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Male bisexuality gets Big PNAS Energy

Do flowers exist at night?—John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch

I have very little to say here, except to let you all know that the venerable PNAS has today published a paper (edited by Steven Pinker) letting use know that male bisexuality exists.

Here it is: Robust evidence for bisexual orientation among men (The paper has authors, which you can click through for, but I prefer to imagine it sprouting fully-formed from the mind of Zeus)

Big shout out to all my bi bros who have been making this happen for years and years without the privilege of existing.

A few choice quotes:

Some competing interests…

Competing interest statement: J.S. is president of the American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB), which has funded some of the research contributing to our data. Obtaining funding from the AIB has sometimes allowed it to have input into the design prior to funding approval. However, J.S. has had no role in data analysis or manuscript writing until the present article, when he has contributed to writing.

Size matters when studying if male bisexuality exists:

All existing studies have been of small to modest size; the largest had 114 participants.

Something something fallacy of decontextualized measurement:

Notably, across these studies, bisexual-identified men self-reported subjective arousal to both male and female stimuli, even in samples where their genital arousal did not reflect such a pattern.

I’ll take structural heterosexism and misogyny in a patriarchal society manifesting it self in different ways across gender for 500, Alex:

The question of whether bisexual arousal patterns exist has been less controversial about women than men

Honestly there’s some stats in the papers but who really cares. The data is combined across 6 studies that cover two different types of stimulus (but it’s not clear how this was taken into account). The data also has about 270 straight(-ish) people, 200 gay(-ish) people, and 100 bi people, so, you know, balance.

The analysis itself is some sort of linear regression with a breakpoint such that the regression was a U shape (the arousal was higher/lower depending on where your are on the Kinsey scale). They used two different break points (but didn’t seem to adjust for the multiple testing) rather than using an automatically detected break point.

The data is shared if anyone wants to play with it and check some things out. It’s on OSF. Nothing was pre-registered so go hogwild!

But I’m personally not that interested in spending any actual effort to “discover bisexuality”. (Who expected Colonize Bisexuality would be July 2020’s clarion call!)

Before you go, please joint me one more time in singing the male bisexual national anthem Do Flowers Exist At Night.

PS. I think this needs a quote from a paper that Andrew, Greggor and I wrote:

We can identify all these problems with what might be called the fallacy of decontextualized measurement, the idea that science proceeds by crisp distinctions modeled after asocial phenomena, such as unambiguous medical diagnoses (the presence or absence of streptococcus or the color change of a litmus paper). Seeking an on–off decision, normalizing a base rate to 50 percent, and, most problematically, stripping a phenomenon of its social context all give the feel of scientific objectivity while creating serious problems for generalizing findings to the world outside the lab or algorithm.

or, to put it more succinctly:

Imagine saying “the indium/gallium strain gauge I hooked up to this man’s penis didn’t show consistent arousal as I Clockwork Orange’d him with gender-spanning porn, so male bisexuality does not exist”.

This is a much bigger problem than a data analysis that is making a bunch of arbitrary decisions and not accounting for the heterogeneity in the data. It is a question of whether these experiments are appropriate methods to demonstrate the existence of bisexual men.

There’s obviously a different question of why, in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty, are researchers using the language of discovery in this context. And why they’d go straight for the old penis measuring method rather than just asking.

P.P.S. from Andrew: There seems to be some confusion in the comments about Dan’s point, so I elaborated here:

I agree that it can make sense to perform physiological tests of sexual responses. If you publish a study on that, you might draw some laughs (back in the 1970s there were the “Golden Fleece Awards,” but that comes with the territory. Just because a form of measurement is funny to some people, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

I can’t speak for Dan, but I think his problem is not that this paper does some sort of dick-o-meter thing, but rather the points you make in the fourth paragraph of your comment. Also I have some problems with the statistics in the paper, which are related to Dan’s concerns about “language of discovery.”

Consider this statement from the paper:

Evidence for bisexual orientation requires that Minimum Arousal have an inverted U-shaped distribution and that Absolute Arousal Difference be U-shaped.

That makes no sense to me. Evidence for bisexual orientation requires only that there are some people who are sexually attracted to both men and women. No inverted-U-shaped distribution is required.

The above-quoted sentence is an example of scientism or the fallacy of measurement: taking a real and much-discussed phenomenon (bisexuality) and equating it with some particular measurement or statistical test.

P.P.P.S. (Dan again – sorry, I had other things to do today): Wow. The comments are certainly a journey aren’t they! A few things

  • Here is a paper (referenced in the above paper) that basically says the defensible version of what this paper shows: that patterns of arousal vary between monosexual and bisexual men, but there is a lot of variance among bisexual men. It does not claim to validate or provide evidence for the existence of bisexuality. If these particular patterns are of interest to you then that’s fine. It’s what’s being measured.
  • Andrew used the word “scientism”, which is an excellent way to describe the leap from the measurement scenario to claims about the validity of bisexuality (two of the authors have gone both ways on this). The paper is about patterns of arousal. The idea that a single common pattern of arousal can be used to categorize a sexual orientation is reductive to the point of absurdity.
  • Because apparently some people will not rest until I’ve been very clear about whether or not self-identification is reliable, let me just say  the following: If you’d asked me my orientation when I was 13 I would’ve said straight. If you’d inferred it by measuring arousal, my orientation was “busses going along bumpy roads”. There are indications that as time goes on, this happens less often (the straight thing. The bus thing is eternal). So while there is noise in self-identification, it’s no more than there is in most other demographic variables that we commonly use.
  • (To put that point somewhat differently, referring to these penis measurements as objective is not the same thing as them being objective. They are also noisy, contextual, and complicated by social and cultural forces.)

137 Comments

  1. Michael Bailey says:

    Fascinating that you think that human self-report about sexuality is always true. I don’t.

    • Kenneth Latimer says:

      Assuming noise in self-reports in a survey conducted in a standard psych experiment is normal. It’s a completely different thing to assume that every single person who identifies as bi could be lying as the basis for a null hypothesis.

      • Michael Bailey says:

        Not necessarily “lying.” “Mistaken” is enough.

        Remember, we found highly robust evidence that bisexual men tend to have bisexual arousal patterns. And other findings as well.

        Why the hostility about the research?

        • Andrew says:

          Michael:

          For one thing, you write that Dan thinks “that human self-report about sexuality is always true.” Dan never said anything like that. So I don’t think you’re responding so well to your criticism. If you want to say he’s rude and you’re annoyed, fine, but nothing is gained by misrepresenting his position.

          • Dan Simpson says:

            The nice thing about writing a short post for once is I was pretty confident people would notice this.

          • Anonymous and Afraid says:

            “And why they’d go straight for the old penis measuring method rather than just asking”

            This was the statement Dan made. And it clearly implies that any method other than self-report is in some way ridiculous, at least for the purpose of this specific question.

            I think it’s worth noting the extraordinary bias everyone here has (being educated, compassionate, generally left-leaning people) to virtue signal support for LGBTQ causes. That’s certainly a good thing, but I don’t think we are making enough distinction between biological features of sexuality and social nature of sexual identity. In this conflation, I don’t think we are doing those causes any special service.

            Personally, where I stand, I see methodological questions with the study that Dan has raised. I also think the paper didn’t do a good job in its communication. As written, it puts emphasis on the existence of bisexual male preference, as if this paper was a serious arbiter of the validity of bisexual social identity, which obviously it is not. And it should have taken care to clarify this point.

            But it’s also important to realize the context of this study. It was designed to rectify a sort of error in the scientific record and was conducted with the input of bisexual activists. Hence, I don’t think it’s totally ridiculous.

            Nor more generally is it ridiculous to favor in some contexts objective physiological measures over self report when studying human sexuality. The impression I got from Dan is that he thinks that doing so is inherently a sort of colonial affront to people in marginalized sexual groups.

            • Andrew says:

              Anonymous:

              I don’t know where this “virtue signaling” thing is coming from. But, anyway, sure, I agree that it can make sense to perform physiological tests of sexual responses. If you publish a study on that, you might draw some laughs (back in the 1970s there were the “Golden Fleece Awards,” but that comes with the territory. Just because a form of measurement is funny to some people, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

              I can’t speak for Dan, but I think his problem is not that this paper does some sort of dick-o-meter thing, but rather the points you make in the fourth paragraph of your comment. Also I have some problems with the statistics in the paper, which are related to Dan’s concerns about “language of discovery.”

              Consider this statement from the paper:

              Evidence for bisexual orientation requires that Minimum Arousal have an inverted U-shaped distribution and that Absolute Arousal Difference be U-shaped.

              That makes no sense to me. Evidence for bisexual orientation requires only that there are some people who are sexually attracted to both men and women. No inverted-U-shaped distribution is required.

              The above-quoted sentence is an example of scientism or the fallacy of measurement: taking a real and much-discussed phenomenon (bisexuality) and equating it with some particular measurement or statistical test.

              No one’s trying to outlaw the publication of research papers based on objective dick measurement. The problem is when researchers—and the National Academy of Sciences—declare that these measurements are the authority. Yes, I think this is kind of a colonial affront, actually!

              • Dan Simpson says:

                Everything Andrew said. And I assure you that nothing I’ve ever done in or around bisexual men could be mistaken for virtue.

              • Ryan says:

                I’d hazard that referencing “virtue signaling” is, a large fraction of the time, virtue signaling to those who view being its critic to be a positive trait.

                To add to your point on the validity of multiple distributions, this kind of analysis reeks of retrospective judgment. If a different, equally valid, distribution was found does anyone think that the authors would have published “No evidence of bisexuality; No U-shaped distribution”? No, it would have more likely been phrased as “Counter-intuitive distribution in the sexual response of bisexuals”. The only way to frame a boring finding as superior to a less boring one (academically) is to pretend like it is a requirement for the conclusions to hold.

              • matt says:

                Does anyone else get annoyed when Andrew is deliberately obtuse in comments? Ironic how unwilling he is to accept criticism and admit wrongs on his blogs.

                Anyone who reads this post is going to come away with the conclusion that Dan thinks questioning self-reported sexuality is beyond the pale. That is clear: it absolutely oozes out of the first 4 sentences to anyone who is able to read between the lines even slightly (shout out Steve Pinker, who edited but did not author the paper – none of the latter were named, who Dan mentions presumably to signal his disdain for the Harper letter).

                Again, Andrew, if he replies to this, will point out that, no, technically Dan did not say any of these things. Sure maybe he didn’t literally say these things. See my point above deliberate obtuseness.

                And yes, this is clearly mostly virtue signalling. Dan signalling which tribe he is a part of. Ryan pointed this out above (or below, not sure where this comment will show up). Not sure why Andrew decided to publish this garbage on an academic blog.

              • Andrew says:

                Matt:

                I’m happy to accept criticisms and correct my mistakes. But in this case I’m saying that Dan is . . . not saying something that Dan didn’t say! So I don’t think any correction is necessary on my part.

                You’re doing a lot of mind-reading in your comments: according to you, I’m “deliberately obtuse,” and Dan is saying something he didn’t actually say, but, no problems, it “absolutely oozes” and you just have to “read between the lines.” Also, we’re “virtue signalling.” And something about tribes.

                P.S. I didn’t “decide to publish” the above post. Dan posted it. Dan’s one of our co-bloggers here.

              • matt says:

                Yep, as I said, you are being obtuse.

                Dan – “I’ll take structural heterosexism and misogyny in a patriarchal society manifesting it self in different ways across gender for 500, Alex”

                That is how he summarized this excerpt from the paper: “The question of whether bisexual arousal patterns exist has been less controversial about women than men”.

                Seems really objective and dispassionate.

                He is obviously pissed that researchers have taken it upon themselves to explore bisexuality using methods apart from just asking people how they identify themselves. Sure I’m doing a bit of mind-reading. Similar to the type of mind-reading humans do when ordering a coffee and the barista asks ‘would you like room?’: I assume she is referring to my cup of coffee.

              • somebody says:

                > He is obviously pissed that researchers have taken it upon themselves to explore bisexuality using methods apart from just asking people how they identify themselves.

                No. He is annoyed at the claim that said exploration constitutes evidence for the existence of bisexuality. Nobody would care if the study was described as “distribution of erectile response of bisexual men in a laboratory setting” or whatever. Compare these two statements

                1. This study did not have the power to falsify bisexuality to begin with because the self-reports of millions of men is more meaningful than erectile response in a laboratory setting of a much smaller group of men

                2. Self-reports are always 100% accurate and studying anything else is morally reprehensible.

                The fact that you’re unable to distinguish between these two statements is a statement about your obtuseness, not anyone else’s.

                > Similar to the type of mind-reading humans do when ordering a coffee and the barista asks ‘would you like room?’: I assume she is referring to my cup of coffee.

                If this is the extent of your ability to infer from context, I’d wager you’re the type to interject “I like mine filled to the brim” while still behind someone in line.

              • matt says:

                somebody — what about this gem? ‘I’ll take structural heterosexism and misogyny in a patriarchal society manifesting it self in different ways across gender for 500, Alex’. Why is this PM nonsense relevant to the post?

              • matt says:

                And why does he mention Pinker?

              • somebody says:

                > somebody — what about this gem? ‘I’ll take structural heterosexism and misogyny in a patriarchal society manifesting it self in different ways across gender for 500, Alex’. Why is this PM nonsense relevant to the post?

                The relevance is that it’d be obviously ridiculous if you flip it the other way around. If someone did this same study on straight men and wrote that they now have robust evidence for the existence of heterosexual men, the comedy is obvious. To be clear, the quoted sentence is not science, it’s mockery. There’s a lot of mockery on this blog. That’s also why Pinker is mentioned; because he gets mocked on this blog a lot. If you take offense to casual mockery, then you must not be following this “academic blog”.

                Now this is all irrelevant, since the fact is that your preceding mind-reading comments were clearly way off the mark, but I have to ask, why does that sentence upset you so much?

              • matt says:

                Ha wow, well that was a whif. Read the quote that the ‘gem’ I pulled referred to; it wasn’t about the study in general.

                I don’t agree my previous mind-reading comments were off the mark. And I don’t think it’s for you or I to determine whether they were.

                I’m fairly certain Dan was doing point #2 in your list, not point #1. I can distinguish between the two of course. It is not self-evident, as you seem to suggest, that he was doing #1.

                And the phrase upsets me because it makes me realize another smart person (Dan) subscribes to a worldview that is absurdly out of touch with reality.

              • matt says:

                Like seriously, what is ‘structural heterosexism’? Yes, this is how species reproduce. If it wasn’t structural we wouldn’t be here today having our useless debate in the comments section.

              • somebody says:

                > I’m fairly certain Dan was doing point #2 in your list, not point #1. I can distinguish between the two of course. It is not self-evident, as you seem to suggest, that he was doing #1.

                Ok. That’s fine, but you’re the one who called other people obtuse for not taking away #2 from it. Then, even after Gelman stated his own contradictory reading and Dan assented to it saying “everything Andrew said”, you still insisted that it’s obviously #2. What part of the post makes you so sure it’s #2 and not #1, in direct contradiction to the exact words of the author? Why are we all so obtuse for not taking away something contrary to the author’s claims? I’m waiting for an argument.

                > And the phrase upsets me because it makes me realize another smart person (Dan) subscribes to a worldview that is absurdly out of touch with reality.

                What is the worldview that is absurdly out of touch with reality, and what is the evidence that connect Dan to it? In my view, a worldview that admits a conspiratorial hypothesis like “millions of self-identified bisexuals are actually all lying together” as plausible is pretty out of touch with reality. As far as I can tell, all Dan has done is identify that this paper assumes that worldview, rightly mocks it, and laments the fact that it’s entrenched enough that the paper was published to begin with.

              • Curious says:

                “I’ll take structural heterosexism and misogyny in a patriarchal society manifesting it self in different ways across gender for 500, Alex”

                I think Dan’s comment is a quite concise and humorous summary of the societal framework within which this study was developed. A number of disciplines trail rather than lead society’s beliefs. The shifts seem to occur as a result of a recognition that beliefs were being treated as reality and when there is a shift in these normative beliefs toward reality the question is resolved.

                Sadly, researchers continue to battle the false beliefs enshrined in the literature and continue to develop methods that circumvent critiques, grounded in false beliefs, of previous studies. When the world appears to be moving on and academia continues to defend the false beliefs, it looks sad in the way an old racist sitting on a porch spouting his racist beliefs to his grandchildren who do not share them looks sad.

                Unless one approaches the mind from a skinnerian viewpoint that it is purely an epiphenomenon of physiology, it is difficult to understand how one can think such a study can truly capture the full breadth of a continuous sprectrum of sexuality. Though I suppose that was not the point of the study. It was an attempt to put a final nail in the coffin of the old racist academic grandfathers with a method they could not summarily dismiss with “I don’t believe self-report”.

                It reminds me of a conversation I’ve had back in the late 90’s early 2000’s about gay marriage. At the time, there was a lot of discussion about trying to prove the homosexuality was in some way genetic or formed at a very early age, perhaps in the womb. My position was that it was utterly irrelevant. Adults should be able to freely choose who they have sex with, who they love, and who they marry without interference from the state. If marriage was legal for anyone then it should be legal for everyone. I thought that as a matter of policy and politics that engaging the wrong question would not be helpful even if it could be answered. It created a defense for the indefensible.

            • Joshua says:

              A&A –

              > And it clearly implies that any method other than self-report is in some way ridiculous, at least for the purpose of this specific question.

              Not ridiculous. Insufficient to draw a firm (pardon the pun), er, hard (pardon the pun) conclusion.

              > I think it’s worth noting the extraordinary bias everyone here has (being educated, compassionate, generally left-leaning people) to virtue signal support for LGBTQ causes.

              I’m trying to figure out how this virtue sifnslly would play out.

              Are you suggesting that some kind of librul LGBTQ bias would lead to someone reporting an attraction to someone else that they aren’t actually attracted to?

          • steven t johnson says:

            The end where the writing stops is often the conclusion, as in the takeaway or the gist or the main point. Here, it was “There’s obviously a different question of why, in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty, are researchers using the language of discovery in this context. And why they’d go straight for the old penis measuring method rather than just asking.” Simpson most certainly implied self-report was reliable, and that it was stupid to use other measures.

            Now if you want, you can insist the real conclusion is the penultimate paragraph: “This is a much bigger problem than a data analysis that is making a bunch of arbitrary decisions and not accounting for the heterogeneity in the data. It is a question of whether these experiments are appropriate methods to demonstrate the existence of bisexual men.” But “this” refers—unless the writing is truly messed up—to a fictional example devised in another paper by the author condemning the stupidity of using experimental methods. And this context reinforces the reading of the apparent conclusion that asking is reliable.

            Dan Simpson most certainly said something “like that.”

            The relevant context is the widespread assumption that gay men are attracted only to men and straight men are attracted only to women, and there is not any widely acknowledged bisexual “social identity.”

            • Joshua says:

              Steven –

              > Simpson most certainly implied self-report was reliable, and that it was stupid to use other measures.

              I’m still trying to get some answers here and I’m not getting any.

              Do you think that it isn’t reliable, if you want to know if someone is bisexuxual, to ask them whether they’ve had sex with both sexes, or at least desires to have sex with/is attracted to both sexes?

              Do you think it is reliable (and suffient), if you want to know if someone is bisexual, to measure their physiological response to a specific at of stimuli in a contrived experimental setting?

              • steven t johnson says:

                But you know the answers, just as much as Dan Simpson did. No, it is not sufficient to ask because people can lie and have motive to lie, not just to the questioner, but on this issue, to themselves. Your implication that there is no such problem is denying the persistence of homophobia (or proper distaste if you deny “homophobia” is a thing.) It would be gratifying if no male ever felt pressure to have sex with women as living up to expectations, too. But it’s not clear how you could possibly re-assure female partners this isn’t the case.

                As for your second question, in addition to the usual caveats about relying on single experiments, or single types of measurements, or small sample sizes, or cross-cultural comparisons, or checks against historical records, or checks against legal records, or replication by other studies, or self-reports, or surveys of reports on what people at large believe about others…in addition to the standard issues in science, the question is on the other foot. Why would you think bisexual response is not repressed in this society? Or, in what manner do you think bisexual social identity (to borrow a phrase from the discussion) or some such, is separate from mere physiological response? Some people have claimed that sexual responsiveness to both sexes (episodic as most romantic lives are, to be clear,) is rather more the norm, and that exclusive heterosexuality and exclusive homosexuality are extremes in a spectrum (or, dread word, distribution) of sexual feelings. How can you deny that simply asserting such a thing isn’t enough, that it needs some sort of confirmation or refutation by other means than self-report, an issue clouded by repression?

                I suppose it can seems outrageous to think an entire society has been so perverse as to engage in mass repression. Perhaps it’s unduly cynical, but it seems to me that it’s possible. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

            • somebody says:

              There’s a massive jump between “it is possible for people to lie about their sexual preferences on their self-report” and “it is plausible that every one of the millions of men who identify themselves as bisexual is lying, and also penile response in a controlled laboratory setting is more reliable than self reports.” The line (more a canyon, really) between the two is obvious to me, the second statement is clearly the one being attacked in the blog post, and everyone is acting like *not* making this delineation is deliberately obtuse virtue signaling. I’m sorry that others and I are signaling the virtue of being capable of reading and have started with non-conspiratorial priors.

              • somebody says:

                Excise the *not* from above

              • Thanking somebody for carrying the water in this conversation, so I don’t have to.

                The linked paper can not possibly offer essentially *any* evidence on the question “do bisexual men exist” while simultaneously claiming to be the first people who have confirmed their existence, as if they were landing on mars and culturing bacteria in their robot… It’s insanity. And the reason it belongs on the blog is because it’s an enormous overstep in conclusions from data. Here’s some equivalent examples:

                1) Existence of blond haired men finally confirmed after careful analytical chemical analysis of hair samples.

                2) Existence of dark skinned people confirmed by careful sectioning of skin samples.

                3) Existence of people who don’t like coffee confirmed by nationwide census of beverage preferences using hidden cameras at restaurants.

                4) Existence of women confirmed using chromosomal analysis of randomized cheek swab samples at hospitals.

                ….

              • Martha (Smith) says:

                +1 to Daniel’s comment.

              • gec says:

                Many thanks to Daniel for coming up with some awesome examples of the core fallacy of this paper!

                I look forward to reading those articles in upcoming issues of PNAS.

          • Paul Alan Thompson says:

            Dan didn’t have to actually say it. The assumption is implicit in his comment. Dan is basically making the claim that “lived experience” is the key aspect of science. This is a contradiction of 4000 years of science, in which “lived experience” is replaced by “structured evaluation”.

            • Andrew says:

              Paul:

              Wait a minute. You’re dismissing all personal statements as “not data,” but then you’re drawing strong conclusions based on something that Dan didn’t actually say? That’s just wack.

              The only person here who mentioned “lived experience” here is you. This is your issue.

        • Joshua says:

          Michael –

          > Fascinating that you think that human self-report about sexuality is always true. I don’t.

          I’m going to assume that you agree with me that a person is the best judge as to whether they’re sexually attracted to another person.

          So I’ll assume that you think that self-report would be subject to some kind of social desirability or other self-report bias. Can you explain how you think that might work? I’m having a hard time figuring that out.

          Suppose you don’t find any physiological response indicating arousal when you expose a study participant to a particular stimulus; would that really be sufficient reason to think the participant is mistaken (or biased) if they report an attraction?

  2. Michael Bailey says:

    Since you’re mentioning your paper with Andrew, I’ll mention my review of it here: https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2018/03/16/fallacy-objective-measurement-case-gaydar/#comment-685611

    If anyone thinks your blog is a thoughtful critique of our article, I’ll . . . be speechless.

    For the current science on sexual orientation, see: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1529100616637616

    • Dan Simpson says:

      I promise no one needs to consider this a serious critique. The paper is Flowers Exist At Night Because We Kludged Together 6 Datasets That Take Different Conditions and Oragami’d a Method To Get Significant P-values.

      It’s like if the conclusion of the Himmicanes paper was that hurricanes exist and we noticed using 600 stationary cameras in the US. Other studies couldn’t show that hurricanes exist because they used fewer cameras and didn’t see any.

      The blog is silly because the paper is silly

    • somebody says:

      I agree that it’d be strange if anyone thought this blog post was a thoughtful critique of your article. But I do think this blog post was still more thoughtful than your article. I even think the same about the comment I’m writing now.

      • somebody says:

        If you’re genuinely confused about why people think the article is silly, probably the most glaring flaw is that it assumes an ass-backwards definition of sexual orientation in terms of physiological measurements. This kind of conflation of the measurement with the thing being measured is textbook scientism, trying to reshape the object of study until it fits with a scientific aesthetic. The fact of the matter is that there exist men who persistently choose to have sex with both men and women, and the label of “bisexual” is understood to refer to those people. As such, if you were to gather all these people and find that their physiological responses weren’t right or whatever, “bisexual people don’t exist” would be the wrong conclusion. I would instead conclude that “bisexual orientation invokes a physiological response distinct from hetero and homosexual orientation.” If my evidence were strong enough, I might even be able to claim that “bisexuality is driven by socio-psychological forces.” But I couldn’t disprove the existence of bisexual people unless I found that all the bisexual people were holograms or catfishers or whatever; the epistemology of this study was doomed to failure from the start.

        All that is ignoring the implausibility of the null hypothesis being tested here, which requires millions of men to all collectively conspiring to lie about their erections to no benefit whatsoever.

        • AllanC says:

          “All that is ignoring the implausibility of the null hypothesis being tested here, which requires millions of men to all collectively conspiring to lie about their erections to no benefit whatsoever.”

          I’m teaching an LSAT class right now via zoom and I swear every student stopped what they were doing when they saw me chuckle uncontrollably at your comment (sound was off thank goodness)!

          Also +1 because it’s a valid scientific line of reasoning!

        • steven t johnson says:

          “All that is ignoring the implausibility of the null hypothesis being tested here, which requires millions of men to all collectively conspiring to lie about their erections to no benefit whatsoever.”

          If men lie about their erection, they receive no benefits. As I understand it, if the proposition is valid, then the contrapositive is valid. Thus, If men receive benefits, then it’s from telling the truth about their erections. This is merely reframing the claim.

          Unfortunately, the same proposition when reframed doesn’t seem to be true at all, not to me, at least.

          • somebody says:

            You’ve conflated propositional logic with a causal claim in your construction.

            This

            > If men lie about their erection, they receive no benefits.

            Is not the same as

            > If men lie about their erection, they do not receive benefits for doing so.

            • steven t johnson says:

              If men receive benefits, then they are telling the truth about their erections.

              The reframed version of your claim sounds even more absurd to my ears. Whether a logical proposition with no relation to truth (just validity,) or a causal claim, your statement doesn’t hold up to mere reframing.

              • somebody says:

                Is this some kind of avant-garde trolling that’s flying over my head? You’re just picking up on a superficial similarity between conditional syntax in propositional calculus and causal statements. The proper statement of my claim is

                “Lying about their erections does not cause men to receive benefits.”

                For which the closest analogue to contraposition is

                “Men receiving benefits is not caused by them lying about their erection.”

              • steven t johnson says:

                If p, then q.
                The contrapositive is, If not q, then not p.
                The reply from somebody incorrectly states the contrapositive, relying on the common confusion in statements with a negative (often a reason for using a negative in the first place.)

                But in the desperate effort to rebut the obvious, somebody rephrases their own proposition as “Lying about their erections does not cause men to receive benefits.” I suggest you imagine a man telling his wife he wasn’t getting an erection while watching Brokeback Mountain received no benefit, to judge the sense here.

              • somebody says:

                So you admit that the causal claim cannot be contraposed. I don’t understand what you expect to achieve by lying about what I said; it’s right there! I can’t even edit it

                > All that is ignoring the implausibility of the null hypothesis being tested here, which requires millions of men to all collectively conspiring to lie about their erections to no benefit whatsoever.

                “to no benefit whatsoever”, it was a claim about a causal relationship to begin with, not a propositional one.

    • Jake says:

      Your paper doesn’t merit a thoughtful critique.

    • Anon says:

      +1 that the Fallacy of Objective Measurement paper was off the mark. It in no way refutes the central claims made in the gaydar research literature. Just makes some tangential points about the importance of context.

  3. Martha (Smith) says:

    Following the link to the paper, I found an “Impact” symbol that rates the article as having high impact. One item in the list of what lead to the impact rating is that it has been mentioned on one blog. So, Dan, you are contributing to the high impact of the paper. (And maybe I am by adding this comment? My conclusion: “Impact” is not a measure of quality.)

  4. wally says:

    BH: ‘Beavis wrestles with his manhood’

    BV: ‘Heh, Heh, I usually win’

  5. A Person says:

    This paper appearing in PNAS is appropriate in more ways than one.

  6. Paul Alan Thompson says:

    [NOTE: THIS HAS BEEN EDITED BY MODERATORS]
    The notion that “lived experience” = “demonstration of phenomena” (the thesis of this comment) is a contradiction of 4000 years of science. “Lived experience” or “personal report” (“Are you bisexual”) may be an indication that some issue exists. It is not data. Because there are many ways that “lived experience” = “delusion”.

    [MODERATOR: REMOVED FOR CONTENT THAT WAS UNREALTED TO THE MAIN TOPIC AND TRANSPHOBIC]

    Beware the notion that “lived experience” tells us anything. If you cannot devise a test to distinguish “lived experience 1” from “lived experience 2”, then you have no valid distinction and the phenomena is likely delusion.

    • Andrew says:

      Paul:

      Personal experiences are data. Survey responses are data. Dick measurements are data too. They’re all data.

      Just to get some perspective on this, consider public opinion polls. We learn a lot from public opinion polls, even though they’re just personal reports. For example, someone reports that they strongly agree with the statement, “The Supreme Court has too much power and should not be legislating from the bench,” that’s their stated opinion. There’s no way you can learn someone’s view on the Supreme Court without asking them. This does not mean that the existence of opinions is “delusion.” You might not like that people express views different from yours on the Supreme Court, or sexuality, or whatever, but those views are real.

      • Jordan says:

        It’s also worth mentioning that the intended use of the data matters as well. If predictive utility is the main criterion, you might not care about truthfulness of a response to a survey item at all. Of course, it is more complicated when the goal is to explain a system, but my point is that even blatantly false responses to a survey item can carry useful information.

      • Paul Alan Thompson says:

        Polls are data. Yes, correct.

        The difference between “a poll about politics” and “50 blogs about politics” is that the poll STRUCTURES the question. When you have 50 blogs about politics (rather than 50 respondents to a survey), you get the answer to the same question. It’s certainly possible that the question is biased, slanted, etc. We’re all aware of that.

        But the notion that a “structured attempt to understand bisexuality” is invalid due to the truth of “bisexuality exists because my friends are all bi and this is tedious nonsense” is not a refutation of the study.

        • Christian Hennig says:

          As far as I understand matters, the problem is not to have a “structured attempt to understand bisexuality”, but rather to claim that without this one couldn’t be sure that it even exists.

      • Christian Hennig says:

        …and then all data is just perception. Granted, it’s perception that has a strong degree of social agreement behind it (at least most data), but still, data relies on perception and agreement, and without agreement between subjective observers no conclusion from data would ever be accepted.
        Ultimately we don’t have more than personal experience, including the experience of agreement with others (or not).

        • Thought I would re-cycle this explanation of scientific inquiry that may be related.

          Paraphrasing Susan Haack, scientific inquiry is continuous with everyday empirical inquiry, but enormously refined and amplified by specialized tools and techniques. Our job in science is to make sense of our observations. Simply put, science is thinking, observing and then making sense of thinking and observing for some purpose. But, put on steroids by repeatedly cycling through these 3 over and over again and sharing some iterations widely to learn in what ways we are wrong.

          In order to share all 3, thinking is formalized as representations that encode assumptions about reality, observing is formalised in instructions for re-observing under the same conditions, while sense making is formalised in assessments of what would repeatedly happen in some reality or possible world. 

    • JM says:

      This is a gross misrepresentation of science. Not knowing what to measure or how to measure it, or lacking tools that are sensitive enough to measure it, does not stand in as proof that the is nothing to measure (and therefore, according to your comment, all trans people must be delusional). In fact the history of ‘4000 years of science’ is arguably mostly about learning these things.

      There is a whole side point here about how a personality (including things like gender) exists in the brain, and not the genitalia, and so the statement that you can’t look at someone’s ‘plumbing’ and infer their whole identity is pretty absurd.

      • Paul Alan Thompson says:

        [MODERATOR EDIT: TRANSPHOBIC CONTENT.]

        We do know that delusion exists. Over many years, we have learned that “I am Napoleon Bonaparte” is true for a single individual. Many have believed that they are Napoleon Bonaparte.

        [MODERATOR EDIT: TRANSPHOBIC CONTENT]

        • Christian Hennig says:

          Don’t you think there are terms that are essentially subjective (and being Napoleon Bonaparte isn’t one of them)?

        • JM says:

          Provide for me a diagnostic device that can distinguish “republican” from “democrat”. No such device exists. All “data” on this topic comes from self reports like voting or voicing certain opinions, all of which are indistinguishable from “delusions about political affiliation”.

          Do you really want to try and take the stance that literally nothing is true unless it can be measured with a device?

          In any case, there is a device:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_magnetic_resonance_imaging
          Brains are very complicated and we have not (yet!) learned how to use these tools to perfectly understand all the complexity that we can infer just from talking to people. But that is very different from assuming that the complexity is all “delusion”, whatever that means.

        • Jake says:

          There have been at least 8 bona fide Napoleons Bonaparte.

        • Aidan B says:

          There’s no diagnostic test for transphobia but most of us can spot it when we see it.

        • A discriminating device says:

          Provide for me a diagnostic device that can distinguish “Paul Alan Thompson is a pile of stinking dog shit” from “not-Paul Alan Thompson is a pile of stinking dog shit”. No such device exists.

          We do know that dog shit exists. Over many years, we have learned that dog shit comes in piles and does indeed stink.

          Until there is a test, the phenomena of “Paul Alan Thompson is a mound of fragrant insight” is indistinguishable from “delusion about cat piss”.

    • somebody says:

      Can I distinguish between people who enjoyed seeing Knives Out in theaters and people who didn’t enjoy seeing Knives Out in theaters without asking them? No such test exists. I suppose I must then conclude that a preference for or against Knives Out must not exist.

      > Beware the notion that “lived experience” tells us anything.

      No functioning human being takes this advice seriously, including you.

      • Paul Alan Thompson says:

        “A whole bunch of opinions” about “Knives Out” tells us little. To understand the “preference for ‘Knives Out'” in a scientific manner, the elicitation of opinion needs to be structured, because otherwise extrinsic factors contaminate the opinion.

        “I enjoyed KO because it smashes the patriarchy” “I enjoyed KO because it had good language” “I hated KO because no black actors were used” and so forth. To clarify the “preference for KO”, some attempt to structure the “lived experience” or “narrative as data” is necessary.

        • somebody says:

          I agree that the binary opinion of liking or not liking a movie is not helpful for me, someone else who might want to watch the movie, or me, someone who might want to learn from criticism to make another movie, or me, a citizen who wants to learn what a movie says about the culture it is embedded in. But that doesn’t mean the phenomenon of liking or not liking a movie watching experience does not exist.

          1. Do you think that the phenomenon of liking or not liking a movie does not exist or is “likely delusion”?
          2. Do you have a way to divine these more nuanced opinions without self reports?

        • Andrew says:

          Paul:

          Your comment about Knives Out demonstrates the problem of non-contextual thinking, which is interesting given that this was Dan’s point in the above post. Knives Out did not smash the patriarchy, and it did have a black actor. Science talk without subject-matter understanding creates problems. I see a lot of similarities between the scientism that you are exhibiting here, and the scientism in Bem’s ESP experiments. In both cases, there is a focus on objective measurement without understanding of what is being measured.

    • Danielle Navarro says:

      Hi Paul,

      You do know that transgender women read this blog too, right? Could you maybe fuck off?

      Danielle Navarro

        • John Ormerod says:

          Andrew:

          I know of a few trans people in the statistics community, one of whom is highly distressed over the transphobic comments appearing in this blog. Please either disable comments, or moderate the comments. Failure to do either of these makes you an enabler of transphobic violence. As a leader of the statistics community you have a responsibility to promote a safe environment for *everyone* in the community. Please do better.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hiding the fact that there are transphobic people through censorship doesn’t make things better.

            Andrew shouldn’t censor these comments, but he also should feel free to let people such as yourself counter these comments, and he does.

          • Andrew says:

            John:

            What anon said. Unfortunately, these transphobic attitudes are out there. I think it’s good that people here are countering these comments, both at the abstract level that those statements don’t make sense and at the more direct level that they are offensive. Trolls have not thrived here at our blog, perhaps because people respond to them firmly. To put it another way, you suggest that we moderate the comments; I think that the responses we’ve seen are a form of moderation that is more effective than going in and deleting them.

            I agree with you that it’s important to promote a safe environment for everyone. There are places online where haters congregate. I do not think this blog is such a place. This is a blog about statistics and social science, and there are haters who are interested in statistics and social science—but I think the haters soon realize that this blog is not a fertile ground for spreading hate. Indeed, commenters are sometimes annoyed when we take a stand against hatred (for example, the negative comments aimed at Dan and me in this thread, such as here and here).

            I will say, though, that upon seeing the anti-trans comment in this thread, I did not directly comment on the transphobia, instead focusing on the logical flaws in the arguments, and I see your point that there’s value in directly confronting the hate speech itself. So I’ve added a comment above to rectify that.

            • Danielle Navarro says:

              Andrew, with all due respect, you are wrong.

              There is a reason why people like me stay away from your blog. The comment section here is consistently vile any time marginalised groups are discussed. If you don’t want to moderate your blog, fine, but it is disingenuous in the extreme to pretend that you have created a welcoming space for minorities.

              • Andrew says:

                Danielle:

                I looked up “disingenuous,” and the definition is “not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.” I suppose that your phrase “disingenuous in the extreme” implies that you think I’m extremely not candid or sincere, etc.

                I assure you that I’m being completely candid and sincere in my comments. Just because we disagree, that doesn’t mean that either of us is not being candid or sincere. It is possible to have a candid and sincere disagreement.

                You can disagree with me, and that’s fine. I could well be wrong; I’ve been wrong before. You’re welcome to comment on this blog, and of course you’re free to not read this blog, or to just read the posts and not read the comments, or anything in between. Of course I’d prefer if you were to comment frequently on this blog on general statistical topics, but I wouldn’t want you to do this if it’s an unpleasant experience, and that’s too bad. It’s our loss if you choose not to comment here.

                I don’t like when there are obnoxious comments here. Sometimes I respond to obnoxious comments (as here), sometimes other commenters respond (as here), sometimes the comments are just ignored. There’s some horrible stuff on the internet, as we discussed here. In any case, I respect your view on this and I appreciate that you commented here to express it.

              • Danielle Navarro says:

                Okay, I will take you at face value when you say that you are sincere. What I take that to mean is that you genuinely do not understand the amount of distress that I feel at participating in the discussion on your blog, nor do you know why I feel this way. On that basis, I’ll explain it to you this one time, and leave it to you to decide what to do with this information.

                Let’s start with an easy one. A commenter on your blog accused me (and everyone like me) of being delusional. Not metaphorically, literally delusional. Yes there is pushback against this. Now. The pushback occurred because I gritted my teeth and spoke up, and because I complained about it on twitter. If I had not done so, would John or Iris or any of the others who are now speaking said anything? I think not. Would you have called it transphobia had I not shown up? I think not. So when you say below that “the responses to your comments are themselves a form of moderation” what you are implying is that you have no intention of addressing the transphobia yourself: you’re making me do that job. I don’t like doing that job. It is painful for me to read things like this written about me every day. Not only that, I strongly doubt that my comments have changed Paul’s mind. So what have I accomplished by commenting? Nothing, other than causing myself distress. Rationally, then, the correct decision policy for me is “leave, and don’t come back”. This is what I mean when I say that you have not created a welcoming space. Your blog is an environment in which the rational course of action for marginalised populations is to not participate. That is a consequence of your “free for all” comment policy.

                Now let’s widen the scope a little, shall we? I’ve been pointedly ignoring him (and will continue to do so), but it is worth considering who J. Michael Bailey is, and his history with transgender women. I’ll not go into much detail here because to do so would obligate me to interact with him directly (which I will not do), but he is a prominent advocate of Ray Blanchard’s typology of trans women that subdivides us into “homosexual transsexuals” and “autogynephilic transsexuals”.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanchard%27s_transsexualism_typology

                Most transgender people consider this work deeply offensive. But setting aside our feelings about this work, consider his past behaviour in promoting this work on websites that are intensely transphobic. Here is an example:

                https://4thwavenow.com/2017/12/07/gender-dysphoria-is-not-one-thing/

                Or consider his behaviour on twitter and in academic journals. Just yesterday he was posting a link on twitter to his opinion piece about how sympathy for marginalised populations is “ruining sex research”:

                tweet: https://twitter.com/profjmb/status/1285645257309396992
                article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-019-1420-y

                He tagged a group of trans and nonbinary people in the tweet, many of whom were quite upset about being so targeted. This is not a man who is engaging with our community with any concern for our well being. This is the person that you are having a pleasant little chitchat with on your blog. What rational reason do I, as a transgender woman, have to participate in your discussion? (Suffice it to say my own reaction to him on twitter was simply “Fuck off”, which is more of a kindness than I believe he deserves from our community) There is a lot more I could say on this (including my thoughts on the methodological problems with that literature – I am after all a mathematical psychologist and have no small expertise on the subject), but the truth is that I am too angry to do engage civilly. I don’t fucking want to be around these people. Why would I? How little self respect must you think I have in order to keep this kind of company? Life is short and I value my mental health.

                So. I ask you again: what on earth would make you think I feel *welcome* here?

                Ultimately, this comes down to the “paradox of tolerance”. If you tolerate the presence of bigotry, the marginalised people they target will leave. You cannot allow comments like Paul’s and also hope that someone like me will participate. You cannot engage with people like Michael Bailey and hope that people like me will participate. We will not. The *only* reason I am here talking to you still is that I am friends with Dan and Lauren. But my charity only goes so far. This is your blog, and you are free to do what you like with it. I will not return here while this kind of content is considered permissible: that’s my call to make.

                Best
                Danielle

              • Dan Simpson says:

                Andrew,
                I don’t agree with you here. I don’t think this blog is a place for racism, antisemitism, homophobia, or transphobia. And I’m extremely aware of just how marginalized and oppressed trans people are both in the US and around the world. So I don’t think it’s neutral to leave these posts for other people to comment on.

                The former head of the Australian Army (ironically) said it best: The standard you walk past is the one you endorse.

                I have been loath to deviate from house style, but if you’re willing I would happily remove or edit (with commentaries on top and a notated removal of the worst content) future posts on here. I would certainly never have posted this if I’d expected it to garner transphobic comments. I just scanned the comments and didn’t see this stuff – I was looking for good jokes etc.

                I’m happy that comments like Daniel Lakeland have spent time cleaning this up, but I firmly believe it’s the responsibility of the people who invite comment to frame the comments in a way that doesn’t hurt extremely marginalized communities. We (abstractly, in this case I) have the ability to remove or modify comments and we (I) are responsible to our readers.

                Again, this is not ordinary weird comments or heterodox or unpopular views. This is things like straight transphobia (as that comment was), racism, or antisemitism. It should not be the responsibility of the affected community to either “suck it up” or to “don’t read the comments”.

              • Andrew says:

                Dan:

                I do not want to be in the position of choosing which comments to edit or moderate. There are lots of comments on this blog that express views that I find noxious—that said, the rate of such noxious comments must be something like 100 times less than on twitter or 10,000 times less than on 4chan etc.

                At the same time, I respect where you and Danielle are coming from. I can’t live in your skin and know what youall have to deal with every day.

                It’s fine for me if you moderate or edit the comments on this blog that you judge to be out of bounds. I expect that it won’t happen so often, but I’ll defer to your judgment on this.

              • Anonymous says:

                Danielle,

                Just out of curiosity: Do you generally find comments like “Could you maybe [bleep] off?” contribute to the sense that a space is “welcoming”?

              • Joshua says:

                Danielle –

                > So what have I accomplished by commenting? Nothing, other than causing myself distress.

                I don’t mean to suggest that you have any kind of obligation to endure distress so as to educate others, but you have accomplished more than what you describe.

                No, your comments will not change the haters. But it is important for non-haters to read about your perspective. Again, you certainly have no obligation to educate others at your own expense, but I want you to be aware that without hearing your voice, more people will likely remain uneducated.

              • somebody says:

                To be completely honest, I have to agree that this isn’t a welcoming space for minorities. There’s a shocking number of people who turn up here to defend eugenics or eugenics-adjacent views, often seemingly expecting the authors here to agree with them. There’s also an unusual number of well known white supremacists who are also regulars here. Any time someone smells a hint of a left wing rhetorical device, the classical liberals appear to read the tea leaves between the lines and accuse the writer of being a maoist. It’s not exactly 4chan; the white supremacist regulars around here make heavy use of the aesthetic of civility and rationality, as if avoiding the use of slurs makes one civil and throwing in the word “prior” makes one rational. But the very fact that I can identify white supremacist regulars gives me pause.

                I don’t think this is a fault of the blog authors’ tone or content or personal conduct. I think this kind of adverse selection is just a reality of any unmoderated consequence free forum. In the same way that vixra ends up with crankery without actively encouraging it, this place is going to end up with the “eugenics is a good idea that’s just TOO STIGMATIZED by the nazis” quillette authors.

                The flipside is that lots of people in these comments will jump in to say “no, your article has basic factual errors and you don’t understand any of these technical definitions.” I think that’s valuable—otherwise they’ll go on thinking their ideas are just too dangerous but fundamentally right, and everyone else is just too concerned with virtue signaling to admit it. Ultimately, I think there are too many of these people with too much power to just ignore them and hope they die out. But I do think if this is going to be a place where people can have those arguments, it’s also not going to be terribly welcoming to women and minorities.

                Other sites deal with these tensions with features like user blocking and comment hiding, none of which I can expect anyone to implement for free. But, failing that, I’d prefer to see all the nonsense. That said, I love to argue. To me, the more frustrating the argument the better. It’s really just a fun way for me to blow off steam since I’m not really in any of the minoritized groups under debate. It’s not my existence people are questioning. So I guess it’s easy for me to say.

                Aa an aside, a few months ago I actually did manage to make a remark so snide it got removed. i’m pretty proud of it.

              • Andrew says:

                Danielle:

                Thanks for the elaboration. I’m sure you’re right that I’m not always fully aware of these issues, and I do regret not calling out the commenter on the transphobia right away. Regarding my goals here, I’m not expecting or trying to change the mind of that commenter; I argued with him in the comments because this is a public forum, and I think it’s helpful to engage directly where possible. That doesn’t make anything you’re saying wrong; I’m just explaining where I’m coming from. This actually comes up a lot on this blog: Person A will write X, I will disagree with X, and a third party will say that I’ll never convince Person A, I shouldn’t even try. Or, conversely, someone will say that if I want to convince Person A, I should be more polite, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, etc. My response is that I’m not usually interested in convincing Person A. But again, this does not address your concern about the offensive comments.

                Regarding Blanchard, yes, I’m familiar with his work. See Section 3 of this paper with Hal Stern from 2006. I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of this gender-essentialist research that gets published is based on statistical fallacies. Part of this is just that statistics is hard, but I also think that part of it is that many researchers in that field come to the data with such strong views that they end up just using statistics to confirm their “schoolyard evolutionary biology.” So, even beyond the moral and social issues here, lots of this is plain old bad science. And that’s frustrating when the proponents of such work convey the attitude that they’re the objective scientists and we’re the complainers who can’t accept reality. I think that’s one reason that Dan Simpson and I were so annoyed by the gayface papers and by this recent PNAS paper: these papers are not devoid of scientific content, but the science is so strongly marinated in ideology.

                Regarding the blog comments: See Dan’s comment below and my reply. I’ve taken Dan up on his very generous offer to moderate offensive comments as they come up. I think that he’ll be able to do a better job of this than I can.

              • somebody says:

                In short, I think, on balance, that it is good to have a place where race realists and transphobes have it explained to them why they are wrong. That also means that place will have lots of race realists and transphobes. That also means PoC and trans people will not feel very comfortable in that place. Should that place be here? I don’t know.

                For the people saying that these people never change their mind:
                I think there are a lot of “on the fence” people who’s minds are not made up yet who read these arguments and form their opinion based on them. So it’s not typically for the benefit of the people in the argument, but lurkers reading along. And, of course, sometimes people’s minds do change, though they’ll never give you the satisfaction of letting you know you changed it.

              • A discriminating device says:

                I wanted to reply to this comment, but couldn’t, so I post it here:

                “Anonymous says:
                July 23, 2020 at 11:52 pm
                Danielle,

                Just out of curiosity: Do you generally find comments like “Could you maybe [bleep] off?” contribute to the sense that a space is “welcoming”?”

                If you’re trying to make a space welcoming for as many people as possible you will quickly run into the problem that some people you have welcomed do not cooperate with that goal. For example, someone says something transphobic or a trans person tells them to fuck off. While both people are making the space unwelcome for the other, you can clearly keep one and kick out one, to maximise the number of people who are welcome. Which one to choose? I suggest kicking the transphobic person because they are making people unwelcome based on who they are rather than what they said. Who you are is not a choice, not something you can opt out of. So the trans person cannot choose not to be excluded by the transphobe. The transphobe, on the other hand, is being excluded based on a choice they made, and they could easily choose not to behave like that and thus be included.

              • Anonymous says:

                There’s two ways to avoid a situation in which A says something that distresses B. One is A choosing not to say what B finds distressing. The other is B choosing not to be distressed by what A has to say. One of these solutions is more conducive to a free flowing exchange of ideas than the other.

            • John Ormerod says:

              Anon:

              It *does* make things better for trans people. Listen to them, that is what they are saying.

              Andrew:
              You are making a choice in what to value. Do you value debate, or do you value the safety of people in the trans community? You cannot do both. The debate is intrinsically harmful for a marginalized group and should not be given air.

              The debates transphobes have online are almost never conducted in good faith and there isn’t really a chance of changing anyone’s mind. There are plenty of other platforms people can vent transphobic hate. I hope that you choose not to make this platform one of them.

            • Dan Simpson says:

              Andrew: I have moderated the comments.

              • Andrew says:

                Dan:

                Thanks very much for putting in this effort. One of the advantages of collaboration is that we can learn from each other in all sorts of ways.

    • Andrew says:

      Paul:

      We welcome all commenters on this site, but that means everyone must feel welcome. Others in this thread have emphasized that your comments are transphobic, and I agree with them. I’m leaving your comments here, because it’s good to have these discussions out in the open, and I believe that the responses to your comments are themselves a form of moderation.

      • Logan Q says:

        > We welcome all commenters on this site, but that means everyone must feel welcome.
        > I’m leaving your comments here

        These things don’t go together. If you leave transphobic comments up, trans people won’t feel welcome. Please don’t make our colleagues and friends expose themselves to that stuff to engage with this content. Either 1) they will feel bad or 2) they won’t be here. I don’t like either of those. You grow the community you want to have by moderating it.

        > I believe that the responses to your comments are themselves a form of moderation.

        This is some ‘free marketplace of ideas’ nonsense. It’s not clear to me whether you can debate people into accepting trans people, but even if you can, there are other costs to leaving this stuff up. It’s not some magnanimous documentation of the dialectic, it’s a tax certain people have to pay to read this blog. It might not *prevent* them from participating, but it sure pushes them away. And from what I’ve read about community management, there’s a positive feedback loop and you have to make a decision early on. If you value trans statisticians as much as cis statisticians and you think this blog is worth reading, you should probably wbe more active

  7. Jordan says:

    In my head, I always just pronounced all four letters when reading “PNAS.” Not anymore. I did not consent to this change, but I am OK with it.

  8. Jake says:

    Oh hey it’s the dude who among other things arranged a live sex act for his undergraduate class.

  9. This whole argument comes down to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    I define “bisexual man” as something approximately like “a man who chooses freely to have sexual relations with women and men, or who reports the desired to do so”.

    Essentially these authors say “to be a *true* bisexual, you must respond to our stimuli according to our expectations”, and we found a group of men who do respond such, therefore we *PROVE* that bisexual men exist.

    I think it’s pretty offensive to claim to be the defining authority on whether someone may truly be called a “bisexual” in the same exact offensive way that people come along and say “to be a *TRUE* patriot you must support the president at all costs” or “to be a *TRUE* man you must fight in the military” or “to be a *TRUE* member of academia you must have received your PhD from Harvard or Yale” or whatever other asinine crap people come up with to wield social power over others.

    In short, Get Stuffed.

    • Note that it would be totally uncontroversial if they’d reported “we have shown that within our surveyed population, self reported bisexual men have a different pattern of physiological response to various stimuli compared to those who report heterosexual or homosexual orientation”.

  10. Daniel says:

    I’m not going to comment on the particular analytical choices the authors made. “Discovering” bisexuality seems pretty goofy, but I don’t think the authors claim that self-reports of sexuality are not a legitimate indicator (unless of course Michael Bailey’s views in the comments reflect those of all the authors…or perhaps Michael Bailey finds them to be rather valid but also, like other measures, subject to some error) nor that only “true” bisexuals exhibit a specific pattern based on device scores (per Daniel Lakeland’s second comment; I think his third comment more closely approximates the conclusions of the paper in question- “Results strongly confirmed that men who report attraction to both sexes are more genitally and subjectively aroused by both sexes compared with men who report that they are attracted only to one sex”).

    The authors say “the aim of this study was to examine the extent to which men who self-report bisexual orientation exhibit bisexual genital and self-reported arousal patterns” and “The primary question motivating this research is whether men who identify as bisexual have sexual arousal patterns that are also relatively bisexual,” which seems fine. It’s possible that people self-report bisexual orientation for reasons other than sexual arousal, so the *extent* to which these empirically relate is a fair question. It’s particularly puzzling since we would expect these to relate VERY strongly even in the presence of other reasons to ID as bisexual (even to the point that most of us wouldn’t bother studying this question)- around the “Notably” quote, apparently previous research does not provide consistent evidence of this relationship, at least depending on whether sexual arousal is measured subjectively or via physiological response, or possibly related to sampling concerns. Perhaps previous research suffered from underpowered studies (low N), which they argue they rectify.

    It’s one thing to think the research is a trivial exercise, it’s another to misrepresent the research’s claims.

    • Andrew says:

      Daniel,

      Regarding your last paragraph, the published paper has the following statement:

      Evidence for bisexual orientation requires that Minimum Arousal have an inverted U-shaped distribution and that Absolute Arousal Difference be U-shaped.

      This seems to me to be a ridiculous piece of scientism. That’s just my opinion, but I’m not misrepresenting the research when I point out that they are a defining a real-world phenomenon (bisexual orientation) in a strangely specific way. Consider the word “required” in that sentence. The authors really are staking out a strong position here, and implicitly so is the National Academy of Sciences by publishing this paper.

      • Joe says:

        I might be giving the authors too much credit, but I thought that the statement you quote was just sloppily written. I understood it as only referring to the context of their study (i.e., something like, “our method of analysis requires that ….”, or maybe “using these these data as evidence for X requires …)) rather than existence of bisexuality (although Michael Bailey’s comments above make me wonder). Earlier, the paper says

        “Self-reported measures of sexual attraction, interest, and arousal are useful and ubiquitous in sex research. When self-reports are questioned, however, other valid measures are desirable. One promising approach to empirical verification of self-reported male bisexuality as an orientation…”

        It’s possible to read that second sentence with contrastive stress, so that it would mean the authors believe that self-reports aren’t valid, but in the natural reading of the sentence, it would imply that the authors believe self-reports are valid and that their study is an attempt to find additional valid measures to satisfy critics who challenge self reports as being unreliable. (the statement about “empirical verification” can also be read in multiple ways, however, so maybe I am just assuming too much about their intentions.

        (This isn’t to say I agree with them: I just read the aims of the study differently, but maybe that’s because I find the strong position to be ridiculous).

    • “Patterns of physiological (genital) arousal to male and female erotic stimuli can provide compelling evidence for male sexual orientation.”

      This is basically the most controversial part really. The underlying hypothesis is that it’s plausible that essentially 100% of bisexual males are either lying or confused, and that their physical arousal under laboratory conditions can end this controversy once and for all.

      It’s a supremely smug and self righteous position, akin to doing brain volume research on women’s skulls back in 1850 to determine whether they have sufficient brain matter to be capable of understanding enough about arithmetic to be allowed to have their own bank accounts or something.

  11. Dick measurements? Really? says:

    This whole thread has gotten wack. Can’t believe I’ve read “dick measurements” in it several times.

  12. Bring Your Own Brain says:

    Reminds me of the old joke about two behaviorists having sex: “You enjoy this – do I?”.

  13. Emma says:

    Irrelevant transphobic comments in this thread should be deleted. I don’t think that allowing transphobic comments is serving this discourse.

    • Andrew says:

      Emma:

      Unfortunately, the transphobic comments in the thread are not irrelevant, as they shed light on the attitudes expressed in the research paper under discussion. More generally, I prefer not to delete comments. But that’s just how we do things here; other blogs can do things differently and use more active moderation. On this blog, what sometimes might look like moderation is just the spam filter.

    • I haven’t seen Andrew censor one side of any discussion here, even some rather obnoxious ones. I’ve seen him ask people to knock it off entirely, esp. when it goes off topic excessively, or becomes personal attacks, but in general he lets people say what they think. Including people such as yourself having a voice to counter the other comments.

  14. Elio Campitelli says:

    Have these guys written a scientific paper similar to this but trying to prove that heterosexual men exist?

    I mean… many men SAY they are attracted to woman, and the do have sexual and romantic relationship with women, but until you measure their dicks, I don’t think you can say that they are not mistaken.

  15. Brenton says:

    > I do not want to be in the position of choosing which comments to edit or moderate.

    Andrew, with respect, this position is choosing to enable bigotry and exclusion of minority and oppressed communities. Either you actively create and curate an environment that is welcoming to folks from all backgrounds and experiences, or your don’t. Choosing to ignore hateful comments on your blog is choosing to welcome them and exclude the people they target. That isn’t a neutral position. That’s an active choice of who to side with.

    • Bring Your Own Brain says:

      You are right that it isn’t a neutral position but I disagree that it would be an active choice of choosing who to side with.

      I think an active participation, for example, by publicly disowning bigoted comments is more valuable. That is requires more work, but I think it’s worth it. Idiots don’t get any self pity points by claiming cencorship and, I believe, public disowning of their crap has more pedagogical value.

    • Bring Your Own Brain says:

      I should add that my comment is from a fairly abstract point of view; I think Andrew’s moderation is more sensible as a general principle. Obviously there are contextual factors to be taken into account etc etc. I don’t fault Dan for 86’ing transphobic comments. Maybe indeed this is not the place for that kind of discussion – that line has now been drawn.

      The problem is similar to “is it right to punch a Nazi”. Sure, I have no idea with punching Nazis when it comes to stereotypical Nazis – I did read my share of Commando comics as a kid! – but the real question isn’t if it’s right to “punch a Nazi”. It is about who has the right to categorize someone as a Nazi – there seems to be quite a bit of room for subjectivivity when it comes to that. I hang around with the local punks and I’m not sure I’d be happy with leaving the decision to them. They are good people and as a staunch leftist I’m happy to see people with that kind of views, but I would not want them acting as the judge, jury and executioner.

      Thing with moderation is like that. Really the question isn’t about “siding with bigotry” – it is about authority and how to handle that. Who has the authority, can that be critizied and so on. Obvious violations are obvious, that isn’t interesting, things become more difficult and important when we talk about comments that are kind of on the edge.

      Also there seems to be a kind of contradiction… or maybe a couple. I see many people saying (not in this comment section but generally) that words are important – and I agree! – but at the same time they have this strange “it doesn’t matter” attitude towards moderation. “Well it’s just a blog comment”, they might say: “Why do you care lol?”. But it isn’t just a “blog comment” – especially on a blog like this. It is strange how at the same time one should be concerned about the impact of words and have that kind of laissez faire attitude towards moderation.

      What was the other contradicition? Urkh. Can’t remember. And it was better than the first one! Something about authority maybe?! About the problem of leaving that sot of thing to authorities? What was it? Should I be drinking at this hour? Mein gott, I’m glad my fiance comes back tomorrow…

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