Funny Friday headline

femheadline.jpg
Of course it did.

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53 Comments

  1. KateC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Wow.. The timing is amazing today.. I just got an email that one of my husbands friends sent to me and a couple of other people. Basically he was blaming homosexuality(among other things) on women and specifically lesbianism on feminists. I’m still pissed the fuck off. Why?

  2. LindsayPW
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    What kind of friends does your husband have! I hope you sent an email saying you don’t appreciate junk mail. I would.

  3. Lou
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Well if the gay agenda (of converting people) isn’t working, at least we have feminism to help us out!
    /sarcasm

  4. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand why people find that so objectionable. We know that:
    1. There are some cultures where the majority of women have same-sex affairs (e.g., Lesotho).
    2. That in general, women are more flexible than men in their sexual preferences, and that a significant minority of women have had same-sex contact or go through phases where they switch their identity back and forth from lesbian/bisexual/heterosexual
    3. That many feminists encourage the questioning and destruction of binary systems (e.g., hetero vs. homo; masculine vs. feminine).
    4. That women who A) have greater erotic plasticity (#2) and B) internalize the questioning of binary norms popular in feminism(#3) would be able to switch.
    I realize people try to stigmatize feminism by connecting it to two another stigmatized group (lesbians), but I don’t think it’s objectionable to think that embracing feminism could lead to more fluidity in people’s self-definitions of their sexuality.

  5. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    KateC,
    I’d write back:
    “Why yes, I believe feminism is partly to thank for the fact that gays and lesbians can more comfortably come out of the closet in this day and age. Good observation.”

  6. Jeremy F.
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    “That many feminists encourage the questioning and destruction of binary systems (e.g., hetero vs. homo; masculine vs. feminine).”
    Good point. That reminds me of an Alfred Kinsey quote I read a while back. “Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories.”

  7. KateC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I don’t find the fact that this woman discovered her sexuality through feminism. In and of itself that’s fine. That is, in part, what feminism is about right? Knowing yourself and not being ashamed of it. I found the timing of it funny. I sent him and everyone else who recieved that revolting piece of shit a link to the Andrea Gibson piece “I Do”. Which was also amazing timing. What she said went straight to the heart of what he said. I can still hardly believe that he would say those things. We are having a gathering on Sunday and I feel that my response would best be said in person. Once again, I don’t believe that what this woman is saying, about her own sexuality is wrong.

  8. stinsonnick
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Jessica — since when did making feminism more acceptable to straight, white, male politicians outweigh the need to validate the lived experiences of women?
    There ARE people whose queer identity is not rooted in genetics or biology. I am one of them. And it doesn’t read like Wilkinson ever claimed that being a feminist turned her into a lesbian. I think she was saying was that a feminist perspective allowed her to challenge her compulsory heterosexuality.
    I would agree that the title is misleading and sensationalist. But your sarcastic remark made it sound like you were questioning her sexual identity rather than challenging the way it was presented.

  9. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    “That in general, women are more flexible than men in their sexual preferences”
    I know this is a stereotype, often used (rightly or wrongly) to bolster the often-repeated concept that women’s actions are driven less by “physical attraction” and more by “emotion”. Personally, though, I’ve known a lot of bisexual guys/guys who have experimented with members of both genders. So I question this statement.

  10. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve also heard that at one time or another, most men will have a same-sex fantasy.

  11. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I also think society allows women to express their sexual flexibility more than it allows men to – which is why it appears that there’s an actual gender difference.

  12. roro80
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a problem with the fact that, when people realize they have a choice between one thing and another, sometimes they go with the other — cool, good on ya. So, what I’m confused about is: why in the world is this story in the Times? I got to the end of the story and thought that it was perhaps the “example” intro into a larger story about a trend in this or something. (Did I miss half of the story, or does it really end after those 3 or so paragraphs?) It just seems a strange thing, unless the Times is tacitly saying “Don’t become a feminist because you could end up being a lesbian!!! See? It happened to this woman here!!”

  13. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “I also think society allows women to express their sexual flexibility more than it allows men to – which is why it appears that there’s an actual gender difference.”
    Well except that in the environment I’ve lived for several years (surrounded by primarily young, liberal people) I /don’t/ notice a significant gender difference (bisexuality in general is not very common, but I probably know an equal number of male and female bisexuals, and an equal number of male and female “straight” people who admit to being attracted to members of the same sex.)

  14. Heroine of the Story
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Are you serious? I was bisexual WAAAY before I was feminist. Who wrote this? I think that yes, since women’s relationships are based on emotion, and men are conditioned not to be emotional, that some women might turn to other women for emotional fufillment.

  15. Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Birkenstocks: the gateway sandal.

  16. tofutti
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Ahh, see… It was kinda the opposite for me. My “lesbianism” turned me onto feminism. Actually, my “lesbianism” kind of kicked in around 5th grade, before I really knew what feminism was.

  17. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    “I also think society allows women to express their sexual flexibility more than it allows men to – which is why it appears that there’s an actual gender difference.”
    That is certainly one possibility. Since attitudes towards gay men are more negative than atittudes towards lesbians, the harsher social punishments for male-male sexual contact create less room for erotic plasticity in males.
    Lesbian women are far more likely to report having opposite sex partners and dreams and fantasies of opposite sex individuals than are gay men. In parallel, heterosexual women are significantly more likely to report interest in same sex sexual behaviors than heterosexual men in college populations.
    You also get this same patterns with the prevalence of same-sex behaviors and attractions being higher among women than men in large national samples. Scroll halfway down the page here:
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/ad/361-370/ad362.htm
    One factor that may be related is that identity formation for males and females is very different. The typical gay male reports feeling strong same-sex attractions around age 15. Lesbian women tend to report more variability in the experience, with identity forming along a continuum from ages 15-25 and even beyond [I'm making up the exact ages from memory - around that though].
    “Personally, though, I’ve known a lot of bisexual guys/guys who have experimented with members of both genders. So I question this statement.”
    Of course! But that’s not at all my point. The point is about relative gender differences in erotic plasticity, not that one gender has it and the other doesn’t.
    By a variety of measures, women show more flexibility in both their physiological sexual arousal, their self-identified sexual orientation, and their self-reported psychological arousal to a wider range of sexual partners than men. This holds not just for heterosexuals but for gays and lesbians as well. Nice reviews of this literature can be found here:
    Baumeister, R.F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347-374.
    Diamond, L. M. (2005). A new view of lesbian subtypes: Stable vs. fluid identity trajectories over an 8-year period. Psychology of Women Quarterly , 29, 119-128.
    I can email if you don’t have journal access for the first one. Lisa’s papers are available at her website: http://www.psych.utah.edu/people/faculty/diamond/
    I know this is a stereotype, often used (rightly or wrongly) to bolster the often-repeated concept that women’s actions are driven less by “physical attraction” and more by “emotion”.
    Compared to men, women do rate physical attraction in a long-term mate as less important. However, it is still ranked highly by both men and women. I think people just have a tendency to categorize things in their mind as “women do this; men do that” rather than “there is a relative difference, but lots of overlap among men and women on most measures.”
    I don’t know if this is equivalent to “driven by emotion”, but some people have argued that women’s attractions are more “person-centered” than men’s. In other words, women are more likely to identify the person they are interested in regardless of sex, whereas men (gay and straight) are more likely to categorize by sex first and then consider who is a desirable partner.
    Again, relative differences, not absolute.

  18. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    While on the topic, people might find this CNN video interesting. It is on the rise of “reparative therapy” for gays – trying to change their orientation.
    A horrible practice to be sure which has recently been denounced by that American Psychological Association:
    http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/us/2007/06/28/feyerick.gay.to.straight.cnn&wm=9

  19. Helen
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    It may be worth noting that there is a cultural context to this. In the UK at the time they met 17 years ago, feminism had been almost entirely usurped by essentialist separatism. Thus, there was a strong undercurrent that you could not be a feminist as well as heterosexual because that meant diverting feminist energies energy towards satisfying patriarchy (or some such rubbish). I was reminded of the full horror of that time by a recent TV prog and so it’s fresh in my memory.
    So, even if that was not this couple’s motivation, I’m sure it was in the minds of the journalist when the article was written.

  20. UltraMagnus
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s an interesting discussion about sexuality. I’ve heard several times that women’s sexuality is more flexible than mens (i.e. believing you’re straight until proven otherwise;) but I also agree with Ninapendamaishi that, especially in today’s culture, women are allowed and even encouraged to explore same sex relationships (as long as most of them come back to heterosexuality) and the fear of homosexuality keeps men with same sex tendencies in line. I also think that women’s sexuality, for whatever reason, isn’t taken as seriously as mens (unless she’s hetro and fucking a lot, THEN it’s a problem). For a woman if she says she had a same sex experience people will nod and go, “uh-huh” but if a man says the same thing he’s going to be branded as gay, period, end of story.
    (that is not a real scientific theory, just an observation from a lot of conversations with men and women over the years who freaked out at the thought of a guy getting with another guy to “experiment”)
    Though straddling the fence I will also say there’s a lot to what UCLAbodyimage is saying, that men and women’s tendencies do overlap but if they’re not ranked exactly the same then people see that as opposition. And also a friend sent me a link to an article a while back about a study done on women watching porn and it found out that women will pretty much respond to anything sexual (even watching monkeys have sex, they may have been bonobos I think) and become aroused.
    A lot more studying needs to be done on women’s sexuality is what I’m sayin’, sorry for the rant;)

  21. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC “Why yes, I believe feminism is partly to thank for the fact that gays and lesbians can more comfortably come out of the closet in this day and age. Good observation.”
    That sounds like the perfect response!
    Or: Why yes, you can thank feminism for the fact that people have many more options and can explore their sexuality as they see fit rather than being forced into one normative identity – it’s all about creating more freedoms and options for people.

  22. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    UltraMagnus “but I also agree with Ninapendamaishi that, especially in today’s culture, women are allowed and even encouraged to explore same sex relationships (as long as most of them come back to heterosexuality) and the fear of homosexuality keeps men with same sex tendencies in line.”
    I don’t disagree with that explanation as one of possible factors that contributes to the greater sexual flexibility seen in women.
    Other possibilities include genetic differences in the factors promoting male vs. female homosexuality. One of the guys in our lab studies the genetics of homosexuality – in particular, that one factor that leads to homosexuality in men is that the genes on the X chromosome that spur attraction to men in women get turned on in gay men.
    The other explanation is the tendency for men more than women to engage in sexual imprinting at a young age, but I don’t know if I buy that one.
    “And also a friend sent me a link to an article a while back about a study done on women watching porn and it found out that women will pretty much respond to anything sexual (even watching monkeys have sex, they may have been bonobos I think) and become aroused. ”
    Yes, the study found that women had more physiological arousal (measured via changes vaginal blood flow in the lab) compared to men when shown videos of heterosexual sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, and non-human sex. It’s hard to think of an explanation – one story is that lack of lubrication can lead to vaginal tearing during sex, so it is adaptive to have at least some vaginal response when their is any sexual stimuli. But still a mystery.
    The study you are referring to can be found here: http://www.psych.northwestern.edu/psych/people/faculty/bailey/chiversetal.pdf

  23. Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I just laughed out loud. If only this was true, us lesbos wouldn’t have been so isolated in those early years in NOW.

  24. TriLiteral
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I can buy that this woman became open to the possibilty of a same-sex relationship due to feminism encouraging her to be more honest with herself, but the title of the article is, as another poster pointed out, misleading and sensationlistic. In a society where paranoid fear of both feminism and “the gay agenda” breaking down “traditional family structure” is rampant, it’s pretty easy to see what’s underneath that headline. By putting the two together in that way, they are giving the impression of some kind of conspiracy. What it should read is “Feminism Helped Me to Accept My Preferences”. And, again, as another person already pointed out, it really isn’t news, given that feminism is, among other things, about women accepting themselves as they are even if it’s not what a sexist society has planned for them.
    On another subject: I most frequently hear the “female sexual plasticity” argument used by men trying to convince me that the current college-girl trend of kissing other girls while drunk is wonderful and universally normal and only the way it should be–and not, possibly, sometimes, just a recent fad in which insecure girls attempt to excite hetero boys. (Sure, some certainly do it out of a genuine desire to experiment, but it is impossible to know how many. I don’t think we should assign just one cause to this behavior.) This is not to say the “natural elasticity” thing may not have some basis in fact, but as long as there is such stiff societal prejudice against *any* non-hetero behavior by boys and men, we’re never going to know just how much is biological and how much is social.
    In high school, I experimented briefly with a female friend (no guys present). I remember thinking I might as well try it, though I don’t remember feeling any great attraction to her. At the time, we were part of a small, pretty non-mainstream social group in which it wasn’t uncommon for both boys and girls to experiment with bisexuality. In a way, it was more out of curiosity, and possibly a stick-it-to-authority type of sentiment, than anything else, at least for me (which is not to say it wasn’t something different for others). Since then I haven’t had any desire to experiment. Anecdotal, of course. But I suggest that an environment supportive of sexual experimentation for females, males, or both, for whatever reason, is likely to encourage it even among those who are pretty much straight, especially if they are young and bored ;) . As a way to fit in with a group and help forge an identity in an uncertain period in life, I suppose it beats making yourself barf in order to be “beautiful”.
    I’ve met a number of bisexual men in my day. Usually, they are more attracted to women than to men, but enjoy swinging on the other side on occasion. They aren’t usually open about it, however–unless they trust you not to spill their secret, or they are part of a social group whom they know will not judge them.
    Very much on a side note, as one of a number of women who enjoy gay male erotica with the same enthusiasm with which the average frat boy enjoys, or claims to enjoy, “girl-on-girl action”, I have some selfish reasons for hoping societal prejudice against male/male experimentation will wane (in addition to believing homosexuality is really no big deal, not the government’s business, and no threat at all to me or to the sanctity of my possible future marriage). I know my own preferences and fantasies are not directy relevant here–and I apologize if my bringing them up is offensive to anyone–but I thought it worth it to mention them because, with all the talk of women’s sexual liberation (and what is and is not truly liberating) one rarely hears about this reversal of typical (even stereotypical) male fantasy. I don’t think it’s terribly uncommon. I’m acquainted with a number of women who admit to liking gay erotica, or merely to finding the sight of two men kissing exciting. But it isn’t talked about much in the media, etc, and I would offer that this is at least in part because this aspect of female fantasy life does not receive a straight-male stamp of approval. Only certain types of sexual liberation can become acceptable, even if media try to frame them as somehow “edgy”–it would be an acceptable quirk if I were to publically experiment with a woman, or if I were into certain mild forms of S&M, or exhibitionism, but wanting to see college boys swapping spit is crossing the line.

  25. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    “This is not to say the “natural elasticity” thing may not have some basis in fact, but as long as there is such stiff societal prejudice against *any* non-hetero behavior by boys and men, we’re never going to know just how much is biological and how much is social.”
    TRUE DAT.
    “One of the guys in our lab studies the genetics of homosexuality – in particular, that one factor that leads to homosexuality in men is that the genes on the X chromosome that spur attraction to men in women get turned on in gay men.”
    UCLA, I do not believe that we know all of the genetic vs. social components to attraction. Much like in your discussion of symmetry, there’s just an awful we don’t know about the mechanisms. Right now I think a lot of the research says a lot more about trends than it does biological mechanisms. (It’s hardly like evolution, which we do have a really solid understanding of). If there is a special gene women have that cause them to be attracted to men, then how can you also say women are often attracted to other women? And then how come most men at one time or another are attracted to another man?
    I’m not saying there cannot be biological differences between women and men, or an overall /trend/ between gays vs. straights. I’m just saying we have to keep asking questions, because there are so many things we don’t know. I heard this great quote earlier this year, about how the study of biology has replaced religion as the #1 justification people use for why we should not strive to change the status quo. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. With so much we don’t know, people still have this tendency to jump to conclusions that benefit the status quo.

  26. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m also somewhat biased by my behavioral observations of chimpanzees and bonobos, who both have sexual interactions very frequently in comparison with a lot of other animals, and who both (males and females) are nearly always what us humans call “bisexual”. I find it hard to believe that humans would suddenly be so much different than our closest relatives.

  27. Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Uhm, Lee? Might want to put NSFW warnings up with your links. Because, for the record, that site is not safe for work.
    Regardless, I think those of us who don’t support organizations like NAMBLA also wouldn’t support the one you linked.
    But this story wasn’t about same-sex pedophilia (or “inter-generational relationships,” or whatever bullshit label you want to apply to obscure the fact that one party in these relationships cannot give meaningful consent), it was about lesbianism. Lesbianism =/= pedophilia, so let’s stay on topic, eh?
    On topic: whether or not female sexuality can be considered more fluid than male sexuality, I think the main problem with headlines like this (and the story itself- is that really all there is, or am I just seeing an abbreviated version because I’m not a subscriber?) is that they reinforce stereotypes. Because clearly every feminist is just a lesbian waiting to happen. You know, just like feminism is emasculating our men, ruining our children, putting a hole in the ozone layer…

  28. Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    “My sluggish newspaper sales led to a sensational headline!’
    I’m surprised the article wasn’t accompanied by a 1950′s style poster of a horrified mother trying to protect her young daughter from the lesbian feminists emerging from the closet. The article is fine but someone needs to have a talk with their headline writer.

  29. annejumps
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    TriLiteral: Total agreement with your last paragraph. There has been, to my eyes, a huge upsurge in “gay porn (and erotica) for girls” in the last few years, due to the way the Internet allows people with similar interests to share things with online ‘strangers’ that they might not feel comfortable admitting to people they know (family, friends) in real life, whi might think “Girls aren’t supposed to like things like that.”
    Shorter me: There are lots of slashers on the Internet.

  30. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    NINA Wrote: “I’m also somewhat biased by my behavioral observations of chimpanzees and bonobos, who both have sexual interactions… I find it hard to believe that humans would suddenly be so much different than our closest relatives.”
    Hmm.. I’m not aware of the chimpanzee same-sex contact. Bonobos, certainly, but are you sure about chimpanzees? Could be, just hadn’t heard. In any case, a good reference for same-sex animal contact is the book “Biological Exuberance”.
    Gorillas, Orangutans, and Chimpanzees are all our closest relatives, and each has an extremely different mating system, so it’s hard to make generalizations from primate to human without also looking at other shared factors besides genetic relatedness.
    But more to your point, I certainly think it is plausible that humans, male and female, could be bisexual given the right mix of social norms.
    NINA / TriLiteral wrote: “This is not to say the “natural elasticity” thing may not have some basis in fact, but as long as there is such stiff societal prejudice against *any* non-hetero behavior by boys and men, we’re never going to know just how much is biological and how much is social.”
    While I agree with the point that the prejudice against male-male contact could explain the gender difference, I wouldn’t say that is a “non-biological” explanation. It’s just a different type of evolutionary explanation – one that focuses on sensitivity to social norms and punishment for deviation from norms, which is obviously an integral part of our evolutionary history.
    NINA WROTE: “UCLA, I do not believe that we know all of the genetic vs. social components to attraction. Much like in your discussion of symmetry, there’s just an awful we don’t know about the mechanisms.”
    I completely agree with you. On my personal meter-o-scientific-evidence thermometer, I think that researchers have demonstrated 95% that symmettry is attractive and there is a compelling evolutionary explanation. They get an A+ in my book.
    On the other hand, in termms of evidence regarding evolutionary explanations for same-sex attraction, there is a ton of work to be done – it’s still quite a mystery.
    My personal opinion is that there is compelling evidence that there is a gender difference in erotic plasticity. The root causes of that difference, however, are not well understood (imo).
    “If there is a special gene women have that cause them to be attracted to men, then how can you also say women are often attracted to other women? ”
    Well, there are a couple ways to answer this.
    One is that across mammals, it’s pretty clear that most females reproduce with males. I think it’s a safe assumption that there is some evolved behavioral system that motivates opposite sex attraction in most animals. And to some degree, that has to be prespecified genetically. One place to start looking is on the X chromosome since all females possess this.
    The proposal that there is a switch that turns on attraction to men on the X chromosome doesn’t rule out the possibility that there is also a switch that turns on attraction to women. These are not opposing possibilities.
    “And then how come most men at one time or another are attracted to another man?”
    That actually fits in quite well with their theory, right? All men have an X chromosome. What might differentiate gay men and heterosexual men is the degree to which that gene sequence is active.
    I’d like to stress, though, that I’m not pushing this as “the” thing that explains gay vs. straight attractions. Rather, it strikes me as one possible mechanism that might explain why some men are gay and some are not. There are likely several different factors that contribute to the differences, and the relevant factors are likely different for different men.
    NINA wrote: “I heard this great quote earlier this year, about how the study of biology has replaced religion as the #1 justification people use for why we should not strive to change the status quo.”
    I definitely think this is a problem. Too many people commit the naturalistic fallacy – that what is natural is right and should be encouraged or deemed “right.”
    Usually you can quash that pretty quickly by pointing out that a lot of horrible behaviors have natural adaptive functions (e.g., infanticide), so it is important to distinguish between evolved mechanisms and legal/moral systems.
    It hasn’t happened on this blog, but it’s interesting to me that a number of social constructionists generally dislike evolutionary explanations for gender unless it is politically expedient. For example, claiming that homosexuality is biological/genetic and is therefore unchangeable, and therefore should be accepted. Similarly, people who believe that homosexuality is “biological” are more less likely to hold prejudicial believes about gays/lesbians.

  31. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    “Because clearly every feminist is just a lesbian waiting to happen. You know, just like feminism is emasculating our men, ruining our children, putting a hole in the ozone layer…”
    Eeek! Not the ozone layer too! Actually, feminism should help the ozone layer. The less women are sexually objectified, the less they will use hairspray, and the less the ozone layer will be depleted.

  32. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    ” I’m not aware of the chimpanzee same-sex contact. Bonobos, certainly, but are you sure about chimpanzees? ”
    Yep. I’m quite sure. I was surprised myself at first, because I had not heard about it so much either (bonobos may overall engage in sexual contact with each other even more commonly though I suppose, since they use it to resolve conflict whereas chimpanzees do not). I think more of the public is aware of and interested in chimpanzees thanks to Jane Goodall’s studies, and since she wrote very popular books for the public at large, I can perhaps understand why she might choose not to emphasize that aspect of chimpanzee behavior. (if you want to see true public discomfort with sexuality, work in the primate section of a zoo and watch parents reacting to their children seeing animals being sexual).
    About the symmetry thing, I still have questions. Like you don’t mean there’s a direct correlation between symmetry and attractiveness, right? And since no one is perfectly symmetrical, is it possible there is a certain level of asymmetry that won’t detract from a person’s attractiveness to the average other person at all? Certainly other factors are able to override the affects of symmetry. Many of the people considered most attractive by our culture are definitely asymmetrical in their facial features.
    “Too many people commit the naturalistic fallacy – that what is natural is right and should be encouraged or deemed “right.”
    Well on one level, that is what I was talking about. On another level, I was talking about the tendency to talk of things as “natural” when we really have no idea what other cultural alternatives our genetic makeup would allow us. We’re pretty flexible (like how the brain will grow differently throughout a person’s life, depending on how it’s being used).

  33. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    “Because clearly every feminist is just a lesbian waiting to happen. You know, just like feminism is emasculating our men, ruining our children, putting a hole in the ozone layer…”
    Eeek! Not the ozone layer too! Actually, feminism should help the ozone layer. The less women are sexually objectified, the less they will use hairspray, and the less the ozone layer will be depleted.

  34. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    “Yep. I’m quite sure. I was surprised myself at first, because I had not heard about it so much either (bonobos may overall engage in sexual contact with each other even more commonly though I suppose, since they use it to resolve conflict whereas chimpanzees do not). ”
    Good to know, thanks!
    “About the symmetry thing, I still have questions. Like you don’t mean there’s a direct correlation between symmetry and attractiveness, right? And since no one is perfectly symmetrical, is it possible there is a certain level of asymmetry that won’t detract from a person’s attractiveness to the average other person at all? Certainly other factors are able to override the affects of symmetry. Many of the people considered most attractive by our culture are definitely asymmetrical in their facial features.”
    The basic story is that we are pretty much programmed to be perfectly bilaterally symmetrical whenever possible because that reduces the number of gene codings that are necessary. If there is a deviation in symmettry, this means that either some mutation affected the ability to form symmetry or some form of developmental insult (parasites, etc.) interrupted the development of symmetry. For example, mothers who are in poorer health give birth to less symettrical offspring.
    Generally studies measure symmetry in some ways, and correlate that with ratings of attractiveness, sex partner number, frequency of female partner’s orgasm, women’s preferences for the man during high vs. low fertility, etc. Generally the more body parts they measure, the stronger the results (e.g., studies that only measure one or two physical features find weak or no relations, studies that measure a large number of body parts tend to find strong relations).
    Or researchers manipulate symmetry and see how that effects attractiveness.
    Your point about high vs. low symmetry is well taken. Some people argue more symmetry = better. Deborah Zebrowitz has argued that it isn’t so much that minor deviations from symmetry effect attractiveness. Rather, it’s that serious deviations from symmetry indicate high mutation load/developmental insults. The truth (based on existing research) is somewhere in between: In general, more symmetrical = more attractive, but the effect accelerates the farther you get from perfect symmetry.
    Of course, symmetry might not be the cue that people actually use in their assesment of attractiveness. It could be that various factors that strongly correlate with symmetry (skin quality, facial features, etc.), and that is what. In this view, symmetry is a useful index for researchers that predicts attractiveness, but not necessarily the feature being used in mate selection.
    “Many of the people considered most attractive by our culture are definitely asymmetrical in their facial features.”
    Certainly symmetry may not be sufficient in and of itself. A man with a highly symmetrical face and a gigantic nose might be rated unattractive. But the point is that a man with a giant nose will be rated more attractive when he is highly symmetrical rather than asymmetrical.
    Similarly, a man with other desirable features (e.g., broad jaw) might be rated more attractive even if he is less symmetrical than a man who is symmetrical but less masculine jaw. But that symmetry enhances attractiveness when faces are matched for degree of other desirable features.
    Wow, that ended up being a book! Sorry!

  35. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Symmetry article:
    This might be a useful reference:
    http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0962-8452%2819990922%29266%3A1431%3C1913%3AFASACO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-O&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage
    “Well on one level, that is what I was talking about. On another level, I was talking about the tendency to talk of things as “natural” when we really have no idea what other cultural alternatives our genetic makeup would allow us. ”
    I do agree that is a concern – that there is a tendency to equate what we are used to seeing is what is natural in the sense of predestined or how we evolved to be. But, the point of the evolutionary perspective is to stress that we don’t just have fixed mechanisms – rather, we have mechanisms that are tuned into prevailing ecological and social conditions, which adjust our behavior accordingly. Some of these systems might put contraints on our development or behavior (e.g., always developed two arms in any environment), direct it in a specific way (e.g., grow longer legs if the ambient temperature is hot), or be constrained only by operant condition (e.g., do X if it receives a positive social response, stop doin X if it doesn’t).
    “We’re pretty flexible (like how the brain will grow differently throughout a person’s life, depending on how it’s being used).”
    I agree! But to an evolutionary psychologist, the question is “why do brains do that? why did that evolve? what is the function of that? Why are some brain systems more accepting and adaptable than others?”

  36. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Transsexual 7 year old.
    This is somewhat relevant and may be of interest:
    http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/us/2007/06/28/zahn.living.life.as.girl.cnn

  37. ponies and rainbows
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    On my personal meter-o-scientific-evidence thermometer, I think that researchers have demonstrated 95% that symmettry is attractive
    I read one study like this that was based on infants’ reactions to different faces. The reason the researchers decided that the babies found symmetrical faces attractive was because they looked at the faces longer — not because the babies liked those people more, or cried less when those people were around. No, because they stared at them. Well, when I stare at people it’s usually because I think they’re funny-looking — and go figure, the younger I was, the more I did it. Unless those researchers had mind-reading devices hooked up to the babies, there’s no way of knowing why the babies stared at those people. This is what I hate about researchers — they get a result, there’s a million ways to interpret it, but almost inevitably they interpret it in some simplistic way that upholds the status quo. Female animals are protective of their young? Well, obviously, it’s because females are so maternal and gentle! It’s not because they’re brave or aggressive! Researchers’ lack of imagination makes me want to puke sometimes.
    Of course, then you do have those studies where the researchers have done a great job, have discovered something cool or groundbreaking and have clearly applied some thought to their interpretation of the evidence, but then the media reports it and makes it look like the study found out something completely different — again, something which blindly upholds the status quo.
    and there is a compelling evolutionary explanation.
    A compelling evolutionary explanation for finding symmetry attractive? Give me a break. My face is symmetrical, but I can’t even drive a car because I have no depth perception and several other minor eye problems.
    And furthermore, who says people find what’s healthy attractive? Eating disorders and fake-baking aren’t healthy, but people sure as hell still find too-thin, artificially tan women attractive. (At least, I feel like you’re insinuating that people find symmetry attractive because it has some mysterious evolutionary advantage.) And yes, I realize that extreme asymmetry can be bad, but I’m talking here about the usual symmetrical variations you might find in a random group of people, that wouldn’t affect health but that would supposedly cause somebody to find one person more attractive than another.
    Oh yeah, another thing that pisses me off about these “attractiveness” studies is that the vast majority are done in Western countries. (And just because a few have been done elsewhere doesn’t change the fact that most are done in the West, okay?)
    Then again, maybe I shouldn’t try to have this conversation because I find the entire notion of attractiveness absurd, random, irrational and completely subjective, and I get irate anytime anybody tries to justify the cruel way in which people treat others based on how “attractive” they supposedly are.
    And, I shouldn’t try to have this conversation because it’s kind of off topic and I think I have a minor concussion from being mugged a few days ago so I’m not making much sense…but I just had to get that off my chest! (And oh, to add to the thing about how science seems to think males are so brave while females are gentle and maternal….Several men saw me getting beaten and mugged and did nothing to stop it, while I fought back and chased the muggers across the street screaming while I bled all over the place. But what do I know, I’m just a passive widdle female!!!)

  38. ponies and rainbows
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, also, I didn’t cry at all or panic or lose it or anything after or while being mugged, but it was amazing how many people seemed to expect me to. There were times when I wanted to cry just to placate everybody, and it’s made me realize even more how much women behave in certain ways because it’s expected of us, and then science and the media turn around and call it “biology.” I think I would want to kill myself if I believed a word of most of the studies that researchers do about women and human nature in general.
    Okay, I’m going to go rest now before I hijack this into the “I hate evolutionary biologists and you should, too!” thread. Hopefully I come back more normal and coherent.

  39. annajcook
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have time now for a longer engagement with all the interesting stuff on this thread (as much as I’d like to join in!) . . . but wanted to thank Jessica for one of my laughs for the day :) .
    It’s funny to me because it implies there’s something sensationalist about feminism potentially leading a woman to recognize she was (or chooses to be) a lesbian, when actually it makes perfect sense to me.
    And it’s also funny to me because while I know so many feminists are like, “so what if it’s true? who cares?” or even, “hooray!” , the headline is going to confirm the anti-feminists deepest, darkest suspicions about feminism since . . . well, at least the 1890s. Omigod! We’re all queers!
    Sigh . . . some people live in such small worlds.

  40. TriLiteral
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    “If these were men, you would be rioting.”
    Actually, it doesn’t matter to me if they are male or female. They want to pressure underage people to give consent, or to force them if they do not consent. It’s immoral, whether they are male or female.

  41. Persephone
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I love how the title of the article is phrased “My feminism led to lesbianism”…like the worst thing in the world you can possibly be is a lesbian and that lesbianism is something to be wary of instead of something to be honored and respected. Jeez.

  42. Persephone
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I love how the title of the article is phrased “My feminism led to lesbianism”…like the worst thing in the world you can possibly be is a lesbian and that lesbianism is something to be wary of instead of something to be honored and respected. Jeez.

  43. Persephone
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I love how the title of the article is phrased “My feminism led to lesbianism” like the worst thing in the world that you can possibly be is a lesbian and that lesbianism is something that you should be afraid of instead of something to be honored and respected. Jeez.

  44. wandalake
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    I agree that this is not newsworthy and that the headline seems sensational. That said, I do understand how this is possible. As I read more feminist writings and take gender studies classes, I feel more compelled to explore my same-sex leanings. The new knowledge did not create the desire, but made it seem more acceptable and more appealing. Also, at this early point in my feminist education, I am finding it difficult to separate my frustrations and anger toward the patriarchy from men in general.

  45. Posted June 30, 2007 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Uhm, Lee? Might want to put NSFW warnings up with your links. Because, for the record, that site is not safe for work.

    Not to mention how routinely people’s internet usage is tracked by private and state entities anymore. That’s not a place I want my IP address to show up. It might be nice to point out what something is before you essentially invite people to go there.

  46. Posted June 30, 2007 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    A compelling evolutionary explanation for finding symmetry attractive?

    A compelling evolutionary-psychological explanation can be crafted for just about any social phenomenon. When you get to the really ancient history, before there was even the attempt at a written record of any kind, the available data are quite limited and are a Rohrschach test (or perhaps TAT might be more appropriate) more than anything else. With only a few objects to go on, the tendency is to see one’s perception of prehistory in the light of one’s perception of present-day society. I could come up with an evolutionary explanation for FOX News if I gave it any thought.

  47. CJ
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Aside from the ridiculous Times headline (thank you, Mr Murdoch, for sensationalizing a great British newspaper), it is a fairly significant article. Professors Kitzinger and Wilkinson lost their battle in the UK equivalent of the Supreme Court to have their marriage recognised. This had NO COVERAGE in the UK, other than this article.
    On a personal note, as a former student of Prof Kitzinger, I am saddened to hear that their bid for the recognition of their marriage failed. She is dedicated to her wife and marriage, and I am sure that the Times handling of this setback will only add salt to the wound.

  48. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Well this is timely and relevant:
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/06/27/poll.gay/index.html
    * CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds attitudes evolving
    * For first time, majority think homosexuality is unchangeable
    * In 1977, 13 percent of poll respondents said gays were born that way
    * 39 percent in latest poll say people are born gay
    Fifty-six percent of about 515 poll respondents said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed.
    In addition, 42 percent of respondents to the current poll said they believe homosexuality results from upbringing and environment, while 39 percent said they believe it is something a person is born with — a close division that reflects the national debate over the issue.
    However, those numbers are greatly changed from the 1970s and ’80s, in which fewer than 20 percent of Americans said a person is born homosexual. In a 1977 poll, the number was 13 percent.
    Ten percent in the latest poll said they believe both factors play a role in someone’s homosexuality. Three percent said neither, and 6 percent had no opinion.
    On the question of gay marriage, 43 percent of respondents in May said they would not support same-sex marriage or civil unions, which provide many, if not most, of the same legal protections as marriage. Twenty-four percent said they supported same-sex marriage, while 27 percent opted for civil unions.
    But a majority of poll respondents — 57 percent — said gay and lesbian couples should have the legal right to adopt children. Forty percent said they should not.

  49. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Thinking about the poll -
    Okay, this might be a lame and obvious point, but of relevance:
    I can’t think of a single study that has asked people about whether heterosexuality is a choice or changeable. Logically, if you think homosexuality is a choice, then you should think heterosexuality is a choice as well. But I bet alot of people who say “homosexuality is a choice” would not say that heterosexuality is a choice or that they could change from straight to gay.
    And, it’s also interesting that people equate “born with it” with “unchangeable” and “environmentally caused” with changeable. Obviously there is no reason to assume an overlap between the two (e.g., habits formed from experience are notoriously hard to break).

  50. ShifterCat
    Posted July 1, 2007 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Holy fuck, Ponies and Rainbows! I hope you heal okay.

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