Archive | July, 2010

‘Late-Blooming’ Lesbians and Incomplete Views of Fluid Sexuality

23 Jul

I read a hugely disturbing article [paywalled] in The Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago on ‘late-blooming’ lesbians. There’s a very similar article from the Sunday Telegraph that’s freely available here. Here’s a brief summary of the Times’s reporting of studies into women’s fluid sexuality:

Researchers have found that many women switch their preferences once they pass the age of 30 because of a biological “fluidity” in their sexual orientation that is much more common than in men.

The phenomenon, whose discovery has taken researchers by surprise, suggests lesbianism could be more widespread than previously thought. While many women could be future lesbians without knowing it, others may already have switched but be concealing their sexuality to keep their families together…

Most textbooks assume that, as with men, women’s sexual preferences are partly genetic and become fixed in the teens and early twenties, with relatively few changing sexuality later in life…

a series of studies have shown that in reality women’s sexual orientation may become more fluid as they grow older, with many developing lesbian or bisexual tendencies after the age of 30…

Researchers believe the phenomenon of fluid sexuality is far more common in women than men. “Women have a uniquely female potential for periodic shifts in sexuality over time,” said Christan Moran, a researcher at Southern Connecticut State University…

for many women, love and desire are not heterosexual or homosexual but fluid concepts, changing as women grow older, changing their social groups and relationships.

I’m certain a lot of people will view these findings not as evidence of women ‘developing lesbian tendencies’ in later life but of women who have always been lesbians finally feeling comfortable enough to express their desires publically.

What struck me most about the article though (and by extension the studies) was the way it repeatedly set up women’s fluidity in opposition to men’s stablility. It continually referred to how women’s sexuality is fluid in a way men’s isn’t. It almost felt like it was saying “yes some women will become lesbians in later life, but wives don’t worry, it won’t happen to your husband and don’t worry men either, it definitely won’t happen to you.”

As the article acknowledges, it is simply inconceivable that genetic makeup is the sole reason why some women express a variety of sexualities throughout their lives. Similarly, non-genetic factors play a huge role in some women’s repression of same-sex desires. As one of the researchers Christan Moran points out in the Sunday Telegraph’s article:

many women who develop lesbian feelings in later life refuse to “come out” for fear of society’s reaction…

To leave a heterosexual marriage in favour of lesbian identity is to abdicate enormous and undeniable privilege.

This is a perfectly acceptable position which could be drawn out to build a theory of how women come to express their sexuality or sexualities. One possible theory stemming from this could see women as having a genetic makeup which offers a certain range of sexual identities and a myriad of environmental conditions allow them to be aware of or feel comfortable expressing various positions within that range. This would take into account the environmental as well as the genetic in the forming of sexuality and presumes neither a predetermined outcome nor a sexuality completely free of genetic influence. The problem is that it’s apparently unthinkable to these researchers that this theory, or anything similar, could be applied to men.

Moran and others take it for granted that it’s men’s genes which are responsible for their apparently stable sexuality. If though we are to accept that women’s sexuality is unstable, it must be problematic to see men as necessarily of a single, stable and essential sexuality. It’s strange and hypocritical to hold the position that genes don’t determine everything in the case of women’s sexuality and simultaneously to assume that genes are the only factor in men’s sexuality.

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The Underperforming Lib-Dems and Implications for the AV Campaign

21 Jul

Over my month away from blogging I’ve absolutely lost the sense that the Lib-Dems are making the best possible use of their prominent position in government. Indeed, they don’t really seem to be softening the impact of the Tories’ plans either. After the heights of Nick Clegg’s speech on reform of the electoral system and Parliament’s Upper House, the Lib-Dems appear to have lost their voice at the heart of government. Opinion polls are beginning to reflect this. According to a YouGov poll published yesterday, only 40% of Lib-Dem voters at the General Election approve of the coalition’s performance compared to 36% who disapprove. Similarly, only 46% of Lib-Dem voters at the General Election would vote for them in another General Election today.

It isn’t a huge leap to suggest that a drop in support for the Lib-Dems could lead to defeat for the ‘Yes’ campaign in the referendum on the Alternative Vote. In another YouGov poll published yesterday, AV’s lead over FPTP was down from 13% a fortnight ago to just a single percent. As much as supporters of the ‘Yes’ campaign will try to avoid this, the referendum could all too easily end up being a poll of the public’s view of the Lib-Dems.

As the main parliamentary advocates of electoral reform, the Lib-Dems have a huge responsibility to keep a strong, distinctive and successful role within the government. It’s important that they show that coalition government – slightly more likely under AV – works. Equally important though is that they ensure that they, as the party which will be campaigning hardest for AV, keep to the principles that their supporters voted for at the last General Election. It will be nigh-on impossible for AV to be passed without Lib-Dem voters voting in favour of it. Unfortunately, the Lib-Dems seem to be forgoing the principles upon which they were elected which has of course been reflected in their poll numbers.

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