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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

Brokeback Mountain: Love Story?

I read the original short story Brokeback Mountain (you can too, follow the link) and I have to say it doesn't seem like a love story to me. It seems more like a tragic tale of obsession and broken people. The reparative theory supporters will have a great time with the two main characters who fit almost all of the stereotypes. Abused/tragic boys grow up to become broken men willing to do anything to keep body and soul together. Alone with whiskey and each other, they have drunken sex, thus beginning a guilt tinged obsession that breaks up a marriage. I would think it would be an offense to call this a "gay-themed movie."

Comments:
...it doesn't seem like a love story to me. It seems more like a tragic tale of obsession and broken people.

Not to be picky, but most of the tragic love stories I've read fall into that description...Romeo and Juliet, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenena, etc. Even biblical love stories have their share of obsession and brokenness.

I can see where you're going about the stereotyes of the main characters, however. I plan to see it, but King Kong is higher on my list for must-see in theatre movies.

Like I told a co-worker yesterday who wanted to see Syriana, it's winter, the nation is at war, the news is depressing, and I just want to go watch a big monkey and some special effects...
 
King Kong could have been helped by reparative therapy. He needed to repress his unnatural attraction to another species.
 
True. Probably due to the lack of a strong ape father figure on the Island.
 
CK - I don't think the father theory works here either. Mr. Kong (he likes to be called Mr.) would then prefer other ape-like critters to replace the father-ape he never had. That blond just doesn't strike me as ape-like. Indeed, I suggest he had an incredibly masculine alpha-ape for a papa, thus giving him the confidence to cross species into mating history. I love a good love story...and special effects.
 
Yes CK, a strong ape figure never goes astray...

Personaly... I blame fluoride in the water (or was it the interaction of Mars and Saturn?), but we all have our own ideas. All equally valid, of course.

I'm sorry Warren --but you do realise this is 1963 and Wyoming dont you??? Written by a 62 year old straight woman?

I wasn't there -- wasn't born actually -- but I'd hazard a guess this flick reflects an exagerated version of life for a gay man at that time.

Of course I'm only guessing, based on the 60-70 year old gay men that I talk to (two of which, a 37 year old couple, dropped by for pre-Xmas drinks this evening).

Perhaps professionally, and not religiously, you may wish to explan why these two nice cowboys felt guilt and/or shame?
 
grantdale - I do understand the context and that is my curiosity over the hoopla. I also see that just about everything that a reparative therapist would predict is referenced in the short story.
 
Well, I think that some of the abuse that Mr. Kong received at the hands of the villagers may have had something to do with it...

As far as Brokeback Mtn and obsessional love, it seems that when male-female love stories are characterized by neediness, filling voids, characters coming out of troubled backgrounds, etc., the presumption tends to be that the attraction in operation is normal--not a result of those backgrounds.

But put two people of the same sex together, and it's narcissicsm, or due to too strong/weak of a father. That, of course, is from my bias--but some of the explanations I've read of why certain gay people are attracted to other gay people (broad shoulders = strength) is just plain fishy.

We don't fault a woman for being attracted to a stereotypical "strong man" if she's come out of an abused family--that's OK. The presumption seems to be that for same sex couples, any trace of dysfunction in the past is explanation for the present state.
 
CK - I don't make that presumption; I would evaluate the relationship or the story in the same manner. Part of my discomfort with reparative theory is the double standard for heterosexuals.
 
Dr. Throckmorton,
Within your perspective, then, would you be able to evaluate a same-sex relationship as "normal" and different-sex relationship as "troubled"? Or would there be no circumstance in which a same-sex relationship could be classed as high functioning or normal?

I know your biblical perspective, but I'm curious as to how you integrate that with a psychological method that, as you say "evaluate[s] the relationship or the story in the same manner."

And if you were to find a "normal", "well functioning" (whatever term you want to use) same-sex relationship, would that in any way change your perspective?
 
I don't think my field has done a very good job of creating the kinds of ratings or classifications you are referring to. I also think religious practitioners confuse moral evaluations with functional or psychosocial ones. I think gay or lesbian couples can be quite high functional. I have really come to see the erotic orientation issue as distinct from the attachment dimension of life. I think they hook each other and are related in some way but there is such discontinuity in so many people that I think they are probably distinct functions. As I see it, moral evaluation of the rightness of couplings is a separate matter as well.
 
At the risk of pressing the issue, how do you square "high functional" LGBT couples with a) your understanding that same sex attraction is a dysfunction and b) your Christian viewpoint that it is sinful?

(I think I know the answer to at least b, but I would rather hear it from you than put words in your mouth.)

And you may be interested in this short blurb...

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/12/prweb322386.htm
 
a) I think I need you to be clearer about what you mean by dysfunction. I think SSA is statistically rare; compromises reproductive success; and a moral challenge for those who adhere to religions which teach it is improper to act on.

b) Regarding the sinfulness question, I do not think missing the mark morally means one will automatically experience psychological dysfunction.
 
I think SSA is statistically rare

As with CK, without laboring the point -- there are more openly gay men and women than there are jewish men and women. And we must not neglect all those "rare" people who considered to be highly functional. Musicians. Nobel prize winners. Surgeons.

The proportion in society, nor their actions, plainly does not determine (psych) dysfunction.

I know you've used Laumann et al for a 2-3% figure, but you also do not use the 10% that they found for SS attraction. Others have found higher figures for the % who are non-heterosexuals.

2-3%, let alone 10% or more, is not "statistically rare".

compromises reproductive success

Bisexuality, of course, does not. Most SSA people are bisexual.

I'm also not sure how reproductive success measures dysfunction. Are those couples with 8 children more functional than those with 2? How about those couples who (deliberately) decide against having children?

But most curiously...

A view that proports "a moral challenge" also offers celibacy as the way to live.

In terms of reproductive success, wouldn't celibacy also be dysfunctional?

those who adhere to religions which teach

Perhaps those who adhere to such demands, despite them being at odds with their nature, are really the dysfunctional ones.

The evidence: the mental health and life-satisfaction data, and pair-bonding success, is quite clearly in favour of those SSA people who accept their sexuality and integrate it into both their identity and the choices they make in life.

Some, of course, never will. But the outcomes for them are much less favourable than either heterosexuals, or self-accepting gay men and women.

And that alone directs attention back to real source of GLBT "dysfunction" (and skews data for SSA people as a group).

It isn't homosexuality, per se.
It's the anti-gay attitude.
 
Something I've been wondering that may have been asked before (and this is a serious question):

Dr. Throckmorton- if you were to experience a religious revelation of some kind convincing you that same-sex attraction is the only moral way to express sexuality, could you convince yourself to be attracted to penises through counseling?
 
So... still mulling it over?
 
Interesting question. Not sure of the answer. As a teen, I was taught that rock and roll was wrong but I still liked it. Must be my rock and roll gene.
 
Genes are neither here nor there, but your rock example is interesting. Say someone who loves rock gets into an ultra-fundamentalist Christian group which teaches that rock is of the devil. Said person spends considerable hours in therapy being convinced to diminish their rock enjoyment and increase their John Philip Souza enjoyment. Would you not find that just a tad creepy?
 
It may seem creepy and unnecessary but it is not up to me to determine someone's religious beliefs. Sexuality is just one area of value conflict; there are many.
 
Regarding reproductive success -
my parents had seven children (plenty of reproductive success there!) with the following breakdown -
Firstborn, daughter, married, two children.
Secondborn, son, married, adopted two children from wife's first marriage. No children of his own.
Third - daughter, married, one child.
Fourth, son, married, no children.
Fifth, son, married, two children.
Sixth (me), married, one adopted child.
Seventh, daughter, married, no children.

The one denominator that comes through is this - the siblings who have not had children of their own (three brothers, one sister) all went to college. The son and two daughters who did, did not.
Correlation or causation? In my family, it's not sexuality but higher education that compromises reproductive success.
 
Gays/lesbians as a group are less likely to have children. This shouldn't be surprising.
 
"It may seem creepy and unnecessary but it is not up to me to determine someone's religious beliefs. Sexuality is just one area of value conflict; there are many."

No, but it is up to you to decide how much you want to medicalize someone's "value conflict."
 
Maybe you haven't read my other stuff on here but I don't medicalize value conflicts. I do not view homosexuality as a mental disorder.
 
Do you offer therapy aimed at changing homosexuality in some form or other?

Then call it "therapeutenizing" value conflicts. Still kinda creepy.
 
Creepy for Boo: Career counseling, relationship enhancement, religious counseling, any change counseling not involving a recognized pathology. Even saying this, the lion's share of what I do is help people figure themselves out, what they do after that is between them and their beliefs. No one cares about this unless what the person wants to figure out and possibly avoid or yes even change is homosexual feelings. Then holy ground has been soiled.
 
"Creepy for Boo: Career counseling, relationship enhancement, religious counseling, any change counseling not involving a recognized pathology."

Career counseling involving attempting to steer people with absolutely no aptitude for math into engineering: not creepy but unproductive and possibly dangerous.

Relationship counseling involving one ideal model of a relationship which everyone should aspire to: a little creepy, unproductive, and possibly dangerous.

Religious counseling for people who are left handed but feel their values would be better served by writing right handed: creepy, unproductive, and possibly cramp-inducing.

Chnaging something that's not a problem so someone can better meet society's expectations: kinda creepy, possibly dangerous, and absolutely sick when it's done on children (which I know you don't do).

Therapy involved in getting someone who isn't into penises and hairy muscular chests and masculine energy to be attracted to those things: creepy whether done on men or women.

Yes, I haven't read everything here, so maybe you've answered some of this before. When helping your clients figure themselves out, do you inform them that:

While anyone can change behavior, there is no evidence anyone has ever changed sexual orientation?

Every mainstream mental health organization has claimed that attempting to change sexual orientation is ineffctive and possibly dangerous?

There exist many happy, faithful gay and lesbian couples?

There is no one "homosexual lifestyle?"

Their desire to change their sexual orientation may well be the result of self-loathing caused by internalized homophobia?

And to touch back on the original point of the post, if Brokeback Mountain isn't a love story than neither is Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Lancelot and Guinevere, Buffy and Angel, and every other story where the heterosexual lifestyle leads to madness, destruction, and suicide.
 
While anyone can change behavior, there is no evidence anyone has ever changed sexual orientation?

I don't agree with this. I do believe there is evidence no matter how you define sexual orientation (and this is the real fly in that ointment).

Every mainstream mental health organization has claimed that attempting to change sexual orientation is ineffctive and possibly dangerous?

I tell my clients what the groups have said, most specifically what my group (ACA) has said which is that they frown on people who say homosexuality is a mental illness and that change for that reason is unnecessary. They support a client's right of self-determination as do I.

There exist many happy, faithful gay and lesbian couples?

I don't know how to characterize how many there are, but I do inform them of this, yes.

There is no one "homosexual lifestyle?"

Of course.

Their desire to change their sexual orientation may well be the result of self-loathing caused by internalized homophobia?

I do not tell my clients why they feel what they feel. I leave this directive stance to NARTH and gay affirming therapists.

And to touch back on the original point of the post, if Brokeback Mountain isn't a love story than neither is Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Lancelot and Guinevere, Buffy and Angel, and every other story where the heterosexual lifestyle leads to madness, destruction, and suicide.

This hasn't come up yet but I would not recommend relationships such as described by the short story, either gay or straight. But then I do not recommend my clients believe like me so they would have to put up with my endless questioning of destructive behavior and make their own conclusions.
 
Thank you for the answers.

"While anyone can change behavior, there is no evidence anyone has ever changed sexual orientation?

I don't agree with this. I do believe there is evidence no matter how you define sexual orientation (and this is the real fly in that ointment)."

What is this evidence? (And a 20 minute telephone interview with a highly selective sample who would have been very motivated to claim change even if it hadn't occurred doesn't count.)

"Their desire to change their sexual orientation may well be the result of self-loathing caused by internalized homophobia?

I do not tell my clients why they feel what they feel. I leave this directive stance to NARTH and gay affirming therapists."

I said may be the result, not is the result. Do you at least explore this as a possibility? Have you noticed that every organization which claims homosexuality is a form of sexual addiction tends to attract clients who are sex addicts? I know you don't make that claim, but surely you must realize that a substantial number, if not a majority, of people coming into your office who have serious sexual problems and are incidently gay have already absorbed the message that their sexual problems must have been caused by being gay. I guess I'm wondering how much effort you put into differential diagnosis.

"This hasn't come up yet but I would not recommend relationships such as described by the short story, either gay or straight. But then I do not recommend my clients believe like me so they would have to put up with my endless questioning of destructive behavior and make their own conclusions."

Yes, but it seems a little disengenuous to single this one movie out when that kind of desparate, unfulfilled obsession has been the core of most of what are considered the great love stories of Western literature.
 
I am not going to go over the change evidence again here. We have been over that issue lots on here and elsewhere. We either agree or don't.

I agree that sexual compulsions need to be assessed and I do this. I do not see homosexuality and sexual compulsion as having a necessary relationship.

Well, it was the only gay Western people were talking about at the moment :)
 
"Well, it was the only gay Western people were talking about at the moment :)"

Yes, but my point is that aside from the genders involved, the whole doomed love/obsession thing is really no different than that found in your average heterosexual melodrama.

Maybe there's evidence of change here, and I'll look for it, but it remains that all of the "ex-gay" sites and "change therapists" and people who claim to have changed that I've seen always seem to clam up when you ask for specifics.
 
My eldest brother started out life left-handed. Due to the prevailing atmosphere in public education, he was 'counselled' to write with his right hand.

He writes - rather badly - with his right hand. He does everything else - including play bass guitar - with his left.

Would he have been better off as a left-handed person? Is he better off as a semi-ambidextrous person?
 
Boo, you're being just plain silly. Take 20 people who say that their "orientation" has changed over time, and 20 who say theirs hasn't. Ask the 40 of them, "is there any evidence that orientation can change over time?"

Now why on earth would any rational person beleive the 20 who insist that change is impossible (because they've tried and failed) over the 20 who tried and succeeded? That's madness man, pure madness.
 
Marty- because there's no real way to test the claims of the people who say they've changed orientation (and I'm not a man, man). I'm not saying it's been proven that it's impossible to change orientation, just that there's no real evidence that it's been done, and someone considering going into "change" therapy should be made aware of that up front.

Plus, and I'm not saying this is true for everyone who claims change, but just about everyone I've heard from who claims to have changed, they start to hedge an awful lot when you ask them what specifically "changed."

Right now, there are people who call themselves ex-gays. Some of them mean by this that they're celibate- their orientation has not changed. Some are still having sex with members of their own sex but saying they "struggle" with it. Some are bisexuals who had previously been with members of their own sex and have now decided to concentrate on members of the opposite sex. Some claim to have been exclusively with members of their own sex for several years and now are exclusively straight but offer no evidence that they ever lived a "gay lifestyle." Some might claim genuine change in their orientation, but there is no way to test their claims. It's entirely possible that I'm the Duchess of York, but I have no evidence to back up that claim.
 
That is why people have to come out and accept themselves, If they were true totheir hearts, maybe they could get married in canada by now!
 
Boo, you claim "there's no real way to test the claims", which is your "given". If your "given" is actually true, then it follows that there cannot possibly be any real evidence. But then also, you would not be logically able to assert to the contrary either, yet that seems to be your point.

However, what you have taken to be axiomatic has not itself been proven. Such an assertion cannot be made without providing proof for the assertion as well. This is basic to scientific understanding. It may very well be that, at this time, no one has been able to propose a reliable and scientific method to test such claims, but that does not mean one will never be furnished.

Finally, I would ask you what kind of evidence would you accept? 20 people making a claim? a hundred? a thousand? ten thousand? If you would accept one million such claims as evidence, there still would not be, at this time, an accepted method of testing such claims.

You appear to me to be a very thoughtful and analytical person, but that which you have accepted as foundational seems to be preventing you from seeing any other viewpoint. Would you cede that occassionally, perhaps very occassionally or even rarely, someone somewhere manages to find a way, by trial or by accident, to change their sexual orientation? If you cannot cede that possibility as at least plausible, given that there is no reliable method to test and verify otherwise, then your mind will never change on this one issue, nor will you likely change another's mind.

But isn't the possibility of either enlightening yourself or someone else the objective? Or is this debate simply a joust that you intend to win?
 
Steve- please read what I say more carefully. I said there is no way to test the claims of anyone who claims to have changed sexual orientation. Aside from said untestable claims, there is no objective evidence that anyone has ever changed sexual orientation, hence, no real evidence.

Does that mean it could ever be possible for anyone to change sexual orientation? I personally doubt it, but at this point there's no real way to tell one way or the other. Someone considering going into therapy which has no proven track record but for which there is much anecdotal evidence of harm needs to be made aware of that in order to make an informed decision.

If you're trying to sell me a car which you claim is better than the car I have, and you refuse to provide any specifics about safety features, gas mileage, horsepower, etc., and all you give me is a couple of vague testimonials of people saying they're so glad they changed their old car, with no specifics on exactly what they're talking about or even if they've ever actually driven the new car, and most of these people happen to be in the paid employ of the car company, and I've read several reports of people trying to drive this new car and getting into accidents, and no consumer reports or anything exist showing the new car is in any way superior to my old car, then it would probably be pretty risky for me to buy your car, and dang I can write a run-on sentence huh? That's roughly where the "ex-gay" movement is today.
 
Interesting link I found:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48247

- Raven
 
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