My Sinful Tendentiousness
It's no good me pretending that it's anything other than a deep-seated tendency. For as long as I can remember I have been prefacing statements with the word 'actually'. You may not have noticed this because I usually remove the word in the editing process. Speech is a very different matter, which is one reason I haven't ventured into the brave new world of podcasting.
I am telling you this because it would be gravely dishonest of me to conceal this tendency from you despite the fact that my readers, being mostly a tolerant bunch, would not regard this adverbial tic as a grave sin.
My sexuality, on the other hand, is essentially transitory. OK, it hasn't changed in fifty years but what is fifty years in the context of eternity? What was it that old Anglo-Saxon said about human life? That it was as brief as a sparrow flying in one window of a lighted barn and out the other side.
Oh God, why am I bothering with this heavy-handed sarcasm about the Vatican's report on gay priests? It has no relevance to my own life and is based on the kind of unscientific nonsense we expect from the Vatican.
One rather baffling aspect is that if, as the Church says, the priesthood is a vocation - i.e. people are called to the priesthood by God - then God is clearly calling many gay men to the priesthood and what right does the Church have to over-rule him?
(I nearly went back there and gave 'him' a capital 'H' but then I remembered he doesn't exist so I'm not going to wear out my shift key on hypothetical beings. Maybe I should have put 'god' but that's probably just being childish).
Coincidentally, Oliver James in his Observer column this week referred to studies that show that the number of exclusively gay men is much lower than Kinsey suggested - less than 4% of populations. The number who are bisexual is higher: between 5 and 7%. The Catholic church seems never to have heard of bisexuality. I subscribe to the 'spectrum' model of sexuality. A few percent are at the exclusively gay end, a much larger number are at the exclusively straight end but people can be at any point on that spectrum.
The problem with surveys is that most of them are based on self-evaluation. There are 'straight' men who sometimes have sex with other men who will not only deny they are gay but will deny that they are even slightly bisexual. I know because I have met such people. Some of them take the view that it's not gay if you don't kiss during sex. Such people are going to distort any research findings. Similarly, some Catholic priests argue that celibacy means not being married rather than not having sex and thereby pursue active and guilt-free sex lives. The human capacity for self-delusion is infinite.
There's a good round-up of various religions' attitudes to this subject by Emily Wilson in today's Guardian. She ends with the point that lesbians don't get much of a mention in all of this. Of course, they are less relevant to the Catholic church because it doesn't have women priests, but the Anglican church does.
The explanation can only lie in the mighty power of the penis. In a patriarchal society, sex without a penis is not real sex. Ditto, sex without penetration. Ditto, sex where one partner is not passive or submissive. Perhaps not surprisingly, many gay men, who grow up in this same culture, take the same view.
To criticise this attitude is not to criticise penetrative sex in any of its forms but to criticise the belief in its primacy and the view that anything else is not 'real sex'. This attitude is responsible not just for a patronising view of lesbianism but probably also for 'wanker' being a male term of abuse and mutual masturbation being regarded as 'kids' stuff'. But the quality of the sexual experience for both partners - and ideally there should be an equality of enjoyment - is more important than what you actually do with your bits and whether dangly bits are involved at all. And in fairness I should add that if submission/dominance is what rocks both your boats in a particular relationship, then that's fine too.
(To be filed under 'Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was Sixteen').
I was going to draw an analogy between attitudes to sexuality and capitalism and social structures but I'm sure that's old hat and Coronation Street starts soon and I have to get my priorities straight, even if nothing else in my life ever has been.
But before leaving the subject, if the Vatican's report was wholly predictable then the Guardian's warm words about it in a leading article today were truly breathtaking. Given the number of journalists on that paper with 'deep-seated tendencies' I think whoever wrote it would be well-advised to take some gardening leave.