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EL ESPECTADOR

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

-OpEd-

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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