Gays As Foragers

Artists are iconic foragers, seen as promiscuous, leisurely, non-materialistic, non-domineering, well-traveled, etc. In our great political conflicts between forager and farmer styles, we expect artists to take the forager side. (more)

Traditionally, gays have also been seen as iconic foragers – promiscuous, artistic, professional, cosmopolitan, well-traveled, with few kids, etc. Meanwhile, marriage and the military are two of our most farmer-like institutions – they are contexts where we most expect long term commitment, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and strong adherence to social norms. These two facts together help explain why gays in the military and gay marriage are so politically combustible – folks who lean farmer may feel uneasy with iconic foragers being openly placed as equals in core farmer institutions.

Today’s cultural elites lean heavily forager, however, and often go out of their way to deny any downsides to promoting gays. The Post has a weekly “5 myths” editorial, and out of ~250 myths “busted” in 2010, they chose this as one of ten to emphasize at year’s end:

Some defenders of the Catholic Church’s response … say that homosexual priests are responsible for the majority of abuses, in part because more than 80 percent of the victims are male. They argue that true pedophiles – adults who are pathologically attracted to pre-pubescent children – constitute a small minority of offenders. … Such assertions have numerous flaws. For one thing, research shows that gay men are no more likely to molest children than straight men. (And celibacy doesn’t seem to be a determining factor, either.) Yes, 80 percent of the victims were male, but many offenders assaulted children of both sexes. (more)

This seem a bizarrely weak argument to emphasize. If a) straight men don’t molest boys, b) straight men molest as much as gays, c) gays are a small fraction of men, d) priests have contact with similar numbers of girls and boys, and e) priest selection and monitoring treat gays and straights alike, then it is hard to see how f) 80% of victims could be boys. Surely something in the process favored gay molestation.

Attitudes toward gays and polygamists offer an interesting contrast. Gay sex was illegal not that long ago, while polygamous sex has long been legal. Yet today gay marriage is much closer to being legal than polygamous marriage. “Save the children” is one of the main arguments against polgamy; young girls are supposedly unfairly persudaded to marry. Yet boys seduced by gays fail today to motivate much of a “save the children” impulse among elites against gays.

Polygamists are usually framed as rural, religious, fertile, etc. – much more farmer than forager. As forager attitudes rose, framed-as-forager gays became favored over framed-as-farmer polygamists.

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  • Ryan

    …it is hard to see how f) 80% of victims could be boys. Surely something in the process favored gay molestation.

    I think this is easily explained. Catholic men who feel intense shame and self-hatred for being gay and who feel no sexual attraction to women turn to working in the church, where they won’t have social pressure to marry and where God is more likely to cure them. Then, in the midst of their bottled up sexuality which they are not allowed to talk about, hint at, or even recognize, they are surrounded by young boys who trust them, who they have power over, and who they can get away with molesting because they are priests and the Church will look the other way for years.

    I think this is the personal story told of most priests. Seems like this will be a controversial topic.

  • Ryan

    “Save the children” is one of the main arguments against polgamy; young girls are supposedly unfairly persudaded to marry. Yet boys seduced by gays fail today to motivate a “save the children” impulse against gays.

    Polygamists are usually framed as rural, religious, fertile, etc. – much more farmer than forager. As forager attitudes rose, framed-as-forager gays became favored over framed-as-farmer polygamists.

    Isn’t the issue that polygamists tend to take young girls for their wives, i.e. children? Gay marriage is seldom/never that (seems as uncommon as straigh adults marrying children).

    I think you’re right that gays are framed as foragers and polygamists as farmers… but to write about cultural elites is to speak out of proportion, since I think our whole forager-moving society has long since demonized polygamy and become more accepting of gay marriage.

  • Lorenzo from Oz

    Part of the problem is that there is a difference between true paedophilia and having sex with (post-pubescent) teenagers. (The only age group which had a majority female victims was the youngest group of the under 8 years while a third of all victims were 15-17 years old, with the male proportion of victims increasing as the age increased.) But mostly, it is a matter of selection processes — who becomes a priest and why — and changing opportunities (and thus relative costs) as I discuss here.

    It was, to a large degree, a cohort problem: according to the data, rates of sex with minors by priests have dropped dramatically after rising dramatically.

    It was the cohorts who, in the traditional way, became priests to flee from their own sexuality but who then confronted rising costs in what they were giving up as social opportunities for being same-sex oriented increased, while dangers of prosecution were limited, among whom sex with minors surged. (It is worth noting that it was a very specifically Catholic problem, as I discuss here.) Now the chances of prosecution are much higher, and anyone becoming a priest does so in full awareness there are much greater social options for same-sex attraction, the rate of clerical sex with minors has dropped back dramatically.

    • John 4

      You say that it was a very specifically Catholic problem, but I’ve never seen any data to back that up. (And I did follow the link.) I’ve seen statistics that seem to indicate that the rate of abuse was no higher in the Catholic Church than it is for the population at large, for teachers, for (male) clergy of all stripes, etc. But it was hard to verify the accuracy of those statistics, so I’d be happy if you could point me in the direction of some other ones.

      • Lorenzo from Oz

        Finding good comparative statistics is hard. In the Boston Globe’s book on clerical abuse (which I review here) Anson Shupe is quoted to the effect of the lack of Protestant equivalents — in either serial predators or them being protected by the Church establishment.

    • John 4

      Hmm. As I said, my original source was dodgy, but I found some other, more reliable statistics that seem to contradict your claim here:

      • GNZ

        The author seems to be comparing apples with oranges.
        First he compares the rate of abusers (the 4%) with the rate of abuse (the 10%) but each abuser is probably abusing more than one person during their life so thats a nonsense comparison.

        Second the comparison that is important to us is whether catholic preists abuse children under their influence more than a similar group like prodestant preists or for if we want to go further – scout masters or teachers. Because there is no attempt made to record asults at home by family members in the first set of data (the catholic preists) and that is probably the largest part of the second set (general sexual child abuse).

        I am more interested in the statement by Ernie Allen so not saying that it is not true – just that the evidence is far from robust.

  • Ray

    I missed the connection here between foraging artists, and foraging gays.

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  • Rob

    Tangentially related: WEIRD co-author Henrich is a witness in the Canadian polygamy case.

  • JAMayes

    ” priests have contact with similar numbers of girls and boys”

    I’m not catholic, but I’ve never heard of altar girls.

    • Leah

      Lay members of either sex may assist at Mass at most Catholic services today.

      • Vinnie

        But yes, altar servers are still mostly boys.

  • Hmm

    First, let’s get some things out of the way. What attributes make someone Gay or Bi? Behavior AND/OR desire. If you are attracted to the same sex, but never act on it, are you G/B? If you have sex with the same sex, but don’t feel actual attraction are you? What if you only do so in orgy-like situations, without desire? G/B exist along a continuum; neatly cutting sexual desires into groups is good politically, but does not reflect the richness of sexuality. One day perhaps we will stop separating people out like this and simply protect “everyone everywhere whose behavior does not violate the harm principle.” Then we will not need laundry lists of protected groups. EVERYONE will be protected if their behavior causes no harm.

    Next: the Catholic priests. This is strange, because whether or not they were gay is the absolutely least interesting part of the entire story. All that matters is how the behavior relates to the law. Our laws say “having sex with people who cannot legally consent is a crime.” The other stuff is irrelevant.

    Regarding polygamy. This is a very bad comparison. One is a sexual status, the other is a LEGAL status. What makes a group polygamous? One partner of sex X has multiple of sex Y as their spouses. Now, what if we had gay/bi marriage, and had one woman with 4 wives? Are they polygamous? What about if we allowed 2 women to marry 3 men? Is this the same? What if they’re not married (I’ve known plenty of POLYAMOROUS people with no children and a mix of sexes, and there were no legal issues)? What about polyamorous (unmarried) people with children in-house? Why isn’t this the same? It’s because polygamy isn’t about marriage or adults, it’s simply about children. If you passed a law that said “polygamists and polyamorous people cannot have children” the entire problem would disappear, assuming you agree that it’s a problem in the first place.

    These arguments are completely mis-framed. Thinking about them properly would help fix a lot of the issues.

    • John 4

      You are gay if you are sexually attracted to members of your own sex. You can have sex with someone of your own sex and not be gay, if you didn’t desire to have sex with them. (Rape being the most obvious example here.) Clearly you don’t need to have had gay sex to be gay, that’s absurd.

      I guess things get murky if you’re indifferent to having sex with members of your own sex, but I don’t know that it follows that there is just a continuum and the gay/straight dichotomy is bogus. I have a lot of gay friends and they are, um, clearly very different than me viz their sexual orientation.

  • Buck Farmer

    I can’t believe Robin as a professional economist could not discuss the possibility if differential supply of priests from gay and straight populations.

    In case you missed this part of econ 101, there’s a lovely paper on the market for lemons. Basically, despite not actively selecting for broken cars (lemons) buyers tend to get more at used car dealership than in the prevailing population.

  • Stephen R. Diamond

    If gays and artists are foragers, what’s your explanation. As people get rich, the pressures to adapt to the requirements of farming decreases. But that has nothing obvious to do with artists and gays.

  • Ray

    Now that I’ve followed your various links and read them through I have to partially disagree with your descriptions of forager and farmer.

    On the surface my disagreements might seem to be frivolous, but the various ingredients to your Type A and B people add up to a false premise for the several positions you’ve taken since then based on these – at least – partially incorrect models.

    On Materialism:
    Of the Type A and B ,which group would be more likely to own the pricier foreign made car, an Audi or a Volvo let’s say? Which group would be more likely to have pricier, trendy clothes? Which group would be more likely to eat at the more expensive restaurants, and would in fact eat out more altogether?

    Which group would be more likely to smoke, at least at some point in their life? Which group would be more likely to have experimented with drugs in their youth (which leads to a percentage of them remaining casual users well into mature adulthood)? Promiscuity you already covered.

    Leisurely would be those who are more apt to have simpler hobbies; weekends with the kids, Sunday spent at home with friends or family. That doesn’t fit the Type A you described. A casual approach to life in general perhaps would fit Type A, but that doesn’t translate in to a leisurely life per se, but a more non-traditional approach to life that would be more accurately described as casual. More likely to wear loafers, a blazer and jeans to your daughter’s wedding let’s say. Casual, but not necessarily leisurely.

    Covering these bases, I feel secure in saying that your Type A is more materialistic, trendy, unable to live with long term commitments, more apt to eat healthy once they reach their 30s, and to have a reflexive disrespect for authority, and tradition itself as a rule.

    This is highly pertinent to your subsequent conclusions built on your earlier false premises. The Farmers of your Type B – right, wrong or indifferent – are resistant to the Type A folks simply because the Type A’s are flighty, unreliable, and trend towards a paternalistic ideology to boot despite their own problems with personal values. (That’s irony by the way.)

  • mtraven

    All this forager/farmer stuff just seems like the 100th recycling of an old idea, this time with a sheen of faux science. Whether it is Nazis railing against cosmpolitanism in the 30s, or talk of the New Class from Galbraith and others in the 50s, or Spiro Agnew attacking the “effete intellectual snobs” in the 70s, or Robin Hanson in the 2010s miffed at the prevalence of forager values among the elite, it all seems like the same old same old. I imagine you could find the same tensions between urban centers and the countryside in ancient Rome.

    Not that there isn’t a useful dimension or dichotomy hidden in there — it makes sense of a lot of politics among other things. But it behooves anyone talking about it to actually say something new, not dress up the same old thing in a new vocabulary. And especially not use it as an excuse to trot out cliches like the supposed parallels between gay marriage and polygyny and innumerate analyses of pedophilia (others have already pointed out the problems with the original post).

    • http:/ Stephen R. Diamond

      Is Robin miffed at foragers? Perhaps I’m obtuse, but I haven’t noticed. (And if not, there’s your difference from seemingly similar classifications.)

    • Hopefully Anonymous

      Mtravern, I think you found the epistemological sweet spot here, although I give a little more weight to the value in general of replacing worse terms with better terms. My sense from Prof. Hanson’s forager/farmer jag is that its rooting old discussions in terms better grounded in the empirical social science record.

    • Tim Tyler

      This is a bit of a snark – but I think forager/farmer is the new near/far.

      My brain seems to enjoy shoving almost everything into predefined categories rather less than Robin’s seems to.

  • TGGP

    I’ve heard a few internet oddballs sighing at the decline of gays as a subversive subculture.

    The politically correct (and factually correct, from what I understand) view is that orientation is ingrained at a fairly early age and resistant to outside influence (Trivers’ logic says that should be the case for many traits). It is somewhat in tension with the view that many people in the past (including married men with children) were forced to live a lie due to social norms, but I suppose we can allow room for margins. One of Steve Levitt’s students had such a focus-on-the-margin paper about knowledge of AIDS leading to changes in behavior, though I believe it came in for heavy criticism.

    Hmm, Michael Bailey has argued that there are no real bisexuals: “Straight, Gay, or Lying?“. Again, we may allow room for margins but in the main it does seem more like bimodal distributions (with one peak far smaller) than more a more continuous distribution. And polygamists in the U.S do not try to legally maintain multiple wives, but the authorities still do not approve of such de facto polygamy. Razib argues that they are more tolerant of de facto polygamy among immigrants than FLDS, Sailer thinks the motivation is that such communities are massive welfare cases. I personally agree with Razib that polygamous places don’t seem that desirable to live in, but on the other hand there is that new paper which says such cultures also lack alcohol for causally unrelated reasons.

    Eric Raymond made the argument a while back in the most backed up manner (in contrast to the blogger “Whiskey”) that gays hold influential positions in the media and influence coverage accordingly. I’ve heard others compare that view to the conspiracy theories about jews controlling the media (a Slate investigation revealed they really just control the fun parts). And Jews are Yuri Slezkine’s exemplary Mercurians in contrast to the soil-rooted Appollonians. Both Slezkine and James Scott (in “The Art of Not Being Governed”) compare them to Gypsies, who are of course the source of the “Bohemian” archetype. On the other hand, Scott’s argument is about how similar they are to the Universal Hillbilly.

    • mtraven

      Isn’t it about time to mention the germ theory of homosexuality?

      Slezkine’s book is a good one to introduce into this discussion, his Mercurian/Appolonian distinctions is yet another iteration of the same thing but at least he finds something new to say about it.

      • Lorenzo from Oz

        Cochrane makes claims that are not true: for example, that there is no homosexuality in hunter-gatherer societies. Similarly, the notion that a condition which discourages offspring could not be genetic shows a very weak understanding of genetics. It could easily be a recessive by-product of traits selected for other reasons. While his claims that homosexuality is more common in urban than rural environments is both more empirically contestable than he seems to realise (gays tend to flee to the city and are less likely to declare themselves in the country) and compatible with a genetic by-product explanation, since larger populations will tend to result in stronger sorting patterns in matings.

  • John Maxwell IV

    “Surely something in the process favored gay molestation.”

    I think society is significantly less suspicious of older men having one-on-one interactions with boys than girls.

  • vaniver

    a) straight men don’t molest boys

    Where did this come from? Because that’s the weakest part of the argument as you phrase it.

    If you use the data that Lorenzo supplied above, and use the more specific “male teens,” then it seems strongly likely that gays are more likely to molest male teens than straights. But everything I’ve seen on pedophilia suggests male pre-pubescent children and female pre-pubescent children are pretty much the same when it comes to sexual attraction (i.e. someone who would have sex with an 8 year old girl generally would also have sex with an 8 year old boy, and vice versa, whereas the same is not true if you set the ages to 18).

    I don’t see this farmer-forager dynamic constraining my expectations, which suggests to me we’re in just-so-story mode rather than hypothesis-generating mode. Have you been surprised by the predictions this approach has made (and they’ve been correct) or is this just a filter that’s not yet wrong?

    • Lorenzo from Oz

      Yes, that is correct. Paedophilia is a separate pathology from one’s adult sexual orientation. Indeed, heterosexual paedophiles tend to go for younger boys than do homosexual paedophiles, since the younger boys lack the male features the heterosexual paedophiles are not attracted to.

      • drew

        yeah as everyone knows, young boys DON’T have a penis or testicles. You are a fucking moron left wing nut gay propagandist. grow up.straight men DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH THE SAME SEX. Look up what HOMOSEXUAL means in the dictionary, has NOTHING to do with AGE of participants you moron. Straight men molest GIRLS they are hairless AND have the correct equipment. You and your gay agenda annoys me.

  • Lord

    What are those that favor cultural farmer values if not elites? The ones that most emphasize traditional values and their imposition over society? What term would you use for them? Are you just exhibiting bias in associating foragers with elite? Or is what makes them elite is that they are more influential and winning?

  • Robert Speirs

    One similarity between “foraging” and “farming”. They are both behaviors, not states. And foragers can change into farmers when opportunity strikes. Almost all Westerners have the opportunity to be either. Farmers are real people choosing to live substantial, productive lives. Foragers are real people choosing to do evil.

    • Sister Y

      Farmers certainly are more productive, at least in terms of soybeans, pigs, and babies. And judging from what I saw at the Iowa State Fair, they are much more substantial, too.

  • Michael Bishop

    This is definitely not a representative sample, and one could make a good argument that the selection into the sample differed for people of different ages, making it difficult to estimate age-effects on personality. Details of the data collection from the study quoted below:

    Procedure. The data were collected using a noncommercial,
    advertisement-free website,, that offers its visitors free feedback on several surveys and personality measures.
    Potential participants could reach this site in a number of ways,
    including search engines, links from other websites, and informal
    channels such as e-mail, online discussion forums, and word-ofmouth. All participants anonymously completed an Englishlanguage, Web-based version of the BFI (John et al., 1991, 2008;
    Soto & John, 2009a). After submitting their responses, participants
    received automatically generated, generally worded feedback
    about their standing on each of the Big Five domains as well as
    background information about the Big Five and suggestions for
    ways to learn more about personality theory and research.

  • TGGP

    I didn’t see the relevance of the pathogenic theory, and I was worried I had enough hyperlinks to trip a spam filter in my original comment.

    Lorenzo, I’ve also heard disputes about hunter-gatherers. Cochran’s point about urban-rural from what I recall was not based on current residence but on where they reported being raised. His criteria for rejecting an explanation as genetic is if it 1: seriously reduces fitness 2: has been around for a long time and 3: has a frequency above one percent of the population. He allows exceptions in the cases of conditions like sickle-cell anemia which are somewhat recent adaptations to a very fitness reducing infection. In reading some of his arguments I find the claim that all such protective mutations show a simple Mendelian inheritance pattern (unlike homosexuality), but I don’t recall him giving a theoretical reason why we should expect that to be the case.

    Michael Bishop, I think you meant to comment on the previous post, as there is no survey mentioned here.

    • Lorenzo from Oz

      On hunter-gatherers, many Amerindian societies had same-sex marriage, whether they were farmers or foragers (though many of their foragers were ex-farmers, thanks to the Spanish introduction of horses). In Siberian cultures, attraction towards members of your own sex was taken as an indicator of prospective shaman status. And so on.

      As for reducing reproductive fitness, how much does it actually? It may reduce the propensity to have children, but it demonstrably does not eliminate it — plenty of homosexuals have had children. This would affect the mathematical dynamics.

      Also, surely the patterns of same-sex attraction and orientation are too stable for a germ theory to make sense. As it happens, I am dubious about homosexuality having a direct genetic basis. I think it is far more likely to have a “second order” one. Hence my point about any urban-rural difference being likely the result of stronger sorting processes in larger populations. Since humans tend to select on the basis of matching cognitive traits, this would tend, over time, to lead to a convergence of cognitive traits between men and women. A process stronger in larger populations (the urban/rural difference). The most through form of “convergence” is (1) becoming sexual oriented in a way which converges with most typical of the other sex (i.e. same-sex attracted) and (2) being cognitively like the other sex (i.e. transgender/gender dysmorphia). So, the bigger the population, the larger the tendency to produce same-sex attraction or gender dysmorphia. There is plenty of research evidence that homosexuals tend to be cognitively “cross-matched” (i.e. have cognitive traits more typical of the other sex): i.e. the blokey dykes and queenie guys effect.

      Ironically, to the extent that homosexuality does retard reproductive fitness (and surely it does to some extent), it would therefore tend to be a barrier to full convergence in cognitive traits between men and women. Since there is an argument that a key advantage homo sapiens had over neathanderthals was homo sapiens having more differentiated male-female roles (the men hunted, the women gathered allowing more effective specialisation — comparative advantage anyone?) perhaps there was selection in favour of mechanisms which blocked convergence in cognitive traits.

      So, far from homosexuality “confusing” male/female, perhaps it helped keep them more cognitively distinct.

      • TGGP

        Are you making some kind of group-selection argument? I’m also reminded of the finding that more “traditional” societies have less gendered difference in personalities.

        My guess is that there is a large fitness effect because there is so much adaptive work going into making people heterosexual. That combined with the gender dysmorphia makes it sound more like some switch getting flipped (or more accurately since we are female by default and there are roughly twice as many male as female gays, a switch that didn’t flip).

        Your argument about larger populations also reminds me of the “mutational load” theory of homosexuality: 1% is a high frequency for a single maladaptive mutation but not surprisingly high if any of a larger number of mutations can cause it. And Cochran’s book is mostly about how larger populations means more mutations (though his bottom-line is that natural selection speeds up).

  • Steve Sailer

    Let me be the third in this list of comments to endorse the idea that Professor Hanson should enlarge his conceptual repertoire by reading Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine’s 2004 book The Jewish Century. Slezkine argues that the 21st Century economy makes traditional Ashkenazi Jewish traits such as literacy and numeracy, scholarship, self-assertiveness, and the like more valuable than other culture’s traits that made for good farmers or soldiers.Thus, for example, Jews make up about 35% of the 2009 Forbes 400.

    Perhaps Dr. Hanson will be able to fit this within his forager/farmer framework?

  • Sister Y

    To what degree do you think “forager” features are neotenic features?

  • Ray

    Much of this can be found in the microcosm of the family, especially those that have some up by the boot straps financial success. Especially the traditional immigrant story.

    First generation arrives in America – freed from the constraints their old homes put on their economic lives, they work their fingers to the bone, and are successful.

    Second generation absorbs some of the “farmer” like traits from mom and dad, but also begin to take the success and freedom for granted. They see the “farmer” values and traditions as restrictions.

    Third generation see the contradiction between their parents’ dichotomy of “farmer” and “forager” values, and completely toss out the traditional since they don’t see the underlying value in the traditions.

    First generation was unequal in many ways but they would never have dreamed of divorce, unwed mothers, etc.

    Second generation only sees the lack of rights, etc. none of the value of long term commitment, etc. Divorce rates rise, families start to disintegrate.

    Third generation accepts the fragmented family as normal. Birth rates fall, starter marriages are considered normal, and so on.

    All the traits of a pendulum swinging, never finding any balance. The most fortunate in any society are those born in the second generation since they benefit from the stability of the first generation, but they are also seeing the loosening up of the truly restrictive traits of their society. Third generation is a train wreck. The enlightened few look to their grandparents and try to mimic them. Everyone else watches reality TV, and reads Malcolm Gladwell.

  • David

    This seem a bizarrely weak argument to emphasize. If a) straight men don’t molest boys, b) straight men molest as much as gays, c) gays are a small fraction of men, d) priests have contact with similar numbers of girls and boys, and e) priest selection and monitoring treat gays and straights alike, then it is hard to see how f) 80% of victims could be boys. Surely something in the process favored gay molestation.

    That quotation is, honestly, one of the most poorly reasoned paragraphs I’ve read on OB. It makes numerous unjustified assumptions:

    * That gendered sexual interest expressed toward other adults — which is generally what people mean by “gay” and “straigt” — translates to the same gendered interest in prepubescents. It doesn’t, and publications since have confirmed the finding. So, the meaning of (a) depends on a false assumption.
    * That “boys” is a useful category for sexual interest without further dividing the “boys” into prepubescent and postpubescent. See “terminology” in this document. There’s a big difference between interest in postpubescent minor boys and prepubescent boys.
    * That the distribution of boys and girls priests work with is balanced. While <a allowing female altar servers is common, the historical prohibition should lead to the presumption that numbers are probably still skewed heavily in favor of males. The burden of proof is on (d) that there is balance.
    * Point (e) is outright contradicted by the Catholic Church’s policy on gays in the clergy. Perhaps you were thinking of the Anglican Church’s policy?

    Also, I have to side with other comments about the gay = forager link (which is already tenuous and heavier on stereotyping than real evidence) relationship to the molestation question.

  • JasonSL

    Just as lumping male heterosexuality and female heterosexuality together as a unified “heterosexuality” is likely to mislead, so also is considering “homosexuality” as a whole.

    Stereotypes of lesbians belong as much to the “farmer” category as the “forager” category: hard-working, stolid, desirous of the thick-walled SUV or truck parked in a stand-alone house with a fence around it. Like gay men, gay women escape to the city, and absorb some non-traditionalness and cosmopolitanness, but these are accidental consequences of city life rather than attractive features in and of themselves.


    As regards sexual orientation and genetic inheritance, women on the mother’s side of a gay man’s family tree tend to have more offspring than women on the mother’s side of a straight man’s family tree:

    Thus there could be genetic material that in women increases fertility and in men increases the probability of homosexuality. These alleles may be on balance fitness-promoting: your female descendants (and you yourself if you’re female) have more progeny at the expense of a small increase in the probability that your male progeny will have a reduced interest in mating with females.

    There are also myriad ways in which male homosexuality might be “overshooting” from fitness-enhancing strategies. I recall hearing of some fish with a dimorphism among males — some males are power-strategists, who try to outcompete other males for access to females by being more powerful, while other males are subtlety-strategists, who try to slip in to inseminate females while the power-strategists are duking it out. In human males, large, strong, masculine-featured men may be like the power-strategists, while smaller, slighter, more androgynous- or neonetic-featured men may be like the subtlety-strategists — the artists and musicians who befriend women and whom women “let their guard down” around. Male homosexuals may to some extent be results of overshooting subtlety-strategists.

  • daedalus2u

    I have long suspected that having a gay son might be to provide a backup foster parent for a woman’s grandchildren should one of her daughters die in childbirth. Death in childbirth was a major cause of female death in historic and prehistoric times. The average number of descendants each person had was 2, each woman had 2, each man had 2. This was the average number, some had more (the alpha males), some had fewer (the alpha male want-to-bes). We know the average number was 2 because the population was stable and did not reach astronomic levels over evolutionary time.

    Having a gay son who increases the survival of your daughter’s children is a better reproductive bet than having a straight alpha male want-to-be who gets killed the first time he fights an alpha male for females. A gay man won’t fight over females, he won’t die in childbirth. As a male, he is big and strong enough to fight the new alpha male who wants to kill his sister’s children by the former alpha male. If the gay brother has a gay partner, the two of them could defend against essentially any single straight alpha male attacking them.

    What I find especially interesting about this idea is that because a gay man only has reproductive success by the successful parenting of his sister’s children, “good parenting genes” should become linked with the “gay genes”. If so, this may explain the “queer eye for the straight guy” effect, where the stereotype of gay men is that they are much better home makers than straight men.

  • Salrissa Jenkins

    Your a-f analysis misses one important point. What if even before the selection process starts, people applying for roles as a priest are heavily biased towards gays?

    Consider this situation – a gay person grows up in a Catholic environment. There is a cultural expectation that you will get married and have kids. Said gay person can’t stand the thought of sex with a member of the opposite sex, and so takes the only culturally acceptable role available which avoids that fate – to become a celibate priest.

    This modifies “c” above – gays may be a small fraction of men, but they are likely a much higher percentage of those applying for the priesthood.