Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Opening a dialog

Since I'm excited to have some measure of Dr. Schow's attention, and to shift focus away from the size of my penis, I would like to open a dialog about the Dialogue articles written by none other than our own Master Fob and Dr. Schow. But, mainly Schow's. We'll always have Fob to talk about.

Dr. Schow's article highlights some of the limited information we have about "mixed orientation marriages" (MOMs), and offers some guidelines to help predict which marriages are likely not to end in divorce. Overall I really enjoyed the article and found a lot to agree with. But there were little nuanced things that bothered me, so I'm bringing them up here for discussion.

Why do so many marital relationships of this kind fail? Primarily because the homosexual attraction of one spouse creates a major difficulty, despite hopes that such attraction will diminish over time. In reality, the great majority of those who are homosexually oriented cannot fundamentally alter their feelings by desire, therapy, or religious practice.
...
The reality is that homosexuality is not a choice and, except in rare cases, is not subject to change.


It's no news that the idea that change is impossible is disputed by NARTH. I'm still considering the idea of reading Schow's and Byrd's books as a set to compare the disparate data they present. Regardless, I agree with the statement here except that I would modify it to say, "...In reality, the great majority of those who are homosexually oriented have not been able to fundamentally...". Per the APA's consensus statement there have been no scientifically rigorous data to prove or disprove the possibility of even Reparative Therapy as a viable therapeutic option, let alone other therapies that could be conceived and have never been tried at all. To say "can't" is what nearly everyone does, and is to overstate our collective knowledge on the matter. Resist, people, and keep a good balance between skepticism and an open mind.

Thus, marriage seems risky for homosexuals and even bisexuals since we presume that some will end their marriages without trying therapy and that those receiving skilled professional assistance still achieve only this level of success.


I'm in total agreement that marriage is risky (for heteros too), but perhaps there ought to be inquiry into the manner and quality of "skilled professional assistance" those in the different outcome groups received. I've widely publicized my initial biases on this matter throughout this blog. The fact that people so pig-headedly refuse to find a workable therapist (and it may involve trying more than one) irks me. Well, I said it. Now you all know what I'm thinking. :-)

One of the reasons so many homosexuals enter into such high-risk marriages is that they are encouraged to do so by many LDS counselors, therapists, and ecclesiastical leaders who are ill informed about the nature of homosexuality and the dangers of homosexual-heterosexual bonding.


The idea that leaders are ill informed on this topic is one I agree with. But I'm curious about the "dangers of homosexual-heterosexual bonding"... or is this in reference to the dangers of not bonding?

The vast majority of homosexual-heterosexual marriages fail. However, as Ben attests, some, with strong determination, choose to try and beat the odds. Such hopes of success are, in part, based on claims that some homosexuals have achieved successful marriages characterized by adequate sexual compatibility. Such claims, however, must be examined in the light of (1) the complexity of homosexual feeling as it manifests itself in individuals (the HH Scale); (2) the relative importance that individuals attach to sexual intimacy as an element in the marital relationship (strength of libido and capacity for sublimation of sexual desire); and (3) other important factors such as whether individuals have personal compatibility and maturity adequate to withstand challenges to the marriage which are far greater than average.


Here's where I'm lost. First of all, as Dr. Schow mentioned in a previous comment, we don't know how many MOMs fail, because the sampling is always biased. It's a privacy issue, a fear issue, a homophobia issue... whatever kind of issue it is, to say the vast majority fail is unfounded. To say the vast majority fail for those couples willing to come forward may be okay. To say the vast majority have failed for those who have written books, opined on blogs, or otherwise inserted themselves into dialog on the topic also might fly. But I'm not aware that anyone has managed to measure how many MOMs are out there plugging away unassailably. Do I think it likely that there are droves? No. But let's be precise so as to give people the best information possible with which to make life-altering decisions.

Also, in regard to this passage, I have some questions for Dr. Schow. Are these three characteristics "common sense" or have they actually been measured as contributing to the success or failure of MOMs? They sound plausible enough, but that alone is not enough to suggest they be used as a yardstick for making this decision. And here's why: you also say, "Much pain—directly and indirectly—results when these marriages fail," but you don't even mention the joy that those who were able to make it work may have achieved. Had I (a highly libidinous, Kinsey 6, man of average maturity) not married, I wouldn't be in the enviable position I am right now of being the happiest I have ever been in my life. I don't offer this to suggest that others can or will achieve the same thing by following the same path, but as an example of the perils of presenting only one side of the data (or patchy data or no data at all).

Using language like, "the odds are against him" bothers me a little bit too. Speaking of "odds" in scientific literature ought to be in reference to odds ratios or statistical measurements where the word has legitimate meaning. To use it as it is used here gives the impression that whether a marriage succeeds or fails is a matter of luck--where you land in that distribution curve is just a matter of odds. I couldn't disagree more.

Overall, the article shares some great information and an important caution about the dangers of hastily entering a MOM without a clear understanding of the risks. Many thanks to Dr. Schow for his tireless efforts to research these issues and help engender compassion and understanding within the church and society. Unfortunately, the repeated statements that adapting to heterosexual intimacy is impossible (sometimes with caveats, sometimes caveats omitted) and statements expressing opinions as facts (who "probably" should or should not marry) leave me disappointed that people will be misinformed on these points.

41 comments:

rinlee said...

Thank you very much for your comments on these articles. It drives me nuts when no one represents the other side and when people form their arguments based on the assumption that there is no other side.

Chris said...

Um, I think Ron Schow has already acknowledged that the challenge in representing the "other side" is that they are hard to find

I think I'm quite familiar with Schow's work, and I have never found them to be biased one way or another. I think his conclusions make sense given what the data have revealed.

Master Fob said...

When I first read Ron's essay I read it as an attack on mixed-orientation marriages and on mine in particular. You may notice I get somewhat defensive in "Staying In." As I've talked with him since then, though, I've come to agree with what Chris says--Ron is not trying to say that the evidence is conclusive that all MOMs will fail, nor is he ignoring the fact that the data set is incomplete. His goal, if I understand it, is to encourage open discussion of the issue so that (a) people will realistically consider the challenges involved in these marriages before getting into them, and (b) we actually can get a better idea of what the whole picture looks like. I don't think these are bad goals. In fact, these were more or less my own goals in publishing my personal essays, then later appearing in the Trib and on Fox13.

You raise some interesting points, L, and I'm not sure Ron will disagree with you on all of them. But then, he can tell you himself what he agrees or disagrees with.

(And I also acknowledge, L, that I'm painting you as Ron's adversary, and that's clearly not the case--you have a pretty level head on your shoulders and you do a good job of acknowledging complexities beyond the simple "us vs. them" mentality that is tempting to take on in situations like this.)

Master Fob said...

Oh, and I also want you to know that my main objection to this post is your use of the Americanized dialog sans ue.

Ron Schow said...

-L-

I welcome the chance to respond to your comments on my article. In general, I find that I mostly agree with what you are saying here.

Quote 1. With reference to the first quote. Had you been providing editing help I would have accepted your revised wording of "the great majority.....have not been able to fundamentally alter their feelings" as a substitute for my "the great majority.....cannot fundamentally alter their feelings."

I suggest we come back later to the NARTH findings, Byrd's and mine. I do admit that there seem to be some "rare" cases but I think you are suggesting there may possibly be more than I think.

Quote 2. Your comment here asks whether there are some therapists more skilled than others? I am, like you, I think, frustrated that most therapists refuse to discuss their success rates with MOMs. I have asked more than a few LDS therapists for such information (completely stripped of personal data) but they almost never will share it. I don't know how we find better therapy when the therapists are hiding the outcomes and will not submit to ordinary methods of accounting for their results.

Quote 3. "dangers"??? I have reference to it being a high risk situation.

Quote 4. How many MOMs fail? Since I agree that finding a totally representative LDS sample is almost impossible, I'll tell you why I think that the majority fail. For simplicity, I suggest we talk about only gay men. Evergreen data support the idea that LDS men are at least 90% of those with a major challenge. I know from my extensive discussions with an LDS Family Services (LDSFS) therapist (who apparently has the most experience with LDS men in working with them for over 30 years) that his data a few years ago indicated he has worked with about 400 married men. Half of them (200) did not stick with the therapy and dropped out after one or two sessions. Of the remaining 200, only 50% were still in their marriages after therapy of 1-3 years. My own hunch is that the most religious and those most closely tied to the Church are the ones who show up at LDS Family Services. I believe others who are challenged are less likely to stay in their marriages than these men. These numbers are also supported by a former member of Evergreen who was one of the leaders for over 12 years. He says he got to know at least 300 men quite well during that period. He agrees that the married men who he got to know in Evergreen only were able to stay in their marriages about half the time. He says his feelings never changed and that is how he understood the reports of the others who he met. (you can find this report by Russ Gorringe in the "Persistence" essays on the professional part of our website.) Again, Evergreen never tells us what their outcomes have been, at least I have seen almost no reporting or extremely vague reporting of this. As with LDSFS, I feel the most committed LDS are going to show up at Evergreen. The less-committed members probably have less reason to stay in their marriage and less reason to go to LDSFS or to Evergreen. Those are my hunches based on the data I've been able to uncover. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has data involving such large numbers from similar credible LDS sources.

I can give you evidence in Byrd's data and mine that the large majority of those who come to therapy with this issue and those with strong LDS loyalty who have failed marriages are 5s and 6s on the HH Scale. This is one reason I suggest 1) the HH Scale as one factor in the success of MOMs.

The other side of the story? Why didn't I present it? I thought that was what Ben was doing, I guess.

The reasons I talk about 2) libido, sublimation, and 3) compatibility and maturity are just an effort to indicate major factors that I see working favorably in those marriages that do work.

My hunch is we could find data to support those two ideas, but I don't have it to present in an organized way.

Yes, "odds" may be a poor choice of words. Nice suggestion.

Coming back to the HH Scale, I would like to focus a few comments by talking about some I know who are 6s on that scale. Russ Gorringe who is featured in our 2nd film calls himself a 10 on the 0--6 point HH Scale (he will say with a laugh). Russ also mentions that in a 25 year marriage, sex was so unpleasant that it invariably made him cry. His ex-wife, who he says is still his best friend, finally agreed that they should not have sex and they did not for the last 12 years of their marriage. A good many others I know could not consummate their marriage on their wedding night, or for weeks after or never. Some got sick when they tried sex with their wives for the first time. Many could only perform while thinking about men. One wife I know would let her husband warm up with some erotic pictures of men so he was able to get aroused and then she would join him while he continued to need the pictures to keep him aroused. By focusing on 6s I think we can see most clearly the difficulties of these marriages. As you move to the 5s things change a little and 4s may sustain a marriage quiite well, my data show.

June Reinish, head of the Kinsey Insititute, came to Utah a few years ago for one of our conferences. She told us that scientists use "who we fall in love with" as one indication of our sexual orientation. A gay LDS man I know, an RM, a 6 I think, told me recently that in his 20s he fell in love with 8 different men and one woman, but he had no desire to be sexual with the woman. He tried to kill himself twice before he finally accepted his orientation. He has now been with his gay partner, also an LDS guy for 31 years. He says they are extemely happy. They have a wonderful home, they raised a son abandoned by his parents, they seem to be well accepted in their highly LDS neighborhood. What is the best way to happiness, I'm not sure?

I guess I just wonder how well things work when we push back against something as natural as "falling in love." It is, in the experience of most people I think, something that is not even under conscious control. How well does sexuality work in a marriage where it has to be forced and is not natural? How much nicer when sex is something that makes us giddy because we want it so much??

As a father, I suppose I think some about our LDS daughters when they marry. I must say honestly that I'd prefer they have a marriage where there husband is heterosexual. I just think it is a wonderful part of marriage and spills over into all kinds of romance and emotional and spiritual intimacy. Yes, there are other important factors and everyone doesn't have the same interest in sex (libido). Sometimes the lack of this delightful thing in marriage may be amply compensated in that you have a partner who is wonderful and mature and with whom you have many shared interests (compatibility). But all things being equal sex is pretty nice. I'd wish that for most of our young couples. I'd advise them to be careful about making a choice in which they may not have it.

For those already in such marriages, I hope things work out for the best for all of you. I recognize very well that marriage is extremely complex and sexual orientation is not the only thing. Divorce is tough. I hope you don't have to go through that.

My best wishes and let the dialogue go on,

Your friend, I hope
Ron Schow

Beck said...

Ron's comments speak to the challenge I'm finding in seeking out the positive examples of long-term faithful marriages of gay men well into their advanced years (see my recent post). Where are they? Why are they hiding? Do they even exist?

But I do give voice to someone who has found a degree of happiness with my wife of 25 years!!! I do give voice of someone who has struggled with sexual intimacy his whole life, who does not naturally "desire" sexual relations with his wife, who did not consumate the marriage relationship successfully on that fateful wedding night, who has seriously "fallen in love" with numerous guys, but, who has developed a strong sense of "compatibility" and "commitment" (spiritually based or otherwise), and has found (though with some difficulty - but who doesn't) there is a hope and a sense of joy in staying married!

Againt the odds? Impossible? Delusional?

Call it what you will... I'm just frustrated that everything seems against what my whole life struggle has been for. And that no one is out there blazing the trail ahead of those like me to show that it isn't that "odd" and the odds, though slim, can still "beat the house"!

Chris said...

Quote 1. With reference to the first quote. Had you been providing editing help I would have accepted your revised wording of "the great majority.....have not been able to fundamentally alter their feelings" as a substitute for my "the great majority.....cannot fundamentally alter their feelings."

At what point does "have not been able" become "cannot"?

-L- said...

MF: His goal, if I understand it, is to encourage open discussion of the issue so that (a) people will realistically consider the challenges involved in these marriages before getting into them, and (b) we actually can get a better idea of what the whole picture looks like. I don't think these are bad goals.

Me neither. This is great work that few have really contributed too. As I said in the post, I appreciate all that has been done and largely agree with the cautions and suggestions. Whether, as Chris put it, it "makes sense" is not really my aim to determine here; rather, I'm trying to point out my reluctance to accept recommendations that are not founded strongly in the data. Had I personally read and accepted these recommendations, I may have never married and I may never have achieved my current happiness and partial resolution. As information and commentary, I like this article. However, taken as a scientific product of a progression from data to recommendations, I like it less. Nothing personal intended with that criticism in the least.

And I'll do my best in the future to colour my posts with a few non-American spellings to show I'm not intolerant to them foreigners.

-L- said...

Schow: I suggest we come back later to the NARTH findings, Byrd's and mine. I do admit that there seem to be some "rare" cases but I think you are suggesting there may possibly be more than I think.

You're probably more familiar with the data than I am, but I've noticed during professional meetings on homosexuality and in scholarly papers that professionals typically act as if reparative therapy (and/or ANY ex-gay case reports) is a sham until really pressed and then they admit that the jury is still out. I look forward to discussing it in the future. You can read stuff I've written in the past by clicking the "reparative therapy" label near the bottom of the post (in case you're interested).

I have asked more than a few LDS therapists for such information (completely stripped of personal data) but they almost never will share it. I don't know how we find better therapy when the therapists are hiding the outcomes and will not submit to ordinary methods of accounting for their results.

This is really very sad, I agree. Much of the data I've seen in the past has come from non-LDS affiliated therapists, though. And whether such information can be shared, stripped or not, may be prohibited by an Institutional Review Board (they would never allow such a thing here unless informed consent had been obtained for human research). By the way, from my personal experience, LDS therapists have not been my favorite. I'm just saying. There may be some quality confounders.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone has data involving such large numbers from similar credible LDS sources.

As I said, I haven't reviewed the data. But Jason Parks left a few links in the comments to this post. I suspect you're already familiar with these though.

I don't know, but my impression is that Evergreen isn't really a scientific organization and probably has not kept records that would shed much light on the subject. The data would be interesting, sure, but to really get a sense for who stays married, what their quality of life may be, why they do or do not tolerate counseling (LDS sponsored or otherwise)... all would be very important to measure and include in the analysis. This would probably only be possible in a prospective study. Even given the numbers you offer in your comment, I'm not convinced any conclusions are warranted. Heresay assessment of hundreds of men "personally known" isn't much of a basis. And I can't really accept that those who don't find certain counseling to be helpful (and dropout) are more likely to be less faithful. If I only had lots of time and resources to research homosexuality... something unrelated to my current career! Who would do such a thing!? ;-)

Your discussion of the HH scale reminds me of many of my own posts discussing my early marriage and my own sexuality. I know the obstacles and issues quite, umm, intimately. :-)

I guess I just wonder how well things work when we push back against something as natural as "falling in love." It is, in the experience of most people I think, something that is not even under conscious control. How well does sexuality work in a marriage where it has to be forced and is not natural? How much nicer when sex is something that makes us giddy because we want it so much??

Things apparently don't work too well for those who try to deny themselves what they naturally want. I agree that it's not really under conscious control, and I agree that forced sexuality isn't ideal. I'm with you on all that. But, regardless of how much nicer giddy natural sex may make us feel, it's just not an option for those who are same-gender attracted and committed to the gospel. So, like the droves of others who find their mortal condition disappointing (whatever flavor that condition make take), we do the best we can to make things work for all involved. That's why I really appreciate your work on this topic, but still stop short of accepting many of your conclusions. I do believe that there are miracles and exceptions and amazing unexpected things that happen for those who stay true to the gospel (despite the many unfortunate outcomes I see that seem on the surface to contradict this). I want everything to be ideal for my children as well, but I also recognize that life isn't always like that. If my daughter wants to marry a man with cerebral palsy, I'll support her with that despite the difficult life it will create for her. So much of life is accepting the fact that things aren't ideal, adapting, keeping our covenants anyway, and finding ways to triumph over adversity within the constraints of reality. At least, that's the way I characterize what I'm trying to do.

Thanks so much for your comments,

Your friend,
-L-

-L- said...

Chris: At what point does "have not been able" become "cannot"?

It may never become that, despite what I perceive to be a little impatience on the part of some well-meaning gay activists. But there are thousands of men who dispute the conventional wisdom that change is not possible, and despite the tidy way they are ALL dismissed by some as having ulterior motives, we plain don't know what we don't know. When we understand the brain fully, development fully, romantic interactions fully, psychology fully, maybe then we'll be getting close. In the mean time we ought to recognize the difference between an overstated conclusion (however inadvertent) and the much more boring truth (that questions prevail). In my opinion, right now the physiology and biology of the natural world suggest adapting sexually is far more likely than immutability.

On a more achievable level, working towards "can't" would involve a well-designed scientifically rigorous study--of which none currently exist.

Ron Schow said...

-L-

"That's why I really appreciate your work on this topic, but still stop short of accepting many of your conclusions."

It might be helpful at some point to have you list the 4 or 5 or whatever conclusions you do not accept.

But for now, I suggest we deal with one of my suggestions on which I think there is an adequate database. I have suggested that the HH Scale is helpful in evalating possible MOMs or current MOMs and indicated I have data to support this. I've also talked about the different outcomes that may be expected with 6s and 5s and 4s. 6s have major problems with sexuality, 5s have somewhat fewer problems but 4s may do OK in marriage most of the time. Do you accept these conclusions (suggestions) of mine?

Let me mention a related concern. LDS newlyweds are supposed to be virgins. This means they really don't know very much about what is going to happen on the wedding night or in the months and years after that in terms of sexual compatibility. Should a heterosexual partner be expected to join a gay partner in a relationship if there is no basis to predict what the consequences might be? Does the HH Scale provide some basis for such a prediction?

tito said...

I'm loving this discussion. It's entirely relevant, particularly for us single folks. In my currently place, -L-, I feel particularly connected to your statement: “Had I personally read and accepted these recommendations, I may have never married and I may never have achieved my current happiness and partial resolution.” This is one discussion where I wish there was a larger forum, and where more committed LDS who have working and satisfying marriages could step forth to share their experience.

Ron Schow said...

Tito

I'd like to suggest that we do have evidence from many, many committed LDS couples and singles like yourself. This evidence is based on the report of the couples themselves, their therapists, their bishops, their fellow participants in Evergreen, etc, etc. I've been listening to these couples and talking to the researchers who have studied the couples, etc for nearly two decades now. I have heard hundreds describe their stories. I don't think there is much question about what they are all telling us. At some appropriate time I will share my summary of what I think they are saying if you are interested. However, I would like to follow the thread of the discussion with -L- above. I want to see what he thinks of the HH Scale. I think we also need to have a discussion about happiness and consider how it enters into this whole situation.

playasinmar said...

I'll just poke my head in to egg you guys on as I don't have any relevent experience for this debate.

But, uh, who doesn't love achieving a "partial resolution?"

Chris said...

I'm just going to sit on the sidelines for now, but I'm very much enjoying this discussion. I'm grateful for Schow's work. When I was going through the collapse of my own marriage, it helped to know that I wasn't the first gay Mormon man to go through what I was going through then.

-L- said...

"Evergreen data support the idea that LDS men are at least 90% of those with a major challenge. I know from my extensive discussions with an LDS Family Services (LDSFS) therapist (who apparently has the most experience with LDS men in working with them for over 30 years) that his data a few years ago indicated he has worked with about 400 married men. Half of them (200) did not stick with the therapy and dropped out after one or two sessions. Of the remaining 200, only 50% were still in their marriages after therapy of 1-3 years.... He says he got to know at least 300 men quite well during that period. He agrees that the married men who he got to know in Evergreen only were able to stay in their marriages about half the time."

This type of "data" is not the kind of data that can support any scientific conclusion. It's a piece of information, sure, but it's largely heresay and appeals to third party authority. The kind of data I find useful in such a discussion (and necessary if one is to draw out "rules" for whether someone ought to avoid marriage) is actual numbers, actual percentages, and whether the differences are statistically significant across the outcome groups. I'm interested to see p values, relative risk, 95% confidence intervals, and reassurance that confounders have been statistically accommodated. So, as I said, going from the data you've provided in your initial essay (or these comments) to the conclusions you've drawn is not compelling to me and I see it as somewhat sad that most people mistake it as scientifically supporting your recommendations. I recognize that the brand of compelling numbers I'm looking for may be at your ready disposal, and I'm happy to have a look. If there is online access to your publications or the others you've referenced, please let me know.

"Should a heterosexual partner be expected to join a gay partner in a relationship if there is no basis to predict what the consequences might be? Does the HH Scale provide some basis for such a prediction?"

A heterosexual partner ought to be cautioned, certainly. Who "expects" a partner to enter a relationship at all? Leaders? If the heterosexual partner is competent, then they have the right to enter into any legal relationship they choose, regardless of the consequences. That the more conscientious will do their best to become informed is reassuring, but whether they may accept the HH scale or any other yardstick as a suitable criteria depends on their personal confidence in it. If confidence in the HH scale is deserved, great. But, I've yet to see anything substantiated other than repeated reassurances that you can do so.

-L- said...

Playasinmar, I'm not sure I catch your meaning. I wouldn't call this a debate exactly (although that does sound more interesting). I'm just looking for more information.

santorio said...

one issue that needs to be addressed by any research in this area is the inadequacy of the kinsey scale. There needs to be a midpoint. some people really are totally bi-. there also needs to be a differentiation between the man only aroused by and interested in men but is able to sustain a satisfactory sexual relationship with a woman [even though the cynic would call this mutual masturbation], from the guy who is 'disgusted' or 'sickened' or 'repulsed' by imagined or real relations with a woman. both are 6's in their orientation but their is a profound difference in their tolerance of a heterosexual relationship. and when two roads diverge, that's the difference

santorio said...

and one more thing:

research should add libido--the strength of sexual attraction--as a factor

for example a '6' gay man may have a successful marriage with a '6' straight woman because both have such low libidos that sex is just no important. They are not cold, enjoying cuddling and hugging, it's the sex drive that just isn't there to get in the way.

but in another relationship a '4' gay guy may have a great sexual relationship with his straight wife but he remains strongly attracted to men as well as woman and gets into trouble during those 'fishing' trips.

-L- said...

Schow's recommendations do include libido, and that makes sense. As a piece of information, it ought to be considered. As a scientifically backed deal-breaker, I don't think so.

Chris said...

L:

In the mean time we ought to recognize the difference between an overstated conclusion (however inadvertent) and the much more boring truth (that questions prevail). In my opinion, right now the physiology and biology of the natural world suggest adapting sexually is far more likely than immutability.

I actually don't disagree with you. While I think the preponderance of the evidence is against the possibility of change and in favor of the idea that sexual orientation is relatively fixed (for your thousands who claim change, I'd wager that there are millions who have failed), I can accept that there are possibilities or therapies that simply haven't been discovered yet.

The much more salient question I think is, why should anyone change? I know this is where religion comes into play, and this is where the discussion typically gets heated. I'm not really interested in adding to the heat. If you believe that being gay is incompatible with God's plan for you, then being gay probably isn't going to work so well. Marriage might not either, but if you make an informed decision and are honest with your partner, who am I (or anyone) to say you shouldn't do it? (Though I acknowledge that I have, in the past, said essentially that.)

But I also don't think we should let the moral/philosophical/ethical discussion stop with the assertion that homosexuality is wrong because God--or someone claiming to speak for him--says so. I often wonder at the heartache my ex-wife, my children, my family and I myself might have been spared if there had been a socially and religiously acceptable model of homosexual relationships for me to follow.

Ron Schow said...

-L-

SCHOW 4-11: I can give you evidence in Byrd's data and mine that the large majority of those who come to therapy with this issue and those with strong LDS loyalty who have failed marriages are 5s and 6s on the HH Scale. This is one reason I suggest 1) the HH Scale as one factor in the success of MOMs.

SCHOW 4-12: But for now, I suggest we deal with one of my suggestions on which I think there is an adequate database. I have suggested that the HH Scale is helpful in evalating possible MOMs or current MOMs and indicated I have data to support this.

I asked if you accept what I have said about the HH Scale and I couldn't discern your answer in your last post. I therefore would like to share the relevant data.

In my judgement, the most important data on the prevalence of homosexual attraction is found in Lauman, et al, 1994. They used a population probability sample in this nationwide survey and had three ways to determine homosexuality. 2.8% of males and 1.4% of females identify as being homosexual or bisexual. But they came up with larger numbers when they added in those who had sex with same gender partners since age 18 and those who admitted they were ---attracted or found same sex persons sexually appealing. The total including all three groups was 10.1% for males and 8.6% for females. I think it is clear then that there are 4-6 times more who have some sexual interest in the same sex beyond those who admit an identity. Kinsey, et al, 1948 using an n= 3467 also found about the same prevalence percentage in 3 groups of 20 year olds. The groups were(5s+6s), (3s+4s), and (2s). Zero is exclusively heterosexual and 1 is predominantly heterosexual. In short, there are those who have a lot of homosexual attraction and those who are somewhere in between homosexual and heterosexual.

As I have suggested, I think the challenge is much greater for those who are 5s and 6s. This is supported by data from Nicolosi, Byrd and Potts (2000). They reported in Table 1 on 869 dissatisfied persons with homosexual attraction who estimated their HH position before they went to therapy or pastoral counseling or tried to change. 68% were essentially HH 5s and 6s (on a similar 7 point scale which is converted to assist the reader). 22% were 4s. 5% were 3s. Only 6% total were 2s, 1s and 0s. I think this shows conclusively in this huge sample of homosexuals and bisexuals who wanted therapy to change, that the great majority are 5s and 6s.

In 1994 I surveyed a group of 135 once loyal LDS persons who were by then generally out of the church. They had been 92-94% active as children and teens. 71% were returned missionaries. 86% were 5s and 6s on the HH Scale (see Table 2). In that group only 12% were 4s and only 2% were lower than 4s. Of 36 who were once married only 2 were still married. I believe this demonstrates that LDS persons with the highest HH ratings are the ones most likely to leave the Church and leave marriage. Our full report can be found on our website--www.ldsresources.info in the professional section. (I unfortunately don't know how to make links..LOL)

These data are not too surprising. But it is evident to me that 1) there are strong data to support the prevalence of bisexuality. Further, it is strongly supported in the Byrd data and in our data that 2) among these persons who are greatly challenged by this issue, a large majority are 5s and 6s on the HH Scale.

Ok. Now you have the data I promised. I suppose you will give me a hard time, but I can't wait to see what you think.

VERY BIG SMILE :)

-L- said...

I appreciate the data you, Byrd, and others have taken the time to gather, and it is really of the highest value to LDS folks with SGA who are thinking about marriage. It suggests to me that MOMs need a higher level of caution, of outside counsel, and fuller disclosure before the actual marriage. It also suggests that folks in MOMs need to have realistic expectations about sex, about the impact of divorce, about changing views of spirituality and sexuality throughout one's marriage and life. In short, it's really really good stuff.

However, I personally feel that it is insufficient to recommend that HH 5 or 6 folks "probably" should not marry heterosexually, as your paper states. The fact that the majority of the failed marriages were 5 or 6 is not the same as saying that there is a statistically significant difference in the divorce rates between the different HH groups. What about the two marriages that were still together in that one study? What was their HH score?

Ultimately I think we probably agree on most of this. Caution is certainly warranted, greater caution proportional to the sexual incompatibility there may be or to the indicators that managing the unique circumstances of a MOM will not be well tolerated. However, I stop short of accepting recommendations whether people ought to marry or not based on your data alone and any tidy set of screened attributes. And I do think that divorce alone is an inadequate marker for whether a marriage should have happened. So, I go back to my faith that God knows what is best for us and that we will get out of our relationship with God and our marriages something correlating to what we put into them, and that that is largely outside the province of science to measure.

Maybe for a future post I'll discuss with you what I would like to research on this topic if I had the chance. Or maybe what you're working on now. That sounds interesting. :-)

Ron Schow said...

-L-

Thanks for your comments. I suppose the reason I feel strongly about the HH Scale is because it helps us quantify something that I have noticed many of you talk about in your blogs. It gives us this handy tool, which has been used consistently in many studies and by many individuals since it was first published in 1948. It helps in describing how great the SSA challenge is going to be. I prefer to communicate orientation/libido issues by putting two bars side by side on a graph. One is heterosexual; one is homosexual. If both bars are at a low level the person is probably asexual. If both are at a high level then this person is bisexual and highly sexual. And there all kinds of variations in between.

I realize there are more complex tools for measuring "orientation" (Wow, that word is now accepted at BYU--in the honor code and in the Oaks and Wickman interview..which to me says we are really making some progress). We are past the point where it is just SSA. We know that the brethren respect those with it and that they recognize some may, because of it, have a "life of loneliness" as it says in the First Presidency statement.

Anyway, if we can understand that some have just a 1 or 2 or 3 level of this orientation, they will probably do fine in a marriage. Most everyone in our LDS culture and in our country wants to marry, they want to have children, they want to fit in like everyone else. You pay an enormous price when you are different in our LDS families and our LDS wards. Everyone wants you to marry, etc. My impression is that 1s and 2s and 3s often end up as bishops or GAs. They have this soft, cuddly, compassionate side to them and they make great church leaders. They also might think that everyone else who has had a few feelings of SSA over the years, can do what they have done. Ignore it, marry anyway, have kids and just go on with your life. However, when the 5s and 6s show up in their offices and they are given the simple remedy that worked for a 1 or 3....these kids run into a brick wall.

As a father, a reseacher, and I hope a person of compassion, I am very concerned to see if we can help the young ones with this orientation who are coming along and I assume you too (as a physician) might have the feeling that we need to help the teens who are facing this alone. Many of them don't dare talk to their parents, their peers, their church leaders. They have only the internet.

For those of you who think the 1948 HH Scale is outmoded or no longer useful, I refer you to a book published based on a major conference of the key researchers (McWhirter, et al, 1990) which is described on p. 161 of Peculiar People (our book).

I'd also be interested to chat a bit about a book which I think is very valuable in helping us determine our sexual orientation/libido. It is called "The Erotic Mind."

I look forward to hearing your research ideas, but I continue to feel we know a great deal about outcomes even in our LDS culture, where prayer and spiritual remedies are very much part of our response.

playasinmar said...

"...1s and 2s and 3s often end up as bishops or GAs."

I think I can second that notion. I'm 80% certain I've seen that myself.

Chris said...

A few 5s and 6s end up as bishops too ;)

-Chris (Bishop, Park Slope Ward, 2000-2005, and somewhere between a 5 and a 6)

Ron Schow said...

playasinmar & Chris

Thanks for your supportive comments. I know many, many bishops and some GAs with gay sons/daughters. I know some women leaders like this also. I sometimes think, ummm....was there some genetic material which showed up in one generation..and was expressed as bi...and then in the next generation it shows up as gay???

-L- said...

"As a father, a reseacher, and I hope a person of compassion, I am very concerned to see if we can help the young ones with this orientation who are coming along..."

I think everyone who visits this blog is committed to helping those who struggle knowing how to deal with their sexuality. The question is how to do that. You suggest using the HH scale as one part of that, and I think that makes a lot of sense.

However. The issue I'm discussing here is not what makes sense, but the scientific merits of the statement you made in the Dialogue article that people with certain characteristics probably should not marry. Despite all the data you've mentioned, you have no statistically significant stats to demonstrate how HH scale numbers influence a marriage's final outcomes. There's nothing prospective and blinded. That's the point. I understand that some people don't have the scientific expertise to understand concepts like causation vs. correlation, external validity, fallacies of appeal to authority, but they're all sound logical and scientific issues that weigh into this discussion, and with which your article and comments have some problems.

As I've repeatedly said, I applaud your work and wish you well as you seek a goal similar to mine. However, entertaining biases, however much they make sense or I agree with them, is not science. Drawing conclusions stronger than the data warrants is also not science. The data you've presented here is certainly valuable and worth generous consideration, but we need to be clear about what has been demonstrated, what is "authoritative", and what is opinion. From what I understand so far, it is true that among the population you studied, most MOMs that ended in divorce involved a HH 5 or 6. It does NOT follow from this alone that all HH 5s and 6s in the study group ended in divorce. It does NOT follow from this alone that most MOMs that end in divorce in the general population involve an HH 5 or 6. It does NOT follow that the divorce was caused by the partner being an HH 5 or 6. (I imagine that in most of the marriages that failed, the male partner was older than the female, but that doesn't mean one should conclude their age difference caused the problem!) It does NOT follow that divorces involving an MOM with an HH 5 or 6 couldn't have been mitigated with appropriate therapy or in other ways. It does NOT follow from this data that there is anything--anything whatsoever--inevitable in the life or MOM of an HH 5 or 6. I'm still waiting to hear the HH level of the marriages that stayed together. I'd like to know more about how the study population was selected, etc. I'd like to just see your data in the original publication. Where did you say it's available online again?

Many of these unproved conclusions seem to be how those who read your data (and perhaps you yourself) understand it, and they seem to think that these conclusions are based on science. That's certainly unfortunate. As we seek to help people deal with their challenges, we don't want to confuse the issue with inaccurate information.

-L- said...

Ok, just saw your link to the ldsresources site and the data there. I didn't realize this:

"Ron Schow provides data on 136 persons surveyed at an Affirmation conference for LDS homosexuals in 1994 wherein 113 respondents reported they had undertaken various efforts to change their orientation."

What do you make, Ron, of the potential selection bias of surveying participants at an Affirmation conference?

Ron Schow said...

-L-

I've read your last responses and it seems to me this would be a good time to take a deep breath and say, what is this really all about? As you point out, there are several things here we agree on. For example you said to me,

ARDENTMORMON: You suggest using the HH scale as one part of (HELPING THOSE WHO VISIT THIS BLOG DEAL WITH SEXUALITY) and I think that makes a lot of sense.

RON: I would like to suggest that we both are trying to sort out some difficult issues in an environment that HAS BEEN and IS very polarized. We both understand that it is virtually impossible to find perfect samples or to execute perfectly designed research, based on the circumstances.

I sense that neither of us would strongly object to the 4 suggestions that are under consideration for what you are calling yardsticks in making a decision about an MOM. I don't think either of us want to see a person make this decision based on one thing (such as the HH Scale or even prayer).

What is it, then, that is so troubling to you about what I have written? You seem to be willing to cut Spitzer some slack when he doesn't use PPG (Penile) measures. I am happy to say, if you want me to, that, no one should make a decision about or rule out marriage just because they are a 5 or 6 on the HH Scale. I thought I made that very clear when I have said or implied, on several occasions, that libido issues or compatibility issues might provide the basis for ignoring a 5 or 6 scale issue.

Do you really want to say to people, ignore Schow when he talks about libido or compatibility???? These ideas by Schow have no importance?

I certainly don't want to say to anyone to ignore spiritual direction they get through prayer or ignore -L- when he says to approach such a marriage with careful, thorough prayer. So is there really a problem here??

ARDENTMORMON: The data you've presented here is certainly valuable and worth generous consideration, but we need to be clear about what has been demonstrated, what is "authoritative", and what is opinion. From what I understand so far, it is true that among the population you studied, most MOMs that ended in divorce involved a HH 5 or 6. It does NOT follow from this alone that all HH 5s and 6s in the study group ended in divorce.

RON: I think anyone who has read what I wrote knows I didn't say that. IN FACT, what I said is that in my mind there are THREE major issues and the third issue (compatibility)is a broad, broad catchall category.

So what I think we have here is that you are ok with my three suggestions, but you want to add prayer and I don't object. With reference to the essay I was responding to there was already quite a bit said about prayer and spirtual direction, and I thought some other things needed to be added to the praying. As I have said, I think good Mormons always pray about important decisions and I thought I didn't really need to suggest that.

Now with reference to my sample being drawn from an Affirmation group, does that hit a nerve with you????

What do you think about a sample in which 96 of 136 are RMs. Is that over representing RMs??? Of course, the RM sample and the Affirmation sample are the same.

It is interesting to me that I talked here about an Evergreen sample earlier and a NARTH sample and you didn't seem troubled about that. All the samples it seems are biased on various sides of this issue.

I have studied this issue by attending all kinds of meetings and discussing the issues with persons across the spectrum---Evergreen, NARTH, Affirmation, LDSFS, etc, etc. If you want to dismiss what these folks reported in their survey, I'd be interested to hear why. I certainly know this is NOT a sample of all LDS MOMs and I've never presented it or thought of it as if it was.

What I think is clear from my data is what I wrote yesterday on here.

"....it is evident to me that 1) there are strong data to support the prevalence of bisexuality. Further, it is strongly supported in the Byrd data and in our data that 2) among these persons who are greatly challenged by this issue, a large majority are 5s and 6s on the HH Scale."

So, I hope you (and others reading here) will please not generalize what I have written to what I have not written, and please remember in all of this that I have said there are 3 factors which all need to be balanced. And as you suggest, add prayer after "carefully studying it out in your mind and in your heart." It is certainly not enough to just look at your position on the HH Scale.

-L- said...

"So, I hope you (and others reading here) will please not generalize what I have written to what I have not written"

Not generalizing inappropriately is the whole point of this post and this conversation. This is precisely what I've asked of you in the choosing yardsticks comments. Communication can be a touchy thing, I'm sure we both agree. I wrote "Many of these unproved conclusions seem to be how those who read your data (and perhaps you yourself) understand it, and they seem to think that these conclusions are based on science." I don't think many reach the first false conclusion I suggested (and certainly not you), but some seem to. I think quite a few have bought into the idea of causation where this has not been demonstrated (and the way you speak of the data and your experience over the years, "perhaps" you may believe causation was demonstrated by this data too).

You keep asking "what are you trying to say?" and I keep saying it. Again, the ultimate point is that although the raw data you provide is interesting and people ought to be made aware of it, people should NOT believe that your suggestions are scientifically supported as predictive of success or divorce in MOMs (because as I've explained repeatedly--as supported by the data you've quoted alone they are not. That was my original criticism of the way the data was presented in Dialogue and the way I've heard other people reference it. How prayer fits into the equation I discussed in this other post, and is not central to my critique of your Dialogue article.

"You seem to be willing to cut Spitzer some slack when he doesn't use PPG..."

My defense of Spitzer was a defense of the credibility in not using PPG because of financial constraints. Had demonstrating PPG values been a part of his study design, or even been necessary to reach the conclusions he made (qualified, as they were), he would have had no such apologetic from me. So, don't feel too picked on. ;-) I haven't suggested anything approximating that people should ignore you or your findings.

"I am happy to say, if you want me to, that, no one should make a decision about or rule out marriage just because they are a 5 or 6 on the HH Scale. I thought I made that very clear when I have said or implied, on several occasions, that libido issues or compatibility issues might provide the basis for ignoring a 5 or 6 scale issue."

You can conjecture all you want about what can make up for what. But you haven't demonstrated any of it scientifically, even in your study population. That's the distinction I'm trying so hard to make clear.

I have no problem with the survey being gathered within a group of Affirmation conference participants--as long as that is fully disclosed when the data is quoted. I haven't "dismissed" the data on that account, I just asked you how that might bias the data. I'm still interested in your answer.

I really didn't intend for this to be a "debate" or "adversarial" or any of the other contentious characterizations that have been suggested. In my mind, we're on the same team here (whatever that means!) I certainly hope you still consider me to be a friend, as my discussion has been only of the science and is not intended to reflect on you personally.

Jeff said...

I don't know where I fall on the HH scale, or even if that has any validity, but I do have homosexual attractions and I am happily married with a fulfilling sexual relationship. I do not think Schow's survey is useful for someone considering whether to embark on marriage. I think its primary use would be for a gay man who needs to reassure his uneasy conscience that he truly did everything he could to make his marriage work before he gave up. That makes sense, since Schow's work is primarily a distillation of the experiences of just such people. But I think it provides very little guidance for someone thinking about starting a marriage. In fact, statistically, even heterosexual marriages don't have good odds. What they used to say about second marriages is now true of a first one, that they represent "the triumph of hope over experience." Any single person is going to read what you say, and if they are really in love and have stars in their eyes and the whole world in front of them, they are going to say, "We are different. The depth of our love and spiritual commitment is going to see us through this. We're different from everyone else."

I'll suggest an avenue of inquiry that I think will be more useful than Schow's, but first I'd like to point out a number of deficiencies in Schow's study that I invite him and others to consider and comment upon.

1. The problem of retrospective studies. Since you mentioned Russ Gorringe, I'll say that I got to know Russ 12 years ago when I first got involved in Evergreen. He was a delightful and wonderful person then as I am sure he is now. I won't cite any specifics due to confideniality rules, and I am probably crossing the line even saying this, but I will just say that his present-day account of his marriage differs materially from how he described things then, and not just over matters of feeling, but over matters of fact. Russ is probably not consciously lying so much as his present experiences are coloring his past experience, causing him to emphasize some and de-emphasize others, or forget them altogether.

You could say the same thing about me, of course. I say that I am much happier now married to a woman than I ever was when I was homosexually involved, and that includes the sexual aspect. But is that really right? If I chose a different route and were looking back on the same experiences, would I still say in that alternate reality as I say now in this one, that my homosexual dating & physical relationships were empty and ultimately unfulfilling? Maybe not. Maybe I just want to justify the effort and time I have put into my marriage, and of course I will privilege what I chose over what might have been. Firsthand retrospective accounts will *all* suffer from this deficiency and will therefore be extremely limited their value.

2. The problem of definition. We also have a difficult problem of how one defines homosexuality. I don't think it's simply based on sexual experiences, because I think most men, if you remove any social or moral restraints and make him horny enough, would quite enjoy at least the mechanical aspects of gay sex. (See the citations in note 24 on page 124 of Richard Posner's book Sex and Reason for a few of the published studies supporting this contention.) Yet that would not by itself make these men homosexual, at least in the way that I have homosexual attractions. Further, there are some with exclusive homosexual experience but may in fact have latent heterosexual functioning, but due to fear rather than any innate predisposition haven't ventured relationships with women. Both of these will be labelled by Schow as homosexual but I'm not sure either of them "really" is. It gets even more complicated when you cross cultures; in some only effeminate men are considered homosexual (and I know several effeminate men who are in fact completely heterosexual), and in others only one half of the pair is considered homosexual. Many researchers make a distinction between facultative and obligatory homosexuals, which I think is useful, but the distinction is easier to describe than it is to actually measure.

I think Carl Elliott says it best (in a fascinating article on sexual fetishes that is worth a separate discussion sometime) when he says, "sexual orientation is how we explain our sexual desires to ourselves."

3. The problem of sample bias. Schow drew his sample from Affirmation, which I think all of us know is skewed, the question is how skewed? When Bailey and Pillard conducted their first twins study, they recruited from the back pages of a homosexual magazine, and they found a 50% concordance number. When Bailey (with Dunne and Martin) repeated his study using the Australian twins registry, they found less than half that number. Numbers from reorientation therapists (like through LDSFS or the ever-cited Spitzer study), as Schow points out, would also suffer from bias, since the people presenting would presumably (a) have strong homosexual feelings (otherwise they'd have taken care of it without any help), and (b) want to change them (otherwise they'd just leave their marriages and/or the Church). I don't really think the problem is solvable, and if it is, it would take a lot of money. Homosexuality is still relatively rare, so to draw out a truly random sample, you have to have a large sample population to draw from. Bailey's study drew from a twins registry size of 25,000 and 4,901 responded, and of those, only a very small proportion (less than 10%) scored as homosexual. As a result, some of their findings couldn't pass the test of statistical significance, and their response rate was so low as to still leave them vulnerable to the possibility of bias. Can any of us imagine how much it would cost to conduct a study (which would have to be at least as large) among Mormons? Until we do so, I think Schow's numbers can only be considered as order-of-magnitude estimates. This means his "failed" marriages could be as much as 90% lower, and his "successful" marriages could be as much as 90% higher.

We just had a wonderful man show up in the local Evergreen group I attend. Well past retirement age, he has been happily and faithfully married more than 50 years. He still has homosexual yearnings (never acted upon, even pornography), but he claims that they haven't made him or his wife miserable. So far, he's only told his wife, and he only started therapy 3 years ago. I told him the other day, that if I only did as well as he did, at his age, then I'd be delighted with myself. How many men are like my new friend? I have no idea, and I don't think anyone else does either.

4. The problem of causation. What really causes MOM marriages to fail? At first glance, the answer seems easy: one of the partners is gay! But I'm not sure that's the ultimate, or even proximate, cause. Is it lack of ability for intimacy? Which kind? Sexual or emotional, or both? Is it the repeated betrayals of trust through infidelity that make the spouse give up on the marriage? Is it that the man cannot function sexually with his wife at all, or only by recourse to homosexual pornography or fantasy? Perhaps gay men attract women who are uncomfortable with sexual intimacy in the first place? Set any of these ideas against Schow's, which is that marriages between either exclusively homosexual men or bisexual men with high libidos and their female partners are highly likely to fail. Well how? I can think of analogues to all of the problems Schow cites among heterosexual couples. How many marriages last where the couples race to the altar only because they are too eager to have sex? How many heterosexual couples make recourse to pornography to "spice up" their sex lives? Does it work and is that ok? Schow cites gay men who claim to be horrified and disgusted by female genitalia, but is that normal, even for homosexuals? At worst, I would think their view should be neutral. After all, most heterosexual men are not horrified by penises. It really suggests to me a phobia rather than homosexuality per se, and I wonder if such people would benefit from graduated exposure therapy (though I have no idea if that would help with the underlying sexual yearnings, it would surely help with sexual functioning). That raises another point, which is, do these marriages fail from lack of sex, the wrong kind of sex, or sex outside of marriage? I believe sex is important, even vital, to marriage, but I'm not convinced it's the ultimate cause of the failed marriages Schow describes. What is the mechanism of failure in mixed-orientation marriages? He hasn't described a mechanism that covers all the modes of failure he describes, in my opinion. I don't mean to be dense, but the more you really think about MOM as a unifying mechanism for marital failure among homosexual men, the fuzzier this whole idea of mixed-orientation marriage risk becomes, and the more it seems like a catch-all bucket into which one tosses a variety of failures--AFTER they have happened.

4. Neglecting the risk of not marrying. Schow's work attempts to describe the risk of marrying someone who has homosexual tendencies, but it doesn't describe the risk of not marrying. For the heterosexual female fiancée it is simple enough. But what about for the man? Schow says he knows of a gay couple who are very happy and have been together for 31 years. I too know of several wonderful long-together gay couples who have a lot of characteristics I admire; in many degrees, I wish I were as good as they were. But how common are such couples? McWhirter and Mattison in The Male Couple say that they are very rare, and are never monogamous. That is true of the ones I have known as well, whom I have asked. They either include a third person in their lovemaking, or redefine their conception of sexual fidelity by putting all sorts of rules around when and how sex with others is permitted. When I bring this up among the Affirmation crowd, I get a lot of anger at asking what is apparently an impertinent question, but never have I heard a denial. Funny that Affirmation (and Schow) will describe all sorts of sexual horrors awaiting a homosexual man if he should marry a woman, but when it comes to describing what he can expect from sex life after living 25 years as a gay man... silence. And far more common even than this is the scenario described by Carol Lynn Pearson in Goodbye I Love You. All too often, when a gay man hits a rough patch with illness or other misfortune, he finds himself abandoned by his gay companion and must rely on the kindness of his former wife and/or children. And then there are those gay men who are no longer married, but still do not regret the experience and what it gave them. They would not change their having been married once and having children, even though their lives are now quite different. Others, of course, say different. We are bombarded with discussions of the risk that those with homosexual attractions run if they choose to stay faithful to Church teaching: suicide, divorce, lonliness, and ruin. But how do those compare, statistically, to the risks of abandoning the Church and marriage (or even just the hope of marriage someday)? Is that really less risky? I think it's telling that no one has even tried to empirically measure these relative risks.

I'm struck by the fact that McWhirter and Mattison's percentages of durable gay couples is roughly the same as the number of successful Affirmation heterosexual marriages Schow cites. Could it be that one's success at marriage has more to do with the kind of person one is, than it does with the characteristics (including gender) of one's chosen mate?

Let me conclude by making my own suggestion for research that won't suffer as much from the deficiencies in Schow's work I have outlined above. Later, if people want, I can provide my own guidelines I would give to a mixed-orientation couple considering marriage, though I cannot support my counsel with any better empirical data than Schow does. My wife is also happy to post her own thoughts as well; she has been in two successful marriages, once to a heterosexual man (who died), and now to me. The question we should be asking is, are there indicators we can look at before embarking on marriage that increase the odds for success? Are there red flags that statistically indicate a substantially increased risk of failure? I think Schow is suggesting that high scores on the HH scale are a good indicator. I think we could find better ones if we conducted a longitudinal, long-term study of couples *before* they divorce. I am thinking of something similar to what John Gottman has done with his work on nonverbal cues in marriage as a predictor for marital stability. (See The Mathematics of Divorce, but laymen will enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's account of it in his bestselling Blink) Rather than looking back on divorces and asking people to explain them, Gottman looked at marriages as they were failing (and succeeding) and followed people over years and videotaped them talking. He says he can predict with 95% accuracy whether a marriage will still be intact in 15 years. According to him, the most fatal emotion to a marriage isn't anger, hatred, or even cold detachment. It's contempt. Could we do something similar with MOM's? Could we recruit a number of couples just embarking on marriage and interview them twice a year over 15-20 years? Here we wouldn't fall victim to post hoc rationalizations and retrospective justifications, we'd be able to look at a longitudinal study and see if any patterns emerged. We might be able to spot the cracks and strains in the relationship before it actually snapped.

-L- said...

Jeff and Ron, I'd love to have your e-mail addresses. You can send them to me via mine, which you can get through my profile. :-)

playasinmar said...

"I think most men, if you remove any social or moral restraints and make him horny enough, would quite enjoy at least the mechanical aspects of gay sex."

Jeff, in point 2 you mentioned something I've often wondered about. I've never seen any research touching the idea, however. If anyone knows of any please point it out to me.

And now a Seanbaby quote, "It's not hard to figure [out what a man wants]. If you take your pants off and lay on the roof of your car, a car wash can figure out what a man wants."

Ron Schow said...

Jeff

I would like to call your attention to a statement by Elder Oaks (in the Oaks/Wickman Interview) from last August which may be found on the Church website.

ELDER OAKS: ...persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations AND PUT THEM IN THE BACKGROUND, AND FEEL A GREAT ATTRACTION FOR A DAUGHTER OF GOD and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate. (emphasis added)

The HH Scale may not have validity in your mind, but even our leaders are suggesting that homosexual feelings should be in the background compared to one's GREAT heterosexual attraction, if marriage is going to be appropriate. And it is very clear they bring this up with reference as to "whether to embark on a marriage." The HH Scale is one way to evaluate that very issue so I don't think it should be dismissed.

Here is what I said yesterday about my survey and the other data I presented.

"....it is evident to me that 1) there are strong data to support the prevalence of bisexuality. Further, it is strongly supported in the Byrd data and in our data that 2) among these persons who are greatly challenged by this issue, a large majority are 5s and 6s on the HH Scale."

I feel your elaborate critique of my survey (which is actually a minor component of my work), is based on a faulty premise. Perhaps you would like to respond to what I have said above rather than your rather negative description of my work.

As to your 5 listed defeciencies of my "study"....

1. Retrospective reports: If you have a report on Evergreen that is seriously at odds with what Russ reported, you could say what you think the facts are and how they differ from Russ's report.

JEFF...I'll say that I got to know Russ 12 years ago when I first got involved in Evergreen. He was a delightful and wonderful person then as I am sure he is now. I won't cite any specifics due to confideniality rules, and I am probably crossing the line even saying this, .................AND YOU GO ON

RON; Yes, you do cross the line. And I must say these comments about Russ are in very poor taste.

2. Definition. A careful reading of what I said about Lauman, et al and Reinish will show VERY CLEARLY that I did not define homosexuality in terms of ONLY experience.

JEFF: .....Both of these will be labelled by Schow as homosexual but I'm not sure either of them "really" is.

RON: I think you should refrain from speaking for me, when you are in no position to know what I would say in this case.

3. Sample bias. If you have some reason to think sample bias prevents me from making the statement above then perhaps you could explain. It is a limited, cautious statement.

btw -L- I described the bias....this way in my post yesterday and gave the location of the full study...

In 1994 I surveyed a group of 135 once loyal LDS persons who were by then generally out of the church. They had been 92-94% active as children and teens. 71% were returned missionaries. 86% were 5s and 6s on the HH Scale (see Table 2).

JEFF: I think Schow's numbers can only be considered as order-of-magnitude estimates. This means his "failed" marriage...........and "successful" marriages....

RON: Any careful reading of my original essay in Dialogue will show I did not estimate "failed" and "successful" marriages.

4. Cause of Failed marriages...

JEFF: ...Set any of these ideas against Schow's, which is that marriages between either exclusively homosexual men or bisexual men with high libidos and their female partners are highly likely to fail.

RON: This is not an accurate or complete description of the three factors I have emphasized here repeatedly.

JEFF: Schow cites gay men who claim to be horrified and disgusted by female genitalia,

RON: I would be grateful if you would refrain from putting words in my mouth when they are not even remotely close to what I said.

5. Risk of not marrying.

JEFF: Funny that Affirmation (and Schow) will describe all sorts of sexual horrors awaiting a homosexual man if he should marry a woman, but when it comes to describing what he can expect from sex life after living 25 years as a gay man... silence.

RON: Here you go again, speaking for me, with no data.

Perhaps you should speak with Elder Oaks about your concern here, since he speaks quite frankly about celibacy in cases where marriage is not advisable as cited above.

ELDER OAKS: That is exactly the same thing we say to the many members who don’t have the opportunity to marry. We expect celibacy of any person that is not married.

In your final comment you offer a design which as you say...

JEFF: ..won't suffer as much from the deficiencies in Schow's work I have outlined above.

RON: I will let the reader judge, where the deficiencies lie.

Since you have been involved in Evergreen for 12 years, and we are not discussing any of your data only your critique of mine, and you have such a nice study design, I think it would be lovely for you to proceed with the plans you offer. Please keep us posted, of course, but we might need to consider what Elder Oaks has said (maybe even the HH Scale) in the 15-20 years while waiting for your data.

I hope I have been restrained but accurate in how I've responded to what seems to me to be a rather unfriendly attack on me by you, Jeff. I believe the tone by -L- has been rather different. I appreciate his respectful comments and his critique. I realize this is a difficult matter to discuss and perhaps we are all getting just a little too intense (smile).

-L- feel free to email me. Schorona@isu.edu I can't seem to retrieve your email address from your profile.

All the best,
Ron

Jeff said...

Ron:

Perhaps we are getting too heated, because I think even you and I have areas of substantial agreement. I do not reject your use of the HH scale; I only say that I am unsure of it; I'm not sure it "feels right" when I think about it personally or about all the ways you can slice up "homosexuality" in feeling and practice.

I certainly am NOT recommending that marriage is a solution for everyone who deals with this; I don't disagree with Oaks and Wickham on that point at all. It may not be appropriate right now, or it not be ever. What I do suggest is that anyone embarking on a relationship (with either gender) will do more to ensure that this relationship is a success if they focus on the characteristics of themselves that are lacking rather than their partner's.

But first, let's talk about Russ. Let me clarify that I knew Russ socially. I was not a part of any psychotherapy group or support group he was a part of; I was friendly with people who were, and it was through them that I got to know Russ. I will say no more about him, except to cite a quote of yours you say I mischaracterized. In reference to his sex life, you described it as "so unpleasant that it invariably made him cry..." And from the specific case, you generalize, "a good many others I know could not consummate their marriage on their wedding night, or for weeks after or never. Some got sick when they tried sex with their wives for the first time. Many could only perform while thinking about men..."

Is it unfair to characterize that excerpt as describing the "horrors" of marital sex for 6's? If I read your point right (and apparently, my reading comprehension is deplorable, so I'm double-checking), it's that 6's on your HH scale are going to have a difficult time functioning sexually in a marriage, and that this difficulty is likely to make marriage unhappy for both partners. Is that fair? What have I misunderstood? What other conclusion is anyone going to draw from your dataset?

And is this conclusion, when offered to 5's and 6's contemplating marriage, useful?

The nub of the problem is, are these retrospective descriptions, which I think you have generalized accurately from the accounts men have given you, accurate descriptions of why their marriages actually failed? More importantly, do they provide constructive advice for a couple contemplating marriage? No, in the latter case, because people are always going to think they can "beat the odds", and no in the former case, because I don't think we have any assurance thay are actually reliable accounts into what actually happened.

Let's take a different example that people hopefully won't take as personally. When I was in France, many people had rotten teeth. They would often compliment us on our nice teeth, and ask how we did it. "We brush our teeth every day, don't you?"

"Of course we do! I brush my teeth every day!," they would invariably reply.

"Do you use toothpaste? With fluoride?"

"Why, of course," they would say defensively and even somewhat testily.

If we took these reports at face value, we might search for a number of causes for this problem. Do the sibilant vowels in French accents cause cavities? Is it something in Camembert cheese?

But then you take a look at annual per capita toothpaste consumption and notice that it is one-fifth that of the United States. You also notice that they visit the dentist less often, and standards of care vary dramatically between US and French dentists.

Compared to all these data points, how important are the self reports versus these? Which one would be more helpful to someone trying to improve the state of French teeth? Do we even know French teeth are bad, if we only go off of the French people I met? Maybe people interested in religion are also more interested in French pastries?

This is not a problem confined to homosexuality or French dentistry. You'll see it with when you compare self-reports from dieters, juries, and test-taking students to objective measurements. The need for unconditional self-regard is powerful and blinding.

Should what they (be they French toothbrushers or homosexual men) say now always take precedence over what they said at the time? I think what may have got you heated is you thought I was suggesting that in all these cases these people are wicked sinners and liars. I'm not; in most cases I don't know that and it isn't my place to judge. But neither do you know for certain they are able and willing to tell you the complete truth. And if you combine your accounts with McWhirter & Mattison's data on male couples, I think it suggests some of these problems are not resolved just by changing the gender of the partner. In fact, there are hints that the same patterns are perpetuated in their homosexual couplings as well. Advice, given to a young man contemplating marriage should give him good data on what he can expect living married as well as living in gay relationships. He can then determine if marriage, single chastity, or living outside the Church is most in harmony with his priorities. Without that knowledge, it is like someone deciding to drive instead of fly by only looking at plane crash incidence without comparing it to automobile fatalities.

And the problem of retrospective accounts isn't one-way, either, I tried to point out last time. Before someone has left the Church, the pressure will be to affirm that fasting, prayer, obedience, and maybe reparative therapy did the trick. This may not be accurate either, I heartily concede.

To try to get on a more constructive track, I'll tell you the questions I ask couples thinking of getting married. We don't have to wait 15 years for these, though of course I cannot support their value empirically. I do think you'll find many of them quite useful, Ron, but I've gotten in trouble putting words in your mouth before, so maybe not. I even think heterosexual LDS engaged couples would find some of them useful.

-Are you getting married because you want to conform to some social ideal? What do you really want for yourself, deep down? What is your fundamental identity? If the Church changed its position on homosexuality tomorrow (which I don't believe they will, but for the sake of argument), would you still want to marry Suzie Q? Given that they haven't, are you being fair to Suzie Q by settling for something less than what you really seem to want?

-Why do you want to get married now? Is there some deadline your pushing up against that makes you want to rush things?

-What is the relative importance of sex for you, and your partner? How often and what kind? Do your wishes in that regard correspond at all to your partner's? Have you talked about this before your wedding night? Are you capable of discussing sex in explicit terms with your potential mate, and is she able to do so with you?

-When you make out with your girlfriend, have you ever gotten an erection? More than once?

-What happens when you think about touching your girlfriend in one of her erogenous zones? Let's start with the chest and move down.

-If there are problems in your marriage (with sex, but also money and other things), can you have a constructive discussion with your spouse and are you both able to work towards resolution? What kinds of problems have there been so far in your relationship, and how have you two tried to solve them?(Red flag if they say either that there aren't any, or they haven't resolved any.)

-If there will be aspects of your sexual performance that are unsatisfying to your wife, are you willing to work on them, and if necessary, to even seek professional help? Is your wife willing to do the same?

-What are your expectations for sex in your marriage? Are you looking for the same sort of thrill with her that you experienced with looking at porn, or having sex with a guy? How will you feel if it isn't the same?

-How much homosexual experience have you had? Are you expecting that to cease completely after you get married? What basis do you have for thinking so? Do you have a reasonable track record of sexual sobriety? What if it continues or you relapse? Does your fiancee know about all of this in sufficient detail? What will she do if you relapse, or do something new? Have you talked about how you would handle that?

[These last ones are for the wife]

-Are you expecting mind-blowing sex immediately after your wedding vows? Are you willing to be patient with your partner and not take difficulties with sexual performance personally? Will you be able to avoid making your future husband feel badly if he isn't able to perform up to his or your expectations right away?

-If the level of physical intimacy and verbal affirmation of your beauty your fiance provides currently remains at the same level when you are married, will you be satisfied with that level, or are you hoping that this will all magically change after you are married? Will you forever be pining for a husband like Robert Redford in The Way We Were? Do you really think Robert Redford would go for Barbra Streisand in real life? With that nose? (Just joking!)

-Does it threaten your self-concept and self-esteem in a serious way if your husband should find another man attractive, to the degree that you would be seriously threatened, hurt, or angry? Is your self-worth inextricably tied up in getting constant affirmation about your looks, to the exclusion of anyone else being attractive too? (I call this the Snow White Queen syndrome--not only must the Queen be beautiful, no one else can be at all.)

I don't say that all of these must be answered positively, but most of them should. Most importantly, couples must be able to talk about sex constructively and openly, their expectations, fears, and even the explicit mechanics about what is and isn't okay, and they must start that process before the wedding.

These things do change over time, of course. My wife is comfortable with more things sexually than she was at first, and so am I. Sex was initially just mildly enjoyable for me (it didn't compare to the fantasies, but I wasn't expecting them to either). It has since become less and less the case; it has only gotten better. I suppose the opposite could have happened, or may still happen. Things could have started out great and gotten worse. The question is, why haven't they? It is because I'm a 3 or 4? Or if I'm not, is my marriage just a ticking time bomb? If my marriage fails, I can say, well of course, it's because I was
extraordinarily gay, steeped in gayness
. If it succeeds, I can say, well of course it did, because I wasn't very gay at all. An exercise like that has no predictive or prescriptive value.

Let's stipulate that you have to start with something, some kind of sexual spark. It can be kindled and nurtured, but I think it ought to be there to at least some degree, and that both partners must assess their comfort with that level of sexual spark before getting married. The impression I get (correct me if I'm wrong Ron) is that you feel your data suggest these things are not likely to improve over time if you're a 5 or 6. I think, based on my own biased sample set, that if the couple have good tools, even if the guy is a 5 or 6, it can still be a happy and fulfilling marriage, that the sexual aspect of the marriage will become more and more fulfilling over time. And that the sexual aspect of the marriage is rarely the cause of its failure anyway. You seem to be saying the independent variable is degree of homosexual attraction. I believe the independent variable is expectations and relationship tools. A confounding variable may be that what I label a "relationship tool" or expectation you may call degree of homosexuality or bisexuality.

In that case, I guess Ron and I don't have that much to disagree about. But my questions focus the couple on themselves. All of a sudden, it's not about beating the odds. Their marriage isn't a spin of the roulette wheel, where they anxiously but passively wait for it to drop in its final slot. Instead, it's a result they can create together, actively, after they have realistically assessed the expectations of their marriage, and determining whether they have adequate tools in their own marriage.

Ron Schow said...

Jeff

Let's not deny what happened here. This is what you claimed I said.

JEFF: Schow cites gay men who claim to be horrified and disgusted by female genitalia,

RON: It is entirely clear that I did not say that. It is even clearer when you quote what I did say.

It is also clear that your first comments about Russ and your continuing comments are in poor taste. It appears you are a therapist, and I'm sad that you show such personal disregard for someone who you socialized with in a friendly way (a person who was in a challenging MOM and one for whom you might have some compassion). I just find it inexcusable. What he says in his film describing his marriage deserves our respect. What, after all, do you know about his 25 marriage as compared to the person who lived it????

In my estimation you owe him an apology, and some long story about french teeth to justify your breach of confidence, only adds insult to injury.

JEFF: (and apparently, my reading comprehension is deplorable, so I'm double-checking), it's that 6's on your HH scale are going to have a difficult time functioning sexually in a marriage, and that this difficulty is likely to make marriage unhappy for both partners. Is that fair? What have I misunderstood? What other conclusion is anyone going to draw from your dataset?

RON: Despite my clearly stating 3 general considerations in these marriages, you only mention here the HH Scale. These 3 have been listed several times on this blog. The general headings for the other two are libidio/sublimation and compatibility/maturity. Furthermore, I wrote a 10 page article, and in less than 10 lines described my survey. I never mentioned Russ in the entire article and suddenly, the blog discussion about the article is almost totally consumed with Russ and only one of my 3 main suggestions...as if this were the entire article.

I find your questions that you apparently ask your clients quite interesting and appreciate you sharing them. I think they will be useful to people on this blog. To me the answers you get would help clarify questions about libido, sublimation, compatibility and maturity. Funny thing.

I do find it very curious that you make this statement.

JEFF: "The nub of the problem is, are these retrospective descriptions, which I think you have generalized accurately from the accounts men have given you, accurate descriptions ... because I don't think we have any assurance thay are actually reliable accounts into what actually happened."

RON: I'm surprised to learn you have so little faith in such accounts. You might find it interesting (and find yourself skeptical) if you were to read a 400 page dissertation written by a doctoral student at BYU, who recorded these same kind of accounts by 7 LDS men in MOMs. I may not be able to explain it fully, because I read (all of) it several years ago, but from these accounts he constructed an elaborate theory about homosexuality which has been promoted at Evergreen. I was surprised that so few men formed the basis of the study but it seems finding subjects was challenging because the marriages had to be successful (faithful) for one whole year to qualify for the study even though most of them had been married for much longer. I find that interesting, because LDS Family Services (LDSFS) was cooperating in the study and it was warmly endorsed by Dean Byrd. I know LDSFS has had hundreds of such clients. Why only 7, I wondered and so much stock put in those 7, as if they could represent all such men. Based on all their descriptions, their marriages seemed pretty troubled, at least to me. It was written by a person you might know since you are pretty familiar with the literature in this area. :)

I wonder if you would consider it to be good science because causality comes up a lot, as I recall???

Thanks again for sharing the questions.

Ron

Jeff said...

Ron:

I am not and have never been a therapist. I have an academic background in psychology, however. Through my contacts in Evergreen and elsewhere, my wife and I come into contact with a lot of couples considering marriage, or in a marriage already. It's in that context that we ask these questions.

I think I'm abusing -L-'s hosptiality by continuing the discussion with Ron here, and I think I've really ticked Ron off, so the heat/light ratio is getting unprofitably near 1, neither of which was my intent. Sometimes my humor and demeanor don't come across very well in prose, and I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding my point about French dentistry. In any case, should we ever meet face-to-face, I hope you wouldn't think I'm as big of a jerk as you seem to think I am right now.

Let's defer the rest of the discussion till if and when I get my own blog, then we can have a proper romp through all of these issues if you think it's at all worthwhile. If you have a cite on that BYU study and its elaborate theory, please do post it, -L- willing, I'd be interested in reading it. I actually am not familiar with it. My first impression is the same as yours, an n=7 is a thin hook to hang a huge theory on. I also will look into The Erotic Mind, as I wasn't familiar with that either and it could be valuable.

I'll leave with a parting thought to address another point frequently raised on this blog. The consensus seems to be that homosexual attractions are relatively stable throughought life and not subject to much change. Could we design a study that actually verified that? Well, a longitudinal study would do the trick; we could ask the same people the same question over 20-30 years.

If you don't want to wait that long, a pretty good shortcut would be to do an age cohort study: ask a bunch of people of different ages their sexual orientation, then split them up by age. Is the number identifying as gay relatively stable, or does it go up, or down, over time?

That would be intesting, wouldn't it? And based on everyone's impressions here, most of us would expect it to be pretty stable, or perhaps even to go up as people come to grips with their sexual identity.

In fact, we don't have to wait for the cohort study. It's already been done, and it shows exactly the opposite of what we were expecting here. The percentage of boys/men identifying as homosexual declines with age. The older you get, the less likely you are to identify youself as homosexual. Now, we ought to repeat it with an HH scale, or a plethysmograph (is that what you guys are referring to when you say "PPG"?) and see if that shows a different or more nuanced picture. But if that finding can be replicated, where are these people? To me, that's a fascinating question, and it seems safe to conclude most of them are not at Affirmation meetings, they're not at Evergreen meetings, they're probably not posting to blogs, and they're not visiting LDSFS therapists, at least not for very long.

Some proponents of reorientation therapy gleefully cite this as "proof" that homosexuality can change. But what does it say about all these elaborate theories if more people are cured by accident than by design? Is it really a good thing that more people change by dropping out of therapy than by continuing it? (Let me hasten to add a personal disclaimer that even if the therapy I have undergone doesn't succeed in eliminating my attractions (which isn't really my personal therapeutic goal anyway), the other things I have learned through the process will still have been immensely valuable.)

Lest I be accused of ignoring the other dimensions, I think it goes without saying that libido and maturity are even more likely to change over time, though perhaps not in the direction we would expect.

Chris said...

Jeff:

The percentage of boys/men identifying as homosexual declines with age. The older you get, the less likely you are to identify youself as homosexual.

What's your source on this? Does the number actually decline or are older men less likely to identify as homosexual? I can imagine a host of reasons why that would be the case, and not all of them would have anything to do with an actual change in sexual orientation.

Jeff said...

Chris and Playasinmar:

I actually attached references in a postscript to my final comment, but it disappeared after posting it. I'll try again.

First, for Chris:

The reference is from the random-sampled massive sex study conducted last decade. It's Laumann, et al, The Social Organization of Sexuality, 1994, and the data I reference are found in tables 8.1 and 8.2. The study measures both homosexual activity as well as attraction. Both show roughly proportional and smooth declines with age. The effect is not slight, either. The decline is at least a factor of two, and it continues up to the age of 59 (the oldest age reported). The effect is observed in bisexuals as well, and in women and men.

You will also see the same phenomenon repeated in Kinsey's data a half-century earlier, in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 1948.

There are a lot of ways you could try to explain this data, including cohort effects. The study design is very strong, but any conclusions drawn can only be considered suggestive, including mine, at this stage without additional research.

Playasinmar, you asked for references to heterosexual men having homosexual sex. This is usually called "opportunistic homosexuality." Knowing the technical term may help your investigations. The book I cited, Sex and Reason by Richard Posner has a discussion of it on page 124, and there are several references in the footnote. But I just read an article in the May Atlantic Monthly called "The Kingdom in the Closet" that discusses this very thing. It's a fascinating article I think everyone here would find interesting. You should be able to find it in any library or magazine rack; unfortunately the online version is only available to subscribers.

Hope this helps.

Scot said...

"McWhirter and Mattison in The Male Couple say that they are very rare, and are never monogamous. That is true of the ones I have known as well, whom I have asked. They either include a third person in their lovemaking, or redefine their conception of sexual fidelity by putting all sorts of rules around when and how sex with others is permitted. When I bring this up among the Affirmation crowd, I get a lot of anger at asking what is apparently an impertinent question, but never have I heard a denial."

Here’s one for you. Now you can count at least one denial to the claim that gay couples are “never monogamous,” based on a book published about the gay community of what? 1984? And, sheesh, by the most traditional view of fidelity.

And I thought I might have missed a discussion in which I may enjoy participating. :-) Darn, I may have just participated [slinks back to own blog].