some reason that's considered less polite to say in progressive company.

If someone has sex with men and women, or reports that they are attracted to men and women, then as far as I'm concerned they're bisexual, no matter what their arousal patterns are.

But it seems that a significant number of bisexual men don't have bisexual arousal patterns, based on the first study. This second study was trying to narrow down the population to people with a significant, lasting bisexual behavior pattern to see if it was more closely related to arousal patterns then the population of the first study, and it seems that it is. So my take away from this is that for whatever reason, even though there is a real population of men with bisexual arousal patterns, that there is also a large population of bisexual men who aren't really aroused physiologically by both sexes, and I think that's also worth knowing.

I don't think that one study negates the other, I think they complement each other.
posted by empath at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


None the less, it's still pretty tiring to find that you can have quite literally centuries of historical anecdote and self-reporting by, you know, bisexual men and their partners...and still have all that dismissed as basically "these people must be considered to be lying or deluded since we can't go back in time and use electrodes to determine their sexual response".

That's really not what it is at all.

It's more like 'Anecdoes are not data.'

Besides, we also have literally centuries of historical anecdote about how bisexual men, gay men, transgender folks, and a number of other kinds of people are miserable, unhealthy, disease-ridden, and often molest children. I mean, duh, that's common knowledge!

The point is that "common knowledge" really does need to be confirmed by actual science, or sometimes disproven by actual science, because human beings are often wrong and anecdotes are not data.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2011 [32 favorites]


I think this study is being unnecessarily pilloried... they went looking for a genuinely gender-neutral physiological arousal response. They didn't find one at first (to whatever degree of statistical significance their methodology required), so they adapted their selection criteria to try to get a more likely group to test. The fact that something is socially obvious to some doesn't make it invalid to study.

The other side of this is the basically unscientific issue of deciding what the social significance of erection measurements are... the whole "the true bisexual has been measured at last" thing (and its antecedent, "if you don't get an erection while looking at pictures of naked women you're a closeted homosexual"). Maybe your erectile reaction to pornographic movies doesn't actually define your sexual identity. Maybe humans are a little bit more complicated than that.
posted by nanojath at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's more like 'Anecdoes are not data.'

You only need one anecdote to prove existence.
posted by kmz at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe the new study just had better porn.
posted by Zozo at 8:09 AM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


A follow-up study will place ads on Craigslist to determine whether the Bi-Curious male actually exists.
posted by nanojath at 8:11 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


You only need one anecdote to prove existence.

By that logic, reincarnated Egyptian princesses are proven to exist, as are psychics.

And before you flip out and say "Are you seriously comparing male bisexuals to palm reading?" - That's why we have science, to provide a formal, objective, non-anecdote-dependent way to carve bullshit away from truth.

Science that proves things we're pretty sure about is still good science and important science.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:11 AM on August 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


a large population of bisexual men who aren't really aroused physiologically by both sexes

So this is, yeah, a really interesting phenomenon, but I think you're mischaracterizing it just a bit. My hangup here is with the word "really." Replace it with "consistently" and I'd be happier agreeing with you.

My own suspicion is that you're looking at a population of men who really are aroused by both sexes, but who are choosier when it comes to one sex or the other. I say this mostly because it's a really common thing for bi people to self-report: "I'll stop and check out any old FOO, but it takes a really particular sort of BAR to make my head turn." Some of the people who say that sort of thing have had frequent fucking-like-bunnies-type relationships with both FOOs and BARs, so I'm disinclined to think they're in denial (or in it for something other than sex) — but their sexual attraction to BARs wouldn't be replicable in a lab setting, because you couldn't count on a few random pieces of BAR porn triggering it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:18 AM on August 23, 2011 [24 favorites]


Nebula, I actually think that's a pretty good theory, i wonder how you'd test it in the lab, though.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2011


It'll be like an all-bear roller derby league

I'm pretty sure this exists for real.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's why we have science, to provide a formal, objective, non-anecdote-dependent way to carve bullshit away from truth.

Are there studies about the existence of straight people?
posted by kmz at 8:26 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


phhft, total myth if you ask me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


There isn't a monolithic cadre of scientists who all think alike; there are individual scientists with different opinions, concerns, agendas, levels of ability, intelligence, sets of ordinary human flaws, and so on.

As I understand it, one of these scientists, in 2005, published a rather sensationalistic paper in support of his hypothesis that male bisexuals don't exist. This was gobbled up and regurgitated in even less nuanced ways by sensationalist, sloppy science "reporting."

I agree that it's ridiculous that society demands male bisexuals prove their own existence, but I think we have to be careful not to blame the institution of science itself or even one particular scientist with an agenda. In my opinion, this is the fault of sloppy science reporting, sensationalistic journalism, and, moreover, a culture that's inherently uncomfortable talking openly and honestly about sexuality.
posted by treepour at 8:33 AM on August 23, 2011


I'm starting to regret my choice of not going to grad school.
posted by Rockear at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are there studies about the existence of straight people?

There's serious scientific work that's been done into, eg, "is anybody really straight, or are there just bi people with a strong bias toward the opposite gender?" So: Yes. Yes, there are. Kinsey's research could have concluded "Nobody's ever a 0," and that would in fact have been a declaration that straight people don't exist.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:42 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, I could have saved them a lot of effort if they'd just asked.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


that's a pretty good theory, i wonder how you'd test it in the lab, though.

My first thought is to hire a group of people (sex workers, adult film actors, free-spirited hippies) of various shapes, sizes and genders, then let each subject pick which combination of people they want to see bang behind a one-way mirror. Have one trial of heterosexual sexy times and one trial of homosexual sexytimes (with the trials counterbalanced randomly to prevent repeated measures bias). TA DA! SCIENCE!
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are there studies about the existence of straight people?
posted by kmz at 8:26 AM on August 23 [+] [!]


phhft, total myth if you ask me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 AM on August 23


Some of those curves...
posted by infini at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2011


What the hell, is this about dudes kissing each other?
posted by Mister_A at 8:51 AM on August 23, 2011


Nebula, I actually think that's a pretty good theory, i wonder how you'd test it in the lab, though.

I have no idea! I'm hoping some clever grad student is on it, because I want to see the study done — but I'm also glad I'm not that grad student, because I'd be stumped.

I was wondering about letting people browse freely for porn online, with the constraint "this time you've gotta look at men" or "this time you've gotta look at women." I think the problem is, with no constraints at all, you'd run the risk that people were gravitating towards particular kinks or activities they were into, and not necessarily towards bodies that they were attracted to. A critic of the study could always say "That guy isn't really attracted to men — not even to that particular man. He's really just got a thing for leather / smoking / ugly couches / whatever. So of course that dude with lumberjack boots and a cigar on an avocado loveseat is making him hard."

Maybe eyetracking software would be helpful? Though, if your gaze is on, say, a woman's smooth tattooed leg when you get hard, should that be coded as "likes women" or "likes shapely calf muscles" or "likes shaved skin" or "likes ink" or what? (Also, eyetracking studies are a royal pain in the ass. We do them in linguistics sometimes, and pretty much everyone I know who uses them is basically just like "If I'd known they were this much of a hassle when I was starting out, I'd have gone into acoustics or something instead.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:51 AM on August 23, 2011


I understand that to a lot of people here, this is old news. I promise you that it is not old news or accepted fact by everyone.

One of the survey questions that OKCupid uses to determine compatibility is whether or not the person answering has ever had a same-sex sexual encounter, and if so, whether or not they enjoyed it. An unnervingly high number of the women that I've encountered on that site have answered that they have had and enjoyed sexual encounters with other women, but that they are not compatible with men who have had sexual encounters with other men. I've asked a handful of these women to explain this, and they've all said that they don't believe that a man can be bisexual the way that a woman can; every man who is ever attracted to other men is simply homosexual, and is fooling himself if he believes otherwise.

I'm glad that places like MetaFilter exist, where I can more or less take for granted that the people with whom I'm speaking find it obvious that men can love both men and women, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that this is obvious to the entire population (or even the majority of it).
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


It seems that a huge complication in studies of this type is that gender itself isn't easy to define, so two people who might at first be identified as bisexual men may each identify themselves at different levels of maleness or femaleness. I mean if we're talking about things that people take for granted, the gender binary is probably the largest elephant in the room. Even slight differences in culture result in widely different gender presentations.
posted by odinsdream at 9:03 AM on August 23, 2011


Yeah, that too. And not just gender of the person being studied — you also have to ask how they perceive the genders of the people they're looking at.

I have a friend who says "I'm not bisexual. I'm only into butches. It's just that if some of them have different plumbing, I can work with that." What would it mean to take that self-report seriously and still try to do solid replicable experiments?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:07 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


*adds to "Not Actually An Onion Article" list*
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:08 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


every man who is ever attracted to other men is simply homosexual, and is fooling himself if he believes otherwise.

Oh my god, this. This is what makes me angry. Not the double standard for bisexual (or bi-curious, or just drunk) women and men. Not the absurdly reductive homo/hetero binary. Not the "one drop (of another dude's semen) rule". That's just ignorance, and ignorance on its own is easily cured by education.

What gets me climbing-the-walls furious isn't even when people look me right in the eye and call me a liar—not that I'm a big fan of that, of course, but I save pride of place for the white-hot rage I feel when someone who doesn't even know me tells me that I'm wrong about an entire lifetime of falling in love with men and women, fucking men and women, having stupid little crushes on men and women.

"You're just fooling yourself." What perfect arrogance, what absolute narcissism. Jesus fuck. I'm not a violent person, not even a little bit, but it's a good thing no one's ever said that to my face, because of everything in the world, I think that might actually provoke me to take a swing at someone.
posted by Zozo at 9:10 AM on August 23, 2011 [24 favorites]


Researchers at Northwestern confirm that Male Bisexuals exist

I'm sure it's a relief to Male Bisexuals. They were believed to be extinct.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:23 AM on August 23, 2011


My first thought is to hire a group of people (sex workers, adult film actors, free-spirited hippies) of various shapes, sizes and genders, then let each subject pick which combination of people they want to see bang behind a one-way mirror. Have one trial of heterosexual sexy times and one trial of homosexual sexytimes (with the trials counterbalanced randomly to prevent repeated measures bias). TA DA! SCIENCE!

Also a great pitch for a TV show.
posted by Babblesort at 9:24 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It just makes sense to me to consider that the human animal is capable of a broad range of responses to stimuli, and that a positive response to a given sexual stimulus does not preclude a positive response to some other sexual stimulus. I mean, we're people not switches. We're just bonobos who've figured out how to beat the secret cow level.
posted by Mister_A at 9:26 AM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


There was an FPP a while back about " obvious science " and the point was made you have to study boring clearly obvious things cause testing What Everyone Knows is the day to day work of science.

Here. It looks like Wired haven't done any very obvious stories in awhile. They must have gotten bored.

Discovery has a NCBI ROFL series which is similar.
posted by homunculus at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another study at Northwestern confirms that some men are able to see different shades of grey.
posted by binturong at 9:31 AM on August 23, 2011


In other human sexuality research news, a researcher claims that the government brief filed in support of DOMA mischaracterized her research.
posted by empath at 9:31 AM on August 23, 2011


For a second I was sure that "beating the secret cow level" had to be a sexual euphemism. But that would be ridiculous. There couldn't possibly be a sex act that bonobos haven't gotten to before us.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bisexual Men Exist, Say Scientists. Duh, Say Sex Educators
posted by gingerbeer at 9:34 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone told Dan Savage?
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2011 [22 favorites]


There was an FPP a while back about " obvious science " and the point was made you have to study boring clearly obvious things cause testing What Everyone Knows is the day to day work of science.

And if the results you find are obvious, is that news?

It's August, the silly season in journalism.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:40 AM on August 23, 2011


every man who is ever attracted to other men is simply homosexual, and is fooling himself if he believes otherwise.

This reminds me of another prejudice -- that gay men are aroused by anybody with a dick, while straight men are allowed to find some women unattractive.
posted by binturong at 9:41 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not bisexual, but I have numerous camping buddies/forest wives.
posted by wcfields at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2011


I think a big part of the whole absurd "Do bisexuals exist" debate is a problem of terminology, and more broadly, culture. We have this word "heterosexual" for those who are exclusively attracted to and partner with the opposite sex, and the word "homosexual" for those are exclusively attracted to and partner with the same sex, and for every other person ever (a whole ton of people!), there's just a single word, "bisexual". Though it's often taken to mean, "those who are equally attracted to and partner equally with men and women", a ton of orientations end up falling in the category of "bisexual" because they're not straight or gay, and our collective tiny little brains would explode if we had to add more categories or recognize a broader definition for a single word.

And I absolutely include myself in the "tiny little brain" category, because even though I know intellectually that a person can identify as bisexual and yet only pursue relationships and sex with one gender, it seems strange and inadequate to lump that person in with people who pursue relationships and sex with males & females. Not to mention lumping, say, those attracted to transexuals in with those groups.

In a way I wish we had a neologism a la santorum that defines orientation on a granular level, for example, "gay men who because of societal pressure or other types of acculturation resist ruling out women entirely". But the bigger part of me thinks those sorts of classifications would be a huge step backwards because it would lock people more rigidly into what is obviously a fluid spectrum influenced not only by genetics but by culture, maturity, life stage, and a host of other factors.
posted by lesli212 at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


they've all said that they don't believe that a man can be bisexual the way that a woman can; every man who is ever attracted to other men is simply homosexual, and is fooling himself if he believes otherwise.

I have a wonderfully liberal, open-minded friend who's got a bit of a fetish for science. When I explained a mutual coworker was bi, she laughed and pretty much spouted exactly that. It's hard to hear something so obviously bigoted from a friend. I also briefly dated a bi guy who was terribly insecure because of the way women reacted to him.

It might seem "well duh!" for some people, but I like having more tools at hand to combat nonsense.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Forest Wives sound like the forest equivalent of mermaids. At night, lumberjacks tell each other tales in hushed voices about the Forest Wives. They are the most beautiful creatures you've ever seen, half woman, half bear, sometimes deer, but it doesn't matter. Their beauty is unparalleled.

Stay away from the Forest Wives. They fool you with their tree powers and abduct you into the forest, never to be seen again.
posted by gc at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


So Northwestern is apparently your go-to source for offensive and/or pointless sexology stories (wasn't the author of the original "male bisexuals don't exist" study also the guy involved in that creeptastic live sex demonstration last year?).

The whole erectile/arousal response seems to be fundamentally flawed, measuring as it does sexual orientation through a narrow lens of physiology. As several people here (and Dr Diamond, cited in the original article) have pointed out, orientation, arousal, and attraction are a many-splendored, complex set of reactions and responses. This is a situation where I think qualitative work (interviews, surveys, ethnography) is far, far more enlightening and valuable for improving our understanding than strapping some electrodes on a guy's junk or slapping him in an MRI and showing him porn.
posted by col_pogo at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't hold this study up as a scientific advance in our understanding of the real world (as some have done.) It says more about the limits of our taxonomic categories and is ultimately rather silly -- like arguing that a platypus can't be a real mammal because it lays eggs.
posted by binturong at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2011


THE comments strike me as unusually snarky--dare I say defensive?--and it is difficult to sort out the serious from the much less so. Our prison system a good indication that men can use other men for sex and remain or revert to women when released from jail. In sum: any old port in a storm.
posted by Postroad at 10:34 AM on August 23, 2011


NEWS FROM HARVARD:

Asians exist.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Has anyone told Dan Savage?

Yup.
posted by JiBB at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


does the research allow for mood variations? i'm not in the mood for it *every* day, but who's to say that next tuesday something that wouldn't register a response today wouldn't strike my fancy?
posted by radiosilents at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: Has anyone told Dan Savage?

Well, to his admittedly small credit on this, he has shifted from arguing that we don't exist, to arguing that we're bad news in relationships with non-bisexuals unless we commit to a long-term gay or straight identity.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:41 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I could have sworn that Dan Savage was on the record as saying there were no bi men — not just "some bi-identified men are lying or confused" but "no how, no way, just doesn't happen." Which makes that thing radiosilents linked to look like a pretty masterful bit of backpedaling. But maybe I'm remembering wrong?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:42 AM on August 23, 2011


Hey, I do exist after all! Thanks, science!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2011


So this is a semi-serious question. These men were aroused by both men and women. Did they have a control? Maybe these guys are just aroused by everything.
posted by GuyZero at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2011


I don't think this reduces the relevance of the previous study at all. The previous study showed that many people who identified as bisexual simply weren't "practicing" bisexuals. There's the "all in the mind" thing to consider, and if someone feels they're bisexual, they're bisexual, but the incidence and practice of bisexuality in men seems to be different from the practice of bisexuality in women. That was the point of the previous study, and I would still happily quote it - with an update along these lines, of course. I doubt the previous researchers would claim (though foolish readers looking to be provocative might) that there are no bisexuals out there. They're scientists, and that hypothesis was not being tested.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2011


You mean... there are men who do it with their own sex? Perverts! Outrageous! Thank goodness women would not do such things. Albert? Get the old gentleman out and fetch the leash, it's time for "walkies."
posted by Decani at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2011


Would you mind expanding on that, Postroad? I'm this close to filling up my bingo card.
posted by Zozo at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


As Savage points out, the first study (sensationalized as "no male bisexuals!!!") and the second (sensationalized as "totally there are!!) share a scientist. so, if you're not too cynical, you can see that as a validation of the culture of science -- this guy was somewhat unpersuaded by his early results (or at least had questions about it), and so redid the experiment.

I think the criticisms about doing the study at all are unfounded -- knowing things Is Good. Even if we're pretty sure about them. I also think the criticism about this being "only" about physiological responses is unfounded -- physiological responses are interesting! Sure, sexuality is more interestingly multi-factor than that, but in science you gotta narrow things down sometimes. Someone else should do some other studies about the other ways sexuality manifests. Because that would be interesting.

The problem, as almost always in these cases, is the reporting/sensationalism/over-broad claims being made. Sometimes scientists encourage those, of course, and those scientists should be (gently) thwacked, but many times they happen without encouragement.

Finally, unless there's some Ur-Text somewhere about Dan Savage hating on the bi-guys, I've always read his stance here as "lots and lots and lots of young guys, for various social and personal reasons, ID early as bisexual and then go on to be totally totally totally gay gay gay." Which is a thing that (anecdotally! there should be a study!) seems to me to happen. And one result is that people (particularly men who are attracted to men) start being skeptical of claims of male bisexuality. Now that is a thing that totally sucks for young (and old) bisexual men, but I don't think Dan invented it.

Now as a matter of politeness and respect, I think it's a good idea to take people at their word in matters of self-identification and not be all "really, you're X not Y". Because that's polite and people are complicated and you don't know what's in their head. But it's also true that as we get older and have experiences we start to develop internal heuristics for people's behavior. And I think that, as long as we're polite and respectful about it and we are willing to revisit our heuristics when given contrary evidence, that's a normal and OK thing to do.
posted by feckless at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


So this is a semi-serious question. These men were aroused by both men and women. Did they have a control? Maybe these guys are just aroused by everything.

XANDER: I'm seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.
posted by kmz at 11:08 AM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Finally, unless there's some Ur-Text somewhere about Dan Savage hating on the bi-guys, I've always read his stance here as "lots and lots and lots of young guys, for various social and personal reasons, ID early as bisexual and then go on to be totally totally totally gay gay gay." Which is a thing that (anecdotally! there should be a study!) seems to me to happen. And one result is that people (particularly men who are attracted to men) start being skeptical of claims of male bisexuality. Now that is a thing that totally sucks for young (and old) bisexual men, but I don't think Dan invented it.

He didn't invent biphobia but he sure did perpetuate it. A pretty good summary here.
posted by kmz at 11:13 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


So this is a semi-serious question. These men were aroused by both men and women. Did they have a control? Maybe these guys are just aroused by everything.

Well, it sounds like there was a baseline measurement involved. You check how aroused they are when they're just sitting around being bored, and then you show them different kinds of porn and see if their arousal increases. So I guess the control condition here is "looking at stuff that isn't porn."
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:15 AM on August 23, 2011


kmz - there's some pretty gross stuff in that article, but i'd prefer if it had have more direct links / longer quotes. dan has a (bad, but good for getting press) habit of saying "X opener which sounds really extreme" followed by "Y modifier which is much more reasonable."

it's a crap habit and i wish he'd cut it the hell out. it also means i need to see the full context for anything i see quoted from him.
posted by feckless at 11:26 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll be able to say "no it doesn't," which is a lot simpler and less exhausting than "okay, fine, but let me tell you some anecdotes about my sex life."

But the anecdotes about your sex life are much more interesting.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:26 AM on August 23, 2011


I have video evidence PROVING the existence of hot, steamy female bisexuality. My manuscript was rejected by the Science Institute of America, those charlatans!
posted by Mister_A at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have video evidence PROVING the existence of hot, steamy female bisexuality. My manuscript was rejected by the Science Institute of America, those charlatans!

Mister_A, I'm suddenly a scientist and I'd be happy to review that evidence on behalf of, uh, science and stuff... go ahead and send the data over.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My own suspicion is that you're looking at a population of men who really are aroused by both sexes, but who are choosier when it comes to one sex or the other. I say this mostly because it's a really common thing for bi people to self-report: "I'll stop and check out any old FOO, but it takes a really particular sort of BAR to make my head turn." Some of the people who say that sort of thing have had frequent fucking-like-bunnies-type relationships with both FOOs and BARs, so I'm disinclined to think they're in denial (or in it for something other than sex) — but their sexual attraction to BARs wouldn't be replicable in a lab setting, because you couldn't count on a few random pieces of BAR porn triggering it.

From the study:
On average, the bisexual men in our sample had distinctly bisexual patterns of both genital and subjective arousal. That is, their arousal responses to their less arousing sex tended to be higher than those of homosexual and heterosexual men. Even bisexual men’s arousal patterns were not completely undifferentiated, however. Their genital Minimum Arousal averaged approximately half of their arousal to the more arousing sex, suggesting a marked preference for stimuli of one sex, even though the other sex was also arousing to them. It appears that some men may identify as bisexual because they are sexually aroused by both sexes, even if they experience considerably more arousal to one sex than the other. Alternatively, men with bisexual arousal patterns may experience temporal fluctuations in their attractions and arousal to men and to women. Thus, a bisexual man may be more aroused by male stimuli at one time point but by female stimuli at another time point. Further, his arousal to his less arousing sex may vary in magnitude depending on fluctuations in his attractions to that sex at any given time.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2011


It's more like 'Anecdoes are not data.'

Besides, we also have literally centuries of historical anecdote about how bisexual men, gay men, transgender folks, and a number of other kinds of people are miserable, unhealthy, disease-ridden, and often molest children. I mean, duh, that's common knowledge!


(To respond late)...Except on these lines we can't establish any kind of cultural history, ever, because we're saying that we have no method to evaluate anecdote. We can't use anyone's journals, we can't use contemporary periodicals or medical records...or if we do, we have to say that all past sources are equal and that we have no historical method to evaluate them. On those grounds, for example, we could not say that some middle class women in the 19th century longed for careers but could not have them - because we would not be allowed to rely on diaries, letters or any other form of reporting.

Seriously, "anecdote isn't data" only makes sense if you literally mean "I used to know this one guy who was totally bisexual, Oscar". It doesn't mean "all the diaries and novels and reporting and medical records of the past are total lies.
posted by Frowner at 11:57 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


(or rather "It doesn't mean "all the diaries and novels and reporting and medical records of the past should be treated as total lies".

I will go on to add that there's this entire discipline which publishes sometimes very popular books based on argument and evidence about what people did in the past - a discipline with various theories of methodology, and in which you can even get a Ph.D! What's more, although some of those books contradict each other, those contradictions are framed as argument about method and interpretation, kind of like in the sciences, rather than as "you just can't know anything about the past because it's all just a bunch of anecdotes...Battle of Waterloo, abolitionist movements, the Great Awakening - those events all happened, yeah, but we can't trust any of the documents about living through them!"
posted by Frowner at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This makes me mad. (And I speak as a bisexual male scientist who used to work at Northwestern!). The measurement made is physiological arousal while looking at images. Keep that in mind. The extrapolation to categories with labels (bisexual, homosexual) describing whole people and their multifaceted sexualities is carried out using the same recklessness with which these terms are bandied about in every pub and at every water cooler. Science has limited power folks.
posted by stonepharisee at 12:19 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd guess there's a large population of both sexes who aren't really aroused in a laboratory. Fluorescent lights, waxed floors, clinical personalities wearing lab coats, rampant technology ... no doubt there are exceptions, always are ...

Anyway the good part about science is not that it proves anything to the hundreds of millions of people who already know from experience, but because one day it will get all the clueless, opinionated idiots to shut the hell up ... and leave everybody else alone.
posted by Twang at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2011


Anecdotes work just fine as evidence about what the speaker believes. That's why Gallup's straw polls so often predict the outcomes of actual elections. For anything else, well... it wouldn't be fair to say that personal beliefs don't mean anything, but they aren't evidence. Evidence has to be reliable.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2011


It appears that some men may identify as bisexual because they are sexually aroused by both sexes, even if they experience considerably more arousal to one sex than the other.

Well.... yeah. Isn't that the whole point of the Kinsey scale?
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:42 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd guess there's a large population of both sexes who aren't really aroused in a laboratory. Fluorescent lights, waxed floors, clinical personalities wearing lab coats, rampant technology ... no doubt there are exceptions, always are ...

Total side-note, but clinical environments for sex research don't tend to look like this any more. Soft lighting, leather recliner, carpets... they try to make it comfortable. My partner's sex lab (the one at the university, not the one in our basement, he he he) has nicer furniture than our living room and may be more comfy. Sure, there may be people walking past the door, and you KNOW that you are in a lab being studied, so it's not the same as being in the comfort of your own home, but they try.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2011


The measurement made is physiological arousal while looking at images. Keep that in mind.

Odd question -- what if you've got someone who is attracted to women, but not the women they've got in the images?...Do they account for that?...

Eh. This is why the theory that sexual preference is on a big huge continuum and that there are a gabillion places you could be on that continuum makes so much more sense.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm ambivalent about this. Go figure.

Since I began identifying as a bisexual woman, personal reactions range from disbelief - mostly from other women - and the typical "ooooh, can I watch?" from straight men.

I've been told almost half my life that I don't exist by various groups of people, and being disgusted at the same groups' reactions at gay and bisexual men. If I, as a woman that admittedly enjoys more acceptance even if it is mostly from straight men, get harassed from both sides of the fence I can only imagine how bisexual men are treated. That is, treated in regards to believing that they exist.

Scientifically, this is a good thing. It means there's now scientific data to prove that bisexual men exist, who can now point to this study and say, "Why yes, actually, while you're giving me anecdotal data, I can give you scientific data that proves I can indeed be aroused by both genders."

It still feels, though, that there's always been and always will be disbelief that people can be attracted to both genders. I'm not sure I can exactly put into words why this makes me so sad.
posted by neewom at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I reckon there are some scientists who are aroused by science, and others who get their jollies from media exposure and beautifully formed grant cheques. Anyone fancy knocking up a protocol and finding out?
posted by Devonian at 1:34 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


A major annoyance about sexuality research has was the use of penis-turgor studies to say that men's sexuality is visual, fixed, and binary, and longitudinal interview studies to say that women's sexuality is multidimensional and fluid. This is comparing apples to oranges in many respects.

I think any accounting of the full scope of m/m sexuality is going to have to wrestle with things like men who have sex with men (MSM), adolescent experimentation, top/bottom and gendered distinctions across cultures, and a fair number of other distinctions that make things a bit more complex than, "straight, bi, or gay."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:35 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh, and has anyone looked at the click data from YouPorn? A few Venn diagrams should demonstrate the state of the nation pretty clearly...
posted by Devonian at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So Northwestern is apparently your go-to source for offensive and/or pointless sexology stories (wasn't the author of the original "male bisexuals don't exist" study also the guy involved in that creeptastic live sex demonstration last year?).

The demonstration guy was J. Michael Baliey. His name is on this paper, but he did also say something along the lines of male bisexuals don't exist.

Also, I remember the dude always posting want ads on Northwestern news groups looking for volunteers who were into water sports or fist or what have you and the like. My friends and I looked forward to his posts.
posted by ignignokt at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2011


"I think any accounting of the full scope of m/m sexuality is going to have to wrestle with things like men who have sex with men (MSM)"

One of my pals uses "mainstream media" as his slang, so when we're out we refer him to suspected anchormen and correspondents in the room.
posted by klangklangston at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Someone who has two brain cells to rub together might say, "Well, duh!"

two male brain cells that is
posted by the noob at 5:51 PM on August 23, 2011


One of my pals uses "mainstream media" as his slang, so when we're out we refer him to suspected anchormen and correspondents in the room.

"Are you into yellow journalism?"
posted by Sys Rq at 5:54 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, I remember the dude always posting want ads on Northwestern news groups looking for volunteers who were into water sports or fist or what have you and the like.

So NU has the crazy dudes, huh?

Wow.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2011


The measurement made is physiological arousal while looking at images

So whip out "High Times" with the centerfold of dark green indica Schwag with dark amber hairs and light green tight buds blasted with trichromes and some couchlocked hempfester is considered a vegephile?

Weird.

Why is there even an other side to this? I know it's anecdotal, but fuck, they can't walk over to the anthropology dept. and knock:
"Say, Bill, are there male bisexuals?"

"Hi Tim. Wíŋkte? Yeah, s'matter of fact some of them dress in both male and female clothing. And had special duties during the Sun Dance. Also called niizh manidoowag, or 'Two Spirits.' Really well documented in many native American tribes and culturally institutionalized in some cases, like with the Sun Dance. Why do you ask?"

"Well, we're looking for evidence they exist."

"Oh. Right, well, they do."
posted by Smedleyman at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was one of the participants in this study. I'm not sure if I signed something saying I couldn't talk about it, but whatever I got my $200 and I trust that MeFi admins won't turn me in (pretty please?).

There were two sessions. The first they had you sitting down with some things attached to your penis while you watched clips of men having sex with each other, women having sex with each other, men and women together, and random nature film clips. I didn't get remotely close to an erection the whole time, but they said they got the data they needed from me.

The second session they had you in an fMRI machine watching similar clips. Anyone that has been in an MRI/fMRI machine knows that it is very loud and kinda scarey and very uncomfortable. Not exactly the most arousing thing, but they claimed they were able to get all the data they needed from me.

My main complaint with the study was that the porn was from a horrible time in the porn, the early to mid-90s. I don't know if others in the study agree with me on that, but I certainly thought it skewed my data.

I'm not saying that this study was a sham or anything like that. The instruments they used to measure arousal probably are incredibly sensitive to even minor arousal. Actually doing a scientific study like this is incredibly hard to do for a number of reasons and they pulled it off as well as I imagine one could. However, I'm reminded of something a friend of mine (PhD in humanities) told me, "Neuroscience is an important burgeoning field, but it has a tendency to make sweeping claims about the human condition based on a few studies that often simply things and that often feel like fodder for headlines." This very much rang true to me, despite that I agree with the conclusions of the study and think it will be good for the public to know, but maybe my friend is just bitter that neuroscience is way better funded than his department. I'm sure neuroscience will continue to evolve for the better in a rapid rate and be able to tell us things about humans in much more certain terms than it currently does, but for now it just feels like it's some brilliant nerds are trying to definitively say things that literature, history, cultures, people, etc. have known for quite some time, possibly because these scientists never read these things or talked to these people.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 8:53 PM on August 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


> Isn't that the whole point of the Kinsey scale?

It's actually not: the Kinsey scale measures experience, not inclination. A deeply closeted gay male who's only had lie-back-and-think-of-England sex with women has the same "Kinsey score" as the straightest dude who ever, uh, heteroed.
posted by Zozo at 8:11 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


My main complaint with the study was that the porn was from a horrible time in the porn, the early to mid-90s. I don't know if others in the study agree with me on that, but I certainly thought it skewed my data.

See, this is what I was wondering -- whether there's any way to take into account "well, okay, yeah, I'm a straight guy, but all the 'hetero' clips were from Ron Jeremy films and I hate the guy".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on August 24, 2011


In practically every research methodology from interviews to particle accelerators, you deal with the fundamental fact that your observations are just not going to work across all of your samples. This is called measurement error. You deal with this by collecting a large enough sample to show a correlation in spite of measurement error.

But yes, I'm sure that the researchers are well aware of the fact that this methodology might not work for everyone.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:14 AM on August 24, 2011


A deeply closeted gay male who's only had lie-back-and-think-of-England sex with women has the same "Kinsey score" as the straightest dude who ever, uh, heteroed.

I think the past tense of "straight" oughta be "straught." "Straightest dude who ever straught." Who's with me?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:32 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


thanks, zozo, I didn't know that.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:10 AM on August 24, 2011


Studded Stud Strutted Straight Strut: Straightest Straight Straught Straights on Straight Strait. Witness says "that straight was straight straight."
posted by nathancaswell at 11:25 AM on August 24, 2011


Metafilter: The first they had you sitting down with some things attached to your penis

random nature film clips - aww yeaaa
posted by Smedleyman at 9:26 PM on August 24, 2011


Metafilter: We were able to get all the data we needed.
posted by odinsdream at 6:32 AM on August 25, 2011


The unvisible bisexual man: Science has proven that they do exist, but bi guys say we're a long way from seeing sexuality in shades of gray
posted by homunculus at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2011


but for now it just feels like it's some brilliant nerds are trying to definitively say things that literature, history, cultures, people, etc. have known for quite some time, possibly because these scientists never read these things or talked to these people.

No, they totally have. But if they were going to use those interviews as data, they would be called psychologists, and not neuroscientists.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:26 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't with the scientists, it's with the headline writers.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:47 AM on August 30, 2011


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