A couple days ago our paper published this editorial.
The guy basically cherry-picked one country and presented some misleading information. As I just looked over a lot of this data for a recently updated article at isocrat.org, here, I knew he was full of it in his claims of doom in Europe.
But I read this line: "In one study, married Dutch gays had, on average, eight casual sexual partners." and I just let it slide in my mind. I, to my shame, actually wasn't sure if the author was being honest here. Do Dutch married gay men really have an average of 8 partners? (and where do they find the time?)
I search for the source of the "fact" and came across numerous anti-gay sites claiming the same thing, along with a claim that the same research showed these marriages (or "marriages", sheesh) lasted an average of 1.5 years. I considered it. Could that be right?
Yesterday, I was at the University and decided to see if I could find the research for myself, and I did:
Xiridou, M.; Geskus, R.; de Wit, J.; Coutinho, R.; Kretzschmar, M.. The contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam. AIDS. vol. 17 (7), pp. 1029-1038, (2003).
Turns out the Amsterdam Cohort Study on HIV and AIDS was the source of the data used in this research; it was meant to study AIDS, not marriage. As such, over the life of this study the admittance requirements changed. At one point only men with 2 or more sexual partners in the last 6 month were allowed to participate (monogamous men were effectively excluded!). At another point participants were directed to the study because they were found to be HIV+. Furthermore, this study began in the 80's, in the peak of the western world's gay sexual adolescence, almost two decades before the first same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, and it only looked at gay men living in one of the most permissive cities in the world, Amsterdam. Finally, this study threw out all men over the age of 30, only looking at the most sexually active gay men in their teens and twenties.
In short, the research group rightly searched out high sexual activity in order to study their model of AIDS transmission, and what they term a "steady partner" in their study was not a marriage. It was a self-assessed classification of the regularity with which a participant had a sexual relationship with a particular partner; they did not even need to live together.
Yes, gay men in research seem to be, on average, more sexually active with more partners, for some understandable reasons (I've outlined the research I've found on the topic so far here; gay monogamy is not, of course, in nearly as bad of shape as many anti-gay activists seem to hope, though). But to use that data as this John Williams did to make such shocking conclusions about married gay men is ridiculous, if not outright deceptive, and I've seen anti-gay rights activists use the same tactic before... yet I kind of bought it here, just a bit, just enough to make me take a closer look at myself.
Somewhere in me I do hold a bit of a negative stereotype too.
Hi, my name is Scot, [gulp] and I sometimes reflexively assume gay men are promiscuous.
Okay, though I am trying to deflect it, this really is serious and difficult for me to admit.
I regret that I have that reflex. I know where it started. It began in my teens with my experience with only a handful of people that seemed to play right into the stereotypes of my conservative culture, stereotypes based a good deal on the kind of deception presented in that editorial. I mentioned it, here and here, for example. Over the years I know I have, at times, wondered why I have to put up with my gay bothers tarnishing my family in the minds of others. I have thought it was true that they were, in the back of my mind, but were they?
Heck, I, a gay man for all intents and purposes, have only ever wanted or had monogamy; maybe I'm doubly an oddity, right? Or maybe I'm a self righteous bigot, right?
It's something I have to watch out for. I know, even if it's true gay men are more sexually promiscuous, on average, it's unfair to hold the bias against any individual, and most all the gay men we know personally are monogamous family men. I feel horrible for the gay men I may have maligned, if only in my mind, by extrapolating on that old bit of bigotry. I am sorry, for what it's worth.
Or maybe I have a problem with the Dutch? Yeah, that's it. Why can't those crazy, lecherous Dutch keep it in their pants?