August 1st, 2012For Your—Entertainment?by Sophia Mason | http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/

I got into a mini-combox war over at First Things.  The article by Daniel Mattson, "Why I Don't Call Myself a Gay Christian," is well worth the read.  Take a gander at it first for the context.  Here's the skirmish that followed.

7.30.2012 | 8:34am

TGWWS says:

Oh, oh thank you for this! I've often been puzzled as to why people seem to assume that the extra numbers of homosexuals in the arts MUST MEAN that homosexuality tends to bring artistic talent with it as a gift.

Two points as to why the correlation doesn't automatically validate the assumption:

(1) If this is true [that the extra numbers of homosexuals in the arts MUST MEAN that homosexuality tends to bring artistic talent with it as a gift], then it would be just as valid to say heterosexuals with temptations to promiscuity, and alcoholics, and narcissists are all sinners whose sin tends to bring artistic talent with it as a gift. (Because after all, artists are on average more likely to be all of those things non-artists.)

(2) Why assume that homosexuality makes one more likely to have artistic talent, rather than assume that artistic talent makes you more likely to be homosexual, or that some unnamed third quality has a tendency to produce both artistic talent and homosexual inclinations? Maybe there are persuasive arguments that make the common first assumption more plausible than the other two logical possibilities; but I haven't seen any.

 


7.30.2012 | 10:08am

Jon Rowe says:

TGWWS:

It could be that artistic talent does make one likelier to be homosexual. But how is that different than saying being homosexual makes it likelier to have artistic talent? We are just observing a correlation. Like growing older and hair loss. And indeed it could be a third thing that causes both. Some part of the brain that is more "turned on" that affects both homosexual orientation and artistic talent. Likewise it's possible that if you turn that third thing off, you turn off BOTH the homosexual orientation AND the artistic talent.

Re the other issues, the vast majority of heterosexual men are tempted towards promiscuity; it's just the ones who make it famous -- and it doesn't have to be in art; this is also very common among famous male athletes -- who get the opportunity to act on their promiscuity. Joe Six Pack has to deal with the consenting nature of women, and won't be able to pull off the four figures of lifetime sexual conquests of Mick Jagger or Wilt Chamberlin.

With the alcohol and drugs, I think it's pretty clear that emotional sensitivity and the need to numb pain is part of the picture with a lot of famous artists.

 

7.30.2012 | 11:21am

TGWWS says:

Jon Rowe,

I think it's extremely important in cases of correlation to uncover which of the correlates (if either) is the true cause. To take a (hopefully) less controversial example from the public policy world: Homelessness and mental illness are statistical correlates. Unless you know which one (if either) is the cause, you won't be able to attack the problem at its root.

In the case of homosexuality and artistic talent, because we as a society look on artistic talent as a good thing, it is easy for those who assume homosexuality to be a cause of artistic talent to claim that homosexuality is, therefore, a good thing. There are many ways in which a thing can be called "good," but I'm rather wary of any claim that an objective disorder can produce fruits that would not otherwise have been produced. To put that concretely: I suspect that (for example) Cole Porter would have composed just as beautiful music if he had not been a homosexual.

Re the promiscuity: I didn't connect it with homosexuality in my comment, so I'm not quite sure what you're saying ... I was simply using it as one more example of a sinful behavior (like the abuse of alcohol) that is more common among artists than among on-artists.

Yes, there is something in what you say about alcohol and drugs being used to numb the pain of sensitive artists. But I'm not sure you can say that those things are "needed" (note all the sensitive artists who don't abuse these things!), and I'm not sure it's so much the sensitivity per se that needs numbing as it is the suffering. Thus (concretely, for example, again) an artist who is sensitive, but has had a happy childhood, is far less likely to drink or be homosexual than an artist who is equally sensitive, but had a miserable childhood. Who you are is not just about what you're born with, but also about what you experience.

 

 

7.30.2012 | 3:53pm

Jon Rowe says:

"In the case of homosexuality and artistic talent, because we as a society look on artistic talent as a good thing, it is easy for those who assume homosexuality to be a cause of artistic talent to claim that homosexuality is, therefore, a good thing."

Well, yes. And this is why a lot of you folks are trying to run away from or explain away this observation. I do see artistic talent as a good thing. And I see nothing wrong with homosexuality. The connect of homosexuality with great art, indeed, is one of the "goods" of homosexuality, as far as I'm concerned.

"I suspect that (for example) Cole Porter would have composed just as beautiful music if he had not been a homosexual."

I suspect not.

"Thus (concretely, for example, again) an artist who is sensitive, but has had a happy childhood, is far less likely to drink or be homosexual than an artist who is equally sensitive, but had a miserable childhood. Who you are is not just about what you're born with, but also about what you experience."

You also have to consider bright, emotionally sensitive artistic types, because of that condition, may be likely to view the world in a particular way that makes them more liable to suffer from anxiety or depression regardless of what kind of childhood they had. I think the professional data bears this out. I also think of some really tragic examples of suicides of friends who came from intact middle class families. Miles Davis, admittedly, came from such a family and never had anything in his upbringing that would make him sing the blues and get addicted to drugs.

 

 

7.31.2012 | 11:22am

TGWWS says:

Dear Jon Rowe,

"[T[his is why a lot of you folks are trying to run away from or explain away [connect of homosexuality with great art]."

Admittedly. I said more or less this in my previous post. But this is also why folks like you, who see nothing wrong with homosexuality (or even see it as a positive good) are inclined to interpret such studies the way you do without being too careful about the other logical possibilities (as I said above).

In other words ... It's great that we can each admit our motivations for wanting to think that we think, but we MUST ALSO detach from what we wish to be true when we begin to make logical judgments. And I don't see very many of those who view homosexuality as a good being willing to practice that detachment.

Clearly, we're just going to disagree on Cole Porter and the many other artists who were or may have been homosexual! However, I suggest that you put to yourself this exercise. Take several artists who are known to have been heterosexual, and ask yourself whether their art would have been greater if their orientation were different. I think not ...

"You also have to consider bright, emotionally sensitive artistic types, because of that condition, may be likely to view the world in a particular way that makes them more liable to suffer from anxiety or depression regardless of what kind of childhood they had."

Absolutely agreed. Self included. BUT, that doesn't prove much one way or the other on the main question, does it? Or, if anything, it suggests that homosexuality might be a product of sensitivity, and not vice versa.



There's no reply as of yet.  But I'd be curious to know what other StAR people think about this.

(And that's StAR people, not Star PeopleCamel case is important.  Oh, you internet!  So full of a number of things ...)

 

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  • August 3 2012 | by Manny

    I would say that homosexuals are attracted to the arts. It doesn't mean they have more talent or less. The shear numbers of homosexuals who are in the arts means that a portion of them will be successful.