Genetics, same-sexing and the macho appeal of risk-taking
Is male bisexuality related to a taste for risk-taking?
A recent genetic study suggests that it may be, in part. Using the UK’s Biobank DNA database of half a million people, a research team published a paper which claimed genes that are implicated in bisexual behaviour in men may be intertwined with a propensity for taking risks.
Moreover, the researchers found, for the first time, that although they share some genetic variants, exclusive same-sexing and bisexing are genetically distinct from each other.
You may remember the worldwide headlines about the “discovery” of “the gay gene” in the early 1990s. This highly dubious research was seized upon as ‘proof’ that homosexuality is ‘not a choice’ and supporting instead a kind of ‘inborn’ gay creationism popular with many US gays keen to escape divine judgement – or as ‘gay icon’ Lady Gaga put it in her 2011 Madge-flavoured contribution to sexual science, ‘Born This Way’:
‘Ooh, there ain’t no other way, baby, I was born this way’.
However, as was obvious at the time, there is and can be no gay gene. Sorry, but God didn’t make you gay. Though as a large 2019 study, also using the Biobank data concluded, He might have given you a cluster of alleles that show a statistical relationship to same sexing, in a minority of cases. The interactions of which are extremely complex and will probably never be understood. Which butters no gay creationist parsnips.
Like the earlier study, this latest one found that for men in the Biobank who had an exclusively same-sex or bi-sex history, their genes might explain only about 23% of that behaviour: “Environment plays a bigger role than genetics in determining these kinds of traits”. Nurture not Nature is decisive, in other words. Predisposition is not destiny.
Which makes sense from an anthropological point of view. Just as humans are the most adaptable and thus most successful creatures on the planet, their sexuality is by far the most ‘perverse’ of all God’s creatures. As Freud argued, its tendency to be directed where He/Nature didn’t intend is the basis of culture, art, and the curiosity behind scientific enquiry: “Where do babies come from, mummy?”
Hence ‘bicuriousness’ is a kind of thirst for knowledge. Or so I like to tell my ‘students’.
The key finding of this study, that bisexually active men tend to be greater ‘risk-takers’ – including compared to exclusive same sexers – has been controversial, for obvious reasons. But not to me, an exclusive same sexer who has, thanks to the Interweb, met a lot of bisexually active men. And interviewed them with my penis.
In addition to scads of military guys, I have also met way more boxers and cage fighters than I should have done according to their statistical distribution in the population. And roofers. Some of the roofers were also boxers.
Yes, this is largely a function of my own tastes and weaknesses – and also of class. But most of them found me rather than t’other way around. Many of them first-timers. And I don’t have what you would call a starter penis.
My impression is that, regardless of their occupation, many of the bisexual or bi-curious guys I’ve met are highly and methodically sexually adventurous – they often have a ‘bucket list’ of sexual kinks and fantasies they are working through, with guy-on-guy action being just one (or three) of the entries. And allowing yourself to be penetrated by another man is maybe as adventurous as you can get – if you are not gay. Particularly if your friends, colleagues, and spouse found out about it.
As the wise young woman who managed the sex shop outside the 82nd Airborne base in Fayetteville, North Carolina said to me about the paratroopers involved in the globally reported 2006 gay porn scandal, explaining why an otherwise heterosexual chap with a wife and kids might take the risk of doing gay porn, when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still in force: “They jump out of planes, for God sakes!”
Maybe the ‘risk taking’ men are just the ones who do anything about their bicuriousness. My hunch is there are more men out there who have thought about trying ‘cock fun’, but have never had the opportunity, or the balls – or just want to keep it a fantasy. Some of the bi-curious guys I have spoken to online have spent years wanting to try, but never quite plucking up the courage. And the longer they go thinking/wanking about it without doing anything about it, the more difficult it gets for them to try.
No matter how many times you assure them you are ‘totally discrete’.
Likewise, admitting to a sexual history that involves men as well as women may have been part of the ‘risk-taking’ for the men in this study (which didn’t ask people about their identity but their sexual partners). Most in the UK’s Biobank data are over 50 years old and, as has been pointed out by critics of the study, will have grown up when same sexing, particularly of the male variety, was much more stigmatised, and in fact criminalised. Hence it seems possible that the ‘risk-taking’ aspect of ‘bisexual’ men in the study might be self-selecting – or doubly so.
But attitudes have changed lately, quite dramatically, at least for the younger generation. A recent survey of Generation Z by the non-woke US-based Public Religion Research Institute found, in line with others, that nearly a third (28%) of Generation Z (1997-2012) said they were something other than heterosexual – that is, ‘bisexual’, ‘gay or lesbian’, or ‘something else’. (Unlike the Biobank study it asked for identification not sexual history.)
‘Bisexual’ at 15% was ‘bi’ far the largest non-heterosexual response. Three times that of ‘gay or lesbian’ at 5% – which is the same percentage it was for Millennials (1981-1996). For three generations, ‘bisexual’ was a tiny, almost non-existent sliver of a sexuality, smaller even than ‘gay or lesbian’, at just 1-2% – until Millennials when it jumps to 7%, overhauling ‘gay or lesbian’. I have a hunch that this generation of Americans has no great need for a ‘gay gene’.
Regardless of how many of those 15% of Gen Z’s are ‘actually’ bisexual – i.e., behaviourally rather than aspirationally – or what the percentages are for males and females separately (other surveys suggest women are much more likely to identify as bisexual than men), it seems fair to assume that the ‘risk-taking’ aspect of male bisexuality is declining rapidly.
I know it’s terribly selfish of me, but I hope that isn’t bad news for my sex life.