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Sexual Orientation and Your “Sex Life”

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Sexual Orientation and Your “Sex Life”"

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I thought I’d chime in to agree with Glenn Greenwald that asking if someone is gay isn’t really asking about that person’s “sex life” in the way the term is normally understood:

Kevin has written before about the fact that he is married and that his spouse is female (“My wife, Marian, is a systems analyst in the MIS department at Lantronix. We’ve been married since 1991″). When he wrote that, or when he introduces his wife, does he actually think that he’s revealing things about his “sex life” — let alone things on par with: “Do you masturbate when your wife isn’t around?” or “Have you ever had a three-way”? To ask the question is to illustrate how inane is the suggestion. At most, one knows from Kevin’s revelation that he is heterosexual, but not anything about his “sex life” — i.e., how many times a week does he have sex, how many partners does he have, what positions does he most enjoy, what type of women does he find attractive, etc. etc.?

That seems totally correct to me. This strikes me as part of a broader set of questions where I tend to see older straight liberals seeing things one way and gays and younger straight liberals seeing it differently.

When you think about it, the whole reason these “it’s none of your business” situations arise is precisely because facts about your sexual orientation aren’t considered on a par with questions about one’s sex life. Straight people don’t normally discuss our sex lives with casual acquaintances or unknown readers, but we’re expected to over time bring dates to events or make passing reference to current or former partners. It’s when someone doesn’t do that stuff that people begin to wonder if the person is gay. Failing to mention one’s past experience or lack thereof with threesomes doesn’t lead anyone to inferences of any kind, it’s just normal social behavior.

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