from Books & Reviews
By Gregory Rogers
(In the following essay, numbers in brackets indicate page numbers, which refer to The Gay Report by Karla Jay and Allen Young, Summit Books, New York, 1979).
The first major survey on homosexuality in America was conducted in 1979 and published as The Gay Report. The survey has since become a benchmark in this area and one of the largest of its kind ever conducted, with 5,000 gay persons of all ages and from all walks of life (and Christian denominations) surveyed on various aspects of their lifestyle and sub-culture. The study was conducted by English Professor Karla Jay, Ph.D., and journalist Allen Young, who holds two masters degrees. The work is cited even today in academic work.
What might immediately strike one as odd is that Jay and Young are both gay activists. The question of partiality might therefore immediately present itself. What is somewhat more curious, however, is how potentially damaging to the gay liberation cause is the data presented in the study. Jay and Young apparently have no qualms about publishing admissions from the gay quarter of underage sex, gross promiscuity, disease, suicidal tendencies, and more.
The work, further, was welcomed by voices within the gay community. Professor of Sociology and gay author Laud Humphreys insists, "all of us who are gay will find ourselves here" (cited in book jacket). Author Jane Rule asserts "This is not just a book of statistics; it is a book of voices, our voices." (ibid.)
Let us see, therefore, what the gay community admits about itself and its practices, admissions it apparently is little concerned to transmit to the straight mainstream.
The Gay Report was unique in that for the first time society was permitted a glimpse into the gay subculture, to see if the rumors, stories and hearsay that had persisted for so long were true. In many cases, it appears, they were.
Accusations of promiscuity had long been levelled at the gay community. As Jay and Young's research indicates, these fears were justified. According to the study, 35% of respondents admitted to having had 100 or more different sexual partners throughout their lives (p.249); 18% admitted to having had between seven and 60 such partners in the previous month alone (p. 248), and 18% to having had three or more in the previous week (p. 248). 38% said the longest relationship they had ever had did not last longer than a year (p. 340). For lesbians the average relationship lasted 38 months (p. 302).
In answer to the question "how often do you go home to have sex with someone you have just met?" a total of 50% answered under the "always," "very frequently" or "somewhat frequently category" (p. 251). Jay and Young sum up, "Clearly, then, the one-night stand is within the experience of an overwhelming majority of gay men" (p. 252).
Furthermore, 77% of respondents had taken part in "threesomes" at least once, while 59% had taken part in orgies or group sex (p. 587). 38% had partaken of sadomasochistic practices at least once and 23% had practiced urination in association with sex (p. 555). 24% admitted to having been paid for sex (p. 260).
Nor are gay leaders shy to publicize their feelings in this regard. In the classic gay work Gay Manifesto, author Carl Wittman said that sadomasochism, "when consensual can be described as a highly artistic endeavor, a ballet the constraints of which are the thresholds of pain and pleasure" (cited on p. 554). Celebrated gay poet Allen Ginsberg commented favorably on orgies that, "It's an important human experience to relate to yourself and others as a hunk of meat sometimes" (pgs. 589-590), and referred to the orgy as "one holy divine yoga of losing ego" (590).
Curiously, Jay and Young appear to have little notion that the above constitutes "promiscuity." According to them, "Where does one draw the line and say that certain people have been promiscuous, and others have not? What value judgment is implied by the term 'promiscuous'? These questions are impossible to answer because they depend on subjective attitudes" (p. 249).
They cite gay respondents as saying that, "Promiscuity is a heterosexual concept used to attack us... If you speak in terms of 'sexual freedom' and sharing of sensual experience, it can be a fine thing. I guess it all depends upon motives" (p. 249). Another asserts that, "I have trouble with the word 'promiscuity' because I really do not know what it means. What is the line between infrequent or frequent sex and promiscuity? If I have sex three times a day and am very selective in the choice of mates, am I promiscuous or highly selective and super-horny?" (p. 249)
Substance Abuse and Safe Sex
Substance abuse is also a major problem in the gay community. In the study 44% admitted to using alcohol "somewhat frequently," "very frequently" or "always" in association with sex (p. 496), with the figure at 32% for marijuana. 64% had so used marijuana at least once (p. 496). Correlating figures for lesbians were 29% for alcohol and 29% for marijuana (p. 431).
This at very least raises questions about how effective safe sex can be, if significant numbers of gays are stoned or bombed out during sex. It also raises questions about gay adoption of children, not only as regards what effect extreme promiscuity and sex practice might have, but also what sort of role model the gay parent would be.
Not surprisingly, venereal disease is also a problem. Thus 35% of gay respondents admitted having had gonorrhea at least once (p. 691), with 69% admitting to having had crabs (p. 692). Jay and Young admit that, "VD is a major source of concern for the gay male community." According to them, "In the early years of the gay movement, some activists objected to the idea that venereal disease is more prevalent among male homosexuals. Presumably, the VD 'accusation' was being used as a weapon against gay people. However, gay men cannot afford to worry about their 'reputation' when in fact people are transmitting diseases through sexual contact at a rapid rate" (p. 691).
Interestingly enough, 60% of gay respondents had college diplomas (10, although there are admittedly possible sample problems here, as indicated by the authors), thus refuting the objection that gays lack the education to adopt effective safe sex methods.
Pedophilia and Bestiality
Rumours of pedophilia and child molestation by gays have also long persisted. In the study, 23% of respondents admitted to having had sex with youths aged 13-15 (p. 275), while 19% felt positive about sexual activity within this age group (p. 276).
Also noteworthy is that 13.5% of respondents admitted to being guilty of bestiality (p. 555). Gay publication Fag Rag ran an article entitled "Bestiality as an Act of Revolution" (p. 567). (At this point I should say that there are a number of quotes on the matter by respondents on pages 567-568, but I will not tarnish these pages by citing them, surely in St. Paul's words "too shameful to mention in secret.")
The above, of course, raises immediate questions concerning the present gay adoption debate, not to mention the question of gay priests, i.e., should such gay priests be allowed access to Sunday Schools or youth groups?
The study contributed little to the question of psychological/emotional problems among gays. However, it did indicate that a full 40% had either attempted or seriously contemplated suicide, with the figure at 39% for lesbians (p. 728). 12% of male gays and 18% of lesbians were currently seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist for any reason (p. 722).
Questions Raised About Gay Claims
The gay lobby has long insisted that gays are "born that way," that they cannot change, and to expect them to lead heterosexual lives is unfair and contrary to their biology. The study, however, indicates otherwise.
Of male gays, 66% had had at least one sexual experience with a woman in the past, and 20.5% said they were currently having sexual experiences with women (p. 123). Astonishingly, 83% of lesbians had had sex with a man at least once previously, with 17% currently having sex with men. 23% of lesbians, further, felt "very positive" or "somewhat positive" about these previous relationships, with 21% neutral (p. 59). 13% of male gays had biological children (p. 133), with the figure at 18% for lesbians (p. 79). At very least, this hardly sounds as though gays have a natural, biological revulsion to relationships with the opposite sex. Here Jay and Young admit that the 13% "could well be considered a large percentage considering the myth that gay people "can't have children." (p. 133)
Interestingly enough, 50% of male respondents had had their first sexual experience aged 15 or less (p. 107). The figure is 20% for lesbians (p. 52). This, of course, points toward an environmental cause of homosexuality, implying that homosexual development might come about as a result of being abused at a young age and is the result of stunted emotional/psychological development, rather than having a genetic root. It could also account for the relatively high level among gays of sexual interest in teenagers, the theory running that, having been abused at so early an age, gays did not develop emotionally past that age, and so are attracted to persons of a like young age. Notably, in the study many gays reported negative feelings in their first sexual encounter, which later became more positive (p. 107).
On a final note, 20% of male gays and 8% of lesbians have sought so-called "reparative therapy" to change to straight (p. 722), and 6% of male gays and 0% of lesbians say they would medically change their orientation to straight if the means and technology were so available. A further 17% of male gays were "not sure" whether they would do so (p. 772).
Apart from questioning the notion that gays "can't do it" with women, the above also raises serious questions about the spread of diseases from gay to straight society (if they are having sex with straights). About 50% of AIDS cases in the States (formerly 70%) are gay men. Not to mention the relatively high levels of other diseases (see above). Have gays in some measure been responsible for spreading these to the mainstream?
It needs be said that we are not asserting that all, or even a majority, of gays partake of the above practices. Indeed, as the study indicates, many such practices are condemned by many gays - but also openly praised by many. If public opinion felt that all gays so partook, it was indeed in error. However, what The Gay Report clearly indicates is that the above practices are significant problems in the gay subculture, with numbers and percentages alarmingly higher than the mainstream. Further, praise and support for promiscuity and various practices by leading figures from within the gay community is also worrying. In all, the situation is of huge concern, especially since the stated aim of gay activists is to have the gay lifestyle fully incorporated into mainstream society and everyday living. Most of all, we must ask whether we want to grant access to our children and our society of a group where underage sex, significant promiscuity, sexual disease, drug abuse and suicidal tendencies are glaring problems.
Curiously enough, authors Jay and Young seem little to realize how damaging their own study is to their position as activists. They make the astonishing statement that "While it should be obvious by now to any straight reader that gay people's lives are not without problems, it should be just as obvious that these problems are not necessarily more overwhelming than the problems that straight people have to solve - just different" (p. 771).
As any fair-minded reader of the above will see, however, there is very simply no comparison between the problems of the gay community and those of straights. Moreover, the objection that gay problems are due to a homophobic society have little basis, and cannot finally be proven.
This essay may well be criticized in that it cites an old study. Notwithstanding the fact, however, that age does not stop the gay lobby from citing old studies when and where they wish (the infamous 1948 "ten-percent of society are gay' statistic of Alfred Kinsey being the most palpable example).
Note too, that the Jay and Young study is still cited today, such is its importance as the first, and one of the largest, studies ever conducted on this subject. Further, many of the stats indicated in the survey can be backed up with more recent data. There is little indication that much has significantly changed from 1979.
However one may criticize the study, however, it still raises significant questions. Surely the very existence of such open admissions by respondents creates too great a question mark simply to continue allowing gay rights their inexorable march to full legal status. Surely the reasonable person in the street must agree (at very least) that before the gay sub-culture is allowed free access into society's domain, these questions must be answered, and that the ball rests firmly in the court of gay activists to prove their case.