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There is no Bisexual Orientation

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 6:12 pm    Post subject: There is no Bisexual Orientation Reply with quote

The New York Times article on the research lead by Michael Bailey on bisexuality was headlined, “Straight, Gay, or Lying?” This title comes straight from page 96 of his "The Man Who Would be Queen" book, where he quotes it as a saying of gay men that validates his conjecture. Bailey believes that male bisexuality as an orientation does not exist. This has been misunderstood to say that bisexuality does not exist, but of course, ships and prisons put the lie to that. It is just not a sexual orientation- perhaps more a matter of convenience. Bisexual men are stigmatized in both the gay and straight communities for a variety of reasons. Now they are told they don’t even exist, a claim that is not new but now suddenly supposedly based hard science.

Bailey’s attempt to prove this used an appalling small sampling of just 104 men hooked up to a penile plethysmograph, a device which measures blood flow into the penis and is used to monitor arousal. While this has proved a useful tool, the APA notes that the reliability and validity of this procedure in clinical assessment have not been well established. In other words, without set standards, you have a lot of wiggle room in which to determine what is a meaningful result.

Of Bailey’s small sampling of just 104 men, just 33 of them were self-described as bisexual- so the core of his study is based on his results from just 33 men (sort of, as we’ll explain in a moment). There is no evidence that he took sexual histories from these men to determine where they fell on a scale of bisexuality, which going back to Kinsey we know can be widely different levels of attraction between the two sexes.

He had the men watch 2 minute videos of gay movies, and two minute videos of heterosexual sex. If the men got aroused during gay sex, they were gay. If they got aroused watching heterosexual sex, they were straight. If they got aroused to both, they were bisexual. In his results, 75 percent of the bisexuals were aroused only by the gay porn, and 25 percent only by the straight porn. So, since he believes that arousal is orientation, there is no such thing as bisexuality.

Except these figures aren’t even based on 33 bisexuals. 35 percent of participants in the study did not have measurable arousal at all to either the gay or straight videos. That left just 22 self-reported bisexuals that had measurable responses. So his entire conclusion is based on less than two dozen men.

And what about those who had no response? Since arousal is orientation, according to Bailey, does that mean that those who did not respond simply lack a sexual orientation?

The whole movie watching thing has a whole lot of problems. We don’t know his standards for determining arousal, and there are no set scientific standards using the plethysmograph. We also don’t know his protocols for choosing the videos. It has been reported that there were two movies of two men having sex and two movies of two women having sex. The later makes no sense. Is it assumed that all bisexual men get turned on by seeing two women together? If not, they are gay?

There are other possible explanations for his results. If most of your experience is straight, then would not viewing the less familiar or more forbidden homosexual content get more of a response? Most of us have seen far more straight content than homosexual. And just because you get aroused seeing something on video, which is in the realm of fantasy, does not mean that is something you want to do. How many straight girls get turned on watching girls together but have no interest in actually having sex with women? From my experience, quite a few. And what turns people on varies widely, as does porn. There are so many variables here that his results skew to the pointless.

This just seems to be appallingly inept science, with conclusions that are scientifically meaningless. An amateur excursion towards the shores of predetermined results.

See the Michael Bailey topic in the Questionable Researchers section for more information on him.
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