22 February 2014

What Is Professor Regenerus Telling Us?

Whenever I teach literature, I have to explain the concept of irony.

Now, I am the sort of teacher (and person) who prefers to teach and define through examples, so I am always looking new and interesting ones.

I think I may have stumbled upon something:  A sociologist whose work has been used to bolster claims that same-sex couples can't be good parents may just have given me, and other women, reason to become lesbians.

Two years ago, Mark Regenerus of the University of Texas-Austin published his study about adult children(up to 39 years old) of lesbian and gay parents.  According to his findings, such children have higher rates of problems with their own relationships.  However, as he has taken pains to point out, his work cannot provide any conclusive evidence that same-sex couples make worse parents than heterosexual ones.  For one thing, the parents (some of whom are now dead) of those adult children most likely did not self-identify as gay or lesbian, as few parents would have done so until recently. Essentially, he classified any parent who had an extramarital sexual experience with a person of his or her own gender as gay or lesbian. He himself admits that this is, at best, a flawed way of identifying gay or lesbian parents.

If there is indeed any evidence that the children of such relationships have more problems, it probably has to do with the instability found in those parents' relationships. Even if the kid doesn't exactly know his or her mother or father is really doing when he or she is "working overtime" or "going out with the guys (or girls)", he or she can pick up on the tension engendered by sneaking around and  keeping it a secret--or of the fact that the spouse knows that the person he or she married is on the "down low."  The kid notices that the parents are fighting or not talking to each other, even if he or she doesn't know the reason why.

Regenerus himself acknowledges the flaws in his study and says that it cannot be used to draw any conclusions about the inferiority of gay or lesbian parents.  Of course, his warning has not stopped organizations like Focus on the Family or the editors of The National Review from doing exactly that.

Now Professor Regenerus (What a name, huh?) has published a new study in which he concludes that the "normalization of gay men's sexual behavior" will embolden straight men to demand, of their girlfriends and wives, the right to  "open relationships" (i.e., one in which they are allowed to stray) and anal sex.

Hmm...So let's see...Gay men are still sexually promiscuous, just like we thought they were in the 1970's.  They're going to give straight men ideas.  Hmm...Where does that leave us?

Now, if I ever get involved with a man again, I just might allow an open relationship, as long as he asks me nicely and  is honest with me. (Perhaps it's naive to think such a thing is possible. Oh well.)  But I don't know about the anal sex part.  It's not that I feel revulsion to the practice or even that I associate it with gay men, necessarily.  Let's just say it's not my preference, so I'm not sure of how I'd feel if a man started to demand it of me.

I was willing to give Professor Regenerus the benefit of the doubt on his earlier study (or, more precisely, doubt the reading comprehension skills of some who saw it).  But his study of the effects of the "normalization of gay men's sexual behavior" has me scratching my pretty little head.  Perhaps he can explain further.