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Honest question: What is gay? November 7, 2006

Posted by fajita in Sex, Ted Haggard.

I realize that I approach a topic that is white hot in religious and political circles. It’s election day for pete’s sake and here I am picking a hot topic. But I need some help. You see, I don’t know if I have gotten smarter or dumber on the topic of homosexuality. I am going to ask a bunch of questions and bring out some hypotheticals based on the Ted Haggard scandal. I apologize ahead of time for offending anyone (everyone) with my questions. Some will wonder why I don’t have this figured out in  one way (you’re a Christian aren’t you?) while others will wonder why I don’t have this figured out in another way (you’re a family scientist, aren’t you?) Well, I am both and I am also willing to take the positon of not knowing. I know what the Bible says and I know what some of the scientific literature says. Feel free to air your comments to this post.

It used to be so clear and easy. There was straight and there was gay. They were opposites and that was it. One was right (straight) and one was wrong (gay). Gay people, as was my understanding, sought out intentionally to rebel against God and used homosexuality as their means by which to do it. Certainly there are many ways to rebel against God, but if someone used homosexuality as their means to show God their contempt, then that person had chosen the worst of all blasphemies. I really used to believe that once upon a time. And sadly, the fact that I do not hold that view now places me out of favor with some. That’s OK, I still love you.

The black and white, either/or thinking no longer works for me, nor does the strict moralizing and labeling. I cannot know a person’s motives. Good grief, half the time I don’t even have a clear grasp of my own motives. So, the days of demonizing gays are over, and have been for a while.

But that doesn’t really solve anything for me either. If only sexuality were not so confusing. I guess Ted Haggard is still on my mind. Whether the prominent, anti-homosexual pastor of a megachurch had gay sex or not is not the point. I think we can say with some certainty that he had some attraction to the idea of gay sex, and it is the attraction that I am getting at.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Ted Haggard did not have gay sex, but had a hidden attraction for it. It turned him on, but he never acted on it. Does that make him gay? He claims he’s not gay. I guess you could believe him on the one hand, but on the other hand, he really can’t afford to be gay. There is too much to lose.

So, does same sex attraction make someone gay?

Let’s do another hypothetical. Let’s say that Ted Haggard’s accuser is correct and they had a three year sexual relatinoship. Is Haggard gay? Is he bisexual? Again, he claims he is not gay, and I am sure he would deny being bisexual as well.  

So, maybe same sex attraction does not make one gay, but acting on it does? My hunch is that Haggard would say that it does not, but would say it on Biblical grounds more than experienctial grounds.

A step further. Perhaps one has to make a claim for a gay identity to be gay.

And that leads to another question: Can someone be a somewhat gay? There is some research to suggest a spectrum of sexuality that makes room for there to be some homosexuality in a heterosexual and vice versa.

And then there is the notion that someone can change their orientation. That’s a tough one to swallow when I consider myself changing orientations. It’s just not going to happen. And yet, there are literally thousands who claim that they have changed from gay to straight (I have also heard stories of someone straight changing to gay, but usually those are stories more so about someone who claims that they were always gay) Were they really gay in the first place? They had same sex attraction and were having gay sex, but were they really gay?

Is sexual orientation (attraction) exclusively biological? Is it partially biological? Is it strictly a nurtured and socialized thing? Cripes! Pigeon hole sexuality in any direction and you get yourself into trouble.

I very much welcome your wisdom, thoughts, and comments. All I ask is that you be respectful. You are a guest on my blog much like you would be a guest in my home. Comment here like you would comment in my home.


Dr. Rosenblatt is famous – “Two in a bed” September 22, 2006

Posted by fajita in Book Reviews, Family Science, Sex.

One of the profs who teaches in the Family Social Science program I am enrolled in has just released a book that is getting a ton of press. The book is called, “Two in a Bed.” He’s been featured in the NYTimes, on radio and TV shows (Good Morning America methinks) and even in some international media outlets.

Amazon will share the table of contents with you here, an excerpt here, and a you can buy it here.

Sexy women: Powerful? Victims? Or is something else going on here? August 11, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Gender, General, Sex.

I am not an expert on female sexuality, so don’t treat me like one or even quote me like I think I am one. I would also really like some women to voice their views here.

What I want to do here is explore some of the power dynamics of female sexuality.

There was a time when I believed that all women who were willing to be viewed or used sexually were victims of male objectification. The male was the complete perpetrator and the female was the complete victim. I no longer believe that this is always the case.

So, what am I doing here? Blaming women for the sins of men? Nope, not at all. What I am doing is trying to figure out what is going on inside this topic. Let’s start linear and simplistic.

Many men like to be enticed. Sexy women can get a lot out of a man with the promise that such enticement seems to give. When women discover this secret what they have done is discovered a source of power that they can assert over a man.

When a women learns of this power, she is then responsible to use it with wisdom and not abuse it. Now, this is a very hard message to even talk about to day because of dozens of reasons I won’t get into. So, I will compare it a man with great physical strength. He could us it to benefit a woman or anyone really or he could go around hurting people with it.

I wish I could end there and this topic be real simple, but I can’t. I am going to have to get circular and systemic.

What might motivate a women to use sexuality (through dress, nonverbals, promiscuity etc) to gain power? We could say that she is an evil person bent on destruction of others for her benefit. But then again that is too easy and, of course, rarely the case.

What if sex is the only onramp to power for many women? What if our culture affords women who make the “sexy” cut this one piece of power and few if any others? If that is the case, then there is an increased likelihood that more women will choose to accept the side-effects that come with selling out a little in order to reap the benefits of it.  

If this is true, then the meaning of sex and sexuality has frequently been reduced to a power game in which men and women alike make agreements to recieve the benefits of this mutual exploitation and the side-effects as well.

And what we have not addressed yet are women who do not make the “sexy” cut. They are either doomed to feeling worthless or fight really hard to find a way in which they can have some power, affirmation, or recognition.

So what we have are personal decisions within a societal context that provides limited options. We have a context that allows sex to be the easy out for women (and men if you read yesterday’s post) rather then keeping sex sacred.

OK, I’ve rambled too much already. What do you all think about this topic?

525,600 Minutes: Thoughts on RENT June 5, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Media, Sex.
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RENT was an incredible piece of art and creativity. I loved the music. I found the music inspirational and powerful.

The story, on the other hand, was so tragic. It was rife with the consequences of reckless lives. Loneliness, brokenness, and illness is pervasive in what should have been the prime of their lives. When life should be full and healthy and free, this group of friends finds the tyrrany of the consequences of their allegedly free lives.

What did redeem the story was the power of their friendships. This is an important message for the church in the emerging culture. Whereas the church primarily privileges families, the emerging culture is more and more single. Whereas many people find their shelter in families, where do single adult people find their shelter except in their friendships?

Now, the modern church might find marriage to be the "solution" to the singleness of America, but that insults and outgroups single people unnecessarily. Rather what the church should be doing in the emerigng culture is finding ways to privilege singlesness as well as marriages and families.

I like how the emerging church uses friendship as one of their primary metaphors as opposed to family or marriage. "Friendship" does not outgroup like marriage or family does – in this culture, remember. Certainly marriage and family are metaphors that are useful, but there are others that fit well and friendship is one of them.

RENT has significant art value and is insightful of an emeging worldview.

Now, think about this message in RENT about the emerging culture in light of the current legislation proposed. It's not that marriage is bad, but it seems like its overprivileged. This legislation goes even further to make a divide between hetero marrieds and others.

Don't get me wrong, marriage is good, very good. But to make it a point of contention and division is not a good idea, no matter who is making it an issue.

What Makes You Beautiful? April 26, 2006

Posted by fajita in Family Science, Philosophy/Religion, Sex, Teens.

I believe the lovely and talented Scarlet Johanson was recently deemed the world's sexiest woman. She has a pretty smile and a nice figure. Her acting ability is improving, but is not award winning. There is something likeable about her public personality and she carries with her (in some of the roles she's played) a little bit of the certain kind of feminine helplessness that makes men feel like they need to rescue her.

But is she a beautiful woman? I really don't know. You probably don't know either. You know where I am going with this. A woman's beauty is not measured by sex appeal. Sex appeal, even with continued surgeries, eventually falls apart. Usually it is cast away long before it falls apart becuase Hollywood and magazine publishers can always build a sexier woman.

The question of what makes a woman beautiful is important for most women, but I think it is particularly important for teenager girls. It's so easy for teenage girls to get beautiful and sexy confused. I would wager that most teenage girls do not feel beautiful because they don't compare to magazine covers and music videos in the sexy department.

When they don't match up, they usually feel worth less than they really are. Then there are two negative ways that they respond to the self-loathing.

1. Get sexy and learn seduction.

2. Self-destruct.

Neither of these is good. What needs to happen for teenage girls is a new (old) vision of beauty. They need to be exposed to beautiful women who make a difference. Mother Teresa was a beautiful woman. A teenage girl's compassion needs to be labeled beautiful more than it needs to be labeled good. What a teenage girl needs is a way to be beautiful without it requiring sex appeal.

Go ahead, ask a teenage girl what makes her beautiful and watch her squirm. She doesn't know the answer. She knows it's not supposed to be sexual, but at the same time she's going to have a hard time thinking of anything else.

Parents, youth workers, ministers, and anyone working with teenage girls, make them feel beautiful by finding out who that girl is and call it beautiful.

Teens and Sex part II April 20, 2006

Posted by fajita in Family Science, Sex, Teens.
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Many of you responded to the first installment of "Teens and Sex" post. I wish I could tell you all with certaintly what the rank order is, but I can tell you some of the research done by Dr. Ann Meier of the University of Minnesota. She did a study called, "Adolescents' Transition To First Intercourse, Religiosoty, and Attitudes About Sex."

As a review, I asked people to rank order the following influences that deter teens from having sex:

  1. Parent's religiosity
  2. Teen's Religiosity
  3. Low opportunity for sexual contact (not dating)
  4. Teen's attitude about sex
  5. Being Female

OK, this might seem counterintuitive to some, but a teen's attitude about sex is a more powerful force than their religiosity in influencing having sex fot he first time. Before some of you get all bent out of shape and think that she means God doesn't matter, you ahve to unpack this a little.

Religiosity is seen to be influential in many teens' attitudes about having sex. So, you might say, then it is religion that prevents sex. Not so fast, buster. There are non-religious teens who have attitudes that influence them not to have. So, we cannot conclude that it is religion that accounts for it all. A religious teen with a favorable attitude toward having sex is more likely to ahve sex than a non-religious teen with a favorable attitude toward not having sex.

Now, religious teens are more likely to have an attitude about sex that influences toward abstinence, so religion is important, but attitude is more important. Religiosity does have an impact (more for females than for males), but not as much as attitude.

Conversely, when a relgious teen has sex, this study says that the teen does not lose their religion. What does change, for females (who beging with attitudes favoring abstinence more than boys) when they have sex is that their attitude about sex becomes more permissive. Boys attitudes after first sex do not change.

About opportunity: Dr. Meier's study revealed that greater the opportunity for sex the greater the chance that it will happen. Well, no kidding Sherlock, anyone could have digured that one out. However, when she defines opportunity, it includes long term dating relationships.

About parent's attitudes: When the parent's attitude about sex is expressed in policing their child's behavior's, it is not as import a factor as the parent's attitude influencing their child's own attitude. So, parent's might invest more of their energies in influencing their child's attitude and not as much on their behavior.

And one final question that popped into my head: If more teen males have sex than teen females, does that mean of the females who do have sex have more of it because there is just as much sex going on between the fewer of them?

Teens and Sex April 18, 2006

Posted by fajita in Family Science, Sex, Teens.

Rank the following factors in teens deciding not to have sex (rank of 1 means it is the most influential factor and rank of 5 means least influential) Feel free to explain yourself.

Parent's religiosity
Teen's Religiosity
Low opportunity for sexual contact (not dating)
Teen's attitude about sex
Being Female