Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gay marriage and infidelity: People against gay marriage often make the argument that homosexuals have a real problem with fidelity, and admitting them to the club would not be good for children or the institution of marriage in general. I don't find this to be a particularly compelling argument since heteros have nothing to brag about on this score, but one contribution I can make is too see if there is any relevant, systematic evidence to help decide if the claim is true.

The General Social Survey asked 4,964 people about their sexual orientation and, "What is your opinion about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner?" Here are the percentages who answered that it is always wrong:


Percent thinking that marital infidelity is always wrong

Straight females 80.6
Straight males 75.2
Lesbians 65.4
Gay males 58.4
Bisexual females 48.7
Bisexual males 46.7

Even straight guys do better than all the non-hetero groups.

Based on this evidence, granting homosexuals access to marriage in contemporary America is a little like a NBA basketball team that has been on a losing streak for many years who decides to add some short pudgy white guys to the roster.

21 comments:

Jason said...

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new definition for the word "chutzpah".

It used to be killing your parents and then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court as an orphan.

Now it's denying gays access to the one social institution that provides legal incentives for fidelity, and then using their shocking lack of commitment to fidelity to justify continuing that policy.

Jason Malloy said...

A better analogy is we're on a losing streak, and you single out some of the worst players on the team and tell them they can't practice or exercise anymore.

And, worse, the reason is just because these players are disliked by a few of the other players the coach is friends with!

Now you are seemingly backtracking on this "real reason I oppose it" and appealing to the traditional gay-marriage-will-harm-straight-marriage argument. Your banner says you are moved by data not doctrine. Well the available data disconfirms this argument.

Anonymous said...

I think the two Jasons above have sufficiently questioned Guhnam's analysis, but another thing to consider is that saying it's not *always* wrong to have extra-marital sex is not the same as saying cheating your partner is always right.

Gay men and especially lesbians are more likely to have experienced with open relationships in which a partner knowingly grants the other some sexual freedom. Homosexuals and bisexuals, even if such unions don't suit their taste for relationships, are likely to question why such an arrangement, made between two willing partners, should be considered wrong, since the argument that two consensual adults should be left alone to decide what's good for them is also *the* argument used to advance decriminalization of homosexual activities.

Jason Malloy said...

Also I found something surprising in the GSS the other day: White heterosexual and homosexual males were actually nearly identical in lifetime sexual partners after age 44 (when partner numbers have mostly reached their peak), but the difference between white and black males was enormous:

The average number of sex partners for straight white men is 35. (N = 2991)

The average number of sex partners for gay men is 42. (N = 87)

The average number of sex partners for straight black men is 61. (N = 289)

Obviously these numbers are skewed by the super-promiscuous minority (the modal number of sex partners is 1 for white men and 10 for black men), but a mean is a mean.

Then today I looked at IQ and the differences were even larger than the race differences:

The average number of sex partners for straight males Wordsum 1 is
123. (N = 23)

The average number of sex partners for straight males Wordsum 3 is 81. (N = 77)

The average number of sex partners for straight males Wordsum 5 is 43. (N = 251)

The average number of sex partners for straight males Wordsum 8 is 25. (N = 223)

Notably there is an inverse relationship between permissiveness about premarital and extramarital sex and promiscuity across the IQ levels: Intelligent people are the most permissive about premarital and extramarital sex, but have the least amount of sex partners. (they have less premarital sex but more extramarital sex).

Percent thinking that marital infidelity is always wrong:

Straight females: 80.6%
Straight males: 75.2%

Black males: 68.4%
Wordsum 9*: 65.4%
Lesbians: 65.4%

Gay males: 58.4%
Wordsum 10**: 55.7%

* IQ 115-125ish
** IQ 125+ish

Jason Malloy said...

Percent thinking that marital infidelity is always wrong:

Muslim: 81.2% (30)
Protestant: 80.4% (14,609)
Catholic: 76.4% (5,886)
Buddhist: 59.7% (31)
None: 56.3% (1,550)
Jewish: 52.5% (292)

Mean number of female sex partners (straight men over 44):

Jewish: 49
None: 44
Protestant: 39
Catholic: 30

Anonymous said...

Mean number of female sex partners (straight men over 44):

Jewish: 49
None: 44
Protestant: 39
Catholic: 30


??? I strongly suspect there is a missing decimal point. Either that, or the data is complete bullshit.

Ron Guhname said...

Jason Malloy:

"The average number of sex partners for straight white men is 35. (N = 2991)

"The average number of sex partners for gay men is 42. (N = 87)"

These numbers undercut your argument that gay men need marriage
to help them with their special promiscuity problem. According to these data, they are the similar to straights without access to marriage.

Jason Malloy said...

I strongly suspect there is a missing decimal point. Either that, or the data is complete bullshit.

Well, like I said, the seemingly high numbers are a result of the method of averaging, where the small number of people with very high numbers of sex partners inflate the mean.

Another way to think about it is the frequency of persons who have had a certain amount of sex partners in each group.

Straight White males // Straight black males // Gay males*:

0: 2.7% // 1.6% // --
1: 22.5% // 9.5% // 22.3%
2-5: 31.7% // 24.6% // 35.1%
6-10: 16.2 // 20.4% // 9.0%
11-15: 5.3% // 4.7% // 1.8%
16-20: 6.0% // 7.5% // 8.2%
21-30: 4.4% // 8.8% // 3.3%
31-50: 3.6% // 9.5% // 3.4%
51-100: 3.5% // 7.5% // 9.4%
100+: 4.0% // 4.8% // 7.5%

I have no idea if there is a faulty assumption somewhere in here, but at face value, this data shows the sexual behavior of homosexual males is actually nearly identical to straight white male sexual behavior. Most shockingly: gay males are just as likely to have one lifetime sexual partner as straight males!

Since there is no homosexual identity question in the GSS this could possibly mean a lot of things. Perhaps these men are just straight virgins who were sexually abused once by another male - perhaps as children.

But in support of the counter-intuitive finding that gay males are just as monogamous as straight males, gay males are also equally likely to have 2-5 lifetime sexual partners. In fact the numbers are similar through the whole midrange, only becoming somewhat higher at the super-promiscuous tail.

But the striking finding here is that gay males cluster closer to white males than black males. The modal number of sexual partners is 1 for both gay and white males, but 10 for black males.

The average number of sexual partners is almost identical for gay and white males - 42 and 35 - but over 30% higher for black males: 61.

Promiscuity is more predicted by race, intelligence, and religion than sexual orientation.

Jewish people and people with average and below average intelligence have more sexual partners than gay males.



* Since there is sadly no homosexual identity question in the GSS, "straight" males were defined unambiguously as men who have never had a same sex partner. "Gay" males were defined unambiguously as men who have had at least one male sex partner, but never had a female sex partner. All groups only include men over 44 years old. The gay group contains all races, but there are very few nonwhites in the sample. Sample sizes are listed in above comment.

Jason Malloy said...

These numbers undercut your argument that gay men need marriage
to help them with their special promiscuity problem.


So it does! But it also undercuts the opposite argument, as used in this post, that gays are more promiscuous so they shouldn't be allowed to make a farce of marriage by taking meaningless, disingenuous vows of commitment.

If these numbers are correct, gay men have little more inclination to sleep around than straight men on average, and just like straight people, the majority of gay people have only one or a small handful of sex partners in their lifetime.

On the other hand gay males are still more promiscuous at the tail, and gay promiscuity is still more conducive to the spread of sexually transmitted disease than straight promiscuity. So the marginal benefit of gay marriage on society by its potential to effect this minority within the minority is still positive.

Further, as the WSJ article indicates, a little tolerance that costs society nothing greatly improves and normalizes the lives of gay people themselves, by further eroding their assigned caste status. I've seen no compelling argument for why their interests don't count, and why they don't deserve equal human respect just because they are "handicapped".

If we were in Japan, the same people would be defending the poor treatment of the Burakumin, just because it's "tradition". When the only defense of prejudice is that the prejudiced majority deserve their traditions, then blind conformity has replaced reason and compassion.

Jason Malloy said...

where the small number of people with very high numbers of sex partners inflate the mean.

The mean by the way is the usual manner of reporting this figure, and I agree it is not very helpful.

The mean number of partners for straight white men is 35, but 73.1% of SWM haven't had over 10 sex partners, and over 90% are under 35!

Jason Malloy said...

Straight White males // Straight black males // Gay males:

Mean 35 // 61 // 42
Median 4 // 9 // 4
Mode 1 // 10 // 1

SFG said...

Mean 35, median 4, mode 1? Man, I think somebody's lying. These are self-reports, you don't think dudes exaggerate? That is some right tail!

The simplest example with this distribution I can come up with is
1,1,7,131. Ouch. Of course it's more complex, but it gives you an idea of what that tail must look like.

Anonymous said...

I have a stupid question.

Does seeing a prostitute(s) count as "sex-partner"?

Anonymous said...

Rather than having homosexuals "civilized" by traditional marriage, they will barbarize our concept of marriage. By allowing homosexuals to "marry" in the first place is an obvious transgression against the traditional form to begin with, a further transgression against the concept of fidelity in marriage is the most logical outcome.

I believe that the Jason tag team have put the cart before the horse. Their argument is that the negative aspects of homosexuals are no reason to bar them from altering the "marriage club". The real argument they should make is explain why heterosexuals should allow homosexuals to marry when their presence will further delegitimize the institution's redeeming features such as fidelity?

Anonymous said...

Name: GAY1

As a gay male who is 44 years old,I always assumed that straight men tended to settle down by their late twenties, early thirties - while for many gay men "playtime" continues for years. Also, straight men tend to be more monogomous when they have a partner, even if just dating.

I know few gay male relationships of any duration which are completely monogomous. My perception may be skewed by living in a big city with a large gay male population.

Anonymous said...

Given the percentage of straights of both genders who have affairs despite their belief that it's "always wrong," maybe the numbers just mean that lesbians and gay men are just more honest. It's certainly no reason to deny marriage to an entire class of individuals.

Keith A said...

The numbers here are completely incorrect. And, this is very misleading. You need to run the analysis again. I hope you will post it here.

You are forgetting that missing data on the GSS for this question is coded in the 900 range (Refusals, Dashes, Slashes, etc.) and you are actually incorporating the missing data into the means. You need to drop the cases with over "900" sexual partners. Got me?

Keith A said...

If you feel like it, here are the codes for the question. You can see why the mean is so high.


989 989 OR HIGHER
990 DASH OR SLASH
991 SOME,1+
992 X
993 GARBLED TEXT
994 SEVERAL
995 MANY,LOTS
996 N.A
997 REFUSED
998 DK
999 NA

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