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Techsploits

Name-Calling

By Annalee Newitz

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY professor J. Michael Bailey just can't stop doing abysmally bad sexology. A couple of years ago, he wrote a book called The Man Who Would Be Queen, which was all about how transsexual women were actually just repressed gay men. Isn't that convenient? He eliminated trannies and undermined queer self-determination in one fell swoop.

More recently, Bailey and one of his gay-boy graduate students did another favor for anti-queers everywhere by trying to eradicate another of my favorite sexual minorities: bisexuals. Bailey and Gerulf Rieger claim to have discovered that men who say they're bisexual don't know what they're talking about, because their cocks don't get hard when they look at images of both men and women.

To reach this dubious conclusion, Bailey and Rieger studied the erection patterns of 101 men, who identified as gay, straight or bi, while they watched movies of lesbian and gay male sex. According to Rieger, none of the bisexual men were aroused by both sets of movies, although he also admits at least a third of the men weren't aroused by any of the images at all.

Based on this shaky research by his pupil, Bailey announced proudly to The New York Times, "I'm not denying that bisexual behavior exists. But I am saying that in men there's no hint that true bisexual arousal exists, and that for men arousal is orientation."

So, bisexual behavior exists, but bisexual arousal doesn't exist. And this means that bisexuality doesn't exist, because for men arousal is the same thing as orientation. How we get bisexual behavior without bisexual arousal isn't clear. Nor is there any evidence produced for the idea that arousal while watching a film is somehow directly correlated to a person's "true" orientation. And what about that hefty one-third who never got aroused at all? Is one-third of the male population "truly" asexual?

Apparently not. Rieger says that the nonaroused men don't affect the findings. In other words, they don't fit in with Bailey's vision of the universe.

The female sex is also a problem for Bailey. Back in 2003, he was part of a research team that did a similar arousal study on women and made a strange discovery: No matter what their stated orientation was, the women tended to get aroused by both the lesbian porn and the gay male porn images. Does that mean all women are really bisexual, but all men are really gay or straight? Nope.

Using the kind of logic that allowed Ptolemy to take exact measurements of planetary movements in the night sky while still insisting that Earth was the center of the universe, Bailey says this discrepancy just proves that women and men think differently. "The fact that women's sexual arousal patterns are not all predicted by their sexual orientations suggests that men's and women's minds and brains are very different," Bailey told Science Daily. So when a bunch of women have bisexual arousal patterns, it means none of them are bisexual, because arousal is the opposite of orientation in women.

It's all very convoluted and confusing, unless you consider that the aim of this little exercise is to keep gay and straight people at the center of the universe. We don't want anything to sully our perfect binary models of gay vs. straight, women vs. men. That's why trannies and bisexuals must be eliminated immediately and replaced with more acceptable units.

Lucky for Bailey, plenty of other groups want to silence queer people and keep them from calling themselves whatever they choose. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just denied Dykes on Bikes, a venerable old lesbian institution, a trademark on their name. The USPTO based its decision on a rather odd source: a programmer named Patrick J. Cassidy, who put the 1913 Webster's Dictionary online. Cassidy randomly added several definitions to the dictionary, including the word "dyke," which he defined as "deprecatory." Huh? Is this the same USPTO that granted trademarks to "Hustler's Young Sluts," "Sexy Bitch" and "Psychic Phone Whores"? Yes, it is. Those are all trademarked phrases.

Elizabeth Stark, an activist with national student group FreeCulture.org, has been blogging about the Dykes on Bikes fiasco and has researched several of the more offensive phrases that have been trademarked. "The trademark office had over 400 pages of expert testimony explaining the development and positive reclamation of the word 'dyke' over time," she said. "So basically what they're saying is that you can trademark terms that are degrading as long as they are heterosexual, but you can't trademark one that's been reclaimed by a community to be used in a positive fashion."

Just remember: When queers are silenced by science and the government, it's only because they have our best interests at heart.


Annalee Newitz (bisexual@techsploitation.com) is a surly media nerd who has not trademarked the phrase 'surly media nerd' because it's just too offensive.


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From the July 27-August 2, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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