Homosexuality, “the love that dare not say its name”, is far more widely accepted than it used to be. People aren’t jailed for being gay anymore, and gay bashing is way down. Overall public support for the right of homosexuals to marry has quadrupled, and opposition nearly halved, between 1988 and 2010. Opinion is evenly divided on whether homosexuality is a choice or something that cannot be changed. Almost all gays of course think it isn’t a choice and that they should have the right to marry.
Still a great deal of opposition to homosexuality remains. It’s regarded as unnatural, sinful, immoral, debauched, promiscuous, an aberration and a threat to normal ways of being and not too long ago was classified as a mental illness. While support is increasing for gay marriage resistance to it is formidable. For example 42 states define marriage as the union between one man and one woman and 30 of these states have gone so far as to add amendments to their constitutions banning gay marriage, in order to make any future recognition far more difficult. In 18 states the constitution bans any kind of same sex union. Some states grant some rights to same sex unions e.g. right of hospital visitation. Only 5 states have, or soon will, recognize same sex marriages and a total of 6 (plus the District of Columbia) recognize some form of same sex civil union or domestic partnership.
One would like to know whether homosexuality is a threat to be concerned about and contained or discouraged, or whether it is a normal harmless option that should be embraced, or is it something in between? In this article I will look at what light intelligence can shed on this. My information comes from the General Social Survey and Kinsey’s two volumes on Human Sexuality.
Is Homosexuality a Choice?
Here the Smart Vote is very decidedly for homosexuality not being a choice. Nearly 2/3rds (63.5%) of those with IQs below 88 believe gays chose to be homosexual. In contrast 74.3% of those with IQs above 116 believe sexual orientation is not something that can be chosen. This association holds up when confounding factors like education, political ideology and gender are statistically controlled (see the right hand column in the table “Regression Analysis of Attitudes toward Homosexuals” below.)
The Smart Vote is broadly correct but strictly speaking the true situation is a bit more complicated. Some people can change their sexual orientation. Occasionally the anti-homosexual therapy practiced by some fundamentalist Christian churches does work. In response to the AIDS crisis there was a detectable increase in the proportion of both sexes who had sex exclusively with women. Furthermore, gay sex between female swingers is very common – even among those with a long pre swinging history of exclusively male partners. This suggests that to some extent – at the margin as economists would say - sexual orientation is susceptible to incentives.
Nonetheless it’s also clear that very few people do change their sexual orientation and that the orientation seems to exist from the very moment people first become sexually interested. Twin research shows that sexual orientation is moderately heritable. The locus is probably mostly on the X-chromosomes because males have a much stronger either-or sexual orientation than women. There are proportionally fewer male than female bisexuals and proportionally more males than females are exclusively homosexual. Other research has shown that gays have differences in certain brain structures and that these differences may be caused be stress during pregnancy e.g. an especially high proportion of the children born to women who experienced the WW2 bombing of London turned out to be gay. All this points to sexual orientation being inborn – either genetically based or a biological response to circumstances.
Why then can a few change their orientation? Alfred Kinsey had the answer. He showed that sexual orientation isn’t clearly either-or but that there is a continuum from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. By far the majority are exclusively heterosexual in that they only ever been sexual with the opposite sex. He recognized 6 other categories of sexual orientation. The first 5 grade from mostly heterosexual to mostly homosexual and the sixth is exclusively homosexual. The ability to shift sexual orientation is probably limited to those in the 5 intermediate categories who are significantly attracted to both sexes because they have to choose to focus on one of two likes rather than swap a like for a dislike.
If sexual orientation is correlated with IQ then one would suspect that choice was possible, and that there existed a correct choice. On the other hand, one would expect deliberate rational consideration to be impotent if choice was irrelevant, or played an insignificant role. It turns out that there is also no statistically significant association between declared sexual orientation and intelligence – further supporting the view that sexual orientation isn’t really a choice.
Is Homosexual Sex Wrong?
The General Social Survey has asked this question since the 70s. In the graph below you can see that there has been a shift toward greater tolerance for homosexual sex across all IQ groups, since about 1990. The other obvious thing is that tolerance is consistently higher as IQ increases. The Smart Vote leans toward viewing homosexual sex as never or seldom wrong. Furthermore this association holds up well when confounding variables are controlled (see the second column in the table “Regression Analysis of Attitudes toward Homosexuals” below). Morally condemning homosexual sex is, among other things, stupid.
Should Same Sex Marriage be Legally Recognized?
Considering that the Smart Vote says that sexual orientation isn’t something chosen and that there is nothing wrong with gay sex, it would be a surprise is the Smart Vote opposed same-sex marriage. It doesn’t of course, as the graph below makes clear. Support for legalizing gay marriage has consistently been higher among higher IQ groups since the GSS began asking this question. The association also holds up well when confounding factors are controlled (see first column in the table “Regression Analysis of Attitudes toward Homosexuals” below).
Regression Analysis of Attitudes toward Homosexuals
Summary of Attitudes Toward Homosexuality
The Smart Vote is for acceptance of homosexuals and homosexuality. It is very probably correct to believe that homosexuals aren’t choosing homosexuality at all (let alone for dubious motives), and that it is rather a state of being they are more or less born into. As such homosexuality is no threat to those who aren’t already gay, and trying to stamp it out will achieve nothing but the senseless suffering of gay people. There is therefore no good reason to attempt to contain homosexuality. Furthermore it is correct, and more compassionate, not to condemn gays when they try to live and gain satisfaction according to their nature, by having homosexual sex, or by wanting to form a union or family with those they love. In an earlier post on free speech the Smart Vote was also in favor of protecting the civil rights of homosexuals.
In the regressions one can see that education, being female or liberal (and probably young) predispose people to greater tolerance of homosexuality – quite apart from higher intelligence, and visa versa.
Kinsey found that 28% of all women had some kind of erotic reaction to other women in their lives, and 20% had acted on it - 13% to the point of orgasm. He found that men had 2 to 3 times these response rates. For unmarried women 14% were asexual, 72% were heterosexual (or very close to it), 6% were homosexual (or close to it) and 8% were bisexual. For men the figures are more like 5% asexual, 74% close to heterosexual, 14% close to homosexual and 7% bisexual. Even among the married, homosexual experience is not so rare. 3% are at least bisexual, but if they are far along the Kinsey scale they are quite likely to get divorced. Around 1 in 20 people who consider themselves straight have had sex with a member of the opposite sex – often more than once. Being religiously devout doesn’t make a person immune to homosexual feelings or activities either. But what purpose could it serve for a straight person to have a homosexual experience?
The table below looks at homosexual experience by intelligence level, and is confined to those who consider themselves straight. The way to read it is as follows. The first column of figures is the % of those with zero homosexual experience in each of the intelligence categories i.e. 16% of those with no homosexual experience at all are Smart. The next column is the same for those who have had at least one homosexual experience. The third column is the % of each intelligence category that has had at least one homosexual experience i.e. 4.6% of the dull have had one. The final column is the ratio of each intelligence category’s % homosexual experience over that of the Stupid category i.e. Smart women are 43% more likely to have a homosexual experience.
I calculated a Smart Vote index for homosexual experience for each gender. For women it is 144 and for men it is 172. That means is that the propensity to have homosexual sex (relative to not having it) is 44% higher for women with IQs over 116 than it is for those with IQs less than 88. That’s very close to the Smart/Stupid ratio. For Smart men the propensity is 72% higher than for Stupid men. In other words for a straight person to have at least one homosexual experience is if anything an intelligent thing to do, and is probably not so pointless. This seems to contradict my earlier point that sexual orientation isn’t a choice because it seems as though homosexuality or bisexuality, is not only a choice, but is the correct choice!
The paradox is resolved when potentially confounding factors are controlled for. When they are the IQ association doesn’t hold up. What looks like an intelligent decision is due to something correlated to intelligence, rather than intelligence itself. For women it’s education. Maybe it’s the ‘experiment in college’ thing or maybe greater autonomy from men allows them to live their real choices more. For men it is higher income. I have no idea why more money translates into a greater chance of gay sex among straight men.
For both there is a sign that the politically conservative are more likely to have a homosexual experience than liberals, although the effect is not statistically significant. Perhaps Conservatives are just more likely to declare themselves straight after having a homosexual encounter.
Sexual orientation is neither correct nor incorrect but it is correct to let gays and lesbians live their lives as they see fit – just like the rest of us.