Gay, Lesbian And Straight: What Drives Sexual Promiscuity

Some gay men have so many sexual partners that straight people find the numbers hard to believe. But it's less about being gay and more about the nature of male sexual desire.

In Bogota
In Bogota
Mauricio Rubio


BOGOTA — When I started reading about Darwinism, it confirmed what we all knew since school, that men are always more readyDo to have sex than women. That's why they so often have to ask for it, and sometimes beg.

I wrote on my blog La Silla Vacía (The Empty Chair) that the three-times-a-week intercourse the average Colombian couple has is the result of this ancestral divergence. It is a negotiated halfway point: There would be more if women wanted it, and less if the men didn't insist.

This discrepancy in willingness is marvellously depicted in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall. When their shrink asks them how often they have sex, Annie and Alvy answer very differently. Constantly, up to three times a week, she complains. Hardly ever, he bemoans in turn, three times a week, if I'm lucky! Despite the contemprary dogma on the equality of masculine and femininie desire, this scene, several respectable theories, and a considerable amount of evidence indicate there are real differences. This asymmetric level of desire is indeed corroborated by the economic theory of revealed preference — used to gauge consumer demand.

But just as actions don't always indicate tastes, the frequency of sexual encounters doesn't always correspond to desire, as it depends not just on what you want but on what you can get. Annie and Alvy's thrice weekly sessions are not what she would like, nor he prefer, but a compromise. To get what you really want, remove the impediments and pressures.

Homosexual couples live something like this hypothetical situation. Lesbians and gay men presumably have as much sex as they want, having a partner like themselves. Homosexuality therefore allows preferences that include unfettered, spontaneous desire, and shows the quantitative discrepancy between masculine and feminine urges. A friend of mine whose girlfriend cheated on him with a woman told me he was amazed about "how much time they the girls can spend planning a f***, despite being in love. Up to two or three weeks!" Such testimonies, certain data and urban legends suggest that lesbians have far fewer sexual contacts and partners than gay men.

Lesbian respondents surveyed by the National Demography and Health Poll said that they had had seven sexual partners throughout their lives. Half of them had three or fewer sexual partners, and only 13% said they had more than 10. The average is slightly less than their peers in the United States.

While I don't have data for Colombia's gay men, gay reporter Gabriel Rotello provides some for the United States, citing the book Homosexualities. It indicates that in the late 1970s, 75% of gay men had had more than 100 sexual partners in their lives, a figure that only 1% of Colombian lesbians attain. Further, 43% of gay men reported more than 500 partners and 33% more than 1,000.

One well-known gay man boasted that by age 26 he'd had about 3,000 male partners, though he could see how people who had not been in the "fast lane" like him could barely envisage such sexual statistics. The differences with Rotello's heterosexual friends were so great that, when citing these figures, neither the gay nor straight people could believe them. Some found 100 or more partners a year inconceivable, while the gays could not comprehend people having so few encounters in life!

To be clear, the issue is not one of sexual orientation but of the lack of obstacles gay men enjoy — or suffer. Without the female influence, male sexuality seems to run amuck.

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How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.
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