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What, with these feet - The Ex-Communicator

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December 5th, 2008


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09:53 am - What, with these feet
Report in the Guardian today that some official surveys will include questions on sexual identity.

When statisticians start next month investigating the sexual orientation of the British population in official surveys, they are leaving some room for interpretation: people will be asked if they are heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual, or other. The Office for National Statistics said yesterday that it needs the information to fulfil a legal duty to promote equality... A spokesman said the "other" category was included after test surveys revealed that at least five people in every 1,000 did not think any of the main categories accurately described their sexual identity.


I don't know what I'd answer. Probably heterosexual, because although I've had sex with a few women, it was a long time ago, and at my age it would just be ridiculous to answer as if I were some sort of adventuress. There ought to be options for 'grateful to get any at all' or in the words of Ronnie Barker: 'What, with these feet?' (ETA - 1 minute into that youtube - brilliantly delivered line)

(23 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:fjm
Date:December 5th, 2008 09:57 am (UTC)
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If you were het and had never had sex with a man, you'd say het. So if you still find women attractive, answer with that in mind. Doing is not identity.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:10 am (UTC)
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Yes, I see your logic, but it seems like a pose at my age. I think I'll stick to other. Not that anyone's asking.
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From:fjm
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)
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I don't understand why you see it as a pose. I have slept with two women in a decade, after the previous decade when I slept only with women.

I'm still bi. I'm just mostly too lazy to make the effort to meet other gay women.
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From:several_bees
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:34 am (UTC)
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Mm, I agree with this. I realise that there are some problems around the occasional tendency of the effectively heterosexual to claim bisexuality in order to seem Interesting or Adventurous, and nobody wants to be associated with "look at me, look at me, no really I'M INTERESTING I AM I FANCY GIRLS!!!". I think there's also something to be said for "well, if you've slept with ten people and they're all men I don't really care if you fancy women in principle" (and because of this I do avoid these sorts of questions: I've only had sex with two people, so it's not a very thorough sample, but they were both men).

But I'm vaguely under the impression - possibly wrongly? Sorry if so - that you're in a monogamous relationship with a man; in which case, well, you'd expect not to have slept with any women lately regardless of sexuality.

And to some extent this discussion of who qualifies ("oh come on, you're loads more bisexual than me, you totally count!") is clearly absurd, overcomplicating what should maybe be a simple question of something like "well who do you find sexually attractive to you personally, in such a way that given a suitable context you would act on it?". Mainstream exoticisation of bisexual people doesn't mean we need to accept the view that there is something adventurous and Other about bisexuality; any more than mainstream exoticisation of Asia means that people with a couple of Chinese grandparents should feel obliged to put down "white British" if they don't feel exotic and special, just because that's the identification that is socially neutrally coded.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:44 am (UTC)
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Yes, that's right about my relationship. Also, you start asking yourself questions about what is authentic sexual expression, and where the line is drawn between erotic feeling and other types of feeling, and what sort of activity is sexual. In other words, I am overthinking this slightly :-)
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From:trixieleitz
Date:December 6th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
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fwiw, I identify as bi, but have never so much as kissed a woman "with intent". And that remark is treading close to codifying sexual activity, which I don't want to do.

I'm not going to tell anyone else what their sexual identity is - that's for them to figure out :)
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From:pigeonhed
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:04 am (UTC)
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I don't mind such questions as long as there is a 'mind your own business' option.
I have a friend who I suspect would answer other on the grounds that her self-identified sexuality 'changes'.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
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I do understand, that like race and other factors, there is a need to determine population statistics, so that (for instance) official provision of services reflects local needs, and it's obvious whether the composition of the police reflects the local population, and all the rest of it. It's awkward and intrusive sometimes, but there are some good reasons to ask.
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From:pigeonhed
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:27 am (UTC)
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I agree, and I generally answer, but I think people ought to be allowed to decline to answer as a specific option as part of that information gathering.
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From:ninebelow
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:54 am (UTC)
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People are always allowed to decline. They shouldn't though.
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From:andrewducker
Date:December 5th, 2008 10:57 am (UTC)
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Definitely. I feel the same way about voting.
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From:pigeonhed
Date:December 5th, 2008 11:30 am (UTC)
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What I mean is that there should be an active choice of 'None Of The Above' rather than just not filling in the form.
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From:ninebelow
Date:December 5th, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC)
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It says in communicator's post that there is an "Other" option so they explicitly have a "None of the above" option. Most actual forms that I've seen in the wild have a "prefer not to answer" option. They also tend to split gay male and lesbian which this one doesn't.
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:December 5th, 2008 11:50 am (UTC)
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What, with these feet?

The mark of brilliant comedy is that it is still hilarious even when you know exactly what's coming.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
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There's another immortal line at the end of that scene 'Now, see that jar, I want you to fill it with urine', 'What, from 'ere?'
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From:kalypso_v
Date:December 5th, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)
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I don't see why they don't have an option for "celibate" or "not interested", which I think is probably a large enough group not to be subsumed under "other".

If they don't, that's a pretty clear signal that they're thinking about Any Vaguely Sexual Thought Ever To Have Passed Through Your Mind, rather than Who You Slept With This Week.

Don't think this was in the draft census they sent me for testing recently.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
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Good point about celibacy and asexuality. It's possible the survey designers have leaped in a bit mob handed.
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From:dfordoom
Date:December 5th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
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There ought to be options for 'grateful to get any at all'

I'll pick that one as well.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
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'Other' is a welcoming category
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From:spacefall
Date:December 5th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
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Asexuality doesn't even get its own box?? Plus the whole gender thing and ....we definitely need an 'other' box ;)

Not really sure what I'd tick. Other or Lesbian I suppose.
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From:communicator
Date:December 5th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
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eventually 80% of the population are in the 'other' box
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From:ladyhawke2
Date:December 6th, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
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People tend to assume that I'm bisexual because I've been married, but (technically right or not) it's just not who I am. I often think that I was born physically bisexual but emotionally lesbian, but there being no 'mostly whatever' category and because I've identified as such for the last ten years or so, I'd go for lesbian. With niggling doubts, because I'm pedantic and I don't like these multiple choice wedge-yourself-into-a-category questions, even though I can see why they need the information.
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From:communicator
Date:December 6th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
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Yes. To me sexuality seems the characteristic which is least amenable to multiple choice census questions. But then I imagine other people feel the same way about the questions on race, disability etc.

Why, even internet quizzes sometimes fail to capture all the nuances of human personality!

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