Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

The Danger of The Sexuality Spectrum

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I read an article a couple weeks ago (I’d link to it here, but I forgot to bookmark it and I honestly can’t remember where I read it) where the author used the gay marriage in New York news story as an introduction to their feelings about how all sexuality is on a spectrum. Basically, there are two ends — 100% straight and 100% gay — and most of us fall somewhere in between.

I have to say, out of all the theories I’ve heard trying to explain why we’re attracted to who we’re attracted to, this makes the most sense to me. While some argue that you’re born with your sexual orientation and others remain steadfast by the idea that it’s a conscious choice, the logical conclusion seems to be that the box you decide to check on the sexuality SAT’s comes from a combination of nature and nurture.

But, if we admit that your placement on the orientation spectrum is dependent on myriad factors — a theory more and more people seem to believe — don’t you also have to accept the validity of more “dangerous” theories such as the belief that a person can choose to become “ungay” or even that prayer can influence sexual attraction?

I mean, a person who’s born, I don’t know, 90% gay or 90% straight (according to the orientation scale) probably isn’t going to be swayed by an experience or some really creative Bible study classes. But, if someone’s born in that 30 to 70 range, it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that people such as Dr. Marcus Bachmann (husband the horsemaiden of the Apocalypse, Michelle Bachmann) and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (a psychologist with a really shitty website who believes that therapy is an effective solution for modifying sexual orientation) might be (partially) right.

Maybe there’s truth to the idea that, for some people, the environment they grew up in can definitely help decide their orientation, and maybe there are people who can genuinely be convinced not to be gay (or straight).

Now, I understand the danger of accepting this as truth. It would give fuel to each and every anti-gay doctor, pundit, politician, and person who believes that gayness is curable, and if some gayness can be “cured,” all gayness can be cured. But, what might be even more dangerous is us — the “enlightened and educated” populous — being just as intellectually lazy by completely dismissing the fact that some of us were (and still are) an experience or even a discussion away from being gay (or ungay).

Anyway, people of VSB, I’m curious: In regards to our sexual orientations, do you believe in the spectrum (the theory that our orientation is a combination of nature and nurture and that we all fall somewhere inbetween 100% gay and 100% straight), nature (we’re born the way we are), or nurture (a combination of experiences and conscious choices decide our sexual paths)?

For those who believe in the spectrum, do you also think that a person’s orientation can be changed? If not, why not?

Lastly, do you believe that women’s sexuality is naturally more “fluid” or that both genders are equally fluid but we’ve just been socialized to believe that women have more inherent sexually flexibility?

—The Champ

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • Fivegirl

    I’ve always agreed with the spectrum but it’s never occurred to me that just because you’re at a certain point in said spectrum you can shift. To me, being at “40%” or “60%” makes you bisexual, not easily swayed. I have a line sister who says she’s bi, but she seems to be most into girls, so I’d say shes “70%” gay, and there’s just a small part of her that is attracted to men and the possibility of being with one. I think of the spectrum as how much of you is gay or straight, rather than how gay you are compared to other people if that makes sense

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Mailuv7 Mailuv7

    I agree that we all fall somewhere on the spectrum. I don’t think anyone is 100% anything. I also definitely think that if you do something enough you’ll probably start to enjoy it, or else you wouldn’t persist in doing it. If one chooses to be gay, then there must be people who choose to be straight. I don’t think anyone really wants to unpack what that could possibly mean for themselves.

    Read a funny sign: Hate gays? Well blame the straight people who keep making them!

  • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

    I believe the spectrum has some validity. I don’t believe you can ‘cure’ anything though. It’s flawed thinking because there are more areas of sexuality than simply ‘gay’ or ‘straight’.

  • Andi

    “In regards to our s3xual orientations, do you believe in the spectrum (the theory that our orientation is a combination of nature and nurture), nature (we’re born the way we are), or nurture (a combination of experiences and conscious choices decide our s3xual paths)?”

    All of the above.

    Regarding the spectrum, I actually think that this applies more to women. Female s3xtualiy is more fluid. At least, I’ve never heard of any man being a little bit gay.

    I don’t think gayness can be “cured”. You may choose to repress those feelings, perhaps with some success, but they’ll never go away.

  • http://fatgrlatheart.com fatgrlatheart

    nature. not nurture.

    and if someone changes their mind, it just means they weren’t 100% sure about which they preferred or are just bi-sexual, but i dont think someone or something can influence the gay out of you (or into you). it’s who you are. if it was environment-driven, what on earth would make you gayer?? other gay people? then we wouldnt expect to see gay people in “non-gay” environments (i.e. a young black boy growing up in any city that has a street named after MLK surrounded by a significant number of homophobic men).

    p.s. yay for new york legalizing same-sex marriage. #progress

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

    Anyway, people of VSB, I’m curious: In regards to our sexual orientations, do you believe in the spectrum (the theory that our orientation is a combination of nature and nurture), nature (we’re born the way we are), or nurture (a combination of experiences and conscious choices decide our sexual paths)?

    I believe that most homosexuality is nature, meaning that is just who someone was meant to be. For that reason, I don’t believe in the spectrum theory; either you’re gay or you’re not. Now, where would that leave bi-sexuals? I don’t know. Is that where those that aren’t gay by “nature” fall? I’m sure even some bi-sexuals would say that it is still not a choice that they are attracted to both men and women.

    I do think that children can be influenced by their environment but if your little boy likes boys I don’t think there is much you can do to change that without causing serious emotional and psychological damage to the child. Can you imagine everyone around you telling you that everything you think and feel is wrong and you need to be “fixed” and/or prayed over because of it?

    I think that as long as people believe that most homosexuals are so by choice, they will always be seen as “abnormal” or “deviants” and not as regular as everyone else.

  • ChrisChris

    I agree with Fivegirl. There is a theory that says most people sit between straight and gay which means most of human population is technically bi (I know most ppl think that is a dirty word) or have the ability to be with men and women. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Where is the rule that says if you are a woman you can only be into men emotionally, physically and romantically. I understand the reproduction argument but that is only s’e’x it does not take into account love and the other types of attractions people experience.

    I consider myself to be ‘bi'( I came out about 13-15) but on the kinsey scale I am more like a 5.5. Which means my predominant attraction is to women but ever so rarely I could be attracted to a man too. I think the more people let go of having to be gay or straight the better it will be. I think. But also if a person is 90% percent straight there is that 10 percent that is gay which means ‘bi’ just on an attraction level. Anyway I think it is really easy for people to pick on gay/bi people who are open with being attracted to their ‘own’ but I have heard plenty of straight people in real life and internet say they have been occasionally into the same s’e’x or have had an experience. But as long as they present a heterosexual face to the world no one cares. But if you date mostly your own people are up in arms.

    There was a study(cant find it) that stated the people that identify as queer were the minority amongst same s’e’x attracted people. But the majority were people attracted to the same s’e’x and didnt label it or people who have s’e’x with the same s’e’x. But i do believe in the sexuality spectrum. I can go on and on about this

  • http://twitter.com/kjnetic peter parker

    “Anyway, people of VSB, I’m curious: In regards to our sexual orientations, do you believe in the spectrum (the theory that our orientation is a combination of nature and nurture and that we all fall somewhere inbetween 100% gay and 100% straight), nature (we’re born the way we are), or nurture (a combination of experiences and conscious choices decide our sexual paths)?”

    i don’t know if homosexuality can be ‘cured’…but i personally believe that no matter what folks are into, or like…they exercise the final choice in order to indulge themselves in that interest/love/sexuality.

  • 90sgagirl

    gets popcorn for interesting convo about to start…….

    What is and what isn’t gay is a kinda double standard
    As a straight female if a guy told me back in the day he use to kiss/mess around with guys bc he was “experimenting” but now years later he is straight = Major side eye 0-) and in my Riley Freeman voice I’m sayin Ninja You (still) Gay!

    but there’s a kinda double standard bc if a girl told a guy back in the day she use to kiss/mess around with females but now years later she’s straight = most guys would see that as a plus (she a freak) and have no prob

    I have heard about this pray away the gaY movement…and to some extent I think some people have always been that way since they were little & there is no changing that…and others it’s just some random like WHEN THE Hell did so in so decide she wanted to be gay (trend?) or environment…turned out etc….or how do you drastically go from last year being straight and then the next year saying you’re gay/lesbian?

  • LA Red

    I think it depends on the person. My brother was gay and was brought up in a very masculine tradition. I think for some it’s nature, you can see it even when they’re young. For others it’s a choice. Tri-sexual….willing to try anything. Like Diddy.

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