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One Last Thought on Conversion and Sexual Orientation:
If I understand Eugene's response, his argument boils down to the belief that people will try to convert others to do whatever they themselves really enjoy doing. For example, if I get a great deal of pleasure from golf, then I will encourage others to try it. If I meet someone who mentions that he is thinking of picking up golf, then I will try to "convert" him to be a golfer. (It's human psychology, the argument would run: if golfing makes me happy, then why wouldn't I attempt to get others to try it?)

  If my understanding of Eugene's argument is right, then whether gays and lesbians are trying to convert others seems like a somewhat odd question to consider. If the claim is true, then at most it's just a recognition that gays and lesbians enjoy same-sex conduct and are human beings. They're trying to convert people just like golfers are trying to convert people, bloggers are trying to convert people, and Harry Potter fans are trying to convert people. This may be what Eugene had in mind, but it seems like a signifcantly narrower claim than what I understood from his initial post.
Goober (mail):
Thanks, Prof. Kerr. I would only rejoin: Because golf is borrr-ing!
8.23.2005 1:54am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Frankly, I think the whole discussion started off on the wrong foot because both gays and Prof. Volokh misunderstood what people mean by "convert" when they claim that gays try to convert straights. Although there are gays who engage in a sort of impartial "gay promotion", that isn't the point.

Rather the word "convert" is used when "seduce" would be more appropriate (probably because the word "seduce" is too tightly bound up with heterosexual associations). The claim is that gay men try to seduce straight men and minors.

This claim is clearly true. It would be ridiculous to suggest that gay men are the only men in the world who don't try to seduce the objects of their lust, and there is volumnous gay porn out there to prove that straight men and minors are the objects of lust for many gay men.

The only thing that is reasonably in dispute about this fact is the extent of these incidents. At one end you would have people claiming that gay attempts to seduce straights constitute a tiny fraction of all gay sexual behavior. At the other end of the spectrum you have people claiming that this behavior accounts for the first homosexual experience of most/all homosexuals because gays are made, not born.

The question should be amenable to scientific research but it seems clear to me that gays are hell-bent to make sure this research never happens (or at least that it never comes up with any results they don't like). When anyone suggests that homosexuality is just a learned form of empty sexual gratification, the PC crowd will viciously pounce on them with all the power of the political correctness machine, calling them Nazis and suggesting that even asking the question creates the danger of a homosexual holocaust.

This tactic is clearly an attempt to deligimitize the question without ever answering it. And why would gays want to do that if they are so sure that the answer is what they say it is? Gays are the ones who would have the best idea of what the true answer is and their behavior suggest to me that the answer is one that they don't want people to know.
8.23.2005 4:23am
Richard Bennett (www):
It seems to me that if was a legal blog and I wanted to talk about gay stuff today, I'd be writing about the California Supreme Court's rulings on parental rights and responsibilities for lesbians.
8.23.2005 7:02am
Cornellian (mail):
>The claim is that gay men try to seduce straight men and >minors.
>This claim is clearly true. It would be ridiculous to >suggest that gay men are the only men in the world who >don't try to seduce the objects of their lust, and there is >volumnous gay porn out there to prove that straight men and >minors are the objects of lust for many gay men.

Given Doc's stated enthusiasm for empirical research, I can't help but wonder how he came to the conclusion that:

1. that there is "voluminous" gay porn out there involving at least nominally straight men. As a percentage of all gay porn, I highly doubt it.
2. that the existence of such porn "proves" that straight men and minors are the objects of lust for "many gay men", rather than a tiny minority of gay men. One shudders to think about how this logic would apply to straight men and the vast and infinitely varied ocean of straight porn that is out there.
8.23.2005 7:26am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I don't see how gay porn can "prove" that gays want to have sex with minors given that it's against the law to have an actor under 18 featured in pornography.

As I've remarked elsewhere, I don't doubt that a gay person can convince a straight person, for an incident or two, to experiment with homosexuality. Long run conversion to homosexuality is impossible. The only "bisexuals" who can make a meaningful life choice to go either way are the perfect Kinsey 3s who are extremely rare among males.

The converse is also true. Think about that episode of Seinfeld. Elaine had a gay male friend whom she had the hots for. She actually "converted" him to a one-night stand; she wanted him for a relationship. He "switched teams" for one night...and then went back. Even though that was just a sit-com, there was a strong kernel of Truth in the episode's message.
8.23.2005 9:48am
Lee B (mail):

"...it seems like a signifcantly narrower claim than what I understood from his initial post."

What exactly would have been the broader claim? That the Gay Coalition issued a directive to all gays to try and convert obvious heterosexuals? That at the individual level gays are having the effect of seducing fence-sitters is about the strongest type of "converting" or recruiting I can imagine them reasonably pulling off.
8.23.2005 10:39am
Anderson (mail) (www):
I don't see how gay porn can "prove" that gays want to have sex with minors given that it's against the law to have an actor under 18 featured in pornography.

Or even an 18+ actor depicting a minor, IIRC.

Nevertheless, many gay men undoubtedly DO want to have sex with minors. Just like many straight men do. So what's the big deal, exactly?
8.23.2005 10:39am
Cornellian (mail):
Nevertheless, many gay men undoubtedly DO want to have sex with minors. Just like many straight men do. So what's the big deal, exactly?

"Minor" is a tricky word. If "minor" = 17 years old, the statement is undoubtedly true, at least if "many" means anything more than a few percent. If it means 10 years old, the statement is undoubtedly false. I would expect this to be true for men as a whole, regardless of sexual orientation. Heck, it's probably true for quite a few women, though probably at a lower percentage.
8.23.2005 11:20am
Columbienne:
While I appreciate Orin's attempt to reframe the question, I'm still completely frustrated by the armchair anthropology being practiced here. I agree with Richard Bennett -- let's stick to the (very interesting) **legal** questions.
8.23.2005 11:59am
Roaring Tiger (mail) (www):
Doc's research is flawed. I've no doubts that there's a wealth of gay porn featuring the appearance of adolescent boys (I say appearance in that at least "legal" porn is using men who have reached their majority but look young). However, there's a wealth of straight porn that showcases adolescent-looking girls.

So what's the point? That a segment of men, gay and straight, salivate over virgins? A segment of women like youthful lovers too. Given history, this is hardly news.

As to this statement...
"The question should be amenable to scientific research but it seems clear to me that gays are hell-bent to make sure this research never happens (or at least that it never comes up with any results they don't like)."

The statement is so broad it can't be seriously considered. Talked to all gays, have we? Some of us have no problems with scientific research into sexuality. Let's look at the full range, though, with an open mind. I contend there are folks on both sides of the sexual divide who are concerned with what research might show because of whatever fears they hold. Let's do the research anyway.

And this...
"When anyone suggests that homosexuality is just a learned form of empty sexual gratification, the PC crowd will viciously pounce on them..."

I assume Doc is referring to casual sex. If so, it can be as equally empty when it occurs between a man and a woman. So what's his point?

And this...
"Gays are the ones who would have the best idea of what the true answer is..."

Hmmm. I believe homosexuality has a physical cause (genetic, chemical, etc). Since I'm a lesbian, by Doc's own statement I am automatically endowed with the "the best idea." Doc can therefore stop wondering and can take comfort the secret of human sexuality is (whew, finally) solved.

Lastly, since it appears a Gay Coalition mandated gays must seek to convert, could someone please send me a copy of the memo? I'm out of the loop, haven't been doing my part, and have some catching up to do.
8.23.2005 12:07pm
paulo (mail):
It's all kinda funny and made me do some real soul searching: I spent my teens and twenties trying to get girls to sleep with me when they didn't want to, presumably because it wasn't in their nature to (I did find some, fortunately). I guess I was on a mission to convert them to heterosexual sex.

Or something like that. Anyway, I could write at length to try to explain myself but Volokh's done so already and shown that any amount of words would not add up to a sensical point.
8.23.2005 12:17pm
jerry (mail):
Well since you deleted two reasonable posts, and one, at the least was very reasonable, I'll let you delete this one two.

Your conspiracy is harmful. I hope we can all grow to an old age where you will realize and be shamed by this blog.

What else would you call a blog that is pro-torture and now, anti-a-natural part of humanity.
8.23.2005 12:37pm
jerry (mail):
Considering the fate of Jews and Gays in Nazi concentration camps, I will say it again, the last four years has given me a much greater understanding of how the German people could go along, aid and abet the Nazi program.

Volokh is absolutely shameful.
8.23.2005 12:40pm
Bruce:
Orin, to get back to your post, I think the golf analogy is a little flawed; even if that's all Eugene was saying, it still makes gay people out to be pushier than others. "Converting" people even in your limited sense involves, at the least, broaching the subject. Hardly anyone considers it impolite to raise sporting preferences, but many people consider it impolite to discuss sexual preferences in most contexts. I'm having difficulty imagining the context in which all these conversations are allegedly occurring. Eugene cites the number of bisexual people as having some significance; but that seems less like "conversion" and more like just asking people out on a date. I find it highly improbable that the percentage of gay people who will push past an initial "no, I'm not your type" is higher or even the same as the percentage of straight people who will do that, which, if true, pretty much demolishes the "conversion" claim.
8.23.2005 12:40pm
Downtown Lad (mail) (www):
Actually - Are there really straight people that out there trying to "convert" bisexuals to their cause.

Why would they care, unless they want to sleep with them?
8.23.2005 1:11pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Downtown lad: No, because to the straight world, there is no such thing as a bisexual. You are either straight or gay. There are no gradations in between.

The gay community views them in much the same way. There are straight people who are not gay, and then there are gay people in various degrees of denial about being gay.

In neither case does the bisexual exist except in theory.
8.23.2005 2:44pm
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
In case anyone comes back to read my response...

First, a couple of posters chide me for making comments that I don't have empirical research to back up. I wonder if they are as quick to chide the other side for the same error? The fact is that in the absense of hard empirical research I have nothing more to go on than my own experience and generalizations. Or am I to just remain silent when someone else makes a claim that I find dubious just because neither of us has scientific evidence? The person with the lower standards of evidence is the only one who gets to express his views? That hardly seems reasonable.

Second, when I said that gays would have the best idea of the answer, what I meant was that each gay person knows how they themselves first experienced gay sex, how old they were, and who they were attracted to before their first gay experience. Just as I have a pretty good idea about why I'm so attracted to Asian and black women, I assume that most gays have a good idea of why they are attracted to the same sex. Unfortunately, I don't think I can believe what they tell me because they have such strong political incentives to push one particular story.

Third, contrary to Darklock, most straights do think there is such a thing as a bisexual (perhaps excluding the relatively small number of Westerners that have bought into the PC view of homosexuality). We don't believe that "gayness" is an essential or inherent property. It's just a learned preference (such as prefering Asian women). According to this view, being bisexual is less remarkable than not liking the opposite sex at all.
8.23.2005 8:24pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
> contrary to Darklock, most straights do
> think there is such a thing as a bisexual

However, when they meet one, they don't actually classify him or her as bisexual. They classify the bisexual as either straight or gay, depending on their observations, and often actively object with those observations in an apparent effort to force an admission that the bisexual isn't REALLY bisexual. So while IN THEORY there is such a thing as a bisexual, this theory does not play out in practical social interaction.

I read a whole book on this subject a couple years ago, but I can't remember the title or the author. It bears out in my own observations, though. Another commenter in a separate thread said essentially the same thing with regard to lesbian perceptions of "converting" bisexuals.

This leads me to another thought. Is what Eugene sees as "conversion" not actually conversion from "straight/bi" to "gay" as much as it is conversion from "what you say you are" to "what I say you are"? In other words, is the intent not so much to make the other person gay as it is to make them agree with your own observations?

> We don't believe that "gayness" is an essential
> or inherent property. It's just a learned
> preference (such as prefering Asian women).

I believe there are two aspects of sexuality. There is what you WANT to do, and what you ACTUALLY do.

I think of sexual interest as a big game of Family Feud in your head. You're out wandering the streets, and you come across (say) an Asian guy wearing a turban. And in the back of your head, Richard Dawson yells "show me... Asian guys wearing turbans!", and usually you get a buzzer and a big red X. But sometimes, the lights flash and the bells go off, and the board flips over a sign that says "ASIAN GUYS WEARING TURBANS" because Asian guys wearing turbans really turn your crank.

You can't help that. You have ZERO control over it. You pretty much come into the world with a list, and during the course of your life you flip over whatever you flip over, and that's your sexuality. And I think when one of those signs happens to mention your own gender, that qualifies as being born gay.

The conversion question isn't so much about writing "YOUR OWN GENDER" on the board, as it is about getting the sign that already says it to flip over. This looks a lot *like* a learned behavior, because you're going about your life as usual and then the sign flips over and suddenly you start being gay.

But the learned behavior aspect isn't about being gay itself, it's about HOW to be gay, just like heterosexuals have to learn how to be straight. They don't learn *to* be straight, though; they just are. It's the same with gays. You're honestly not in control of what tickles your fancy. You're only in control of what you *do* about it.

Which is where I sit on the fence regarding gay culture. There are certain aspects of gay culture that seem unnecessary, and appear to have less to do with homosexuality than they do with attention-seeking and shock-mongering. I think it's perfectly valid to identify those things as being not gay behaviors, but rude and outrageous behaviors, and hence to expect that gay and straight people alike will avoid them. I don't want to hear much detail about Bob's sexual escapades with his wife, so I don't want to hear much detail about Bruce's sexual escapades with his boyfriend either. That's not homophobia, it's just plain old discretion.
8.24.2005 12:30pm