I have been posting about marriage lately and I thought I would take a break from that, but stick with the relationship topic. If you haven’t discovered the blog at OKCupid, I highly recommend heading over. With a strong mathematical background, the folks at OKCupid are thrilled to take their users’ likes, dislikes, and reported behaviors, run the stats, and provide us with the infographics. I promise it will be worth your while to head over…later on in the post where I located the pie charts above, there is a quote which I am reposting here because I thought it was the most hilarious reference to Karl Marx that I’ve encountered in a very long time:
According to Verta Taylor and Leila Rupp, who wrote a piece for Contexts called “Straight Girls Kissing”, homosexual experimentation in the US is possible for women in a way that it is not for men. At first glance, much of the ‘straight girls kissing’ going on at bars and fraternity parties appears to be a rather perverse appropriation of female sexuality for the visual pleasure of men. The history of the male gaze is so entrenched here that anything sexual going on with women is assumed to be for men, even when the sexual behavior is homosexual – especially if it is done in public as spectacle. [Note: If the girls kissing get so into it that they appear to be ignoring the male attention altogether, they do risk social sanctioning laced with homophobic slurs. So straight girls kissing better make sure they maintain some kind of connection to heteronormative behavior or they could, I don’t know, have beer poured all over them. See Rupp and Taylor.] What this means is that women who have experience with other women do not necessarily fall outside of the category ‘heterosexual’ which for many women, makes the experimentation seem quite a bit safer than if they felt that any homoerotic behavior would automatically queer their social sexuality. The same is not true for men.
Rupp and Taylor found that ‘straight girls kissing’ is not just another example of girls gone wild trying to get male’s attention by flaunting ‘extreme’ sexuality. In interviews, many of the women involved reported that at least some of the instances of their public encounters with other women opened up the possibility for them to explore their self-generated (rather than crowd-generate) attractions to other women. OKCupid’s report indicates that having this culturally condoned space to get out there and try kissing girls without risking the stigma of being labeled lesbian allows a fair number of women to have enjoyable encounters with other women. What’s more, a fair proportion of the women who haven’t done it feel like they are missing out.
If our heteronormative culture could relax the rigid classification of male sexuality to afford the same kind of bi-curious space for men, maybe they would feel more free to experiment with other men and enjoy themselves.
What needs work
I hate pie charts. I would have rather seen this one as a set of bar graphs – the ‘tried it and liked it’ in the same color as the ‘haven’t tried it but want to do it’. Then the ‘never, and don’t want to’ can be lumped with the ‘tried it and didn’t like it’. Though I do wonder if the ‘tried it and didn’t like it’ might have been specific to the person they were trying it with on that occasion. It would be useful to know if those people would try it again.
I found the quote below so funny that I laughed out loud in the class where I was supposed to be serving as a TA rather than as an internet surfer. The class is taught by Paula England about Sex and Love in Modern Society, so looking at OKCupid’s blog was right on topic, but still. Laughing in class distracts the students.
“Religion is the opiate of the masses, so long as the masses are straight. However, amass a bunch of lesbians and you’re going to need actual drugs.”
Before anyone gets angry and posts to my blog, take a deep breath. Is it possible that straight people are claiming to be lesbians and then reporting drug use just to make lesbians look drugged out on OKCupid? Yes. But that’s a stretch. Is it possible that lesbians feel pressure to report being adventurous, thereby indicating an openness to drug use, if not actual use? Yes, it’s possible that they are reporting more drugs than they’re actually using or that they are the only honest people on OKCupid and all the straight people and gay men are under-reporting drug use. My point is that twisting Marx around like that was sociology nerd humor at it’s best.
OKCupid’s numbers come from 3.2 million dating profiles. Dating profiles may not be the place you’ll find soul-searching truths. However, what we do find are the embellishments people adopt to make their actual selves slouch closer to their ideal selves so as to attract their ideal mates.
Rupp, Leila and Taylor, Verta. (Summer 2010) Straight Girls Kissing Contexts Magazine.
Rudder, Christian. (12 October 2010) Gay vs. Straight Sex. OKCupid Blog.