Actually, one in ten straight men have sex with men ONLY! That is one of the jaw-dropping conclusions of a survey of 4200 men, detailed exhaustively in the Annals of Internal Medicine this month.
We provide a little visual aid at right, courtesy of a Bruce Weber wall poster, On Leave in Waikiki, in case it slipped your mind exactly what makes straight men so fabulicious.
All the men in the sex survey lived in the five boroughs of New York City â€” in other words, a wide cross section of social classes from blue-collar to executives with advanced degrees â€” were contacted by telephone, and, when necessary, were interviewed in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Greek, Korean, Yiddish, Polish, and Haitian Creole.
The purpose of the survey, initially, was to determine how to reach under-served -- and perhaps hidden and neglected -- populations who might have a higher risk of contracting HIV. The findings, however, were more akin to the Kinsey Report:
Results: Of New York City men reporting a sexual identity, 12% reported sex with other men. Men who had sex with men exclusively but self-identified as heterosexual were more likely than their gay-identified counterparts to belong to minority racial or ethnic groups, be foreign-born, have lower education and income levels, and be married. [70% were married -- Ed.] These men were more likely ... to report having only 1 sexual partner in the previous year. However, they were less likely to have been tested for HIV infection during that time ... and less likely to have used condoms during their last sexual encounter.
Conclusions: Many New York City men who have sex with men do not identify as gay. Medical providers cannot rely on patients' self-reported identities to appropriately assess risk for HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases; they must inquire about behavior. Public health prevention messages should target risky sexual activities rather than a person's sexual identity.
But let's get back to that first mind-boggling, counter-intuitive assertion: One in ten men who identify themselves as â€œstraightâ€ have sex that is exclusively not straight.
We live in an Orwellian paradise, as our faithful readers know. The amber waves of grain! The purple mountains' majesty! Even something as ultimately beside the point as sexuality is politicized. Alas, it is a fragile heterosexual utopia, this alabaster nation, where, we must ruefully observe -- as Garrison Keller does each Sunday on the Prairie Home Companion -- "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all children are above average."
Sex roles are not as hard and fast as they used to be. At any moment our noble American resolve can be wrecked by a plague of gay marriages seeping down from Canada. (Already the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has fallen!) In this, the best of all republics, the term "straight" has become as arbitrary and conveniently subjective as, say, â€œfreedomâ€ when used by our current Embarrassment in Chief.
Pop Quiz for Americans: Citizen, is it â€œfreedomâ€ to bomb a people into the Age of Enlightenment when what they want is the Dark Ages of tribal theocracy? Is it freedom to point a rifle at people and say, in that beautifully compassionate yet conservative way of ours, you're free to choose -- as long as you choose us? And, finally, is it freedom when men feel compeled to declare themselves straight even though they actually prefer to blow, get blown, fuck, and get fucked by another ... well, guy?
The riddle of the Sphinx, as well as questions about the religion of popes and the woodland habits of bears, will follow for bonus points.
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' " Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is, " said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty. "which is to be master -- that's all."
How straight is straight?
For more on the fluidity of heterosexual men :