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August 03, 2006


Andrew Sullivan has been going after Kaus this week for suggesting that gay men are inherently more promiscuous than straight men. Silly as that may be, Kaus really lowers the boom on Sully here:

When I was at the New Republic one of Sullivan's big editorial stunts was publishing and praising a long excerpt from The Bell Curve, which flirted with (but conspicuously couldn't support) the notion that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites. But hey, that's different! You can suggest that blacks are inherently dumb. Just don't suggest that gays are inherently promiscuous.

Point: Kaus.

August 3, 2006 | Permalink


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Except that Kaus is probably wrong. Gay men are promiscuous, but probably no more so than straight men would be if women were as promiscuous as men inherently are. I suspect what makes gay men actively promiscuous as opposed to the latent promiscuity of straight men is merely opportunity. And yes, there are straight men who will proclaim that they are not promiscuous, but there are gay men who are not as well. The exceptions don't disprove the rule.

Posted by: mrgumby2u | Aug 3, 2006 1:58:24 PM

That, in the parlance of internet speak, is a pwn3ing.

Posted by: Mike P | Aug 3, 2006 2:03:37 PM

another gay ma chimes in:

a) Sullivan, given his past, is the wrong man to speak on this issue. Not just with the Bell Curve, but with other issues. The thing is I agree with him about the value of creating stablizing institutions in the gay community like marriage, but he's not the proper messenger.

b) promiscuity is a complicated question. Opportunity is a factor. Most of the straight guys I know are horndogs, but the dynamics of society prevent them from acting on it. There are many other factors too that are social based reasons. Most gay men come out in their 20s or 30s so there is that initial thing that straight boys go through. Some of its generational. Sex was seen my older types as a form of liberation- whereas those of my generation don't define our lives by our sexuality as much. We see gay as who we want to end up with- not what we need to do to prove that we are different as a blow against society. It's pretty complicated because even if gay is biological there are a lot social impacts on what gay men do.

One of the reason that someone like me, a gay moderate, argues for institutions like civil unions (or marriage) is that I believe that these structures help stabilize heterosexual lives. It, of course, isn't the only thing, but these are factors. When someone like Kaus talks about it, I think he thinks only about the sex. This is, of course, how society already thinks of us. Which brings up another element- people playing out what they are being told they are. Gay men are told that they are nothing but about sex, not relationships so this is acted out. Most straight guys are told they must eventually get married so they don't. In this sense, the institutions matter a lot.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 2:35:08 PM

ps: my comparison to a gay guy coming out and a straight teenager is one of acting on ones sexuality. most straights act on their sexuality when they are in their teens- they have their firs kiss, they meet their first girlfriend, etc. Imagine spending 10 years or so in which this is repressed, and you not allow to talk to girls, or to think of them that way. Imagine where the very thing you are is treated as bad. Then imagine having the courage to finally come out and act on your feelings. Wouldn't you go a little wild too? To put another way think of gay men like Catholic girls attending a Catholic school who finally gets her first taste of freedom to be whatever it is that she is. I know in politics these sorts of complexities are ignored- but if you are going to talk about them I think its good to know their depths.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 2:39:26 PM

I don't think "you're also a bigot" really counts as pwn3rsh1p.

Posted by: DivGuy | Aug 3, 2006 2:46:56 PM

My thoughts on this are along the same lines as akaison's with perhaps a slightly different spin.

I suspect that at least a portion of why gay culture is more promiscuous is that the very challenges of being gay and overcoming society's displeasure at that make the social pressure to be less promiscuous trivial in comparison.

It would be very interesting to see what happened to 'gay culture' in a less stigmatized environment. My guess is that it would be pretty similar to straight culture.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Aug 3, 2006 2:49:08 PM

I didn't realize promiscuity went on a rating scale where opportunity is a mitigating factor. I thought it was just "who has sex with more partners?" In which case I bet the only way gay men come out even in the ballpark of straight men is if you count gay men who aren't out yet. So yes, gay men are almost certainly more promiscuous.

But a better question might be: Who cares? If I had a stable of girls who couldn't get pregnant and were just as horny as me, damn, I could have done some damage in my perpetually single early 20s.

Posted by: spike | Aug 3, 2006 2:50:42 PM

As far as tu quoqoue goes, that's a pretty good one...

Posted by: Pooh | Aug 3, 2006 2:58:48 PM

Spike, that's the point. Gay men may have more sex, but it has nothing to do with gay men desiring sex more or ignoring cultural taboos more. It has to do with them having more available partners who are as horny as them.

Of course, this all feeds into the narrative of "men are horn-dogs, women aren't" which may be true in very broad statistical terms, it definitely is not true in specifics (just ask Amanda). I imagine comparing the promiscuity of gay men and straight men in say, the world of drama, would lead to much less difference.

Posted by: Tony v | Aug 3, 2006 3:03:50 PM


I agree with one part of what you say- that these are generalities. I have a straight male friend who I consider trampy (he doesn't like me calling him this) because he sleeps around A LOT. He considers me on the other hand kind of weird for a gay guy in that I don't sleep around at all. It's weird for him b/c of the generality about the social stereotype of what gay men are suppose to be.

Some of these social stereotypes happened because we wanted any image that the dominant society would give us to get out there. But, now its just become total stereotypes- ie, the whole shock over Brokeback Mountain for example. I was left wondering did peo think we were all drag queens? Didn't they realize the diversity of the gay community?

What I think these things are about (at least for me) is that I want to see us have the ability to reach social parity with straight people. That we can have the same institutions and it wont be considered odd. I know couples- gay ones- that have been together 7, 10 and 30 years, who are totally monogamous. They only thing that separates them from straight couples is that the state punishes them for being gay by forcing them to pay higher taxes, denies them the ability to enforce contracts between them and other things that are respected even in non marriage situations.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 3:20:54 PM

Kaus is a TNR alumnus?!?! Christ, the rag is even more of a total piece of shit than I imagined.

Posted by: sglover | Aug 3, 2006 3:23:27 PM

Kaus may well be wrong on the larger point, but he's right about Sullivan's selective commitment to equality, and (in a broader sense) about Sullivan's weird blind spots in general. When he's wrong, Sullivan is so stupidly and aggressively wrong that it undermines everything he says even when he's completely right.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Aug 3, 2006 3:26:01 PM


Did you notice Andrew Sullivan's line, "I'm always surprised when people describe Hollywood as 'liberal'"?

Did you then google "liberal Hollywood site:andrewsullivan.com"?


Posted by: Ted Barlow | Aug 3, 2006 3:47:37 PM

...gay men are inherently more promiscuous than straight men.


Do schizophrenics dream more than normal people?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 3, 2006 4:10:16 PM

Kaus versus Sullivan. Man, that's like cancer versus polio. Who to root for? I'm reminded of Oscar Wilde's description of fox hunting: "The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible."

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb | Aug 3, 2006 4:16:20 PM

I guess the key word is "inherently". In practice, of course gay men are more promiscuous. I've seen things in gay clubs (particularly in the bathrooms) that I will never see in a straight club, that's for sure.

But ok, I would disagree with the idea that gay men are inherently more promiscuous. I don't even know how you would go about proving that.

Posted by: spike | Aug 3, 2006 4:17:57 PM

My loathing of Kaus knows no bounds, but I'll concede that he nailed this one. Good show, Mickey.

Posted by: Rob | Aug 3, 2006 4:34:19 PM


I have to differ with you- what you find in a club doesnt mean more promicious. No more than the straight fraternity activities at my undergrad reps what is the norm life of straight people. this brings up another element- the element of the visible gay community versus the vast majority which is invisible to y ou. right now i live in nyc, and people want to think that chelsea is the gay community, and yet, the gay community is spread out through city, in the worsea nd best neighborhoods live very different lives. I would argue the majority of them are invisible to you.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 4:34:35 PM


this makes me reconsider a point I said earlier- the whole promiscious argument is kind of bogus when I think about it in terms of the fact that I have come to realize there is this vast invisible gay community out there that isn't in the clubs or bars or that doesn't show up in the parades. So when people are saying more- they are really saying- the part that they can see which are in clubs and bars or other venues that are public. Even if that is 3 in 10, that leaves 7 that you never see.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 4:37:52 PM

I almost forgot my Kaus-bashing point, which is that

(a) his delightful anti-Sully zinger is about, what, twelve years late? Did it just now occur to Kaus that the Bell Curve stunt showed bad judgement?

(b) all of this is in _defense_ of Ann Coulter's "Dems Is Faggots" 2006 attention grab.

(c) Kaus has proposed that promoting "The Bell Curve" is worthy of criticism, since it suggests that blacks are inherently dumb. But Ann Coulter has repeatedly defended "The Bell Curve", most recently in her new book. So shouldn't Mickey spare a word of criticism for her?

Point: Fuck Mickey Kaus.

Posted by: Ted Barlow | Aug 3, 2006 4:52:27 PM

Point taken, especially given that Kaus himself weenied out on The Bell Curve when it mattered ("As a lay reader of 'The Bell Curve,' I am unable to judge fairly"). And Sully (of late) shows more moments of lucidity by far than Kaus (who in turn is a visionary compared to Coulter). Still...ah, what the hell--fuck them all.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Aug 3, 2006 5:17:02 PM

No offense akaison, but I really think you're stretching the bounds of credulity when you assert that gay men are not more promiscuous than straight men in practice. I'm trying to find online data to the effect.

The first study I found was obviously not terribly scientific by the Portland Mercury and found this for average partners:

Straight gals = 29
Straight guys = 24
Lesbians = 25
Gay guys = (brace yourself) 127
Bisexual gals = 21
Bisexual guys = 26
Overall Average = 31 partners


Here's another study from NOW Toronto:

"Just because we like sex, that doesn't make us promiscuous. The large ­majority of us have had less than 20 partners, with 5 to 10 being the most common. Except for the gay boys. Two-thirds of them are over the 20-partner mark, while 38 per cent have lost count."


Those are just what I've found in 5 minutes. Of course there are monogamous gay men and monogamous straight men, but on average gay men sleep with many more partners than straight men. I'm not judging that, but to deny it is kind of crazy.

Posted by: spike | Aug 3, 2006 5:24:25 PM

I haven't read every post in the argument, but I think Sullivan's point is, in fact, about opportunity. Gay men aren't more promiscuous than straight men, but gay relationships are more promiscuous because they contain "twice the testosterone."

But Ted Barlow nails it. Mickey Kaus would have us believe that Coulter's crimes are merely offering controversial opinions. He ignores the fact that all she has is venom, and that all she ever presents is invective, not argument.

I don't think it's disqualifying for someone to ask whether gay men are promiscuous. But that's not all Coulter does. She suggested Clinton might be gay, for example.

Posted by: moriarty | Aug 3, 2006 5:50:39 PM


a) there is zero chance you (or anyone) would know that since most of the gay community isn't visible to you. There is no poll that you can cite to prove me wrong on what is just a reality: How can you count people who don't want to be counted? The closet isn't just a one time thing, it can be for the purpose of polls, or just coming out to friends, etc. It makes counting extremely difficult to do. So cite as many polls as you want- and I will go with the reality that I as a gay man know: That most polls have no way of counting us fully. Hell, they even still say dumb shit like gays ae wealthier than straights when being a person of color, and seeing more than just the gays who appear at HRC benefits, I know this is factually not true. But, I guess that 'stretches' credibility too.

b) What straight folks believe to be 'credible' about gay folks- well let's just say I could fit into a very small cup next to the gallons we are forced to know about straights. ie, your assertation that visiting some clubs somehow makes you able to say with certain what is the norm is just b/s much like it would be as I said if I went to a strip club with straight guys thinking that rep'ed all straight men. Visiting some gay bars (no matter how skanky) gives you no idea what exists how side of those clubs. Whereas my actually, oh, I don't know, live as a gay guy who bored of that part of the gay community a long time ago, had to actually find and realize there is this vast community outside of that reality. I read a stat somewhere- not hat I believe it, because its hard to know- but for what its worth- I read that the gay bars and clubs rep 10 percent of the gay community. If that is case- I want to know how you can generalize from 10 percent what is the case for all?

In short, I don't find your ignorance a convincing argument over things that I have actually experienced.

c) How would you know how many people straight people sleep with peop outside of their marriage? In the latest surveys 80 percent of men polled who were straight said that they had at some point cheated on their wives? A similar high number of women. What I find with straights is alot of dishonesty about sex in general compared to gays. Whereas gays will tend to lie about their orientation to go under the radar screen, straights will lie about sex and whether they are monogamous. So, how exactly are straights more monogamous again?

d) Crazy is thinking you understand something just because you seen something in one setting without realizing there is a larger community. I return to the strip club and hookers. At work, my co-workers (who aren't unique since I have heard it al ot) regularly talk about their adventures as straight young males. If your point is that no one will screw you b/c women say no more- thats not exactly the same thing as saying well I am less promiscious. In my book if you are going to a strip club and touching sticking money into someone's G string or if it is particular skanky, groping her tits as one guy told me about, I don't consider you to be non promiscious just because yuo don't get to have sex like you want to.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 6:03:12 PM

sullivans argument isn't about prosmicuity at all. He's making the point that the reason why straights are less so isn't because of any inclination related to sexual orientation- it's because social structures are in place like marriage which reduce the likelihoods. its not mere opportunity, but what prevents them.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 3, 2006 6:09:12 PM

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