I find the whole cloud of hush around the origins of sexuality to be fascinating, as it reeks to me of political correctness (see: sensitivity-based truth avoidance). Basically, because it’s such a charged topic (and therefore obscured from direct study) I continue to try to model the matter.
This story from The Atlantic today gives strong evidence for my model for understanding the topic:
Ray Blanchard of the University of Toronto has articulated the “fraternal birth order effect” (FBOE): The more older brothers a male has from the same biological mother, the more likely he is to be a gay adult. The theory is that the mother builds up an accumulating immune response to male fetuses, progressively dampening down masculinity of later-born male fetuses. That’s just a theoretical explanation, although the FBOE itself is unequivocally real; it holds up in study after study across cultures. Blanchard has estimated that the 15 to 29 percent of gay men are gay by virtue of the FBOE. (The effect doesn’t exist with women.)
Vilain points, for example, to the evidence from girls born with a disorder called congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), including that gathered by the University of Cambridge psychologist Melissa Hines. CAH results in naturally increased levels of androgens (a “masculinizing” type of hormone), and females with CAH show relatively high early interest in male-typical childhood activities as well as relatively high rates of bisexuality and lesbianism as adults.
Ok, so here’s the evidence we seem to have:
- Having multiple male children before you from the same mother is likely to make you gay because your masculinity gets nerfed at the biological level
- If you’re a woman with elevated androgen levels (male hormones) you tend to be bisexual or lesbian
- Male body builders who mess with steroids sometimes bottom out their male hormone output and become, for all intents and purposes, stereotypically “girly” while their levels return to normal. We’re talking hand waving, tearing up at the slightest confrontation, etc.
- We know that the highest performers in extremely competitive, male-dominated professions, such as Wall Street stock trading, tend to have significantly higher testosterone levels. And the performance is correlated to the levels.
- Men with more male hormones present have more sexual partners and are found more attractive by females
- Anecdotally (I wouldn’t even know where to start to look for data), women in highly male dominated professions, boxing, stand-up comedy, many others seem to be heavily weighted toward bisexuality or lesbianism
- Female primates, both humans and now chimps as well, prefer to play with dolls vs. trucks like their male counterparts.
Rachael Maddow is an example I’ve used before. And by the way, I think she’s one of the best pundits/entertainers I’ve ever seen–anywhere. Period. So this isn’t a go at her at all. I also find it funny that people who are so pro-gay instantly think it’s an attack to notice that someone is gay. Think about it.
Anyway, she is a woman who thrives on getting on TV every day and tangling with the nastiest, stupidest people in the world. Going round and round with them. Making them look stupid. She’s very effective at it. She’s also hilarious and has something of a stand-up comedy feel to her. She’s also both pretty and “handsome”, in a boyish way. And if you Google for images of her you’ll notice that she seems to enjoy looking rather androgynous or even boyish in dress/appearance. She has a female partner herself, and here they are together.
Add to that the observation from female comedian Margaret Cho that “The women comedians that are out there are generally gay.” She posits that the heterosexual women simply care too much what men think about them, and drop out for peer pressure. Fair enough, and probably true to some degree. But I have a different theory.
My model says that comedy (and politics) requires a certain type of aggression and “not giving a damn” that is a demonstrably male. See the legion of studies on risk tolerance differences between males and females; it’s quite stark. Basically, the more “male” you are the more you’re likely to throw yourself out there and take crap, give crap, make fun of people openly, mock yourself, etc. And of course, the more male you are the more you like women.
That’s my model, and it both explains why fewer (heterosexual) women are selling stocks on Wall Street, breaking into web sites, doing stand-up comedy, being a fierce political attack figure, etc., as well as why those who are doing those things might tend to exhibit masculine appearance or behavior characteristics. I’m absolutely not saying there aren’t other factors–that would be silly. I’m saying this seems to me to be the major factor.
I’d love to hear thoughts on this.