February 10, 2007

The personality differences between gays and straights

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution comes around on the question of why there is so little evidence for a lot of male homosexuals in most sports to my position that the fundamental reason is that there aren't a lot of gays in sports:

"Having read through 110 plus comments, I am now more inclined to see genetic correlations -- rooted in the human mind rather than the body -- with athletic achievement …"

(I think it's premature to attribute male homosexuality to "genetic" causes as opposed to the broader category of "biological" causes.)

A reader writes:

When I was going to university, I worked as a bouncer at clubs. I was from a hick blue-collar town called O****** and worked in strictly "straight" bars. After 2 years I moved to downtown Toronto and worked in "night clubs" for 2 years- generally straight but with a significant amount of gay males or clubs that had a "mixed night (gay and straight night)" or "gay night" (it's the big city).

Bouncers all noticed that gay males don't cause problems that are violent in nature (drug OD's and sex in the washrooms are another matter). I remember other managers/head bouncers all agreeing after I commented that gay males are unusually very orderly at coat checks (it's on the order of several orders of magnitude of difference).

My girl friend lived at Church and College, on the edge of the gay area of Toronto. During Pride week we would comment at how polite the crowds were when I went to park in her apartment's underground garage. They'd all stop, sort of smile and make way for us to proceed - all very orderly and non-confrontational.

Gay males are not as aggressive and more polite - traits that put gay males at a disadvantage in competitive straight dominated sports.

If primatoligists can observe aggressive interactions among primates in the wild, I’m sure they could do the same comparing gay males and straight males at night-clubs.
I guess you'd have to control for drugs, especially alcohol, but my guess (invoking Occam's razor) is that gay males are more co-operative and more averse to conflict.

Frank Salter conducted a Jane Goodall-type study of bouncers, which I wrote about here.

Another reader writes:

I think that sometimes rules that work in America, might not transfer well into Europe. I recall a segment on SNL in the 80s that showed pictures of people and asked "Straight, Gay or European?" It was funny because things that only gay men would do in America, were done by heterosexual Europeans. Writing poetry, painting, opera, etc are all seen as gay in America, but not in Europe.

My working-class Detroit friends often make fun of me for my liking classical music. But it's the best when they say that waltzing and tangoing with women all evening is "gay" but sitting on a couch with a bunch of guys, watching a bunch of guys in tight pants slap each other on the butt and grunt, with no women in sight, is not. In modern America, "gay" is synonymous with "aesthete" (though they would probably have to look that word up.

A big example of this is dance. I have been involved in ballroom dancing for a couple of years and, at the top, the male ranks are completely dominated by Russians. In Soviet times, playing chess, dancing ballet, doing gymnastics were not seen as gay at all. So, parents make sure that their sons (and daughters) learn to dance and sing and appreciate the finer things.

I think the difference is class. In Europe, opera, ballet, waltz, etc are markers for the upper class. If your son studies ballet, that signals that you are wealthy and cultured. In contrast, in America, we don't have class markers of that type. What seems upper-class there seems soft and effeminate here. Americans strive for middle class (albeit, comfortably upper middle class) and there is then no place for opera or ballet. Football is a proper middle class activity for a boy. Ballet may be a good thing for a young aristocrat, but in America, there is no aristocracy. If your son studies ballet in America, that signals that you are trying to "turn him gay" or that something isn't quite right.

Another example you gave is articulateness. That is a marker for an elite education more than being gay (as seen in Idiocracy). But perhaps there is a connection after all. Only a man of leisure, an aristocrat, could actively be homosexual because he had the resources to be discreet and could avoid having a family.

Of course, the question remains, why does masculinity seem to be opposed to culture and civilization? Are those "womanly pursuits"? But if so, it seems that that is a very recent trend, as most of the best poetry, painting, literature, etc was created by men. Indeed, civilization was in large part created by men. Then why is it seen as unmanly to enjoy it?

For an answer to these questions, see my 2003 article in The American Conservative, "The Decline of the Metrosexual."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

It is sad. But you said yourself in an earlier post that the arts 'naturally' attract more gays. The arts draw on feminine strengths such as empathy (important in maintaining relationships) and aesthetic appreciation (most likely the inverse of a keener sense of disgust, important in making sure you don't eat something that'll hurt your baby). So they attract more feminine people, both men and women. This includes straight women and gay men.

Supposedly in particulary benighted areas being into *computers* is seen as gay.

Anonymous said...

See paintings of Europeans of the Baroque period (ie just as colonial America was getting started). See paintings of Louis XIV, Charles II, James II, William III (okay he was gay, but not the rest)


PS Is writing comments to blogs considered gay or straight?jlo

Anonymous said...

How many str8 guys have won as many Olympic gold medals as Carl Lewis (9)?

Just curious.

Steve Sailer said...

Carl Lewis says he's not gay, but he's never claimed to be straight either.

NFL teams were interested in drafting him as the ultimate deep threat at wide receiver, but he was not at all interested in playing football.

Thursday said...

But if so, it seems that that is a very recent trend, as most of the best poetry, painting, literature, etc was created by men.

Indeed, most of this stuff was created by heterosexual men. Critic Harold Bloom once said that what seems to most tick off those who resent the idea of a canon was the indubitable heterosexuality of most great writers. "For every Proust, there are five or six Flauberts."

Anonymous said...

From Michael Lewis (of The Blind Side) on France:

I mention this not to enlist the outrage of the American female but to highlight a curious fact. The French male who thinks of himself as Mr. Heterosexual looks, to the eyes of a visitor, gay. In France, and France alone, you can see young men wearing extra-tight shorts and Marcus Aurelius hairdos swanning into gyms, lifting weights in a manner that sweatlessly creates muscle definition, leaning suggestively against their fellow male weight-lifters and then … surprise! … walking across the gym to hit on some babe.

I am no match for Professor Breedlove. My gaydar is not finely tuned. But even if it were it would be of no use. The French male is a gaydar-jamming device.

Anonymous said...


Given that gay men are only 6% of the male population, even having as few as one out of ten significant artists be gay is an overrepresentation.

Anonymous said...

Carl Lewis is gay (or thought to be)? I never knew that. I guess I was too young during his prime to have heard any rumors.

Anonymous said...

One thing that has always bemused me is the fact that virtually everybody who is into classical music (which I am deeply involved in) appears to be a liberal if they're not gay. The orchestra that I'm in boasts a grand total of 1 Republican. And from all indications, it appears that the other arts are just as lopsidedly left-of-center. In other words, "liberal arts" can be taken quite literally.

I don't know if there's a straight male flight from the arts, although I have no doubt that may be true for certain areas such as ballet. But there definitely appears to be a conservative flight. I still can't figure out why conservatives have no taste for classical music. Certainly it helps the radical far-left deconstructionists of the ilk of Schoenberg, Ives, and John Cage that conservatives have no inclination to compose or otherwise become important in the music world who might be expected to keep some good taste in classical music.

Anonymous said...

James Kabala said
"Carl Lewis is gay (or thought to be)?"

Was there ever really any doubt:

Anonymous said...

MarkZ-"Given that gay men are only 6% of the male population"

More like 1 or 2%.

And Carl Lewis had little NFL potential. Like NFL washout Olympic speedster Tommie Smith his speed was straight line top end speed at the end of 100 -200 meters.

That's just not football speed which is more about quickness and short acceleration speed.

Very few great sprinters had the right combination of speed plus quickness, cutting ability and toughness.

If great sprint speed was the key to NFL success the greatest RBs in history would probably be Charles Alexander, Curtis Dickey and Sammy Smith.

Anonymous said...

The French male who thinks of himself as Mr. Heterosexual looks, to the eyes of a visitor, gay.

This is a Latin thing, although the French are the masters. The same haircuts and tight clothes can be found in Spain. There are also lots of mannerisms that would be considered gay in the US.

[I have to say after living here for a while the whole baggy clothing of Americans is starting to look weird to me. Why can't we buy clothes that fit!]

However, the whole masculine/gay thing is _very_ complex, as a lot of the accommodations the Northern Euro's and Americans make for Women are not considered very masculine by these folks. Women still do all the women things hear like cook and keep house (unless the man is the chef!) and they are expected to be very feminine and wear sexy clothing.

Physicality is also another big difference, both affectionate and not-so-affectionate.

Anonymous said...

What about academics and the professions. I've worked on a trading floor for an investment bank, as an engineer for a dot com, and as a waiter and bartender. I can't think of one gay person I knew at the investment bank or at the dot com, but I'd say a third of the waiters and bartenders are gay. I am pursuing a grad degree in math, so I know many guys in math, statistics, computer science, physics and engineering, but not one is gay, though I've known gay men in biology and medicine. And I'd say there is a significant gay presence in my wife's field of architecture.

Rick Darby said...


You will be happy to hear that I am a traditionalist conservative and devoted to classical music (as a listener).

Maybe performers are different, but I suspect it isn't because players have a gene for music that is somehow tied to a gene for liberalism. More likely, it's because the great majority of classical musicians live and work in big cities, often on the coasts; or in a college or university environment. In either case, it can be dangerous to your employment prospects to be an identifiable conservative.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Hetero American men create art. It just may not be what the art elites call "art" -- customizing cars and motorcycles, for example. Or even fly-tying.

Seriously! If you look beyond the limits of "high art," you might be surprised.

Anonymous said...

with regards to the idea that gay men are less aggressive than straights, I'm not at all convinced that this is true. While it is undoubtedly true of the middle class 'castro clone' type who is easily recognizable as gay to passersby, There are plenty of gay men who who are members of the underclass-- I've had a good look at a set of inhabitants of the "queen's tank" of San Francisco's jail. Some very rough characters (including a guy with a huge "white pride" tattoo), many of whom I would never have guessed were gay. It is also true that drag queens can be a rough crowd-- I remember reading somewhere that when police raided a leather bar, the patrons would go quietly, but at drag bars they would fight back.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Clifton is exactly correct. Painting soup cans is considered "art". Building homebuilt airplanes, hot rods, ham transmitters isn't. But if you really think about it most modern art is strictly artisanship and ppor artisanship at that.

Think about the work involved in, say, this:

I bet he put more time in that truck than Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock did in a large part of their actual career.