The gay NBA?

by on February 8, 2007 at 1:09 pm in Sports | Permalink

The not-so-famous John Amaechi, former NBA player, has come out and admitted publicly he is gay.  I am struck that he is (only) "the sixth professional male athlete from one of the four major U.S. sports — basketball, baseball, football, hockey — to openly discuss his homosexuality."

Those are scant numbers, why?  I see a few hypotheses:

1. There aren’t so many gay professional athletes, maybe because guys play college ball to get women.

2. Even the not-so-famous earn endorsement income, at some level or another, or at least hope to, and that implies a mainstream image.

3. Fans don’t want to see gay players, or at least they do not want to know too explicitly about sexuality in that manner.  Major league sports are about numbers of fans, not the possibly intense minority loyalties that could be generated if a major star came out of the closet.

4. Other team members don’t like the idea, perhaps because they fear an eroticized locker room or whatever.

I put most of the weight on #2.  When it comes to #4, my sense is that the teammates often know or suspect who is gay, even if it is not publicly admitted.

Keep in mind it is relatively easy to measure performance in sports.  The real lesson is that employer-driven discrimination is no longer the dominant model. 

pawnking February 8, 2007 at 1:28 pm

I have another idea: Maybe the rate of homosexuality is not as large as some assume? There are those who assume that gay men are naturally that way and that 5%, 10%, 50%, whatever percentage you want to assume, are gay. But how do we know this? Is it possible that being gay is more learned than inherited?

That is, in certain environments, i.e. a men’s college locker room, there is a lot of social importance on being straight, even to a point of boasting about being promiscuous. Thus, there are few gay men in professional sports. On the other hand, in an environment which encourages gayness, the odds of becoming gay would be much higher.

AB February 8, 2007 at 1:33 pm

It is clear to me that pawnking has got the causal arrow wrong.

Pawnking: Ever heard of self-selection and sorting?

Taimyoboi February 8, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Perhaps not as P.C. an observation, but perhaps whatever makes gay men gay is inversely related to athletic ability, agressiveness, or whatever makes someone likely to be successful in a professional sports career.

theCoach February 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm

I think you are missing a lot of other politically less correct possibilities.

I am no expert on the biological causes of homosexuality, but it is possible that these have correlating effects on the capability of playing the 4 major sports (unlikely, or weak imo).

A more likely possibility would be the scant numbers of gay athletes in those sports signal to young, gay athletes that other sports are more tolerent. This is not unlike your 1), but I think more likely.

And on your number two I am going to have to go all out and fundamentally criticize your world view*. While it may be financial, there are many other social factors that influence behavior. The culture of professional athletes may put enormous cultural/social pressure on not being gay that have nothing to do with Homo Economus (pardon the pun).

*When I was writing this my intention was to imply that the financial incentives are affected by social factors, and that it is likely that after decades of rightward drift, financial incentives will become relatively less influential than other social motivators such as status (or the two will become more decoupled).

rluser February 8, 2007 at 2:09 pm

The sample size is very small and makes any conclusion extremely dubious.

Kendall February 8, 2007 at 2:17 pm

I don’t fully understand. There are two ways of interpreting #2: either firms who use NBA players in advertisements don’t like gays, or consumers who buy stuff that is advertised by NBA players don’t like stuff that is advertised by gay NBA players. Since at the end of your post you disparage employer-based discrimination, I assume you mean the latter. But then #2 and #3 are the same in a Beckerian sense — both are customer discrimination, since NBA fans are presuambly the target audience for stuff advertised by NBA players, right?

kebko February 8, 2007 at 2:30 pm

“Keep in mind it is relatively easy to measure performance in sports.”

Yes. This would explain why you never hear any arguments about which players or teams are better. In fact, team sports are a social focus & topic of discussion precisely because we can always count on almost complete consensus as to the absolute worth of each of its participants.

;-)

Barkley Rosser February 8, 2007 at 2:37 pm

My guess is #4 big time, with some of #’s 2 and 3.
The claim about athleticism and homosexuality
is just plain bogus. The evidence on both that
and #4 is that we have seen certain “individual”
sports where there have been quite a few
people coming out as gay, e.g. tennis and
ice skating. It is probably the dynamic of
team sports that pushes those who are into
the closet, or discourages them from joining
the team in the first place.

Scott W February 8, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Isn’t IMAGE the most obvious answer? Gay men are stereotyped as more effeminate. The image of sports is the opposite for numerous reasons (physical intimidation, etc).

The same reason why we don’t see pink teams or unicorn mascots is the same reason why gay men don’t out themselves in sports. I don’t know if this stereotype is justified, as many are not, but image seems to be the most obvious answer.

bob montgomery February 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm

I agree that #2 is the dominant factor.

Pro sports has-beens frequently make most of their income by being, basically, very minor celebrities. They do autograph signings, card shows, celebrity golf tournaments, basketball “camps”, local advertising, etc.; maybe they hope to catch on in broadcasting, as college/pro coaches, etc. Other common ex-jock jobs are starting a business (restaurants are popular).

Most of that involves having a broad appeal. Stars can get away with being non-wholesome (OTOH: How many endorsement contracts does Rodman have?) to some extent, but I doubt the also-ran can.

Christina February 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm

I think #4 is probably the leading cause. In team sports the dynamic within the team is extremely important. Some guy coming out of the closet (in the locker room) would more likely than not create a rift in the team and undermine overall performance.

To give an example of the importance of team unity, the members of the girls’ basketball and soccer teams at my former high school all decided to go lesbian shortly after I graduated. Apparently several basketball players hooked up during a tournament weekend, and the other team members got jealous that they weren’t included. By the end of the school year it seemed like half the female athletes had girlfriends.

Of course very few of those girls are still practicing lesbians, which only reinforces the importance of peer pressure in these situations.

srboisvert February 8, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Curiously Brady Anderson was actively promoted in the gay community by the Orioles even though wasn’t/isn’t (?) gay. So there probably isn’t management side pressure against coming out. They seem willing to pursue that segment of the audience. A gay player could get a bump from specialist appeal.

I don’t think the marketing endorsement side is that much of a problem. For most players it could even even be an endorsement booster since the endorsement potential is probably a lopsided affair with all the money going to the top stars and the rest getting car dealership commercials at best.

Are there any numbers for gay footballers/rugby players in Europe? Perhaps a different culture would have different pressures.

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Tyler, you are missing the crucial distinction:

– There are lots and lots of gay (i.e., lesbian) female athletes.

– There are relatively few gay male pro athletes, outside of certain dance-like sports, most famously figure skating.

You can tell how few gay male athletes there are in most sports by looking at how few died of AIDS in the 1980s. Figure skating was decimated by AIDS: both Olympic Men’s Figure Skating gold medalists from the 1970s died of AIDS, but AIDS deaths in other sports were quite low: one NFL player, one major league baseball player, no golfers, etc.

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 3:44 pm

As I wrote in my 1994 National Review article “Why Lesbians Aren’t Gay:”

“Many heterosexual men and lesbian women are enthusiasts for golf, as well as other hit-a-ball-with-a-stick games like softball and pool. Lesbian-feminist sportswriter Mariah Burton Nelson recently estimated, not implausibly, that 30% of the Ladies Professional Golf Association women touring pros were lesbians. While such estimates are hard to verify, it’s clear that the marketers at the LPGA desperately wish they had more mothers-of-three like Nancy Lopez, the most popular woman golfer ever: i.e., a victorious yet still feminine champion with whom other heterosexual women enjoy identifying.

“In contrast, pre-menopausal straight women and gay men typically find golf pointless. For example, despite incessant socialization toward golf, only one out of nine wives of PGA touring pros plays golf herself! And gay male golf fanatics are so rare that it’s difficult to even come up with an exception that proves this rule (which might explain why golfers wear those god-awful pants).”

Ever since, I’ve been looking for an instance of a gay male celebrity who is an avid recreational golfer. The one example I’ve come up with is the multi-talented movie actor Danny Kaye, who was apparently bisexual (he was married and had a child but is rumored to have had a long affair with Sir Larry Olivier).

Now, golf is not a team sport. The most common reason golf pros give in interviews for why they focused on golf as boys is because “you didn’t need a bunch of other guys to play.” Golf accomodates a whole bunch of lesbians — the first major championship of the year on the LPGA tour, the Nabisco in Palm Springs is one of the biggest lesbian rendevous in the United States each year. But the urge to hit a ball with a stick is just not very strong at all in gay males.

If you want to learn more about the important differences between lesbians and gay men, here’s my 1994 article:

http://www.isteve.com/lesvsgay.htm

Jody February 8, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Or short version: if the post title had been “The Gay WNBA” no one would’ve batted an eye.

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Here’s an excerpt from a 2002 interview I did with Northwestern U. psychology professor J. Michael Bailey, the leading demographer of sexual orientation:

Q: What stereotypes [about homosexuals] have turned out to have some truth to them?

A: One big thing is occupational and recreational interests. In fact, hairdressers, professional dancers, actors and designers tend to be gay men, at least at much higher rates than their population rate, which is somewhere between 1 and 4 percent. And women who are in the armed services, or professional athletes (two of the three best all-time women’s tennis players are lesbian) [Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova], are disproportionately lesbian.

Children who are sex-atypical do tend to become homosexual. Especially males. Boys who want to be girls become men who want men. Most very masculine girls probably become heterosexual women, but their rate of homosexuality is probably still higher than would be expected given the population rate of female homosexuality, which is probably less than 1 percent. …

Recently, we have shown that on average, gay men and lesbians are very different on average from straight people in the way they walk and speak. There is such a thing, evidently, as a gay voice. And lesbians tend to look different than straight women — in particular, they have shorter hairstyles. …

Q: Is it useful to investigate homosexuality in general, or do you need to focus separately on gay men and lesbians, because they tend to be different?

A: Gay men and lesbians are very different. In part, this is because in many gender-related traits, they have diverged in opposite directions. Gay men tend to be feminine compared with heterosexual men; lesbians tend to be masculine compared with heterosexual women. But they aren’t even mirror images of each other. You can draw no conclusions about gay men from a study of lesbians, or vice versa.

http://www.isteve.com/2002_QA_J._Michael_Bailey.htm

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm

The sexual orientation distribution appears to be bimodal (or J-shaped) among males, with more homosexuals than bisexuals (and of course far more heterosexuals).

Among women, however, there are probably more bisexuals than homosexuals (and of course far more heterosexuals). In other words, it looks like a skewed but otherwise normal probability distribution.

The J-shaped curve among men is puzzling for scientists attempting to devise an evolutionary theory for the causes of male homosexuality because it implies some kind of “switch,” whereas the female curve simply looks like an accumulation of small changes — i.e., the more masculine a woman is, the more likely she is to be lesbian.

Phil February 8, 2007 at 5:13 pm

I have to say that I find Steve Sailer’s evidence quite persuasive — which leads to the explanation that there are fewer than average numbers of gay men in “big-4″ sports because gay men tend to have other interests.

In particular, the use of AIDS rates as a proxy for numbers of gay men is reasonable (and ingenious).

Of course, nobody has put forth opposing arguments yet.

Alec Scudder February 8, 2007 at 5:21 pm

I’m not sure that AIDS rates is a suitable proxy for numbers of gay men. It seems quite reasonable to me that highly-closeted gay men playing in major league sports would have an entirely different kind of sex life as compared to those who play sports where homosexuality is far more accepted.

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 5:27 pm

“The popularity of military service among gay men” is mostly a gay male fantasy. AIDS rates among male soldiers were far below the national average. Lesbianism is more common in the military than male homosexuality. Look, the military exists to kill people and break things, and the kind of teenage boys who find that that an appealing career tend to be overwhelmingly heterosexual.

Allison February 8, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Wow. This is probably the largest collection of homophobic comments from obviously well educated people I think I’ve ever seen.

First of all, there’s no correlation whatsoever between athleticism or aggression and heterosexuality. There is a correlation between common stereotypes of homosexuality and a lack of aggression or athleticism, but that’s hardly the same thing. I’ve never seen any scientific evidence that suggests that being homosexual makes you whimpy. Anymore than there is evidence that lesbians are stronger, larger, or more athletic than the general population of women or that there is a disproportionate number of lesbians in the population of female athletes.

I find number 1 somewhat amusing – but the experience I had with gay men in college is that they’re just as likely to do college sports to attract male attention as heterosexual college athletes are attempting to attract female attention (you’ll notice the audience watching these displays of prowess tend to have a good mix of both men and women, and often more men than women).

I think it’s safe to say that if there is not a directly proportional number of homosexuals within the population of professional sports, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t close. Several commenters suggested that the percentage of homosexuality among the general population is not as high as commonly believed – those people should consider the fact that they likely have co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances who are homosexual and they’re simply not aware of it. There’s no evidence that there are more homosexuals today than 50 years ago, but there are certainly more people known to be homosexual.

I think the thing that makes the most sense is that for all the above reasons – the myths about masculinity being more pervasive in the world of sports, the financial risk that comes from being in any way different from an established image, the supposed homophobia of sports fans in general – have lead a large number of professional athletes to keep their sexuality to themselves – as most of us do as a matter of course. I would not at all be surprised if it was well known within teams and within locker rooms who is more likely to go home with a man than a woman but out of respect for their teammates, other athletes just keep it to themselves. As it used to be in every profession before the sexual revolution.

But this idea that gays can’t throw footballs is sheer ignorance and absurd stereotype.

tyler h February 8, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Allison no one here has said that homosexuals can’t throw footballs. Steriotypes are often crude and wrong, but still have some truth to them, if only of the self selected variety(I.E. I’m gay and Im going to act the way I percieve other gay people to act). This i believe is the case here.

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 7:21 pm

I think this discussion says a lot about the weak state of intellectual discourse in the English-speaking world. Here is a subject where the Occam’s Razor solution for explaining the overwhelming preponderance of evidence: In brief, that most sports, with the exception of dance-sports like figure skating, appeal more to the masculine than to the feminine, and straight men are more masculine on average than gay men, just as lesbians are more masculine on average than gay women, so jocks are disproportionately straight men and lesbian women.

And, yet, even (or perhaps especially) among the highly intelligent who read this blog, the obvious answer to this question isn’t visible, even to a man of the world like Tyler, because political correctness preaches that everybody must be the same.

It’s really quite stunning how we have disarmed ourselves of the most obvious tools for understanding humanity.

Steve Sailer February 8, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Joan asks where I get my AIDS deaths by occupation.

Google, I’ve found, is a good resource for learning stuff. You should try it.

For example, here is a New York Times article that came up first for the Google query “Figure skaters aids deaths”

“FIGURE SKATING; AIDS Deaths Tear at Figure-Skating World”
By FILIP BONDY
Published: November 17, 1992

“In the last 12 months, three world- class Canadian figure skaters have died of AIDS. Another Canadian skater, Dennis Coi, a former junior world champion, died in 1987 of the same disease. John Curry of Britain, a former Olympic champion also suffering from AIDS, returned last month to his home in England to spend the remainder of his life. ”

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9E0CE0D91630F934A25752C1A964958260

Aaron Fix February 8, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Lots of good comments, but most people seem to have not spent much time in locker rooms recently. Of all the places where macho guys do their gay bashing, it is the most concentrated in the locker room. I’m not a particularly PC person, but it is almost sickening to hear at times, and is unlike any converstations you are likely to hear elsewhere in society. It would be (and I am using hyperbole here) like being Jewish in a room full of macho, loudmouthed nazis. Most people in that situation would probably not advertise their background.

Alec Scudder February 8, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Steve Sailer invokes Occam’s Razor. I suppose that the simplest explanation for why so many here disagree with Sailer is that he (Sailer) is wrong. So I don’t think Occam’s Razor is too useful as a debating point in this context.

There are, in fact, many gay men who are involved in sports, particularly as adults. The 2006 Outgames and Gay Games drew tens of thousands of participants. Perhaps this has something to do with wanting to keep in shape and remain sexually attractive (something a lot of straight men don’t care much about), or simply it is the opportunity to do something that feels naturally masculine but that we shied away from as kids. With all this talk of figure skaters and choreographers, it’s worth mentioning here that many gay men go out of their way to behave in typically masculine ways (compensation).

I do agree that gay men often don’t like playing team sports with straight men. It can be uncomfortable for everybody.

(Sebastian, you beat me to the punch. I was trying to explain that not all gay men have the same kind of sex.)

josh February 8, 2007 at 8:45 pm

I agree with blowhard. This has certainly been more interesting than anything the dopes I work with have said today. God bless the internet.

Tyler Welsh February 8, 2007 at 10:49 pm

For your information andrew I did play a team sport. I played high school football and I even had a homosexual on my team. How bout that! And high school is probably the hardest part of life a homosexual has to go through if he’s come out during high school. Sure all of us were a little skeptical at first when we showered and changed but that was just immaturity. It wasn’t like this guy was going to try to make a move on us. He was just like us except for his sexual orientation. And whoever said that gay guys are feminine is wrong. This dude was like a freight train when he had a full head of steam and could knock you over. He ended up being a good friend of mine and we still keep in touch.

Phil February 8, 2007 at 11:26 pm

>What’s the hardest thing about being a libertarian?
>Telling your parents that you’re gay.

I don’t get it.

Alec Scudder February 8, 2007 at 11:47 pm

>What’s the hardest thing about being a libertarian?
>Telling your parents that you’re gay.

I don’t get it either.

By the way, coming out as gay to my parents was easy. But I’m a closet libertarian. It would crush their hearts. (I’m serious.)

> the usual divides: self-consciously unPC loudmouth versus well-intentioned people who want to stick up for gays.

I think both sides of this debate are well-intentioned. It doesn’t matter who sticks up for whom; it’s a quest for truth.

Lee B February 9, 2007 at 12:30 am

Sailer’s stuff on AIDS caught my eye as interesting data. I’m glad you guys pointed out the possibility of differences in sexual conduct among the sports—that didn’t come to my mind immediately. That seems plausible and to at least leave the question open.

Still, we should admit there’s more than scientific curiosity at play here.

I didn’t mean to imply that anyone was ill-intentioned, only that the dividing lines of this discussion and its tone have had mainly to do with feelings (and not facts) about homosexuality.

Sailer’s stuff on gays is interesting. So too, for that matter, is some of what John Derbyshire has to say. Both have thought carefully about homosexuality. And yet… My sense is that they both throw facts around to be shocking and to lend some air of thoughtfulness to what is actually just a thoughtless, visceral dislike of homosexuality.

Derbyshire admits as much. He says that he, like most people, finds it disgusting, etc. I appreciate his honesty on the matter, and I still think he is a talented writer.

Sailer’s arguments above stand or fall on their own. I only indicate that I suspect he is not simply scientifically curious on the matter, and the matter-of-fact tone and expert-hat he is wearing in these comments are political ploy.

Here is an example of how carefully and intellectually honest Sailer is on the topic of, e.g., gay marriage:

“But if gay men become some of the most flamboyant participants in weddings, will more of the vast majority of straight men who aren’t metrosexuals just decide to skip the whole punishing process and stay single? If this drives up the illegitimacy rate, society as a whole will suffer.”
http://www.isteve.com/Decline_of_the_Metrosexual.htm

Phil February 9, 2007 at 12:55 am

>I’m glad you guys pointed out the possibility of differences in sexual conduct among the sports…

OK, so there’s two theories — the one above (#1), and the other (#2):

1. Gay men in artistic sports are more promiscuous than gay men in competitive team sports.
2. Gay men are more interested in artistic sports than competitive team sports;

#2 seems much more plausible to me than #1 — but that’s not my point. My point is, why is #2 considered “unPC” or less acceptable to those who “stick up for gays”?

I like to think of myself as someone deeply supportive of gay rights, but I don’t see why that can’t be compatible with a view that certain so-called “stereotypes” might have some statistical basis.

Lee B February 9, 2007 at 1:43 am

Neither theory is actually politically significant. I don’t know any gay person who would be irked to hear either. I was just pleased to hear a clever argument to counter #2, which is the usual thing you hear.

Sailer is a self-styled “unPC” guy, who commented that “even (or perhaps especially) among the highly intelligent who read this blog, the obvious answer to this question isn’t visible, even to a man of the world like Tyler, because political correctness preaches that everybody must be the same.”

That is why I labeled him “self-consciously unPC.”

All I meant by saying that there was a faction of well-intentioned people sticking up for gays, was that there was just that—as when, Allison commented “But this idea that gays can’t throw footballs is sheer ignorance and absurd stereotype.”

I’m actually agnostic on whether gay guys throw footballs as far as straight guys (on average), too.

Anyway, as Phil noted, this meta-talk is tiresome, and I’ll stop here. I would just encourage people to check out Steve Sailer’s website and see that he has written many interesting things, but is often just a crank with an axe to grind.

jb February 9, 2007 at 5:56 am

Answer is 1). Professional sportsmen are not representative of society. There are no British Asian players in the UK Premier league although there are increasing numbers of Asian Asian players.

dobeln February 9, 2007 at 6:59 am

“Homosexual behavior and orientation are independent.”

“but I strongly believe that if you took a random group of 1000 American men, you would find a surprisingly high percentage of them have had “male/male sexual contact† at some point in their lives, whether they’re gay or not”

Really don’t know what to say in response to stuff like this. Is there any point?

dobeln February 9, 2007 at 7:26 am

Now, leaving aside the claim that straight men are just as likely to have sex with other men as homosexual men (!), here are the actual US AIDS stats (cumulative cases), up to and including 2005:

Transmission category:
Male adult or adolescent:

Male-to-male sexual contact: 454,106
Injection drug use: 168,695
Male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use: 66,081
High-risk heterosexual contact: 61,914
Other: 13,967
Subtotal: 764,763

Source: CDC –
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/reports/2005report/pdf/2005SurveillanceReport.pdf

Now, unless athletes are especially careless with their doping needles, I think there is a fairly strong case for using AIDS rates as an orientation proxy – especially when the differences are so extremely striking.

I’m open to differences in sexual habits between sports (although the notion of prude NBA / NHL / NFL players seems a bit quaint, but who knows?), but we are talking fairly extreme differences here.

lj February 9, 2007 at 9:01 am

very interesting thread. i’ve often wondered why there are so few gay professional male athletes, as i had the same thought echoed by many here — relative to the percentage of the population that is thought to be bisexual or gay, why would the percentage be so much lower in this one area? many commenters have valid hypotheses, but some assume that the percentage is actually lower, not simply that many men in professional sports choose to lead a straight life and deny their true feelings. having said that, i (a woman) played three sports at a liberal arts college known for its large gay student population, and while many, many women on my teams and others were gay and out, or at the very least lugs, i can think of very few out gay men on any of the teams. this was a school where i would find it hard to believe a gay soccer or squash player would not feel comfortable coming out, so i do wonder if fewer gay/bisexual men continue to play competitive sports after a certain age.

on an aside, look at what does happen when a pro baseball player is rumored to be gay. mike piazza took out an ad, did he not, to deny his homosexuality? how could anyone feel comfortable being out in an environment where people will go to such great lengths to deny such a thing?

it’s accepted that many male actors are gay, but yet when you look at the most famous/popular male actors, very few are out. i’m guessing that professional athletes mirror this to some extent — there are many men who play sports who are gay, but when they get to the top echelon of their field, the gay men who make it are much less likely to come out, for reasons #2, #3, and #4. (though i’m by no means positing that the percentage of non-out gay male actors is the same as non-out gay male professional athletes, because i think there are WAY more of the former).

dobeln February 9, 2007 at 9:17 am

“As for the whole debate about whether gay men are as masculine on average as straight men, get a clue people. We aren’t, generally speaking–I have never in my life met a straight “twink”–and people who try to argue otherwise are really just talking out of fear that stereotyping of this sort will lead to gay bashing. I appreciate their concern, but let’s not deny reality. :-)”

Yea, and as for the stereotyping, is really the notion that gays are more likely to be fashion designers going to be terribly damaging to gays? Especially when the discussion moves beyond the sterotypes, as in “how many gay murderers are there compared to the general male population?” or “What is the gay contribution to the arts?” or “What is the average income of gays?” etc. My hunch is that the social profile of gays that emerges will be not poor at all. It would certainly be preferable to today’s situation, where society is either dominated by PC willful ignorance (public debate, etc.) or adolescent anti-gay prejudice (high school, etc).

rappoporr February 9, 2007 at 9:24 am

This is the second time I’ve seen Sailer get involved in a discussion on a very politically charged topic (the other being Malcom Gladwell’s car salesman discussion) and I’ve got to say I find it extremely enjoyable. Just like with Gladwell, there is a knee jerk reaction against Sailer because his ideas are “offensive”. When he cuts down the arguments against him, his attackers then resort to personal attacks and arguments like “my wife’s brother had a friend who was gay and he could throw a football, so there’s obviously no connection whatsoever between athletic ability and sexuality”.

I don’t know if Sailer is correct and quite frankly, I don’t really care all that much. Stepping back, I think the real issue between Sailer and his detractors is that Sailer looks at populations and says that “based on analysis of the data, group XX has a tendency to do/be/think XXXX”. This doesn’t mean that every member of group XXX will do/be/think the same, but only describes certain general characterisrics. This is the study of group dynamics. The detractors, who I think tend to be well-meaning and not wanting members of group XXXX to feel like they are being pigeonholed, do anything they can to discredit Sailer’s arguments and when they can’t do so rationally, they resort to name calling and their “faith” that everyone is equal and the same.

Bottom line, I think we need a better overall understanding of group characteristics but also realizing that one’s group is not necessarily one’s destiny.

TW Andrews February 9, 2007 at 9:57 am

But this idea that gays can’t throw footballs is sheer ignorance and absurd stereotype

It’s not a question of can or can’t, it’s whether or not they want to.

I think it’s pretty plausible that gay men, in addition to not having an attraction to women, also aren’t attracted to some of the things which heterosexual men tend to be attracted to–like sports and violence.

And I don’t find that thought to be homophobic in the least.

Sebastian Holsclaw February 9, 2007 at 11:46 am

The idea that gay men don’t have enough drive for the highest level sports (enough that they would be 4% of the population but 0% of athletes in team sports) is just silly. Now if you want to argue that they are self-selected/otherwise pushed from them such that they are somewhat less represented, fine. But the whole ‘not enough testosterone to make it’ idea is just silly. First you are basing the idea on the homosexuals that you as a straight man can recognize on your own. That would tend to be the less masculine ones, correct? Second, you think that because the non-testosterone issues don’t always come up.

Anecdote from the volleyball community. Uvaldo Acosta was an excellent outside hitter and in 1991 was voted as the best defensive player in the world. Late in 1991 his open secret came to the attention of the US Men’s Team coach. In early 1992, he was sidelined never to become a playing member of the Men’s national team again. This despite the fact that the Men’s team at the time wasn’t well known for having the defensive depth to sideline the world’s best defensive player–especially since Uvaldo’s back row hitting was better than Eric Sato’s (who was an excellent player, but not in Uvaldo’s league at all).

Ironically (from my point of view), Uvaldo was replaced in the outside hitter position by someone who has also turned out to be gay (though who obviously didn’t come out until after the end of his volleyball career).

There are gay men who have the drive to succeed at international level team sports. The idea that there are zero closeted gay sports figures is just silly.

Auto February 9, 2007 at 12:37 pm

I’m from a military family and have been around soldier and Marines my entire life. I grew up being told over and over that the more macho the unit, the more gay it was. But not openly gay — most small-town male teenagers who ended up serving as Rangers or paratroops were too clueless about their sexuality and tended not see homo-erotic stuff as in any way homosexual. (And maybe it wasn’t.)

But if you went to a gay club in Frankfurt, Germany, the troops you saw dancing with their shirts off and dry-humping one another weren’t the gay-friendly, more sensitive types who served in military intelligence. Nope, it was the paratroops.

So I’m disinclined to believe claims that gays aren’t aggressive enough for big-time macho sports.

M_David February 9, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Besides being useful (in all sorts of hard to predict ways), the truth is really, really interesting, while political correctness is skull-crushingly boring. That’s because every truth in the universe is connected somehow to every other truth, while each bit of politically correct cant is just a dead end that doesn’t lead anywhere.

Very true.

That’s what I hate most about PC – first, it’s just dull and make-believe, and second, it is a dead-end.

superdestroyer February 9, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Qcochran,

I agree that percentage married is a good indiicator of homosexuality.

If you look at the military, a higher percentage are married than the general popualtion of the same age. Yet, many of the posters keep claiming that there are a high number of homosexuals in the military. Most professional basketball and football players have been married (most more than once). Yet there are posters here who keep claiming that many of them are homosexual.

TGGP February 9, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Nobody on the “more gays than you think” side of the argument has provided any data, just anecdotes.

Marc February 9, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Blowhard: Marc’s contention that a guy might have sex with other guys his whole life yet really be a heterosexual is pretty funny. Somebody’s been immersing himself in a little too much “theory”!

The possibility exists. I only said that person who engages in homosexual activities could possibly be heterosexual. I don’t think I said that a heterosexual would actually engage in strictly homosexual acts for his in entire life, especially today. If I did say that, then I agree with you; that is pretty funny. But I did NOT say that, especially when heterosexuality is tolerated AND encouraged by society, today.

Today, in our society and culture, it would be extremely rare, possibly and believably to the point of nonexistence, that a heterosexual would engage solely in homosexual acts; very rare. But use your imagination: if there existed a society where homosexuality is the norm, where heterosexuals were the minority, then a heterosexually oriented person in that situation may choose to engage in only in homosexual behaviors.

BUT that situation definitely does not exist, at least where I’m from. Today, heterosexuality is the norm. It’s a million times more believable that a homosexual in today’s society would strictly behave heterosexually his entire life for obvious reasons. He could act more masculine than Superman, he could have 20 children by 20 different women, but still be a homosexual. THAT idea is much more plausible in today’s society because of social norms, among other reasons.

Regardless, my point is that one’s behavior does not give necessary or sufficient proof to know his orientation. One’s behavior may suggest his orientation, but ones behavior never proves his orientation. One’s orientation is factually known by oneself and no one else. One’s orientation is intuitively known by others. Intuitive knowledge is NOT factual knowledge. Others cannot factually know one’s orientation.

Marc February 9, 2007 at 2:39 pm

TGGP: No one on the “more gays than you think” side can provide data.

As argued previously, demographic stats based on sexual orientation are NOT worth doing. The only “semi-worthy” demographic stats would have to be based on previous sexual behaviors.

Conversely, no one on the “more straights than you think” side can provide data.

Is one necessarily straight when he has sex with a female? Or is he gay because every time he sees Brad Pitt or any other man he finds attractive he gets horny? Or is he gay because he cannot fall in love with women; only with other men? And how would one know and prove when he falls in love and who he falls in love with?

For the sake of the argument, unless this IS the argument, one must agree to what being gay or straight is: Is it behaviorally based or is it mentally based?

Right now, there is no correct, scientific, or generally accepted answer to that. That’s why we’re arguing.

Marc Z. February 9, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Yea, and as for the stereotyping, is really the notion that gays are more likely to be fashion designers going to be terribly damaging to gays? Especially when the discussion moves beyond the sterotypes, as in “how many gay murderers are there compared to the general male population?” or “What is the gay contribution to the arts?” or “What is the average income of gays?” etc. My hunch is that the social profile of gays that emerges will be not poor at all. It would certainly be preferable to today’s situation, where society is either dominated by PC willful ignorance (public debate, etc.) or adolescent anti-gay prejudice (high school, etc).

I think a major underlying fear in our society is that if we speak about any vulnerable minority group in anything but a very prescribed, p.c. way, we are re-opening the door to the horrors of the holocaust. It’s a pretty hysterical fear in most cases.

Still, in regard to gays, there is the possibility that frank discussion on the nature of homosexuality may lead, eventually, to a “cure” in the form of gene therapy or hormone regulation among expectant mothers, and thus the “genocide” of homosexuals–at least in those societies wealthy enough to afford the appropriate therapies.

leo February 9, 2007 at 4:33 pm

to generally side with Marc, and to reiterate a few things that have already been said:
The categories of gay and straight don’t make any sense. These categories are recent and local inventions, they don’t generalize out to any other time or place. I find that highly generalizable arguments are often very useful things to hold in my head, and I find that arguments that don’t generalize at all are just arguments within boxes.

Arguments about gayness and straightness are inside many layers of boxes. I find the most intellectually rewarding activities to be deconstructing boxes.

Sebastian Holsclaw February 9, 2007 at 5:13 pm

“I agree that percentage married is a good indiicator of homosexuality.

If you look at the military, a higher percentage are married than the general popualtion of the same age. Yet, many of the posters keep claiming that there are a high number of homosexuals in the military.”

Are you quite serious? Do you personally know anyone in the military? There are huge economic incentives to be married as opposed to single in the military. The housing allowances and perks alone are enough for many. They are so large that you hear of straight people getting marriages of convenience. Add the fact that being married can keep the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy at bay and you think that marriage is a good indicator of your idea that there aren’t many gay people in the military? Ridiculous. You people are WAY too theoretical and have far too little actual experience in the areas you are talking about. P.S. you might want to look at the divorce rate….

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: